Tips to Engage Students Online Part 5: Comprehension Activities

Implementing Comprehensive Activities

Here are few of the ‘oldies but goodies’ that you can easily convert to online comprehension strategies:


1. Introduce a New Topic

Turn on the webcam to show a prop. For example, when getting ready to read Charlotte’s Web, show a spider or pig puppet to give a teaser to introduce the story. Engage students with background knowledge in a visual, fun way!

2. KWLH Chart

Assess student understanding through a KWLH chart (What We Know; What We Want to Learn; What We Learned; How We Can Learn More). Use a PowerPoint slide or the virtual whiteboard as a background for a chart and place chat pods in each of the areas of the chart so participants can share their ideas.

Reminder: Research has shown that better comprehension occurs when students are engaged in activities that bridge their old knowledge with the new knowledge, so keep these types of activities in your digital lessons!

3. Twenty Questions

Choose a secret vocabulary word, and invite students to guess the word by asking up to twenty questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no.”

4. Five Words

Have students define or describe a concept using only five words. This will require them to consider the most important, relevant terms.

5. Stamper

Using an online whiteboard tool, have students select the shape and color of the stamper and use the stamp to “tag” their answer. This can work well with younger students who can’t yet type in answers, but can ‘show’ their answers with the stamper tool. For example: Give multiple choice photos for answer choices and allow the students to mark their answer with the stamp. Take a poll and have students stamp on a map the states they have visited.

6. Infomercial or Movie Trailer

Students can create a movie trailer or infomercial using digital storytelling tools to demonstrate understanding of a topic. Trailers can be saved to introduce a group of participants the following year or semester to a new topic to pique interest, and the movie can be shared for all participants to view.

7. Alternative Ending

After reading a short story, a chapter in a book or a full novel, have students create alternate endings to literature using digital storytelling software or website tools. Allow students to share their endings with the class.

8. Student Publications

Create opportunities for students to write authentic publications for a unit or topic you are studying. If possible, publish these on a classroom blog or website. Allow students to share their publication with the class.

9. Social Media Post

Students can create a mock social media post to demonstrate what they’ve learned. Okay…this may not be one of the ‘oldies but goodies,’ but teachers are masters at connecting what kids are learning to current technology and communication platforms students are using. It can be hard to keep up, but it is worth it to stay relevant and enhance the application of classroom learning.

These are just a handful of comprehension activities to integrate into online learning. Another great resource is your own lessons. Look through your past lessons and units to find other comprehension activities that translate well to online learning or distance learning from home. You may even find there are a few strategies that just never quite made it out of your toolbox which you can now implement online.

At EdTech Solutions it is our hope that these tips continue to give you ideas and offer you hope for how to move forward as you teach online. We work with teachers and administrators every day to ensure that our products both support and enhance teaching. Let us know if we can help you in any way!

For more on our series, Tips to Engage Students Online, see our additional blogs:

  1. Establishing Online Classroom Procedures
  2. Keeping or Regaining Attention
  3. Checking for Understanding
  4. Using Breakout Groups for Collaboration

For a full list of these tips for engaging students online, check out this PDF from Pearson with 45 ideas.