10 Tips for Teachers: Follow-on activities for quick remote learners

2 February 2021

A selection of self-directed creative activities for students who complete their remote learning lessons early

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Photo created by karlyukav via Freepik

No matter how well prepared you are, all teachers have had at least one occasion where a student completes all of their work considerably quicker than the rest of the class, leaving you at a total loss at what to suggest they do next.

As a trainee teacher you may be able to quickly think of a classroom monitor job they could help with, while experienced teachers often have a bank of resources ready to hand out. However, now that your students are working remotely, when the above happens (which is likely to be more frequently if they are quietly speeding through the work with no distractions), it is their parents they will go to once they’re finished. Unlike teachers, they probably don’t have a bank of maths mastery questions or a hundred pencils to sharpen!

Below we have compiled a list of fun, creative, and most importantly self-directed activities for students who finish their work early. A mix of online and offline, these activities are also suitable for all ages, however younger children may find the first few suggestions a bit tricky to do by themselves. For self-directed activities more suited to KS1 and lower, see the later suggestions in the list.

1. Play Countdown online

Students can practice quick maths skills using this simulation of the long-running gameshow, great for shorts bursts of time between lessons!

Instructions for students:

Can you beat the clock playing Countdown online?

First, select how many large numbers you’d like on the right of the page. The aim of the game is to use the blue number cards across the bottom and the four operations (plus, minus, multiply and divide) to get as close as possible to the randomly generated target number in yellow.

Once the time is up, there is the option to view an answer. How was your method different? How close did you get to the target number?

If you want to make it trickier for yourself, try choosing more larger numbers. If you’re finding it a bit too hard, you can also give yourself some extra time.

You can also choose give students’ vocabulary a workout by asking them to select letters:

On the right of the page, there is an option to select ‘letters’. Once you’ve selected this option, pick whether your cards are vowels or consonants, or select ‘random’ and the computer will select the cards for you.

What is the longest word you can make in the allotted time using only those letters?

You could also have a go at a ‘conundrum’try to rearrange the letters into a new nine letter word. Click 'conundrum clue’ if you need a hint.

For an extra stretch or to change it up, check out some Nrich challenges related to the current maths topic.

2. Make a zine

Zines are small booklets which focus on expression and creativity. They can be handmade, photo-copied or digital, and are a great way for students to share their thoughts, opinions, and artwork with others.

The resource below was created for our We Belong programme and guides young people through the steps of making a zine, including YouTube tutorials and ideas for artwork. This is a great afternoon activity, extension to a piece of work on a particular topic, or response to a book.

Instructions for students:

Take part in a virtual zine class!

Zines are a great way to share your thoughts, opinions and artwork with others. They are small booklets which focus on expression and creativity. They often use illustration and collage, so make for a perfect offline activity – but they can be made online too. Not only are they easy to make, but they can be about any topic!

Follow the steps in this resource to make yours either from paper or using an app.

3. Complete Arts Award Discover

Arts Award provides an opportunity for young people to use their experiences to explore what interests and engages them, to express themselves, and to be publicly validated and celebrated. 

If you are a school that usually delivers Arts Award, or have a teacher who is a trained Arts Award Adviser, then completing an Arts Award Discover is a great activity for students to work on when they get a spare moment. Students will need some guidance to get them started and to ensure they are meeting the assessment criteria, but as the award is designed to be student-led they will then be able to complete most aspects with little direction.

A New Direction's Arts Award Online resource is ideal for those working through Arts Award Discover, and can easily be completed remotely. Students have the choice to either complete a logbook online or use a print-at-home version.

4. Start a big art project

An ongoing art project that takes time is a great activity to be getting on with around daily learning tasks. Students can follow the instructions in the blog below to take a topic they are interested in and turn it into an artwork.

All of our Keeping Creative at Home blogs have excellent creative ideas to keep young people busy in creative ways using limited resources around the home, from exploring photography, to creating a clown show. For incentives, young people might want to have a go at getting a Blue Peter Badge, or learning more about STEM with Crest Awards.

Instructions for students:

Work like an artist to create your own artwork

Try making a piece of artwork on a topic that interests you. Follow the steps in this blog to think of questions you want answered, research ideas and think differently about how to express your feelings about your chosen topic.

Your art project could be anything you want – from a play about tennis, to a stop-motion animation about koalas!

5. Print out some cultural activity packs

If you are printing out packs in school for students to take home, why not include some pre-made resources by the cultural sector? Many are free and ready to go with minimal resources required, and there are a number which are suitable to be shared virtually with parents to print off at home.

Some good places to start:

For more cultural sector resources, also check our Boredom Buster blogs and our LookUp directory.

6. Get active!

Challenge your students to learn some new skills that will get them active after sitting at the computer all day. You can see more ideas to get moving in our previous ideas for active breaks while learning remotely blog.

Instructions for students:

Your target is to be active and moving for at least one hour every day!

Follow these instructions Upswing to learn circus skills at home such as juggling. If you are interested in dancing, watch these free online Dance on Demand classes from ZooNation to practice your Hip Hop moves.

What is your favourite way to keep active?

7. Try reading new books

Some students will happily read a book once they’ve finished their schoolwork, but others may be less enthused. To make reading a little bit different, you could suggest the following resources:

8. Watch BBC Bitesize

The BBC’s educational programme Bitesize Daily is back for January 2021, with episodes available to watch on iPlayer by age range. You can see live TV broadcast schedules here, and read more about their offer here, which includes shows aimed at teachers, podcasts and resources to support students with special educational needs.

Instructions for students:

Watch BBC Bitsize Daily

Catch up on the daily lessons from the BBC on iPlayer. You could learn something new, or use it to remember things you have already learnt in your schoolwork.

There are interactive lessons, games and quizzes linked by curriculum topic on the Bitesize website, too.

9. Play drama games

London Bubble has some great drama games for younger children, while older children might like to try creating video drama with their friends like The Drama Geezers. The masters of immersive theatre Punchdrunk also have a new resource to turn your home into a place of wonder.

Little Angel Theatre has online puppet shows and crafty activities to make your own puppet theatre at home, and there are lots more drama resources for all ages, including teenagers, listed on LookUp.

Stage your own play

Can you put on a play at home? You can perform it for your family, or write it down. You could even make costumes, props and scenery!

10. Tick off mini challenges

A challenge checklist can provide an ongoing activity that gives young people the chance to use their imaginations and choose tasks to suit their mood. You could come up with your own or use existing ones – there are plenty out there covering a range of themes.

Usually, libraries have lots of these types of activities to offer for their local area, so get in touch with yours and see if any are currently running.

A few you might want to try:

For those who have a garden or parents who can take them out to parks you could recommend:


Where next?

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LookUp – search for free creative resources