Increasing Learner Engagement During Distance Learning

Author: | Category: Making Magic
Maker Team member Angie Nastovska headshot
Headshot by Renee Bowen

Meet the Maker
Angie Nastovska
Director of Humanities and Innovation

What is your most used emoji?


If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life what would it be?


What’s your favorite place of all the places you’ve traveled?

Bilbao, SpainBilbao, Spain. A place with the best culture, nature, people, and soul. I can probably live there in a heartbeat.

What’s your favorite quote?

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” —Michael Jordan

What is the “why” for this week’s “Making Magic”?

Many of us have been struggling with making distance learning education happen. In this issue, I decided to spotlight a good PBL practice where a group of educators has taken a project idea, primarily developed for secondary grades, considered the needs of grades 4-5, and adjusted the project by designing a personalized schedule, calendars, benchmarks, and authentic approach.

Let’s take a look at SCVi’s 4th and 5th grade team’s “magic”!

This Week’s Focus: Project-Based Learning

question mark iconDriving Question

How can we increase learner engagement through an innovative, creative, and rigorous project in a distance learning environment?

In this issue, you will see, read, and learn about how the 4th and 5th grade team at SCVi Charter School took a project, which Disney and Khan Academy designed in partnership for middle and high school, and adapted it to grades 4 and 5 with a focus on the needs and interests of their learners, academic focus and the team’s creativity.

Team Members

  • Shawna Brown
  • Audrey Godde
  • Brent Call
  • Alan Kingsley

SCVi’s 4th and 5th grade team said their biggest success this year has been overcoming virtual barriers while creating authentic and engaging project-based learning experiences. Virtual PBL is a very new area for a lot of educators, so dialing in their approach to benefit all learners is something for which they are proud.

The team’s biggest challenge has been finding a workflow that meets the needs of all learners. Their home situations and resources vary greatly, so finding a pace that works for everyone has been a huge focus. Additionally, finding ways to maintain momentum, even in moments when they are exhausted, can be really challenging. But they are finding ways to connect with learners to keep themselves going.

To address Zoom fatigue, they found that this grade level responds well to short, team-building activities throughout the week, especially when they are all together in morning meetings! Games like Pictionary, charades, home scavenger hunts and “Would you rather…” are big hits. They also keep synchronous sessions chunked into small working periods with a lot of small breaks woven in every 30 minutes or so. Finally, they leave the Zoom open during those breaks to give learners the opportunity to socialize with classmates. They have even had themed/interest-based breakout rooms to help foster relationships. 

The team’s favorite quotes:

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” ―A.A. Milne

“Teaching is tough, but so are you.”

play button iconWatch

SCVi facilitator Shawna Brown introduces the Imagineering Project adapted for SCVi’s 4th and 5th graders. Learn the “why,” the “what,” and the “how” of this engaging project. The team took a project, which Disney and Khan Academy designed in partnership for middle and high school, and adapted it with a focus on the needs and interests of their learners, their class’s academic focus and the team’s creativity.

Take a look:

book iconRead

Note: The 4th and 5th grade team at SCVi took this project, Storytelling Unit: Imagineering in a Box, which was designed primarily for middle and high school. The team adapts it to their own needs. Click below to access the unit at Khan Academy:

[button style=”btn-default btn-lg” icon=”fa fa-book” align=”left” iconcolor=”#506c97″ type=”link” target=”false” title=”Imagineering in a Box” link=”” linkrel=””]

plus sign iconMore Magic

Below are all the materials you need to start adapting this project to your own class!

Click here to access the SCVi 4th and 5th grade team’s week-by-week plans:

[button style=”btn-default btn-lg” icon=”glyphicon glyphicon-plus” align=”left” iconcolor=”#506c97″ type=”link” target=”false” title=”Week-by-Week Plans” link=”” linkrel=””]

See below for the team’s letter to families:

Imagineering Project - Family Letter - Google Docs

See below for the team’s project rubric:

Imagineering Project Rubric

Being Makers

Being Makers

Being Makers is a team of change-making leaders from Maker Learning Network and iLEAD Schools focused on project-based learning and social-emotional growth.
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