Supplementary online activities for online classes

One of the major challenges of online classes is keeping students engaged.  In face to face classes, the teacher can often make subtle adjustments to keep students interested and involved in class. In online classes, making quick adjustments can be more challenging because you may be missing some of the verbal and non-verbal signals you would detect in face to face classes. 

One proactive way to keep your classes active is to plan some supplementary activities.  Supplementary content can make your class content more current and relevant and interesting.  Additional activities, particularly involving games or songs or films, can make the class more fun and spontaneous.   

Here are a few ideas for supplementary activities, referenced to a unit in Contemporary Topics (Level 1, Unit 9, Design Thinking)

Vocabulary Games can spice up a class. You can use free software like Quizlet, to make supplementary quizzes and games.

Vocabulary Practice Build Your Vocabulary

10 minutes / breakout group

Practice Activity: Work with a partner. Open the Unit 9 Vocabulary Flash Cards (on your phone or computer). Quiz each other.

Study Tip: Listen to the audio to get extra listening practice.

Study Tip: Read the item out loud to your partner. Say “blank” for the missing word. Partner guesses the missing word. Take turns.


  • This sample set located at Michael Rost’s Quizlet account.
  • Quizlet sets can be used interactively by pairs of students, using their phones or computers.
  • Quizlet pair practice done in break out groups will provide a change of pace for the class. 
  • Including Study Tips reminds students of various ways to practice.

No matter what you are teaching, you can always find some supplementary audio or video to enliven your class, or just to provide a change of pace.   Here are a couple of supplementary activities, based on free online sources, Newsela and Listenwise. 

Extra Discussion Activity Design in Business

(based on Newsela, a public documentary sources)

Read (and listen with audio to) this story about the design of a new pizza box.

  Which part of the story was most interesting to you?   Which part of the story surprised you?   Which parts didn’t you understand?    Ask an original question about the story: _____________________________
Partner 1:              
Partner 2:              


  • The goal of this additional activity is to link the generic topic of the book to current topics in the news/on social media/in the global culture.
  • Newsela provides free access to a range of current topics (stories that have appeared in the past year or two). 
  • Teacher can use the author-provided topic or do a search for more relevant articles.  Here the search term is:  Design Thinking.
  • These can be done as small group activities (in break out groups) or as a whole class activity, using live microphones or the chat box for participation by students.

Extra Discussion Activity Design in Personal Life

Listen to this “weird news” story.

  1. What name would you give to this product?
  2. Can you draw a design of this product?
  3. What problem does it solve?
  4. Can you think of other solutions to this problem?


  • The goal of this additional activity is to link the generic topic of the book to current, perhaps even quirky, topics. Listenwise provides audio-narration formats, so students get additional reading and listening practice.
  • Teachers can use the author-provided article or choose another relevant article.  Here the search term is: design.

One thing to remember when using supplementary material is that it is important to set a goal.  You don’t necessarily need to use the supplementary material for comprehension work or language study.  Sometimes, just introducing something new and getting global feedback from the students (“What did you think?”) may be sufficient!