Best Online Classroom Rewards for Older Kids

Engage Older Kids in Online Learning: Listen and Let them Lead

The best online classroom rewards for older kids encourage students to feel involved in their learning and direct their learning.

Teens, preteens, and older children need to be deeply engaged and self-motivated. They must be invested in their own progress so you must build lesson plans that make this a priority and continue to nurture this throughout.

Some of the best online classroom Rewards for older kids let the student make their own reward or give them a voice: writing a choose your own adventure book or keeping a drawing journal, or telling you more about themselves.
Teaching teens online means letting them lead and learning to truly listen (that is, you need to learn to truly listen, not them!)

Engage an Older Kid in Online Classes by really listening

You need to find out the older students’ interests. You need to find out their motivation for learning English.

Is their motivation extrinsic or intrinsic? Are their parents making them like English or do they like to watch English on TV? Is it because they want an A in their school’s English class? Find out.

Older kids have their favorite TV shows, favorite books, and so on. Teens (sometimes) have career paths chosen and already find themselves interested in their identity and how it relates to the wider world.

Think about yourself as a teen. Did you have some nascent political views? Did you work towards your college applications? I know I did. I also know some teens feel lost or overwhelmed and deal with these feelings by “checking out” (think video games or risky behavior). Either way, teens are dealing with a lot of oncoming adult issues and your lessons should reflect this.

Don’t pander to teens. Find out what they want from their classes and then deliver.

Having said all that, here are some successful rewards and activities that I have used with preteen and teen students

The Best Online Classroom Rewards for Older Kids

Ultimate Tic Tac Toe

Play *ultimate* tic-tac-toe

Doodle Journal

Keeping a sketch journal

Draw 3D Tricks of the Eye

Draw an impossible triangle (or draw any complex 3D shape or).

Draw a trompe l’oeil illustration

Vision Board

Make a vision board

Exquisite Corpse Drawing

Make exquisite corpses with an interactive whiteboard

Switch Roles

Flip the script: They are the teacher for the day. They must teach you something you don’t already know.


Make an origami fortune teller (great for vocabulary such as the seasons)

Dots and Boxes Game

Dots and boxes is a fun cool-down game for older kids. You can take a screenshot of a grid and pull it up on AWW App so you can both draw on the same grid. Every 5 boxes, tell the student they need to make up a new username in the chatbox. It is lots of fun and students are often very creative. My recent student dubbed himself “a block of bread” and “mashed potatoes with fried carrots” at one point.

Would You Rather

PlayWould You Rather

Two Truths and a Lie

Play “Two truths and a lie” but keep it PG.

Choose your Own Adventure Story

Online Choose your Own Adventure Story


There are many online trivia generators. I like using the “Random Trivia Generator.” If you use camera software like Manycam during your class, you can use these websites to compete in fun trivia games for your students.

Tongues Twisters

Time yourself saying tongue twisters.

Silly Expressions

Teach funny English expressions. Teach the kids silly expressions like “raining cats ad dogs”, “piece of cake”, “when pigs fly”, “the apple of my eye”, and so on. Ask your student to explain some funny expressions to you from their native language too. Draw them for even more fun!


This has lots of possibilities. They earn amounts throughout the class.

Would You Rather

Play Would You Rather (the G rated version!) or Roll the Dice with my more advanced students. 

Or play a guessing game, like “3 clues.” One person gives three hints about an object and then the student guesses what you are thinking of or looking at.


You can play hangman, or a less ghoulish “spaceman” with them. Let them choose a word and I try to guess their word. Also, we sometimes will do crosswords. 

Mad libs

Mad libs are great because they help teach grammar and you can adjust them, for any content. It will help students learn nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.

In addition, let the pre-teen or teen lead their own learning

With Pre-teens and teens you can have days long projects.

A project can span many days. You could create a pop-up book, for example. You could add one page each class. You could have an *ultimate* tic tac toe game. This is much more complex than a regular tic-tac-toe game. They can last weeks!

An older student may enjoy keeping a journal. Ask them about their day and listen. It is very important to listen to teens. Ask them what they hope their journal could become. Ask them to imagine how it could relate to their every day life.

Interactive Games and Activities

Here are some games you can use for teens in your online classrooms.

Ultimate Tic Tac Toe

Use a Web Whiteboard

You can use a shared virtual whiteboard to play Pictionary, hangman, draw collaborative drawings (think corpse), and more. I like to use the AWW APP: Online Whiteboard for Realtime Visual Collaboration

The best way to engage an older student in online learning is to listen and let them lead (when appropriate).

Bottom Line: Teaching teens requires unique approaches for rewards. Find ways to let your student express themselves through the class or reward and show sincere interest in learning about their motivation for learning English, as well as their wider hopes and dreams and future plans. And, remember, if you don’t know what your teenage student likes, you can just ask them!

Learn More About The Wonderful World of Language

Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL
Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL

Ingrid Maria Pimsner has been teaching for over a decade in various universities, nonprofits, and private academies. She has taught English as a Second Language for Lutheran Children & Family Service, Nationalities Service Center, Lernstudio Barbarossa Berlin-Tegel, and more. In addition to her Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certification, she holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a MA from Maryland Institute College of Art.