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The Distance Learning Playbook, Grades K-12

The Distance Learning Playbook, Grades K-12
Teaching for Engagement and Impact in Any Setting

June 2020 | 208 pages | Corwin

Effective teaching is effective teaching, no matter where it occurs

The pandemic teaching of mid-2020 was not really distance learning, but rather crisis teaching. But starting now, teachers have the opportunity to prepare for distance learning with purpose and intent—using what works best to accelerate students’ learning all the while maintaining an indelible focus on equity.

Harnessing the insights and experience of renowned educators Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie, The Distance Learning Playbook applies the wisdom and evidence of VISIBLE LEARNING® research to understand what works best with distance learning. Spanning topics from teacher-student relationships, teacher credibility and clarity, instructional design, assessments, and grading, this comprehensive playbook details the research- and evidence-based strategies teachers can mobilize to deliver high- impact learning in an online, virtual, and distributed environment.

This powerful guide includes:

  • Learning Intentions and Success Criteria for each module to track your own learning and model evidence-based teacher practices for meaningful learning
  • A diversity of instructional approaches, including direct instruction, peer learning, and independent work that foster student self-regulation and move learning to deep and transfer levels
  • Discussion of equity challenges associated with distance learning, along with examples of how teachers can work to ensure that equity gains that have been realized are not lost.
  • Special guidance for teachers of young children who are learning from a distance
  • Videos of the authors and teachers discussing a wide variety of distance learning topics
  • Space to write and reflect on current practices and plan future instruction

The Distance Learning Playbook is the essential hands-on guide to preparing and delivering distance learning experiences that are truly effective and impactful.

To purchase from an Authorized Corwin Distributor click here.
A Spanish translation of the Distance Learning Playbook, Grades K-12, Aprendizaje a Distancia Guia, Guia de Preescolar a Bachillerator, can be purchased by contacting Irene Yepez from Editorial Trillas at

List of Videos
A Visible Learning Primer

Visible Learning and Distance Learning

A Question of Equity

Module 1: Take Care of Yourself
Learning Intentions

A View From the Early Years


Success Criteria

Module 2: The First Days of School
Learning Intentions

Develop a Classroom Management Plan for Distance Learning

Establish Norms

Link Norms to Class Agreements

Identify Expectations for Synchronous Distance Learning

Develop and Teach Organizational and Procedural Routines

A View From the Early Years

Design a Considerate Website

Your First Distance Classes

Learn Students’ Interests


Success Criteria

Module 3: Teacher—Student Relationships From a Distance
Learning Intentions

Characteristics of Teacher–Student Relationships

Judgment and Will, Not Just Knowledge and Ability

Peer-to-Peer Relationships Are Influenced, Too

A “Chilly” Classroom

A View From the Early Years

Reaching the Hard to Teach

Increase Your Touchpoints With All Students


Success Criteria

Module 4: Teacher Credibility at a Distance
Learning Intentions

Teacher Credibility Defined

A View From the Early Years


Success Criteria

Module 5: Teacher Clarity at a Distance
Learning Intentions

Start With the Standards

Create a Flow of Lessons: Unit Planning

Create Learning Intentions

Identify Success Criteria

A View From the Early Years

Find the Relevance


Success Criteria

Module 6: Engaging Tasks
Learning Intentions

Think Functions of Engagement, Not Just Tools

Set the Conditions for Engagement and Learning

Select the Tools That Meet These Functions and Conditions

Design Tasks With Engagement in Mind

A View From the Early Years

Design a Considerate Schedule to Promote Engagement


Success Criteria

Module 7: Planning Instructional Units for Distance Learning
Learning Intentions



A View From the Early Years

Coaching and Facilitating



Success Criteria

Module 8: Feedback, Assessment, and Grading
Learning Intentions

Feedback to Students

The Socioemotional Links to Feedback

A View From the Early Years

Feedback at a Distance

Formative Evaluation

Summative Evaluations

Competency-Based Grading


Success Criteria

Module 9: Learning, Distance or Otherwise
Learning Intentions

Learning From Other Crises

Use Crisis Learning to Make Schools Better

Make Learning Better for Students

Make Learning Better for Teachers


Success Criteria


I love this book! It provides practical information to support all our teachers as they shift all or some of their instruction to distance learning. It is the best of what Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey have to teach us about great instruction, all packaged up in a hands-on tool to guide teachers as they plan for the upcoming year. From teacher self-care to feedback, assessment and grading, it’s all addressed here. It’s right on time and it will be a foundational tool to help shape our instructional focus at my school this year.

Jennifer Carr

As we charter the unfamiliar territory of a blended learning platform, we turn to the experts who have gone before us. Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie remind us that the focus is not technology, learning management systems, or devices, but the focus remains student learning. This book serves as a safe haven, as it reminds us what effective teaching and learning entail, and it rewraps it around a digital learning framework. Whether districts are familiar with distance learning, or if they are starting from ground zero, The Distance Learning Playbook is the place to start.  

Melanie Spence
Sloan-Hendrix School District, Imboden, AK

Echoing through the pages of this timely book is the message: Effective teaching is effective teaching, no matter where it occurs. Teacher voices and classroom examples animate core principles of research-based teaching and learning, enabling the reader to visualize practices in both face-to-face and online learning environments. Multiple self-assessments and templates for reflection support reader interaction with the content. The authors connect Visible Learning and informed teacher decision-making to all facets of effective lesson design and delivery, and address the important issues of equity and inclusiveness; learner self-regulation and driving of their own learning; and use of formative evaluation and feedback to move learning forward. A must-read book!

Jackie Acree Walsh

We are in a place in history where we desperately need answers to questions that will determine the future of our nation's most precious possession -- our children. The Distance Learning Playbook is an incredible resource with a wealth of practical support for teachers and administrators, and it will fill a huge information gap that many schools are experiencing in educating students in a virtual setting. Very practical, easy-to-use samples about how to start and end a class, the social-emotional support needed, and setting up norms to develop a safe culture for students to learn at high levels. This is a must-have for educators at all levels -- district leaders, principals, coaches and teachers in the 21st century and beyond. This resource is ideal for schools that are looking for answers to a whole-child approach to virtual education.

Dr. Charles Newman
Perris Union High School District, Perris, CA

The year 2020 will be forever etched as the Era of Distance Learning. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused cascading changes that have shifted our educational institutions. This concerted seismic move has elevated the need for robust internet connections and meaningful virtual interactions.  The Distance Learning Playbook is an invaluable resource to prepare our teachers to provide a powerful learning environment through technology, while promoting the most powerful tool available to educators -- a caring and challenging relationship with students.

Dr. Francisco Escobedo
Chula Vista Elementary School District, Chula Vista, CA

Never has there been another time in history where the majority of educators around the world jumped into action to reinvent how schools and classrooms function. Using current research of what constitutes ‘best practice,’ The Distance Learning Playbook helps guide us all through ‘pandemic teaching.’ This book is filled with ideas and insight from real educators as they reflect on what they themselves need and what students will need to learn within a new teaching and learning environment. Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie continue to develop relational pedagogies that support cultural responsiveness and social emotional development in order to have a positive effect on student achievement, but this time, in a new setting. They help us understand new research-based approaches to engage every student, and in doing so, help us select the appropriate digital tools. I can’t wait to use this book in our professional learning.

Lisa Riggs
Gresham-Barlow School District, Gresham, OR

The book provides instructional strategies that will help prepare teacher candidates to the entering classrooms impacted by the pandemic currently and those in the future.

Dr Elliott Johnson
Education Dept, Luther College
November 19, 2020

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