Digital Playlists for Online and Hybrid Instruction

Contributed by Joy Hamm

It may be a daunting task for your English Learners and their families to face a new semester (or year) of online learning. One possibility that may help are digital playlists which are versatile for online or hybrid classrooms.  

What is a Digital Playlist?

This term was carried over from the music world and into the classroom to refer to personalized or differentiated, student-driven instruction and has gained popularity due to the shift to online instruction. Digital playlists contain sequential tasks, which students complete primarily on their own. In addition to individualized tasks, digital playlists embed mini-lessons for face-to-face or synchronous online video instruction. See the following link from The International Literacy Association* for more information. 

 Here is an example I created: Digital Playlist on Sensory Details


Clarity: The tasks are ordered and clear for all students to follow as they work on their own. 

Versatility: Digital playlists can be uploaded to Google Classroom, Canvas, or any other district platform without having to recreate new material. They are usually differentiated for a variety of student choices which provide versatility within the learning process and products. 

Flexibility: Students have flexibility to decide if they want to complete the tasks in one sitting or break it into smaller chunks until the assigned due date. Furthermore, if the digital playlist takes about 45-50 minutes to finish all tasks, the teacher can choose which sections will be completed face-to-face or via synchronous online video lessons, as well as how many days students have to work on the individual tasks. 

In conclusion, as you contemplate the best way to engage your English Learners this school year, I recommend considering digital playlists as a method for clear, student-centered instruction. 

 Frequently Asked Questions: 

1. Will this increase my workload?

Start with something manageable. Can you take some of your lesson plans and add links or documents along with simple directions for students? I am taking my lesson plans and converting them into student digital playlists with a few simple edits and additions! The pretty icons aren’t necessary. However, if you like the images on the example playlist above, check out* for millions of royalty-free icons, free of charge (there is a brief sign-up first). 

2. What if my students don’t have a computer? 

Most families have smartphones! One idea is to show students how to access the digital playlist documents using the Google Drive phone app.

Another idea is to print off the digital playlists and any of the document/activity/assessments that are linked. The paper copies work the same way as doing the tasks online. Students can access the videos by typing the link information into their family’s phone. They can also send you pictures of their completed work by taking pictures and sending work to your email or sharing via Google Drive. Another idea is to help families download a free scanner app on their phone and then have students scan their work to you in a timely manner. 


Noun Project. (n.d.). Retrieved July 24, 2020, from
Putman, M. (2018, June 08). ILA’s Blog. Retrieved July 24, 2020, from

Published by together4els

In-service teachers from across the State working together for English learners (ELs). This network offers ALL teachers of ELs the opportunity to explore resources and interact with colleagues to discuss and reflect on EL education using a collaborative structure for professional growth. EL Teacher Network Leadership Team – A group of in-service EL teachers from across the State working together to plan opportunities for ALL teachers who work with English learners to explore resources and interact with colleagues to discuss and reflect on EL education using a collaborative structure for professional growth.

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