5 Ways to Use Breakout Rooms

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"5 Ways That Teachers Are Using Breakout Rooms to Create More Learner-Centered Experiences in Distance Learning" (post) 

  • Each point is developed more fully in the post.

A. The Challenges

1. "[S]tudents ... listening to lectures via zoom ... [can feel] disengaged."

  • "[C]ollaboration and social interaction ... encourage deeper processing and engage the ‘social brain.’"

2. "When learning environments are organized to facilitate positive interactions and are designed to foster connection and collaboration, the community benefits from the collective expertise."

  • "[J]ust putting students in breakout rooms alone will not likely increase engagement and learning outcomes."
  • "[G]roup work, and collaboration need structures that provide clarity and allow for more engagement in the discussion and activity."

B. Some Strategies

1. "Build Relationships"

  • "[S]urface-level questions" common to many icebreakers are not terribly helpful.
  • "If we really want to build connections and meaningful relationships that often requires actually getting to know people."
  • Some suggestions: "[U]se a prompt such like Two Truths and a Lie, A Gift You Bring to the Community (Share something that makes you special), and 10 Things About You."

2. "Small Group Instruction"

a. "Stephanie DeMichele put together [a] ... template for how to organize small groups with station rotation

b. It adapts to the Zoom environment as follows:

  • "Teacher-Led Station" activities occur in the whole-group Zoom session
    • Instruction, skill-building, troubleshooting, feedback, questions
  • "On/Offline Station" and "Extension" activities can occur in Breakout Rooms (in small groups or pairs) or online individually
    • Research and exploration, online collaboration, "passion projects," (online) games 
    • Personalized practice, multimedia lessons, Edpuzzle videos
    • Labs/experiments, active reading, writing, creating

3. "Higher-Order Thinking"

  • "It is hard to go deep with a large group in one zoom room."
  • "Marisa Thompson ... developed the TQE (Thoughts, Questions, Epiphanies) method where students read a text and make their thinking visible and discuss their ideas" (see examples in post).
  • "Another protocol that is great for going deeper and mixing it up is QFT (Question Formulation Technique" (again, see example in post -- and useful resources at the two QFT hotlinks). 

4. "Critique + Revision"

  • "[P]rovide opportunities for students to give feedback to one another."
  • "While students can give feedback asynchronously in Google Docs, dialogue about an idea, project, or work in progress can really help students to make it better."

5. "Reflection + Celebration"

  • Students want "to lear[n] with and from others" but also "the feedback and time to make the changes in their work and thinking."
  • "[T]aking time to pause and reflect can easily get cut but it is often the most valuable part of the learning process."
  • Useful tools suggested for student "to capture reflections and for students to share their thinking ... [and] reflect and synthesize their learning" include the following:
  • "Once small groups have synthesized and reflected on their thinking, a virtual gallery walk is a great way to share and celebrate the process of learning" (see example in post).
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