Years ago, when I was a first-year teacher fresh out of university, I received an invaluable piece of advice from my partner teacher: “Building your classroom community isn’t just a September activity. You’ll need to find ways to strengthen it every day.” Over the course of the year, I saw all the small things she did to keep her students connected. And how, one by one, they added up.
COVID-19 has made it more important than ever to bring students together – but also incredibly difficult. And for hybrid learning scenarios – where students are split between attending from home and in-person – it can be easy to feel like two classrooms.
One thing that helps – getting your whole class talking. This is easier said than done, especially if remote students are feeling left out of the action.
If you need some new ways to get that one-classroom feel you’re looking for, here are 9 hybrid learning activities that can bridge the gap between remote and in-person students.
1. Full-class counting challenge
Challenge your class to count to 20, with one student saying each number and going in no set order. If two students say a number at the same time, everyone starts from the beginning. It’s surprisingly challenging and requires careful listening and patience from everyone. This activity can help students really tune into those who aren’t in the room with them. (Make sure that you have full-classroom audio coverage so everyone’s voice is always picked up.)
2. Would you rather?
The simplest questions can sometimes be the most fun. Would you rather be able to fly or turn invisible? Live in space or a submarine? Swim in a pool full of juice or chocolate pudding? With fun questions like these, students will be eager to share their take. And once you get them weighing the relative merits of unusual pets or jobs or snacks, that energy can carry over into the rest of the class. Here are 100 questions to try.
3. Movement breaks
In hybrid learning classrooms, scheduling regular times to get up and move is essential. After the year we’ve had, we all know how exhausting it can be to sit in front of a screen all day. Plus even in-person students are probably stuck in their desks a lot more than normal. But movement breaks also give you an opportunity to bring students together. Try letting different individual students – remote and in-person – lead everyone in their favorite exercise or silly action.
If you’d like to boost inquiry in your classroom while sparking more discussion, then quescussion might be for you. Think of it as a standard class discussion but only questions are permitted. When someone makes a mistake, the class yells “Statement!” and the person needs to reword their point as a question. When done at the beginning of a unit or lesson, the questions raised get students more engaged in the topic. And when done at the end, everyone gets a sense of what has been learned and what’s still to be discovered.
5. Classroom debates
Debate is a time-tested way to get people talking. You can simply divide the class in two and assign sides, or use a more structured debate format (here are a few to try). Debates are great for going deeper into the curriculum but work just as well for topics decidedly less serious. (If you want to see some passionate arguments, try asking “Is cereal a soup?”) It’s usually best to mix up the groups so remote and in-person students work together to formulate arguments, but make sure those in the room don’t dominate the conversation. Here are some tips to better facilitate hybrid classroom discussions.
6. One-minute paper
How much could you explain in one minute? At the end of class, set a timer (for one minute or more) and ask students to record their most eye-opening revelations or something that still doesn’t make sense to them. Here are a few questions to get them started. Then students can share their one-minute papers with the class. Hearing that others have similar questions or struggles helps students see they’re not alone, plus it gives teachers a window into common misunderstandings or concerns.
7. Collaborative storytelling
This mainstay of summer camps and road trips can come in handy when trying to get students talking in your hybrid learning classroom. Basically, each student takes turn contributing a handful of words to a collaborative story – the results are almost always weird, funny and sometimes surprisingly effective. Make sure the storyteller alternates between in-person and remote students to keep up the energy on both sides of the screen and create the feeling that the whole class truly worked together on one story.
8. Student-led Jeopardy
Student-led Jeopardy, where learners come up with the answers and questions, is a great way to bring excitement to end-of-unit review. And the process of constructing the game itself also helps strengthen understanding. Make sure you set some ground rules on what topics will be covered and create teams with a mixture of online and in-person students. If you need help with a Jeopardy board that works online, here are a few options.
9. Quotable learning highlights
Bringing up students’ passions is a surefire way to get them talking, and this activity taps into that enthusiasm. Students take a concept from class and choose something from outside school that they feel relates to it. It could be a famous quote, a song lyric, an image, a meme or anything else that they’d like to share, just as long as they can explain what the connection is. Make sure to leave enough time for students to piggyback on the idea with their own ideas or questions.
We’re in this together
These activities are just one way to keep students connected in a hybrid learning classroom. Breakout rooms in your UC&C software are also helpful to give students more of chance to talk in smaller groups. And asynchronous collaboration activities – using Google Docs™ or other online tools – can get students connecting in less obvious ways.
But there’s something about having a whole-class discussion that can feel so normal during these decidedly not-normal times. And that can make a big difference in helping students know that no matter how far apart we are physically, we’re still in this together.
Checklist: 8 audio essentials for classrooms
Does your audio system allow teachers to move around the classroom freely as they teach – and know their voices will be picked up everywhere? This is one of eight must-haves for effective classroom audio. See what else is on the list – download your checklist today (no email address required).
Posted on April 14, 2021