Teaching in Small Groups? Use Zoom Breakout Rooms!

Small group instruction is paramount to developing relationships, differentiating instruction, and progress monitoring for students. Luckily, this is still very possible in a remote teaching setting! Enter, Breakout Rooms in Zoom (yes, these are coming in Teams as well, so stay tuned!).

Think partner reading, small group conferences, think-pair-share, and more! Breakout Rooms are also optimal in facilitating student check-ins with Paraprofessionals or other support staff.

Below are the steps to ensure that you are getting the most out of Zoom Breakout Rooms for your small group instruction:

  • Ensure Breakout Rooms are Enabled

Before using Breakout Rooms, you’ll want to ensure that this is enabled in the Settings tab of your Zoom account. If the setting is disabled click the toggle to enable it. Note that you are not able to pre-assign students to Breakout Rooms when scheduling.

  • Creating Breakout Rooms

As a meeting Host, you can enable Breakout Rooms from your toolbar. Only the Host has this option.

Automatically: This is the simplest way to create Breakout Rooms. Zoom will detect how many students are in your meeting, and you will decide how many rooms you would like to have.

Manually: With our ISD Zoom accounts, you are not able to manually assign students to Breakout Rooms until the meeting has started.

To manually create Breakout Rooms once the meeting has started, click the Breakout Room icon on the Zoom toolbar and decide how many rooms you plan to have. From there, hover over “Breakout Room 1” to select the students you would like to assign to that room. Note that you can “exchange” or “move” students even after you have assigned to a room by hovering over the Breakout Room again.

  • Determining Breakout Room Duration

You can set a specific duration of time for the Breakout Rooms, or just open them. Zoom will default to a 60-second “warning” that the rooms are closing, either when you manually close them (no time limit set), or when the last minute in your duration is near.

To set a time limit for your Breakout Rooms, click on “Options.” You can set a time limit for Breakout Rooms to close or just leave this open for you as the Host to determine. You can also set a countdown timer (students will be notified when the timer kicks in).

  • Other Settings:

In this same “Options” setting, you can allow students to return to the main session at any time – this is helpful if students might need support from the teacher during the group work time, or if you assign a task and want students to return once they are done. You can also move participants automatically to the rooms (the first check mark in “Options.”) If this is unchecked, the student will need to select “Join” to enter the room.

  • Messaging Students in Breakout Rooms:

As the Host, you can send a message to all Breakout Rooms to send a reminder (this will appear as a banner at the top of the student’s screen). Note that the chat in the whole-group meeting will not move into the Breakout Rooms. Therefore, if you want to share a document with students to use in the Breakout Room, ensure they have received that before moving them into their rooms.

Note: In a Breakout Room, students also have the option of clicking on the “?” to ask for your help. As the Host, you will receive an alert and you can join that student’s room.

  • Pinning and Spotlighting a Video in a Meeting:

Pinning: When recording a live lesson, pinning a video is an excellent idea because it will ensure students are seeing your video. Each student will have to pin you from their screen, so be sure to explain this (this is a user view). If the presenter pins their video, it won’t automatically pin for students. Pin a video by hovering over the person’s video that you want to pin, and click the three dots in the upper right hand corner. A drop-down menu will appear and you can pin the video there.

Spotlighting: Spotlighting is an effective tool when presenting, and when you are recording and want to ensure that your face is shown, rather than students. To spotlight, hover over the video of yourself, and click “Spotlight for Everyone” in the drop-down menu. 

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