Teacher Feature: Zoom Breakouts

Great teaching is happening around our district, whether it is online, hybrid, or in-person. As a TOSA, I have not been able to observe this teaching as often as I have in the past. I might get into a classroom to help solve a tech problem, which I am happy to do, but that often results in a quick drop-in. It happened though, on one of those missions I saw something pretty amazing and I needed to learn more. So, after some successful troubleshooting of Canvas and Flipgrid, I reached out to the teacher and asked to be invited in and watch her class in action.

Ms. Andrea Miele at Maywood Middle School teaches both social studies and Leadership. When I dropped in for tech support, she asked her leadership students to change their name in zoom to include “1-their name” if they needed to go to a breakout room for tech help. It was quick, efficient, and she could easily send the students and me to a breakout room.

This was just the beginning. I had the honor of observing her 7th grade social studies class where the number system was used in several different ways in their block period to help sort students quickly and efficiently. Here is what I saw in action.

First, choice was left to students on how they could start class with reviewing in a breakout room together (wrapping up an assignment) or they could stay in the main room. Students changed their zoom name to indicate their preference.

Example of a student who choose the breakout option.

The group breakout rooms were well organized with student’s taking on roles to help facilitate the conversation. In this case, as they looked at the map of Imperial China one student shared their screen while another was the group moderator and would read the questions and help support students sharing via chat.

Student sharing their screen with classmates while discussing their Geography Challenge assignment.

After their allotted time, everyone moved back to the main room where Ms. Miele directed students to a discussion using their own knowledge to make a decision about the type of person they would choose to lead them. Students had three choices when forming their response. This choice then led to the next breakout room. Students had to indicate if they had chosen 1) someone from another country, 2) someone who is rich, or 3) a smart student. Once again they indicated their choice by changing their name to include the number.

The advantage of allowing students to change their names means that groups can be made more quickly by identifying the number choice. As Ms. Miele then creates the groups, she can put people into the group by number. She once again gave them the task of taking roles of group moderator and screen sharing (using birthdays). Students shared their reasoning and then came back to the main room to further share with the group.

This is a great way of getting students into breakout rooms based on choice and not having to rely on pre-made rooms or topics. The flexibility it allows is great and the ideas are already flowing. Consider the next steps in a lesson such as this where your kids are number 1, 2, 3 and then jigsaw them into a group where you have one of each number represented.

In this case, the students were sent back into their groups to discuss their vocabulary assignment (given as a cloud Word doc) so that while they would complete the assignment individually, they could work together on defining their vocabulary (predict the meaning, define it, and picture it). Maywood students impressed this former ELA teacher as they tried to predict the meaning of the word Meritocracy. They thought of the suffix “ocracy” and how it appeared in aristocracy as well as democracy which made them think it was a government organization of a sort. They also thought of merits as a recognition of doing something good (as opposed to demerits). So they concluded somehow it was a government organization based on doing good. Great job MMS Chargers.

Once again, it was wonderful visiting a classroom for live instruction and seeing a new way of creating breakout rooms. Thank you Ms. Miele and MMS Chargers. If you have a lesson you would like your TOSA to observe, please reach out. We are always looking for great teaching to share.

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