Shift virtual learning by increasing student engagement and allowing students to lead their own learning. Here are a few tips and resources on how to do this, regardless of the tool you use (Zoom, Google Meets, etc).
Step off the stage regularly and often, and make room for STUDENT VOICES. Are you tired of hearing your own voice lecturing to a silent grid of faces? You can bet your students are ten times more tired of 'lectures'. Include at least one student presentation in EVERY class. Maybe you have a rotating schedule of current event reports, so the beginning of class starts with a STUDENT voice, not yours. This can help set the tone. Maybe you have students partnering to do this so there are 2 STUDENT voices tag teaming. Also, try requiring the speakers to facilitate a conversation, calling on at least 2 other students to contribute comments or questions. If students don't speak up, make the presenters choose at least 2 people to call on. Set the stage with multiple student voices at the beginning of every class, and you will create a culture of student voices welcomed.
Use Breakout Rooms with CHOICE. Allow students to choose what type of smaller group work they would like to join. Perhaps you ask them to select the number of the room in the chat tool, then you can quickly assign them to the room of their CHOICE. Here are two images, once by Ms. Park and another from Ms. Safran. Great ideas for CHOICES!
For more ideas like this one, visit this Engage Their Minds website.
3. Establish Clear Tasks and Roles for Breakout Rooms, AND Use Apps to Monitor Progress. If you have a clear objective for students, you can assign roles that will help them stay on task. Always have a facilitator/leader, that will keep the group moving forward. The other roles that might be helpful are scribe, tech assistant, presenter, and/or timekeeper. Clearly describe the responsibilities for each. Apps can be used to monitor their progress, while also allowing them to turn in a final product demonstrating they achieved the objective. For younger students, you might need to create a series of Google Docs, Sheets or Slides ahead of time. For older students, one of the students can have the responsibility of creating the file, sharing it to the group and the teacher. Empowering students to take on these tasks is a good thing with middle and high school students, as they need these skills. Once you have the files shared with you, you can monitor their progress in real time. On the other hand, if the information you want them to compile would be more like a digital worksheet, it makes sense for you to create a template in advance. You can create one for each breakout room, then compile them all into a Google Sheet listing breakout rooms and the share link for each room. This helps with easy monitoring by you.
Check out this other great blog post by TeachTrainLove for more great tips!