Classroom Tips

5 activities for getting to know students virtually

Despite having virtual learning being a big part of our lives for the last year, it can still be difficult to get to know students through a webcam. Let’s face it, it’s easy to encounter awkwardness during an online class, and it’s even easier to not build relationships with students. As an educator, there’s no question that your role just got bigger — not only are you teaching, you’re also in charge of facilitating a virtual session. This means juggling who is muted, while making students feel part of your community, too.

Including icebreakers and activities in the beginning of your virtual class is a great way to make students feel more comfortable during the activity and meet other students. Not to mention, it gives you a chance to learn about your students.

Check out five of our favorite activities:

1. Get to know each other!

When you enter into a virtual environment, it can be difficult to contribute or even have side conversations with new friends. This is a good activity that encourages participation and helps students assimilate to your class.

Directions:

  • Put students in groups of two.
  • Give them a list of generic questions to ask each other.
  • Ask the students to interview each other (which is probably best to do in small breakout rooms).
  • When everyone reconvenes (which should be roughly 5 minutes after), each student should introduce the person they interviewed!


2. What are your hopes and fears?

This is a fun activity, especially for slightly older children. It can be used as a way to gauge excitement, nerves, and just general feeling towards an upcoming class you’re running.

Directions:

  • Ask children to jot down their greatest hopes (maybe it’s what they’re hoping to learn from your class!), and then their greatest fear. 
  • Virtually, have students write using a tool like Padlet or Lino, or just put up sticky notes/paper to the screen.
  • Next, read all your hopes and fears and discuss as a group. And don’t forget, the fears don’t have to be serious! 


3. Let’s ask some questions! 

We get it, virtual learning can be awkward from time to time. To make the experience comfortable from the start, sometimes it’s best to just ask some questions. That sounds simple, but it’s a nice way to get to know students in a relaxed manner.

Directions:

  • Whether you’re asking their favorite meals or top ice cream flavor, any light questions are a nice way for other students to get to know each other, and spark more conversation.


4. If you had to pick ONE word only...

What word best describes your students? Well, it’s up to them to decide! This is another activity suitable for students to share information about themselves creatively.

Directions:

  • Ask your students to choose one word that best describes them (it can only be one word!) and have them explain why.
  • Ask them to share their answers via the chat feature or on a virtual whiteboard. Then, toggle mute for each student so you can hear the answers.


5. All aboard the time machine 

Searching for an activity that serves as an icebreaker and way to flex your imagination? Well, this is the activity for you.

Directions:

  • Ask your students: ‘If you could go back or forward in time, where would you go?’ ‘Why?’ You can then follow up with other questions like, “Who would you want to have a meal with”?
  • Ask participants to share the answers.
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