It’s so important to create community in the virtual classroom! When you aren’t in the same physical space every day, it can make you and your students feel isolated. It is crucial that educators encourage connection in the virtual learning environment. And that is why we have 10 simple ideas, strategies and activities you can use immediately in your virtual classroom.
There are many ways you can foster community connections within your virtual classroom. Continue reading to discover 10 great, fun ways that you can create a strong sense community in your virtual classroom.
10 great activities to help you build community in your virtual classroom
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Caption this! It is a great activity to start building community in the virtual classroom. This can be used to spark creativity, or just for fun. The idea is to create a series images that spark discussion and debate. Each image is given to students for a brief period of time (1-2 min depending on age group) in which they can create a caption.
Caption This GIF
If you begin to create images that are relevant to your course materials, we think it would be a lot of fun. You can keep an eye out to find funny or interesting images that spark discussion with your students and then use those images in your warm-ups for Caption This! Students can really integrate their learning by using this method.
You can grab your templates from the link above. There are two versions of this amazing game available in Google Jamboard, one in english and one in french. Make your own copy of this game and you are good to go.
2. Four Corners Virtual Edition
Four Corners is a great activity for face-toface classes. This activity can be used to facilitate any type of opinion debate where students have to choose from four options. Your students would normally move to one of four corners and then be given time to discuss their choices with their peers.
Although this activity is best done in a classroom setting, it can easily adapt to a virtual one. I prefer to put this on a Jamboard. (Especially when you can app-smash the background with a custom Canva background). Students can add their names and move their notes into their “corner”. You might also consider pairing this with breakout areas where students can have short conversations and make connections with their peers.
Four Corners GIF
You can use the virtual edition with four corners to help you build community in virtual classroom. This could be used to create an icebreaker, where you learn about the preferences and ideas of your learners. You can also use it to connect your curriculum with specific discussion prompts.
To get your copy, make sure to grab the link above!
3. Bitmoji Stickers
With Bitmoji, you can make and customize digital stickers with your Bitmoji. These stickers are a favorite of ours. They are quick and easy to create, and they work well for giving feedback on student work. The virtual classroom community is more than just icebreakers. Students can benefit from your customized feedback.
Bitmoji Stickers Examples
The template can be downloaded by clicking the link at the top. It is created in Google drawings with a canvas size of 3in x 3.25in. Simply drag and drop Bitmoji to your sticker and resize. It’s easy!
I find it easier to upload stickers as PNG images to my student work. You should use the PNG format to ensure that the background stays transparent. You can drag the file from your computer to your student work after it is downloaded. This is great for students who use Google Slides. However, you will need to modify formatting if Google Docs is used.
Stickers can be used to increase the impact and value of your feedback. You can link audio or video via tools like Mote, Screencastify, and other online tools such as Screencastify. When your sticker is added in Google Apps for Students, right-click and select Add Link. Then, link to your audio/or video file.
Our Bitmoji Stickers In Google Drawings post will provide more information about how to make them.
4. Waterfall Chat
A waterfall chat can be a great way for you to get started in your virtual classroom. It’s super simple to set it up and requires very little effort upfront. These can be done in a flash and without any planning.
You share a question, prompt, or other information, and students then type their answers into the chat. This is crucial because they won’t click enter unless you tell them! After a reasonable amount of time, count down to three and then have your students press ENTER simultaneously. You can watch the chat replies flow like a waterfall and you will be able to see the reason for the name. This is the.
Waterfall Chat Instructions Visual
We absolutely love waterfall chats… it is so much fun watching the comments pour in simultaneously. Participation encourages students to voice their opinions and it also encourages them to share ideas. Once everyone shares their responses, you won’t be able to see what others have written.
5. Canva’s Jamboard Templates
Google Jamboard is an amazing tool for creating community in virtual classes. Because it can be used for small groups, Jamboard is our favourite tool (aside from Screencastify). Combining Jamboard activities and breakout rooms in your videoconferencing app can help students engage and collaborate. Community building is supported when students are encouraged to take part and participate in discussions.
We won’t get too far into the how-to, as there is a whole blog post on creating Jamboard Templates using Canva.
Canva is an amazing and easy-to use graphic design tool. There are many templates available that you can customize and modify for your specific needs. A blank canvas can be used as a starting point for your template. You can search for “Online Whiteboard”, and you will see a list of pre-built templates. Simply add, remove, or modify them as necessary and then download as a PNG. Add your creation as a Google Jamboard background and you are done!
6. Identity Charts
Ok, we don’t have the credit for this activity. It comes from Facing History. However, it is a great way for learners to get to know each other and to build community in virtual classrooms.
What exactly is an identity map? It’s a wonderful graphic tool that goes beyond the surface level of getting to know you and allows students share what makes them unique. Students can build relationships with their peers by sharing their experiences and possibly even begin to dismantle stereotypes.
Example Identity Chart
Example of an identity chart
It is important to give students a wide range of choices regarding what they share in their identity chart with you and with other classmates. We often give students the option of adding any one of the following to their identity charts:
- Use adjectives to describe you
- Relationships in life (e.g. friend, brother or daughter).
- Things you love
- Family Role
- Hobbies and other interests
- Background (religion or race, nationality; hometown, country of birth).
- Physical characteristics
- Your favorite things in your life
You should also create your teacher identity chart for your students. It will be a great way to show your students how you work and also help to create connections between you and your students. This post has a Google drawing template for you to download.
7. Think Outside the Box
It’s a great exercise in creativity to think outside the box! This activity is not only fun but also helps to build community within the virtual classroom. Students can share their thoughts with one another. Google Jamboard has the easiest way to get students creating and drawing.
So, what does this activity require students to do? Students are given part of the picture and asked to think outside of the box. They must then create something that is different from what they imagine. For example, the student might see half the outline for a butterfly in the example image and must complete the image by creating a different butterfly from the original image. It’s great fun to use your creative skills here.
GIF: Think Outside the Box
You have two options when it comes to assigning them: you could either make one copy of the Jamboard per student, or you could have everyone jump onto one Jamboard and pick or be given a frame. You can set it up however you like, You can grab the templates, we have both french and english versions of this activity!
8. Wakelet Newsletters
We need to build community through virtual learning. This means we need to establish relationships with all the stakeholders. Wakelet allows us to create newsletters that we can share with our parents and guardians. Wakelet can be used to create newsletters that are shared with guardians and parents. Make sure you check out this Wakelet episode!
The best thing about creating Wakelet newsletters? There are so many great templates. You can simply copy and paste one of these templates to get started. A Wakelet collection can be used to include any type of information or links. It will provide your parents with a single source for all the necessary information and links. Add links to Google Workspace docs/slides/sheets. Instruction videos or photos are also good options.
Wakelet newsletter template example GIF
This tool is perfect for communication with family, since it works with Microsoft’s Immersive Reader. This means your newsletter is accessible so you can communicate effectively and efficiently with your parents.
Wakelet is a great place to start. You can listen to the Wakelet episode via your favorite podcasting app (Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts for example), or here.
9. Two types of people
Two Kinds of People is an excellent warm-up activity that allows you to get to know your students. These activities are great for starting a discussion or debate in your classroom. The Slides version can be used to display each image while sharing your screen on a Google Meet. Or you can add interactivity using the Jamboard versions. You should grab all the templates needed to create this fun activity.
This is a warm-up activity that students can play. Students will choose whether or not they like image #1. This activity can be taken to the next level by having students debate their choices and sharing with a partner.
These are great for adults, too. You can use these to hold a staff meeting or professional learning session. We especially like the one for staff because it can spark some great debates. Are you a #1 or a #2?
10. Puzzle Party
Puzzle Party on Google Arts and Culture comes in last, but not least. It’s a great way to have fun while you record your episode on Google Arts and Culture. The idea is that you select an image from the internet and then work together to solve the jigsaw puzzle. This is great for virtual students and can be used to encourage collaboration between small groups.
Puzzle Party also has many connections with curriculum that we love, especially if you’re an arts-based educator. To learn more about the puzzle, students can click the art image. You can also divide the difficulty of the puzzle into three different levels.
For more information about Google Arts & Culture, check out the episode we just released on your favorite podcasting app, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify. Or listen here.
So, what’s the next step?
Are you looking for more examples on how to create an authentic community within your virtual classroom? Listen to one of our previous podcast episodes on this topic.
Don’t forget to grab your templates! These will help you build community in your virtual class!