Breakout rooms in Microsoft Class Teams launched in January 2021, allowing teachers to create sub-meetings within the main class meeting for students to work together in small groups and discuss their learning.
In this discussion, we’ve included everything you need to know about breakout rooms in Teams, from how to set them up to safeguarding and saving time.
How To Set Up Breakout Rooms In Class Teams
It’s straightforward to set up breakout rooms in Class Teams.
You can set up a breakout room once the meeting is open in the desktop app by selecting the breakout room button.
We have a step-by-step guide on setting up breakout rooms in Class Teams here.
The teacher can manually allocate each student to a specific breakout room or allow Teams to decide automatically. It’s entirely your choice – many teachers prefer to manually assign students, but it might be quicker to randomly assign everyone.
Once a breakout room is open, the students are placed into the room after 10 seconds. Breakout rooms can also be renamed.
How To Save Time Setting up Breakout Rooms in Class Teams
Currently, breakout rooms cannot be pre-planned and must be created while you’re in a Class Teams meeting. However, there are several ways to get around this.
The first is to open the meeting early and set out the rooms, then exit the meeting until you need to return, i.e. at the time of the class.
The second is to create recurring meetings for your lessons. Once you set up your breakout rooms in your first recurring meeting, it’ll save those rooms and reallocate the same students to the rooms for the next lesson.
How To Structure Breakout Rooms in Class Teams
The structure of your breakout rooms depends largely on how you teach your class. Here are some common examples:
Pairs or small groups.
Mixed ability groups.
Small groups with a teaching assistant.
Similar ability groups – i.e. red table, yellow table.
Think about how you structure your physical classroom and how you would group together students and apply this to the online classroom.
Ideas for Breakout Rooms in Class Teams.
Like with real-life group work in schools, breakout rooms are a great way to engage students in a different way that simply listening to the lesson and completing individual tasks.
Our Teaching and Learning consultant Darren Hemming was formerly a Modern Foreign Languages Teacher and has some ideas on how he’d use breakout rooms to enhance learning:
“One way is to set up a jigsaw activity, where each group takes a specific area or topic and completes questions or a task around that topic. Each group can then be brought back into the main Class Teams lesson to present to the rest of the class,” says Darren.
“There’s also the possibility of putting students into groups to complete individual work, but the breakout room is there as a co-working space. So the students can be working on their tasks, whether that’s completing a set of questions or doing some artwork, and if they get stuck, they can ask for peer support.”
Darren also points out that breakout rooms are a great way to reduce distractions on a students’ screen. If their screen is filled with 30 people, they may be less likely to contribute and also get distracted by their whole class staring virtually back at them.
Smaller groups mean fewer distractions and a less daunting environment to ask questions and contribute.
Safeguarding Students in Class Teams Breakout Rooms.
Safeguarding issues, inappropriate behaviour and cyberbullying are common concerns among teachers and staff who are dipping their toes into the world of breakout rooms.
“Firstly, you need to set expectations and communicate with both students and parents about what type of behaviour is acceptable during online learning,” Darren adds.
“Whether students are being taught online or in the classroom, safeguarding issues crop up. But there are some ways teachers can use the technology to closely monitor what’s happening within each room, as well as encourage them to stay on task.”
Teachers can hop in and out of the breakout rooms unannounced, and by doing this regularly, you can make sure students are staying on track.
Breakout rooms can also be recorded, which may help deter students from getting distracted or behaving inappropriately. To do this, teachers need to join the breakout room and hit record, but when they leave the breakout room, Teams will continue recording.
Another step to take in terms of safeguarding is updating your online learning policy to include Class Teams and breakout rooms.
“It’s all about being clear with your students that the expectations online are exactly the same as they would be on school premises,” says Darren.
Keeping Students On Task in Class Teams Breakout Rooms.
The methods mentioned above on safeguarding in breakout rooms can also be applied to keep students on task and steer them away from distractions and off-topic conversations.
A key way to keep students on task in breakout rooms is to keep the sessions short. By injecting a bit of urgency into the breakout rooms – i.e. only opening them for a few minutes at a time, you can make sure students are focusing on the task and not getting bored, going off-topic.
“It’s difficult to discipline students if they’re behaviour isn’t appropriate when teaching an online class. But you can always take them out of a breakout room (or the main Class Teams area) and into a breakout room with only you and talk to them about their behaviour,” Darren suggests.
“Of course, if the behaviour becomes an ongoing issue, you can then decide to take it further through the usual processes of your school, whether that would be to talk to their form tutor, head of house and eventually parents/guardians.”
Other Things To Remember About Class Teams Breakout Rooms.
Here are some additional tips you need to know about breakout rooms in Class Teams:
When a student enters a breakout room, their mic is unmuted and they have the ability to share their screen and present. But when they re-enter the main lesson, they are muted and can no longer present.
Recordings of individual breakout rooms are only shared with the specific participants, not everyone in the class. The teacher can access them, if needed, via OneDrive.
Reminders and time warning messages can be sent by the teacher to all breakout rooms to communicate with the class.