Tag Archives: User Adoption Podcast

How To Achieve More With Breakout Rooms In Microsoft Teams (Microsoft 365 User Adoption Podcast Episode 13)

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.




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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.

start teams breakout room

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.

reoccurring mreeting

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.

Microsoft 365 User Adoption Episode 12: Saving Teacher Time With Class Notebook

Our Office 365 User Adoption Podcast highlights real-life stories from schools, academies and Multi Academy Trusts on how they’ve successfully rolled out Microsoft 365, SharePoint and Teams to staff and students.

In this podcast episode, we spoke with Rachael Howarth, Vice Principal at Bradford Girls’ Grammar School and Business Studies teacher on how they’re using Microsoft 365 to support students’ learning and save teachers’ time, whether they’re working remotely or in the classroom.




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Bradford Girls’ Grammar School started using SharePoint in March and April 2020 when UK schools were forced to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

“We started out using SharePoint, but from mid-May, we’ve been using Teams to improve the interaction between teachers and students,” explains Rachael.

“Since September, it has been a government requirement that anyone absent from school has immediate access to remote learning, so we adopted Class Notebook to achieve this in an efficient way.”

Rachael explains that the school decided it would be a lot easier if teachers planned lessons via Class Notebook so that they could use the resources in the classroom, as well as distributing them to students who were not in school, as well as another cover staff who required access to them.

“It’s been working really well. Students have access whenever they need to, and can go back and revise from these resources at a later date.”

An example of this in action is a Year 13 Business lesson Rachael shows us during the podcast.

Class Notebook

“Within this lesson, I have written down some instructions for students. If the lesson was recorded, I could link the video and there wouldn’t be a need for so many words here,” Rachael demonstrates.

“I have also added in links to YouTube videos and an audio recording of myself describing how this lesson fits into the rest of the A Level Business Studies course.”

Rachael explains how using links to videos is a great way to quickly share important learning resources without having to manually upload and embed resources multiple times. You can also do this with other files from your own OneNote, such as PowerPoint.

“We structure our files so that we have a centralised resource bank for each subject, then just reference or link to them in lessons rather than embedding and uploading those files for every single class. It saves a lot of time.”

The Grammar School has been making the most of centralised resources by allowing staff members to share and collaborate when creating learning materials.

“This has significantly reduced teacher workload. Our teachers have really appreciated being able to remotely co-author documents together and save time,” she continues.

“Centralising files in this way also allows department heads to check the quality and consistency of learning resources and – as an added bonus – we can instantly give our support and cover staff access to resources without manually having to send lesson plans and resources.”

Alongside Class Notebook, the school is also using Assignments.

“We keep our Assignments and Class Notebook separate so that students have an area to upload their classwork – any work that they complete during a lesson and therefore doesn’t have to be necessarily marked by a teacher. Meanwhile, they use Assignments for more formal, graded work,” Rachael shows us.

“Forms is also a really useful way to quickly quiz students and check their progress.”

As Darren Hemming, our Teaching and Learning Consultant, points out, having an online area where students can upload classwork enables the teacher to remotely walk around the classroom and look over students’ shoulders to check everyone is on track.

“Assignments has been a great way to instantly give digital feedback to students during Covid-19, without worrying about swapping pieces of paper back and forth between teachers and their classes.”

One challenge the school has faced during the pandemic is live teaching to students who are working from home.

saving teacher time with class notebook

“We’re located in a deprived area of the country and not all of our students have easy access to devices that they can work from. We’re lending students our spare devices and working with the government to provide as many tablets and laptops as possible, but the reality is some families still have to share one device between them,” Rachael tells us.

“Because of this, live teaching would not currently be possible if we had another school closure. Many students would be unable to attend timetabled classes and that’s why we’ve taken the approach of recording lessons and letting students access the videos and written materials at a time that suits them.”

During the beginning of lockdown, when some students only had mobile phones to work from, the school was able to work around this barrier by allowing students to take a photo of written work and upload it to Class Notebook.

“We’re now looking at setting up virtual drop-in sessions so students have access to their teacher on a regular basis to ask questions,” she points out.

“With the help of ongoing support and training, our students and staff have picked all of this up incredibly quickly. I’m looking forward to improving how we work and making it run even more smoothly.”

You can watch the full episode and the full podcast series on the Cloud Design Box YouTube channel. If you have any questions about adopting Microsoft 365, Teams and SharePoint in your school or organisation, get in touch with a member of our team right now.