Break-out rooms (B/OR). Every online teacher’s new favourite thing! We mainly use them for pair/group speaking activities. We pop in to check students are on task and see if they need any help with language. Then, we bring everyone back to the main session and start an open class discussion.

At least, that’s  how I used B/OR in the first couple of months, but after experimenting a bit more, I realized there’s so much more I can do with this feature!  It can facilitate differentiation, feedback and last but not least, collaboration.  B/OR can actually make classes more interesting and beneficial for learners. And less BORing!

I’ve used them for:

  1. Rehearsal: Students can rehearse for a pair task, such as a role play or a presentation before repeating it in the main session.
  2. Task repetition: Move students to another  room to repeat the same task with a different partner, e.g. anecdote/storytelling.
  3. Different preferences: Some students can work individually in a private room e.g. doing exam tasks, while some might prefer to do them in pairs or groups.
  4. Different tasks: Our learners don’t have the same  strengths and weaknesses. You can assign two tasks, e.g. in a B2 class, send a pair of  students to  a B/OR to write an essay together, whereas another pair in another room will write an article.  You can leave it up to them, or you can decide depending on what they need to work on.
  5. Peer feedback/ fast finishers: Tell your students to raise their hand when they complete a task. When you have at least two, send them to a B/OR  to check answers/ give each other feedback, while the rest are still working on it.
  6. Private feedback:  I sometimes invite  one student  to join me in a B/OR  when they complete their work and I give  feedback on task. I also encourage them to ask any questions. I keep the rest of the students  busy with a quiziz, or put them in a different room to compare their work together. In these private micro-sessions, students tend to ask me questions they wouldn’t ask in front of others. It’s easier to ask than write a question in the chat box. Fear of embarrassment is also another reason. This individual attention and private conversation every now and then can strengthen motivation and boost learners’ confidence.
  7. Break: Sometimes, a lesson is just hard or our learners are having a bad day. We don’t always need to prepare brain breaks. Send them to a B/OR, give them a minute to vent and just talk to each other in L1. This can energize them more than we think . Works for my teenagers. Some teachers also let students chat in a B/OR for a couple of minutes  before class.

Anything to add? Feel free to comment and share.