Community Project – Breakout Rooms in Remote Learning Classrooms

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 – Collaborator

Coaches establish productive relationships with educators in order to improve instructional practice and learning outcomes. Coaches:

3a. Establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies.

3b. Partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate and aligned to content standards.

3c. Partner with educators to evaluate the efficacy of digital learning content and tools to inform procurement decisions and adoption.

3d. Personalize support for educators by planning and modeling the effective use of technology to improve student learning.

Although teachers and researchers agree that heritage language learners are better served in separate courses specifically designed to address their affective and linguistic needs, in the United States most heritage speakers study their home language in mixed classes, alongside second language learners (Beaudrie 2012, Carreira 2014). Meeting the needs of heritage language learners in these mixed classes represents a major challenge for teachers at all levels. 

In February, I was honored to present as one of the panel speakers in the 2021 Heritage Language Symposium hosted by the STARTALK program from the University of Washington. This professional learning opportunity was designed for all language teachers from Kindergarten to Higher Education. 

This Professional Learning event was hosted online using the Zoom Live event in February. This symposium began with a Keynote Speaker, Olesya Kisselev, PhD who is the Assistant Professor at the University of Texas San Antonio. She addressed the environmental and cognitive processes that shape the nature of Heritage Language learners’  knowledge and discussed how to develop a theoretically-sound and research-based approach to language pedagogy that accounts for specific linguistic and cultural needs of the two populations in the modern language classroom. Her presentation was followed by me and other 3 panel speakers. My 20 minutes presentation mainly focused on the difficulties we have encountered in our mixed classes, particularly while adjusting to remote teaching during Covid-19 and shared the strategies to use breakout rooms in MS Teams to make small group teaching in the online and hybrid model that accommodates  our heritage language learners in online learning contexts. 

Before the presentation, we surveyed all the participants to have them share their questions related to teaching heritage language learners in mixed language class and challenges they encountered during remote learning. We also survey teachers to understand their experience and current challenges using educational tools like MS Teams, Zoom, Flipgrid and others. We had a question board available for participants to submit their questions during the presentation and we dedicated the last 20 minutes as a live interacted FAQ session with all the participants. 

My presentation began by sharing effective digital classroom management practices to create a respectful and responsible online learning culture. Digital classroom management practice related to breakout rooms in remote learning class focus on the digital citizenship agreement in this presentation included the following: 

1. Resource for Digital Citizenship agreement was provided to teachers in one of the slides. Digital Citizenship Primary School Agreement

2. Establish Norms for small groups by practicing good citizenship & “Make sure everyone else gets it!”

3. Assigning Roles for small group to have facilitator, note taker, presenter, checker 

4. Set Goal for each small group activities by having each group provide  evidence of productivity (notes, task result, presentation, report etc. )

5. Use Recording feature in Breakout Room

6. Assign students in the same group for at least twice in a role to build routine and team culture 

My presentation was mainly focusing on using and evaluating Microsoft Teams to create small groups for differentiation in a class to meet the needs of heritage language learners and second language learners. Therefore, Microsoft Teams is the targeted digital tool in this presentation, but all the strategies applied to Zooms, Google Meets or any remote conferencing tools that have the features to create breakout sessions. This presentation was personalized to skip the instruction of using breakout room features in Microsoft Teams because we surveyed all participants and they had  experience using MS Teams or Zooms breakout rooms features.

In this presentation, grouping strategies and samples of breakout session works were provided for educators to make adoption in their own practices. 

The workshop and all materials were recorded and continued to be available in the 2021 HERITAGE LANGUAGE SYMPOSIUM official page for participants to review and use as resources after the workshop.

I am looking forward to delivering this presentation to language teachers in my district. One adjustment I will make depending on the number of participants is to create breakout sessions for teachers who teach in a similar grade level to work on a grouping scenario by using the norms, roles and agreement I demonstrated in the presentation. I believe more interactive online workshops are more effective and engaging for participants.