Virtual Classroom Management Strategies: Norm Setting in 3 Steps

When norms are co-created with students, the virtual classroom becomes an online space supportive of respect, understanding and connection. This 25-minute, three-step activity offers a structured way to do this.

By iThrive Games
October 14, 2020

In a time that asks us to reevaluate what we think of as normal classroom management, one way educators and students can co-create a sense of stability in the virtual classroom is to collaborate on setting norms.

Whether you're a few weeks or a few months into the school year, revisiting norms can be a helpful part of your virtual classroom management plan. 

As we work to support teachers in amplifying their civics curriculum with our role-playing game iThrive Sim: Lives in Balance, we have found that a key part of inviting students into deeper engagement is to collaborate with them on a set of key norms. These are touchstones for everyone to observe and come back to during interactive and unscripted play and learning sessions.

Having agreements in place can help build connection and investment and prevent misunderstandings. Norm setting also gives students language and tools to advocate for themselves. It emphasizes that responsibility for making the learning experience a success belongs to all class members. 

Below is a three-step process you can use to facilitate norm setting in a virtual classroom. You can set aside 25 minutes for the full discussion. 

Step 1: Facilitate a discussion. Use the following prompts: 

  • What's different for you in your experience of learning when we are together in the classroom compared to when we are together virtually?
  • What do you know you need to do to stay alert and engaged? 
  • How will we signal to each other that something isn't okay and needs to change? 
  • What do we each commit to doing to support an environment where we can all participate and learn?

Step 2: As a class, vote on and rank the most important norms. 

Step 3: Make a list of the key behaviors, strategies, and signals the class has agreed are most important. Consider "pinning" this list in the chat box of the video conferencing software used in your virtual classroom or other shared online space so everyone can revisit it regularly. 

What strategies have been working for you to enhance connection and foster helpful norms in your classroom? We love hearing from you, so if you'd like to share, email us at And be sure to visit our website to learn more about using iThrive Sim, our role-playing simulation, in your high school classroom.

classroom management norms virtual classroom