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Virtual Classroom Management Tips: Supporting Connection With Play

Being intentional about attention can support interpersonal connection. Here’s a game you can play to notice how attention is used in your virtual classroom.

By iThrive Games
December 1, 2020

The move to remote learning highlights some of the limitations of a virtual classroom. Trying to build resonance and create connection among people over video conference requires intentionality.

At iThrive, we see interpersonal connection as a sense of warmth, belonging, feeling seen, and feeling respected. In virtual environments, cultivating this requires some different strategies than we use when we're in person. As part of the curricular surrounds for our new virtual civics game, iThrive Sim: Lives in Balance, we have created a number of ways to support teachers in building this intentional connection.

We appreciated the work of the game-loving experts behind Zoom Jam, presented by USC Games and Situation Lab in partnership with The Higher Education Video Game Alliance. We included Mute-iny, our favorite game from Zoom Jam, as part of an activity teachers can do at any point, but particularly before engaging in online play, such as our role-playing experience. This activity can help to focus attention on how each class member can contribute to an inclusive and engaging virtual space.

Step 1: Reflect and Discuss

Share with students that to stay connected from a physical distance in the virtual classroom, you might need to use some different strategies than you use when you're together in person. Ask students to reflect and share: 

  • What does feeling connected mean to you? 
  • This year as we have practiced social distancing, how have you stayed connected to friends and family?
Step 2: Tune in Through Play
  • Introduce the lip-reading game Mute-iny and orient students to it with something like, "Let's see how closely we can pay attention to one another."
  • Play Mute-iny. This simple game works with any video conferencing software with video and chat functions. 
  • Have each student who'll be playing prepare one sentence that they will say on mute while others try to guess what they are saying. 
  • Tip: You may want to have each role-play group of 6 play this game together in breakout rooms (if that is allowed in your school). If you want to play as a whole class, ask 6 students to volunteer to say sentences while the rest of the class guesses what they're saying. 

Directions (Source: https://zoomjam.org/):

  1. Everyone is muted, and the volume is turned down.
  2. Pick an order for people to go (for instance, number each person 1, 2, 3, 4…).
  3. One person starts by counting down from 3, then says a sentence really slowly.
  4. Everyone else - type and send your response to the group chat and see what everyone else said!
  5. Have the next person signal or post in the chat that they're starting, and repeat steps 3-5 until everyone has had a chance.
  6. Once everyone has finished their turn, unmute yourselves and reveal your sentences!
Step 3: Briefly Discuss
  • Ask students to reflect and share: What did you notice about how we connected and tuned into each other while we played Mute-iny?

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