Classroom Collaboration: Foster Teamwork and Help Students Stay Safe

Ways teachers around the globe are connecting students in the new school normal

Teachers across the U.S. and around the world are using their creativity and experience to find a balance between social distancing and working together in the classroom. Technology is a big part of the solution.

Classroom collaboration helps students learn new things, reinforce what they already know and stay engaged. As states and cities implement new rules for social distancing in schools, how can you foster this teamwork in your classroom?

Create protective bubbles

Denmark was one of the first countries to send kids back to school after the COVID-19 shutdown. Teachers there anticipated that young children wouldn’t adhere to social distancing rules, so they kept kids connected by creating protective bubbles. To do this in your school, assign children to small groups that they’ll stay with throughout the day. Have each group arrive at the same time each morning, eat lunch together (and away from other groups) and visit the playground together. Reducing the number of children — and the associated health risk — opens opportunities for collaboration.

Lean on technology

Education Week surveyed 600 educators in Australia, Denmark and Taiwan to find out how they’re protecting and engaging students. The results include some ideas for how to keep everyone working together, even when they’re physically apart. Education technology can provide continuity between students in and out of the classroom.

  • Connect home and school. If you teach in a school with staggered attendance, support safe collaboration by having kids in the classroom work with classmates at home via video conferencing. Use headphones to manage in-classroom noise.
  • Maintain activities. Use virtual extracurriculars to take students beyond the four walls of their schools or homes to work together. Athens College High School opted to continue its online debate club — including tournaments — as a means of sustaining collaboration.

Flip the norm

Many schools are already using Google Classroom, which streamlines the process of distributing and grading assignments, and gives teachers a consolidated view of how students are progressing throughout the year. A flipped model, where teachers record instructional videos and put them online in lieu of traditional homework, may also be helpful if your district is staggering when children are in the classroom. When students and teachers are together, that can be the time for discussion, answering questions and doing exercises based on the lesson. This approach can help you cover more content and enable students to make the most of their time spent in the classroom.

Involve everyone

Keep the lines of communication open between yourself, your students and their parents so that you can all work toward the same objectives. Make sure that caregivers, when possible, understand their child’s assignments and deadlines, know where they can get tech help as needed and understand what their role should be in the learning process. This will require more work up front, but over time, can provide support for you and your students.

Use your best resource for ideas

State and local rules will guide when and how teachers return to the classroom. Don’t forget that you have a remarkable tech-savvy resource at your disposal — your students. Children are tremendously skilled at using numerous different types of technology to communicate. When age appropriate, ask them for their ideas on how to stay connected. To encourage their feedback, have a box for suggestions, or run a contest to find out how they want to engage with each other and you.