How to run a class chat on Zoom
Friday marks the start of the Easter Holidays and yet it feels anything but a holiday. We’re trying to think how we can mark that something is different. That school is finishing soon, but I’m not sure even where to start.
Whatever your feelings are on home school, Joe Wicks or daily timetables. There has been one thing that we’ve looked forward to most each day. And that’s our daily class chats on Zoom. I used to love pick ups, I work from home and a 98% extrovert. Pick ups were a chance to chat to Mums and Dads. Find out how everyone was doing. Get advice about the latest childhood illness or simply play in the park right next to school.
Nostalgia features high in my mind at the moment. A longing for the world that was. A hope that this is all a bad dream. That one day we’ll wake up and it will all be gone. For now though its real, and we’ve decided to “try” and carry on as normal whatever normal is. last week we started doing virtual pick ups – class Zoom chats.
From Monday to Friday we do a class wide Zoom for my daughter in Year R. Most days 3 or 4 come and it ranges from 10 minutes to 60 minutes. At 4.30pm my eldest daughter has a Year 3 girls chat. Most days 3 to 12 girls come along. This call can last anything up to 90 minutes.
The later calls can be completely hectic. The girls are often so excited and end up talking ten to the dozen. I sometimes listen in and they’re catching up, chatting about their days, changing their screen settings* so that they’re flying in space or walking through grass. If it gets too big I put them in breakout rooms for 10 minutes at a time. I then recreate the groups so they all get a chance to chat with each other*. The other night after everyone left the room, my daughter and her friend ate dinner and played Pictionary with the whiteboard*.
Just to give you some context about me 2 weeks ago I occasionally used Zoom once a month for a work call. My family friends think my new found love for Zoom is hilarious. Since then thanks to self isolation. I’ve hosted daily School catch ups, a day long conference for 130 women, an evening conference for 350 and a church service for 80. I’m no expert, I just love people and community and I believe we’re stronger together.
I’m writing this because I think that any parent out there could host a classroom chat. Its really helped my girls, particularly my eldest one. She loves her friends so much and this is a lifeline for her.
Kids just don’t really get what’s happening do they? They keep asking if swimming lessons are on still or if they can go and see Nanny and Doris the dog. The other night they were talking about the Coronavirus and my eldest asked when it would stop. My youngest replied its up to Boris, he’ll decide. Our kids are isolated, out of routine and confused. As parents we’re isolated, out of routine and confused. et I believe we’re stronger together. Here are some comments from my lovely friends this week…
“Really lovely to hear the girls chatting and laughing together”
“They were so cute together tonight” Jo
“They all need it you did an amazing thing keeping them all connected, obviously thank you to all the people that made Zoom” Zoe
“P was shy but keen to join again tomorrow – I am sure she will find her voice soon”
So here are some top tips for running a class chat on Zoom
1. Download Zoom for free on any device here. If possible use a laptop, but you can access it on all devices
2. With the free package you can host a 40 minute call for free for up to 100 people. Apparently once the meeting finishes you can just click the same link again and you get back to the room
3. Set up a whataspp chat with clear instructions
4. Schedule a call (daily, weekly) and set the function to recurring. Then you don’t need to set a new link each week and saves any confusion.
5. As long as you don’t publish the link on social media (for safeguarding purposes) you don’t need a password or login
6. If there are too many kids in one room, then create breakout rooms
7. Don’t be nervous about using this, my eldest is already more confident and competent than I am
8. If your child is nervous ask the host to put them in a breakout room with a couple of friends for the first one
Here are some fun things we’ve done so far…
1. Pictionary with the white board setting or you could do it with paper
2. Twister – everyone has a twister board in their house but moves at the same time
3. Birthday Disco – alternate between dancing, music and chatting
4. Show and tell – every child brings something to the call to talk about
5. Fancy dress – every child comes dressed up as a character
7. Change the background settings, there are some fun backgrounds in Zoom our favourite is the one where it looks like the child is flying
I’ve got two girls, who are young, but friends of mine have done this with all age kids, with boys and girls. We’d love to hear your stories of ideas for fun things you’ve done with the kids on Zoom. Please send your comments.
Often the calls are total mayhem, but to be honest that sounds like my life anyway. Remember those pickups in the playground, kids racing around on scooters, starving hungry and desperate for a wee. Right now anything is better than nothing. I have really valued chatting with parents each day (albeit broken conversation).
We’re starting this a weekly Year R parents Zoom. Its on a set night each week, anyone can drop in and stay for as long or short as you like, starting 7.30pm. Bring your own drinks, I’ve no idea who will come but we’re definitely stronger together, so I’m giving it a go.
Its important to remember GDPR issues, don’t publish the Zoom link, set passwords as you set up the call. Set up a private event to invite parents too.