Virtual Small Group Conferences

Class Meetings Vs. Small Group Instruction
Making learning meaningful in our new virtual-learning environment!

I think it’s time to have an honest conversation about the difference between virtual “class meetings” and virtual “student small group conferences.”
What? You might ask?   

Many teachers are conducting virtual “class meetings” with their students to check in with them and to allow for children to socialize with others, along with their teachers. 

There has been a lot of discussion online on the format.  What works better?  Zoom?  Google Meet/Google Hangouts?  It depends on the teacher, the students’ access to Internet and so many other factors.  Needless to say, this all comes along with some challenges.


How do we engage every child to participate, let alone show up?   

My daughter is not even eight years old, and trying to get her to listen for more than 20 minutes is a real problem.  My daughter is not necessarily quiet, but it seems that the ‘virtual e-learning’ has allowed her to become more passive.  Class meeting after class meeting, I see her becoming less and less interested.  Typically, students just ’round robin’ share their feelings, what they did the past few days, but I see very little instruction happening. 

Now don’t get me wrong. Some children need the virtual socializing that this fosters, but at some point, we have to inspire our children in new and interesting ways.


Making Instruction Happen Virtually!

So what are teachers to do?   

Time is of the essence. Certainly they can’t meet with every child individually perhaps.  However, some things can be done.
 Below are some ideas and suggestions to encourage Small Group Conferences Virtually.

  • Mini-Lesson Video Excerpts-  Kick off instruction with a short mini-lesson video excerpt that can be shared with students beforehand.  For instance, if your students are working on opinion letters, you can review how to provide “reasonable supporting reasons/examples” to support their opinion.  This is great in case they need to ‘go back’ (rewind) or review something again for clarifications.
  • Primary Grade Levels- Teachers can work with students in smaller groups to draft, revise, and/or edit their writings together.  Groups of 4-8 students would be ideal.  It doesn’t have to be long, 15-20 minutes!  Allow each child to share their work, ask questions, get suggestions from their classmates or from their teacher.
  • Middle School/Secondary Grade Levels:  No matter the subject (i.e. math, history, ELA), students can work in small groups to complete a group project/task.  Teachers can pop in and join the calls to guide students.   Then students can regroup as an entire class to check in/monitor where students are at in the work process.
  • Partner Tasks- Depending on the task, students can work together with partners to complete assignments and projects.  

The Bottom Line:Large groups can be intimidating and so we must begin to think about how we can manage smaller groups with our children virtually so that each child has an opportunity to talk, share their ideas, provide input and to ultimately stay engaged. 

Certainly it won’t be the same as the close, physical and social interactions that our children are accustomed to but we need consider what it most meaningful and can be more fun for our students as well.   

Ultimately we want our students to get something out of the time we are spending together with them, whether its in person or virtually!

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