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Five Elements of a Successful Classroom Virtual Exchange

Virtual exchange activities help students make connections to students from other walks of life all over the world. They are a proven way to inspire curiosity and empathy in your students and ultimately enrich the classroom experience you provide as a cultural exchange teacher. As the school year winds down, many ambassador teachers are putting the finishing touches on cultural activities and virtual exchange activities in their classrooms. Read on for five elements you could incorporate into your next classroom virtual exchange activity to make it a memorable and enriching experience for students.

Build excitement for the classroom virtual activity in advance

It’s important to prime your students for any virtual exchange experience that will have them interacting with peers from another country, especially if it will be through a video call. Start a countdown on your whiteboard and remind students of the upcoming event. Consider using a graphic organizer like a K-W-L chart (for what students, in the course of a lesson, already know, want to know, and ultimately what they learn) to help students structure their learning goals for the activity in advance. You may also want to prepare students by going over the expectations and classroom rules during the video call to best manage their excitement and help you maintain control over the whole group when the activity begins.

Connect your students with other students their age

Help students get the most out of their virtual exchange activity by connecting them to a classroom that is composed of students in a similar age group. Matching grade level or ages will help you align your lessons and learning outcomes with the teacher you are facilitating the exchange with, creating better outcomes for both groups of students. Additionally, students may be more engaged and find more to reflect on and talk about with students whom they can relate to, promoting curiosity and empathy.

Relate your classroom virtual exchange activity to a current unit of study

Keep students actively engaged in the lesson material while also giving them an opportunity to make connections with students in another country! A virtual exchange activity is a perfect opportunity for students to ask questions using new vocabulary from a recent lesson or build on topics they just learned about. They can apply previous knowledge to their interactions during the exchange activity and make more learning connections to the lesson or topic by seeing the problem through a new lens.

Give students a dedicated time to reflect on their experience

Once the virtual exchange activity is over, be sure to carve out a time or space in your classroom for students to debrief and reflect on their experience. How did it feel to meet and talk with other students from another country? How was the experience different from what they expected? If you started a K-W-L chart before the activity began, use that chart to structure your conversations with students. Giving them space for those reflective conversations will help them come to their own conclusions and takeaways about the activity, and how it brought them new understanding or enriched their learning.

Continue the classroom virtual exchange over time (even over multiple school years!)

Just because the school year is ending doesn’t mean the virtual exchange experiences need to end for students! Consider asynchronous methods that allow students to keep in touch with their new friends in another country, like FlipGrid. Connect with the next grade level teacher and ask if they’d like the contact information so they can continue the same exchange in their classroom next year that your students began in your classroom.

If you are returning to your home country to teach, you may also choose to lay the groundwork to facilitate future exchanges with a colleague in your U.S. school before you leave. Make sure you have their contact information and have a plan to connect before the school year starts to choose an opening activity for your students. A bit of prep work will make it that much easier to coordinate future virtual exchange sessions when you are back in your home country.

At Participate Learning, we value the contributions of our ambassador teachers and the way they ignite passion in their students and facilitate the development of future global leaders. For more free teaching resources for ambassador teachers and global educators, go here.