For community building, I do not enjoy the typical introduce yourself or two truths and a lie icebreakers that would be present in normal classes, so I wanted to bring something fun to the table.
Virtual Escape Rooms!
I wanted to do a virtual escape room, but those cost money… so Pictionary it is
Skribbli.io is a free Pictionary program that allows the host/teacher to create a private room for up to 12 people. The host/teacher can either insert their own prompts or have randomly generated prompts, and the students can create their own avatar from a selection. It is a fun little game that gets the students to express their creative side, while also allowing others to guess as fast as they can. I wanted to do something a bit different that involved problem solving, and this was the closest I could get with a budget of free.
Unfortunately, they will have to speak with one another over Zoom to discuss and comment on the drawings. The host/teacher will need to establish the ground rules of what students cannot draw and what will happen if they draw certain things.
When teaching in Japan, my junior high school students loved Pictionary, and it was the best thing to get everyone to relax and communicate with one another without some falling a sleep or bouncing off the walls. This fits perfectly with the online experience I want to provide the students because it gets them to practice recognizing drawn objects and typing its English name, while also building a fun little community. If there are too many students, I could assign them into groups to discuss and figure out what is being drawn, adding a sense of shared purpose and collaboration between students (Vesely et al., 2007).
First-year JHS students, even in normal circumstances, need someone to break the nervousness and awkwardness. They do not know what to expect from this new school or online format and need someone to prove to them that everything is going to be okay and fun. Pictionary is perfect to break the ice, especially because it does not just rely on a student’s speaking ability. Every type of student can shine and build up their confidence from those who are good at drawing to those who know random English words.
@ticedev (developer). (2021). Scribbl Logo [Digital Image], https://skribbl.io/
Vesely, P., Bloom, L., & Sherlock, J. (2007). Key elements of building online community: Comparing faculty and student perceptions. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 3(3), 234-246. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol3no3/vesely.pdf