Step 1: Get Ready
• Participate in a discussion about meeting new friends
• Prepare questions, fun facts, and stories to share during the virtual exchange
• Establish communication norms for a respectful, positive experience
To build friendships with peers from different backgrounds, research emphasizes students' confidence, skills, beliefs, and experience. Educators should encourage students to practice mindfulness to foster positive feelings about the experience, self-awareness as they reflect on aspects of their own identity to share with others, and perspective taking to consider what they know (or don’t know) about their peers and any similarities or differences they might share with each other. This should help lower students' anxiety and build their excitement for the experience and discovering similarities.
To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.
Empatico exchanges are most successful when educators plan and get to know each other beforehand. To do this, please schedule a video call to connect with your partner educator, and use this opportunity to share your goals for this experience, exchange helpful information about your students, and discuss how you will lead the exchange together. Our "Get to Know Your Partner Educator" resource provides suggested conversation prompts for your meeting.
For more tips on leading a positive, cross-cultural experience for your students, please watch our “Teacher Tips” video.
1. Introduce your students to Empatico by watching the video below.
2. After watching the video, ask students the following questions:
- How do you feel about meeting our partner class? What do you think our new friends will be like?
- What are some questions that we should ask our new friends? (visit this resource for ideas)
- Do you know anything about the city or country where our partner class is located? Where can we find more information about their location? (e.g., by using Google Earth to explore their neighborhood, or searching for images of their city online)
- What do you think it might be like to live there? What do you think our neighborhoods might share in common, and how do you think our neighborhoods might be different?
- What fun facts and stories can we share about ourselves?
Throughout your conversation, nurture positive feelings such as excitement and curiosity. Explain that it’s normal to notice differences between ourselves and others, and that you will practice doing so respectfully. If any misconceptions or stereotypes arise, gently counteract them and explain how to reframe assumptions by asking questions or making "I wonder..." comments. (e.g., "I wonder what food our new friends might enjoy eating.") Ensure that students see this experience as an exciting opportunity to learn from their partner class!
3. Encourage students to write down fun facts and stories about themselves, as well as any questions for their partner classmates, on notecards that they can reference during the virtual exchange. Remind students that although everyone might not get a chance to ask questions and share this time, they will get a turn in the future!
4. Establish and share communication norms for the virtual exchange, such as:
- Keep yourself on “mute” (unless you are talking) to limit background noise, and raise your hand when you want to speak
- Listen attentively to the speaker and use hand signals (e.g., thumbs-up, “me too” signal, etc.) to indicate agreement or similarities
- Introduce yourself by saying your name loudly and clearly into the microphone, and make sure that others have a chance to speak during the exchange
Ask students to share additional ideas for how they will show kindness and respect to their new friends, and consider leading a practice session so students can practice these strategies and imagine having a fun, positive interaction with your partner class. For more tips on setting up your classroom for a virtual exchange, please visit this resource.
5. To further build students’ excitement for your first virtual exchange, use the “‘Hello!' Package” activity to prepare and share materials with your partner class to learn more about each other.
6. If you have younger students, consider leading a “Friendship Bingo” activity to help them build confidence in their conversational skills and practice approaching others with curiosity, kindness, and respect.
If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...
Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call.
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.
If students in either class don’t have individual devices...
Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.