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- Participate in a discussion about meeting new friends and establish communication norms for a respectful, positive experience
- Prepare questions, fun facts, and stories to share during the virtual exchange
- Use technology to meet a partner class located in another community
- Learn about a different community and new friends’ unique identities, experiences, and interests
- Participate in a reflection circle to share developing ideas and identify areas for growth
To build friendships with peers from different backgrounds, research emphasizes students' confidence, skills, beliefs, and experience. Before the exchange, 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.
The virtual exchange structure is based on a self-disclosure question-and-answer activity from the Greater Good Science Center, during which students take turns sharing information about themselves, which leads to greater feelings of closeness with their partners. Therefore, during the exchange, educators should encourage students to practice diplomacy, inclusivity, and collaboration as they use compassionate and active listening skills to ask questions, share their stories, and relate to others' feelings and experiences.
After the exchange, educators will lead a reflection circle to support students in practicing mindfulness and self-awareness as they share about their own emotions and ideas, and diplomacy and inclusivity as they recognize that their classmates may have different responses and seek to learn from others' perspectives.
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 offers an exciting opportunity for educators to connect their classrooms with other classes around the world. Once you have connected with another educator in the Empatico community, you can schedule live virtual exchanges to bring your students together. These cross-cultural experiences enable students to share their stories, explore different perspectives, and make new friends in another community.
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.
Prepare: plan for the virtual exchange.
- Introduce your students to Empatico by watching the video below.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
Interact: meet your partner class over a live virtual exchange.
- On the day of your scheduled exchange, start the meeting by using Empatico’s built-in Zoom integration, or the video tool that you previously selected. Remind students of the communication and behavior norms that you previously established, and how they should show kindness and respect to their new friends. Consider how you will model these norms for students as you interact with your partner educator.
- Start the video call by greeting your partner educator, and express gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to connect with each other. Then, facilitate an introduction between students in both classes. You might have them introduce themselves, and share about their class grade, school, location, and/or a fun fact about their community.
- Consider starting with a warm-up activity, such as “Let’s Get Moving” or “Would You Rather?”, to help decrease any nervousness around meeting new friends.
- Invite students to ask the questions they prepared for their partner classmates, and encourage them to share fun facts and stories about themselves. Make sure that students in both classes participate equally, and celebrate behaviors that show respect and other strengths, like empathy, thoughtfulness, and humility. For example, express gratitude when students actively listen and thoughtfully respond to each other during their conversation.
- End the exchange by asking students to thank their partner class for sharing a part of their day with them, and for the opportunity to get to know each other a little better. Then, students can say “goodbye” and express excitement for meeting again during your next virtual exchange together!
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.