Ways We Play

Connect with a partner class to explore how kids play around the world.
Ages 5-10 / 45
min Activity
Social Studies


  • Use technology to meet a partner class located in another community
  • Share and listen to stories about playing
  • Discover similarities and differences between peers’ preferences around play

Supporting Research

Researchers have documented the numerous benefits of play on children’s development, such as fostering skills that support social interaction, literacy and communication, and self-regulation. During this activity, educators should encourage students to practice self-awareness to recognize the importance of play in their own lives, and perspective taking and inclusivity to seek out and appreciate different experiences and preferences.  

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.


Activity Partners

Educator Note

Virtual exchanges offer an exciting opportunity for educators to connect their classrooms with other classes around the world. These cross-cultural experiences enable students to share their stories, explore different perspectives, and make new friends in another community. Once you find a partner educator (i.e., through a verified educator network), you can use a platform like Zoom or Google Meet to bring your students together over a live video call. Alternatively, you might consider using an asynchronous platform like Google Drive or Padlet to exchange photos, letters, or videos with each other. Asynchronous exchanges are especially helpful when navigating large time differences or internet connectivity issues.

Virtual exchanges are most successful when educators plan and get to know each other beforehand. To do this, we recommend scheduling a video call to connect with your partner educator, and using 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.

  1. Consider reading the following short stories with your students, which explore different games around the world and how they can bring people together. 
    Soccer Speaks Many Languages
    Game On!Domino Sundays
  2. Engage students in a discussion by asking the following questions:
    • How do you like to play? Are there any particular games or sports that you enjoy, and what do you like about these activities?
    • Do you like to play alone, or with other people? Why?
    • Can you share about a time when playing together helped you make new friends or feel closer to others?
    • How does the weather affect what you play throughout the year? (e.g., playing outside in warm weather)
    • Do you think kids who live in different places like to play the same way that we do? Why or why not?

    As students share their favorite ways to play, record their responses on a physical or digital board that is visible to everyone, and identify the 2 or 2 most popular ones (e.g., by holding a class vote). 
  3. Then, ask students the following questions:
    • How do you feel about meeting our partner class? What do you think our new friends will be like?
    • 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?

    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 games our new friends might enjoy playing.") Ensure that students see this experience as an exciting opportunity to learn from their partner class!
  4. Ask students to prepare stories and fun facts to share with your partner class. For example:
    • A popular game in their class and how it’s played (students might even give a demonstration during the live virtual exchange!)
    • An important sports events in their community
    • Any new skills they have learned from playing their favorite games (e.g., problem-solving, coding, etc.) 
  5. Help students come up with questions to ask their partner classmates, such as:
    • Have you ever created your own game? Or, if you could invent a new game, what would it be?
    • If you could live inside any game’s universe, which one would you choose and why?
    • Are there any games or sports that you like to watch? What do you like about them?
    • Would you want to be a famous athlete? Why or why not?
    • If you could add another sport to the Olympics, what would it be? 

    Encourage students to write down their stories and questions on notecards that they can reference during the virtual exchange. 
  6. 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.
    • When it’s your turn to speak, come close to the device, say your comment or question loudly and clearly, and remain at the camera to hear your partner classmate’s response. Start by saying your name (e.g., “Hi, my name is ___. My question is...).
    • Listen attentively to the speaker and use hand signals (e.g., thumbs-up, “me too” signal, etc.) to indicate agreement or similarities.
    • Make sure that others have a chance to speak during the exchange.

    Ask students to share additional ideas for how they will show 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.

Facilitate the virtual exchange using the video tool that you previously selected, and follow the suggested exchange structure below:

  1. 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.
  2. Consider leading a warm-up game to start the exchange on a fun, light-hearted note, such as Would You Rather? or Let’s Get Moving!.
  3. Encourage students to ask their questions and share their stories. 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.
  4. 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.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.