Lockdown 2.0 has encouraged me to improve the amount of peer interaction that takes part in my remote teaching. The evidence shows that collaborative work and group discussion is essential for student motivation when working remotely and it is definitely needed to break up a whole day of listening to a screen as a student or talking at a screen as a teacher! This blog gives a detailed description of two tools that I have been trialling to increase peer interaction – I hope that it proves useful! 

Breakout rooms 

To set up, click here: https://youtu.be/VPMI9zEcv6g 


Pair discussion – Project a series of discussion questions on a PP (could also include sentence starters) and get students to discuss each one in their paired breakout room. This could be done as a starter to introduce a topic or recap a previous one, alongside a task so students can use the opinions of others or to gather what students have learnt throughout a lesson. 

Group discussion/debate – Give students a specific topic to discuss/debate. Allocate students specific roles prior to putting them in breakout rooms so they know how they will be expected to contribute/how they will feedback on their debate – make sure all debates have a chair to make sure everyone contributes and maybe a secret spy who judges the quality of people’s contributions.

Charades/Articulate – Put students in groups with each group containing one person who is prepared to put on their camera/microphone in the break out room – they are the actor. Share a document containing a list of key terms with the actor. They must try and act out/explain as many key terms as they can in 2-5 minutes whilst the rest of the group use the chat to guess. 

Helpful Tips

Make sure that all the breakout rooms are open before you start the lesson – sometimes they take a bit of time to load. 

Warn students prior to the lesson that you are going to be using breakout rooms so they can sit somewhere private – some are working with siblings/parents and they may disturb them. 

Group students in the same way that you would in the classroom and communicate these groups clearly – consider who will talk to each other more comfortably and who would find it difficult to stay on task!

The smaller the group, the more purposeful the discussions are as the students feel like they have to talk, however, the more difficult the rooms are to manage so weigh up these pros and cons with different classes. 

Put together a breakout rooms rules list and share this with students beforehand – this should include advice about cameras, microphones (mute when others are talking), off task behaviour etc. 

Make sure the task you are setting to be completed in the breakout room is very clear and you tell students beforehand what they will need to do to feedback on their discussion when they come back to the main room – allocate roles such as ‘discussion manager’ or ‘summary creator’. 

When you have finished with all the breakout rooms, make sure that you close them all so students can’t use them when you have moved on to another task.


The most authentic tool you will find for discussion/debate. 

Once you have used them once, the links are already set up and students understand the routine.


You do lose ‘line of sight’ as you can’t be listening to all rooms at once. 

Students will talk off task (but they probably do in lessons too!)


Collaborative Documents 

Set up 

Create a google doc/google slides and share it on google drive with all the students that you would like to collaborate on that document. 


Silent debate/discussion – Share a google document with a group of students. Create a structure on that document that prevents the students writing their initial comments over one another – a table with columns for each student. Give students a debate topic. Once students have written their initial thoughts, they can use the comments to ask to respond to different people and add their response under the initial comments in a different colour (in the next row of the table). 

Peer feedback – Ask students to share a piece of work with another student. On the piece of work, students can use the comments function to give feedback to their partner. Share a feedback structure that encourages students to have a written dialogue about the overall feedback they have given and why – make sure students type back and forth to each other.

Consolidation Games – Share a document with students that contains quick quiz questions in a format that allows students to compete against one another. They can highlight questions that they want to answer and answer them underneath or using the comment function. For example, questions in a noughts and crosses grid, take turns, highlighting questions, answer by commenting on them and if you are correct, they put a nought or cross in that box.

Scenarios – Get students to write a scenario that shows the topic in a real life situation on a google document. Pair students up and ask them to share their scenario with their partner on google drive. Students can then respond on the google doc with what they would do if they found themselves in that scenario. 

Helpful Tips 

I’ve already said this but make sure the document is structured in a way that prevents students from writing over one another but are still able to talk back and forth in a way that is meaningful.

Give students a link to the shared document through google classroom as although they can get them through google drive it saves time and energy if it is easy for them to find/access. 

Group students in the same way that you would in the classroom and communicate these groups clearly – consider who will talk to each other more comfortably and who would find it difficult to stay on task!

If you are worried about students not being on task, then you can have all students working on the same document but on different pages. This allows you to quickly scroll through where all students are working to check they are on task. 

You can watch the students working and comment on what they are doing using google meet – this lets them know you are watching and can be used for feedback to improve the quality of what they are saying.


A good way of including discussion/peer interaction in a remote world.

You have a lot of control because you can see all the comments that are being written by students and even get the document history if there are any issues. 


Lots of students type slower than they talk (plus the technology element means things take longer) so discussion tasks this way can take considerably longer. 

Students won’t type in the way that they talk and so these discussions can be a little stunted and unnatural.