Online Games to Get Your Class Engaged & Connected

July 5, 2020

Beginning a new school session with games like these can help you and your students get to know each other, cooperate, and build empathy and connection. 

 

Introduction

Beginning a new school session with engaging games can help you and your students get to know each other, cooperate, and build empathy and connection. 

Below are eight fun games that students can play together using Zoom or similar platforms:

Beginners
Gesture Relay
Cooperative Counting

Intermediate
Connect Me
Move Together
Unfortunately/Fortunately

Advanced
Yes And
What Are You Really Saying?
Assertive Message Game Show
 

These activities were created and adapted by two Morningside staff developers who are both accomplished actors and educators. Find out more about Laurine Towler and Jason Jacobs.
 

games

 


Beginner Games

 

GESTURE RELAY 

(online version of the “Group Juggle”)  
 

Objective:  Builds group focus and cooperation, encourages active participation and demonstrates the importance of each individual in the group pattern. 


Steps

  1. Make sure everyone in the group can see each other.  (Everyone should have camera ON, Microphone ON, and “Gallery View”).
     
  2. Explain that you will establish a pattern by sending a CLAP to someone on your screen, and saying their name. They will then send the CLAP to someone else and say their name. Everyone should receive the CLAP one time only. The last person to receive the CLAP passes it back to the facilitator. If necessary, help participants identify who has not yet received the CLAP.
     
  3. Tell participants to remember WHO they received and sent the CLAP to. Explain that our first goal is to establish a pattern that can be repeated.
     
  4. Send the CLAP through the group again, SAYING THE NAME of the recipient, while following the same pattern. 
     
  5. When the group has successfully sent the CLAP through the same pattern twice, pause when you receive it. Tell the group you are now going to send  through the same pattern, WITHOUT saying the name of the person you are sending it to.  
     
  6. Optional intermediate step: When/if the group masters sending the CLAP without saying the names for 2-3 rounds, announce that after sending the CLAP, you will start sending a second movement in the same order. (This can be a SNAP or something else you choose). Our goal is to keep both gestures moving through the established pattern. 
     
  7. Optional advanced step: When/if the group masters sending two gestures around consistently, announce that you will add a third gesture. (This can be a WAVE or something else). Try to keep all three gestures moving through the pattern consistently.  This will probably take some practice and playing the game a few times.
     

Reflection

Invite students to share:

  • What did we have to do, individually and as a group, to keep the gestures moving around?
  • What is challenging about this game?  
  • What skills are we building with this game?  


Tips

  • It’s best to make sure each gesture is different from the others, so they are clear to see.
  • You can invite students to suggest the three gestures.
  • Once participants know the game, you can call on a student to be the leader and start sending each of the gestures. 
  • Conversation during the game can confuse things, so point out that if we’re talking, we may lose track of the gesture.
  • Strategy tip: Always keep your focus on the person you are receiving gestures from. (Better to let participants discover this themselves)
  • Keep track to ensure that both gestures continue to move around the group in the pattern. When a gesture gets dropped, you can say “We lost our CLAP movement, I’m going to start it again.”    
     


COOPERATIVE COUNTING
 

Objective: This activity builds group cooperation, focus, and concentration.
 

Steps

  1. This game can be played with cameras off/on, or a mix of both. 
     
  2. The goal is to count to 20 as a group. Someone will start with “1,” then someone else will say “2” and so on. (NO assigned order)
     
  3. Anyone can say a number. However, if two people speak at the same time, you go back to 1 and start again from the beginning.
     
  4. If the group gets to 20 and wants to continue, the group can see how high they can count, or go backwards from 20 to 1.
     
  5. Optional: Depending on the size of the group, you can require that every person contributes at least one of the numbers.  


Reflection

Invite students to share:

  • What was challenging about this?  
  • What did we have to do as a group to work together?  
  • How could our group take it to the next level the next time we play?


Tips

  • If the group finds this challenging, ask, “What could we do as a group to do better?” Encourage suggestions that build teamwork such as listen closely, everyone only say one number, remember who has gone before, etc.  
  • Discourage short-cuts such as establishing a pattern or using nonverbal signals.

 


Intermediate Games
 

CONNECT ME

Objective: This is a fun writing activity that can promote empathy and connection.


Steps

  1. This game should ideally be played with all cameras ON, although adjustments can be made if necessary.
     
  2. In the chat box, the facilitator will type in a word or a phrase, one at a time. Examples:  strawberry, New York, sky, ball ,one year.  
     
  3. Participants have 1-2 minutes to write something about themselves associated with the word or phrase - or something they associate with the word or phrase.
     
  4. Facilitator types a speaking order in the chat box and sets a timer for 2 minutes. 
     
  5. Sentences are shared.
     
  6. The facilitator enters the next word or phrase in the chat box.
     
  7. After one round or more, there can be a brief reflection before going on to the next word.


Reflection

Invite students to share: 

  • What was this activity like for you? 
  • Did you discover anything? 
  • How did this activity make you feel? 
  • What did you learn about other people today?


Tips

  • Depending upon the groups’ level of maturity, a participant could suggest a word and send it to the facilitator via the chat box.
  • Depending on the group’s median age, words (like justice, hope, safety, etc.) can be more evocative and challenging, and touch off deeper conversation.


MOVE TOGETHER  


Objective: This embodied, team-building activity builds visual focus and concentration, and invites non-verbal connection.


Steps

  1. This is a physical game that requires participants be on camera. 
     
  2. Explain that you will start a movement, and everyone should try to follow you and move together. 
     
  3. Keep the initial moment simple and slow, and encourage participants to work together nonverbally. Focus on the movement we all see on the screen, and remind the group your goal is for everyone to move together.
     
  4. As the group gets more practice with moving on screen together, ask another participant to take over as the “Leader.”  You can rotate the “Leader” role so everyone has a chance to lead the group through movement. 


Reflection

Invite students to share: 

  • How is moving together on-screen different than moving in real space?  
  • How is moving on-screen different than talking on-screen?  
  • What skills are we building as a team when we move together nonverbally? 


Tips

  • On Zoom video settings, there is a box called “Mirror My Video.”  For this game, it’s recommended that everyone turn this feature off, so that  everyone works with the same screen orientation. 
  • Advanced challenge: If the group likes movement and finds this to be easy, challenge everyone to move together without any single leader. 



UNFORTUNATELY/FORTUNATELY
 

Objective: This activity promotes active listening and encourages group focus and creative team-building.


Steps

  1. The facilitator explains that the group is going to create a story together with each person contributing one sentence. 
     
  2. The speaking order is assigned via the chat box. (If there are an odd number of participants the facilitator will start the story.)
     
  3. The first speaker begins with a sentence beginning with the word “Unfortunately,” as in “Unfortunately, there was some turbulence on my flight.”
     
  4. The next participant adds one sentence that begins with the word “Fortunately,...”

This pattern continues. 

For example:

  • “Unfortunately, my flight hit some turbulence.”
  • “Fortunately, it didn’t last too long.”
  • “Unfortunately, the turbulence caused an engine to fail.”
  • “Fortunately, there were parachutes on board.”


Reflection

Invite students to share: 

  • What is challenging about this activity? 
  • What skills are we building with this activity?
  • What does it require as a group to create a story together? 


Tips

  • You may want to propose a theme or character before beginning the story
  • When you set the speaking order, you can ask participants to consider whether they are contributing  to the BEGINNING, MIDDLE, or END of the story.      

 



Advanced Games
 

YES/AND....


Objective: This activity is based on a classic improvisation game that teaches the idea of accepting others’ ideas and cooperation. 

Steps

  1. Set up a speaking order and list it in the chat box.
     
  2. Explain that this is a game where every sentence starts “YES, AND…”.  You will make a first statement (i.e. “It’s warm today”) and the next person replies with “Yes, and… (i.e. “Yes and I really want some ice cream).  As each person speaks, they build on the previous statement with a “Yes, and.”  The story can be as creative as you want, as long as everyone uses “Yes, and” to start each sentence.
     
  3. Optional intermediate step: Invite two volunteers to improvise a scene with all “YES, AND” statements. Encourage the pair to see how long they can continue their scene.
     

Reflection

Invite students to share: 

  • How does it feel to have your ideas accepted? 
  • How does it feel when you have an idea and others don’t like it or put it down? 
  • What’s the value in accepting each other’s ideas and building on them? 


WHAT ARE YOU REALLY SAYING? 
 

Objective: This activity helps us understand how our intention and our tone of voice are felt and perceived by others, when we speak. It builds sensitivity and empathy.


Steps

  1. A pair volunteers. One will be A and the other B.
     
  2. A is given a neutral phrase to say to B  like: “Is that your lunch?”  (Other suggestions below).
     
  3. Using the chat box, the facilitator provides two active verbs to Participant A: one is positive (e.g., to encourage, to praise, to charm, to cheer, to calm, to please, to soothe, etc.).  The other is negative (e.g. to scold, to mock, to attack, to belittle, to frighten,etc.).
     
  4. Participant A says their line (exactly as written) to B, with the intention of fulfilling one of the action verbs through the way they say the phrase. (That is, they say “Is that your lunch?” in either a positive way or in a negative way, e.g., in a scolding way.)
     
  5. The rest of the group tries to guess the action verb and explain what they hear that makes them say that. The facilitator moderates the feedback.
     
  6. Participant A reveals the action verb they used.
     
  7. Then, A says the same line again with their other action verb.
     
  8. The group tries to guess that action verb as well. Again, what did they hear in the voice or tone that made them make that guess? The facilitator moderates the feedback.
     
  9. Participant A reveals their second action verb.
     
  10. Participant B  then shares how they felt hearing that line with two different intentions. 
     
  11. Now, Participant B is the actor and the activity is repeated with a new neutral line and two new action verbs – one positive and one negative. And the process is repeated.


Reflection

Invite students to share: 

  • What can we learn from this game about how we speak to others? 
  • How does it feel when someone puts us down with their tone of speech? 
  • How does it feel when someone lifts us up with their tone of speech? 
  • Is it possible for our voice to suggest an intention that we don’t actually have (such as an intention to put the other person down)? Why? 


Tips

  • This activity can repeat with another pair and another neutral line and different action verbs in the chat box. Other neutral line suggestions: 
  • You seem nice. 
  • I think you’re a really interesting person.
  • You’re wearing that? 
  • I’m sitting here.
  • Once participants understand the game, invite them to suggest a list of active verbs to use for the game. 


ASSERTIVE MESSAGE GAME SHOW 


Objective: This activity helps participants practice assertive messaging and reflect as a group on effective statements. 


Steps

  1. Using a game-show format, the “Host” explains that they are going to describe a scenario that calls for a natural assertive message. They will define assertive as “ putting yourself forward or standing up for yourself in a way that respects the needs and boundaries of the other person.” They will define a natural assertive message as “a simple, straightforward statement of what you'd like the other person to do.” 
    Then the facilitator gives the following example: “ If my daughter has a snack and leaves her dishes in the living room, a natural assertive message would be, ‘Cynthia, please clean up the mess from your snack.’”
     
  2. Type the definitions of the word assertive and a natural assertive message into the chat box for reference.
     
  3. The Host delivers a scenario from the list below and participants raise their hands on camera to volunteer. When called upon by the Host, they deliver a natural assertive message they would give to the person in the scenario. 
     
  4. Accept 2-3 suggestions per each scenario. 
     
  5. Then move on to the next scenario.
     
  6. Advanced Step: Depending on the group dynamic, you can add the opportunity for the group to vote on their favorite answer. Participants can vote by writing their favorite response into the chat box or by sending it to the host privately. The host tallies the responses and announces the winner of that round. The group then discusses why they found that response effective.
     

Possible Scenarios:

  • Scenario one: You’re at the movies and the people in back of you are talking and interfering with your enjoyment of the movie. Deliver a natural assertive message.
     
  • Scenario two: You're in class/at a school meeting and when you begin to speak, someone interrupts you. This is the second time in the meeting that the same person has interrupted you. Think of a natural assertive message.
     
  • Scenario three: You are old friends. You've been waiting for 45 minutes when your friend finally shows up. This is the third time in recent months that you've had to wait 45 minutes or more for your friend to arrive. You've let it slide the first two times. But this time you decide to confront your friend. Think of a natural assertive message.
     
  • Scenario four: You're at the supermarket check out. Someone cuts in front of you. Think of a natural assertive message.


Reflection

Invite students to share:

  • What was this activity like for you? 
  • How did it make you feel? 
  • What skill are we building with this activity? Why is this important? 
  • What is challenging about making naturally assertive messages in the moment we need them? 


Tips

  • Feel free to choose among the scenarios, bearing in mind that the more practice people get speaking assertively, the stronger they get at it. You may also adapt them for the age and context of your group. 
  • The facilitator should hear from several different people with their hands raised for each scenario and try to pick different people for the next scenario.
  • For the last couple of rounds, the facilitator might want to select participants who do not have their hands up to give them the opportunity to practice this skill.
  • Depending on the group, participants could provide some scenarios, perhaps from their own lived experiences of times when they didn’t know quite what to say.
  • To make it more fun, the host should feel free to ham it up by imitating television game show hosts.