So one of the challenges folks have is that there isn’t yet an easy way to assign students to breakout rooms so that they can work on a problem together. Each breakout room is a mini-Team with a shared chat space, a Microsoft Whiteboard, audio/video conferencing and a file space. If your school allows students to do Chat (and that may be a big if — we’re lucky that my school does) here is the way I create breakout rooms for my classes/projects. You can download the (Windows Desktop) Excel file here:

If you’re using a Mac or just Online, you’ll need to use the file below (as those versions don’t have all the functionality of Windows Desktop Excel):

If you’d rather watch a video, here are the steps in, well, video.

You should only touch things that are green. Of course, if you want to re-work this, feel free! You can always download another copy 🙂

Now, I tend to use Visibly Random Grouping from Peter Liljedahl (link to pdf) in my classrooms — I roll the dice and whatever grouping I get, that’s the groups the students will work in (even if it teams up Evil Eddie with Dangerous Dan… although to be fair, my kids are all great and easy to get along with so it’s never too much of a hassle). The spreadsheet I use, though, will let you set the groups manually (or you can copy the random grouping to the manual space and then adjust as you see fit).

First, fill in your school email address and the number of students in the class (if you have more than one class, just copy the sheet and fill it up, too. Worksheets work independently.) Fill in the student emails and the names you want to use (first, last, nickname, whatever… it’s really just to help you distinguish who is in the group. It doesn’t go anywhere you don’t put it).

You can also fill in the Group Names — I *really* encourage good group names because they show up in your Microsoft Teams Chat List. I try to use some aspect of my course code or the project name or something that will be memorable with the least amount of thought.

If you want to do things manually, make sure the Randomize list Dropdown under Visibly Random Grouping is set to FALSE. You can set the number and arrangements of groups and the lists will fill in on the far right. Notice that the heading of the middle column will show you that it is “Manually Assigned”. You are automatically included in each chat but aren’t shown in the list.

If you want visibly random groups, change the Dropdown to TRUE. I’ve left the randomization visible only out of interest (it’s supposed to be visibly random) and the column is red so that you know not to touch it! Only touch things that are green.

If you want an initial random sort and then play with it (to separate Evil Ed from Dangerous Dan, I suppose) just highlight the red random sort and paste it into the Manual sort column and then adjust from there.

If you’re doing Visibly Random Grouping, the middle column of the Group Table will let you know that you’ve used Visibly Random Grouping. Again, you are automatically included in each group. If you want a different sort, just flip the VRG dropdown again — although VRG says you shouldn’t re-sort 🙂

Regardless of whether you went with Manual or Visibily Random, eventually you’ll be happy with the groups.

What you really want is the link in the last column — copy that URL and paste it into a web browser and hit ENTER. That creates the Breakout Chat for everyone in the Breakout and they’ll see it with the Group Name (1) you gave in their Chat List (hence why you want to give it a good name!) and also along the top row. You’ll see the list of people in the team if you click on the little people icon in the upper left corner (2) and your initial message is ready to send in the lower chat box (3) … you still have to click Send though.

Now, what I do is copy and paste the whole table into my Planning OneNote. It lets me see the group plan for my whole class and gives me a quick way to jump into the groups in case I’m working. The link opens up exactly in that group’s chat.

You can also right-click the blue link in OneNote (or email or Word or wherever it is) and change the text to the Group Name to make it look better to the students (and yourself!). Funny enough, you can’t do it in Excel because there’s a character limit in Excel that’s not true elsewhere.

You can also go back into the group and remove a student (mouse over the student and an “X” will show up. You can also add people to the group if necessary.

Let me know how it goes!

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