Zoom: Breakout Rooms Dos and Don'ts


  • Give them a warm-up activity for them to get to know their friends in the room, especially if the rooms are random and not a set grouping that you’ve used before.
  • Ask students to DM you in the chat the name of one person they want in their breakout room. This gives them some comfortability. 
  • Be sure to give them a set of instructions they can access once in the breakout room. An example would be a Canvas page, a set of slides (shared with them), or a Google doc.
  • Give students a task or a deliverable. This means students should produce something as a group. 
    1. One thing that works is to require them to create a shared google doc/slides, work on a specific task, share that doc with you, and announce that you’ll review the document history to see that everyone participated.
    2. Another option is for them to quickly create a slide deck to show to the class, and require every person to be responsible for a slide.
  • Give them a task that is challenging, but within their scope of knowledge/ability. Give them limited time, and check in on their progress to see how far along they are.  It is best to set a time limit, and you can set time limits in the “options” when setting up breakout rooms. I ask students to return to the main room when finished, and use the time with them in the main room to build a connection. 
  • Ask them to turn on their camera and microphone (keep the mic open) in the breakout room the entire time. This makes it easier for them to participate, and keeps them accountable.
  • If the breakout room time is long, send them a broadcast “break” message, asking them to take a short (limited and defined) break. Broadcast when they should be back in the room. Alternately, you can close the rooms, give them a break, then send them back.


  • Don’t send them to the room with nothing to do.
  • Don’t forget to check in on them regularly.
  • Don’t enter the room “grumpy.” Put a smile on your face before you enter, and say “Hi” in a cheery way. This will hopefully disarm resistant students.
  • Don’t use the breakout room as a “gotcha,” but instead ask more general questions.
  • Don’t require students to stay in the breakout rooms when they are finished.