One of the great things about connecting classrooms around the world is that school is almost always in session somewhere. While we’ve enjoyed making connections between classrooms in Australia and India during these summer months in the U.S., we have also been hard at work creating new ways for educators and students to experience other communities, share their lives, and learn about others different from themselves through Empatico. Whether you have just signed up or are on your 20th exchange, we hope you check out and enjoy what’s new on the platform!
We are always looking for ways to help students feel brave and confident as they connect with their peers from different communities. So we created a quick, 5-minute warm-up game that helps students connect with their partner classmates at the beginning of an Empatico exchange. During the game, students respond in fun ways (dancing, clapping, and more) to a few questions to discover their shared likes and other similarities. The game introduces respectful communication skills and is especially helpful for starting the first exchange between two partner classes. It is a great way to make sure ALL students recognize similarities with their partners as their first experience during an exchange.
Get to Know Your Partner Teacher Exercise
We know connecting with a new class from a different community can be a daunting experience – not only for students but also for educators. To improve the experience and help educators build stronger relationships in advance of connecting their classrooms, we created a guide to facilitate conversation and prep for your first video exchange. Check out our “Get to Know Your Partner Teacher” exercise to share your journey and grow your professional network as you connect with other educators around the world!
Special Needs Adaptations
At the heart of Empatico is a passion for creating inclusive opportunities for students and educators to connect with the world around them. Special education teachers in our community have led the way in ensuring that all students can participate in Empatico by adapting activities to meet their students’ unique and diverse needs. We have been inspired by their leadership and creativity, and by partnering with these educators and learning from their experiences, we have created official adaptations for Empatico activities for students with special needs.
The adaptations include tips to set expectations and prepare for your exchange through visual cues and caregiver involvement, sign language prompts to assist with our Get to Know You and Weather Out the Window activities, and key vocabulary words that can be added to Voice Output Communication Aid machines.
There are also suggestions for videos and literature that can help introduce students in partner classrooms to peers with disabilities, with an emphasis on discovering similarities and setting a tone of friendliness and kindness. We hope these tips and resources will help create safe spaces for students to teach and learn from each other in a more inclusive and accessible way.
For more information, please check out this blog post by Empatico educator Brett Bigham about how he helped us adapt our activities with his own students in mind.
Last but certainly not least, in case you missed our announcement this summer, classrooms can now complete Empatico exchanges in Spanish! As our first step to expand access beyond English, we updated our platform to enable Spanish-speaking classrooms around the world to connect with another Spanish-speaking classroom. Our video and chat messaging, activities, and resources are all available for use in either language. Empatico is committed to providing the same high-quality support and experience, no matter what language you choose to connect in.
We hope these new activities, resources, and tools create more opportunities for students and educators to connect to the world around them!