If you are anyone who teaches, you’ve no doubt managed to find your way around the basics of Microsoft Teams this year. But there are a few lesser-known features that could help you boost classroom engagement, aid collaboration, and make your lessons more accessible for your student.

Take a read of our best features of Microsoft Teams for schools below…

Using/playing videos

Keeping pupils (especially the younger ones) engaged while they are learning from home isn’t necessarily the easiest. For that reason, many teachers will find it important to make their lessons as interactive as possible. And for Early Years and lower Key Stages in particular, that will mean using videos.

Microsoft Teams makes it straightforward to use and play videos in the virtual classroom, but by default it won’t play the accompanying audio. Here’s how to make sure your pupils can see and hear the resources you’re sharing.

How to do it:

  • Open the video you want to play in your usual browser or playback software
  • Start a meeting/class
  • Hit the Share option
  • Before selecting the window, you want to share, make sure they Include system audio checkbox is ticked
  • Then select the window (video) you want to share with your pupils
  • Press Play


Pin a video

The default setting in Microsoft Teams meetings is to show whoever is speaking. This is ideal for work meetings when you need to see the person who is contributing, but not necessarily when you have 30 children learning from home, with all the attendant backgrounds noises that brings. Every time a younger sibling or family pet runs past, or a parent pops their head in to offer a snack, the video view will switch to that child, whether or not they have said anything. If you’re in the middle of a lesson, you want all eyes on the teacher or the educational video that’s being shared, so you’ll want to make sure that’s what everyone is seeing.

How to do it:

  • Choose the video you want to pin and right click it
  • Select Pin
  • You can pin multiple videos in this way


To unpin the video(s):

  • Right click the video you want to unpin again and
  • Select Unpin


Reframe a video

Another Microsoft Teams default that can cause problems in the virtual classroom is the automatic cropping of videos to enable a better screen fit. This doesn’t generally cause an issue when you’re in a ‘talking heads’-style scenario, but as soon as the teacher wants to demonstrate something on a resource they have with them, the chances are some important details will get lost. This is when you’ll want to preserve the entire frame of the video.

How to do it:

  • Choose the video you want to reframe and right click it
  • To see the entire video, select Fit to frame
  • To see a closer, cropped view select Fill frame


Check pupils’ understanding

Of all the challenges presented by remote learning, gauging pupils’ engagement and understanding of a lesson poses the biggest issue. Teachers are thinking creatively about how they deliver their lessons to combat this, but Microsoft has come up with a brilliant feature to help. Exit tickets and quizzes are a quick, fun and novel way of gaining instant insight to what pupils have understood about what they’ve just been taught. These can be easily set up through the Microsoft Forms integration and provide instant feedback, including as individual results or whole-class summaries.

How to do it:

  • In Microsoft Teams, select the class team you want to assign the quiz to
  • In the General channel, select the Assignments tab
  • Select the arrow for the Create dropdown menu, then New quiz
  • Either select a quiz you have made previously, or select New Quiz and create one
  • When you have selected your quiz, it will appear in Assignments > [your assignment] > Resources
  • Enter the rest of your assignment settings, then hit Assign


Rubric grading

Another element of the learning environment that is prone to suffering in the virtual classroom is feedback on work. But giving good feedback is as important to teachers as receiving it is to pupils. So, Microsoft Teams’ in-built rubric grading is a meaningful addition to the interface.

The Teams rubrics are a fully-formed bit of kit in themselves, but educators are also given the freedom to create their own customised grading criteria, which better enables full feedback capabilities and personalised insight, especially on skills-based assignments.

How to do it:

  • Navigate to the General channel in one of your classes and select the Assignments tab
  • Select Create > Assignment
  • Select Add rubric > + New rubric
  • Add a Title, optional Description and turn on Points if you want to assign point values to your marking criteria
  • Customise your criteria however you want to
  • When you’ve finished, select Attach
  • Finishing filling in the details of your assignment and then select Assign


How to mark using a custom rubric:

  • Navigate to the General channel in the class you want and select Assignments
  • Select the assignment you want to mark
  • Underneath Status select the document your pupil has attached. This will open it in full-screen view for marking
  • Select the rubric you want to use – this will open it alongside the pupil’s work
  • Review the pupil’s work against your criteria, using the dropdown or arrows
  • Select the score you want to give for each criterion. The scoring square will turn blue
  • Enter any personalised feedback you’d like to give the pupil for each criterion
  • Work your way through the document and then click Done
  • Any points and weighting you set will be automatically calculated and applied
  • To send the work back to the pupil, click Return


OneNote Class Notebook

This is another inspired bit of integration from Microsoft, which makes collaboration and sharing in the virtual classroom an absolute breeze. Every single class team comes with its own OneNote Class Notebook, which can be used by the whole class to store everything from text, images and videos to sound clips, handwritten notes, and attachments.

There’s a read-only Content Library for teachers to share important documents, a private Student Notebook shared between each individual pupil and the teacher, and a Collaboration Space, where everyone in the class can share files and work together.

You’ll find your Class Notebook under General > Class Notebook. You’ll be guided through the set-up process on first use, and the rest is fairly intuitive.

But there might come a time when you want to set an assignment incorporating Class Notebook pages, and in that case…

How to do it:

  • Add the page you want the pupils to use or reference to the Content Library or Collaboration Space
  • Navigate to Assignments > New assignment
  • Fill out the details for the assignment, then click +Add resources
  • In the box that opens, select Class Notebook and navigate through it to find the page you want to add
  • Then choose the section of your pupils’ notebooks you want to add the page to, such as ‘Handouts’ or ‘Reference materials’
  • To finish, click Assign


Microsoft Whiteboard

Every classroom needs a blackboard, and this is the Microsoft Teams feature that keeps that vital visual element of learning alive. The Microsoft Teams Whiteboard integration brings a shared, visual point of reference to the virtual classroom, ensuring teachers and pupils are always singing from the same hymn sheet. Whiteboard is a free-form, digital canvas where participants can draw, sketch, and write along with the lesson, to help enliven and illustrate whatever is being taught.

Each and every ‘meeting’ (lesson) in Teams has a dedicated Whiteboard, and this will live on after the lesson has ended in the chat area, to enable further collaboration and reference.

How to do it:

  • To launch the Whiteboard, the ‘meeting’ must already be underway. When you’ve started your lesson in Team, click the Share icon in the meeting’s tray
  • In the Whiteboard section, select Microsoft Whiteboard


Immersive Reader

School closures have had a huge impact on most of the nation’s youngsters, but perhaps none more so than those who receive additional support in the classroom. Individual schools have no doubt done lots to combat this shortfall in support, and it’s an area where Microsoft has also stepped up to plug an important gap.

Microsoft Teams has several in-built accessibility features for use in virtual classrooms, and the Immersive Reader is among the best for pupils with attention, visual and reading difficulties. It enables pupils to listen to posts and chat messages and have assignments read aloud, as well as offering all manner of formatting options for optimal visual set-up.

Students can launch Immersive Reader in an assignment. Teachers will need to go into the assignment and select Student view, then Immersive Reader

To hear a document:

  • Open the document, then press Play
  • Select Pause to stop the narration
  • To change the speed of the narration, go to Voice Options


To change the appearance of a document:

  • Open the document and select Text Options
  • Set Themes, Text Size, Font and Spacing according to your needs


To narrow the reading focus:

  • Seeing an entire document full of text can be overwhelming for some pupils, and the Line Focus feature is brilliant, it narrows the focus by highlighting one, two or three lines of text
  • Go to: Reading Preferences > Line Focus and toggle it on
  • Select the number of lines you want to see


Keeping in touch with parents

With children learning from home and parents working from home, it would be easy to think parents and guardians have a good oversight of what their children are getting up to. Unfortunately, competing demands of work and childcare means this isn’t always possible. But most parents will certainly want to be kept in the loop, and they’ll want to know their children are doing everything that’s being asked of them by their teachers.

The new Microsoft Teams email digest is a great little feature that will automate this process, letting parents know which assignments have been completed, which ones haven’t, and how well their children are doing.

How to do it:

  • To turn on weekly parent/guardian emails, navigate to a class team then select More options … > Manage team
  • Select Settings
  • Expand the Parent/guardian emails option
  • Check the ‘Send a weekly email…’ tick box


For more information on how M247 can support your school or educational institution with your learning from home strategy click here, to download a Teacher’s guide to Microsoft Teams, please click here, and to hear more about the capabilities of Microsoft Teams Direct Routing. Contact us today

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