Spice Up Your Zoom Class for Kids

Virtual Christmas Zoom Background for Teaching

Have you every wondered how to get those magical cartoon backgrounds used in children’s shows on TV?  I’m sure many of us have heard of green screens, but not many teachers have ever used one or seen one in use.  

Use a green screen to show your creativity.

For the first time in education, millions of students are spending the bulk of their class time looking at a Zoom screen.    This presents all sorts of challenges.  One challenge, especially for younger kids, is how to keep them engaged and how to make the Zoom screen more fun to look at.  

One solution to this is to have a creative background while teaching.  If you’ve watched children’s television much, and I’m guessing you have, then you’ve probably seen one or more shows that use green screens.   The kid’s show Blue’s Clues would be a good example of what can be done using a green screen.

How does a green screen work?

A green screen can be used in Zoom to change your background.  Many newer computers are able to show virtual backgrounds without a green screen.  However, your background will be much cleaner if you use a green screen.  On some computers, the Zoom background can only be changed if you use a green screen.  So I recommend buying one.  

Plain Green Screen  e1607718422479
Here is a green screen with no image set in Zoom.
Green screen with forest image
This is what is looks like with an image selected in Zoom settings.

Which Green Screen Should You Buy?

There are many options available for purchase.  A quick search online will show a myriad of types, sizes, and prices.  There are collapsable green screens, pop-up green screens, hangin greens screens, and green screen fabric to use however you’d like.  I prefer simple, cheap, and easy to store, so I’ve purchased a pop up green screen.

You can buy the Green Screen I use on Amazon.  It has a green side, which I always use, and a blue side for those days when you may be wearing green clothes and don’t want to appear invisible.    This green screen is easy to set up, and it’s easy to store.  I pop it open and set it on a chair behind me and lean it against the wall. 

 

Folding Green Screen

When I’m finished using the screen, I can fold it up and store it in the included bag.  It folds flat and requires minimal storage space.

It can be a little tricky figuring out how to fold it up the first time, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s quick and easy.

Download a Fun Background

Now we need to look for a great background.  As a teacher, I don’t want to just find a regular Zoom background or a nice photo.  What I’m looking for the the cartoonish kid’s TV show background filled will color and activities.  I also want something that looks like a classroom and that I can decorate for the month.  Finally, I want to customize and update my background objects daily. 

…so what’s the best background to use?

I REALLY love using Bitmoji virtual backgrounds.  During distance learning these have become more popular than ever.   You can find a ton of wonderful Bitmoji classrooms on Madebyteachers.com

Most teachers use Bitmoji Virtual classrooms as part of their Google Classrooms.  These virtual classrooms can be uploaded to Google Slides where a teacher can then add text links for all sorts of additional activities.  The slides are then shared with students who can access all the different activities for the day by clicking on different pictures on the “Virtual” classroom.  You can read more about this in a future post.

What I like to do is change my Google Slide “Virtual” Classroom a little each day and then take a screen shot using my computers “screen shot” tools.  You can search how to do this for your computer online.  Next, I upload the saved “screen shot” photo to my Zoom app.

You can buy the Christmas Virtual Background that I used or search for something relevant to you.

 

Bitmoji Virtual Background
Christmas Bitmoji Virtual Classroom Picture to Add To My Zoom

Now the Fun Begins

Now that you’ve got a screen shot image of the background that you want to use and have a green screen set-up, it’s time to put it all together.

Before you get started with a new Zoom meeting, you’ll want to open your account and check the Settings.  You will see the settings options on the left sidebar menu.  Select it, and scroll way down to the bottom of the list of options.   

Turn On the Virtual Background button and check the box.

 

Zoom Settings
Turn On Virtual background AND Video filters

It’s time to start a new Zoom meeting and add the Virtual Background.

…start a Zoom meeting for just yourself and set up the background.

With the Zoom meeting started, you should click the “up carrot” next to the video camera to view the pop-up menu.  Select “Choose Virtual Background”.

Zoom Video Options

The Settings window will open.  Select “Background & Filters” from the sidebar menu.

Add your background image by clicking on the small + icon on the right side of the window.  Once you’ve uploaded your image, you’re good to go.

Turn on your camera to preview your new background!  Super Fun!

Zoom Video Settings

Conclusion

Now that you know how to use a green screen and Bitmoji virtual background, there is so much you can do.  Try updating your classroom background every once in a while or every day. 

Go on a virtual field trip with your background.  I visited a zoo with my students by uploading several animal backgrounds before class, then during our Zoom meeting I would change the background to visit different animals.  The class loved it, and I’m sure your students will too.

…so if you’re going to be teaching using Zoom for a while, then try spicing it up with a green screen virtual background.  Have fun!

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