In this series of blogs, colleagues from across the school will share their experiences of teaching remotely. I’ve asked them to consider the challenges they have faced and to reflect on some of the strategies they have used. The idea is to share some good ideas and provide some reassurance by recognising common struggles. Today I’ll share contributions from teachers in Computing and MFL.
Shazia Zamani – Computing
As a Key Stage 3 coordinator, my aim was to make students do something meaningful. So, I decided to get students to pursue iDEA certification, which is a great way of enhancing their profile for later years and gives a well-rounded curriculum in Computer Science. Feedback from students and teachers so far has been positive. Students seem well motivated to work towards an end goal and work at their pace. iDEA provided good differentiation for pace, as students were allowed to complete as many badges as they want. We recommend 2 badges per week and list which two badges we will be aiming for in the Frog assignment set each week. For those few students who are finding the format of iDEA difficult, Teachers are adapting the content to support them individually.
As a teacher, although teaching remotely has not been new to me, teaching a class of 25 pupils in a virtual environment is a challenge. I always have a starter for students as they join to get on with some work while they are waiting for others to join. This is usually related to previous learning to help them recollect the concepts and get ready for the upcoming topics. AFL has been a bigger challenge due to not being amongst students while they work. I miss not being able to tell if they have understood what I taught just by the look on their faces. So, I adapted. When I have explained a concept, I model the work on the board, which is always a good practice. Normally I would work through one example but I have increased this to maybe 2 or 3 questions on the board. During a live lesson, I take pauses to ask them a question to assess their learning. Then ask them to enter their answers in the chat window (this is always private, as I preset zoom to allow chat with host only). I won’t reveal the answer till most of them have a go. Then address the misconceptions if any. All those who participate during the lesson get house points at the end.
Finding the correct pace for an online lesson took some time. But I think I have reached there. Going for depth rather than coverage is always a good approach, even if this was a normal classroom, but is essential in a Virtual classroom. When I dismiss lessons, I do not stop the meeting immediately. I tell students that if they understand what work they are meant to be completing and emailing, they can drop off. Usually some students stay back for clarifications or adapting the work for their particular situation. I am always the last one to leave.
Nicola Stevens – MFL
Thrown in at the deep end, one must quickly respond and adapt to primarily survive. Sink or swim. And that is precisely how I felt at the start of lockdown and home teaching. No doubt many of you felt similarly at sea. No doubt this is how our pupils were feeling too. After the first few coughs and splutters, what followed for me was a steep learning curve, a necessity to buoy myself up with new strategies and to steer my teaching in a new direction. Enough of the water analogies, except to say that my new BFF is a rather expert swimmer, an amphibious creature called FROG.
In the past I used FROG to set homework. Period. I am now making far more use of FROG to help me work smartly and to save my eyes from a silly number of hours at my laptop screen. (Ironically, I am suffering with dry eye, despite my water references earlier!) Apart from the obvious task setting, here are the functions of FROG I use regularly:
- Markbooks-per class I regularly update and manage them
- FROG quizzes-create your own or use ones created within Kennet. Frog play and Community quizzes are great, and you can filter your search. Feedback is clear and you can quickly identify questions/areas which pupils find tricky
- Reassigning tasks for pupils when tasks have closed (or pupils can do this themselves in their Assignment Calendar)
- File drop is so much easier than receiving countless emails from individual pupils. Also, if a pupil ticks the handed in box, you can readily see if he/she has uploaded the file
- Using the evaluation box for pupils to submit a score for an exercise
- Post a message function
Regarding Zoom, I use this in various ways:
- Simple explanation of a topic using screen share to show a powerpoint/smartboard file/video
- The chat function for pupils to answer a question
- Kahoot via Zoom (great fun!!)
- Group work: after the initial 5 minutes of explanation, I split Yr10 into ability groups and they leave/re-join the meeting according to a 10-minute time slot. I believe there is a breakout space for this, but I’ve not tried it yet. I deliberately arrange certain pupils to stay in the meeting after the initial part of the lesson and ask more reliable souls to come back after 20 minutes or so. As they are in small groups, I can unmute pupils so we can do some speaking practice.
- Some Zoom lessons are brief-just to go through the lesson’s work and to run through a few examples together or the WCF.
Of course, I am also using other learning platforms, such as Kahoot Premium, Seneca and Memrise to ensure that the work for my classes is varied and challenging. Many providers have opened up websites/functions for free during lockdown, so check out your favourite ones. Following our excellent training sessions from Mel, my next challenge is to explore Clickview in more depth and to create some resources of my own. I am certain that this is going to be a long term change to my repertoire.
Finally, my top tips to stay afloat are:
- Stay organised-I have a Closure folder with various folders within for classes and weeks.
- When setting tasks, keep instructions simple and to a minimum. Within one “task” you can have various activities, but if so, put them on a powerpoint-slide by slide. Keep attachments/uploads to a minimum and think about putting various resources together as one upload.
- Once a deadline for submitted work has been reached, log HPs or commendations or issues on Edulink immediately. Keep a notebook to hand to jot names down as it’s easier than going back and forth between screens. Same goes for KS4 referral emails.
- Complete a WCF only when you would normally take books in.
- Produce a template email for parents for KS4 non-engagement. Just change name and dates.
- Make a quick phone call to parents of KS4 non-engagers -they and pupils respond really well. (Make sure you dial 141 before calling!)
- Keep a telephone call log, adding date, time, parent name and brief notes of the conversation.
- Praise pupils for their efforts- HPs & Commendations are great, but a quick email home really boosts morale for pupils
Remember …… we are all just doing our best in these unprecedented times.