This post is adapted from the second webinar in our series on distance education for teachers affected by COVID-19. Join our lead educators each week to answer any questions you have about delivering quality teaching remotely.
This week’s webinar delved into a range of remote teaching and learning topics, ranging from relationships to differentiation. Here’s what we covered:
How do we keep students engaged when teaching remotely?
Your students’ engagement will have to contend with challenges that don’t appear in a normal classroom. There are parents making calls on Skype, siblings vying for the treasured connector pens and the looming temptations of Netflix, YouTube and TikTok on every device being used for learning.
Constant screen time is not realistic in this environment. Engage your students with practical activities that make use of the home environment. Here are some examples for younger students:
Building a fort or a Lego model
Building activities develop problem solving, creative thinking and spatial awareness. Students can also work with a sibling to further their skills of collaboration and communication.
Counting items around the home
Ask your students how many taps, plants or doors they can find in the home. It applies mathematical understandings while providing much needed indoor exercise. Some strategically placed rewards from parents can also turn this into an exciting treasure hunt.
Ordering and patterning
Any activity that requires students to sort and visually arrange items according to category lays the foundation for sophisticated mathematical skills. Task your students with developing a new system for ordering their clothes or cleaning their room. Their pattern awareness will improve alongside their planning abilities.
How do we keep older students engaged during remote teaching?
You might task older students with:
Getting creative in the kitchen
Cooking puts students’ understandings of measurement and ratio to the test. Start by tasking them with following a simple recipe, before having them create and share one of their own.
Ask your students to draw maps of their bedrooms, homes or local areas. They’ll be applying measurement skills and spatial awareness in a way that easily translates to more advanced geographical concepts.
Home science experiments
Students can observe a chemical reaction by creating a volcano out of vinegar and bicarbonate soda or fit out a shoebox to protect an egg when dropped. There are plenty of other home experiments that bring advanced scientific concepts to life without technical equipment.
How do we measure and assess remote learning?
Close the learning loop by providing regular feedback to your students, just as you would in the classroom. Online learning platforms and apps make this easier by allowing for direct communication and automated reporting.
You can also use technology to deliver feedback in innovative ways, such as:
- Voice recording your comments for a personal touch
- Coordinating peer assessments which can be posted to an online discussion board
- Giving feedback to the whole class via a video.
Remember, any feedback you can give makes a difference. You’ll be informed of your students’ progress and they will feel confident that you are still actively invested in their learning.
How do we create equitable learning experiences for disadvantaged students?
For students without any technological access it is enough to simply do what you can. It might mean printable worksheets, or simple home activities they can do independently – such as reading a book or counting items.
Any form of learning activity, no matter how basic, is better than none.
Communicate with the parents of these students to find out feasible ways of delivering interactive home learning. You might be able to provide a short video or voice recording that the student can watch on a parent’s smartphone, or even have a weekly one-on-one phone call with the student to discuss their progress.
Suggest achievable and simple ways for parents to support their child’s home learning too. There are plenty of easy learning activities that they can do at home without technology or teaching expertise.
Language barriers with parents can be navigated with Google Translate, the help of an older sibling or your students themselves. It won’t be seamless, but that’s OK. Everyone is a learner in this situation.
How do I differentiate my teaching online?
Take inspiration from homeschooling and differentiate tasks by output, instead of input.
Instead of creating three separate tasks for different ability levels, create a single task or resource that invites different outcomes according to student ability. For example, reading a storybook could result in three outcomes:
- Beginning level students: Draw the character you enjoyed the most.
- Intermediate: Write a paragraph describing your character.
- Advanced: Write three paragraphs exploring three ideas from the story.
You’ll make things easier for yourself and give parents a much-needed break from coordinating multiple sets of learning at home.
How do I handle a half-empty class?
Some of us are still teaching students whose parents cannot stay home, while the rest of our students learn remotely. Differentiate between the two groups but make it sustainable for yourself.
One option is to flip the classroom for all students. Record a video lecture that students can watch whether they are in class or at home before setting an activity that they can do regardless of location.
Put together a list of activities that parents can do with home learners too. They’ll know that they have your support even if their child doesn’t receive the same face-to-face time.
What does good pastoral care look like when teaching remotely?
Online pastoral care is all about staying connected. Show yourself and be personable using the following strategies:
- Recording voice messages
- Using self-disclosure, GIFs, and emojis to keep the tone friendly in text
- Scheduling weekly, non-curriculum activities such as ‘virtual show and tell’
- Playing a ‘welcome to class’ video at the start of each day.
Students will also emotionally benefit from seeing a happy and connected teacher. Care for yourself by taking time out and staying in touch with colleagues. Share your successes and failures and know that you are not alone in this journey.
Too often, our students only realize the importance of math in the real world after they’ve left school. Five years down the line, when they’re