Teamwork is dreamwork: pushing the boundaries in breakout rooms

When I teach online lessons to groups of students from around the world on the Pearson & BBC Live Classes project, the breakout rooms are always my favourite bit. It’s wonderful to see the students working to make themselves understood, getting to know one another and learning about one another’s countries and cultures.

But if you’re teaching regular online lessons to the same group of students week in, week out you can really push the boundaries with breakout rooms, moving from simple speaking tasks to increasingly ambitious collaborative tasks. In this blog post, we’re going to consider setting up and managing tasks like these in breakout rooms. I’ve referenced the platform Zoom, but it’s not the only one with breakout rooms (BigBlueButton, Webex).

Let’s begin!

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How to Hybrid: Part 1, The Set Up

With new, essential, restrictions coming into place at a daily rate it seems our classrooms are quite a long way from returning to the old normal. For some of us our new normal, like it or not, appears to be leaning towards a Hybrid classroom. A class with students both online and face-to-face.

In today’s post I’m going to go over the different types of hybrid classes I’ve come across and look at ways in which you can set up your classroom. I’ll also consider how to deal with potential challenges that may pop up with some hybrid hacks. In part two of the blog, there will be sample activities to help facilitate interaction in a hybrid environment.

For those wishing to delve deeper, a webinar I delivered on the topic  can be found at the Teacher Training Hub.

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How to bring reading to life in class and beyond

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” Wise words from Mr Mark Twain, American writer, who neatly summed up the pleasure, knowledge and power one gets when reading. In this day and age where social media and video platforms are often the preferred go-to choice for people of all ages to have fun,  it’s now more important than ever for us to be introducing literature into our classrooms, not only to bridge the gap between hearing dialogue from videos and reading the words from books, but also to help our students learn a second language faster and more successfully.

Yet, among the millions and millions of books out there, how do we know which ones are the right choice and level for our students? A bit like the story of Goldilocks, they should neither be too hard nor too easy, but just right. Plus, how can we make the experience lots of fun, and add communicative and collaborative elements to help our students use the language they will pick up from reading? Below, I will explain some ideas for how to select the book, help get your students interested in it, and activities to do during and after reading that can be applied to every story – whether you´re teaching primary, secondary or adult students.

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Zooming Around: 17 Tried and Tested Activities for Your Online Classroom

How many of us would’ve considered ourselves proficient in online teaching a year ago? Not that many I don’t imagine. I remember in September 2019 I downloaded Zoom so I could be part of a teaching podcast with a former colleague of mine. It was the first time I’d even heard of the platform. I’d taught people through Skype and even WebEx but these were normally 1-to-1 lessons. The time spent in confinement and the rise of Zoom allowing for full online classes is a whole new world. That said, life is an unpredictable and let’s be honest it’s been a very steep learning curve for all of us.   

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a blog a about The Masked Classroom and the importance of harking back to some of the activities us teachers did in yesteryear, when we could move around the classroom and students could properly interact. Today’s blog is quite the opposite because I’m going to run through 17 of my favourite and most successful games to keep our Zoom Rooms as engaging as possible. Not simply an endless stream of PowerPoints and Kahoots.   

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10 ways to use short video in class

Using video in the language classroom was a thing when I was at school, though back then it involved wheeling in a big TV on a trolley to watch Run Lola Run and we didn’t do much besides watching. How things have changed! We now typically watch much shorter videos and we do more to exploit them.

The benefits of using short video to teach languages are many and varied. Students watch short video already (eg YouTube and TikTok), it’s a medium they’ve embraced. With the ubiquity of mobile devices, short video can be watched anywhere. Visual clues aid comprehension and give meaning to language: videos demonstrate paralinguistic features like gestures, facial expressions and intonation. We can broaden our students horizons with video: video can bring the wider world into the classroom and expose learners to different cultures, accents, people and ways of life. And of course, video can provide a meaningful context for grammar and vocabulary and it can also provide a speaking model for students. We could go on, but we’re here today to propose activities. Here are 10 of them:

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The Masked Classroom: 13 engaging activities you can still use

 

There are no questions about it, the landscape of the classroom has changed. No matter which way you look at it, teaching may never be the same again. From one day to the next we went from face-to-face teaching to being stuck at home trying to figure out just how to get our ideas across to our students through a computer screen.

We’ve since been thrown back onto the front line and a great number of us are back in the classroom. Only now we’ve got brand new issues to deal with. In this blog post I’m going to provide you with 13 activites that will keep your classes active and engaging despite these essential restrictions which have been put into place 

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Assessment for learning: going digital

In spring many of us moved our teaching online. As we go to press, schools have thankfully reopened, though many are following a blended or hybrid approach and for some the threat of further closures looms large. Even when we are ‘back to normal’ most agree that the events of this year will have accelerated digitalization in education and much of what we’ve learned to do this year we’ll continue to do.

In this blog post lets have a look at some practical ways of going digital with our assessment for learning. We’ll look at four areas:

  1. Written feedback on written work
  2. Oral feedback on written work
  3. Peer feedback on presentations in online lessons
  4. Progress tracking with an LMS

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The Big Bumper Back to School Blog Post

Tuesday was my children’s first day back at school. There were barriers laid out and stickers on the ground to manage the flow of pupils and parents, registers, temperature checks, gel points and teamwork between teachers, volunteers and police at the gates: this must have taken some organising, and we’re not even in the classroom yet!

This is a back to school like no other. Besides the logistics mentioned above, from catching up on missed work to moving forward with this year’s curriculum, from preparing a socially-distanced classroom to planning for more remote learning, all the while considering the socio-emotional needs of their learners, teachers truly have their work cut out. In this blog post I’d like to propose ideas for the back to school period that speak to the (rather uncertain) ‘new normal’. In what is a huge topic topic I’ve gone for five sections

  1. Talking about our COVID experiences
  2. Analysing our remote teaching experience and planning for the future
  3. Looking to develop student autonomy
  4. Preparing socially distanced activities
  5. Catching up on missed work

Off we go!

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How have teachers adapted to distance learning?

This spring, teachers have had to transition to distance learning and have done so admirably, bringing all their considerable adaptability and creativity to bear. Now it’s time for a well-earned rest!

Let’s look back on the last few months. How did teachers find the distance learning context into which they were thrust? What were their challenges? What tools and platforms did they go for and what did they do when live online lessons were impossible?

This infographic shows the results of our survey carried out this May. Many thanks indeed to all teachers who took part!

Distance learning for schoolchildren: parents have their say

Distance learning for schoolchildren has become the new norm since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring. Both teachers and pupils have been thrown in at the deep end, adapting to a new way of working from one day to the next. But what about the parents? How has this experience been for them? What teaching medium did their children’s schools adopt? What did they perceive as the greatest challenge?

We thought it made sense to hear what parents had to say on the matter. This infographic represents the results of a survey carried out this May: many thanks to all parents who took part!