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Sunday 24 January 2021

How do I ensure I plan effective lessons for an online environment?

 DQ: How do I ensure I plan effective lessons for an online environment?

It was Wednesday of the first week of this new lockdown when I stumbled across the diagram above on edutwitter. It instantly spoke to me, its simplified, cyclical approach provided much needed reassurances for how to approach the planning of live lessons. I assume that we all felt an element of panic in that first week, despite my 16 years teaching experience I felt decidedly disjointed. The main concern I had was over how to ensure my live lessons closely mirrored the routines and expectations I had established in school, so that minimal learning was lost. Let’s explore the elements of the above that are to do with planning...

  1. Plan the curriculum: Ensure that the students are informed of the bigger picture. What are they learning and why are they learning this? Closely mirroring what students would have received should they be in school naturally feeds into greater engagement. This might look different depending on whether you are live teaching specific key stages or using e-learns but what is allowed for is support for both the students and you as a teacher to check for completion, gaps, next steps and engagement.

  1. Plan the inputs: My mantra here - do not overplan! Keep to the basics; 

  • Promote retrieval by starting with a do now task - knowledge retrieval, low stakes quizzing, GoogleForm etc.

  • Introduce the content but with minimal teacher talk - the feedback has been that listening to a ‘lagging’ teacher can cause students to switch off straight away. If its new knowledge, can you find a video clip that delivers the much needed content or an article the students can read and discuss in a Guided Reading format? Just ensure you present the new information in small chunks and with worked examples. 

  • Ask lots of questions - cold calling has taken some adjustment when you wish not to lose time to students writing their answers into the chat. In the classroom, posing the question and then stating the students name ensures all are kept on their toes but online naming the student first and then posing the question is more effective for maintaining the pace. 

  • Model excellence (see I-We-You lower down).

  • Explicitly teach vocabulary - by my own admittance, this I neglected in the first week and it came back to haunt me with vengeance. Whilst delivering a discussion on mitigation and adaptation to Year 11, I immediately launched into a discussion of strategies and asked the students to categorise them under the headings above. But how could they when we had not retrieved and consolidated what the two ideas meant to start with. After my do now task, I now explicitly pick the three key words for the lesson and check/reinforce their meaning in the GoogleChat.

  • Check for understanding - ensure students have the same opportunities you would afford them in class to apply their knowledge. How are you going to ascertain their level of understanding if they do not produce any written evidence?

  • Provide regular feedback (listen to the feedback video in the e-learn).

  1. Plan the students tasks:

  • Consider setting up a GoogleSlide document that the students all have editing access to. Allocate each student one slide (named) but formatted the same way on them all. As they produce the work, under your instruction, you can observe their progress and they can collaborate with each other. This also provides great access to whole class feedback that is live and mid lesson as you can switch from slide to slide with ease and pace.

  • With KS4 producing exam questions from scratch has proven tricky to produce to a good standard. Students have therefore benefitted from the use of ‘say it again, say it better’ but in a written format. Provide them with an exam answer that is not quite good enough - ask them to make it better by focusing on developing the answer, improving its SPAG and rearranging its format. The feedback from this approach has been overwhelmingly positive, as long as students are provided with their own GoogleDoc that they can edit and adjust easily.

  • Continue to model using I-We-You. Ensuring that students have the standard required modelled is teaching 101. Using the tools at your disposal, produce the ‘I’ (the part you as a teacher write) and display throughout the lesson on a GoogleSlide or GoogleDoc presented on the meet. The ‘We’ can easily be built upon in the GoogleChat. Ask students to produce their own answers by typing in the chat, but do not let them press enter until you instruct them to do so. Read through all the answers submitted and produce an answer using the ‘best bits’. 

  • Often students are nervous to share ideas in the forum of a chat or verbal contributions. A good way to pose a question, give a time limit and then a countdown to hit enter. Impromptu polls are best developed using the raise hand - this is a great tool to support that important hinge question before you move learning forward. True or False quizzes work well with the raise hand also (click it if you think a statement is true, don’t if you think it is false). 

Please be reassured, these are all suggestions and this is a steep learning curve for us all. My final word of advice, what works for one class might not work for another. You must adapt, mould and trial new ideas one at a time. Give them time to embed and do not expect results immediately. Be aware of student wellbeing, IT access and the general level of engagement so far - reflect at the end of each lesson on what went well and what you would change. Finally, talk to colleagues, talk to your mentors, talk to your departments. Share the workload, share ideas and engage in the camaraderie that Mangotsfield is known for.