The coronavirus pandemic has forced schools all over the world to close. And with no end in sight for the coronavirus school closures, parents, carers, teachers and children alike are worrying about how this is going to affect children’s education and academic success.
Whether lockdown lasts for weeks or months, children are going to miss out on valuable education. So schools and teachers all over the world are coming up with creative ways to help children learn at home.
We’ve teamed up with Tim Cameron-Kitchen, a remote working expert, to create an in-depth guide to remote teaching. Tim is the founder of a digital marketing company, Exposure Ninja, which is entirely remote. He has also recently launched a course to help businesses take their teams remote. So we’ve combined Tim’s remote working expertise with our vast teaching experience to create this in-depth remote teaching guide.
In this guide, you’ll find remote teaching methods and tips to help you improve the distance learning experience for your students.
How To Effectively Teach Remotely
Teaching remotely is a new approach for many teachers. So if you’re not sure how to go about it, don’t panic, you’re definitely not alone.
Thanks to technology, remote teaching and distance learning have never been more achievable. There are many tried and tested ways to keep in touch with students, set tasks and teach entire lessons using online resources and applications.
Keep Your Classes Going with Virtual Classrooms
Virtual classrooms might sound like something from the future, but teachers around the world are already using them. Using video conferencing applications or purpose-built virtual classroom software, you can deliver lessons in an online, interactive learning environment.
Virtual classrooms offer a learning environment that’s as close to the normal classroom as we’re likely to get during this period of social distancing. With a virtual class schedule, children will have a routine to stick to while schools are closed.
During virtual classes, you can interact with students using webcams and microphones, so students can still benefit from a personalised learning experience. You can also present materials during live classes, so you can still use resources such as presentation slides as teaching props. Some virtual classroom software even allows virtual classes to make use of a digital interactive whiteboard.
One thing to note with virtual classrooms though is they may not be suited to larger groups of students or younger children. I’m sure you can imagine that a virtual class with lots of little ones has the potential to spiral out of control quite quickly.
Just as with any online teaching, Tim’s recommendation is to keep sessions fast-paced and cut out as much ‘fluff’ as you can. He added that “when we run an online training session, we imagine the students surrounded by bleeping devices trying to steal their attention. Our goal is to build the training to be engaging enough to keep them focused.”
Pre-Record Lessons for Children to Watch
Sometimes, live lessons in virtual classrooms may not be possible. Certain children may not be able to attend, or virtual classes simply might not suit certain groups. So pre-recording lessons can be a good alternative to holding live online classes.
With this method of remote teaching, you’ll need to prepare videos of yourself going through lessons. The recording should then be uploaded to e-learning portals or the school website so students can watch the lesson at a time that suits them. One of the main benefits of recorded lessons is students can refer back to them at any time.
While there are already many preexisting videos of lessons online, you can offer your students personalised lessons. You have a better understanding of the children in your class and their academic progress than anyone else. You’ll know what lessons they’ve covered in the school year so far, and you’ll know exactly where you were before schools closed. So when recording lessons, you can pick up where you left off.
Students may also prefer lessons and advice from their own teacher. Knowing information has come from you, their teacher can reassure students that they’re learning the right things and progressing at the same rate as their classmates.
Assign Home Learning Tasks and Projects
Even if you’re holding live lessons and communicating with students regularly, most of their learning tasks will need to be carried out independently at home. So a big part of remote teaching is setting home learning tasks and projects.
You’ll need to think about what sort of activities children can complete in their home to practise the skills they’ve learned in lessons. Ideally, projects should be indoor activities that require minimal resources and parent involvement. The last thing you want to do is burden parents with projects at an already stressful time.
Once you’ve decided on projects and home learning tasks, you’ll need to create clear instructions. Children need to know how to complete tasks, how much time they should spend on each one, and when the completed project is due.
You can share assignments, tasks and resources over email, or you can use web applications such as Google Classroom. Google Classroom is a great way to bring your class together. You can use it to keep in touch with students, share resources, assign tasks, and students can collaborate on projects.
After tasks are finished, you should review students’ work and give them feedback on what they did well and how they can improve. If any students do exceptionally well, you could share their work with the class (with their permission), or give them a shout out in your next lesson. Feedback and recognition of hard work can help students stay motivated to learn.
Hold Virtual Office Hours
Naturally, students and parents might want to get in touch outside of virtual lessons. They may have questions about home learning tasks and assignments, or they may be looking for advice or feedback. Think about how many questions your students ask you on a normal school day — they’re likely to have just as many, if not more questions while distance learning.
A good way to make sure students and parents get the help or support they need is to offer virtual office hours. Allocate one to two hours each day to communicate with your students and make students and parents aware of these “office hours”.
You could decide to hold your office hours using a video-conferencing application, or you may simply make yourself available to respond to emails or phone calls. Just knowing you’re available if need be can help students feel better about home learning.
Remote Teaching Tips to Improve Distance Learning
Remote teaching methods can take some getting used to — teachers and students alike are still learning the ropes. But here are some handy tips to help you perfect your remote teaching skills and improve the distance learning experience for your students.
Consider the Risks Involved in Remote Teaching
Before you start teaching remotely, take some time to consider the risks involved and how you can protect yourself and your students from these risks. For example, many remote teaching methods rely on online applications or software, so you’ll need to think about online safety and cybersecurity. And if you have the contact details for students or parents, you’ll also need to consider data protection.
Lesson Preparation Has Never Been More Important
Teaching remotely leaves no room for improvisation. You need to plan lessons carefully, so they’re interesting, engaging and helpful to students. Daily, weekly and monthly lesson plans should also follow a clear structure and have clear learning objectives so children can see a natural progression to what they are learning.
Lesson preparation also involves making sure you have the right equipment for remote teaching. For example, you may need a computer with a working webcam and microphone, and any teaching resources you need during lessons should be easy to access and quickly pull up.
If you’re looking for more resources to include in your lessons or assign as home learning tasks, check out our range of primary math resources. Our collection of resources includes maths worksheets, teaching slides, interactive videos and more. And many of our resources are completely free.
Make Sure Your Background Is Appropriate When on Camera
Whenever you’re conducting a live class or recording a lesson, your students can see not only you but whatever’s in the background as well. So before appearing on camera, take some time to create a teaching zone in your home.
Make sure there’s nothing personal or offensive in your background. Positioning yourself in front of a relatively plain background can also help students stay focused on your lessons. If there are too many distractions in the background, you may find your students’ attention starts to wander.
If you have the time and space, you may even decide to put up educational posters on the wall in your teaching zone. You could also tactically place classroom items like books, pencils or a whiteboard to create an educational setting.
Another top tip from Tim is that “using an application like Skype or Zoom, which has a background blurring or background replacement feature can be really useful here. It makes your video look more professional and less distracting to students that just can’t help having a nosey around your home office or kitchen.”
Consider How Children Will Access Lessons
Many remote teaching methods rely on children having access to technology and the internet. But some children from low-income families don’t have access to the necessary devices or internet at home. And with libraries and museums closed, students can’t use public facilities.
There are ways to help children access technology, but they aren’t always possible. Some schools may be able to provide students with laptops to use during this period of home learning, but other schools simply won’t have the funding or resources to do so. There is also a call for internet providers to offer free internet access, so children can continue learning from home. But so far, they haven’t been too keen on the idea.
So if you have children in your class who can’t access online lessons and learning resources, you should consider offering both low-tech and high-tech learning experiences.
Encourage Communication between Students
Students of all ages are used to seeing their classmates every day. But with everyone in lockdown, students are likely to feel quite isolated and social distancing can affect young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Encouraging students to communicate with each other and maintain friendships can prevent them from feeling lonely. Setting collaborative assignments that require students to work together is a great way to make sure they stay in touch and check in on each other.
Make Sure Lessons Are Engaging
Students may be reluctant to learn during the lockdown, especially as they’re spending all of their time at home, a place they usually associate with downtime. So remote teaching should focus on keeping children engaged in education.
Think about ways to keep lessons fun and fresh and keep students on their toes. Inject your personality into your virtual lessons and throw in unexpected challenges for children to complete at home. It can feel a little strange trying to be energetic and fun in front of a camera, but the more you practise, the more natural it will feel. And your students will appreciate the effort.
Another way you keep children engaged in education and excited to learn is to embrace free-choice learning. Give students a say in what they study and how they learn. You could set projects that children work on individually, and give them the chance to choose a focus they’re passionate about. Or you could create a poll and get all of the children in your class to vote on which lesson or project they tackle next.
Master the Curriculum is here to help both teachers and parents during these difficult times. We’re not going to let the coronavirus stand between children and the education they deserve. So we’re doing our best to create a variety of remote teaching and home learning resources. Many of our primary maths resources are available free of charge, but you can also unlock all of our teaching materials for just £49 per year.