10 Tips for Successful LIVE Remote Teaching sessions

Covid-19 refuses to leave the place of prominence in 2021, and as a result, in many countries teachers and learners are going back to remote teaching or those lucky ones, are working in a hybrid teaching and learning context. 

Therefore, I find it necessary to lend a helping hand to teachers and coordinators trying to make learning happen and keep motivation up.

In this post,  I will address 10 tips for remote synchronous teaching sessions (that is live sessions)  and in a future post, I will be talking about tips for asynchronous teaching and learning (that is instructions for autonomous learning). 

TIP #1 – Explain clearly to parents, how you and your learners will be working in these live sessions. Explain what is expected from the learners, and how parents, can help without intruding.

Tip #2 – Check connectivity: In many countries, there are problems with connectivity. Some teachers and learners do not have access to a steady wifi connection. In this case, using WhatsApp might facilitate communication. It is a good tool to make video calls, send short videos and documents. 

TIP #3 – Ask all learners to leave their cameras ON while they are in class. 

Tip #4 – Check all learners are in a quiet place where they can concentrate in the lesson, if not, communicate with parents to explain how important it is for the learners to have a proper place where to connect to the lessons. This doesn’t mean a special room or anything of this kind. Just a quiet surrounding for the minutes the child will be in class. 

Tip #5 – Observe the faces and body language of your learners, see if they look anxious, stressed, demotivated, sad, bored. If so, ask the learner to stay connected after the class and have a chat with him or her; when necessary, schedule a meeting with their parents. 

Tip #6 – Reflect on your teaching after the lessons are over. Plan your next lessons carefully, according to your reflections and the learners’ performance and reactions. Remember the learners’ behaviour reflects their engagement and enthusiasm. 

Tip #7 – “The good, if brief, is twice as good” Spanish Saying. Make your lessons short ( not more than 20 to 30 minutes for Early Years (2 to 5 years old), 40 to 45 minutes for Primary and 60 minutes for Secondary School learners). Check the activities you plan for the session can they be reasonably completed in the allotted time.

Tip #8 – Devote most of the time of the synchronous session (if not all the time) to ORAL work, TPR activities and Team Work. Allow social and emotional skills to develop while learning the language. (Read here for information on SEL: https://casel.org/what-is-sel/ )

Tip #9 – Promote interaction among learners. Use the synchronous session time to work on Brainstorming activities, role-plays, sharing data from research work,  giving and receiving feedback from peers, storytelling and story-reading any other activities that allow learners to work with their peers. 

Tip #10 – HAVE FUN! Remember motivation is contagious. We know that if you and your learners are motivated, enthusiastic and interested, they will learn more sustainably and enduring. Make these sessions memorable and your students will surely look forward to your next English class eagerly. 

excited kid on computer - FRONTLINE Selling

How Teachers Can Use Pedagogical Documentation for Reflection and Planning

By Cecilia Cabrera Martirena; February 5, 2021

ARTICLE PUBLISHED ON www.edutopia.org; https://www.edutopia.org/article/how-teachers-can-use-pedagogical-documentation-reflection-and-planning

Dear All, I am more than pleased to share with you the article I wrote for Edutopia. I will be looking forward to your comments.

Students generate a lot of documents that show their thinking, and teachers can use that evidence of learning to improve future lessons.

Student takes a photo of their school work with their phone

The Covid-19 pandemic and working remotely have challenged teachers of all grades to be as creative and innovative as possible, including the way they manage pedagogical documentation. With remote work, teachers often assign asynchronous tasks, which can generate large numbers of documents. Many of these documents, when managed appropriately, can be an extraordinary source of reflection and analysis to improve future curriculum planning.

Whether teaching remotely or in class, choosing what to document and how can seem overwhelming. It also can be daunting to determine which documents to consider for future learning needs. Knowing how to choose what lessons to document and how to document them may reduce the amount of work and at the same time make it more effective.

Here are some ideas for managing pedagogical documentation that have proven to help teachers and pre-K to 12 students work together to choose what is most likely to be useful in curriculum planning for years to come.

CHOOSING WHAT TO DOCUMENT

Select a learning session that will likely have benefits beyond documenting the work for the current semester and will hold lasting value for future curriculum planning. Then choose the moments in the learning process that you or your students find most relevant. The documents should show the activities that are most likely to generate reflection, analysis, and the development of creative thinking skills and metacognitive skills. These will have the most to offer for future curriculum planning.

OBSERVING AND DOCUMENTING

The next step is to decide how to make a record of the observation. Choose a technique that will best show the thinking process and learning progression of the students—note taking, photography, audio or video recordings, or a combination of one or more methods.

Families can also provide helpful documentation. For example, the family of a preschool girl recorded her enthusiasm for measuring different objects at home, which led to a follow-up math session. The math teacher used the young student’s passion for measuring as the basis for a class about why people measure things and how to measure using a variety of tools such as blocks, pencils, or hands. One family’s documentation of a student’s love of learning inspired a new math lesson.

THE ROLE OF DIALOGUE

Once you have a suitable sample of documentation, both you and your students may find it helpful to prepare an exhibit about the learning process, carefully choosing the documents that best show the progress of the work.

This can lead to an unstructured conversation in which you ask students about the relevance of the display and ways the display can show the school community how far the students have come. This dialogue encourages the development of critical thinking and provides an opportunity to illustrate the learning process to students and the school community as a whole.

THE PURPOSE OF REFLECTION

This role of pedagogical documentation is different for teachers and students. Teachers reflect to review their teaching method and approach. From the data they collect, they can make decisions about future lessons and the educational evolution of each student.

Students need teachers to help them find the right moment for oral reflection and also to invite them to write or draw their reflections on their learning process. Teachers can ask students questions about what the documentation shows or use a marking criterion so that students can see if they’ve reached their goals. If students haven’t reached their goals, they will be able to see why, as well as what they need to do in order to achieve their goals.

INCLUDING THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY

Teachers should seek feedback from other members of the learning community. When you invite the school community to participate in the learning process, different views and perspectives come into play, which can further support future curriculum planning.

It’s also important to offer the opportunity and provide the resources for families to give feedback. For instance, with the preschool girl who loves to measure everything, the teacher could offer parents and the school community information about the learning process that the young student is using, and provide resources to leave brief feedback about their impressions of the learning process. Then teachers and students can read that feedback and create a new reflection. These are all moments of growth and deep learning.

When using pedagogical documentation in upper grades, the issue is still how much of the documentation is prospective and might shape the design of future learning. For example, if a group of upper-grade students are doing science and environment research on why some communities don’t have running water, it might be relevant to document the experience and the data collected when they visited a water purification plant, and then check what else they need to find out and use that to plan future trips. The documents would then have a prospective objective.

The above example also offers an opportunity for teachers to include math, physics, chemistry, geography, social studies, biology, art, and even performing arts in an interdisciplinary project. Teachers can invite students to explain the purification process through a drama or musical play and assign students tasks in the subjects they need to strengthen. The production can then be performed for the school community.

As long as teachers have the time to work thoughtfully with the documents they’ve collected so that they can adequately reflect and design new paths to learning, and not just view them as documentation of the current semester, pedagogical documentation can help teachers make a meaningful and enduring change in the teaching and learning process.

Teacher Planner II

Dear All,

Here is the link to another version of the Teacher Planner I created. Please feel free to download it , share it , enjoy it!

Here I share the link to a new version of the Teacher Planner I created, this time with paintings of remarkable artists. I hope you like it and find it useful. It is for you to download and use freely. https://www.canva.com/design/DAETDX2dyww/roJRqmsJEwaBT5wGliiprQ/view?utm_content=DAETDX2dyww&utm_campaign=designshare&utm_medium=link&utm_source=sharebutton

Cheers!

Cecilia

After a quite challenging 2020, better equipped teachers will face what 2021 may bring.

During this 2020, we, teachers and educational leaders, were forced to jump into emergency remote teaching from one day to the other. 

The situation for 2021 is not the same. In this case, we have all the experience and knowledge we gained in 2020 to act as back up of our decisions in 2021. We have learnt a lot in many different areas, for example: We have found out how to catch our learners’ interest and attention in remote teaching, we have adapted resources and materials, we have discovered many different platforms for synchronous online teaching, we even enjoyed preparing materials for asynchronous teaching and learning, as recording videos and audio texts.  As a result of the process we went through in 2020 we have collected enough experience to feel more confident to design and create innovative teaching and learning strategies and resources for 2021. 

I am quite sure that next year we will have a combination of teaching and learning contexts, and in my opinion each of them has some pros and cons I want to share with you:

Face-to-face With Social DistancingRemote TeachingSynchronous and Asynchronous Hybrid Teaching /
Blended Learning
COMMUNICATION richer understanding through teacher and other students’ body language and voice.The use of body language and voice in asynchronous teaching is not  spontaneous. However, in well designed videos, they might be much more effective to facilitate communication.Teachers create different channels to allow effective and timely communication with leanrers. 
In either of these contexts, experienced teachers will take advantage of both contexts, online and face-to-face to allow learners dive freely in both contexts and from one context to the other,  to make the most of the teaching and learning situation. 
Teachers will have the opportunity to use the most effective aspect of each contexts, online and face-to-face  and organise the lessons around and successful combination of teaching strategies and techniques. 
TIME Time constraints. Learners have a given time to show up in the class or they miss it . Assignments in face-to-face lessons offer very short time to reflect, share, think and collaborate with peers. Learners can revisit the content as many times as they want. They have more time to address the different tasks and activities. 
FLEXIBILITYMore Flexible: in Asynchronous context, learners can choose when to participate. In synchronous, learners can watch the recording of the synchronic lesson as many times as they want. 
INTERACTION WTH PEERSMore spontaneous interaction, Allows more shy learners to participate as the teacher might have better control of the participation of more dominant learners. Gives  learners time to reflect in Asynchronous participation. 
FEEDBACKMore immediatelack of visual feedback is a common challenge for teachers.
DIFFERENTIATIONTeachers are much more subject to time restrictions and therefore tend to use the “one size fits all” principle with subtle adaptations. Allows teachers to assign different tasks or activities to the different learners according to their interests and developmental stage. 
FOSTER LEARNING COMMUNITIES Group cohesion is stronger. Harder to foster. Social Bonds turn weaker in Remote Learning.  
TEACHER CONTROL AND  LEARNER AUTONOMYTeachers have more control on what is happening in the classroom. Learners tend to be more dependent on the teacher. Learners have mote time and opportunities to develop skills for self learning.Learners are more responsible for deciding when and where they will devote time to learning and access resources. 

I hope this helps you find more support in your future lessons. I am quite sure you do not know yet which exactly will be the context in which you and your learners will be working next year, but I may say, without the need of a fortune teller, that it will be mostly online. If you are lucky, maybe you are allowed to do some Blended Learning which would be absolutely fantastic! Don’t you think so? 

Please share your thoughts, ideas and queries with us, we need to strengthen our professional communities. We need support from each other. Stay tuned! 

Reflection on Teaching and Learning

Andy Warhol, 1960

Andy Warhol, one very famous USA pop-artist. I do not like this artist very much however, when I thought of writing this post I realised his paintings reflected what I wanted to communicate: how we can have different images of ourselves according to the different contexts, our feelings and emotions, the people around us. 

As most of you already know, I have been in the Teaching and Learning world for more than 30 years, now. I have been a witness of how different theories and strategies with reference to effective teaching have evolved and how learners have responded to those theories. I had the chance to study and learn how to observe my practice and share with my colleagues successful approaches and those that were not very effective. I have been lucky enough in my professional life to work with amazing colleagues who helped me reflect, learn and therefore grow and develop; and hopefully I will continue evolving in the present and future. This is all absolutely inspiring to continue working on my own professional growth and the growth of my colleagues but, if all my learning, reflection and progress does not help learners in an effective and efficient way, all my professional development becomes an item for self-approbation and self-satisfaction. 

What do I want to say with this reflection? In this post, I want to invite you to reflect honestly on how much we have actually done to keep pace with the needs of our learners today, moreover in this new teaching context, of COVID-19 pandemic. I want us to think deeply about how much of all the theory we read about learners’ development do we bring to our lessons. How many of the strategies we are offered in different conferences, webinars, and courses do we actually apply in our lessons?

I invite you to reflect on this thoroughly, go ahead and try to answer the following questions, they are just for you, nobody will read or assess your answers but you:

  1. Have you participated in any Professional Development event in the last year? 
    • Why? Or Why not?
    • What do you remember from those events?
    • Name 3 strategies or ideas you were able to use in class. 
  1. According to your own perception of your lessons, how effective are your lessons in catering for the needs of ALL your learners to engage in the lesson, commit to the challenge and be eager to learn?
  2. How the changes in the teaching and learning context in this year of global pandemic, helped you improve as a professional?
  3. If you had the freedom to choose your approach, your timing, your resources and your assessment methods, what would you change from what you are doing now to foster the effective development of your learners?
  4. What changes do you feel we teachers have the possibility to implement today? What do we need for that? 

Take your time to answer the questions above.  Bear in mind that to be self-aware of your professional decisions and skills is not easy. It requires courage and a great amount of honesty, to accept and acknowledge both, strengths and weaknesses. 

Just in case you want to give your opinion on the topic, leave a comment below. I would love to read your comments on this post and I promise future posts on what I consider could be positive and possible strategies to put into practice ASAP to keep improving our own performance as teachers and learners, despite the teaching and learning context. 

Teaching and learning in times of COVID-19.

Post 2 – Virtual Asynchronous teaching and learning.  

As promised in my last post, here I am, ready to share with you some insights, ideas and resources on virtual or online asynchronous teaching. In this case, for many of us who have been teaching face to face sessions most of our working lives, how to make learning happen in these asynchronous environments is quite a challenge. 

We may feel uneasy and a bit powerless in the face of the new teaching and learning situation. And as I have witnessed, many questions arise in our heads, as for example, “How am I going to present a new topic?” “How can I explain a structure to the learners or teach them how to improve their speaking skills in this new teaching mode?” “What about the socio-emotional impact in their learning? Will they be working isolated?” “How are the beginners or elementary learners going to understand the instructions of the tasks? I am not there to explain, and maybe parents don’t know English”. 

In order to give  you a helping hand I will address different aspects of this Asynchronous Teaching that may be good to take into consideration if we want to be successful. 

What is Virtual Asynchronous Teaching? 

According to Trach (2018) “Asynchronous Learning is the key feature of successful online learning programs. The word “asynchronous” means not keeping time together, which refers to students’ ability to access information, demonstrate what they’ve learned, and communicate with classmates and instructors on their own time–they don’t have to be in the same classroom or even in the same time zone to participate.” 

Jones (2020) explains that “Asynchronous classes are held in a shared online space, but the teacher and the students don’t need to be present at the same time.”

As you can see, asynchronous learning provides plenty of opportunities for learners to access content in different ways. At the same time, due to the fact that they work at their own pace, they have the great opportunity to devote time to reflection, elaboration, research before they upload their assignments or participate in a forum. In these Asynchronous classes, learners have the chance to develop deeper thinking, and therefore reach better and higher outcomes. 

But let’s look at those challenging areas in our asynchronous classes: 

Where to host the teaching resources

Different platforms provide a wide variety of possibilities for us or our schools to host the different content resources and activities we create. Some free examples are Edmodo, Moodle and many others. You can find some information in this link: https://www.bookwidgets.com/blog/2016/12/top-8-online-learning-platforms 

You need to take the audience into consideration when choosing choosing a  platform. The platform should be accessible by desktop or laptop computer with an Internet connection, or by smartphone or tablet (iPhone, iPad, iPod, Android). At the same time, the platform you choose should offer tools that encourage interaction between your learners, such a forums. Another important tool for many teachers would be if the platform gives has the ability to generate automatic reports showing progress of learners. It should be able to  export the information into another application, such as Microsoft Excel, and allow the information to be customised to include specific predefined variables.  In addition, the platform should allow administrators see the recorded history of the learners’ work, the grade book and feedback from the teacher.  A remarkable tools of some platforms is that they allow to create a library where teachers can upload content they have previously created as well as different resources from other platforms.

Content 

Different kinds of content may suit different teaching situations and ages. 



Teacher generated content: Handouts,  Screencasts, Videos, texts, audio recordings. Student Created content: Ss assignments, responses to activities, oral interactions. 3rd Party Content.  Novels, readers, storybooks,  Coursebooks, Videos, links, films, authentic materials.
2 to 5 year oldsEarly YearsMost of the content at this level is teacher created. Recordings of learners’ interaction  with the teacher, and with peers. Documentation of learning process might turn into interesting contentMainly storybooks, videos and authentic materials
6 to 12 year oldsPrimary School   
12 to 18 year oldsSecondary School    

Activities and Tasks

Sometimes, choosing or designing the proper activities is a tough task as we will not be there with the learners to explain the activity, check understanding or elicit examples. The strength of the pedagogical and didactics knowledge of the teachers will be at stake when designing the different tasks and activities. At this point, when the teacher has to choose, design and plan the different paths through which the learners will build knowledge is when the teachers have their “teaching moment”. The different activities or tasks should be thoroughly chosen but more importantly, they need to be carefully explained in accesible written language according to the stage of development of the learners’ command of the language. Teachers need to add a written example for the learners to see what the teachers expect learners to do. 

Evaluation 

It is advisable to design a marking criteria and a success criteria and share them with the learners on the platform you are using for all of them to see. As learners’ progress will be registered on the platform, and it should be quite easy for the teacher to evaluate it, using the marking criteria. But the most productive aspect of the evaluation is not making the learners’ work but giving them timely feedback so they can improve their performance and strengthen their learning of the language. Therefore, it is here that teachers have the chance to provide all the necessary guidance and support to each learner according to their demands, and weaknesses. In addition to the teachers’ feedback which is absolutely essential, teachers can invite learners to assess their peers work and even teach them how to self assess their performance using both, the marking criteria and success criteria. 

Here I share a chart from Hartinsky (2007) that compares Asynchronous e-learning to Synchronous (Live) e-learning.  

It is important to remember that learning in an online environment  might be quite challenging for some learners as well as for teachers themselves. So please, don’t worry if you go slowly, as long as you move on. Be open to feedback from learners and parents and don’t get disappointed if you have to struggle a little bit at the beginning. Just keep learning, keep trying and remember, practice makes perfect. 

Resources

Harstinsky, S. (2007) (PDF) Asynchronous and synchronous e-learning. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/238767486_Asynchronous_and_synchronous_e-learning [accessed Apr 06 2020].

Jones, C. (2020) https://www.cambridge.org/elt/blog/2020/03/13/moving-your-classes-online-2/ (Accessed April 05 2020) 

Trach, E. (2018) https://www.schoology.com/blog/asynchronous-learning-definition-benefits-and-example-activities (Accessed, April 06 2020)

Teaching and learning in times of COVID-19

Post 1 – Online Synchronous Teaching

So, my dear colleagues, here we are facing a new challenge, to make teaching and learning possible and effective for all learners from our homes. Once more we are responsible for keeping ourselves alert and updated to allow schooling to happen under any condition. How are you coping with this situation? Are you being able to communicate with your learners? How are parents supporting teaching and learning? Are you being able to find a place at home where you can concentrate, relax and enjoy this new way of teaching? Are you taking care of yourselves? Is this confinement affecting you or maybe you are enjoying being at home?

From my place to your place, live.

It does not matter much if it is state or private education, or if we work with Early years, primary, secondary or even university level, we are all turning into online teaching. And what makes matters worse is that we are teaching from our home to the learners in theirs. This might mean that if you have online live lessons, parents will certainly be watching. So there you go, Open Classes for the learners and their whole family to enjoy. Of course you may be recorded by the learner, you may have your lesson played a hundred times and even shared with other learners even if a confidentiality agreement is signed. But just let me tell you that once all of us, parents, teachers and leaners get used to this new way to approach the teaching and learning process, things will flow much more stress free.

The online live lessons on the other hand can be really amazing if we develop the skills to handle them, so here go some hints to let magic happen:

Planning

Remember to schedule the online meeting in advance and communicate it to the learners as soon as possible, at least 48 hours before. Families may need to organise their schedules at home to make sure your learners will have the computers available (to used by another member of the family at the time of your online lesson), prepare a silent room for the learners to be, and any other needs the learners and their families might take care of.

Prepare and plan your lessons thoroughly. As in any class, you need to have a plan with a warm up activity, the development of the lesson and a closure. Tell you students what to expect from their next online lesson, which materials they would need. When students have time to prepare, they are often more invested in the discussion and willing to participate. And you will feel better about calling on them.

Make the session relevant, and make this relevance visible for the learners. It would be a good exercise to ask yourself: Is this topic meaningful for the learners? Will they find it interesting to learn more about the topic? Why should learners care about this topic? Keep these questions and the answers next to you during the session.

Check you timing! This is crucial. I find it really important that you take into consideration the amount of time you expect your learners to stay watching you, concentrated. My advice, for secondary school learners would be not more than 30 to 40 minutes. In the case of Upper Primary School learners, I believe it would be advisable between 20 to 30 minutes. In the case of lower primary and 4 and 5 year olds you can try between 10 to 20 minutes. And for the very little, 2 to 3 year olds I would say 5 minutes is a lot! But maybe as they get used and if your lessons are quite active, they may stay tuned for about 10 minutes. These time frames may look too short however, remember that online lessons go fast. The time will go much faster than you think. As you know, you will cover less teaching content than you would like, because part of the job will be done by the learner later, once the class has finished. Remember please as well to leave enough time for process and for questions.

It is important that you open the online meeting 15 minutes early to give your learners the chance to log-in before the class starts and check their video and audio equipment. Always start and stop the meeting on time.
Make sure your synchronous session offers original and novel content, insights, or tasks and avoid duplicating what is covered elsewhere in the course, e.g., readings, videos, discussion boards. This can be done later, during their offline time. On the other hand, synchronous sessions should, connect to the syllabus and expand their knowledge. These sessions should be motivating, inspiring and there should be added benefit to attending the synchronous session, such that students don’t like to miss class.

The Teaching Environment

Prepare the setting. Be careful the background you show. Too much information about your home is not necessary. Try to sit or stand with a wall behind you to prevent the appearance of any member of the family who may not be aware you are going live.
Check your outfit. You may be at home but please, stay professional. You might be wearing a plain T-shirt or dress, but keep a home outfit that shows a balance between comfort and purpose in equal parts. It may show you are at home, a bit more relaxed by still professional motivated and ready to tackle your day.

Please, check the light source comes from the front and is not from behind you. The light source should come from behind your webcam.
Sit in front of the camera and if possible raise your computer so the camera is at the level of your eyes. This will help avoiding showing too much of your chin and nostrils.

During the session

Invite learners to have their webcams on, as showing their faces, and seeing yours. creates a sense of connection and accountability that can help to overcome the disconnectedness that virtual meetings so easily engender.
Invite the learners to take turns to speak and allow them to turn on their microphones at the moment of speaking, not before. Please, make a speaking list to be sure everyone willing to participate, has his/her turn. Give learners enough time to speak and check everyone is listening. You will get experience in breaking out groups, differentiating tasks and many other strategies these online sessions allow you to do. Be enthusiastic, motivating and inviting.

I hope these guidelines help you make the most of your online teaching sessions and invite you to move on the 2020 syllabus. We might be in this social distancing mode for a while, so just in case, be prepared.

In my next post, I will be sharing my insights on the asynchronous online sessions and how to make the best of them. Please, stay at home and be safe!

Emergency Remote Teaching and Learning with Young Learners, ages 6 to 11.

Young Learners are what we call digital natives, we may assume then that they are, let’s say, the human beings that might be more capable to adapt to virtual learning. However, we know that children from 6 to 11 years old, need other contexts and experiences to learn and thrive. How can we put this together to facilitate learning under these new circumstances? Which are the benefits to teach and learn in a remote teaching situation? 

Getting into Emergency Remote Teaching:

It is a common belief among some parents, government authorities and even some teachers that online learning is of lower quality than face-to-face learning, despite research that shows otherwise. Online learning courses are planned and structured based on the fact that they will be taught in an asynchronous context and therefore, most of the resources are provided in a timely way. Generally, virtual courses are much more demanding than face-to-face courses as learners have much more time to process input, reflect, research and generate deeper productions. 

Our teaching and learning circumstances due to this pandemia, are quite different to those online courses. The appropriate term according to Bond, Hodges, Moore, Lockee and Trust  (2020) for the type of instruction we are delivering in today’s circumstances is Emergency Remote Teaching. 

George Couros in his blog explains that “in a matter of days, teachers and school leaders have had to take curriculum, resources, assessments, and lessons that were designed for an in-person (or at least blended) experience (and without any sustained training), turned it into a remote learning experience.”  The courses we are now re-creating in virtual contexts were thought, planned, and designed to be taught in an in-person class.  In the case of teachers in Uruguay we only had two weeks of face-to-face lessons and then we had to move to remote teaching. We had only just met our learners and we were not able to actually learn about their strengths and the areas the learners find most challenging regarding language learning. 

The Challenges for Young Learners 

So, all of a sudden we became online tutors for a group of young learners. What are the challenges we might face? 

  • Learners who might have a restricted use of a computer, due to family organisation issues (one computer for more than one family member). This means that  the tasks we assign may take varied timing to be fulfilled by all members of the class. And that is fine. 
  • Learners who are not autonomous in using the computer. Teachers know that parents are there, always. Most of the time parents sit with their children during the Zoom lessons, helping and guiding the child in every activity. You and your class are in a never-ending “open class” situation. But I feel you just got used to it, didn’t you? 
  • Learners who are still struggling to read and write. Among the skills we need to develop in our learners, we have this enormous challenge to find the way to help them develop in their reading and writing readiness. 
  • Learners who are under stressful conditions and who feel and absorb their family’s distress and anxiety. We have a really important role to play here. We need to find a  balance between designing challenging and motivating activities that help the learners develop and not becoming another source of anxiety for the children and their family. 
  • Learners who are confined to stay at home. We have the chance to plan activities and tasks that promote movement and interaction with family members, with friends through the different electronic means. 

Ideas to help your Young Learners keep on learning English in COVID-19 times

In addition to the use of a course book or language learning apps, we can think of some creative ways of learning the language taking advantage of this situation the learners are in. They are at home, surrounded by their most beloved toys and books, in the context they generally feel more at ease.  So, ask them for permission to be a guest in the learner’s home.

Video recordings: 

Both, children and teachers need to communicate using their gestures, face expression, so it is a really good idea to record yourself talking to the children. 

Videos done by the Teacher: You may want to explain the task you are setting; revise some lexis through the use of flashcards,  asking questions and giving some seconds for them to answer on the other side of the screen; you may want to tell them a story or read a story book to them. If you decide to read a story book to the children, I would like to say that it would be good if you use is as if you were in class. This means, all the pre-reading you normally do in class, work with the front cover, work with the title and help them guess the story they will listen to.  Throughout the story, stop and make those comprehension questions you would normally do, make the comments and clarifications you may find necessary. Remember your learners are there, and they are interacting with you but, asynchronically. 

Videos made by the learners: 

Teachers may invite learners to make short videos where they describe their favourite toy to their peers, show their bedroom and describe it, explain the rooms of their house, cook something and explain the process to their classmates. The learners in upper primary may want to make a video explaining their position or point of view regarding the topic they are studying as for example, “My personal point of view about the use of plastic nowadays…..”. Teachers may invite the different learners to read aloud a line/paragraph/chapter from the book they are reading or an e-book teacher sends them. If each of them read a different part of the story (line, paragraph, chapter) then the videos can be edited and put together to build up the whole story. 

Art Work

Invite the learners to use The Arts to recreate any aspect of language learning you are working on at the moment. They may recreate for example: their house, a story, the structure of a text genre, pronunciation aspects, a scene from a film. Teachers may suggest any specific visual art or performing art for the learners to use or leave the decision to each learner, it might depend on the age, previous knowledge and skills of the learners. 

Research Tasks

This is a good moment to ask the learners questions that will make them think about those persons or things they have in their personal context and just take for granted.

  • Research about Past and Present: Interviewing grandparents or even great grandparents would be fantastic! The children can design a questionnaire about a given topic, or just start eliciting from their grandparents about a certain fact from the the past the learners would like to know about. They can make a video or audio recording of this interaction or just a summary with a drawing of the interview. They can also provide a picture of the grandparent they interviewed. 
  • Research about how things work: This is an excellent opportunity to ask learner to choose any household appliance or piece of furniture and try to find out how they are built and  how they work. 
  • Research about why and how things are done: Learners may be invited to find out for example, how to keep our houses neat and clean. Therefore, they may research how to wash the dishes. They will need to get information on what kind of soap is needed, how it is used and why. Invite them not only to get the appropriate process but also to explain why each step should be done in a certain way with which tools and resources. If families allow, invite the learners to have a go and participate in the different chores and reflect on the process. A good question would be then, Can you suggest a different and most effective way of carrying out that chore? 

Remember

This new teaching situation is really stressful and demanding. We feel we don’t have the skills, the tools and the resources to deliver the lessons properly and professionally as we are used to, in our face-to-face lessons. It is good to know you are doing fine. Relax. Giving your children your attention, your love and your best effort is always supportive and inspirational. If you are doing your best effort, that a is just great and sure you achieve  much better results as you get used to this new teaching context. Moreover, I am sure you will adopt many of the tools you are using today in your future face-to-face courses. Actually, I do hope technology becomes much more present in the our classrooms.  

I believe you should feel really proud for being able to make this transition to emergency remote teaching as successful as possible. You are teaching your learners not only language but also how to adapt to a new situation, be resilient and face new challenges with a positive mind.