How I… manage to set remote learning tasks for our students during school closures – Nikki McGee
27 March, 2020
We are in unprecedented times that offer new challenges for the teaching profession and our students. It has been difficult setting work that is worthwhile, easy to monitor, works with family commitments at home and is not going to create an excessive workload.
Keep it simple
Keeping it simple means bullet point instructions via an email sent each morning and resources in clearly labelled folders on our VLE. I am trying to balance working from home with family life and so I set up my emails the night before using delay send. We also have whole year groups doing the same tasks rather than individual teachers setting their own work. This reduces workload and keeps it simple in the event of staff absence. We need to remember that parents are often trying to help multiple children with one laptop in already difficult circumstances – now is not the time for experimenting with lots of new ideas.
Key Stage 3
I am going to say something now that is a tad controversial but I don’t think it should be – we like textbooks and I think that they can provide some of the solutions to the challenges of remote learning. Our Key Stage 3 students are doing textbook work in their exercise books which is then tested every 3rd lesson using Sam Learning. I want to keep it simple and I don’t want teachers having to check that students have marked work accurately and so I have created or set pre-existing tasks that mark themselves – shockingly some students write “dunno” for everything and then award themselves full marks.
There are online platforms via which students can access electronic textbooks or part of a book can be scanned and placed onto your VLE. Information about copyright can be found here. (https://www.cla.co.uk/cla-schools-licence)
I have staggered the SAM Learning tasks so that teachers are not getting bombarded by reports constantly, this means that a full time RE teacher with 20 plus classes is only getting one or two reports emailed to them each day. When the report arrives we use SIMS to send a bulk email for any student who has not completed the work. So far it has been very few. To minimise workload it is a copied and pasted email that politely says that we have noticed that your son/daughter has not completed their work and can we do anything to help. The student with the top score in the class gets a postcard home via sims and we give out achievement points for the top 5 in each class.
We are using this process to train students into good habits, when we have achieved this, we will consider using the excellent resources that have been provided by NATRE. http://www.natre.org.uk/about-natre/free-resources-for-you-and-your-pupils/
Key Stage 4 and 5
Most of our time and effort is going into Key Stage 4 and 5, we have small option groups and therefore the approach suggested may not work for schools that enter full cohorts for the GCSE.
We are using our existing PowerPoints and turning those into videos which we narrate ourselves using either the record slide show option in PowerPoint or screencast. https://screencast-o-matic.com/. These videos are then being uploaded onto YouTube and a link is sent to the student. We are not doing any live video lessons because this could trigger safeguarding issues. Prerecording videos is also quicker than streaming a live lesson because I am not waiting for students to complete tasks, they pause my video whilst they work. This flexibility also works for me as a parent with a young child at home because I don’t have to guarantee to be online at a certain time. Most videos are about 15-20 minutes long. The resources are all familiar to me and so it is rare that it takes me more than one take to record a video. If I don’t have time to make a video, I am just emailing students the existing PowerPoint with simple bullet pointed instructions.
In each lesson I ask the students to send something to me so I can check that they are keeping up. This is often just a screenshot of a quiz that requires a quick glance but about once a week an exam question. I have email folders set up for my GCSE and A Level classes so I can put their exam questions straight into a folder and then come back to it when I have time to look at them properly.
I am trialling whole class feedback using a recorded PowerPoint in which I will include samples of work and talk through strengths and weaknesses as they annotate their work – just as we do in class.
I am keen that any resources that we make can be used in future years as revision resources, we are working hard and this must have an impact on future cohorts.
We are a department that recognises the power of the carrot and we don’t want to lose this when the students are working from home. We send home and tweet a merit league table each fortnight (just the top ten) and we will continue to do this because teachers are still giving out merits and sending home postcards from SIMS.
We also have a department twitter account from which we share examples of student work and we will continue to do this.
We all have those students who love RE and want to go that extra mile, those students are our GCSE and A Level students of the future and so we need to keep them engaged with enrichment activities.
We will be inviting students to take part in the Spirited Arts competition at home.
We have also published on our twitter feed a guide to RE related programmes they can watch on TV or stream. I am also planning to share on our twitter feed links to virtual trips to key sacred sites around the globe.
Nikki McGee has been teaching RE for almost 20 years, she is currently the head of PRE at Lytchett Minster School in Dorset where she has worked for 12 years. In September she is starting a new role as the Subject Specialist for RE with Inspiration Trust.
The Lytchett PRE twitter account can be found at @LMS_PRE
The Lytchett YouTube channel is called Lytchett PRE