Research School Network: Adapting to Distance Teaching – a Departmental Approach In this blog, Assistant Headteacher Anna Ward describes how her team of English teachers have adapted to distance teaching

Adapting to Distance Teaching – a Departmental Approach

In this blog, Assistant Headteacher Anna Ward describes how her team of English teachers have adapted to distance teaching

by Durrington Research School
on the

In March 2020, my English department, like hundreds around the country, had to suddenly prepare for distance teaching. In days we were up and running and providing a quality education for our students online. Now that this is becoming a more normal’ way of working, I thought I would reflect on the positives we have found from working this way and how we overcame obstacles to ensure we maintained fidelity to the active ingredients. of our evidence-informed approach to teaching.

1. Using Google Quizzes to identify common misconceptions and plug gaps.

The English department here at Durrington have used retrieval quizzes at the start of lessons as department policy all year. As a Research school here at Durrington, we are strong advocates for using quizzes as a form of retrieval practice and it was an area we were determined to continue and make work through distance teaching. We know that retrieval practices helps to build strong, long term memory. After a few trials, we found that Google Quizzes were an excellent way to test students’ memories and help us identify where students were struggling, as well as identifying common misconceptions. For instance, when teaching a lesson on The Gothic, we asked students at the start through a Google Quiz to identify the correct spellings and context of key vocabulary linked to the unit. Class teachers were then able to identify the questions students scored most poorly on and then plan to reteach them the following lesson.

Going forward, we have found this so useful that we plan to continue to use this when we return to in school’ teaching. We will set retrieval quizzes as homework and then use the results to plan our lessons, specifically addressing these areas of common misconceptions.

2. Using exemplars to help students redraft their work live in a lesson.

As with retrieval, this is a really important part of our teaching strategy in day to day normality’. We use visualisers in the classrooms to show what a good piece of work looks like and to help students understand the metacognitive process that has been used by the student. This is much harder to do whilst distance teaching and was an area we had to really think about how we would get this to work. One of our English teachers found that by using Google Classroom, students could hand in their answers and she could post the best examples to the stream, and discuss why it was so good, as a way of sharing what an excellent piece of writing looks like. It sounds simple and it is. We now regularly share exemplars as a department for us all to use and to keep our standards and expectations high.

Going forward, we will be able to continue to use Google Classroom as a way of interacting with our classes, sharing great writing and giving live feedback remotely.

3. Using Loom for students to be able to take information on board whilst having time to pause and think.

Distance teaching has provided us with an excellent opportunity to provide a way for students to be able to access subject content through Loom videos. These videos allow all students to be able to access expert teaching from a subject specialist – through high quality explanation and modelling. They also allow students to be able to learn at their own speed. If they are struggling with a concept, they can pause the video or rewind it to listen again. We have made Loom videos for all 18 poems in our Poetry Anthology and students can access these through their Google Classroom. It also makes them see a familiar face, which helps put them at ease. What we have also found is that this has helped many students feel more confident in asking for help or putting forward excellent contributions. Another positive is that some of our students who struggle to keep to a schedule, will not be disadvantaged with their subject knowledge, as all students have the same opportunity for the highest quality of teaching.

Going forward, Loom will form a big part of our revision strategy and is something we will be embedding into our teaching for all modules. Having built up a huge collection of Loom lessons, we won’t be wasting them!

Distance teaching is hard, undoubtedly. However, it has brought some excellent discoveries and strategies that we will adapt going forward and will have a significant, positive impact for years to come.

Anna Ward, Assistant Headteacher, Durrington High School

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