This article was originally published in the Independent Schools Modern Languages Association Summer 2020 newsletter. You can visit their website ismla.co.uk to find out more.
When I first started teaching, the technological tools in my classroom amounted to nothing more than a few pieces of kit: a tape player and a TV with a video player. As a new teacher, if I had faced the lockdown that we are currently living through I would have been hard pressed to know how I could have continued delivering lessons.
Fast forward 25 years (or is it 26?), and I am lucky to be teaching in a Microsoft Showcase School where our normal working practices involve using Surface Pros and Microsoft’s Office 365 including Class Notebook. This means that when schools were closed down, we were able to hit the ground running with pupils already well versed in using their Class Notebooks. As a School we had been using Teams to set assignments and over the last couple of years we have used Teams on occasion for video meetings, so it was a small step for us to set up lessons in Teams.
Nonetheless, even with this head start we have had to learn quickly some new teaching ideas for Microsoft Teams and Zoom to help us be more successful in delivering lessons. That first week and a half for us involved learning not just about new technology that we had not previously embraced, but also about delivering lessons virtually.
I know that a lot of schools have been able to sign up with Microsoft and start teaching via the Teams meeting function and that others have embraced Zoom. What follows are some ideas about remote teaching that I hope may be of use. I have focused on Microsoft Teams because that is my current teaching reality, but many of the ideas are relevant to Zoom as well.
It has been important for us to remember the key principles of delivering lessons and to consider how we can use Microsoft Teams to enable this process. If, for example, your first goal is to review previous learning, then there are a few options to consider.
Learningapps.org is an amazing site that gives you the freedom to create activities with whatever content is pertinent to your classes. From gap-fill activities to translation and crosswords, from ‘who wants to be a millionaire’ to matching pairs and ordering activities, this is not a website you can afford to neglect. Noteworthy too is that in LearningApps.org you can create listening activities either by selecting the correct language option or by uploading audio from YouTube. You can also upload video from YouTube.
Quizizz has been around for some time but has recently added extra functionality to it. Of interest to language teachers is the ability to add audio which can be uploaded or recorded directly. I often use this function for dictation which can be marked automatically. You can also use this function for more open-ended tasks, for example getting pupils to respond to typical GCSE style oral questions. Worth a look!
Listening and speaking can still be part of language lessons.
When I think back to the start of my career I could not have imagined just how many tools there would be to help me guide my students, but then, nor could I ever have imagined myself sitting at my desk in the attic room, teaching my students languages remotely.
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