“Learning lessons does not end. There’s no part of life that doesn’t contain its lessons. If you’re alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.”
Source: If Life Is a Game, These Are the Rules by Cherie Carter-Scott
As the lockdown period continues for many of us, there are no shortage of lessons to be learned about our current experience. Whilst there have been many disappointments and disruptions to the school calendar, there have been many opportunities for us to develop our skills as educators in the zoom environment. As a parent of a Year 8 boy, I am also aware of the students’ perspective of the online learning environment. Here are 3 quick reminders of Zoom lesson plans that students dislike.
1.The random generated group function for breakout rooms
My son was placed in a random group with just himself and a girl he didn’t know. They didn’t turn on their video or say anything the entire lesson. They are teenagers – of course this is bound to happen! Students would rather work alone than with people they don’t know or are not friends with. So would I for the most part …
2.“You can’t be trusted to work with your friends”.
Really? It is pandemic – if they go off task and talk to someone they like for part of the lesson, is that actually such a bad thing in the current climate? Instead, build in structures so that you can see how they are working together. Have them use a shared document that you observe in real time, or pop into the rooms of pairs you are concerned about using the “join” function.
3.Stick to the 5:2 rule as much as you can
My son is a fairly focused, conscientious student but nothing gives him anxiety more than the teacher who talks for the majority of the lesson and then gives them only a short amount of time to complete the actual work. Either be clear that the deadline for submission is by 8am the next day or stop talking after 10 minutes. The students should be active 5 parts to your 2 parts of the lesson.
How to make Zoom lessons more engaging and successful
I teach a year 11 Japanese Beginners class every week on Friday afternoon for 2 hours. In a conference setting, this is the graveyard spot where the speaker knows they have to work extra hard to keep the audience engaged and awake after the lunchtime slump. Here are a couple of quick techniques that are popular with my students.
1.The Lucky number warm-up
Begin the lesson by asking a student to pick a number from 1 to 10. I have a list of topics that corresponds to the number they choose. This week we did days of the week, months, verbs, adjectives, Japanese foods, zodiac animals, languages, transport words, hobbies and dates. If a student picked the number 4, for example, they had to tell me any 3 adjectives in Japanese. (You can do this in small groups too for larger classes and increase the number of words the group needs to tell you.) If they can not tell you 3 words, the class can help, and you write the 3 words in the chat. The student copies these three words down into their book for review. The student needs only list the words, they do not even need to know what they mean. The rest of the class can then be called upon to translate these words.
For each chapter of Jblog 4 Express, I wrote two lists of 10 phrases or sample sentences for the unit. (These are part of the student workbook and have matching sound files.) As a listening warm-up, I regularly select a few of these phrases and have students jot down the translation. If a student does not know what the sentence means, they must write down at least one word they heard. They then add the translation for just that one word as we go through the answers. This can be done having the teacher read out the sentences, by playing the sound file to the group or by having a student leader read out the sentences on a rotational basis.
Online breakout rooms can work well if you survey the students in advance and establish set groups for a period of time eg 2 week cycles. When sent to work in a group, give the students specific roles and tasks to do and rotate after 5-10 minutes. For example you could have six groups of 5 students with Student A the Kanji master for rotation 1. They would have access to a stack of kanji cards that they test the group on. Then, in rotation 2, Student B might be the Speaking task leader and read out the speaking questions from a list supplied by the teacher. Another option is to keep the leaders where they are in those roles for one lesson, and move everyone else through the rotations. This is best used for review work. Student leaders could even nominate anonymously 3 excellent students each lesson to the teacher for merit award points.
Zoom lessons can be a challenge but they also provide us with many opportunities. Keep embracing the lessons to be learned and you will come out of this pandemic an even more incredible educator.
For questions about any of these ideas or resources, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org