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10 June 2020
By Zoe Enser

Life After Lockdown for an English Teacher or Subject Lead

A few weeks ago, I ran another virtual English Network meeting with a range of Heads of English from across Kent. We discussed the many issues which we face as our students, who already will have had a variety of gaps in their learning, continue to learn with us, not least a broader range of learning gaps which have come from the unusual situation we have all found ourselves in.

Pedro De Bruyckere explores some of those issues and what some research has shown from his perspective working with the Belgium Government in this Research Ed Home presentation.

After considering what issues we would now face, we went on to explore ways that we could close any gaps in learning which had opened up over the lockdown period.

Despite this still being a time of uncertainly, there are some important approaches and resources we can use to support us in ascertaining what our students know and what they need to be taught next.

Review What Has Been Studied During Lockdown Period

Return to your students' learning both prior to the COVID-19 lockdown and consider which of these concepts are absolutely essential for their next steps. We know that everything on our curriculum should be essential but drilling down to check that the firmest of foundations are in place will really help us to hit the ground running. We need to be certain about what are the essentials in our curriculum.

Formative Assessment Strategies

Once we have decided what they need, now is the time to turn to the formative assessment strategies we have available to us. Dylan Wiliam talks about this in his recent presentation - creating the schools our children need.

We also need to know that learning has stuck, especially where we may be now introducing new topics and there are some really good remote practices in place in both Kent and elsewhere. The EEF have collated some ideas for approaching home learning which you may find useful, whilst Paul Kirschner has provided ten tips to utilize in emergency remote learning.

During the meeting we talked in detail about how we can make best use of quick formative assessment practices to help us identify what our students have retained. Multiple choice questions, developed on platforms such as Microsoft Forms, can give you an immediate idea of some of the gaps in learning and allow you to begin to explore the whats and whys of this. However, these questions need to be carefully designed, using distractors to promote thinking and avoid superficial recognition. If the wrong answers are too obvious, students can simply guess or see the right answer without having to think too much. We want to promote hard thinking and retrieval of knowledge, so some time needs to be devoted to this if it is something you will be using. Some tips for how to do this well can be found below.

Maximising the Effectiveness of Multiple-Choice Questions

Effective Design of Multiple-Choice questions

The familiar formative assessment practice of the classroom, when you can talk to students, ask probing questions and check work for misconceptions is still essential. However, high stakes assessment may not give us the granular information we need at the moment, especially where students are either experiencing their own stressful situations or may not be working in conditions conducive to focusing on exam style questions. Plans and shorter assessments focused on key concepts will provide a stronger starting point for us to explore.

Making the Most of the Time You Have with Students

Finally, we discussed ways that we can make the best use of any time we do have with the students, either remotely or back in the classroom. We want to be able to ensure that everything we do is focused on developing knowledge, giving students opportunities to deliberately practise what they have learnt and furnish them with the next steps in their learning. In this case every interaction we have really needs to count. We also want to make sure that we can quickly reengage students with their learning, so ideas such as giving quick feedback and using writing competitions, had proved successful in rebuilding confidence in their learning, re-establishing learning habits and supporting students in the next steps in their learning.

In our next English Network meeting, we will be discussing transition strategies for Year 6 and ways that we can develop curriculum and literacy opportunities as part of this.

For more information regarding any of these sessions or if you have any other queries about how The Education People can support your English team further in the coming months, please do contact me.

Zoe Enser (Specialist Lead Adviser – English)

[email protected]