Online learning is a challenging proposition for all subject teachers, who must prepare lessons across a range of year levels and skill-sets. All students require one-to-one care and different triggers to help grasp the material, so providing this digitally can be time-consuming and complex. But what about classroom teachers in Primary School? The younger year levels have much more contact with their teachers, and this bond is what creates a positive learning environment. How do they manage in the current climate?
Fiona Russo, Shrewsbury International School Bangkok, Riverside's Year 2 leader explains the process she and her team go through and the expertise required to make distance learning a success.
"We try to mirror the structure of a normal school day, basically. The routines put in place in our classroom are transferred to an online domain where we use programs like Google Hangouts to greet the children at the start of the day and communicate with families about the work each student has completed." She explains.
Fiona and her team make sure students in all classes feel connected to each other and to the teachers. Events like birthdays are still celebrated with messages with well-wishes, and virtual cards and surprises are commonplace in the form of dance videos and other methods.
On the learning side, students are set daily maths, English, reading, grammar and phonics work as well as a selection of topic, science, mindfulness, well-being, P.E, Thai or Music activities. We use an excellent distance learning tool, SeeSaw to set work for students and check submitted work regularly.
"We are aiming to send a variety of activities to keep our classes interested and active. We are responding to each piece of work submitted, some of which needs a further response from the children."
Parents have been hugely responsive, asking questions, reflecting on tasks and providing feedback on tasks that their children are completing. Of course, the current restrictions have affected many businesses in Bangkok, so keeping parents informed has been a top priority.
"We want parents to know that we have the learning situation, as it pertains to their children, under control. A few parents have even taken the time out to send an email to say thank you for all the hard work the teachers are putting in. These communications are validating to receive because it confirms to us that we are on the right track."
The teachers and teaching assistants in Year 2 (and across primary) are also in constant communication with each other to share ideas. This collaborative approach ensures only the most-effective lessons are delivered to students based on their suitability in an online learning environment. All teachers understand their roles and responsibilities and are focused on high-quality learning at all times.
"Not all the teachers in primary are technology whizzes, but we are fast-learners. We help each other, and if one teacher finds a better way to deliver lessons, we share that approach. We know it is difficult for families at present, but it's complex for the teachers too! It's hard for us not to be able to see the children; we miss them so much! We did not choose this career so we could sit behind a computer - we love the interaction with our classes. That being said, we are very grateful to be able to keep in touch with them, receive their videos and interact with them wherever possible.
Fiona and her team in Year Two are certainly looking forward to seeing all the children in person but until that time, they are steadfastly engaged towards ensuring all their students still meet their learning targets and are enjoying the day-to-day delivery of online classes.