Interactive teaching in ‘virtual learning’

When the lockdown period started in March, I found it really difficult to imagine how I could incorporate my interactive teaching in ‘virtual learning’. My lessons tend to be fast paced with lots of changes of activity and lots of pupil involvement as we learn to say and use new language. Speaking and listening are hugely important elements of learning a language and even in a classroom situation these skills are not always easy to manage.

I spent the Easter holidays working on adapting some of the learning activities we do in the classroom to make them work online too. As the weeks have gone on we have become used to playing the games we usually use mini whiteboards for in the chat boxes of our ‘live’ lessons. One of my year 9 groups favourites has become a game now fondly dubbed as ‘fat fingers’ where, with a mixture of dictation and listening skills they have to type the most accurate version of what they hear me saying…..they always blame their ‘fat fingers’ for spelling errors and it has certainly taught them to listen carefully and check their spelling before pressing send! It has been a real source of enjoyment for me when they started to correct each other’s work as it appeared in the chat.

In some lessons we have been astounded by how many interactions between myself and the group there are… is regularly into the hundreds by the end of a lesson. I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough time for speaking practise but we’ve played ‘mind reader’ where they have to guess the sentence I have written down from a list shared to their screens and it is interesting to note that even the most reluctant of speakers in the classroom are more willing to do it when they are in the comfort of their own home. The online platforms we subscribe to have been invaluable for consolidation of the work we are doing and being able to play ‘live’ against each other is now a highlight of each lesson. I have missed my room but my virtual classroom has been just as much fun and I was really pleased to read the evaluations below written by some of my pupils this week. I think it is fair to say, interactive teaching in ‘virtual learning’ is certainly taking place!

Ms Hornung, Head of Modern Languages

“We have been doing online school for a term. It is new to everyone and the worst part for me is to learn how to say the French words because you are not next to me when we are doing the work online. Sometimes it is quite fun to do the work and other times it been really difficult. One of the skills that i have improved is to type in French. Sometimes the computer corrects the word for me which can be irritating and slows me down. But i have enjoyed most of the time learning French so thank you for designing all the assignments and games for us.” – Timothy (who is virtually learning his third language from Hong Kong)

“Learning French in Miss Hornung’s virtual classroom has definitely been an interesting experience but also one that I have thoroughly enjoyed. We have been learning about technology, learning to say phrases about the positives and negatives of using the internet and technology. We have also learnt important rules along the way such as how to use negative phrases. The start of a topic is always pretty daunting for me when it comes to languages, as there is so much new vocabulary and rules that you need to learn. However, Miss Hornung’s lessons are very relaxed and she is very encouraging and helpful. The thing that I like most about the virtual lessons is that they are so enjoyable. Usually, school, learning and fun do not really go together (not naming any lessons in particular) but with Miss Hornung’s they do. We play really fun games which make the lesson fly by. Usually, I would be pretty skeptical that you would be able to learn so much from playing games but I feel that Miss Hornung has got just the right balance between fun and informative, meaning that I am learning stuff and I don’t even realize it because I am playing a game. Over the past few weeks I have particularly enjoyed playing on Language Gym, Textivate and Quizlet, and these  games bring a bit of healthy competition to the lessons (maybe a lot!) We play them live and I always enjoy playing with my fellow classmates. I think with the lockdown in French, I have learnt to work with  more independence than I did before, as I am working alone on the computer, which will be an important skill in later life. Overall, I think that the lockdown lessons in French have been a really positive experience for me, and I would like to say a big thank you to Miss Hornung who has made my French learning such a great time, and one of the lessons which I actually look forward to doing each week.” – Tomas

“I really have loved every moment of our French lessons in lockdown. They are really fun, educational and are balanced just right. Firstly, I will start with the fun! I really enjoy playing the ‘fat fingers’ game on teams where we compete to be the first person to type the most accurate answer into the chat box and I also enjoy the Quizlet and Language Gym games. They are always fun! I enjoyed going through the negatives PowerPoint as because there is such a small amount of people in the class, you always give us lots of attention and tell us whether we are right or wrong and help when we are stuck. Unlike other subjects, I love how although virtual French lessons go on for a longer, (around 45 mins each week), I am having so much fun that I don’t notice and the time flies by. I have also noticed that unlike many of my other lessons, you take into account the length of the virtual lesson and make sure that the tasks set are not too long when added on to the virtual lesson. The tasks set are always interesting and allow me to use my imagination and explore the language. I always enjoy completing them. I find that each lesson is different and through the lessons I have learnt so much. I never struggle with how to complete the tasks because the teaching is so good and there is a lot of information about what to do. I feel I have improved on my creative writing skills throughout the lessons and although the lockdown has made it harder to improve with speaking, I feel like I have. To conclude, I really love going to your lessons and will really enjoy GCSE with you next year.” – Toby

“I have honestly really enjoyed working from home. It has been sad to not be able to see friends physically but it still has been something different. My Mum and Dad both work in schools and from what I can gather, Fyling Hall is leading in its online schooling. I’m glad to have had this work as I would have been bored without it. Also, the use of other websites such as Language Gym and Quizlet really helps as the online games really make home learning more fun. I also like the fact there has been a minimum of 1 call per day. This has really helped me not get lonely. It has been great to speak to people. I honestly think it could not have been run much better.” – James

“I have enjoyed learning French in a “virtual classroom” because not much has really changed apart from seeing the classmates and teacher. I have really enjoyed the games we play like quizlet live, language gym and much more because everyone gets really competitive and it pushes us so that we learn the language faster! Nothing really has been difficult apart from the odd technical error here or there. Still, I am really excited to come back and have some more fat fingers escapades!” – Cameron