Digital learning has thrown up some… let’s say, ‘interesting’ challenges. We’ve seen small children become the hosts of online classes on account of their teacher’s wifi cutting out, only to then mute the teacher and commandeer the class when the teacher manages to rejoin. We’ve seen kids make their Zoom background a picture of them “paying attention” while they disappear to get some snacks. And then there was the young lad who changed his name to “reconnecting...” so the teacher wouldn’t ask him any questions. Not ideal, but you have to admit, pretty innovative!
And while I can’t help you anticipate whatever these little evil geniuses come up with next, I can share some tips on how to make one aspect of remote learning, that is, remote reading, that little bit simpler...
1. Make pupils and parents aware of the free resources available
Firstly, if you haven’t already, make parents and pupils aware of the Virtual School Library, hosted by the Oak National Academy in partnership with the National Literacy Trust. This resource has plenty of free books, as well as engaging and encouraging videos from popular children’s authors, recommended reads and interactive games. You could also show parents the Words for Life website where they can find age-specific activities to support pupils' literacy from home.
However, each pupil will have different reading needs and levels of digital access, and reading from a screen may not be viable.
Using your MIS, you could reach out to your parent database to find out whether they need books to be delivered. If you’re using ScholarPack, you can integrate this with our Parents App, which enables unlimited two-way messaging with parents providing a quicker, more cost-effective alternative to letters or SMS.
2. Use video to cater for different abilities
As I said, you’ll be teaching pupils of mixed reading abilities, and it can be especially challenging to reach pupils who are learning remotely. If you haven’t already, check out education consultant Stephanie Hammond’s collection of activities and videos which cater to a wide range of abilities.
You could start these activities in an online class, then point pupils towards further activity for their phase/level via Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams.
To make things more flexible for different abilities, teachers at Snape Primary School set deadlines for finishing chapters rather than fixed times for discussion. You could then set up a supervised video or telephone call for remote pupils to discuss their progress.
3. Explore different EdTech tools to make complex texts - simpler
Firstly, listening to audiobooks can help engage pupils when starting a more complex book. While this won’t offer the same level of reading comprehension, it could be used to help motivate pupils to start reading the book.
Secondly, many teachers are using video to help pupils get to grips with the more extensive vocabulary in the classroom, sharing examples and sharing pupil-friendly definitions. And to gauge understanding levels, they’re using apps like Showbie, which allows pupils to securely send voice notes of them using these more complex words in conversation.
Lastly, Ashley Booth, a year 6 teacher and MAT reading lead recommends using regular quizzes to make challenging novels more accessible. He also uses working walls with character names, locations and major plot points, which can help children digest key information over time.
To make sure pupils at home can see and add to this working wall, you could use digital alternatives like Google Jamboard to create virtual interactive displays.
Hopefully, you’ve discovered at least one new EdTech tool to help support your remote reading. And if it’s a tool that your pupils can’t figure out how to hijack and cause mayhem with - even better!
I’ll be back in the coming weeks with more tips on how to use technology to support you run your partially closed school. If you don’t want to miss these, subscribe to our newsletter here.
We worked with our colleagues at The Key for School Leaders to bring you this guidance.