What one teacher in China has learned from the past few months

Holly Wood, a primary teacher living and working in China, has been distance teaching since January. Here she offers tips and advice on what she’s learned since the coronavirus hit.

Today, at the end of my online class, I asked my pupils if there was anything I could help them with. One of my pupils said, ‘Miss Holly, when can we go back to school?’

The sad truth is I don’t know. My school in China closed in January and we are yet to receive a date when it will re-open. What I can do is offer some tips on what I have learned about online teaching, working from home and supporting pupils and parents.  

I teach 28 Year 2 pupils who are aged between 7 and 8 and being apart from them for so long is very challenging. When we first set up online classes for the pupils back in February, these were in a lecture style format. The pupils logged on and watched the presentations we had prepared. They were then set homework on the content. We quickly learned that this was not an effective way of interacting with our pupils.

We have now moved to teaching the pupils in small groups, the classes are no bigger than eight pupils at any one time. We start by asking them how they are feeling as this is an emotional time for them. We talk about our feelings and explore why we might feel that way. The pupils often talk about missing their friends and how much they want to play together.

We also ask them to ‘show us something’. We take advantage of the fact they are at home and can show us their pets, siblings and toys. This is exciting for them and they enjoy having the opportunity to talk about something they are passionate about. I have been shown dogs, rabbits, art projects, collections, baked cookies and their favourite toys. It is interesting to learn more about their family lives and interests. I have also shared elements of my life with them, for example simple things like traditional Sunday lunches and banana bread.

We have loosely stuck to our teaching plan, but we don’t want to overload the pupils. We work at their pace. We have adapted the teaching materials so they are suitable for online teaching, they are interactive, and the pupils can play games. We have also included pair work so they can chat to each other and discuss their ideas.

The online classroom function we have has the ability to let different pupils talk to each other and play games together. We can also ‘mute’ them which would be a lovely function in real life.

In addition to our teaching plan, we have included some extra, topical content. We have talked about the virus and why they think it started. They have explored what we can do to help our planet and try and prevent such things from happening in the future. As a year group, my colleagues and I plan the content together and share ideas regularly about what is working well.

The parents all have my personal contact number and they and the pupils know they can call me. Parents have contacted me directly to ask for additional resources (such as handwriting practice) which they can use to help their children. One of the parents said to me this week that we are a ‘Class 3 family’ and we will all help each other out. This is a lovely sentiment and I love that they can get in touch with me with any concerns and ideas they have. Saying this, I would say for your own mental health, try and stick to school hours for contact where possible. Having a timetable and a routine with slots for regular catch ups seems to work well.

I don’t know when we will go back to school or when I will see my pupils in person. The online teaching has been a learning curve. One of the advantages has been the smaller class sizes and the ability to give focus and help to my pupils. I have also been amazed at their strength, tenacity and willingness to learn under challenging circumstances. I have enjoyed having the ability to connect and share our thoughts and feelings across the world.

For information on how we can help you make the most of teaching and learning remotely, visit our blog Supporting Schools and digital resources page.

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