How do we support important age groups now and when we return to school? and what do we do for those who cannot return at the same time?
These are the questions we all wish we knew the answers to, right? The truth is that I don’t think anyone has the magical solution, that a particular silver ball is unlikely to exist, and that teachers have to figure out what’s best for their students. Then there is nothing particularly new!
Of course, this situation was frustrating for every year group, but I was particularly frustrated with the impact it will have on our seven years. We started a new work schedule in the seventh year of this year and it went very well. The quality of the work they produced was simply not comparable to previous years. It felt like they were being taken away from us when we were really making progress. Thinking about their return is different from years ten and twelve. We have more time to play and can make up for it. I will think carefully about what they missed and find out what needs to be invented and what can be left behind for now. For example, what new grammar items have been introduced and what key vocabulary has been overlooked?
The work we did at home was the practice of what they have already learned. At least this continued, even though the new elements were not added. Once I figure that out, I hope to find a way to incorporate these elements into the next topic instead of moving the whole thing around and giving myself a problem at the other end. I would much prefer the important things to be understood well than to cover a whole range of content.
If this is not your decision, I believe that, above all, we need to make sure that the seventh year is still busy learning the language and is ready to continue. Do you remember all the hard work you did to get them on board in September? We don’t want to lose it all. Don’t let them worry about what was missed and bring them back to what you are teaching them in the here and now.
The tenth year is probably the most concerned about the impact all of this will have on their GCSE studies, and rightly so, but we cannot allow this to dominate their return. At the time of writing, the government’s current guidelines state:
“Secondary schools and colleges of higher education should also prepare to personally contact 10th and 12th grade students who will take important exams next year to support their continued learning at home. “
In this sense, we have to consider two different things. First, what will happen in June / July and second, what will happen when we all return in September. June / July will not be the time to go ahead with what was planned for several reasons.
First, it will be a strange situation for everyone involved and we cannot just teach the way we would normally do. Second, students are unwilling to take on too much new learning, but need to restore their routines and get used to things again. Third, the lessons that take place right at the end of the summer semester will be forgotten during the holidays anyway. By the tenth year, I will focus on ensuring that I know exactly where they are so that I can target my interventions in September. Assuming that there will be a mix of distance learning and face to face learning, I will use the face to face time to practice the listening and speaking elements that were much more difficult to do from a distance.
In September, or as we get closer to “normalcy,” I’ll try to target the areas I identified in the summer, making sure that the remaining units are covered as deeply as possible given the limited amount of time remaining. I think the most important thing at this point is to make sure that the students have the necessary grammatical knowledge and that the subject matter can build on it.
Year 12 is likely to have the same concerns as Year 10, except that we continued to expect them to learn new content. So, in the time I have with them, it must be about making sure that they understand the main topics of the module they have been studying and possibly re-teaching new grammar items that have been dealt with to ensure that they are clear are. I also want to get them to start their research projects if I haven’t done it yet.
But what about those who cannot return yet?
It is clear that we will have students in these key groups who cannot return because of vulnerable members of their household, and that will cause us some difficulties. With the exception of year 12, we have focused on revision up to this point because we do not believe that it is reasonable to expect students to learn completely new content on their own. However, if your colleagues learn new content, how do we make sure they don’t lag behind? I’m afraid I don’t have an answer. I think we can only do our best. As for the other age groups, I think we are juggling to continue teaching them because we have teamed up with the older students.
There is certainly no clear answer when it comes to what happens next. We can only control what we can – our teaching and our own well-being. The rest is beyond our control and that’s fine.
Rebecca Nobes is the head of Spanish at Boswells School in Chelmsford, Essex. Rebecca runs #MFLchat on Twitter from 8:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Monday evening. She is a council member of the Chartered College of Teaching and was appointed Chartered Teacher in July 2019. It can be found at @ BexN91 on Twitter or Twitter www.learninglinguist.co.uk
Rebecca previously wrote about home teaching strategies while maintaining work-life balance. I look forward to going back to school
For information on teacher support, visit the Oxford University Press website – Support for learning everywhere
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