Virtual history teaching
Following on from recent blogs on Sandagogy, it’s so valuable to get an insight into how teachers in different subjects are approaching virtual teaching. As identified in the recent EEF remote learning evidence review, one of they five key findings was that for remote teaching to be effective, different approaches to remote teaching are required for different subjects. In this blog, I share an email interview I carried out with Katie Pearce, one of our history teachers, about how she’s teaching her history students. In it, she shares her faculty’s approach across the different key stages and how she’s using the Google platform to teach and set work. In particular, she provides a really helpful account of how to produce video introductions to lessons using Google Meet and the benefits of doing so.
Katie, what’s your timetable like since school closure? How are you approaching planning for your history classes – do you have a different approach for different year groups for example?
With my teaching timetable being reduced, through no longer teaching Year 11 and Year 13, I have luckily had a little more spare time than usual to adjust to the challenges of teaching virtually.
As a faculty, we decided early on that we would aim to teach KS4 and KS5 as ‘normally’ as we could, using live Google Meet sessions in our usual teaching slots. I ensured that all of my KS4 and KS5 students were given the resources they would need to use as we worked through the next parts of the course before the school closed (i.e. new books and worksheets etc.), and so in the live lessons, I work with the students through the resources and PowerPoint, directing questions towards students (with students answering in the comments box), and expect that they are completing notes as they normally would in class. Therefore, my planning for KS4 and KS5 involves really just preparing for the lesson as usual – the only difference is that I ensure that I schedule all PowerPoints/resources to appear on the Google Classroom prior to the lesson, and then post the edited PowerPoint on the Classroom after the lesson.
As a faculty, we agreed to take a different approach with KS3, allowing students to work more independently through lesson assignments, that don’t necessarily have to be completed within the specific lesson time. Within the faculty, we have divided up the task of creating the new lessons, with each of us creating several short units of work (approx. four lessons) for a particular year group, which we have then shared between us, to ensure consistency. Therefore, my planning for KS3, after having produced the assignments and resources, involves scheduling the resources and assignment onto the Google Classrooms, as well as pre-recording video introductions for each lesson, in which I talk through the powerpoint and instructions for the assignment that day.
You have used pre-recorded video introductions to lessons. How do you record these and make them accessible to students?
I have actually found that these are fairly simple to do! I begin by opening up a new Google Meet, with just myself there, and I ‘present’ the PowerPoint that I am using. I then simply press the ‘record’ button, speak through the PowerPoint and the introduction to the lesson, and then go back to the Google Meet and end the recording.
The recording is then processed (this takes approx. 5-10 mins), and is emailed to me. It also goes directly into a folder on my Google Drive called ‘Meet Recordings’. I then go into that folder on my Google Drive, and enable ‘link sharing’. Finally, I then take the ‘link’ and copy it into the assignment that I set for each of my KS3 classes on the Google Classroom each lesson. Students, if they are signed into their Sandringham email accounts, then click on the link at the beginning of each lesson, before starting their more independent work on the assignment.
Why have you opted for this approach compared to just writing the introduction in Google Classroom or putting the text on a PowerPoint slide for example?
Initially, I began using these recordings as a temporary measure, planning to maybe move over to using live Google Meets for KS3 classes, once I got used to using the new technology with the older years over the first few weeks of the school closure. However, since I started using them, I’ve actually found that they work really well, so I’ve continued!
Most importantly, they give me an opportunity to emulate, as close as possible, my normal lesson routines at school. I would normally begin my in-school lessons with a ‘recap’ of the content from last lesson and discussion of ‘key terms’, alongside talking through the learning outcomes and focus of this lesson. Therefore, the video recording allows me to do what I normally would, helping to provide some familiar structure to the ‘virtual’ lessons. Furthermore, since starting the VLC, I’ve realised how much, in my ordinary teaching, I rely on my ‘voice’ to clarify instructions and explain content – tone, volume, emphases are all things which, obviously, cannot be written down, but which I find useful in directing students’ attention to particular content and tasks.
In my video recordings, I not only set out the specific logistical instructions for the assignment (i.e. what tasks to complete/where to find them/how long to spend on them), but I also introduce some of the key content for the lesson too. I know that if I were to write all this down, it would be a long (and daunting!) chunk of information – which would be difficult for students to digest. However, I find that doing it verbally, students seem to take much more of it onboard – since, as I mentioned previously, it is the way in which they are used to receiving this information.
Finally, on a practical level, I find that this method works well for both myself and the students. For the students, it means that they do not necessarily have to complete their History work within the hour dedicated for ‘History’ that day – having access to the link whenever they want it means they have more freedom to complete their work when they choose. Furthermore, the link allows students to pause/re-listen to the content as required – they can go back to my explanations of the content, if they need to, when working through the assignment. Plus, for myself, they fit very well into my planning schedule. Not only can I pre-record them all in one go and then schedule them onto the Classroom, I can also reuse them across different classes, making it very manageable!
Thank you to Katie for being interviewed about her approach to teaching virtually. To read accounts of how other teachers are approaching things, click here.