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Get Your Learners ‘Back on Track’ for Spring 2021

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Improving Outcomes and Focus in your Learning Environments

We need to get our learners ‘back on track.’ You may be continuing with online learning or returning to the classroom in the spring. Either way, ensuring that your learners are able to focus and meet your learning outcomes will be more challenging than ever before.

This week we consider the steps we can take to ensure that we are supporting learning progress. More than ever, we must plan for this without neglecting the emotional aspect of life in today’s classrooms for our students. These steps include: avoiding unnecessary noise and clutter, keeping things clear and precise, managing the emotional impact of covid, reducing cognitive load and giving regular live feedback in lessons. Read on to discover how to get your learners back on track this term…

Avoid Unnecessary Noise and Clutter

There are bound to many distractions at home, on the news, popping up on phones and in the playground for your learners. Let’s make sure our lesson delivery is as free from unnecessary distraction as possible. Key information presented visually on lesson slides and activity prompts that are tailored to your students will make all the difference.

Keep Things Clear and Precise

Make sure that you keep ‘teacher talk’ to a minimum. Think ahead about what you can say to get your instructions and expectations for behaviour across as quickly and clearly as possible.

These principles also apply to visual slides used online if teaching remotely – students need to be able to focus on the learning at hand, and distractions will be vying for attention year. Make sure when students are accessing your resources that it’s really easy for them to pick up on the key information and instruction.

Manage the Emotional Impact of Covid

Maintaining a busy learning environment has always been an emotional issue for teachers and especially students. Teachers and teaching assistants are often asking themselves, ‘are my students enjoying this lesson? Are they happy and motivated? Do they understand why they need to know this?’

As education practitioners, we are of course focused on the learning going on in the room. However, it is impossible to separate this from the emotional aspect of being back in the classroom.

Stress about ‘catching up’; anxieties about sticking to a routine; worry about how families are coping at home… All of these emotional aspects will be entangled in the minds of our students as they attempt to access the learning we present to them. All of the strategies mentioned in this blog are helpful ways of keeping student wellbeing at the forefront of our minds as we plan lessons and activities.

Get Back on Track by Reducing Cognitive Load

Even the most carefully and compassionately prepared lesson is still going be challenging for many of our students to take in. The idea that young people need to ‘get back on track’ to avoid becoming a member of a ‘lost covid generation’ will have been difficult for our students to avoid. Teachers today need to keep students calm and motivated; to identify and bridge the gaps in learning without panicking our students.

Ensure you use ‘take up time’ to give students time to listen to and understand an instruction.

Use ‘instruction check’ questions to make sure that students can demonstrate their understanding:

‘Jin, can you explain the first step to the class, please?’

‘Who can tell me why…’

‘Which resource do we need to go to once we have completed task 2?’

Manage Marking and Feedback Workload

Often described as the biggest burden on teachers’ workload and wellbeing, marking has become a different beast amidst the lockdowns of 2020 – 21.

For many schools individual marking of books has not been possible due to the need to avoid sharing books and resources. As a result, ‘live feedback’ has become a vital tool and is likely to continue to feature prominently in future school CPD sessions and teacher training courses. ‘Live feedback’ is the response and comment we can give ‘in the moment’, or in the lesson which helps push the learning progress on by giving the student something to actively respond to.

Give Live Feedback to Stay on Track

This may include: verbal feedback, peer feedback, electronic feedback, whole-class feedback. Pre-lockdown,  live feedback was often touted as the clearest solution to reducing marking workload – with the teacher circulating the classroom during main activity time giving pupils verbal feedback, supporting them self-assess with personal learning checklists, or using a highlighter to focus students’ attention to areas of their work they could improve or to praise them on specific points where they have met the learning objective.

Make sure you have conversations with other staff at your education setting to find out the best methods for keeping marking workload down, whilst also offering timely feedback for students to respond to.

Thank you for reading this week’s blog, we hope you found our tips on ‘how to get your learners back on track for spring 2021’ helpful.

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