With the holiday season approaching, it’s good to add some fun into teaching to keep your students engaged and motivated. We’ve created 12 simple classroom activities and tips that you can carry out with your primary class to encourage them to be good.
Tips for setting up an optimized online classroom
Technology and the learning space
How a physical classroom is organized, decorated and laid out impacts how your students feel, interact and learn. It’s just as important to think about how your virtual teaching space functions and what it looks like, as it will greatly affect your students’ learning experience.
Classrooms are usually full of posters, examples of students’ work and other decorations. Just because you’re teaching online doesn’t mean your environment needs to look dull.
Take some time to think about your virtual teaching space. Picture it in your head. What’s behind you? What’s on either side? Is there an echo? Is it light or dark? How far away are you from the camera?
Online classroom setup dos and don’ts
While teaching online isn’t always that different from teaching face-to-face, there are quite a few things you might not have considered before. Here are some of my top dos and don’ts to help:
- Don’t sit in front of a window or other source of light; otherwise, your face will be in shadow and hard to see. If you have no option, close the curtains and use an artificial light source to illuminate your face.
- Do reflect lighting off a wall or ceiling, so it hits your face indirectly. This creates a much more pleasing image. If possible, sit in front of any windows or to the side of them so that the light hits your face directly or from the side. If the room is naturally dark, reflect a couple of lamps off the wall in front of you or the ceiling.
- Do invest in a set of headphones with an inline microphone. Even cheap ones will make you easier to understand, and reduce environmental noise interference (traffic, your neighbor’s stereo, etc.).
- Don’t teach in an empty classroom (if you can avoid it). They are a terrible place to teach online classes from because they suffer from echo, environmental noise, lighting and bandwidth problems.
- If your teaching space has an echo, try placing pillows or cushions on either side of your screen. They help absorb echoes and make it easier for your students to hear you.
- Sit far enough away from the camera so your students can see most of your upper body and arms. If you use a laptop, raise it up on an old shoebox or a couple of books, so that the camera isn’t pointing up your nose!
- Do invest in the fastest internet connection you can afford (school administrators may want to consider offering subsidies so teachers can upgrade their connection speed). It is vital that you have enough internet bandwidth to stream good-quality audio and video and share materials with your students. Learn how to use your mobile phone data plan to create a wifi hotspot for your computer as a backup.
Using technology with your students
Here are some ways to get the most out of technology, build your student’s digital literacy skills and increase motivation:
Students should connect from a private space where they are not interrupted by siblings, pets, housekeepers, or parents. The space should be well-lit and have a good Wi-Fi signal.
Just like you, they should use earphones with an inline microphone. Their webcams should be on, not just so you can see them, but so they can see each other. Encourage learners to have fun and personalize their space by changing their backgrounds or using filters.
Parents and caregivers should be aware of the negative effect of noise and distractions on their children’s learning. It’s important that where possible, they avoid having business meetings in the same room their children are learning in. They should also ask other people in the house to respect the children’s right to enjoy a quiet, private, productive learning environment.
If you and your students are online using some form of computer, tablet, or mobile device to connect to class, make sure to use the resources available to you. Reinforce how to correctly use spell check when writing a document; for example, have your students use their cameras to take photos of their work to share or even their favorite toys.
Instead of trying (and often failing!) to get all your students to speak during the class, have them make videos or audio recordings for homework that they send to you or each other for feedback. Alternatively, experiment with breakout rooms, if using a platform that allows this.
If you want to show a YouTube video during class, send the link to your students to watch for homework before class, or have them watch it during class on their own devices.
Besides saving your internet bandwidth, they may even be inspired to click on one of the other recommended (usually related) videos alongside the one you want them to watch. It’ll be on their recently watched list if they want to go back and watch it again.
If you set group work that involves writing a text or designing a presentation, ask your students to collaborate with a shared Google Doc. You’ll be able to see what they’re doing in real-time and give them feedback. It works like you are walking around the classroom and looking over their shoulders.
Explore the focused feedback tools your web conferencing platform offers, such as breakout rooms or an individual chat. But also, don’t forget to share relevant information and learning with the whole class. This helps them all benefit from your expertise, just like if they listen to you answering a classmate’s question in the classroom.
If your students are at home, they can access materials and props they would never have at school. Think about how you could incorporate this into your teaching.
Finally, ensure that the materials you use are suitable for online learning. If you use a book, it should have a fully digital option and a platform available to your students with practice activities, videos, and audio recordings. You should avoid using static pages in favor of dynamic activities, or online documents that allow real-time collaboration.
Involving parents and caregivers in your online teaching environment
Create an online learning document for parents explaining how they can create a positive and productive learning environment for their children. Some families may experience significant difficulties and may be unable to implement everything. But it’s still important to explain to them how to optimize the experience if they can.
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Sometimes, it’s nice to share cultural insights with our students so they can get a deeper understanding of the context of the language they are learning. However, without lots of time and money, it can be tough to travel to an English-speaking country yourself and experience what life is like first-hand.
But what if you could learn about British history, customs and culture from the comfort of your sofa?
That’s right - in an instant you could be transported back to the dark cobbled streets of 19th century London, to an industrial town in northern England or a rural village in Surrey.
Today, we want to share six English stories set in Britain that provide cultural, historical and social aspects of British life, both past and present.
So sit back, relax and let us take you on an adventure.
Written by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
This story about the intelligent and beautiful Emma was first published at the end of 1815. The book, which takes place in a fictional village called Highbury (located in the charming county of Surrey), covers themes such as romance, social class and female empowerment.
Emma is a social person who enjoys seeing people happy and contented. She spends her time arranging marriages between her friends but sometimes makes mistakes. Will the problems she causes upset people? And can she find love herself?
2. The Picture of Dorian Gray
Written by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
This philosophical yet supernatural thriller, first published in 1890, is full of lies, secrets and mystery. The tale revolves around the main character, Dorian Gray, who after inheriting a property from his grandfather, travels to London and soon makes new friends. One of his new acquaintances paints a portrait of Dorian, who makes a dangerous wish that he would give anything - even his soul - to stay as young and good-looking as he appears in the painting.
Soon, things start to go wrong and his life gets out of control. But he doesn’t seem to get older. Why? The terrible secret he’s hiding in his attic is the answer. What could it be? Allow yourself to travel back to Victorian times and see London through the eyes of this handsome and hedonistic young man.
Written by Mary Anne Evans (1819-1880)
Written under Mary’s pen name,George Elliott, this work of realism was first published in eight installments during 1871 and 1872. The story, set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch from 1829-1832, tells a tale of science and discovery. It follows Dorothea, a young woman determined to change the world and Dr. Lydgate, an ambitious man who wants to be a leader in science. Dorothea and Dr. Lydgate are both married, but soon their marriages go wrong.
Can they ever be happy? Will they achieve their dreams? Although the central theme of the book revolves around the marriage of the two main characters, with many historical references such as the 1832 Reform Act, the beginnings of the railways and the death of King George IV, Middlemarch is great for those who are interested in history as well as provincial life.
4. Four Weddings and a Funeral
Written by Richard Curtis (born 1956)
Those looking for a more modern look at British life can learn plenty about customs and cultures in this contemporary book, which has been adapted from one of Britain’s funniest and most popular films. Released in 1994, Four Weddings and a Funeral is about Charles (played by Hugh Grant in the film), a charming man who is very unlucky in love.
One day, during his friend’s wedding, he meets a beautiful girl called Carrie. Unfortunately, she does not plan to stay in England, and travels back to the United States. But they keep meeting each other, so maybe things can work out for the couple. Laugh while discovering the ins and outs of the British social scene in this romantic comedy.
5. North and South
Written by Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865)
North and South, published in 1855, is about a young woman named Margaret Hale who moves with her parents from rural southern England to an industrial town called Milton in the north. There, she meets a wealthy mill owner named Mr. Thornton, and though she dislikes him, he immediately falls in love with her.
During her time in Milton, she witnesses what it’s like to work in the mills where employers and workers constantly clash. As his workers go on strike, will Mr. Thornton be able to charm Margaret? This complex and provoking story follows the working class struggle during the Industrial Revolution.
6. Oliver Twist
Written by Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Published in 1832, Oliver Twist was Dickens’ second novel. The story tells the tale of a young orphan we can all feel for. Oliver is brought up in a workhouse where he is beaten, starved and poorly treated. With no parents to look after him, he decides to run away to London, where he joins a gang of thieves.
His new friends look out for him, but can they protect him from a life of danger and crime? An interesting look at the darker side of Britain’s capital, Oliver Twist is still popular today with film, musical and TV adaptations.
Want some more reading inspiration for your English lessons?
Discover graded Readers featuring some of the world’s best-loved authors.
Pearson has Readers adapted from classic English novels with audio files and a comprehensive teacher resources section, meaning you can use them in class with your students too.
In the fast-paced world of business, there is one undeniable fact that holds true: employees are the key to success. Their commitment and expertise propel organizations towards their objectives, which is why investing in a learning culture is essential. The advantages are numerous and include improved staff retention, increased productivity and the goal of higher employee engagement.