While the Coronavirus lock-down has disrupted this school year, it has given us a chance to teach and learn English in ways that are different from those of “normal” school times.
No, I do not mean that it has given my teenage pupils more time to spend watching films in English without translation. And, no again, I do not mean that they have had more free time for apps to play games (in English, of course). Sure enough, these two are just examples of two ways that can be considered useful learning activities, too, but what I really mean is that it has been a window of opportunity for teaching and learning English online.
I am a High School teacher, so my pupils couldn’t expect me to say “Just do whatever you want as long as it is in English, and tell me about it when we meet again sometime”, could they? No, of course, they couldn’t.
As a teacher of English as a Foreign Language, I mean “Remote Learning”. I have been using Moodle for Blended Learning, so none of my pupils could feel that the switch was a complete change of routine. However, it was some kind of a change anyway.
During Coronavirus Time, at Kugel High School, where I have been teaching since 1989, we have made regular use of a Virtual Classroom (BigBlueButton or Zoom). As for the four courses I teach, we have had scheduled meetings once, and sometimes twice, a week. Indeed, staying in contact with pupils has been a routine all of us teachers have kept. Whatsaap has been instrumental for this both at group level and on an individual level. There have been countless phone conversions and even email exchanges, too. When all is said and done, we are dealing with teenagers, so taking into account that realities at home vary to a large extent, keeping channels open (connecting) is a must.
I am one of the teachers who has used a Learning Management System, too. The school has not made that a must, though. As could not be otherwise, I stuck to Moodle. My aim has been to make online learning a meaningful experience, especially in terms of helping my pupils take responsibility for their learning. Watch this video to get an idea of what and how this was done.
I have also tried to make the experience meaningful in terms of helping pupils see how working on reading, listening, writing, speaking, grammar, vocabulary, etc. can help them achieve goals. These are a few of these goals: succeeding in the Matriculation Exam, being able to communicate in English better, becoming independent learners and learning new things. For me, helping pupils achieve these goals is meaningful. Time will tell if it has been for them.