Avoiding Monday madness

I don’t know about you but Sundays almost seem lighter now that the working week has changed for teachers and students? In some ways, there’s an undercurrent of nerves about the unknown, all the small things that will need tackling and the inevitable changes that might occur based on government policy but in another, there is an odd reassurance that the week ahead is ready to go, that you won’t be exhausted from the literal running around and that the commute is now cut very very short. I have found that I am now happier with Monday mornings due to our newly established routines for setting, checking and creating home learning. Having said that, even this morning we had to make a few tweaks but we are all still learning how this works!

Most teachers would agree that routines matter a lot and that not having routine, particularly during times like these will be detrimental to many students. We know that the disadvantage gap is likely to widen during this period of time and there’s much we need to consider on our return, whatever that may look like, to do what we can to heal as best possible. One of the key ways I plan to do this is to ensure our routines are clearly and firmly put back in place.

We will of course reinstall all our routines with the warmth, smiles and kindness that we always have and do so when the time is right – children might need more reminders and explanations as to why this matters than usual but my hope is that students missed school more than they thought and are just happy to be back following some guidelines in person.

As I type, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman is talking to the Commons’ Education Commitee and has said that COVID-19 “is clearly going to present the biggest problem for the poorest, the lowest-achieving academically and the least motivated children” “Whether we like it or not, it is going to widen gaps, especially in the short term”. I don’t believe this will be a surprise to many and therefore as a department we are trying to keep a small sense of routine with our students from afar. The good news is that many seem to be responding.

Our routines are really simple:

  • Work is set by every subject every Monday and posted by 8.30a.m. on Google Classroom. Students that do not have access to the internet or devices have been either given them by school or work is posted in booklet form to them each week.
  • The work is set for the entire week and due to be complete by the following Sunday.

In English specifically:

  • The work is all in one place (a booklet) which can be printed but definitely doesn’t need to be.
  • Work is posted with a positive message – congratulating students on taking part last week and their effort:positive message
  • For KS3, the work always contains three sections:

Front cover

1. Learning Vocabulary and a quiz on last week’s words

2. Reading a story and writing the next section with guidance

3. 5 x tasks related to a theme (The majority of these themes are areas we started before lockdown, e.g. Conflict Poetry, Frankenstein, Dystopia).

  • For KS4, separate booklets are created for English Language and English Literature and the follow a similar pattern. English Language includes the same style work each week – extract reading, comprehension and analysis questions and English literature are shorter tasks based on prior reading or poetry.
  • All of the work set must include: clear timings, a suggested amount of work (either number of lines, number of questions answers, bullet points etc.), clear formatting, answer booklet or page where necessary, a range of tasks that build to a certain point, a retrieval exercise to ensure prior knowledge is activated.

Guidance for Remote Learning

Making life easier for staff:

  • Work is created by a number of different staff but sent to one member of staff for each year group
  • That member of staff collates, formats and creates the booklet
  • That same member of staff uploads the work to a central google classroom by Friday 2p.m.
  • After that time, teachers can use the ‘repost’ button on their own google classrooms to upload the work within seconds. For most teachers, who have around 6-9 classes this doesn’t take long.
  • Work can be scheduled which means there’s no need to rush to the computer at 8.30a.m. on Monday morning (many of our staff have their own children to get on track at this time)

Keeping track of engagement:

Currently, we are using a quiz and our writing challenge each week as the work we have formally returned from students. Many of our students are sending us other work from the booklets too but this is not expected. This would create far too many separate emails, photos or comments on google classroom to keep on top of and isn’t necessary.

  1. Students revise a set of 10 words each week (based on words they have previously learn and words from our key KS4 texts that they need to encounter in advance). To do this, they have a quizlet link each week. Our quizlet sets can be found/copied from here: https://quizlet.com/MountbattenVocab/folders/remote-learning-vocabulary/sets
  2. The following week, students are set a quiz which is created via google forms. To do this, we have been working hard on getting better at setting multiple choice quizzes including lots of reading around this topic. In particular we referred to:

This guide on how to write good MCQs: click here

Daisy Christodoulou’s work on MCQs: click here

Joe Kirby’s blog on MCQs: click here

3. The students have one attempt at the quiz unless they contact us for another go. Staff then check the spreadsheet later in the week to see who has responded, the final score updates a whole year group spreadsheet and essentially, those who have attempted it have engaged. Those who haven’t completed the quiz or who have poor scores are then flagged to us as having not engaged fully with the work.

4. There are other forms of engagement too – students are expected to complete the next part of a story each week (based on Chris Curtis’ excellent task which can be found on his blog: https://learningfrommymistakesenglish.blogspot.com/). We are finding that some students are using the advice we give each week really well whereas others are not – we are trying to address this as the week’s go on but again it tells us just how much they are paying attention to the work and guidance compared to just completing a task.

5. The other way we are seeing if children are active ‘online’ is via google check-ins. We are completing one year group each day. So, Monday is Year 7 check-in. In the first week, we simply posted a message using google classroom and asked for a comment back but this clogged up the feeds. Now, we use the ‘question’ button to ask who is engaging with the work. The key thing here is to only give one answer ‘yes’. If they give them ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ as an option they’ll only be clicking this to annoy you. Again, this is almost like a register but we aren’t doing it every single day for every class. You can use this to essentially see when students have logged in, read and engaged with the work:

Question

We are putting whole school systems in place for the next steps in terms of contacting home and following up on lack of engagement so I won’t comment on them as yet but our priority here is to stop any Monday madness, to stop any worries from staff or students and ensure students and parents have the time and space to do the work but that it is fixed in a sense of routine – allowing them to feel a small sense of normality at this time without adding to the stress through unrealistic timings and expectations.

The tasks included in our booklets so far, and some editable versions can be found via the resources link at the top of this blog. Look for ‘remote learning’ or click here. We will continue to share these tasks weekly as I think sharing resources at these times to be very helpful. Please let me know if you have any great ways of keeping a sense of routines with your classes at the moment and anything you are doing to avoid Monday madness each week!

Thank you for reading.

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