How to Teach your Kids at Home During Self Isolation
My Twitter and Facebook feed is currently full of parents who are finding themselves isolated at home with children and wanting to provide them with a stimulating education without an overreliance on screens.
For resources, Twinkl has stepped in and provided a free month’s membership with access to all resources. Some need to be printed, and some you can take inspiration from.
However, these are the resources. What about the delivery? This is where OneStep can help. For the last 18 months we have been helping teachers change their classroom practise and improve how they deliver their lessons.
So for all you first-time teachers, here is teaching 101!
Before you do anything, put on your teacher face. I was hopeless at Maths and Science at school and so my Civil Engineer father sat down with me every night to teach me Maths and Science 1:1. As he sat down he set out the kitchen table as a classroom, pen and paper, etc. Nothing else happened in the kitchen during this time. He welcomed me to class, sat opposite me and spoke to me formally. Then when the lesson was over he would be Dad again. It helped to have a clear differentiation between the learning episode and normal life.
The key characteristics of teachers are patience, compassion, and being firm but fair. This is learning time, not playtime. Keep your body language confident - straight back, wide shoulders. Own the space. This is your classroom.
Firm but fair means what it says. Your rules are fair and not mean and you stick to them. Use clear language for instructions. If you want silence, say “silence” not “quiet”. If you want them to stop playing with their pen say “put your pen down and eyes on me”, not “stop doing that”.
Also, use the language of consequences if needed. “If you do this, x will happen. If you do this, y will happen.” Avoid using “but” where possible as it negates the first thing: “I know it’s sunny outside, but you are doing this” means that you are also aware it’s sunny outside and you would rather be out there. “I know it’s sunny outside and you are doing this” means you have acknowledged their comment and you are still continuing with your work. It’s far more positive.
A handy tip - don’t use “please”. It requires consent. Giving an instruction and saying “thank you” has already assumed consent and is appreciative of it. For example, “pick it up, please” isn’t as effective as “pick up your pencil, thank you”.
For a lot of teachers, this is the best part of the job. The key thing to ask yourself is:
- What do I want them to learn?
- How long do I have?
- Have they learned it?
- How do I keep them engaged?
Lessons are best structured in a cyclical process.
I have elaborated on what each section means. You will notice between each stage is the word “Assessment”. Assessment is often thought of as a dirty word, but it doesn’t mean testing, exams and stress. Assessment is literally just checking that children know what they need to know before you move onto the next stage.
Methods of Assessment
- Quickfire questions - asking questions based on the content at random in short answers
- Doing an example question on their own
- Asking them to repeat content back
- Saying an incorrect fact to see if they correct it
This cycle could last for an hour, it could last 20 minutes. It all depends on the age of the child.
A rough guide of timings:
- EYFS + KS1 - 20 minutes.
- KS2 - 40 minutes.
- KS3 - 50 minutes
- KS4 - 1 hour
If you are just asking pupils to do revision (especially in KS4) then working in 25-minute slots with a 10-minute break between is advisable.
Revisit and Review
Review what they already know and can remember from the previous learning episode.
- Put 10 “revision” questions up and children have to answer them
- Asking quick-fire questions - little time between questions.
Directly tell them information. An accepted length of time for delivery of information is 1 minute for each year of a child’s life. So a 4-year-old can take in 4 minutes of instruction, a 16-year-old can take 16 minutes into their working memory. (This is a rule of thumb - all children are different but is a good starting point.)
If you are not an expert in the area, that’s okay - find it on the internet, read information sheets from Twinkl, watch a demonstration video on YouTube.
- Lecture style - whilst it doesn’t sound very exciting, it is an effective way of getting information across.
- Reading information aloud with children, asking questions along the way.
- Children reading information and then asking questions afterwards, either aloud or written.
Apply this information in a supported way. Sit with them and help them to apply the information to a range of problems, whether this is practising with maths or science problems, reading a text for comprehension, or playing a game.
- Games like Quiz, Quiz, Swap are great because they are memorable and break up sitting at a desk.
- Practise reading and doing comprehension questions together
Children now apply their knowledge independently, with little help from you. (Obviously give help when they need it.)
- Write a story/other creative piece surrounding the topic (e.g. a letter home from WWI describing the trenches, a newspaper article about Hannibal crossing the Alps, an Encyclopedia entry on the effects of global warming on Indonesia, writing the final unseen chapter of the book they are reading in English, adapting a book for a scene in a play).
- More challenging questions/problems than in the practise section
- Answering an exam question (look through their books for previous examples). Some exam boards (like Edexcel) are offering free resources during this time.
How do I know if I have pitched the lesson properly?
Pitching is all about making sure you are teaching the content at the right level: too easy and it will be boring and make children switch off; and if it’s too hard, in my experience children will misbehave in order to detract from the fact they can’t do it.
Pitching is a skill teachers can take a while to master. Because you know your children you are in a better position to know their ability. In my advice, I would start easier and make it more challenging. This way it is more likely to bolster confidence in children that they can do it, and also help you ease into it.
As I mentioned before, all the content is available at Twinkl. It may just need a little searching to find the right key stage, and then level.
The assessment in the teaching wheel is key - make sure your children know and understand the content before moving on.
How do I know they are actually learning?
The Apply section of the teaching wheel demonstrates this. If they can apply their learning, then they know it. But that’s not the end - in the next session, remember to revisit and review it.
How do I keep them interested?
Variety is the spice of life. Different activities, different questions, games, all of these things help break up content.
An absolutely crucial rule: never show your disinterest. As soon as you say, this is boring, they will turn off. Instead say things like “I actually use this in my job”, or “I do this when I have to ring the electric company”. Anything to show the real-life application and that you find it interesting. If they say it’s boring, you can smile and say “You find it boring, and it’s interesting. Let’s go. Sit up, thank you”.
Another great idea is every 20 minutes to get up and do some physical activity, whether it is press-ups, star jumps, running on the spot, playing football in the garden for 10 minutes. Put a timer on to make sure they know when this will be over.
Praise goes down really well, but keep it sincere. Don’t call them a superstar unless they have done work that is superstar work for them. “Great” is a good word to use.
OneStep CPD is completely free and you can browse our teaching strategies by signing up at www.onestepcpd.com/register.
OneStep CPD champions authors, teachers and pedagogists through our strategies, allowing everyone to test ideas and adopt what works. Our blog does the same, providing a platform for anyone with an interest in education to share good practice and great ideas.
All opinions are those of the author and not necessarily OneStep CPD.