Posted on 14th January 2021

Gaining confidence in the remote classroom – 5 top tips

10:07 AM, 14th January 2021
Gaining confidence in the remote classroom – 5 top tips

Gaining confidence in the remote classroom – 5 top tips

We are all working in challenging circumstances at the moment. Teaching works best in the classroom and can feel awkward and unnatural online. We don’t have all the answers, but hope that the guidance below can help you find remote learning pedagogical approaches that best suit your teaching style and school context.

Mathematics Mastery’s curriculum experts were approached by Oak National Academy in the first lockdown to contribute as part of a sector-wide effort to create resources for remote teaching. 1500 online lessons later, we have learnt a lot!

With the shift to remote learning announced on Monday 4th January, we’re committed to supporting Mathematics Mastery teachers with their delivery of online learning. Because Oak’s maths offer is 100% aligned with our programme of study, Oak is a great option for Mathematics Mastery teachers to point their pupils to. 

However, many Mathematics Mastery teachers tell us that they are recording their own lessons for online learning or are teaching online lessons live.

Here Hannah Parsons, Ark Network Lead for Primary Maths, shares her five top tips for creating your own remote learning content for primary pupils.

1. Consistent lesson structure

Pupils are more likely to engage in learning when the structure of lessons are familiar – we know that from our teaching in the classroom. Lessons for most subjects can largely follow the same structure:

  • Starter task: this can either recap prior learning or allow them to practise a skill that they will need to apply throughout the lesson. It can then be followed by a quick run through of answers/worked solutions that allow pupils to independently identify their mistakes.
  • Teacher exposition: initially engage pupils by using the lesson objective as a prompt to set the scene for the lesson and help learners to appreciate and understand the learning journey by sharing the agenda and the equipment required. Then begin cycles of explanation, modelling and pause points to allow for pupils to practise the skill.
  • Independent practice: these tasks provide a further opportunity to practise the skills modelled during the exposition part of the lesson. They can either be displayed on a slide or as a separate worksheet, with pupils then uploading their work to your learning platform.
  • Assessment: an exit quiz provides a quick and accurate way of assessing your students’ knowledge and understanding of the skill or concept addressed in the lesson. The best quizzes use diagnostic questions to identifying fundamental misconceptions that pupils may have, which can then be addressed in subsequent lessons. Eedi or Google Forms are a good platform for these quizzes.

2. The power of the pause

A pause point is a brief, interactive moment embedded in a lesson used to increase engagement and manage cognitive load. They are the remote learning equivalent to ‘Checking for understanding’ in the classroom. When the pause point task has been explained, we then allow time for learners to think and respond – the response will look different according to the type of pause point. There is plenty of guidance on using pause points in asynchronous teaching on the Teach Like a Champion website.

Doug Lemov recommends using the first pause point early in the lesson:
What is a good rule of thumb for a classroom lesson - get students active and interactive early - is more like an Iron Law of Online Learning: continuously engage learners actively throughout the session and include a task that requires everyone to respond within the first 3 minutes. Doug Lemov, 2020

Types of pause point:

  • New vocabulary: call and response can be used to introduce new vocabulary. The teacher says the new word and asks learners to repeat it back to them (i.e. to their screen). This type of pause point would usually be used early in the lesson
  • New knowledge: we can ask learners to identify or find something on screen and either point to it, verbalise or write it down
  • Retrieving facts: this can be through posing questions – including true or false, multiple choice or those that require an individual answer
  • Setting practice tasks: after initial modelling of a task, pupils can be set one to practise independently, the solution would then be modelled to allow pupils to identify where they may have gone wrong

3. Simple slides

Much like normal lessons, it’s important not to overburden learners with information on slides. The use of animations on PowerPoint are a great way of gradually introducing text, alongside images, without that initial overload.

4. Live modelling

Where possible, breaking down a skill or answer, through live modelling will support learners in understanding the concept. This can be achieved either using a visualiser or writing on your screen.

For example, when teaching a Year 2 maths lesson on column addition with regrouping, the skill could be modelled by lining numbers up in the correct place value column and talking out loud each step of the process using the correct mathematical vocabulary, alongside the concrete representation using dienes. This would support in deepening understanding of the concept and encourage pupils to replicate that process in their practise through pause points or independent learning.

5. Manage the cognitive load

Minimising the cognitive load is a crucial part of remote teaching – arguably more so than in a normal lesson. This is essential for increasing engagement in online materials and supporting learners in understanding new content.

In order to achieve clear and concise teacher exposition, it is essential to keep instructions simple. Much like in the classroom, it’s important not to overburden pupils by concisely explaining the task. Set out how long learners should spend on the task and how they should record their response (written or verbal).

You could also introduce visual icons to help pupils follow the instruction, for example, a pause icon so that they know to pause the video following and complete the task.

In preparation for delivering instructions, it is helpful to script these sections of your lesson. This will support in sequencing thinking and make your explanations succinct and easier for learners to successfully follow. You are also less likely to make mistakes in exposition which means that filming will take less time.