I’ve recently been back to my physical classroom and it was a strange experience. My board still had the date on – March 17. My desk still had photocopies that I wanted to use in my next lesson. It felt like time had stopped! I’m sure many teachers feel the same way when they first walk into their classrooms after the worldwide lockdowns.
So much has happened since March 17 though. My school migrated all lessons online in less than 48 hours. We were lucky we could do that! Our secondary students all have Chrome Books that they use for school work and most of our students have some form of Internet access at home, as do most of the teachers.
After the initial shock of what I am going to do now, I got down to business and planned my lessons for the next two weeks, only to replan them a few days later when I realised how different online teaching was compared to face-to-face and how much my students struggled with the transition. However, I had to find a way, so I started doing research online.
Fortunately, many organisations and companies dedicated time and effort to help education be successful in these strange, new times. I attended an incredible amount of free webinars and signed up for free access to so many great websites that provide resources. It really felt like the educational community worldwide came together to help each other.
My school decided to use Zoom, which proved to be very useful in my EAL lessons. One particular feature that I use over and over is the chat function. Although my students have access to Zoom, their internet was often too unstable for them to turn their cameras on or to speak in the lessons. So I had to find a way to involve everyone and give everyone equal access.
Here’s how I use the Zoom chat to aid reading lessons with secondary EAL students:
- I make sure that the reading text is available to all students. We use Google Classroom, so I usually post the text as a document that the students can open in their browsers.
- During the lesson, I post my questions in the Zoom chat, which allows me to differentiate to a great extent. I usually start with an easier gist question that I send to everyone. They then have to send their answers back to me in a private message (on Zoom you can either message everyone or just one particular person). When I get their answer, I can either prompt them to correct their answers if they didn’t get it right the first time, or I send them the next question.
- Depending on the level of the student and the progress they’re making, some of them get more complex questions or they have to answer more questions than others. This is a good way to provide an extension to students who finish early or who are ready to work at a higher level.
- I find that introducing a competitive element keeps students more involved and motivated. In the beginning, I tell them how many questions I have all together and I give them a time limit as well. For example, they have 10 minutes to answer 6 questions, let’s see who can do that. Since only I can see their answers, they don’t lose face in front of each other if they don’t get something right or if they don’t finish. I give everyone individual feedback using the chat.
You can find out more about in-meet chat settings on Zoom here. To minimise distraction and to ensure child protection it is important to change the settings so that learners can only send messages to everyone or just to the teacher.