We asked our friends at the British Experimental Academy of Pingxiang (BEAP) to kindly share their experience in virtual schooling during lockdown in China. BEAP is the international division of Pingxiang Experimental School in Jiangxi Province of China. Most of their students are native Chinese students studying bilingual courses and we have been working with the school for several years.
Since February, BEAP has been providing distant learning to their students at home during school closure. They have embraced the challenges which many of our UK schools and families are facing right now, they are now happy to share some of their good practices in virtual schooling. Below are some tips for teachers and parents, kindly written by colleagues at BEAP Primary Department (translated by Juniper China Educational Links Team).
Tips for Teachers
- Being at home lacks a good learning environment and peer motivation. Students may become unmotivated, easily distracted, or even absent from learning.
- It is difficult to have an overview of the status of all students during online classes. Teaching can be affected by this and feedback for students work may not be as good.
- Students exercise much less at home, so how to ensure their physical and mental health?
- Students have more free time at home, so how to enrich their extracurricular time?
As educators, we believe that there are always more solutions than problems. Let’s take a look at some of our practices at BEAP.
Virtual Study Groups to Facilitate Collaborative Learning
We have 30 students in each class who have been divided into 5 study groups via the WeChat App. Grouping is based on students’ learning levels and personal characteristics. This kind of virtual study group makes the communication between home and school more efficient as well as creating an excellent learning atmosphere. Each group has a student leader in charge of lesson attendance registration and reminders. Everyday students can share their work and videos (of reading or physical exercises etc) in their virtual study group and learn from each other. Students can also ask questions in their study group after class and have the opportunity to discuss and solve problems together. Alongside the groups, teachers run a reward scheme to facilitate the online peer learning atmosphere and to encouraging every student to appreciate and help each other.
(BEAP pictures: virtual study groups)
Virtual Staff Room to Share Good Practices and Solve Issues Around Online Teaching
(BEAP pictures: virtual staff room)
Our teachers have weekly virtual meetings to share practices and solve issues together, constantly looking for better ways to improve our online teaching. Teaching staff have also organised a survey questionnaire for all students about their experience of online classes, helping to identify and solve any problems, making online classes more enjoyable for students.
Good Practices for Online Teaching
Pre-lesson interaction and attendance registration
Our teachers will enter the virtual classroom 10 minutes before each lesson to greet the students. They will then play some fun engaging games or songs to help them settling into learning mode. Most students won’t be late for their lesson because they know that there will be some fun pre-lesson interactions. During this time, the student leader for each study group can take the attendance registration and chase up any absent students.
When staring at a screen, students can develop visual and mental fatigue, so the lesson content should not be overloading. Also, if students can see you live, they will pay more attention.
Student interaction during live lesson
Actively interact with students by asking questions and inviting them to express their views. For students who are not very proactive, teachers can use the ‘random roll call’ function to involve them and give some positive feedback. We also implement points systems for individuals and study groups to motivate students.
Homework and notes feedback
Unlike face-to-face teaching, it is difficult to have an overview of the learning status of students during online teaching. Therefore, we should regularly check student’s homework and study notes to see how much they have learnt during their virtual classes. Providing timely feedback also gives them the opportunity to correct mistakes and improve their work.
Assessment and individual tutoring
We conduct a weekly 15-minute quiz which helps teachers understand each student’s learning progress and adjust our teaching plans accordingly. We also provide individual tutoring for high achievers and under achievers to provide them with more support.
Weekly virtual class assemblies are also carried out to review recent issues and award student achievements. This helps enhance the students sense of belonging and class honour.
Our international teachers are currently unable to fly to China due to travel restrictions and are in different time zones. Therefore, pre-recorded lessons, delivered by our international colleagues, have been broadcasted. Teachers will follow up the students work and feedback in the virtual study groups, so students can still enjoy a broad and enriched curriculum.
Parents can be very anxious during this period of home schooling, as teachers, we need to give parents peace of mind. Regular home-school communications on how to collaboratively help their children’s learning will help ease anxiety. At the start of virtual schooling, we held virtual parent meetings to brief and answer their questions. This provided them with advice on how to effectively support their children and work collaboratively with teachers. Each subject teacher will provide a daily lesson summary and feedback of students learning. Everyday, we select a small number of parents and reach out to them to discuss their children’s learning and respond to their concerns.