With primary aged children, it is essential (when planning and setting tasks remotely) to take into account what the children can do independently (therefore removing the need for constant parental supervision) and how they can be engaged, excited and motivated to learn over a long working day. In the Pringle Centre, we are making the most of every opportunity to keep the sense of community alive and to encourage strong participation and a keenness to learn. We are doing this with the help of several different tools, and our 'teacher's hats' - knowing our boys well and therefore, being able to be creative in our planning. Differentiation is key here to ensure that boys are being stretched and challenged or supported as necessary; this ensures that boys are motivated.
Zoom is an excellent way to stay in touch and ensures that the wellbeing of our boys is being met. House assemblies, regular Zoom meetings in tutor groups and 'touching base' with classes all keep the boys connected and feeling that they are still part of strong, caring units. But it can also be used to share and peer assess work and is an excellent platform for debates.
Earlier this week, First Form made 3-dimensional board games with a focus on maintaining their excellent grasp of times tables. In class, the boys would usually play each other's games and peer assess by commenting on what they liked and how the game could be improved. During lockdown, we were able to share these games via Zoom, with the boys all demonstrating how their games worked and giving a 'guided tour' around their 3-dimensional creation. The boys were effusive in their praise of each other's work but also posed questions to highlight areas that may need to be tweaked. This lesson was then followed up with a formal written review of the project.
In History, the boys debated what they felt were the most important elements involved in the start of World War 1. They argued, agreed, added detail to arguments and finally came up with their key factors: Imperialism, advancements in Industry and Weaponry, discontent at being part of Austria-Hungary, as opposed to Serbia, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Alliances that dragged more people into the war than originally expected. The boys fine-tuned their speaking and listening skills and further cemented their bond as a year group.
Explain Everything is a tool that we use for our lesson inputs. We are able to talk and annotate over slides, which the boys can then watch back. This input is then followed up with instructions and a main 'task' to complete. Word banks, sentence starters, reading comprehension questions, and prompt questions can all then be added to learning objectives, just as they would be in class. In this way, the boys are being taught as closely as possible to how they would be in school. In J4, Ms Waldron is using Explain Everything to read The Butterfly Lion, by Michael Morpurgo, to her class. The boys get to read along with her, as the pages are presented as slides, with Ms Waldron reading over the top. Reading at this time is crucial not only for the boys' academic benefit but for their wellbeing and imagination.
Making the most of the outstanding resources online is an important part of distance learning. Differentiated tasks on Mathletics help to consolidate learning and games/activities and video clips help bring the curriculum to life. However, these activities must be carefully balanced with more practical activities to avoid too much screen time for the boys. The Pringle Centre uses outdoor learning daily, and we have tried to incorporate as much of it as possible in our distance learning lessons, to ensure that boys are still active and to break up the time they spend inside on the computer.
To learn more about what the Merchiston Juniors are doing each day, follow them on Twitter @merchijuniors