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Why it’s a better time than ever for teachers to try something new…

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Positivity and dynamic energy run true in everything Alex Bramley does within his lessons at Spire Junior School. The Assistant Head and Year 6 teacher, who subsequently has been named as Primary School Teacher of the Year Gold award winner in 2020, has continued to innovate, adapt and respond to changes in the education landscape.

Over the last twelve months, education faced its biggest challenge yet with schools closed to the majority and students learning from home.

Keeping my education philosophy of ensuring learning is as engaging and fun as possible at the forefront of everything I do, but adding an increased level of positivity, I wanted to share some things we have been doing at Spire Junior School to keep students engaged, wherever learning takes place.

1. Creating new ways of learning with the ActivPanel…

Having won a Promethean ActivPanel in the #ClassroomStory competition in December 2019, no one could have foreseen the adaptations schools would have to make in the coming months.

With interactive technology at the heart of my classroom, the ActivPanel has been revolutionary for encouraging student engagement and participation. When in school, the ActivPanel is used as an enabler to create collaborative learning spaces amongst peers. From playing educational games, demonstrating learning actions or annotating work as a class using Screen Share, the ActivPanel’s tools and resources have helped to maintain my philosophy for education by seamlessly blending learning and enjoyment.

When learning is taking place away from the classroom, I have been recording lessons that students can access at a time that suits them. Working with ActivInspire software, using the Screen Recorder functionality, I walk students through key learning points. Modelling learning on screen, as I would usually do in the classroom, has been an effective way to replicate classroom curriculum delivery for those learning at home.

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2. The importance of socialisation

Understanding that students are social beings, here at Spire Junior School we have been arranging regular Zoom meetings between classmates and assemblies to maintain communication between teachers and students.

Within these sessions, I took it upon myself to organise various challenges for students to get involved with and encourage communication and visibility between students and teachers.

From Bushtucker Trial challenges, to Through the Keyhole style tours of different teacher’s classrooms, I have been trying to keep up school morale whilst facilitating educational continuity.

3. Taking learning outside

At Spire, we have made the conscious decision to protect the mental health and wellbeing of our students as much as possible and have been doing this by ensuring regular screen breaks and moving learning outside as much as possible.

For example, we captured pictures of the local area and shared them with students. We then encouraged them to go and find the objects or places in question to win points. This not only gave them time away from personal screens, but it also encouraged daily exercise to help focus students when they return to their studies.

To meet curriculum requirements, I also developed a ‘Lamppost Orienteering’ task which took students outside in the fresh air to undertake tasks such as number recognition, maths problem solving, map reading skills and coding.

I created ‘Lamppost Orienteering’ by starting with a screengrab of a map, which detailed the local area around the school. Walking around the streets I selected a series of lampposts and their corresponding numbers to use, before lacing dots on the map and recording the codes for the answer sheet. These were then shared with the students to go and find the correct answers and codes.

Within schools at the moment, we have to remain as positive as possible, which is sometimes easier said than done. However, by coming up with new and interesting ways to encourage student engagement, whilst also paying close attention to the wellbeing of staff and students, we can keep moving forward wherever learning is taking place.

For more tips and advice on how to keep students engaged, follow me on Twitter @Alex_Bramley3.

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