5 Top Tips for Lockdown Home Learning

As I write this it is mid-May 2020 and the government have just announced the easing of lockdown restrictions.  Apparently it is now safe for some children to return to schools, although there is much debate about how that will be managed and whether education is really at the top of the concerns list, or if, in fact, teachers are being used as babysitters.   Either way, it seems that some students will be returning whilst others may wait until September.  

Which means that for the vast majority of students, online independent learning will still be their education system.  I know that many schools are teaching live online lessons and I will talk about that further next week, but for a huge number of students, their music lessons will consist of online tasks to be completed. 

Need inspiration for home learning ideas?  This Google drive folder contains projects and short tasks along with useful web links for even more ideas.  Click here to access this completely FREE resource!

So how can we make their lockdown learning the best it can be?  How can we make it useful, informative and engaging as well as something that can be completed independently?  Here are my 5 top tips on making learning successful.

1. Make it relevant

Nobody wants to complete a seemingly pointless 'time filler' task, so making it relevant to something is a must.  Students must see the value in something in order to want to engage, so consider how the tasks you are setting link to anything in their lives. 

  • Past learning: this gives the students a head start - they already have some knowledge or skills in this topic so can build on the foundation you have already made together.  This will make them more confident than if they need to tackle something new alone. 
  • Future learning: prepare for a topic, competition or task on their return to school.  This may be a research or fact-finding mission to introduce them gently to a new topic.  This learning will then be shared on return to class and used in their next project.  This will encourage the students to engage, knowing that the task is not just a 'pointless' exercise but will lead to something greater. 
  • Students' likes and pastimes - what do your students enjoy doing in their spare time?  what are the latest trends or crazes in your part of the world?  Can you link a project to this? 

2. Consider students with no technology

The majority of work seems to be set online, which is clearly the most efficient way of communicating with our students without consuming eleventy-billion forest's worth of paper.  However, for students with little or no technology available, this can be a problem.  Whilst the majority of students have a phone and can access instructions on a website, many cannot complete online work or access specialist software.  Many households do not have a printer, so cannot print out worksheets to complete.  So think outside the box with projects and tasks that encourage listening using radio or TV programmes, debates, composition using the body or household materials and free apps available on phones.  

I recently held a 5-day challenge discussing these opportunities in the Mighty Music Teachers Facebook Group.  Click here to watch Day 1 of the NoTech-LowTech Challenge.

3. Encourage group work via social media

Teenagers love phones (well, the majority of them anyway!).  So tap into their love of social media and apps by setting them some group tasks using apps such as Whatsapp, House Party, Zoom or Facetime.  Get them singing or playing together, or discussing a piece of music.  Remember that in class students love working with their friends, being creative together, and that for some students working alone is a miserable chore.    

4. Give them a choice

I don't know about you, but I love having a choice.  If I am told I have to do this one thing, I will put it off as long as possible, but if I can choose from my to-do list, I am much happier.  So give your students a choice if possible.  You could set an extended project for those that love to delve deeper or complete research alongside some shorter standalone tasks for those that like quick ideas or don't have the ability to focus on a longer-term project.  Also try breaking the topic down into listening, composing and performing tasks, just like you would in the classroom, but as separate online tasks. 

You can find a huge variety of tasks in this Google drive folder, which contains projects and short tasks along with useful web links for even more ideas.  Click here to access this completely FREE resource!

5. Independence vs Group Work

Independent working will come as a shock to many students.  Whilst some students are able to take themselves off, read instructions and complete a task, many (an increasing number, in my experience!) are not able or willing to work independently.  A reliance on adults is a significant problem for many, and the ability to do things alone must be encouraged.  So why not set a project that requires the student to complete stage 1 independently, then stage 2 they can involve family or friends.  So it may be setting up a debate and finding information to support both sides of the argument, then having the debate with family.  Or perhaps putting on a show or concert, where the student must prepare a piece then the family help organise a 'concert night'.  

 

Whatever you decide to set, try to make it light-hearted and fun.  We do not know how our students are feeling, or what they are experiencing during this time.  They may well be spending their time learning life skills rather than standardised education, which is a great opportunity for them!  So think carefully before handing out this set work and make it enjoyable for them. 

 

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