Social Distanced teaching

I wrote recently about the challenges of post-confinement teaching and promised you some ideas. They’ve taken a while coming, things haven’t been easy, as you’ve probably guessed; no handouts, no group or pair work (without students yelling at each other across 1.5 metres), no taking work in… Anyway, here are a few things we’ve enjoyed in class recently;

Stand Up!

With students stuck at their desks, not being allowed to move around the classroom, come to the board, or even leave the room between every class (we do let them out occasionally though!) thank heavens they can at least stand up by their desks! So “Heads & Shoulders” for the primary, we’re looking at the body aptly enough, but no more “touch your nose” – it’s definitely point to but DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE! For older students this has been stand up if the phrase on the board is correct, stand up for your beliefs – put a few controversial statements on the board & have a class debate, or even occasionally stand up & do a few jumping jacks, just to wake you all up between lessons, activities etc.

Thumbs Up! (or down)

As I can no longer go around the class looking over students shoulders and checking their work, I’ve pondered on how to work out if they’ve “got it” or not. I realised about a decade ago that “does everyone understand?” doesn’t work ( I still use it daily though!). So everyone has drawn something vaguely representing a thumb on a piece of paper that they keep on their desks, and occasionally I ask for a show of thumbs, do you get the exercise? Do you agree? Shall I explain again? By all facing forward (or putting the thumb pictures in front of their faces) we have kept some kind of anonymat which makes students more willing to communicate their difficulties. Can also be used with teens who won’t leave their chair for debates etc.


As lessons have become more teacher/board/whole class orientated I’ve been using short films (just google youtube short films). There are loads of brilliant ones from CGI or Pixar. Also useful when half the class has lost their books at the end of term and you can’t photocopy or let them share!

Kahoot & Quizzes

As we’re heading to the end of the school year it would be revision season, whatever was happening outside in the real world. The forced retirement of the photocopier has meant me preparing quizzes on Kahoot, etc. This is more time-consuming but hey, I’ll have them for next year. When really pushed for time I ask each student to write 5 questions on a unit which they then ask aloud to the rest of the class.

Fast Finishers

I’ve always had a bit of a thing about those students who finish an activity seconds after you’ve successfully given the instructions to the last student, as I’ve mentioned before I have  had  a box of lovely activities on my desk that my FF would come and choose from, in the old days that is. Now I have to do it myself. Photocopy or print a few pages from here – blatant plug for book! or here if you fancy a freebie! and then put them out face down on your desk, asking a student to choose which one you should pick up. Giving them the power of choosing makes all the difference, and you can always give them a couple of shots. Then write the activities on one side of the board for the FF to be getting on with while the rest of the class actually gets a chance to complete an activity.


Ponders can be used in the same way, just write one up in the corner of the board and let your fast finishers have a think on it while waiting for the others to finish.

Whatsapp, airdrop etc.

Yes, we’re actually still using these apps in the classroom, I’ve even opened a zoom meeting & put groups into break out rooms so they can write to each other in the chatbox in the classroom! It’s a good way to bring group work into a socially distanced classroom, & works well with dictoglosses and group writing activities.

The same can be said for google classroom etc. I’m still sending students worksheets & explanations via google classroom or our intranet system which they can print or look at on their devices at home or in class, it’s saving a ton of paper, students can change the font and size as they wish, and bags are a lot lighter – as we’ve said with many aspects of confinement, some things will be worth keeping in the longterm.

Please share and add to these ideas, and especially please be kind to yourselves, it’s a whole new way of teaching and we’re all newbies here!


About fabenglishteacher

enjoying sharing learning
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