Presentation 1 – Abi Richards
Abi began by explaining how she had met a year ago with her colleagues to review their approach to teaching GCSE English. They had been keen to consider how they might begin to engage and empower their learners more effectively by using the digital skills and literacy practices learners enjoyed using outside of their college hours. She showed the early set of post it notes that they had used to generate and share their ideas and explained that she had gathered together on a Padlet board some of her favourite e learning tools –
Abi explained how she uses the Trello website to enable learners to use their phones or tablets to post and share ideas on a ‘board’ during a group activity that may involve reading a text and answering questions. Abi explained that she has used Padlet for similar collaborative tasks but she prefers the clear and ready-made structure that the Trello board provides (see image left). Learners just need to create a simple Trello account and can then post live comments on the virtual discussion board so that everyone else in the group can see them.
The Triptico website enables teachers to create a wide range of digital resources for use with an interactive whiteboard using drag and drop, matching and sequencing activities. The website was set up by an English teacher David Riley and one of the most popular tools is Word Magnets. It can be used to manipulate words, sentences and images on a whiteboard and Abi showed how she had used the tool to create a task that involves learners in analysing the different character traits in three key protagonists in Shakespeare’s Macbeth by dragging and dropping a ‘word magnets’ to the appropriate sections of a Venn diagram. Abi also uses another one of the tools The Task Timer to give GCSE English learners practice in tackling exam questions under time pressure. The tool allows teachers to set up a sequence of short tasks that learners have to complete within a given time.
Abi has also just begun to explore the benefits of creating a dedicated website for her GCSE English learners using Weebly. Abi uses the main college VLE to manage the workflow for her learners but she felt that it would be interesting to explore whether she could quickly create a website that would provide easy access to the set of resources she is using to support her learners in exploring a poetry anthology and literature in general. Abi said that setting up the website using Weebly had been very straightforward and that her learners enjoyed the ease with which they could access material without the sequence of log in procedures associated with the college VLE. In creating the website she finds it useful to be able to embed pdf versions of resources using the Flipsnak website. Once the pdf is embedded learners can open it up as a ‘flipbook’. Click here for an example of a ‘flipbook’ created using Flipsnak (It recommends some useful resources and teaching strategies for English and Maths GCSE teachers.)
Abi uses this website as a way to encourage her learners to read and discuss topics in current affairs. Each day the site produces a summary of a topical news story together a range of related resources including –
- suggested group tasks and research topics
- links to recent news stories about similar topics
- questions for discussion
- a Word Watch glossary that explains key words and references
- a Quiz of the Week that checks learners recall of the news stories covered
The news stories are classified according to different themes such as Sport, Health, Environment, Technology, etc.
Full access to the site requires a Premium account but ‘onscreen’ access to the resources is free for up to three visits per month. Abi mentioned that she often converts the Quiz of the Week into a Kahoot activity which enables her learners to tackle the questions in teams as part of an interactive group task.
This is the latest tool that Abi is piloting with her GCSE learners to engage them in creative writing activities through the use of digital technology. This free website enables learners to create interactive short stories that give the reader choices in the way of the plot develops. Reading some of the sample interactive stories on the Inklewriter website can also be a stimulating and useful reading experience for learners as they have to think carefully about the content and decide on the ways in which the story might develop. Click here for 10 ways to use Inklewriter in the classroom.
In conclusion Abi also recommended other websites that she regularly uses as a source of new tools and teaching strategies to explore in her English teaching –
Click here to go a summary of the second presentation by Sarah Holmes in which she reviewed her experiences of creating a distance learning GCSE English.