Life under Corona as a complex task

The Corona virus has significantly changed our everyday life. Since 16 March 2020, regular classes as we know them no longer take place. Instead, the new directive was to make learning possible through various online options, which poses new challenges for teachers as well as students and their parents, and in a 5th grade in English in particular.

Life under Corona as a topic
Like all the other ones in this post, this image was created by the learners as part of the task

At first I focused on revision assignments, but after the first week I slowly dared to develop new language issues and topics. Finally, as a final task before the Easter holidays, a complex task in mini-format seemed to make sense to me. The target product I defined was a short essay about the students’ typical daily routines, now that the schools are closed. However, this task could not only be smoothly integrated into the textbook unit and serve as a concluding step, but also seemed to make sense to me against the background of the current life, in which the students lack personal contact and exchange. Thus, the task of sharing their personal experiences gives the teacher insight into the students’ changed daily routines.

Course book texts as model texts

This task ties in directly with the previous work on Unit 2 of the textbook English G 21. In this unit, the textbook children have to write an essay about a typical day in their lives as a homework assignment (“A day in the life of …”). At the end of the unit, various sample essays written by the textbook children are presented which can be used as model texts to prepare the students for writing their own text. In addition to working on the content of the individual essays (ensuring comprehension), the main aim was to draw the pupils’ attention to the general linguistic and content criteria of such a text (see “Essay Experts Checklist” in the task material). Subsequently, I used a number of lexical exercises to recapitulate “Words to talk about my day”, which were introduced during the unit. The same applies to the grammatical rules for the formation of the simple present (main focus: third person -s).

Developing a task for digital distance learning

The complex task can be used well in the field of digital distance learning. As developed in the national research project „Leistung macht Schule/LemaS“ (excellence in school education), it is essential, apart from finding a topic, to design a task systematically in such a way that students can work as independently as possible. Thus, in addition to the topic of everyday life under corona conditions, considerations concerning the formats and linguistic devices (lexical and grammatical) are necessary for the students’ work on the task play a decisive role in developing the task. In this context, it is also important to anticipate possible problems and obstacles that the students might encounter, and to think about the help and support available to the students during the working process (scaffolding). Since distance learning does not allow direct teacher intervention and support as is possible in normal teaching, such anticipatory considerations are of essential importance.

Exchange via Class Notebook

The essay was supposed to be handwritten, revised and uploaded as a PDF or image file to the Class Notebook that I created for the learning group. The Class Notebook is divided into three areas (content library, space for collaboration, personal area), offers good conditions for digital distance learning. The personal area, to which only individual students and me as a teacher have access, offers the opportunity of direct teacher-student interaction in a protected space (uploading homework and individual feedback). In addition, the ‘space for collaboration’ area makes it possible to make the essays accessible to everyone, so that reading and exchange can be done, while in the content library I can provide new materials (documents, explanatory videos, pictures, etc.) for the students.

Conclusion

The convincing outcome of the students’ work has shown me that in the context of digital distance learning not only minor assignments and revision work are possible, but also more open, more complex task formats, also in terms of progressive learning. The decisive factors for success here are, however, anticipatory provisions in terms of language and content, of a clear structure of the task and of built-in help and support. Of course, the amount of preparatory work should not be underestimated – a time expenditure that is, however, worthwhile with regard to the results.

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Copyright © 2018 Wolfgang Hallet