With remote learning taking place for most students, Insight writer and English/EAL teacher Niki Cook has put together some tips on how to make the most of your time learning away from the classroom.
I think it’s fairly safe to say that, even in the wildest of dreams, at the beginning of the school year no-one saw 2020 panning out quite like this! Unexpectedly, you now find yourself having to complete the remainder of your Unit 3 studies via remote learning, which may seem like a daunting prospect. What can you do to make the best of this situation, and ensure that you are prepared to face the rest of your English studies, once we emerge on the other side?
Be clear on expectations, procedures and deadlines
A key factor in how you approach remote learning will be the instructions you receive from your school. Is your school continuing to follow the timetable as normal, so you’ll have your usual schedule of classes and spares? Is work for all classes set at the beginning of the week, and then you have submission deadlines and scheduled check-ins with your teachers at different points? This will be the first thing you need to determine, as it will shape how you organise yourself and approach your studies.
You also need to have a clear understanding of how SACs will operate, and what you’ll be required to do in them. Your school should provide this information in the coming days, but ask your teachers if you’re unsure.
Working together is still incredibly important, especially in a subject like English which depends on interpretation and opinion. No doubt, before the pandemic, many of you set up Facebook or WhatsApp groups for your subjects so that you could discuss the content of classes. Now, those groups become even more important. Use them to unpack topics together, brainstorm ideas, share articles and ask questions. Create essay topics and share them with others in your group. Generate Quizlets and Kahoots to help test each other on key quotes. Just because you aren’t with your classmates physically, doesn’t mean that you can’t work together, so make the technology work for you.
Explore options and opportunities
One of the unexpected advantages of the pandemic has been the explosion of literary, cultural and artistic material that has been made available online. Some of the biggest theatre companies in the world are livestreaming performances for free, or making recordings available to everyone. Look to see what is being offered that relates to your English texts. Think laterally – you might not be able to view the exact text you are studying, but perhaps another work by the same author is available? Could you watch a performance to identify common elements of their writing style?
It’s also an opportunity to explore literary criticism and consider other people’s perspectives on your text. Build your understanding of the text’s social, cultural and historical context – what was going on in the time and place in which the author created the text? Having a more comprehensive understanding of the context will help you unpack the messages that the author is trying to convey, and the influences that shaped their views and values.
This is the standard piece of advice from every English teacher since time began! But there’s never been a better time to get stuck into that pile of books you’ve been meaning to read. Reading will help broaden your vocabulary, expose you to different writing styles and ideas, and provide some escape from the current situation. It doesn’t mean you need to suddenly attempt to read War and Peace, but aim to set aside time each day for reading. If you use physical books, the added bonus is that this reading will provide valuable time away from the omnipresent screens.
Remember the end goal – you still need to practise writing by hand
While the exact timing and length of exams is now uncertain, there’s been nothing to suggest that there will be significant changes to the format of the exams. Therefore, you should anticipate that the English exam will require you to write essays – and this means a lot of extended writing. With the switch to remote learning and an increased reliance on technology, it will be easy to neglect your handwriting. Make sure that you still practise writing by hand under timed conditions. This doesn’t have to mean long periods of writing all the time. You could, for example, give yourself 15 minutes to write a body paragraph for a text response. Remember that you can always scan or take photos of your handwritten pieces if you’re sending them to your teacher for feedback – just make sure that your writing is legible!
Look after yourself
Looking after your mental and physical wellbeing is always important, especially as a VCE student. In the current environment, this becomes even more important. Technology and screens are likely to occupy a significant portion of each day, as you’ll now be using them for education, socialising and entertainment – more than ever before. Factor in time spent away from screens, and schedule time to be active every day. Get outside for a walk or run, do yoga, meditate – whatever works for you. If possible, have a designated workspace that you use for schoolwork and nothing else. This will help you remain focused, as your mindset will be that when you are in that space you are there to work. Although it may seem tempting to work from your bed, this is something to be avoided.
As Premier Daniel Andrews has said, Term 2 will look very different, but the government is committed to ensuring that everyone can finish the year. It is vital that you do your best to remain focused, and make the most of the remote learning period. Most importantly, remember that everyone in the state is in the same situation as you. The thing that you can control is how well-prepared you are when the restrictions are lifted and education returns to normal. Be focused, be proactive and, above all, be kind to yourself, and you’ll ensure that you are well placed to face the rest of your VCE – however that may look.
With remote learning now in place to help stem the spread of COVID-19, we know that for many of you study will be more difficult when you’re away from school and your teachers. To help students adjust to this different way of learning, Insight has been working hard to make our resources more accessible than ever before. Head to our website for deals and further details on how we can help you make the most of your studies during this difficult period, at www.insightpublications.com.au
Insight Publications is an independent Australian-owned educational publisher.
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