7 ways to handle hybrid teaching challenges

Teaching some children at home and some at school is tricky but there are strategies worth adopting to help things run smoothly
7th February 2021, 10:00am
Jennie Devine


7 ways to handle hybrid teaching challenges

Covid & Schools: Why I'm Happy As A Teacher Delivering Hybrid Learning

Hybrid teaching is not something that many of us really knew about before the pandemic - but we sure do now.

Many schools have adopted this model, where a teacher leads an in-person class while also having students in synchronous lessons at home, in an attempt to balance the best of in-class and at home learning, depending on the circumstances faced.

There are real challenges with this way of teaching though. It is not as easy as simply pointing a camera at the teacher and expecting online students to follow along, especially primary-aged students. 

Here are some ways I have found to make it work well.

1. Involve parents 

At every age group in primary school, you will need to have parents on board. 

Expectations for students need to be clear - students should be on time for lessons, properly dressed and in a location conducive to learning. Parents should seek as much as possible to reduce noise and distractions for the pupil at home. 

Parents should also be aware that, while teachers are able to provide online instruction for students at home, they aren't able to provide supervision. That would come down to whoever is at home with the children. 

Parents need to be aware that they, as adults, should not participate in the lessons. As a teacher, you are trying to recreate the feel and rhythm of a classroom, and unscheduled parental intrusion into the lesson, even online, violates that atmosphere.  

Similarly, you will not be able to respond to parents' emails during lesson times.

2. Don't expect a full day

Online learning for some students is very taxing. Many students and parents take a stripped-down approach to the virtual provision, preferring to prioritise core subject instruction. 

Communicate where possible when the core lessons will be and stick to those timings as much as possible. 

It is also worth considering having a modified start and end time for online learners to avoid the transition times as students leave and arrive.

3. Stick to your expectations

Students need to be on time, properly dressed and prepared to learn.

Just as students in class should not call out, online learners should not make unsolicited comments or shout for help. 

However, it is key that, as a teacher, you allow students the opportunity to ask questions, just as you would with students in the class. 

Many platforms have ways for students to virtually "raise their hand" or, failing that, students could type in a quick, agreed-upon comment (a question mark, for example) to indicate they need help.   

This will ensure that students can access support but do not dominate the classroom.

4. Make the rules clear 

You never know which student will need to be on hybrid learning in the future, so it is best to make the process transparent to all. 

Clearly articulate the expectations, the platform, the timetable and the routine for hybrid learning to all students. 

This helps students transition from in-person to online instruction more easily. It can be as simple as giving explicit statements about what learners at home are doing.

5. Adapt your teaching style

The reality is that you may have to change the way you teach. Because of distancing in classrooms and hybrid learners at home, group work will be necessarily much more limited.

However, collaboration can still be done via online platforms when appropriate. 

You may also have to change your delivery style as well. 

There are some context cues that are lost when students are online, so speaking more clearly and using bigger gestures can help. While being more animated is not for everyone, it can help to engage the learners at home.

6. Let them step away

Depending on school expectations and the age of the students, one way to break up the monotony of a full day of online teaching is to ensure that students can step away from the computer. 

This can mean assigning practical tasks to reinforce taught concepts and use their environment - for example, drawing a picture of their house and labelling parallel and perpendicular lines, creating Venn diagrams of objects in the house, creating a branching diagram to sort cuddly toys or describing an object in the home using adjectives and adverbs. 

In this case, it is important to have a set time for students to come back to share work during the plenary.

7. Prepare for technology failure

Technology always has a way of letting us down and, if that happens in the middle of a lesson, it can be extremely frustrating, especially when there is a classroom full of students waiting.

To ensure that time is not lost due to troubleshooting, it is important to make sure that students at home know what to do if they cannot access the lesson. 

This could be some auxiliary resources and materials posted weekly or according to the topic being studied, some websites or apps that provide reinforcement, or routine tasks that they can engage in (word cards, practising number bonds or phonic sounds, reading, rehearsing multiplication tables).

Though this will take a bit of effort to set up and maintain, it does mean that the stress of trying to help a student connect during the lesson is lifted from your shoulders.

While hybrid teaching is a new way of working, with a few simple tweaks, teachers can deliver good online education without having to create two duplicate plans for every lesson.

Jennie Devine has worked in international teaching for 18 years, most recently as a principal at a school in Italy

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