Lockdown learning: Teachers' tried-and-tested top tips

What lessons did we learn from the first lockdown? We ask teachers to share the secrets of their online learning success
9th January 2021, 6:00am
Grainne Hallahan


Lockdown learning: Teachers' tried-and-tested top tips

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The March lockdown caught everyone in education off-guard, but when the announcement came to move to online learning earlier this month, teachers had the small benefit of feeling a bit more prepared.

We have a better idea of what works with online learning this time around. Tes asked teachers from various settings to share their most successful approaches for remote learning.


Sarah Watkins, a Reception teacher at Ledbury Primary School (who tweets from @mini_lebowski), says:


In the last lockdown, I loved the interactivity of this platform. I was able to upload phonics videos that I had made, and children, via their parents, were able to tell us what they thought. For example, I had a great bit of feedback from a child who asked me to leave longer pauses for her to say the sounds.


Terry the Toucan featured strongly in my phonics videos and, after a while, Freddie Fox joined him. The children were really engaged by their antics and began to influence the puppets' behaviour through their feedback. I am a passionate puppet advocate and I've seen time and time again how they can create a communication bridge for children who are experiencing difficulties. 

Picture stimulus

For images, we used Once Upon a Picture. This is a free website with a picture stimulus for just about any area you can think of. Each picture has reflective questions for children to discuss at home. One popular image I used in the past was of an octopus in a kitchen sink. It inspired some great discussion and writing from my class. 

NCETM maths resources

The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics has lots of resources to get children excited about maths, with a strong emphasis on reasoning and in-depth mathematical thinking.

Getting personal

It was essential to touch base with parents over the phone, to check they had enough support. We are central to our community and parents were suddenly dealing with issues such as unemployment and bereavement. I worked in partnership with our amazing pastoral care team, who have built strong relationships with our families. Online platforms have so much to offer but sometimes a phone call is what people need.


Mia Bano, a Year 5 teacher at Arden Primary School in the West Midlands (who tweets from @MissBTeaches_), says: 

Joe Wicks PE and Cosmic Yoga

Our older children (and some of the teachers) enjoyed the physical challenge provided by live PE lessons from Joe Wicks. The sessions were influential in increasing their emotional wellbeing.

Similarly, our younger children took a particular shine to Cosmic Kids Yoga. They enjoyed how the interactive sessions, using storytelling, enabled them to feel relaxed and supported them in building strength and agility. 

Darrell Wakelam art projects

Not only is Darrell Wakelam a professional artist who has worked in educational settings for more than 30 years, he is also renowned for being able to develop masterpieces from simple, everyday materials that one can find in the comfort of their own home. These projects are accessible and convenient for children. With more than 80 art projects to access, I hope to re-use some of them again, linking in with curriculum topics.

Shannen Doherty, a primary maths leader and class teacher at a school in South London (who tweets from @MissSDoherty), says:

Class emails 

We set up class mailboxes on Outlook so that we had direct communication with parents that was separate from our own emails. Sending regular emails to let them know we were there comforted parents. I also got some hilarious emails from students that gave me a welcome distraction from lockdown.

Oak National Academy 

This was by far the best resource out there. There were schools doing their own live lessons, as well as a bank of prerecorded ones. It's free and the quality is excellent. 

Picture news 

We sent out an image to the class every week for parents to use as discussion points for family chats. It gave the children an opportunity to be exposed to current affairs at a child-friendly level, and we provided the parents with resources to make this easier. 


Nimesh Lad, a science teacher and vice-principal of Wrenn Senior School in Wellingborough, says:

Seneca Learning 

This proved to be really useful when helping students to summarise topics, and it also allows them to test themselves.

Carousel Learning

An exceptional quizzing and flash card tool, where direct uploads from an Excel file create a series of flashcards that students can then test themselves against, allowing for self- and teacher assessment.

Gorilla Physics

This was a great way of giving students access to exam papers and walkthroughs of them. Just make sure you choose test papers you are not planning to use at a future date.

Paul Bell, an English teacher and literacy coordinator (who tweets from @PABEnglishTeach), says:

Targeted reading activities

Based on our experience in the last lockdown, this time we have set up weekly reading activities for students. Many students do not have access to books at home, so we have provided them with links to free Audible books and free extracts from World Book Day, and we have supported parents and guardians with links to comprehension questions. In addition, we'll be phoning home for those reluctant readers to see how they're getting on.

Stephen Lane, a pastoral lead at Lichfield Cathedral School (who tweets from @sputniksteve), says:

Year 6 to 7 transition

In the last lockdown, we were really concerned about transition for our incoming Year 7s, so I ran Teams meetings back in July for them in lieu of our taster day.

This time around, we'll be doing it again because it worked so well. In fact, even if we are back to normal in the summer term, I will host Teams meetings in addition to the transition day. We're also going to try and find a way of including parents, as they missed out on our open evenings.

Bob Pritchard, a science teacher and physics lead in the North of England (who tweets from @rjpritchard), says:

Online form time

We had great success with live registrations. Every Monday, form tutors would register their class and have a virtual tutor time catching up with their tutees. This time around, we're tweaking it so it happens daily rather than weekly.

Tes Coronavirus Hub

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