As schools switch their provision from in-person to online, many are looking for online platforms to ease the transition.
There are a whole raft of platforms out there that offer to help with this. One, aimed at early years and primary teachers, is Purple Mash.
It boasts of its “ready-made editable long-term, medium-term and individual lesson plans” and the fact it has a “full assessment framework included” along with “curriculum maps, whole school schemes and video tutorials”.
All well and good, but if you're starting to use it for the first time, how can you ensure you make the most of it to enhance pupil learning and boost interaction? We have some dos and don’ts provided by a teacher already well versed in the platform.
1. Do blog
Teachers can use the blog option to regularly update their students. It’s a nice way to keep in touch even though you’re not seeing them every day in the classroom.
“I will use the blog to continue that link with the class,” says Niall Robinson, a Year 5 teacher at Powers Hall in Essex. “Interaction is key when the school is closed.”
The blog is also a useful way to use your resources that aren’t on the platform. “Because we have the blog, it means I can set extra tasks, and not all the work has to be done directly in Purple Mash.”
2. Don’t try anything too tricky
Although you might normally have interesting and complicated activities running in your classroom, now is not the time to try and recreate them.
Instead, says Robinson, you should try and keep every activity as simple as possible.
“Keep your tasks broad and concise,” he recommends. “Don’t over complicate things as children will be mostly working independently, or with limited parental support.”
3. Do shout out to the stars
Even though you’ve not got your normal display board to pin up your students’ work, the ‘Display Board’ on Purple Mash means that you still have a space to share outstanding work with your pupils.
Now, more than ever, you will need to use every single one of your behaviour management strategies to ensure engagement. “Celebrate children’s work,” says Robinson. “You can put examples of good work on the class’ Purple Mash display board.”
4. Don’t forget to feedback
Nothing will reduce interaction like feeling as if the work you’re doing isn’t being looked at. If your students are completing work using the platform, then you can use the comments feature to correct errors or compliment good work.
“You must give constructive feedback,” says Robinson. “All your comments should follow the ‘feedback sandwich’ format, so students know exactly where they’re going wrong, and where they can improve.”
Feedback can be given whenever students post a completed task. This can only be seen by the student or parent.
5. Do use the ‘groups’ for differentiation
Not all of your students will be completing the same work. If a student is faced with tasks that are beyond their ability, or too easy, they will quickly lose motivation.
Instead, you can create groups to allow for easy differentiation. “All of the work can be edited to cater to the level of the students’ ability,” says Robinson.
6. Don’t forget about the reading
There are lots of ways you can still engage students with reading on Purple Mash. “Use ‘Serial Mash’ to post book-reading activities,” says Robinson. “You can even start your own book club”
For teachers who are willing to brave being on screen, now is the time to try recording yourself reading a storybook to the class. “I’m going to record a video of myself reading a book and post it on the blog. Children still need to be read to, so this is an easy way of doing it.”
With so much uncertainty surrounding your pupils, being able to see a friendly and familiar face is really important for their mental health.
7. Do keep it safe
The settings on Purple Mash need to be adjusted to ensure your students are being properly safeguarded. The first thing you need to do, according to Robinson, is to tackle the comments problem. “Do not allow anonymous comments,” says Robinson.
“Children have to take ownership of what they say and do on the internet, so adjust the settings so names will always appear. You also need to make sure you approve of the students’ messages before they are published.”
All logins must also be shared with senior leaders, and every teachers' account monitored to ensure that all conversations are appropriate.