Back Tuesday 24 Mar 2020 12:42 pm

Remote English teaching: ideas for creating a community of learners

This blog is not about the technical side of remote teaching and learning as there is plenty of information out there and you will no doubt have had advice at school. But the big challenge of remote learning is keeping students motivated, so we are putting our virtual heads together to come up with EMC-style approaches which can work at a distance to add some variety to your remote English lessons.
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Isolation may protect the body from infection, but it is not good for mental health. Having something structured and positive to do each day will be good for this aspect of young people’s well-being as well as helping them to stay engaged with learning. So, our first blog concentrates on the challenge of creating the feeling of a community of learners, rather than individuals always working on their own, in dialogue only with their teacher. 

Six ideas for creating a community of learners

  1. Have a look at our blog by Richard Long, with ideas for getting students engaging effectively with each other through blogging about their reading. As with any format where students will be responding to each other, remember to set community guidelines.
  2. Ask students to prepare something for the rest of the class. For example, a couple of discussion questions on a text, or their research on a particular aspect of a text for you to distribute. Make sure students get to see other’s responses. For more extended work on a text you could ask everyone to come up with a list of 5-10 ‘significant’ questions they’d like to discuss collectively. e.g. Why does the writer…? What difference does it make when X happens? How should we take the character’s comment ‘….’? Then ask them to pare down the questions to just three, to share with the whole class. Either write your own ‘thinking aloud’ answers to these to send to the students and/or get the students in dialogue, answering each others’ questions.
  3. Zines can be fairly easily assembled in a desktop publishing programme, or even in Word, and a zine can give students the motivation to write a good quality piece and a way to share their writing. You could kickstart your zine with a writing competition. If you have some very digitally literate students, they might like to up the design stakes: find inspiration here.
  4. Create a class poetry anthology: ask students to research online to find a poem they think the rest of the class should read and send in the link to the poem with reasons for their choice. You could go further and ask them to prepare some questions that would help another student to enjoy and appreciate the poem. Students then choose from the recommendations and try out the questions. Good places for students to look for poems include: The Poetry Station and The Poetry Foundation.
  5. Create a virtual reading group, where students can put up a comment on a book, short story, poem, newspaper article or anything else that they have read that they think others in the class might be interested in, explaining why. You could limit students to commenting on things which can be found online for free to ensure equal access. In future blogs we will collate some good places for students to find free texts.
  6. Create a Virtual Poetry Event by asking pupils to prepare and record a reading of a poem – one you provide or one they source themselves, along the lines suggested below:
  • Find a poem you like and that you think would be good in performance. (This might be one you are studying, one you find online, for example, from The Poetry Station or The Poetry Foundation, or one from a selection your teacher provides.)
  • Practise reading it out loud. 
  • Write a short introduction to the poem and the reading – the sort of thing you might say if you were going to perform your poem in front of a live audience. 
  • When you’ve practised it, make a recording of your reading and send it to your teacher or share via the learning platform you are using.
  • Watch a selection of your classmates' readings. 
  • Either write a review of the Virtual Poetry Event as a whole or choose 2 or 3 readings you especially like and focus your review just on those.

We will be posting more ideas soon. Appropriately enough, the next one will be ‘Remote English teaching: ideas for building anticipation.’

If you have further, English specific ideas, to contribute, please use the comments section to share with other teachers


Hi teachers,

Just to flag up that there are lots of free poetry-inspired resources available on the Poetry Society website:

The resources include: videos made by poets, which cover writing exercises: the Young Poets Network, full of writing challenges, advice, and opportunities for young writers aged 5-25; and Poetry Class, a bank of lesson plans for students in Key Stages 1-5, all designed by experienced poet-educators and poetry-passionate teachers.

We hope you find them useful!
By Natasha on 08th Apr 2020

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