Experts believe from many years of research that as a human race we rely upon the art of reading body language in order to help us understand the people around us.

We have all been in situations no doubt where we have experienced both positive and negative body language. Whilst the majority of us are not experts, we can however, pick up upon certain vibes that generate from a wide variety of people.

Do we even know how we come across to others that are watching us? Have we ever given this any thought?

Up until now, teachers have relied upon body language to guage the learning and engagement which is taking place in their classrooms.

I know from my own experiences as a teacher that I use body language in this way. This period of virtual learning has made me realise how we have possibly taken for granted the importance of being able to read a student’s body language in our classrooms.

Whilst we are all embracing our new methods of teaching, which if I am honest has made a refreshing change, I have realised that I am missing the physical, face-to-face interaction with my students. This has highlighted for me, and perhaps some of you, the benefits of being centre stage in a traditional classroom.

I would like us to think about how this missing element in the delivery of our subjects can be reinstated through the virtual avenue.

Google Meet has been surprisingly accessible for both myself and my students. I have been using it to touch base with my students particularly KS4 and KS5 who require more detailed and in-depth conversations about their work. Hence, I have actively encouraged that we speak with cameras and mics ON. The students have been really responding to this and I genuinely feel they are more engaged when they can see the person with whom they are speaking to.

It may be unfamiliar territory for the majority of us but online teaching once tried a few times, has become more natural and enjoyable.

Clearly, for larger groups in KS3 this is not necessarily an ideal scenario so I wanted to think about how I could engage them as effectively as their older peers?

I have been doing some ‘Live’ step by step, ‘how to create’ demonstrations which seem to secure their understanding of their task and intended outcome. This lockdown period has also given me the time and necessity to complete my own examples of work in a sketchbook. I try to complete these prior to the lesson and upload when I am setting the work onto Google Classroom.

This approach provides the students with a clear intended outcome, leaving little room for misunderstandings and misconceptions. This is useful for most subjects and can help you as a teacher to get a feel for the work you are setting. By completing the tasks I have asked my students to, I can quickly guage the accessibility and difficulty of the task and adjust it accordingly to meet the needs of my classes.

Are students challenged through questioning during virtual teaching? This is something that is trickier for the KS3 groups, however, the use of online quizzes, Kahoot and Google Padlet may help with this more challenging task.

Using Google Padlet with both KS3 and KS4, has provided an online platform that can bring the class together to perform group tasks, peer assessments, shared learning and effective questioning at the beginning, middle and end of a topic.

I have been mindful, like ourselves as a school, of the wellbeing of our students. There will no doubt be students who may prefer working remotely but for many, part of the enjoyment of school is the social interaction with their peers and teachers.

One way I have been encouraging KS3 students to log into the Google Meets is at the end of the lesson, I have been introducing my special guest. My dog ‘Mabel’ has provided endless smiles and to the faces of those who are perhaps finding this learning style tough. Maybe, you have a pet that you can share with your younger groups?

If you would like to learn more about ‘Body Language’, the book by Desmond Morris- ‘People watching’ is a particularly good read.

We are all in this together! Stay safe, stay healthy and most importantly stay home.