Using Technology in the Classroom

The world that young people live in is very different from when we were kids, with technology and digital tools used for everything from checking facts to connecting with people around the world. Though many schools prohibit the use of smartphones, there are some interesting ways of integrating tech into your lesson plans.

Virtual field trips

When the budget won’t stretch to a field trip, modern digital platforms offer a virtual alternative. Google Street View is an excellent opportunity to wander around a capital city without having to leave the classroom, plus there are virtual tours and panoramic views for multiple cultural attractions, such as the Sistine Chapel, the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building.

Videos bring lessons to life

There are countless online videos that can be used to strengthen a lesson, from popular educator Eddie Woo’s maths lessons, to the delightful Art for Kids Hub, which shares daily exercises by a highly creative family.

Try video conferencing

If you contact a subject specialist, such as a children’s writer, illustrator or entertainer, but they can’t manage to visit in person, there’s a chance they could speak to your class via Skype or Google Hangouts. This way they can squeeze a session into their busy schedule much more easily and answer all of your students’ questions in real time.

Listen to podcasts

By mixing relevant podcasts with traditional teaching, you not only make the content more engaging but also blend auditory learning into the occasional lesson. There are so many podcasts out there, including those by children’s authors, experts in a range of topics, and interesting people who have tons of insight to share with your class. By listening to the podcast beforehand and making note of useful snippets, you can then pause and fast forward so that the children hear the most valuable bits.

Make all presentations visual and colourful

A far cry from overhead projectors, modern presentation tools allow animations, videos, sound effects and all kinds of other audio-visual elements to be added. This will greatly help to keep the students’ attention and can be great fun, which adds to the content being memorised.

Is your class on Twitter?

Many schools have individual year groups and classes that have their own Twitter accounts. This needs to be run by the teacher and permission does of course need to be gained from parents first, but once up and running it can be a fantastic way of finding information, joining Q&As and sharing successes. Mundella School in Sheffield is an excellent example, as every single class has its own account.

Set up a student blog

Websites such as provide multi-user blogs free of charge. Through a student blog, the children can talk about what they’ve learnt, their goals for the year, their personal achievements and much more. As always, the teacher needs to be in charge of adding content and must take into account any privacy/confidentiality factors, such as only referring to children by a first name or initial. You can have a lot of fun with this and if you’re looking for inspiration we recommend checking out the blog of Harrison Primary School in Hampshire.

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Encouraging Questions in the Classroom

A good teacher makes a difference to young lives by opening up a world of knowledge and discovery on a daily basis. Whilst structured topics, lesson plans and your individual wisdom are key to an effective learning environment, young children should also be encouraged to ask their own questions. This is easier said than done due to many pupils being shy or lacking self-assurance, so here are some tips for getting them to express their thoughts and make enquiries that could greatly strengthen the lesson for everyone.

Read stories together

Starting with a classic approach, a group reading session is a great way to tempt children to ask questions. What they ask could be anything from the meaning of a difficult word to clarification of an unexpected plot twist – whatever the case, a shared narrative gives everyone the opportunity to ask a question that will help to bring the subject matter to life.

Create a wonder wall

This has grown in popularity in recent years, as it’s an easy way for even the quietest students to contribute. Simply place a board on the wall where they can stick post-it notes presenting their questions, which can either be about all kinds of things or themed around the curriculum. You can then answer the questions any way you wish, such as a short session each morning or perhaps a dedicated slot on a Friday afternoon before home time.

Use thin and thick questions

There are many types of questions, and a simple way to explain this to children is the idea of them being thin and thick. A thin question could be one that has a yes/no response, or which is easily answered by searching on Google or picking up a reference book. Thick questions, on the other hand, can go into great detail and may sometimes have multiple answers. Some teachers encourage pupils to only ask thick questions in class, as it acts as a means of starting interesting discussions. Others prefer to only have thin questions asked, as they’re quick to answer and therefore don’t disrupt the flow of the lesson too much. If in doubt, adopt a happy medium.

Nurture a communicative classroom culture

All of the methods above are highly effective and can be combined to inspire curiosity, confidence and conversation in all students. However, at their core is the need for pupils to feel that they’re not only allowed to ask questions in class, but actively encouraged to do so. This lies in the roots of how you teach – whilst discipline and respect are crucial, a teacher should also be friendly, open, patient, energetic, fun, supportive and fair. When this is in effect, young people will feel more comfortable around you and the questions will start flowing – just make sure to be prepared for some interesting concepts, as children can come up with fascinating conundrums.

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