Category Archives: COVID19

Lockdown 4.0 Remote Learning is Back!

After 3 months of face to face teaching and relative freedom, with masks only needing to be worn in crowded spaces, on public transport and when it is impossible to distance socially, we have community transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria once more. A 7 day circuit breaker lockdown was announced on Thursday of last week. Teachers were given a student free day on Friday to prepare for remote learning, and online classes commenced yesterday. Vulnerable students and children of essential workers can attend school. Unfortunately, our numbers of cases are rising, COVID has found its way into aged care homes, and the number of exposure sites is extremely high. Personally, I feel our lockdown will be longer.

Therfore, we are all back to watching the daily Premier’s briefing, media updates and waiting to see what happens next.

Yesterday, was hard. It was hard to get back into online teaching, MS Teams and its fantastic Live Meetings had changed a little but today, the second day is a little easier. Our primary students from foundation to year 4 only have school in the morning. The rest continue with their normal timetable as much as possible but teachers are cautioned not to overload students with work, nor expect them to be on face to face time for the whole day. My VCE classes continue as usual but I try to play music as they enter the virtual room to give time to relax and settle in.

What my ICT (computer classes) looked like yesterday.

On entry, played the song “I don’t like Mondays” by the Boomtown Rats. Students discussed whether they agreed with this statement.

  1. We looked at the news for today including COVID-19 numbers, special days acknowledged for May 20th. Macaroon Day was of high interest and I was intrigued to note that most students had not heard of them, nor tried them. In Australia, it is also Reconciliation Week and our last day of autumn.
  2. Students shared how they were feeling in the chat by using an emoji (inserting a gif from MS Teams)
  3. Students found a picture of the last food that they ate and shared it in the chat.
  4. I had emailed each student with a few questions about eg what they did on the weekend and a challenge. They had to write their first and last name all as one word and then put each letter in alphabetical order. They had to reply back to me using email.
  5. Next class I will collate all the jumbled names in a table in MS Word. Students will then unjumble the names.

This all seem to work well, students were interactive. Some chose to keep their webcams on, others remained icognito. The majority of students from each class were in attendance.

Wheel of Names – a simple, favourite tool in 2020

One of my most used online tools over both remote learning and face to face learning this year was the Wheel of Names This might seem strange but the students really engaged with it and I shall explain further on.

It is free, but advertisements do appear but we just ignored them. It starts with a blank wheel. As I had previously saved my class lists for each level, I copied and pasted the list into the “Enter names here”.

If any students were absent for that class, they were deleted. The wheel was clicked, spun around and a winning name would appear together with cheers and party balloons. The named student then had to answer the question or provide spoken input on a topic. Even the shyest of students would interact and it made sure that students were actively partcipating in remote learning and had not muted their webcamera and microphone and not being distracted with other activities or disappeared.

I liked this particular tool as it was so easy to use, simple to add the names of students, would remove the name of the student when they had been selected, remember the names of students who had not interacted from one class to another. It had bells and whistles ie cheers, balloons, the students really had fun using it and it helped me ensure that all were active in the remote learning class. Its big disadvantage was the appearance of advertisements. It has a translate option. An alternative option is the Random Name Picker – which is a bit slower to use and not as visually engaging.

What tools have used most in remote learning?

Graduation Event with a COVID-19 difference

Our school is a small rural prep to year 12 school in Australia. Once students reach year 12, (their final year of school), class numbers tend to be small. Once their VCE exams are finished, students together with their families and all school staff are invited to attend a graduation dinner in our local community hall. The dinner is catered for by the local hall committee. The two course meal comprises a mix of roast meats, tasty hot vegetables, salads, french bread and wonderful array of home cooked desserts including cheesecakes, pavlovas, brandy snaps and fruit salad.

It is always a highlight of the school year. Photo slideshows and memorabilia are shared with presentations made to all graduating students. One year, a possum found its way into the hall and stole the show, until it was finally directed out the door.

This year, however, was quite different. Get togethers of this nature were prevented under DET COVID-19 rules. The rules were changed a week before the graduation night would have taken place to allow staff and students to do something together but families were not allowed. Schools were encouraged to live stream them in via webconferencing. Our leadersthip team thought this was unfair especially as families supported, nurtured and cared for the students to a higher degree than normal due to the pandemic.

Instead, families were encouraged to cook their favourite special dinner with their student and enjoy it with school staff and the other families involved, using MS Teams. They were asked o dress up as they normally would have. Placemats were still produced featuring photos of our students. These were delivered to individual homes along with a parcel of items (which was not to be opened until the event). We were all keen to wish our students the best even if we could not share the same physical space.

It was so terribly disappointing to receive our invitations and realise this was how the event was to be. However, it turned out to be a very special event despite the virtuality of it. I came up to school to help our Assistant Principal who was co-ordinating the event, to help ensure that MS Teams worked well. A MS Presentation of photos of each student and accompanying music was the first item on the agenda. This was prepared by two o the year 12 students. The Team’s live meeting started at 6:55pm, with the formal welcome commencing at 7pm. Students introduced their family members and the webcameras were on so we could see them. There was surprise video message from a past popular science teacher who would have loved to attend in person and then, virtually. However our Education Dept has locked our Teams into just being able to meet with people within our own Victorian Education Dept.

7:15pm The main course was served up and enjoyed at home – web cameras off, microphones muted and people could temporarily leave the meeting if they wanted to. The recording was stopped and started up 34 mins later, once the main course was completed.

7:45pm A brief reflection on 2020 VCE and VCAL, School Captain speeches, Student Awards and presentations from the Principal and School Council President with some final words from our Assistant Principal.

8:15pm Desserts at home. Live meeting finished.

Despite the fact that it was virtual, there was a lot more input from the family members. We heard parents and guardians speak, some sharing how proud they were of their students. One family member gave the student their box. Inside it was their graduation certificate, a keyring (with their name on), chocolates and other items signifying some meaning for either COVID-19 or their time at school. As each student’s name was announced, we watched a family member give their certificate to their student.

Staff members also interacted and added some humour to the occasion. A virtual photo of the graduating students was taken in Teams. Did your school have a graduation? If so, what did it look like?

The day after our virtual dinner, our government announced that graduation ceremonies could take place with teachers, students and families (within COVID guidelines), but for us, it was too late.

Making students comfortable entering the virtual classroom

To allow time for all students to enter the classroom, relax and catch their breath after their previous class, it helped to play music as the class started. This was easy to do in MS Teams, by creating a Meeting,>sharing the screen>include computer sound. (See below)

Sometimes, I used songs suggested from Facebook groups, then a song that may have been applicable to a World recognized day. It could have been some of the student favourite song suggestions and sometimes I looked for fun themes such as songs that signified the actual day of the week as in the following. Note that some are suitable for secondary students and not primary.

Monday: Monday Monday The Mamas and the Papas

Tuesday: – Ruby Tuesday The Rolling Stones

Wednesday: Wednesday Song for Children

Thursday: Thursday by Jim Croce

Friday on my Mind by the Easybeats

Did you use music for classroom entry? How did you choose the songs? What was the reaction of the students?


Remembrance Day 2020

“On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we will remember them”.

Each year in Australia, we commemorate the end of World War I with a special service at the various Shrines of Remembrance. A minute’s silence is held throughout the country at 11am on this date. However, it was different this year due to COVID-19. Crowds could not gather in Victoria. However, COVID-19 did not deter us from remembering, nor did the thunderstorms and heavy rain prevent our school from holding a special assembly.

Originally, a small group of students and our Assistant Principal were to go the Special Reflections space in Hawkesdale to hold the service where we would normally all be gathered. Mr Ralph was going to use his mobile phone to hotspot a MS Teams meeting back to school so that we could all participate. However, the thunderstorm activity and heavy rains prevented this. Instead, the students who were to speak and Mr Ralph met in the front foyer of the school. Individual classrooms logged into MS Teams and listened to the speeches, poems, Last Post and Reveille. The minute silence was held and the National Anthem sung from across the school.

The school flag was lowered accordingly and a school wreath set at the flag pole. (These students did get wet from the rain!)

It was still a special event that could be participated in, in a different way.

A roadmap back to school

In regional Victoria, our COVID-19 statistics have improved greatly. As of today, October 4th, we have one new active case and a total of 3 active cases compared with Melbourne which has 12 new cases today. In order to return to school, regional Victoria had to enter Step three of the steps back to COVID normal.

Tomorrow, we commence term 4 after a 2 week Spring break. All primary school children in regional Victoria will return to school after participating in remote learning over the last 6 months. However, only VCE and VCAL (year 12 students) can return to secondary schools. On Wednesday, VCE students will complete the GAT- the General Achievement Test which should have been sat back in early June. As we are a prep to year 12 school, primary students cannot return to school until Thursday 8th June, in order to ensure that year 12 students are not prevented from sitting the GAT. VCE formal exams will commence 5 weeks into Term 4. These have been delayed due to the impact of remote learning on their studies.

All secondary students from years 7 to 12 will return for face to face classes on Monday 12th October. However, in Melbourne, VCE and VCAL students will follow the same [pattern, whilst foundation to year 2 and years 10-12 students will return to school from October 12th. Years 3 to 9 will continue with remote learning in Melbourne.

It will be interesting to see how students react upon return to school and how we, as teachers cope. Temperature checks will take place for each staff member and student and all students above the age of 12 will need to wear masks. The rules for masks have now changed. No longer are face shields, scarves and bandanas able to be worn. Masks must be at least 2 layered and must cover the mouth and nose. Face shields can be worn, but masks must be worn underneath.

We are the only state in Australia required to wear face masks and as it isnt part of culture, many people are finding this a difficult request, especially in the country areas where COVID numbers are non-existent or extremely low. Now that warmer weather is on its way, people are wondering how they will cope in our extreme heat.

Virtual Ice Breakers – Mystery Sounds

One of the posts on this padlet suggested doing a Mystery Sound game as a virtual ice breaker with remote classes.  As this week is our last week of term 3, just prior to a 2 week spring break, I wanted to do something fun with the students. Mystery sounds sounded good.

Below are the sounds that I chose to play to the students. They will put their guesses in the MS Teams chat. I will share the screen, choosing the share sound option. However, after having chosen the sounds, I realised that  it owuld not work as screen sharing also displayed the name of the sound. Instead, I used a premade youtube clip. (See below). Students enjoyed the activity. It took approximately 40 mins to complete.

The sounds that I chose are below:

Youtube Mystery Sounds

  1. Bubbles
  2. A sweeping broom
  3. Opening a bottle
  4. Wind
  5. Airplane
  6. Fly spray
  7. Electric fan
  8. Open can
  9. Lawn mower
  10. Microwave
  11. Keys
  12. Whistling keys
  13. Vaccum cleaner
  14. Breaking dishes
  15. Cash register
  16. Computer keyboard
  17. Chainsaw
  18. Scratched record
  19. Fire drill sound
  20. Fire truck

Wellness Wednesday

It has been 6 long weeks of remote learning. In our first lockdown, students missed school for over 10 weeks (but this included a two week autumn break). In regional Victoria, we returned to school at the end of term 2 but three weeks into term 3, we were locked down again and returned to remote learning. There are many positives that have come out of online learning but it is hard work and we all miss the face to face interactions (even if we are in masks)!

To encourage our students and staff to have a day away from their screens, we were all given the oppoturnity to enjoy a Wellness Wednesday. We were encouraged to participate in activities that we like to do to help us destress. A MS Team was created, with channels for staff and each year level to share photos, videos, writing etc of how they enjoyed filling in the day.

It was a beautiful spring day, with the temperatures reaching 22 degrees. It was forecast to be cloudy, but the sun shone in the afternoon. I managed to get a lot done. First on my list was a haircut as I hadnt had one for nearly 6 months and that was just prior to the first lock down. Many hairdressers have been closed due to COVID-19 but I managed to find one that could cut my hair. We have to wear masks everywhere now, so it was interesting taking part in muffled conversations and watching the hairdresser avoid cutting my elastic ties on the mask!

During the day, I picked and bunched flowers, planted seedlings and weeded the vegetable garden. Upon leaving Warrnambool, where I got my haircut, I stopped at our beautiful Killarney beach to go for a brief walk. The ocean was a beautiful blue and waves sported white caps. Although there were a few cars in the park, there were no signs of the people (who must have been out walking).

Students are now sharing what they did – from gardening, climbing trees, computer games, drawing, painting, playing sport (solo) etc. It was such a successful day and a wonderful day.

Updated school routine for COVID19

Schools in Victoria are back to remote learning. Regional areas are back into their fifth week for the second round of remote learning and Melbourne schools are into their eighth week. Fortunately, our COVID19 cases are starting to decline from the high of 700 reported a day several weeks ago and now down to 70 new cases today. Our deaths were also down today so there is hope that we may come out of our lockdown – regional Victorians only have four reasons to leave home – essential shopping, care, education/work and medical reasons. Melbourne citizens though are really locked down. Only one person from a household can go shopping to supermarkets etc, there is a curfew from 8pm to 6am, they can only exercise for one hour per day and cannot travel further than 5kms from home. They must work from home unless special permits are granted. Cafes and restaurants are open for take aways only. The Australian army has now been called in to help patrol the curfew and ensure that restrictions are adhered to.

We are the only state with severe restrictions as the other Australian states have contained the virus successfully and their numbers are nil or low. All states have closed their borders to Victorians and we are currently looked down upon by our fellow Australians. It is sad, as Melbourne has regularly won the title of the World’s Most Liveable City but it certainly is not now.

Students of essential workers and vulnerable students may attend school but must fill in a weekly form to gain permission from the Principal. A skeleton staff remains at school to care for these students. Last week we were granted special permission to bring our VCE students back to school to complete SACs (assessment tasks) and to conduct practical science experiments. I went back to school each day for the week and spent time with my small VCE classes and supervised their SACs. However, there have been changes to our routines. All people who come to school must now be temperature checked and must wear a mask. Students and staff line up to have their temperature checked. This will take a considerable amount of time when we all return.

Here is the altered routine:-

  • Students sanitise hands before catching the bus (the essential workers children and those from vulnerable families)
  • All students from 12 years up wear masks
  • The bus driver has three clear seats between him and passengers.
  • Students sanitise their hands when getting off the bus.
  • They enter the school office and get their temperatures checked. These are recorded by office staff.
  • Only staff and students are allowed on school grounds. Any other people on the grounds must have express permission.
  • Our receptionist and librarian now have protective plastic guards between them and people.
  • Students are socially distanced where possible. It is compulsory for staff to socially distance.
  • Teachers do not have to wear masks in the classroom when teaching but they must be worn at all other times. The exception being when eating and drinking

I laughed when the students told me that they take as long as they can to eat so they dont have to wear their masks. Today is the first day of spring, so we are looking forward to warmer days and increased outdoor living, where it is thought that the virus cannot be so infectious.

On Sunday, our premier will announce our roadmap out of our current lockdowns. It will be gradual easements and there will be two roadmaps – one for Melbourne and one for regional areas (where the virus is not so prevalent).

Icebreakers used this week for Remote Learning

It is always good to make the students feel comfortable before they begin formal classwork with virtual icebreakers. I find this important even for my senior students. Here are some quick easy starts to the lessons that I tried this week:-

  • Playedmusic as students enter the virtual classroom Some ideas suggested by my Business Management PLN include Shannon Noll Shine and Bruce Springsteen Born to Run (suggested as being COVID applicable!) or give students the chance to suggest which songs could be played. We use MS Teams and it works well in there. Make sure that you when you share your screen you check the box to include system audio
  • Using the chat, get the students to tell you how they are feeling in an emoji, or what is the weather like where you are in an emoji.
    weather in an emoji
  • In the chat, upload an image showing the colour of the top that you are wearing (do not use text)
    what colour top are you wearing

Interactive activities, this week included:-

Show n Tell with year 7

Zara showed us the chickens that she hatched, shared their names and discussed how she looked after them. She also showed us the masks that she has been sewing.

Would You Rather with years 8-10?

We played the game of Would You Rather……? I shared some questions eg Would you rather swim in a pool of nutella or a pool of honey. Students replied in the chat, Then selected students would use audio to tell us why they chose their option.

They then had to think of three Would You Rather? questions, add them to a MS Form and embed the result as a post on their blogs. See my instructions.

I shall add links on my blog to each of their posts for all students in the class to answer. They will then look at the results and graphs that Forms shows in responses. This activity was highly engaging to the students and they were all keen to make their surveys in MS Forms.