Lessons from America: what’s working to support pupils and staff

26 March 2020

Three US school leaders and teachers shared their tips with Challenge Partners, on what’s working to support pupils and staff two weeks into closure, including ensuring consistency across teams and how they are helping learners who need more support


Supporting teachers

  • As a leader think really important to support teachers as feeling stressed same as students

  • Teachers in one district meet weekly (virtually) as year group teams, which has been helpful rather than working in own silo and making a plan

  • A subject leader has created video mini lessons to support them or find parent friendly material to promote reading practice or writing engagement at home

  • Planning together to ensure children get consistent messages and learning across district.

  • Having 1-2-1 coaching sessions with my teachers and just being a sounding board

Remote learning

  • Teachers are finding ways to streamline their classroom. Right now providing 2.5 hours of academic time a day - can be teaching online via Zoom but can also be extended learning projects, writers workshops, readers’ workshops based on the grading level and what students need, journalling.

  • Many teachers have set up Google Classroom and blogs to send out daily assignments to their students. They have had whole class Zoom meetings and also called student for 1-2-1s conversations to keep a strong connection 

  • We’re adapting what we do every day

  • Our goal is to build lifelong readers and writers and this is an opportunity to go back to basics. We’re also living through a time which is different from before and that’s the stuff that great writing is made of. So this is a time for great journaling to carry those thoughts and experiences, feelings of frustration, keep track of what we are going through and just hunker down with a good book

Coming together as a class/school

  • One of the first things we thought of we need to continue to have a sense of community as a school, so we come together for assemblies and celebrations. Can feel very disconnected at home

  • This week we are having a photo challenge where children take a photo of themselves reading to a stuffed animal in their home. Teacher will share a slideshow at end of the week. This also helps with accountability and shows I will be checking back in and shows that whole school connection which has become paramount

Collaboration is still crucial

  • We are video conferencing departmental colleagues at least twice a week, which has been hugely helpful

  • We still have staff meetings and seeing everyone's faces online really helps my morale as I’m not in this isolated bubble

  • Across the district we have consistent messages in newsletters and add information to websites on the same day across our schools so everyone gets the same message across the community

Challenges - differentiated learning

  • One of biggest challenges is differentiating learning - hard because especially at lower level as a teacher you can be responsive but when can't be there it's hard to make instructional decisions. So finding ways to connect with students via Zoom or another platform and trying best we can to replicate what going on in classroom while making adjustments

Helping parents and getting to grips with tech

  • Everyone has different levels of comfort with digital tools so important we do what can to ensure its less about do this with your parents than independent learning plus some follow through with the teacher to hold students accountable and make it still enjoyable and exciting

  • There are so many additional platforms, resources, tools and authors reading books online but throwing resources to parents isn’t helpful or a way to target needs of individual students, so we’re really thinking carefully about what can add value

It’s not a replica school

  • Same message to all schools - primary and secondary schools - across the district is that school is currently closed, we are not trying to replicate the learning that would have happened in the classroom. We are providing ongoing learning and resources so they can continue to practice things we have already taught them, and prevent that summer slide

  • At this point providing enrichment and review not teaching new content though that may change in the coming weeks


  • Our district is also offering CPD including multiple technology courses. As we transition to technology they are making sure everyone is on the same page and can use them

Lessons learned

  • Having to teach young ones how to use the tech while on a video is really challenging. I think next year I will start using this technology with 6 and 7 year olds in class so they are familiar with it

Good luck!

  • We are all doing the best we can and trying to keep the learning happening even in this time when we are not all together