Monday, August 29, 2022

How to do an Online Lesson on Pass GCSE English

Our lessons are created so that you can choose when to do them – and even how many times.  You can identify them from the other activities on the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) as they are always "signposted" in the same way. Above you can see examples - LESSON points out the type of activity and then the smaller text shows the question and subject.

To be honest, if you are fairly adept at using a computer, you will probably be able to work out how to do everything you need on the site. However, like every piece of software it can take a little time to get used to.

This is a quick guide about how to access and complete the lessons on Pass GCSE English.

The lessons are a pivotal part of the course. They will guide you through each question, first with an introductory lesson and then in more depth as you progress.

Once you have logged in, there are a number of ways to access the lessons. Take a look at the screenshot of the home page below. Click on any of the images in this article to make them larger.

So, there are three ways of getting to your lessons:
  • Use the left-hand scroll bar.
  • Scroll down the centre block
  • Use the Activities panel on the right-hand scroll bar.
Here are the options in a little more detail.

Use the left-hand scroll bar.
If you locate a lesson from here, when you click on it, the centre block will show the lesson and your current status. Status means whether you have started, are in progress or have finished a lesson.

Clicking on the lesson in the centre block will start the lesson for you.

Scroll down the centre block

This takes time and isn’t the quickest way for you to do it – but some people do!

Use the Activities panel on the right-hand scroll bar.

If you read down the list of activities you will see that “Lessons” is the fifth on the list. Click on it and you will get all the available lessons in a list..

This is a very useful feature as not only does it list all the lessons, it shows which you have done, the marks you have received for them, plus you can easily see the ones that you haven’t done (in the case of this student there are four with no grade, so they haven't been done). Clicking on to any of these will get you straight into the lesson which will start off looking something like this.

We have embedded quite a few silly animations to cheer you up if you’re finding studying a bit of a chore.

Throughout the lesson you will be asked a number of questions. For example, after a short intro, you will be asked whether you want to continue.

The first lesson about every question is a guide about how to do it. You will get plenty of examples, like this below which shows the parts of a text that could be used for a response. You will also get hints about how to build your answer.

Additionally, you will be shown student responses – and then be asked why it’s good or not!

We haven't done screenshots of the entire lesson, so imagine that you have seen a "first attempt" and have indicated that you think it needs some additional work. You would then get something like this...

The lesson builds up into a complete picture of the question and what is expected of you in the exam. Once you have finished with the lessons you can progress onto the quizzes. New lessons, which continue the learning process, will be added on a regular basis. Every time a new lesson appears on the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) you will receive an email telling you of its availability.

More about quizzes here.

Why We Chose Moodle for the "Pass GCSE English" Course

When we decided to create the Pass GCSE English course, we knew that we would need to find a platform on which it could evolve. Our idea was to create a platform that was driven by the learner, who could choose what to do and when to do it as often as possible. So, we had to find one where we could create a course that learners could join at any point in the year - you can see the result above (click the image to zoom in).

It didn’t take us long to find the right one. Moodle is a platform for online learning. It enables the creation of online courses and fortunately, we had some experience with it in our careers as English teachers. Moodle is a global platform but in the UK it is widely used by universities. The costs to course creators (that’s us!) vary according to the number of students doing a course, so we could start with a fairly inexpensive option in line with our expected startup numbers of learners. Moodle courses can contain many activities, including interactive lessons where students progress at their own pace. There are questions embedded throughout the lessons (automatically marked with instant feedback) to ensure that learners are on the right track.

We already have lessons online for most of the questions in the GCSE English exam – the plan is to have them all up and running by December 2022.

Quizzes are also a big feature of Moodle sites with a variety of different question types – it isn’t just multiple choice by any means. Once a student completes a quiz, it is automatically marked by the system. These can take a long time to set up but once the activities are online, it means that they can be attempted as many times as students wish.

Assignments can also be created so learners can submit work to be marked by us. Feedback can be sent back to the students, detailing how to make their work even better. This is a feature that you probably won’t find elsewhere online unless you employ a personal tutor (which can get very expensive).

There is also a reward system – badges. Course creators can design their own badges and award them when students complete particular activities. Everyone likes to be rewarded, and this is a fun way to do it!

All of the assignments are ready on the site to be attempted by learners. We focused on getting these up as we think this is where a lot of the interest among students will be. There are other activities on the course. We curate the best contemporary fiction and non-fiction texts we find. This means that students don’t have to, for example, search for ages for a great short story to read. We link to websites which contain tips about the exam questions. Then there are the Kahoot challenges (timed low-stakes online quizzes – catnip for learners!) that we make available on a weekly basis.

These are just the core features of Moodle, but the ones that we are currently using the most.

Hopefully this will have answered any questions you have about the software platform we use. Moodle is proving both powerful and versatile – we hope you agree when you sign up for the course.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Creating a Diverse Curriculum for GCSE English – Core Texts

If you ask any English teacher, they will probably say that yes, they do want to expose their learners to as diverse a selection of writers as possible. They may well probably add that it’s easier said than done. Here are some of my thoughts on the process.

One of the things that we are striving to do here at Pass GCSE English (and in my day job as an English teacher) is to expose learners to a diverse array of voices – and we like to think we are succeeding. It might be considered as “decolonizing the curriculum” but this post is more about the process than the politics (my thoughts on that will be in a forthcoming post). 

We decided early on that in order to avoid any potential copyright issues we would restrict ourselves to writers whose work is already in the public domain. Living writers tend not to do that (although we have found some) and so when considering texts to include it was and is important to first consider the year in which the writer slipped off their mortal coil. In the UK, work goes into the public domain 70 years after the death of the author. So, as it’s 2022, the work of writers who died before 1952 is “good to go”. We felt that this was important to avoid potential legal issues but also to prove a point or two. First, that English teachers don't have to make any of those furtive visits to the photocopier and hurriedly reproduce someone else's work, eyes down and with that transparently guilty look on their faces; secondly, that "old" texts can be just as exciting and interesting - and relevant - as something written by a living author.