Discover tips for successful cross-school blended events and find out how the media literacy News Project culminated in an online challenge day for 10 schools, sixteen classes and nearly 480 year 5 children.
Earlier in the term we shared our plans for taking our media literacy News Project online this year, culminating in a challenge day where schools would put forward teams to compete and collaborate so that pupils can share the range of skills and knowledge they have acquired.
Over the past few weeks, children from schools across London have been learning about the news, where it comes from and how to be critical consumers and producers of it in its many forms and sources. This week they had their chance to show what they’d learnt in a fun day full of quizzes, games and the opportunity to make a big editorial decision for First News newspaper.
Sixteen classes of year 5 children competed and collaborated online, firstly in a brilliant Kahoot! quiz of topical questions from recent weeks in eight perfectly timed and well-pitched rounds, set by our partner at First News, head of education Nicolette Smallshaw.
Next up was News Views with two parts: firstly, teachers were provided with a set of statements drawn from recent news reports by journalists. In class, the children had to scrutinise them to see if they were expressing a fact or an opinion, offering some quite subtle word and sentence level analysis in evidence. Following that, two compelling dilemmas were up for discussion, with pros and cons, reasoned opinions and a vote called for at the end of the activity. It was all collected on a couple of Padlets.
Finally, all the children became part of the First News editorial team! Introduced with a video from editor-in-chief and founder of First News, Nicky Cox, they were given a selection of animal news stories to consider. With only space for three to feature on the Animal News page, together the children had to decide which ones should be written up in Issue 754. A child from every class made the case for a story they thought should be included and the level of conversation was impressively reasoned and compelling. Real engagement from the class audience was visible in the reactions on Google Meet. Here’s how the voting looked halfway through:
You’ll have to check out the newspaper to find out which ones made the cut!
It was a fantastic event with incredible feedback from the children and teachers – ‘the children are saying this is the best day ever’, ‘thank you for such a super day’, ‘my class…went home buzzing’ – and we are delighted to have had such a positive impact on so many children, which was only possible because of the move to an online event blended across the school day.
It follows on from last week’s Co-Make pan-European simultaneous activity across schools with a younger age range, and shows that online, blended learning events can really work – with a lot of preparation!
We Are Readers: I was blown away by 5S's knowledge, collaboration, patience and perseverance in the news quiz today! So proud!@FairlawnPrimary @FirstNews_Teach @LdnCLC #TheNewsProject #Literacy #Reading #teamwork #proud pic.twitter.com/YduzDmcSzz— 5S Ms Scotchbrook (@MsScotchbrook) November 18, 2020
Tips for cross-school blended learning events
Blended learning events like this one take effort but we’re building up a body of knowledge and expertise about how to make them really effective and engaging. Our key reflections from this event would be applicable to others looking to run a blended learning activity with multiple schools:
- We had a practical conundrum. Every school looking to participate had significantly different arrangements regarding break time, lunch time and start and finish of the school day, to incorporate all the different requirements across a range of schools sites. Therefore the options for live synchronous activity were immediately reduced to a handful of 30 minute windows. But this turned out to be to our advantage as we planned shorter bursts of activity (the quiz was split into two sessions), which were more engaging.
- Having the chat function available in the video meeting was really helpful for communication between our team and the schools.
- This event proved to be a perfect example of blended learning with children linking to other classes and London CLC online, using digital tools such as Padlet and Mentimeter and google forms to work sometimes synchronously but often asynchronously to suit the classroom timetable. This also allowed the children proper breaks from the screen as well as time working in class in pairs on paper-based activities.
- The combination of the experts online and the high-quality teaching provision in the classroom was powerful. The class teachers played a much greater role this year, which enhanced the feelings of collaboration. As well as committing to regular weekly activities using the First News iHub and children’s newspaper content, they also had to manage activities on the day off camera.
- Flexibility is crucial. We responded to the mood and enthusiasm and on the fly reduced the time allocated to the certificate award ceremony in favour of allowing a spokesperson from each team to feed back to the collective audience of 16 classes.
10 schools, 16 classes, nearly 480 children took part in #TheNewsProject today w/ @First_News & @LdnCLC— Sarah Horrocks (@s_horrox) November 18, 2020
Inspiring reasoned opinions & discussions as children worked together in their classes & communicated across schools in the digital space. True #blendedlearning #newsliteracy pic.twitter.com/PgxGgR8RqO
We’ll be adapting this successful model to our project offerings from January.
We’ll be offering a similar live linked classroom format project to run during Safer Internet Day, so that whole year groups can participate. You can find out more about this at our computing conference on Thursday 26 November or email us at email@example.com to find out more
If your school wasn’t able to participate in this project, but you’d like to know more about the next opportunity to participate in the News Project, please contact James firstname.lastname@example.org
Further reading on the News Project
Find out all about last year’s activities and challenge day: The News Project: seeing critical news literacy in action