Teaching languages during lockdown: lessons learned by language teachers

Bilingualism Matters, based at University of Edinburgh, recently ran a webinar that focused on teaching languages during lockdown. Teachers working in schools and for Scottish local authorities shared their experiences of adapting to new ways of presenting material to pupils. Here is a summary of the themes, techniques and thoughts colleagues shared during the session, Building on lockdown experiences in primary language learning.

How did schools go about creating lessons?

Schools used different platforms to display lessons. These included:

  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Vimeo
  • Seesaw
  • ShowMe

Power Point was used to give structure to lessons.

Sessions were delivered in short chunks using a variety of different activities to engage pupils.

What activities did teachers use?

Teachers used a variety of activities. These included:

  • Songs
  • Interactions with a Puppet
  • Recorded stories
  • Videos
  • Which One’s missing/Kim’s game
  • Phrase of the day
What strategies did teachers use?

The main teaching strategies used by staff were:

  • Repetition and revision of key vocabulary
  • Introduction of new words and phrases through actions and songs
  • Presentations using key visuals to contextualise learning – sources included Canva, Splash and Pixabay
  • Memory games
How did interactive sessions delivered through a local authority differ from uploaded lessons?

Teachers reported feeling anxiety and terror at the thought of having to be on camera. This quickly faded as lessons progressed.

Seeing children on screen enabled teachers to build a rapport with them and evaluate how they were responding to the material being presented.

The interactive sessions also enabled children to hear and practice pronunciation of the language being taught.

Parents were able to engage in the sessions, sometimes as their children’s ‘partner’ in conversations.

The sessions also enabled parents to appreciate the techniques and methods used to teach a modern foreign language.

How did interactive sessions compare to uploaded lessons?
  1. Feedback

The main difference between online sessions and uploaded lessons was feedback. Uploaded session, however well they were produced and presented, lacked any immediate feedback from children and parents viewing them.  Any gratification from producing a great lesson was delayed; some teachers reported getting feedback from children and parents when they returned to the classroom after lockdown. Teachers delivering lessons online could see, hear and interact with pupils and therefore engage with them and evaluate their progress as the lesson progressed.

  1. Pronunciation

A second difference was being able to hear children speak in the MFL and therefore check and correct pronunciation. Online lessons allowed for this to happen; set lessons relied on children listening to language and imitating what they heard on their own.

What is the main learning to come from teachers’ experiences of online lessons?
  • The first lockdown forced people to be creative and engage with technology quickly.
  • Any further lockdowns will be easier due to the experiences learned from the first.
  • Interactive online lessons give feedback to the teacher that replicates classroom interaction most closely.
  • Permissions gained from the first lockdown should still apply and therefore enable children to access online resources more quickly.
  • Teachers will have more confidence to use and engage with online teaching platforms because of their previous experiences.
  • Online learning should continue to be part of a school’s teaching repertoire.


Thank you to Bilingualism Matters for organising an interesting and engaging webinar. To contact the organisation:

Email: bilingualism-matters@ed.ac.uk

Web: http://www.bilingualism-matters.ppls.ed.ac.uk/

FB: www.facebook.com/BilingMatters/

Twitter: @BilingMatters

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