Guidance on the COVID aware languages classroom







This archived page contains advice, thoughts and recommendations for the context in which we found ourselves in 2020-21, when schools across the UK were dealing with lockdowns, remote and hybrid teaching etc.

The resources here are divided into three sections:

  • Statutory, official requirements and advice which tend to cover whole school issues
  • Considerations which Language teachers may wish to take into account in relation to their own teaching and learning
  • Items received from members : Frequently Asked Questions and possible responses, Case Studies : ‘How we are coping’

NB There is a separate webpage around the issue of Speaking and Endorsement, in addition to what you see here.

The links, advice and resources formerly listed on the page Home Learning Help are still available here.

Statutory, official requirements and advice which tend to cover whole school issues

These documents are archived in reverse calendar order, most recent first.
Guidance on the issue of GCSE Speaking / Endorsement is available separately here.

OFQUAL publications - March 2021

Information for heads of centre, heads of department and teachers on the submission of teacher assessed grades: summer 2021
Information for centres about making objective judgements

OFQUAL publications - March 2021

Previous advice
OFQUAL publications - February 2021

How qualifications will be awarded in 2021 - OFQUAL published an article  on 25 February 2021 of which this document contains the main points for Language teachers.

Schools Operational guidance from 8 March was published by DfE on 22 February 2021

This is a lengthy document, from which we have extracted these key points.

The full document is here.

From the teaching blog
'After a full half-term of teaching remotely, here’s what’s working for us'

Previous reports on this issue are archived in this file.

Considerations which Language teachers may wish to take into account

'DfE documentation and press articles referred to specific risks relating to singing . e.g. :

Music : Schools should note that there may be an additional risk of infection in environments where you or others are singing, chanting, playing wind or brass instruments or shouting. This applies even if individuals are at a distance.
This may well be relevant also to Language lessons (especially in Primary where singing is a core activity). The following article take a different angle:

Further research on singing and its potential risk

Care with classroom equipment :  

The requirements for regular cleaning of sports equipment, etc. may impact on things Language teachers use regularly for teaching and learning also:

  • Whiteboards – pupils may need to have their own ?
  • Laminated cards / documents
  • Soft toys or puppets for story-telling or roleplay
  • Realia
  • Dice, mini-flashcards, etc.
  • Shared laptops, textbooks, worksheets

Please click here for further information.

Blended learning, or home learning has been a feature of the Lockdown period, but has issues of equity for pupils who do not have online access at equipment at home . Colleagues may wish/need to have plans of how to maintain learning for pupils in this situation (See FAQs) .

The article below highlights some issues.

Stephen Heppell: Home learning : equity

The obvious equity problem from having some children at home with no technology, no bandwidth and no support is tough enough, but is only a part of the problem. In 2020 it is not unusual to have a parent's "work" computer around, but these are often locked down ("no downloading") and with a parent often working from home too, there is competition for use of even that restricted computer, and for bandwidth ("will you stop streaming, I'm trying to Zoom for work"). Experience of home learning varies. All homes are unique.

Tasks need be be pre-announced, to have a clear and finite time for completion, to have a warning of the approaching completion deadline and to have an endpoint which values everyone's contributions. As you move away from this model you will lose engagement and participation. Clearly also the tasks need to be "bigger" - more project based application than disaggregated knowledge collection. Tasks can overlap a little too: you might be pre-announcing an activity as a previous one is drawing to a close. The pre-announcements need to contain little "hooks" to catch everyone's attention. These work best as visual material, usually.

Online learning in lockdown can be a lonely place. There are myriad reasons for setting tasks and activities often in pairs or maybe threes. Having other members in your little group keeps everyone on task ("see you tomorrow; let's see how far we've got by then..."). A collaborative task has an immediate sense of audience, but most importantly perhaps it considerably reduces the load on the teacher as the children mentor and partner each other along. And the children will signal problems ("nobody has heard from him in 5 days...") with their peers.

Children born in this millennium will need the skills of working with others around the world. Home learning is a wonderful opportunity to help build that capability. If you have contacts of colleagues in other schools in other countries, then arranging shared activities with them will help build these skills. Perhaps most important is for your learners to understand the difference between working with others sharing your line of longitude and sharing with others, as you sleep, on your line of latitude.

Learning needs spaces for (1) collaboration, (2) for individual endeavour and (3) for celebration / exhibition / audience. Try to think how those three map onto your online learning experience. The collaboration in this instance is largely online, or with siblings. Often it is far too one-way and then individual - a lot of Me but not much See and We. Online galleries of work are appealing, but you can think of many other good solutions, no doubt.

When we surveyed thousands of people in the 1990s to ask about their fondest remembered "best learning experiences" they always reported that there was an audience for their work. This is an area where online learning has huge advantages. Not many see your work on a classroom wall; the whole world can see your work in a gallery online. In setting and managing home learning tasks, paying attention to the widest possible audience is time well spent that will be repaid in further engagement. If you don't have a gallery or some online celebration of the children's work, you are missing a really important element. TV show's like Blue Peter have known that for decades.

Mixed Age
For all sorts of reasons, many school organise their children in same age groupings, rather than same stage groupings. With the exception of twins, triplets etc and "merged families" few children live with others the same age. In our 30 years of online learning work it has been clear that mixed age tasks on line are effective. The littlest ones want to adopt the role model of the oldest and the oldest respond well to the responsibility of leadership.

Members helping Members - Frequently Asked Questions and how we are coping

ALL invited members to share advice for others to read via  on themes such as: 

How is your school providing language learning next year?   

How will we need to adapt our practice? 

What positive outcomes can we foresee for the Autumn term? 

Frequently Asked Questions

All answers and thoughts welcome 
  • Use of target language in the classroom if speaking is to be kept to a minimum 
  • How to maximise speaking opportunities in our Y11 and Y13 classes as speaking exams are not going to take place 
  • How to teach in a blended learning environment where individual children or parts of classes are being taught online whilst the rest of the class is being taught in school 
  • How to facilitate access to the lesson for students who might be working from home – with inline access and especially without inline access 
  • Creating flexible schemes of work to cater for sudden lockdowns (with online teaching or work being sent home) 
  • What we would keep from teaching online in lockdown (because it actually enhances our classroom practice) 
  • What we would prefer not to keep and why (what can we only achieve through classroom teaching and how should we prioritise this when we have our students back in class) 
  • What apps and websites we would like students to have access to on their devices (for those who have devices) 
  • What equipment we would like students to have for MFL lessons
  • What support we would like to provide for students and why (KOs etc.) 

How we are coping

ALL members are always great supporters of each other, and we invite you to send to ALL, for wider sharing, any suggestions for:

  • Strategies for maintaining as much ‘normality’ as possible, while avoiding risk
  • Plans that fit your context
  • Messages to learners
  • Messages to families

Please write to  

"My school taught online throughout lockdown and we have been working to a normal timetable, but I know other colleagues who have been sending through work each day, others have been working on a rota basis (one week on, one week off), even some colleagues have been teaching in another school in their partnership." 
"We've decided to do "silent repetition" (mouthing/whispering words rather than our usual full repertoire of repetition techniques), we're cutting down on the amount of pair work and setting limited speaking activities where pupils can respond to each other but stay facing forward rather than turning towards their partner whilst doing this, we're putting our repetition onto Google Classroom so this can be used as a Home Practice activity and pupils can practice individually. We will check pronunciation by asking individual pupils to repeat words and do activities as Teacher - Individual Pupil, rather than in Pairs.  Some colleagues from other schools have simply said it's "chalk and talk" with nothing else."

Autumn Questionnaire

In the ALL Autumn Questionnaire we asked members to tell us

What is different?

What plans do you have in place for teaching in the classroom / remotely?

Have you changed your schemes of work / learning to meet these new challenges?

Which new resources have you created?

Are you still able to offer educational visits and / or cultural activities?

Have you changed the emphasis of your lessons with any age-group?

How do you cover all of the language skills, and provide sufficient individual practice?

Are you monitoring / recording progress differently?

Are you communicating differently with pupils / students / families / colleagues?


We thank all the contributors (from various contexts) and post a few selected responses here as prompts for thinking: 


What is different?

I must stay at the front of the class, as I teach French across two phases (Year 3/4 and Year 5/6). Singing is not allowed; we mouth the words. Games involving passing items from child to child are not allowed.

We cannot do much group work or sharing material due to covid

Pupils are in the same classroom with teacher at a distance throughout the lesson so there is less interaction with pupils and being able to check work as they go along. The department has thought of a list of activities that are covid-friendly and some that are not so. Photocopying is reduced and we are not using textbooks as we do not have enough to meet infection control measures.

Most activities can continue. No movement, reduced choral repetition, fewer interactive games, no surveys or speaking practice except in pairs.

Not teaching in language rooms, keeping distance because teachers move between bubbles, no use of realia or singing.

No more specialist classrooms or ready access to stock rooms and resource base, we have to carry our resources around with us (requiring a lot of organisation, forward planning and muscle); no breaks - we now run between classrooms from one end of the building, between floors, 10 minutes to get there, then having to set up and disinfect the room, whilst students get restless outside (they only had a few steps to go to get to the next classroom)


What plans do you have in place for teaching in the classroom / remotely?

Many teachers referred to resources and suggestions in the ‘Home Learning Help’ pages.

Links to cultural activities which children can access.

In languages, we decided to go paperless. We use the Google technology and lots of online tools.

We use Google classroom; we are now trying to get our heads around teaching face-to-face and remotely at the same time ! (as we now have many students self-isolating while most of the class is in school).

If a pupil is absent all lessons are then recorded and Google meet is used, so hybrid learning and teaching since August. If a second lockdown happens then will revert to online face to face as before.



Have you changed your schemes of work / learning to meet these new challenges?

Not really. I am adapting activities as I go along. For example, we used virtual finger puppets in Year 3 (just making a 'mouth' open and close with our fingers).

Yes, I do apply different group settings and games where children do not need to move.

KS4 - yes, adapting to fill gaps in grammar & topic we couldn't cover during lockdown. Yr 8&9 at the moment no, ploughing on, and will adapt when we find gaps.

Yes. We have reduced content (i.e. vocabulary)

Yes, need must.  Two hours lectures/seminars can only realistically be for 40 minutes with breakout rooms.



Which new resources have you created?

I have created some virtual classrooms on Google Slides and adapted resources made by others (LIPS members).

Purchased Wordwall

Isolation versions of lessons & not creating one google slide for an entire half-term for isolation - covering/shadowing the normal lessons.

Using existing resources but recording audio over the top of presentations.

Knowledge Organisers for each unit of work, which we give to students at the start of the unit (so they have a reference point in case of absence).

A new way allow for collaboration. Making use of Padlet postings so that students can see what their fellow students are thinking etc.

Google classrooms, online exercise books. All pupils must now bring a device/laptop to school. Digital work banks.



Are you still able to offer educational visits and / or cultural activities?

Reassuringly not all respondents said No .


Have you changed the emphasis of your lessons with any age-group?

GCSE - focus more on writing which is a usual weakness and is now more important than ever. It was the skill we couldn't practise much in lockdown to avoid use of online translators

Yr11 - big focus on grammar & writing skills.

Yes; we do more oral work whilst we have them in class face-to-face (in readiness for further spells of shutdown / quarantine).

More independent research.


How do you cover all of the language skills, and provide sufficient individual practice?

Try to scaffold the teaching by including the 4 skill while developing the desired Learning objective. Start with pictures of animals, pronunciation, repetition, writing, speaking.

Our lessons are carefully planned to cover all 4 skills. Unsure of how to access individual speaking though. Considering online recordings for homework.

Attempting to develop students' independent skills with speaking sending recordings of work to teacher. Listening using textivate,  transcription, students checking own work and self-correcting. Reading used as a model for writing.

Most skills can be practised but using less interactive strategies.

By creating good digital resources. We are lucky to have assistants to help with speaking.

Reading / writing mostly gets done at home now; we need the face-to-face lessons for interaction

Speaking skills are not being covered as well as before. Also harder to offer one on one support in class as movement restricted.

Challenging, but can only focus on small-scale and one skill at a time.



Are you monitoring / recording progress differently?

I'm including  a mini-assessment activity each term ... teachers in class completing a class monitoring sheet.

Yes, through Google and

We still intend to go ahead with our usual unit assessments.

Less peer marking and less paper records.

Use of Teams' Rubrics to give feedback to students.


Are you communicating differently with pupils / students / families / colleagues?

I find it frustrating not being able to go around the class offering individual guidance and feedback to the children during the lesson.

Students seem to email me more, as they  got used to doing this during lockdown.

More direct communication, video calls, phone calls to tutor.

Yes, as there are no visitors allowed in school there are no face to face Meetings. Generally, the usual communication between members of the school community is somewhat restricted due to the wearing of masks and the fear of catching Coronavirus.

Yes, we record our online lessons and make them available online. Face-to-face parents evenings have been cancelled for the time being.

Yes, most definitely. Expectation is more tailored to suit what we know is possible within the circumstances.

Yes. Monthly virtual coffee mornings with parents. No external visitors to school including parents. Colleagues communicate via digital as well.


Brief case study:

Teaching a 7 day module online. Spending more time getting to know the students as screen presence is far from ideal. Dealing with failing technology such as disconnection. Unable to discuss in depth. Students finding it challenging to express ideas in large groups. Smaller groups better, but tutor not able to go round 5 groups (for example) to share in discussion , do AFL. Planning stretches  and input ideas to extend thinking.


UNESCO offers advice to teachers and school leaders on their return to school.  These pages on COVID-19 and Education (Education: From disruption to recovery), are documents you may wish to read or share with your colleagues and departments. There were also a series of 6 webinars which took place which can be viewed here in full:

Other UNESCO-UNICEF-World Bank documents relating to COVID-19 can be found below:

Framework for Reopening Schools

Supporting Teachers in back to schools efforts

Webinar 1: Learning

Webinar #1 of the joint UNESCO-UNICEF-World Bank webinar series on the reopening of schools


Webinar 2: Safe School Operations

Webinar #2 of the joint UNESCO-UNICEF - World Bank webinar series on the reopening of schools.

Webinar 3: Well-being

Webinar #3 of the joint UNESCO-UNICEF-World Bank webinar series on the reopening of schools.

Webinar 4: Reaching the most marginalized

Webinar #4 of the joint UNESCO-UNICEF-World Bank webinar series on the reopening of schools.

Webinar 5: High stakes exams (World Bank)

Webinar #5 of the joint UNESCO-UNICEF-World Bank webinar series on the reopening of schools.

Webinar 6: The latest evidence on the reopening of schools

Webinar #6 of the joint UNESCO-UNICEF-World Bank webinar series on the reopening of schools.

Please see below links to Parliament POST briefings on:

Covid-19, children and schools

Child and adolescent mental health during COVID-19:

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