Classroom Teaching in the Time of Covid-19: What's next?

Hello everyone,

Now that we're past the pivot and have spent the summer learning new technologies for distance learning, what happens when we return to classrooms with fewer students, social distancing, and limits on interaction, either person-to-person or with whiteboards, smartboards, and shared materials? I would love to hear what others are doing in terms of adapting classroom activities to align with state-mandated safety precautions. Any ideas about teaching low-literate adult learners in the changing times of Covid-19?


Nan Frydland

ESL Instructor


Hello All,

When the pandemic forced schools to close, I was teaching 56 students who didn't own computers, so I started teaching using cellphones and WhatsApp. Although that worked for some folks, it didn't work for most. It works better as a device for tutoring or, as I've tried over the past several months, in conjunction with Google Classroom.

Since September, I've been working with adult learners who have limited education and little experience with technology beyond cellphones. The nonprofit I work at now took what I think is an innovative approach to teaching in an unpredictable environment. Over the summer teachers were paid to become Google Educators because of a Google grant. The school procured chrome books and laptops in anticipation of another lockdown. Most importantly they ensured students would be prepared by having computer instruction available 5 hours a week, focused on NorthStar Digital Literacy and Google Classroom. Although not every student learned all that was taught between September and November, all students were retained using remote learning through the semester.

During that time, I found that WhatsApp could be used to differentiate instruction. Some learners found it easier to write homework by hand, take a photo, and send it to me rather than use the Google Doc created in Google Classroom, while others produced beautiful Google Slide decks by the end of the Spring term. Some students would use Google Search on their phones to take a photo and send a text message, while others could copy a link and put it in a Google doc. By the end of Spring, everyone could write and send an email. 

During Google Meets we used WhatsApp for short assignments that students sent as photos, and I wrote their work on a flipchart in my kitchen that they could read, then I sent a photo of all the students' work collected on the flipchart. 

Students also gave me good advice on becoming a better teacher. They asked to learn with music, so I used Sing with Me, a collection of songs that Australian teachers wrote and produced themselves, and they enjoyed that, although the singing was a bit too fast-paced.

They asked me to make a video of the sounds of the alphabet and then print out a list of those sounds with examples, and I did that. That encouraged them to record themselves and send me their recordings for review. We're going to stay connected once a week this summer, so I'll be doing vowel combination sounds and consonant combinations and clusters as well. They have enjoyed the whole-part-whole approach to pronunciation next semester I'm sure they will develop their reading skills.

I have been so exhausted after not having a day off for more than a year as I struggled to learn and provide students with the teaching, they needed but there is so much I haven't learned yet. I go to bed thinking about more fun stuff I should so but then I just don't have the energy to do it. I bet I'm not alone. I've been amazed by all the webinars over the past year, and I have learned so much just in the last month. 

It's been an interesting time to be a teacher. But when we return to classrooms in the Fall will we be using the technology we learned for remote classes? I am imagining students with their chrome books and new ways to collaborate in the classroom using those devices. Students recording each other with their phones and sending WhatsApp messages? I'm also looking forward to paper and scissors projects and just talking in person. Mabe some hugs! 

I have been remiss about visiting this exchange for a long time. If anyone cares to share their tips about WhatsApp and Google Classroom for SLIFE and LESLLA learners, I would love to hear.

Best to everyone,


ESL Instructor


Hi, Nan, you asked: 

"Any ideas about teaching low-literate adult learners in the changing times of Covid-19?"

Most of my students are Spanish speakers and I  have created WhatsApp groups where I post lessons from Pumarosa, YouTube, and I often post audios and texts. Many of the texts are stories I have written which use an appropriate vocabulary.

But I do not "teach" classes. Most of the students are working mothers, and often are not able to be available. so I give lots of Homework!

My classes, therefore, are informal and not part of the formal adult ed system.  I believe that this approach is necessary for people who are not able to attend formal classes.