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Russian online during the pandemic: is it a test or a window of opportunity?

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Russian online during the pandemic: is it a test or a window of opportunity?


Oksana Bezhenar

The methodologist of the Russian Center of the University of Milan took part in the 21st International Pushkin Contest announced by the editorial board of the Rossiyskaya Gazeta and the Moscow Government (Department of Foreign Economic and International Relations of the City of Moscow). "Russian online during the pandemic: is it a test or a window of opportunity?" was this year's topic.

The work of the methodologist of the Russian Center did not reach the final, but participation in such a prestigious contest is important. During this year, our students took part in the Atlas of the World phonetic contest, the Living Classics contest, the competition of hotel designs, calligraphy competitions, etc.

The first International Pushkin Contest for teachers of Russian was held in 2000 and was supported by the Government of Moscow and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. The aim of the contest is encouragement and financial support for the most active and talented teachers of Russian from neighboring countries and beyond. This year, about two hundred teachers from 27 countries submitted their essays. The solemn ceremony to award 50 laureates will be held as a part of the Day of Moscow celebration events on the first (or second) weekend of September.

Russian online during the pandemic: is it a test or a window of opportunity?” (Essay by Oksana Bezhenar)

Russian online during the pandemic: is it a test or a window of opportunity? In my opinion, it is impossible to give a one-word answer to this question. There are days when it seems that everything is under control, and you are tall in the saddle, and, fortunately, we have more days like that. But sometimes, it feels that the heart is lost, and there is one thought in the mind only: why did I have to face this test?! And the responsibility to the students is another aspect that frightens. I really don't want them to remember this year as the most terrible period in their life.

Let me say a few words about my students. They include students of the Milan State University, bilingual children - students of the Academy Russian Educational Center, as well as adults attending evening courses at the Italy - Russia Association. I have only met all of them in an online classroom for over a year now. Thus, the following questions arise: how to keep up motivation, how to ensure the best quality of education? In the attempt to answer them, I do my best to keep a few commandments that I would like to share with you.

Commandment No.1. The textbook still should be used!

All my students are provided with a detailed work plan and learning material. I give preference to textbooks where all the material is placed in a single learning space. Of course, sometimes I allow myself to send students some files, nice tasks, and texts, but this is, rather, for dessert, the main dishes are served within the main textbook. I think this is very important not only for the convenience and clear organization of teaching but also for students’ health. So they do not have to look at the screen all the time and strain their eyes.

Commandment No.2. Stay devoted to proven means.

Every day, IT experts develop lots of applications, software programs, and, in my opinion, it is impossible to use everything that is offered. Therefore, having mastered several useful tools, I apply them in my work to the full extent.

Commandment No.3. There is always room for a game in the lesson.

We start each lesson in a special way. For example, if today is Fyodor Dostoevsky's birthday, students will be offered a short test; and if one of the students has a birthday, we will certainly raise a symbolic toast to the birthday person.

At the end of any task that is successfully completed, the students get symbolic gifts. As time has shown, such a practice encourages them a lot. They are happy to join the game and excited to discuss gifts.

Commandment No.4. Changing activities is the best leisure.

To prevent students from getting tired, each activity lasts no more than 5 to 7 minutes. Time for relaxation should be included in the lesson. Warm-ups are great for increasing performance, relieving stress, and creating a relaxed atmosphere. An invitation to a virtual beach, a short adventure quest, and much more can be used as a warm-up.

I often change the style of work so that the lesson would not resemble a teacher's solo show. First, the teacher and the whole group engage in the process. Then, there comes a time for self-study, and after that, we again work together to discuss the results. This is followed by work in small groups and, finally, everyone present in the lesson interacts with the teacher. For example, the students send the completed tasks, voice messages, take part in the survey.

Commandment No.5. Students' opinion helps to organize activities better.

Once a week, a survey is conducted where students are enquired about the types of tasks they find more effective or what topics seem more difficult. The survey results should be taken into account as quickly as possible so the students understand that their opinion is very important indeed.

Commandment No.6. Let the whole world know how awesome we are!

I often invite my students to take part in various contests and interesting webinars. This is the way to expand the walls of the rooms where my students have spent most of the pandemic period, as well as to encourage them. While performing creative tasks, the most responsible and informal leaders stand out. Over time, these students can help manage small groups and participate in preparation for the holidays.

After participating in contests and academic competitions, relations among students shift to a new level. They cheer up each other, make comments on social networks, and in general become closer to each other - this is the way friendship is born.

Commandment No.7. Teacher and student’s time is priceless.

I prepare tests, texts for reading comprehension, audio files for listening by using ready-made tasks from the textbooks, including automatic checks. I give small writing tasks (up to 10 phrases) but on a regular basis. And, of course, I demand strict adherence to the deadline.

Each lesson is a journey, the "passengers" have a clear idea of​​where and why they are going. At the beginning of the lesson, we always talk about the arguments to be considered and for what purpose. Explaining tasks clearly, progress review, and keeping track of time helps focus the group's attention on the lesson goals and individual outcomes.

Commandment No.8. Rest not from work, but for its sake.

The main rule that I try to adhere to is the following: I do not rest from work, but for the sake of work. It is important that students see a refreshed, cheerful, energetic teacher in front of them.

Undoubtedly, modern communication technologies are very helpful for this purpose. And there are days when I understand that the pandemic has shown us endless possibilities for distance learning, but sometimes I really want to enter the classroom, look at everyone and say, “Hello, guys!”

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