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5 Ways ChatGPT can help Primary Teachers

Disclaimer: This post was not written by ChatGPT… but it probably could have been.

Up until a week ago, I’d never heard of ChatGPT. In fact, I hadn’t realised that AI chat systems were even a ‘thing’ and was quite surprised that the technology existed. For those of you who haven’t heard of it yet, ChatGPT, powered by artificial intelligence, is a chatbot which takes human-computer interaction to a whole new level. Siri and Alexa pale in comparison. It is an online system which responds to human input in an incredibly sophisticated way. You type in a request and ChatGPT produces a response within seconds.




I’ve seen a huge number of tweets and threads about how teachers might use the free service along with some debate about its limitations and its potential impact on the profession.


Feeling inspired and curious to see for myself, I've been experimenting with using ChatGPT and I've been blown away by its potential. It acts almost like a personal assistant and the prompts it provides are so useful in terms of taking teaching and learning to that next level. I thought I'd share a few ways that I think ChatGPT could be used to have a big impact in the classroom and to save teachers a massive amount of time.


  1. Lesson Planning

  2. Question Generation

  3. Producing Models

  4. Identifying Misconceptions

  5. Task Generation


 

👨🏾‍🏫 Lesson Planning


What can ChatGPT do?

ChatGPT can produce a step-by-step lesson plan in less than a minute. Tell it the National Curriculum objective you want to base the lesson on, plus any additional information, to produce a bespoke lesson plan that fits your needs. The lesson plans list materials, starters, step-by-step direct instruction, ideas for guided and independent practice, and assessment opportunities. You can then ask for lists of key vocabulary and a range of questions to check for understanding.


You can interrogate the plan by asking about potential misconceptions and additional support which might be needed. Equally, you can ask for ideas about extending children and providing additional challenge.




How can this help teachers?

ChatGPT can save a huge amount of time in looking for inspiration for lessons and producing written plans which can be copied and pasted (if people still need to do this). It can provide additional ideas for sequencing content in small steps as well as remind teachers (who might be planning alone for example) of the steps children will need to take. For busy, tired teachers, this can be so useful in avoiding oversights or supporting with identifying some potential issues if teaching an unfamiliar objective or year group.


This facility is also helpful if you want to quickly plan a bespoke intervention for pupils which another adult, such as a TA, might be conducting. The step-by-step instructions can be easily generated, copied and pasted into Word, and printed within a minute.


Limitations

Some criticism exists on Twitter about how AI might de-skill or eventually replace teachers. I think professional judgement and critical thinking are important when using any resource - whether a lesson plan has been produced by yourself, another, an external service, or artificial intelligence. Like most things in teaching, the lesson plans need to be checked for their accuracy and appropriateness. ChatGPT does not know your children and their prior knowledge, but it does provide useful ideas which you can tailor to your class.

 

❓ Question Generation


What can ChatGPT do?

ChatGPT can generate different levels of questions based on its own knowledge base or on texts which you copy and paste into it. You can ask ChatGPT to generate basic retrieval questions with one word answers to generating challenging, composite tasks… as well as produce mark schemes or lists of answers. You can also specify the format of the answers such as one-word answers, multiple choice, extended response etc. You can also create activities such as cloze text activities and lists of questions with increasing complexity.



How can this help teachers?

This ability could save teachers so much time in generating questions - and answers - for all types of purposes. So far I’ve used it to generate questions for:

  • checking for understanding

  • (spaced) retrieval practice

  • text comprehension

  • written outcomes


Limitations

Some of the questions generated aren’t particularly challenging and I’ve needed to provide quite a lot of feedback to mould the questions in to a format I’d be happy with. That said, the speed with which it creates and adapts questions is superb.


 

📖 Producing Models for Writing


What can ChatGPT do?

ChatGPT can quickly produce multi-paragraph texts based on a huge range of ideas. So far, I’ve asked it to produce a setting description and a diary entry and have been so impressed. Sometimes it’s taken a couple of goes and some adaption, but so far I’ve been so impressed. I’ve given it feedback to improve vocabulary and adapt the language and have been blown away by what it has produced. It can also produce word banks and sentence stems/frames to support students. All of this is so easy to copy and paste into a Word document to print out to share with pupils.


You can also ask ChatGPT to produce prompts for writing that could be included in structure strips or a ‘magic formula’.



How can this help teachers?

Again, another huge time saver both in terms of sourcing texts and producing models to use as teaching tools. It can also generate vocabulary and sentence types which might not be in your usual style. This can widen the range of models you can use with the children and it literally takes less than a minute to produce a whole text. It also saves huge amount of time in producing support materials for writing lessons.




Limitations

Some of the texts produced need some tweaking and I’ve found some of the language to be formulaic. This just means that you may need to either give ChatGPT some feedback to adapt, or adapt it yourself once you’ve copied and pasted it into a word processor. You might also need to provide feedback about some of the content included in the texts as ChatGPT can misinterpret some of the language used in instructions. It does, however, learn from your feedback and so these issues begin to reduce the more you use it.


 

🕵🏼‍♂️ Identifying Misconceptions and Potential Difficulties


What can ChatGPT do?

ChatGPT can list some common misconceptions children might experience with particular curriculum objectives or concepts. It then can produce information about ways these misconceptions can be addressed. In fact, it can then plan whole lessons to respond to them.




How can this help teachers?

If you haven’t taught a topic before, or sometimes suffer from the curse of expertise, a list of misconceptions produced in seconds can be really useful as prompts for considering some of the potential issues children might encounter when learning the content. It’s also really useful to check you don’t share some of the misconceptions yourself.


Limitations

Most of its curriculum knowledge is accurate - it refers to the National Curriculum mainly accurately - but there are some faults. For example, it told me that fossil formation was part of the NC whereas it isn’t listed as a statutory objective. Checking the accuracy of what ChatGPT says is also dependent on your own subject knowledge; if you’re not already knowledgeable yourself, you might miss an error or mistake.


 

🏗 Task Generation


What can ChatGPT do?

ChatGPT can create a range of different tasks for a range of different subjects, including MFL. These can range from gap filling exercises to short responses to extended responses. These tasks can be used for guided and independent practice, and you can also ask for the ‘features’ of the task to help you focus on assessment and check your expectations of children’s responses are appropriate.




How can this help teachers?

The information generated about tasks can be a really useful prompt to consider the appropriateness of the task and what is necessary in order for an outcome to be achieved really well. For example, I asked ChatGPT to produce a task for Y6s to write a paragraph about the difference between climate and weather using an ‘I do, we do’ approach. ChatGPT was able to list the necessary steps that pupils would need for this task and suggested time frames. This took seconds and almost instantly I could see that the complexity of the task was far more than I had expected. In terms of supporting SEND pupils, such breakdowns of task components are so helpful when determine scaffolds necessary to make the tasks more accessible. The time saved by ChatGPT means that there is more time available to concentrate on providing support for our most vulnerable learners.


Limitations

ChatGPT is still learning and so doesn’t necessarily produce the best tasks or guidance for any given objective - whether curriculum specific or not. Users can quickly enter feedback for ChatGPT to adapt any tasks which at first might not appear appropriate or useful. However, at the moment, most of the tasks and guidance seem to be more than adequate.


 

I think ChatGPT offers such a fantastic resource for teachers and it's currently free. If you have any other ideas or questions, leave a comment below 👇🏻.




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