As I continue my search for resources to encourage reluctant writer I came up with a simple but effective idea that can be used by teachers and parents alike.
Many times over the years have played the game of consequence with children as a time filling or reward activity. This game involves first drawing a head onto the top of a piece of paper and then folding it over so the head is hidden from the next person. The second person must then draw a body. The game continues with the paper being passed on until all the body parts are drawn. The paper is then unfolded to reveal a silly looking character.
I wanted to use this idea to encourage my daughter who is herself a reluctant writer to practise some story writing. I followed the idea of the original game by writing an opening sentence to a story at the top of a piece of paper. I then read this to my daughter before turning the paper over so that she could write a sentence that would follow on. We then continued to take it in turns to write sentences for the story until we reached the end. We used different coloured pens to make the task more interesting and challenged each other to use different types of punctuation, connectives or wow words. My daughter enjoyed the game and found it much more engaging than if I has just asked her to write the next part of a story.
The game could be played with two or more players and the story theme, length and challenges could be differentiated depending on the age and ability of the children. It certainly takes away the fear some children feel when faced with a blank piece of paper and turns a mundane writing task into a fun game.
I have recently taken on a new pupil for 1:1 tuition who needs support with his writing and whilst trawling online for an idea which would engage him, I came across http://www.literacyshed.com/the-video-game-shed.html. After spending years bemoaning the fact that many of the children in my class were more interested in computer games than anything else, I finally found a way to combine their passion for gaming with developing their writing skills.
I started the session by looking at the Angry Birds video on The Literacy Shed website and then had an animated but productive discussion of the child’s previous knowledge of the characters. I then used an idea from this excellent blog – http://mrparkinsonict.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/using-popular-ipad-games-as-stimulus-in.html where he suggests using pictures from Angry Birds and the Skitch app. The app is free, easy to navigate and was a great way to generate and record captions. The work can also be saved and shared once complete.
My pupil was keen to write down his ideas and was able to use his knowledge of the characters and the story behind the game in his writing. His enthusiasm for the game assisted him with his writing rather than distracting him from the task and I know that I will be able to use the idea again for further work on adjectives and adverbs to describe the personality, feelings and behaviour of the Angry Birds characters.
One major factor I have noticed since taking leave from the teaching profession and becoming a full-time mum is the value of an effective home-school partnership. I believe it is key to enabling children to achieve their full potential during their school years. However I feel that in some ways the gap between home and school life is widening.
The use of technology in school is ever expanding and not all parents are fully conversant with the world of apps and tablets, the mention of levels, early learning goals and attainment targets is still a foreign language to some, especially when their first-born starts school, there are so many PTA, extra curricular and sporting activities that the newsletter can become an overload of information.
Communication is key and all too often messages that should get home or that parents need to feel reassured are not received. Whatever the age of a primary aged pupil, I feel that the responsibility should not be left with them to convey a message whether it be about progress, behaviour or returning the school trip letter. With the availability of group texts and email it takes minutes if not seconds to send a reminder or quick note to one or more parents.
As a parent I feel that I do not have a true picture of how my child immerses herself within the school environment. I know from parents evenings, reports and occasional conversations with her teacher that she behaves well and is making progress but I just wish that I could gain an insight into how she really conducts herself and what her lessons are like. I have all too often made the fatal mistake en route home of asking what she has done or enjoyed but only get a very brief summary if any information at all before being asked enthusiastically about the contents of the fridge!
My children’s school has tried to bridge the home-school gap by inviting parents after school once a week to look at work or chat with the teacher informally but I still feel that this does not go far enough. I would love there to be an opportunity, just once per term, for a small groups of parents over the course of a week or two, to be invited to come into a lesson, whether it be a Maths investigation lesson, Science experiment or some text level work in English. I feel that this would be invaluable not only in giving the parents chance to see what their child does in those six hours a day and feel involved but also to gain an insight into the difficult job that teachers in the modern age have.
There may be other ideas for bridging the gap between home and school whether it be informal sessions in the evenings on levelling, teaching of long division or having a focus group who can relay the concerns and positive messages from staff and parents alike. When teaching I had experience of a variety of parents, those who are fully committed to supporting their child in whatever way possible and those who for whatever reason are unable to fully support their child with their learning. No matter how much or how little time a parent has to spend with their child, the more informed and aware they are the better. I am aware that many of these ideas for building a strong link between home and school put extra pressure and workload on the teaching staff. However I do feel that any steps could be invaluable if children benefit from their parents being more aware of their school life.
What do you think?