Category Archives: Engaging Parents

2) Tips for Parents in a Pandemic: Supporting Mathematics Learning

Check out the first post in the series here.


By Janet Goodall9781472976611

In the second blog post of this series, I’d like to talk about how families can support their children’s learning in and around mathematics.

Many parents shy away from helping young people with anything more than simple addition and subtraction, often because of their own experiences around maths when they were at school. This feeling even has a label, ‘maths anxiety’; if the thought of helping with maths bothers you, you’re not alone! In this blog post, I want to give you some ideas that might help overcome that, so you can support your child’s learning during the lockdown. This post is about maths, but a lot of it will apply to other subjects.

First, to reiterate something from the previous blog post, your children are not ‘missing out’, in the sense that they will ‘be behind’ others when they go back to school, because no one is able to follow the ‘usual’ curriculum at the moment, and no one has ‘school as normal’. Being safe and secure is more important than anything else.

Secondly, you probably already do a lot more maths around the house than you realise. Researchers Dr Tim Jay and Dr Jo Rose found that parents engaged in a wide range of activities that related to maths, without using that label. There are the obvious things – counting, working out a budget, and measuring and weighing ingredients when cooking. But there are a lot of other things that relate to maths as well. Matching socks when doing the laundry, working out football rankings, deciding how much paint will be needed to redecorate a room, filling holes in a card or stamp collection, discussing shapes… these all relate to mathematical concepts.

Here are some ideas which can help support maths learning:

Counting

  • Count the stairs on the way up to bed and, for slightly older children, count in twos or threes.
  • You can also count the number of steps between different rooms.
  • If you have access to outside places for exercise, count steps there as well! Who can run faster or further?
  • For older children, use those step counts to create a map of the house and perhaps populate it with interesting imaginary creatures. If you have access to outside spaces, they can be mapped as well.

Cooking

  • Many families are finding they are doing more cooking now. Your children can help not only weigh and measure but plan meals – how many onions will be needed for which meals in the week? This could lead to work with fractions as well – half an onion is needed on Monday and we can use half of the remaining half on Tuesday.
  • This could also lead to other ideas, such as working out if it’s cheaper to buy a large bag of something and whether it will all get eaten by the use-by date.

Space

  • Ideas about space are important for a lot of subjects, including maths. Look up places on maps (online or paper) and work out how long it might take to get from one place to another.
  • You could also create maps from places in favourite books and do the same calculations. How long would it take to walk from one place to another? To ride a horse? To drive a car?

Confidence and self-esteem 

  • Try to avoid being very negative about any subject. Don’t let your children hear you say, ‘Oh, it’s too hard. I hated it in school.’ Even if you found maths hard in school, try not to pass that on to your children.
  • Older children will probably have work sent to them from school. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do the work. In fact, you could ask your child to explain it to you, as you were taught differently (which will almost certainly be the case). Explaining what they are doing is a very good way to cement learning and it can increase your child’s self-esteem and belief in themselves as a learner.
  • If you and your child find that there’s something you can’t do or can’t work out, the important thing is to talk about problem-solving. How might you find the answer? How else might you work it out?

9781472955180In maths, as in other subjects, what’s really important at the moment is the learning journey, not its end: keep the conversations about learning going. Share what you’re learning, as well as what your children are doing. Let your children know that you are proud of the work they are doing and what they are learning.

Janet Goodall is Associate Professor in Education at Swansea University and is a leading expert in parental engagement. She is the author of 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Engaging Parents and 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Engaging Parents (forthcoming). Follow Janet on Twitter @janetifimust.

 

Beautifully Bilingual

I am lucky enough to have grown up within a large extended family rich in language and culture. My father was born in Portsmouth, Southsea with a ‘traditional’ mother and father in the sense that they sat down every Sunday for a roast lunch and forced my dad to attend church even though they never actually went themselves! My mother was born in Nairobi, Kenya and came to England where she met my dad at university and the story goes (as my dad likes to tell it) that my mum was something of a mysterious Indian beauty amongst the students and by the time my dad realised she wasn’t a rich, Hindu princess, they had already married!

My sister and I spent a lot of our school holidays either at my Nanima’s house playing with my cousins or at an Indian wedding, which seem to happen every other week! Hindu weddings are beautiful! Full of music, colour and dancing. And whilst I loved every minute of it, I barely understood anything that was happening as it was all spoken in Hindi, Guajarati or Urdu. As my Nanima also barely spoke any English and my mum herself spoke five different languages, it was decided that I should attend Saturday school and learn to speak, read and write Gujarati. I suddenly found myself in a new environment where I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying or read the workbooks or make friends, as most of the other children either spoke to each other in Gujarati or Hindi. I went home to my parents so upset to be out of my comfort zone that after a few meagre weeks, I eventually quit – something I continue to look back on regretfully.

Urdu

(Me (in the blue dress) and my beautifully bilingual family at my sisters English/Hindu wedding)

When I give training about teaching children with English with an additional language, I like teachers to experience first-hand what it is like for children new to English by asking them to follow simple instructions given in another language. The feedback is always ‘enlightening’. Imagine yourself in a new country, where you don’t know the spoken or the written language, the culture, the routines, the traditions. How would you navigate? How would you know where the toilets are? Or how to ask for help? This is what it is like for all children with EAL. On top of that, they would be dealing with getting used to having left their old familiar school, home, friends and possible family members – that’s a lot for any adult to deal with, let alone a child.

My advice to teachers is this: do your research! If you know you are about to have a new pupil, try and meet them and their parents beforehand (home visits are great for this). However, as we all know, sometimes you don’t have time to do this and a child suddenly appears in your class first thing Monday morning with no warning or information. So, make the time! Arrange to meet parents as soon as possible, consider that they might need an interpreter too. Find out basic information about the child; how do you pronounce their name? How much English do they understand? What do they like doing? Do they have any dietary requirements? Where are they from? (In Thailand, the head is considered to be the most sacred part of the body and so you should never touch their heads and in some Asian, African and Latin American countries it is deemed disrespectful to look a member of authority such as a teacher, in the eyes). Are they religious? How do you say key survival words or phrases such as toilet, lunch, home, sit, stand, coat on etc?

It is also important to make sure that children with EAL aren’t categorised as being in a low ability group or SEN group (although it is useful to find out from parents if they are concerned about their child’s development or speech in their home language). Many teachers can often mistake a child with EAL’s ‘silent’ phase as being SEN when actually they are simply watching, listening and observing.

An aspect of planning that I often see in schools is where teachers differentiate for ‘SEN/EAL’ – that’s not to say that you might use similar resources e.g. visual aids, but for many children with SEN they need lessons that are broken down in manageable steps and need to take in consideration sensory and physical needs. When working with children that are new to English, you should be thinking about pre-teaching key vocabulary in the form of games and fun activities, repetition, gestures, buddying up with another child or adult that may be able to translate.

My mum was one of the first EAL consultants in Croydon and she would go into schools and support teachers through training, observations and in-class support. Unfortunately today, due to our ever increasing cuts in all things related to the public sector, specialist consultants are few and far between. The feedback I often get from NQTs is that supporting children with EAL is barely covered in teacher training despite this being an area that the majority of new teachers struggle with.

I wanted to create a resource for Early Years teachers that was easy to access and not too ‘wordy’, understanding that teachers’ time is limited. I always loved the ‘50 Fantastic Ideas’ series because it let me dip in and out for new ideas and the activities were usually easy to resource and fun to do. So, I decided to write 50 Fantastic Ideas for Children with EAL. I tried to design the games and activities so that you would use them not as a stand-alone intervention for children with EAL because, as we all know, our time is stretched, but instead you can use them with a whole class or in small groups with children that might need encouragement to build relationships, to enhance their speech, to help with 9781472952639.jpgconfidence and to develop respect and knowledge of other cultures and customs. I recently hosted a network meeting for teachers in Southwark on how to support children with EAL in the class. Afterwards, one of the EYFS consultants said it was one of the highest attended meetings they had held which proves that it continues to be an area where even the most experienced teachers want help in. I hope that my book goes a little towards easing this need.

 

Natasha Wood has worked in the Early Years for nine years and has built a great breadth of knowledge in child development and play. Her latest book, 50 Fantastic Ideas for Children with EAL, is out now!

Dads Play: The Importance of Engaging Dads in the Early Years

What did you get for Christmas, Dad? Socks? Or a share in your child’s Lego stash?

I painstakingly searched for something not to do with a PS4 for my nephew and found someone who makes traditional card games using modern themes such as fantasy or mindmaps at a local fair in the Upper Norwood Library Hub.

On presenting them to my nephew, thinking I would get a tick from my sister, he looked about for a companion to play the game. The females in the group looked studiously elsewhere and all eyes fell on his grown-up cousin who rose to the card challenge.  (Mum, its complicated. We have to look online for instructions!)  But they managed without Google and soon, they were engaged in the game with deep enthusiasm.

Observing from afar, I noted the differing approach from young and older males (12 and 31) playing together. It reminded me of why I wrote a book about this. It’s definitely beneficial for children to have engaged dads but the benefits of their granddads, uncles and cousins is also important. The way males play together is interesting. There is less talk and a more competitive edge. Men get involved in the activity as partners. They also want to reference it within their repertoire of “great games” or the ones they grew up with and were part of their nostalgic life journey. I noted when our boys were playing together, when young Rory got stuck, he was given time to solve the problem.

Women play differently. We teach, give instructions, oversee, add language, narrate more and support more quickly. The balance of both means that a child is helped to develop positive attitudes and all sorts of skills such as higher order problem-solving skills so necessary for life. These include:

  • Attention Skills
  • Concentration
  • Perseverance
  • Confidence

Dads and men bring different perspectives and expectations to women on a range of issues. They are interested in different things and therefore will enrich children’s skills and knowledge by broadening their horizons. Whether it is film and television programmes, books and activities or just dad jokes, dads can open up wider opportunities, extend language and contribute to deeper conversations whether about building, cars or sport.

In my day job at LEYF,  we are very keen to engage with dads and have noticed that we are much more successful if we suggest games and home learning activities that reflect dads’ interests.

9781472949844

For nurseries and schools, utilising formal programmes like Teens and Toddlers, having male apprentices and staff members, and hosting activities for fathers and male family members are all very important for engaging young boys.

However, as I learned over Christmas, it’s more likely to be successful for everyone when there is a shared interest and a warm environment where together we all nurture and value the boys’ time together.

 

June O’Sullivan‘s latest book, 50 Fantastic Ideas for Engaging Dads, is out now!