Whilst the announcement made last night about UK school closures was not entirely unexpected, I think we all currently have more questions than answers over how the next few weeks are likely to pan out. We’ve all been facing a great deal of uncertainty over the last few weeks, and in some ways, it’s good to finally have some clarification from the government. Although we still don’t know what will happen about qualifications for those children due to sit GCSEs and A-levels this year, we do know that most children will be at home for the foreseeable future and parents will, almost certainly, face some very troubling and difficult times in the coming weeks. Along with the likelihood of jobs being affected and family members possibly becoming ill, many will find themselves in the situation of having to occupy and educate their children at home – most likely in isolation or with few, if any, options for places to go.
There are many companies and organisations doing all they can to help parents, teachers and schools. Details of these can usually be found online – generally on social media forums including Classroom Secrets’ own dedicated Facebook support group: Coronavirus Home Learning Support for Teachers and Parents.
A good starting point for parents who are looking for practical ideas would be our latest podcast where Claire discusses a number of different ideas for supporting children at home – whether you are a parent in need of inspiration or a teacher looking for suggestions to send home – and she talks about how to make the most of what will undoubtably be very challenging circumstances. Schools and teachers can also share the link to this podcast with parents via the school’s website or social media channels. You can listen on any of the major platforms, but here are links for the top three:
Classroom Secrets, and our sister site Classroom Secrets Kids, will do our very best to support teachers and parents in the coming weeks and months. Everyone in the company sends their best wishes to all who are affected in any way and we hope you and your loved ones are able to stay safe and well. Here’s a summary of what we think may be useful to you at the moment:
We have created free home learning packs for each year group which can be downloaded and, if you wish, printed out for children to complete. If you are a teacher, these can be sent home to parents as suggested activities. The home learning packs cover a range of mathematics and English activities pitched at different abilities, along with practical ideas, so all children can have something they can complete. Don’t forget to get in touch via our Facebook group for any support on using these: Coronavirus Home Learning Support for Teachers and Parents.
Along with this, Classroom Secrets Kids – our sister site – is packed full of interactive activities for maths, grammar, reading, phonics and other subjects. All of the content is aimed specifically at children so they can learn independently. At the time of writing, the site is in its BETA stage and is totally free for the duration of its development stage. We are continually adding new and exciting activities and all children in a class or family can have their own individual logon.
Social media is full of ideas and offers.
If you are stuck for suggestions, or just don’t know where to turn for a particular problem or concept, there is always social media. A lot of forums and discussions have been set up to help parents and teachers in these challenging times. Just have a look on Facebook or Twitter using hashtags such as #education, #edchat and #teaching.
You can always come along to Classroom Secrets’ own Facebook support group (Coronavirus Home Learning Support for Teachers and Parents) where we are sharing live videos of practical ways to learn. It also has a mentoring section where you can direct questions to qualified teachers who will be able to help you or give further suggestions.
Create and stick to routines.
Routines are important for maintaining stability with children – especially younger children. Although setting up new routines in the event of school closures or isolation might seem daunting, these don’t need to mirror the school day and don’t necessarily need to follow a ‘9 to 3’ pattern. However, agreeing set times for when learning activities will take place, and which are kept to, will be beneficial for making sure children maintain some form of education and stability.
Daily reading is really important.
Some form of daily reading should be a key part of any routine. Making time for children to read independently or to an adult is incredibly useful. If you can, ask questions about what they are reading: recapping or summarising events, describing the characters, exploring their thoughts, opinions and predictions.
Where children might be less willing to read, allowing them to follow their interests can be a way to motivate and engage them.
Get children doing chores.
While this may seem like something children might enjoy doing the least, many children – in particular young children – usually do enjoy helping parents around the house and can be keen to get involved. Even older children, where it can be built into the routines of daily life, usually become more willing to undertake jobs and become less resistant to household tasks. Not only does getting involved in daily chores develop independence, it can develop problem-solving skills and be an opportunity for some social time. As well as this, chores can work to your advantage with sorting and tidying belongings, and routines you develop around chores will hopefully continue well into the future.
Involve the children in what you are doing (where you can).
For parents who need to work from home, or for parents whose children can be safely involved in their jobs, teaching them about what you do can be great for communication and a useful window into the world of work for them. Consider what they can learn for the future and make the most of anything you can teach them.
Always build in play.
Children of any age can benefit from just being able to play. While younger children learn a huge amount through play, older children still need their own time to play in different ways: for example, through creative expression such as art or crafting, drama/performing or through imaginative writing. While the learning might not be obvious, it is definitely taking place.
Allow some time for daily writing.
Just like reading, build in some time for children to write each day. This can, again, be something some children might be less willing to do, but keeping it as part of a daily learning routine is important. To encourage them, allowing children to write about topics of their own choosing can be a way to make the most of the time and will enable them to develop their imaginations and bring in their own interests.
Do make the most of home learning packs.
If you are a parent, your child’s school might send packs home and they will have looked at the content to make sure it is something your child can complete. Make the most of these resources because they will help your son or daughter to continue revising and learning about concepts they have covered. However, do be mindful of when they are used. Look for the best ‘windows’ in the day for when it might be best to bring them out (consider attentiveness and mental fatigue).
If you are a teacher, a lot of companies are offering a range of options for building your own home learning packs including the free packs from Classroom Secrets.
Your house will almost certainly be full of useful materials.
Parents might not always be aware of just how many materials and items they will already have in their houses which are perfect for teaching. Talking and experimenting with capacity, sorting various objects, using money, varying your vocabulary and scientific talk are just a few areas which can be covered with things you can find in the average household.
Wherever you can, make learning practical.
Learning in the home will, for most children, not feel the same as being in the classroom, and the teacher-pupil dynamic rarely transfers to parents or relatives. Confronting this head-on, and looking for ways to make learning ‘feel different’ by turning it into a practical activity is a good way to motivate and enthuse children.
Going outdoors, where possible, can bring in a wealth of learning opportunities: for example, using chalk on flagstones in the garden for spelling games or making times-table arrays with leaves or berries. Involving maths and science in baking can be fun (and bring in some skills for the future) or describing things using elaborate vocabulary can teach children new words. You can also play memory games with almost any household objects too.
For children who thrive on an element of competition, look for opportunities to turn learning into a game with a light-hearted competitive edge.
Hopefully this blog entry will have gone some way to supporting you through this uncertain time. And as always, remember to reach out if you need any further help.
Jan Fitzpatrick is a year group manager (Year 5) here at Classroom Secrets and a member of the blog team. She has over 16 years of experience in working in schools and colleges and qualified as a primary school teacher in 2008. When not exercising her love of grammar, Jan spends her time running on the Yorkshire moorland with her enormous goldendoodle, camping in the Lake District, or taking outdoor dips in freezing lakes and rivers. When the weather is too bad for any outdoor activities, she spends her time trying to improve her Spanish.