“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child's success is the positive involvement of parents.” - Jane D. Hull
The Open Doors programme is a cultural change we affected here at The Kindergarten Starters, with an aim to embrace the wider community and allow learning to flow in and out of our classrooms.
Many schools struggle to get parent / community engagement right. The nature of teaching sees us thrown into a classroom with 20 or so students; when a bell goes, we move on to another class, and then to another. Our teaching is dictated by the bell. Unless collaborative time is factored into our busy days, we tend to work in isolation; sharing a few ideas as we pass by each other, or when we get a chance to meet at breaks over casual conversations. So if we find it difficult to find collaborative time with each other, how on earth can we find the time to get parents and the community engaged?
I am a huge advocate for the use of educational technology (edtech) in the classroom. My view is that the classroom benefits of edtech obvious, whether it is gauging understanding with Assessment for Learning apps, using the settings on an iPad to help learning with additional requirements, or using apps that promote understanding.
We live in age where there is unprecedented pressure on schools and school leaders. The pressure of a challenging and ever-changing Ofsted framework, budgets which are paper-thin, progress measures which force us to compare our pupils with other children nationally, and some of the most academically-stretching testing expectations ever. It’s enough to make the most experienced of school leaders crumble. Set against this context, it is easy to see why many school leaders are turning to formulaic and rigid schemes of work, as well as practises that promise to drive up pupil outcomes and produce the goods in terms of pupil attainment.
Pulling apart education and trying to fix it can be a totally overwhelming thought. Teachers are already notoriously thinly-stretched, and getting students the results they need to succeed later in life at university and in the workplace can seem like the only thing to focus on. However, if we take a moment to breathe and think if there are better ways of doing things, we might just come across ideas that could help students to succeed later in life and may in fact help their grades along the way.
Project-based learning (PBL) changes how we look at education and the best ways to engage young people in learning. Learning is all around. It is in books, in classrooms, outdoors, at home, in museums and workplaces; everywhere all the time. We learn through reading, listening, engaging, but mostly by doing. When we apply what we learn to something tangible - something interesting to us - we remember it. We want to learn more about it, and learn more about things around it.
Play must infiltrate the learning approaches in our classrooms. Surreptitiously, if need be, it has to once again steal into our classrooms and become embedded in our outlook, our approaches and strategies. Why do we advocate play? Play captures within it the elements required for building the right attitude to learning. Fearlessness, risk taking, taking loss and failure in your stride, working as a team and the joy and humility in success.
When we hear the phrase ‘team building’, the image of smartly-dressed professional adults reluctantly tumbling through an obstacle course or trying to construct a watertight raft on a muddy riverbank is hard to shake. We like to think that professional adults are already capable of working well in a team, and so to help make this the case, we can make the concept of team-building a much more child-friendly activity, and emphasise it in early formative years to give our children the skills they need to get on later in life. Arts and crafts are a brilliant way to encourage creativity and improve coordination and motor skills, as well as giving children the opportunity to work as teams and explore group dynamics.
Filmmaking projects that inspire, empower and improve literacy attainment in the classroom. Children at Tubbenden Primary School in Bromley recently completed a literacy and filmmaking project by A Tale Unfolds – a social enterprise (formed of teachers) striving to improve children’s literacy skills through digital storytelling and filmmaking.
Here, two Year 6 teachers from the school, Laura Venn and Sarah Davey, discuss their experiences of using one of the projects as well as the impact that a digital literacy focus had on their pupils: