Weaving Learning Between School and Homes.

Writing about home learning from an early years perspective doesn’t feel too out of the ordinary as parent partnerships play a key role in early childhood development.

“Children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and carers.”

Development Matters, 2012

In Development Matters, the enabling environments principle promises that early years practitioners build relationships with the families of the children they educate. The document goes on to say that formative assessment in the early years is most effective when it includes observations, interactions and information from parents:

“Observe children as they act and interact in their play, everyday activities and planned activities, and learn from parents about what the child does at home“.

Therefore, extending learning to the home from an early years setting should be more like a tweak to what we already have in place for parent partnerships.

Across school our approach to homework is to share a half term menu of activities. This approach has been adapted for remote learning as it is familiar to parents and children. Each menu shares learning ideas for 2 weeks, meaning children can access 1 or 2 activities a day over that time. Last week I shared how we have taken some of these activities and made short videos to give examples, encourage motivation but also maintain those positive relationship teachers have with children and their families.

Resourceful but Manageable.

If being a computing subject leader has taught me anything, it’s decomposition: how to break a large problem into small, manageable steps. The second part of this 2 week cycle was equally successful but tweaks needed to be made based on how we felt after the first week. We decided to map out a timetable for what type of video would be shared each day:

Monday – a story and labelling video.

Tuesday – a physical activity video.

Wednesday – a counting video.

Thursday – an art video.

Friday – new reading materials.

These videos are directly linked to what is on the menu, they are not additional tasks. Breaking the learning menu in to daily steps through video provides a structure and it models the expectation of what learning should look like. The short videos are a chance for us to show what early learning can look like at home and keeping expectations manageable for parents by demonstrating what we teach in school.

It is also possible for children to achieve their 20 stars without completing all of the tasks on the menu. This means daily engagement with online learning is not necessary. Letting families pick from a selection of suggestions means that home learning becomes more manageable and more personalised to their circumstances at home. On two week menu cycles, these choices can increase and decrease as appropriate, making time management flexible to situations at home.

Rewarding Efforts, Spreading Happiness.

We ended the Spring Term by celebrating achievements children had made on their Extended Learning Menus. Before school closed we photographed each child’s photograph on ‘The Pot of Gold’ so that we could upload these to Tapestry and give out well deserved praise and reward.

Whilst sharing Pot of Gold awards, parents also posted a video of their child waving and saying hello. These videos were downloaded and added in to Clips so that we could share a video with everyone. Children got to see their friends happy faces before we finished for the Easter holiday.

Reading Materials.

It’s a basic of school provision so lending reading books for home is a challenge for us right now. We sent home enough home readers for a two week closure but after Easter it is not possible to change these. The first instinct is to send parents to an online library of appropriate ebooks for their children, but could this resource burn out quickly with open access?

We’ve started uploaded screenshots of the free Phonics Play Comics to Tapestry as a way of sharing this limited resource is a staggered way.

Filming our class puppet Mr. Snappy was a popular video of the week. Segmenting words with previously taught vowel digraphs from Phase 3 motivated children to independently spell these words at home. This was an effective way to model what is expected of writing at this age, keeping the expectation on writing manageable.

Following Home Interests.

Parents had posted their rainbow art work to Tapestry which is an activity we hadn’t included on the menu. To celebrate this home learning I downloaded examples of children’s rainbows and included in them in a Clips video. Then we took a story walk through the Jeannie Baker book ‘Window’ which seemed a relevant link to this learning. Children looked at the pictures to notice changes over time and I could model questions. There was a moment of reflection for changes we’ve seen recently and how life will return to normal in the future, linking back to the symbol of hope the children had created at home.

Linking Sounds to Letters.

Simple screen recordings of letter formation made it possible to teach simple handwriting activities.

  • First of all I took a screenshot of a letter formation worksheet and cropped the letter that I needed,
  • Next I started Mark-Up tools within the Edit mode of Photos,
  • Then I started Screen Recording from the Control Centre on my iPad,
  • Last I traced the letter using a pen tool, saved the Screen Recording and uploaded to Tapestry.

Learn how to Screen Record on iPad and iPhone here.

Learn how to use drawing tools in Mark Up on iPad and iPhone here.

This is not a blueprint.

Best practice for parent partnerships already exist in your early years approach. To extend learning to the home during the school closures should extend the approaches you already have in school. We already use Tapestry so staff are confident and capable to work remotely with this software. Parents already use a homework menu from the school so they are familiar with the structure.

So far I’ve learned that this provision may have to work on flexible hours. Therefore it must be simple and manageable. There is also no expectation to complete everything or engage with 100% of the activities on the Extended Learning Menu we send home.

The option to choose home learning activities on our menus, and our ability to model activities with carefully crafted videos, means families have ownership and flexibility to make this work for them.

At the end of first two week cycle of Extended Learning Menus we had seen almost 500 observations shared from home (up to 90 of these will be sharing the finished menus and hello videos). At least one parent from each family is now registered to our Tapestry account, that means we are reaching all children. We posted one video each day for ten days, as well as some additional posts towards the end of the week to celebrate learning. Out of all of these posts from teachers, 73% of families viewed every post we made.

Now that it is the Easter holiday, we have not shared any learning for this two weeks. It will remain a school holiday and much needed break of all!

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