Have you walked into a new room to look for something and forgotten why you were there? This is due to new sensory information in your working memory (the new room) replacing an existing piece of information (you have lost your keys.)
Children experience this too - in school they are constantly learning new skills and meeting new pieces of information. If these are not consolidated and practised, it is likely they will not retain them. There are a number of ways learning can be supported, practised and consolidated at home.
One of the most effective ways for children to practise new skills is by making meaning and transferring this into new contexts and situations. For example, during a visit to the National History Museum, children would develop maths skills by reading numbers and dates, sequencing events and reading timelines. They might practise reading skills by processing and making meaning from the information boards. History and geography skills would also be needed in order to interpret the source material and read and interpret the maps and charts on display. Practising skills in this way is far more effective in the retention of the skill than children quietly completing a worksheet which instructs them to sequence a series of numbers.
In addition to using the skills they have learned in a real life context, by exposing children to a variety of home learning activities we encourage them to be interested in the world around them. The more interested children are in different topics, the more likely it is that they will be knowledge seekers and active participants in school. Visiting museums and attractions, watching documentaries, playing board games, going shopping, walking outdoors and helping in the garden are great ways to spark conversations to find out what interests them.
Play is also a pivotal way learning is practised at home. Often, play is seen as an activity separate from learning, but open ended, imaginative play is crucial to children as it allows them time to practise skills over and over again at their own pace and in a way that makes sense to them. For example, children often like to ‘play shop’ and pretend to be the shopkeeper or customer. While doing this they are, among other things, transferring their skills of social interaction, speaking and listening and mathematical place value (‘A million Ringgit? NO! That’s far too much!’)
By far one of the most beneficial and worthwhile home learning activities families can do together is having regular family dinners that are free from technology. There is considerable research to show that children from families who regularly eat together have better academic performance, higher self-esteem and a greater sense of resilience. Taking the time for conversation between children and adults and reflecting on the skills and learning that has happened during the day is a powerful way for children to make sense of their thinking. Family dinners also provide a great opportunity for children to watch adults speaking and replicate the intricacies of conversations.
Learning is not a place. It is an endless activity and exploration of our world. At Alice Smith, we strive to encourage a lifelong love of learning in the children we teach, that does not stop when they leave the classroom. Only through all of the adults in a child’s life working together can we achieve this.
Primary Teacher and Head of Subject Team for Maths
Click here for this week's full issue - 20th April 2018