Laura Bishop is a new adviser working with the Primary Maths Team at Herts for Learning. She has been working with Scarlett Peacock at Dundale Primary and discovered her innovative way of reaching out to her parents.
As a teacher, how many times has a parent told you that they couldn’t help their child with their homework because they didn’t understand the method expected? How many times have you listened as they describe arguments over homework because they have tried explaining a different method and their child has told them that that’s not how they did it in class that week? In my 11 years as a teacher, I have heard this plenty of times.
Those of you who use ESSENTIALmaths will know that there are a range of calculation strategies and pictorial representations that are not only new to many teachers, but new to parents and carers. Would they, for example, know what was meant by ‘think 10’ or would they be able to use a bar diagram to demonstrate dividing fractions? The answer may well be ‘no’. And of course these are not unique to this suite of materials but others too. Many parents are intrigued and would like to understand better the ways their children are being taught and of course help them with their homework too. So how can we invite them into the brave new maths world that their children are engaging in?
This is something that Scarlett Peacock, Year 4 teacher at Dundale Primary School in Tring, is trying to overcome. After a number of parents expressed their wishes to help their children with homework but were unsure of the methods their children were using at school, Scarlett began creating online video tutorials. Wanting to make the tutorials as familiar to the children as possible, Scarlett choose to use screen recording in Smart Notebook and PowerPoint before exporting to a video file. Not only will these tutorials aid parents’ understanding of taught methods but for children who need extra scaffolding, these videos provide a reminder of the expected methods.
At a recent parents’ evening the videos were well received by both adults and children. Scarlett’s vision is to create a tutorial at the end of each learning sequence and so by the end of the year, there will be a whole suite of videos for year 4 learners.
The tutorials so far can be found here if you want to take a look.
I am sure that you will all join with me in congratulating Scarlett in her endeavours to form a strong collaborative link between her classroom and her pupils' homes, allowing parents to experience some of the new and unfamiliar strategies taught in the classroom today.
Further ways in which we could ensure that we continue to build a good dialogue with our pupils’ parents and carers could include:
- adding models and examples on homework sheets;
- adding images of modelled recordings and the children’s recording to class pages on school websites;
- ensuring school calculation policies are up to date
- running calculation specific workshops for parents
- sharing the range of downloadable leaflets and guidance found on the Herts grid website
Translating the maths today for parents has allowed them to feel more empowered, and whilst we wouldn't expect them to teach it, Scarlett's work has allowed them to fear less and appreciate more how their children are learning maths. Can parents explain to their children how they did it at school? Of course they should. Vive la difference.