Thursday 23 February 2012

Suspend the curriculum; get the parents in.

A cheering account from a teacher yesterday: a school suspends the curriculum for the afternoon. The parents, carers, minders etc are invited in 'to see how and what we teach'. The teachers and headteacher have decided beforehand that the focus is poetry and related art and music. The first time it's 'quite well' attended but the second one succeeds in getting an adult carer for almost every child to come in. What's on offer is an exploration of a poem - in this case 'Overheard on a Saltmarsh'. The teachers read it. There's a 'tree' with all the lines of the poem cut up and distributed on it (a 'poet-tree'?). The child and carer come up and pick a line off the tree and then in their family group they are invited to express this line on paper, with paper, with paint, chalks, glue, folding or whatever (make masks? etc) prior to performing that line to each other at the end of the making and doing session.

The afternoon is massive success. Quite a few fathers come in even though it meant bunking off work. Everyone gets stuck in and have fun. Massive amount of talk, exploration, play and learning going on. Children delighted that their parents are in school making and doing and performing. The feedback is hugely enthusiastic. All kinds of learning modelled here that many of the parents haven't encountered before. They are very keen on doing something like that again. Soon and regularly!

I offer this as an example of great educational practice on all sorts of levels: emotional, social, cognitive, intellectual, linguistic. It also provides a fantastic opportunity to talk with parents about education, reading, writing and many other things. It breaks down barriers between people and done flexibly, it could provide the basis for some ways in which parents can bring their stories and culture into school through making books with the children about their lives and so on.

It comes from a teacher who attended the Poetry Write Now group at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.