With “ school “ starting back Monday, I thought I would put together a few ideas to help parents work through while they are supervising the work set by teachers ” . Hopefully this will help a few of you out but keep in mind there is only so much you can do. Remember teachers are still teaching. You are not replacing the teacher, you are helping supervise the work that had already been prepared for your children. Do not feel that you have to add more in.
Now that the initial panic of schools closing is gone, schools will have had some time to put together a plan of work for children. Schools should now at this point be sending regular work home, so pick and choose from that work what you would like to cover. For the most part this is a suggestion of work. Teachers understand there can be challenges surrounding school work at home, so go easy on yourself and don’t put yourself under pressure to get every single bit done! No teacher wants to add to the pressure that parents are already under. If you’re struggling, reach out and ask the class teacher or school principal for some help.
You’re not a teacher
I think this is my most important advice. As parents, we put ourselves under a lot of pressure at the best of times. Now, while stuck on lockdown, we are trying to be a mother, partner, housekeeper, employee and now a teacher! It is impossible to keep all of the balls up in the air, so it is time to give yourself a break! Schools will now have had time to put a plan in place and will be sending home regular work for your children to complete. Each school works differently but for the most part this is not like homework where every little bit has to be done. This is for the children to try and work through to keep their minds active. This is not about stopping the children falling behind. When schools are back open, the whole country will be working even harder on literacy and numeracy to make sure that no child is left being. As a teacher, I am not worried about my class missing out, instead I know that when I get my hands on them again I will work them even harder than before to make sure they are up to speed. So go easy on yourself. You can’t do it all
How much school work should we do?
This all depends on each individual child. You know your children better than anyone else. You know how much they can be pushed and you know when to have a duvet day. For senior classes eg 3rd to 6th I would say 2 hours max per day. This doesn’t have to be done all in one go. It can be broken up into half hour sessions throughout the day. It is very hard for children to sit and just work for 90 minutes or 2 Hours.
For the junior end of the school 45 mins at the very very most!! If you haven’t already found a routine, sit down and makeup a time table. Ask the children how they would like to work? Do they want to break it up or do they want to get it all done in one go? Then do up a time table that includes, exercise breaks, lunch breaks, screen time and even chores!!! Children work well with structure. If you factor in the things they like to do in this timetable they will be more likely to stick with it. But remember to be fluid, not everything needs to be military like!
Junior and Senior Infants
Of all school going children, Junior and senior infant children will be the ones that catch up the fastest. They are like sponges at this age. I know some parents want some sort of structure on the day, but keep in mind that children of this age learn through play. One of our biggest learning tools in our classroom is play. Aistear is the framework we use as teachers. You can read about it here. One way of keeping this type of learning alive at home is to put together a box of old clothes and just let them at it. Or set up a shop, restaurant or even their own home office!! Let them create a new world. You might pick a theme of shopping, farming, people in our community. The list is endless but one thing this will give you is a chance for them to play and learn while you get some work done or have a cup of tea.
When it comes to table work, take guidance from the class teacher. For Junior infants working on their CVC words, pencil skills and their numbers 1-5. Teach your monster to read is a great resource for working on letter sounds and reading full sentences. Listening to your children read or practicing their difficult words will be incredibly beneficial for them. You don’t need to spend ages doing this. 10 minutes is enough.
The Jolly Phonics app is also another fantastic resource and one teachers use. You do have to pay for this, but it is an app worth paying for.
Khan academy is also super for working on maths with younger classes. There are lots of great maths websites and apps but this one in particular they can work on on their own and it is age appropriate .
For Senior Infants again work on their reading skills. For children at this age it is all about trying to improve fluency and confidence. Try and listen to their reading everyday if you can.
For maths Work on numbers 1-10. The teacher will more than likely be sending work home surrounding this As much as possible try and integrate this through play . An isolated teacher on Instagram has some fantastic ideas for children in younger classes. https://www.instagram.com/anisolatedteacher/
3rd to 6th class
Children in the senior classes in primary school are far more used to working independently. The problem here is trying to keep them on task and motivated. Do not be afraid to offer them incentives. If this is screen time, then so be it. We are in unprecedented times. I see parents judging those who are offering their children devices to keep them occupied. All I will say is, there is no space to cast judgement here. You do what you need to do to get through each day. Just don’t leave them unsupervised on their devices!! Keep checking what they are at and at the end of each evening take the device off them. Make sure you have the passwords to all of their apps too and check the phone history.
For school work, teachers will be giving them plenty to keep them going, so I am going to give some suggestions for extra bits if you feel they might want to do them.
Hour of code is a fantastic resource for teaching your children how to code. It uses games such a mine craft and movies like frozen as a template for them to work off.
Code academy is another IT focused website for teaching children how to do things surrounding building their own website.
Kahoot is another incredible resource that will keep them entertained for hours. They can work through ready made curriculum friendly quizzes or they can make their own. They can even take part in live quizzes with their friends.
Spelling city is a website, where you can input your children’s weekly spellings and they can practice them through premade games. I would suggest keeping up the practice of a weekly spelling test during this time. Most children have a spelling workbook that they can work from.
Manga high is somewhere that they can work on maths skills. Keep going over their tables and add in a weekly tables test if you’re doing a spellings test.
Twinkl have fantastic learning from home packs set up on their site. They have extended their free membership too. You can sign up here twinkl.ie/offer and use the code IRLTWINKLHELPS
Scoil net is an Irish website that has thousands of resources. You can pick your subject and topic and then find a list of resources for your children to work from.
Cúla4 is an Irish website that is full of tv shows and games in Irish.
Seideansi offers mini Irish lessons and games for children from Junior Infants to 6th class.
Top Marks is a data base of games for each subject. All you have to do is pick a subject and topic and you will have a wealth of games and activities.
Ideas to keep them going independently
Project work: Children can pick a topic and create either an old school scrap book project or they can create a presentation in powerpoint or prezzi. You can keep the topics educational if you want or it could be on their favourite footballer, a woman they admire or anything at all they are interested in.
Time capsule. I have seen a covid time capsule doing the rounds. This is a great idea to keep them occupied. As we are quite literally living through history here, get them to put some time and effort into it and parcel it away and put it somewhere safe that they can root it out in years to come. You can find the time capsule here.
Start a book club. Amongst a group of children, pick a book that they are all happy to read. Then maybe twice a week they can have a book club meeting where they discuss the chapters that they have read. Each meeting give one child the role of chair of the meeting. They can have the questions ready to go and lead the conversation. It might be worth having a few parents to hand for the first meeting or two. You will find questions for lots of age appropriate novels online.
Have a Kahoot quiz. Again this can be done live and the children can take it in turns to be the quizmaster. This keeps them connected with their friends while at the same time keeping their minds going.
Start a mindfulness journal. At the start of everyday, ask the children to start the day with a positive thought. They can write this into their journal. At the end of the day, ask them to write in 3 positive things that happened throughout the day and then one thing they would like to achieve tomorrow. This will help keep their mind focused on the positive and it might open up a discussion on any issues that might come up that you need to deal with.
Get the children to create an obstacle course for the family. This can be done inside or outside. They might also make a treasure hunt!! Here is an example of some ready made clues if you fancy making a treasure hunt yourself.
Get them to use this time to learn a new skill. EG skipping, volleying a ball, tying their shoes the list is endless.
Complete a maths trail. There are loads of these online but twinkl have a fantastic one for small children here.
Not every child can draw a picture off the top of their head. In my class we follow a lot of “How to” when it comes to drawing. I often put how to draw into Pinterest and pick out some of my favourites. Youtube is also brilliant and they can press pause and play at their own pace.