Wednesday 18 March 2020

Schools out! What do we do? - Stories to help with Homeschooling

After finding out about school closures tonight, my middle daughter, 6, got very excited. Knowing that I was a primary school teacher up until last July, she was happy to think that I would be reviving this role in order to teach them next week (and however many weeks that follow).

         "Mum, what will we call you? Will you line us up every morning to do the register?"

Little does she know that I have very little intention of sitting them down and formally 'teaching' them much at all. Times are stressful enough already and although workbooks and 'lessons' may work well for some, in our house it is extremely likely to end in frustrated tears (mine) by the end of the first day! Yes, we need to keep busy and yes, we'll need structure but it will be a hands on, outdoor-as-much-as-possible approach from me with emphasis on life skills.

The truth is that, even with my teaching background, I often feel stressed and anxious having the children at home for long periods of time on my own and openly admit that I am nervous about the coming weeks.  However, tonight I started to put my teaching head back on and thought best about how to get the kids (and myself) on board with what we're all faced with. So, I asked the three of them to decide on a family project that they wanted to spend next week exploring. It could literally have been anything and it was...


Fantastically random but I can work with this. It's amazing how much learning can come out of fruit. So we started thought-showering ideas with them taking the lead as much as possible.

But if you're struggling for ideas, why not think about starting with a story that matches their interests. Stories, especially picture books, are brilliant for kicking off learning activities whatever age your kids are. They provide a starting point and a context for getting stuck in. They give a structure, a reference point plus they spark the imagination.
So what stories are there about fruit that we can use:

I'm sure there are others too.

So, using the text as a starting point here are some of the activities we thought of that span across the primary curriculum:
  •  Complete an A-Z of different fruits. How quickly can you fill the whole alphabet?
  •  Think of rhyming words for different fruits (including nonsense words). Make silly rhymes and sentences. 
  •  Taste different fruits, describe the taste, smell, feel etc and point score them. Make a graph of family favourites. 
  •  Design a fruit salad or smoothie. Why is this healthy?
  • Where does dried fruit come from? Weigh out ingredients for a fruit cake or fruit bread and bake, following instructions. 
  • Look at fruit seeds under a magnifying glass. Plant some fruit seeds and see what happens.
  • Get online and find the price of different fruits in a supermarket. Can you make that amount using coins? Add the cost of some fruits together. Set up a fruit shop. What fruits could you buy for a pound?
  • Sketch fruits, fruit printing, make fruity characters, stuff and sew some felt fruits and make a fruit market. 
  • Make marzipan fruits. 
  • Where does each fruit come from? Find the country on a map. How far does it travel to get here? When is it in season? What meals can we cook with seasonal fruit? How does fairtrade work? offer brilliant videos and activity ideas on this.
  • Play 'What's in the box?' with different fruits. Which fruit is it?
And that's just a few ideas. From there the kids can design a timetable and hopefully off we go. And that's before we've really dipped into the story.

So over the coming days and weeks, as well as the usual book reviews, I aim to post some books and accompanying story activities that I have used in teaching as well as thinking up some new ones. Lots of authors are currently designing activities to go with their own books so I can also post links to these. Sharing books, buying online second hand (if libraries are closed) are all good ways of getting hold of stories or use your current household favourites and plan your own ideas. Cbeebies read stories aloud and Twinkl is another good resource site if you have access to a printer. 

As well as this I also hope to post some 'oral storytelling' videos of traditional tales that I have adapted for learning and performing without a text. These are great for developing spoken language, prompting improvisation, making props and drawing storyboards.

For any budding chefs out there I highly recommend Nadiya Hussain's 'Bake Me a Story' books. These contain short stories which come with an accompanying recipe. Make the recipe first and then share the story or vice versa.

Lastly, for those who feel like they need reinforcements when talking to younger ones about hygiene or the worries they have about this, I can recommend the following:
Catch that Cough by Bonnie Bridgman - a fun, fictional story about not letting your cough escape.
Robosnot by Amy Sparkes - silly, fun and a little bit gross. This robot needs to use a tissue.
Ruby's Worry by Tom Percival - I've not read this myself but comes highly recommended.
The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside - a story about the weight of carrying your worries round with you and trying to set them free.
What to do when you worry to much: A kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety - this is a brilliant and practical book which likens worries to tomato plants. Give them attention and they grow! Keep busy and focus on doing what you love whilst giving everyone opportunities to talk about their feelings.

Most of all, stay safe and well, try and protect your mental health, let the kids lead by enthusiasm and ask for help if you need it (I know I will be needing it on a regular basis.) 

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