Read, Write, Count: Family Learning at Carnegie Primary School
In September 2016 Carnegie Primary School held a fantastic gifting party to launch Read, Write, Count and introduce families to the books and activities their children would be taking home in the Read, Write, Count bags. There were giant presents, counting games, story sharing and of course, lots of cake! Read all about it here.
The Read, Write, Count gifting party was only the beginning of the school’s plans to encourage pupils and their families to read, write and count together. Susannah Jeffries, Primary 2 teacher at Carnegie Primary, explains what happened next.
I felt very strongly that, in order for momentum to be maintained, and for the Read, Write, Count gifting party to be the beginning rather than the end of the story, we needed to announce our next steps at the party.
Our first step was to rename homework. Homework is now ‘Read, Write, Count Activities’ and each week the children have some reading, writing and counting to do with their families. This is not significantly different from what we would send as homework in previous years but it tends to be more active and often designed to encourage parents and children to work together rather than being focussed on children completing an activity independently. It is early days but feedback has been really positive and even just talking about Read, Write, Count each week is helping us keep the campaign alive in our school.
Family learning sessions
Our next step has been to set up a series of Read, Write, Count family learning sessions in school. I deliver these sessions once a month, for an hour after school and children from P1, P2 and P3 can attend with parents and carers. Other family members are welcome to come too – siblings, babies, grannies, granddads, all invited. The first of these was in October and it was a pleasure to plan and deliver. I am endeavouring to show families that Read, Write, Count is not designed to make you do something new or different or to try and have you engaged in home schooling activity every night. I have focussed on questioning as a key tool for family learning – you are not trying to ‘teach’ each other but rather you are encouraging learning and enquiry by asking questions. The format of the session begins with me sharing one of my favourite picture books with the children and pausing frequently to ask questions about the illustrations or the content of the story. In the first session I asked so many questions and the children had so many brilliant answers that we only got through a few pages of the story but many of the parents were excited to see all the information and detail that the children had spotted in the book that might have passed a grown-up by.
After the story I provided a read activity, a write activity and a count activity for parents and children to explore together. Each activity was designed to focus on instances that might arise in everyday life and which would not require any special materials or resources.
For the first session our read activity was to look at the wonderful picture book Room on the Broom with the children. They read the story together and I provided a set of questions and ideas to support discussion. I am planning to build up a bank of questions which could be applied to any book you might have in the house or get from the library.
Our write activity was about cutting out the right letters from a selection of alphabet print-outs and magazine pages to spell your name. Some children did just their first name, some did their surname, some spelled their whole family!
Our count activity was about looking at a selection of recipes – what numbers can you see? If you spot a 2 or 3-digit number can you say how many 100s, 10s and units it has?
Feedback from the session was a real joy. Parents had really valued the opportunity to take time out from the rush of everyday life with young children and spend a little time interacting with their children in this new context. A few of them also said that having the opportunity to do these activities ‘in school’ provided an easy first step into family learning as children were more receptive to trying new learning activities in a school context.
I am really looking forward to the next session. I am already noting down new opportunities for reading, writing and counting which I spot in everyday life. Next session we will be adding up the judges' scores from various episodes of Strictly!