Engaging parents with written strategies

If you follow me on Instagram, you will probably be aware that I have a weekly shopping excursion with my mother every Saturday morning. This is my weekly engagement with my parent while I am at work, which can result in some interesting situations captured in tweets and images. Leading my own life now (which is not always accepted by my mother) the amount of engagement with her is sadly reduced. However, the interaction with parents plays an important part of primary education. In this week’s waffle I look at the ways to engage parents with the teaching and learning of written strategies in mathematics.


Supporting Parents with written strategies

Supporting Parents with written strategies

This week in our mathematics session we created calculation booklets. These are booklets which contain an example, often annotated, of the various written strategies which I have encountered while teaching or which appear in the new 2014 curriculum. The idea behind the session is to introduce the students to a range of written methods so they will be able to teach them as well as recognise and remedy misconceptions which might arise. This session is at the end of a series of sessions about arithmetic which starts with rapid recall facts and progresses through mental strategies and concludes with written strategies. One area which was discussed was how to support the children by engaging the parents with the school’s or children’s written strategies – these are some of the ideas I mention within the session.

I remember quite a ‘challenging’ calculation session when I introduced chunking to the parents in an afternoon slot.

  • Calculation Booklets – In the same way that calculation booklets can be created with the trainee teachers, the same can be done with the children. These can actually support them throughout the lessons but also be allowed home to support the parents. The advantage with these is that if the children have created them and annotated the processes themselves, it will help to consolidate their own understanding as well as allowing them to then subsequently explain the process to their parent/carer.

  • Calculation Sessions – These can be organised in two different ways – during the day or after school and involve the parents coming along to school preferably with their child/ren to be introduced to the written strategies being used. When the new strategies were started in school I remember quite a ‘challenging’ calculation session when I introduced chunking to the parents in an afternoon slot. Learning from this I think it is important to establish the purpose of the session – you want to make parents aware of the possible methods which are currently being taught throughout the school, rather than opening up a discuss forum about whether the methods are ‘acceptable’. With this firmly established, invite parents with their children to the session and encouraging the children to demonstrate the methods. The child can take the role of the teacher, after the strategy has been modelled by you the teacher.

  • Parent Evenings Calculations -I’m not suggesting with this that you should take time out of the busy ten minutes interview time to discuss strategies – unless there is the opportunity to do this. Usually there is a period of time when the parents are sat outside the classroom with their child awaiting their allocated time slot. by placing the the ‘current’ calculation strategies on a flipchart or whiteboard outside the classroom with an appropriate label (maybe not – READ THIS! – but something similar yet less demanding) can introduce the parents to the current method. In the age of mobile technology, camera phones are frequently used to capture this so make sure it is clear and has the relevant detail without overloading.
  • QR Code for my Twitter

    QR Code for my Twitter

  • Using technology- QR Codes – You knew this would come sooner or later :). As part of the work the students do on creating a science display in second year science, they share their rationale about the display through the use of a QR Code. This method of sharing a document can also be used to share appropriate documents with parents. These documents can range from newsletters to calculation documents. With the document stored in a shared folder on a cloud server (for example Dropbox or GoogleDrive) the QR code can be scanned by parents and the document downloaded to their mobile devices. If you create your QR codes with Google you can also then see how often these are used. I use these also on the office door, linking to my other social media sites – for example Twitter.

  • Using technology- Explain Everything – Keeping with mobile technology, you also have the option to create learning videos. These are videos which have a voice over and provide the viewer a worked example of the strategy. This can be used not only to introduce the strategy to the parents but also to support the children once they are away from the classroom environment. Using screencasting software and/or applications such as Explain Everything, these can easily be created and uploaded either directly to the school’s website or to the school’s YouTube channel.
  • Although I have focused specifically on written strategies within this waffle, the ideas here can easily be adapted to apply to any area of the curriculum. Just like higher education is a teaching partnership between schools, students and universities, teaching in primary school is creating an effective partnership between the parents, children and the school. Engaging parents in all aspects of the partnership, but particularly the children’s learning, can allow the partnership to have effective impact on children’s progression and learning.

    How do you engage with the parents in your school? Have you got any examples or ideas which you would be willing to share? I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send me them to be via twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, google+ or email.

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    Have fun, engage and I’ll catch you later