At St Thomas a Becket, we have been developing our approach to learning which takes place outside of the classroom.
We are no longer referring to this learning as homework, but simply as EXTENDED LEARNING.
We recognise that our parents have many skills and talents and that they are keen to support their child’s learning.
We offer here some ideas and suggestions as to how that might take place.
READING FOR PLEASURE
The most important and helpful activity any young person can do to extend and support their learning is to READ.
We recommend that every pupil reads for half an hour each day whenever possible.
The books they read should be enjoyable as well as being age and ability appropriate (our Librarian and all of our English teachers would be delighted to advise and recommend different books).
Your child’s English book may also have several recommended reading books which run alongside each unit of work and the planner also contains wider recommended reading lists.
However, any reading undertaken at home does NOT need to be linked to topics the pupils are studying in school – the act of reading ANY good book boosts confidence and self-esteem as their proficiency grows, helps to develop focus, concentration, vocabulary and spelling, enables pupils to explore and respond to new ideas, to develop their ability to construct effective sentences, paragraphs and arguments…….the list goes on. Research data from the UK and from countries across the globe tells us that young people who read for pleasure regularly are far more likely to achieve well academically (reading regularly has been shown to add the equivalent of a whole year’s extra education over the 5 years of a high school career), to be resilient emotionally and to have good “people skills”.
Where parents read and encourage reading, young people are more likely to read too.
ACTIVITIES FOR PARENTS TO CONSIDER
- Family reading time (a “screen-ban” for half an hour perhaps)
- Trips to the local library (or browsing the Kindle store together)
- Reading aloud to teenagers (yes, really – they love it!!)
- Hearing your child read aloud
- discussing the books being read
- Encouraging other forms of reading – newspapers, recipe books etc
- Discussing any films or television programmes you watch – encourage children to question, critique and actively engage with the media you allow them to experience
- Discuss topical issues/news items/issues, encouraging your child to see things from a range of perspectives and to find secure and trustworthy evidence to support a given view point.
Extended Learning Tasks
Your child’s teachers will set Extended Learning Tasks at appropriate points in each unit of work. These may be to prepare for, to embed or to extend or widen new learning. Many of these tasks are revision or practice based.
As pupils progress through the school and we encourage them to take increasing responsibility for their own learning, we would hope that they would start to prepare for lessons voluntarily by reading ahead or revising prior learning.
How parents can help with Extended Learning Tasks
- Rather than “Have you got any….” or “What did you do today” – questions which any good teenager can easily deflect, have a copy of their timetable and ask them what they learned in history, what they did in art, what they’re reading in English etc. The more specific the question, the more likely they are to share and the more opportunity you have to support their learning.
- Praise the effort they make with Extended Learning Tasks. Notice progress.
- Don’t do it for them and if they are unsure, try to support them in a way which enables them to find the solution rather than you giving it to them.
- If they can’t do something, that’s okay, so long as they really give it a go. In school, we are focussing on resilience and developing a “Growth Mindset”. We are teaching our pupils to accept that they can’t get everything right first time, that mistakes are opportunities for learning and that intelligence is not fixed – the more we persevere, the more progress we make.
- Help them to break tasks into small, achievable chunks, to look for new solutions when things don’t go well and to be relaxed about not knowing everything. Write a note in the planner explaining how hard they tried, even if the result isn’t perfect.
- Make learning fun – sing, draw, laugh, play with the tasks they are given whenever possible – use your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses.
- Pupils are also welcome and encouraged to attend our staffed Extended Learning Support Sessions – after school from 3-4pm Mondays through to Fridays and before school 8.05-8.35am Tuesdays and Thursdays (Please note that Extended Learning Support Sessions have been suspended due to Covid restrictions – we hope to continue this in the near future)
Other forms of Extended Learning
Parents and school provide many opportunities for wider, rich learning beyond set tasks. Supporting a child’s sporting, musical or dramatic talents and activities for example, taking them to new places and finding new experiences are all proven ways to support and enhance learning. Research repeatedly shows that young people who engage in trips and extra-curricular activities routinely outperform those who do not. Their confidence, resilience, self-esteem and social skills benefit exponentially from this kind of learning.
Conversely, we now know that excessive “screen time” – watching lots of television, playing screen based games, spending lots of time on the computer, tablet or mobile – has a negative effect. Young people become sedentary, their attention span often reduces and they can become withdrawn and “low”. This is particularly the case if they are engaging in long periods of screen time alone in their rooms.