How do we build relationships, develop oracy and reduce workload?
“He doesn’t talk to me about school, I have no idea what’s going on …” – this is something I often hear at parents’ evenings. And perhaps it’s natural for teenagers to resist engaging in conversation with their parents about the ins and outs of school life. But we can change that – by giving the right kind of homework.
What if we asked our students to research how photosynthesis works and give their parents a 2-minute presentation? Or model what the atom looks like by using items in their kitchen? Instead of confining students to their desks and busying them with worksheets, what if their homework was to have a conversation?
After all, we are preparing them for learning in the real world. Here’s why I think this is a good idea:
1. When parents feel more involved in the day-to-day life of their child, they become a part of the process. Learning doesn’t stop at the end of the school day, learning continues to be shared and interactive. Key concepts are reinforced and students have an opportunity to think creatively as they present their ideas to their family.
2. There is greater collaboration between teacher and parent which gives rise to more of a team approach to learning. Start the year introducing yourself to the parents, your expectations, and what you are intending to do with homework. Encourage both parents and students to give it a go. Keep your lines of communication open throughout the year, discussing how students have improved, or developed confidence in certain areas of their presentation.
3. Chris Anderson of TED says that ‘presentation literacy’ is the new superpower that anyone can benefit from, and it’s a skill which should be taught in every school. In today’s workforce, being able to think on your feet, articulate your ideas, and have confidence in your presentation is key – and it takes time to develop these skills – So, why not start now?
4. Fear of public speaking is often rated as the number one fear among many individuals. This could be frustrating for some in adult life – imagine not being able to stand up in a meeting and make your point, or being too afraid to give a toast at a friend’s wedding. If students start now, with a small audience that they feel comfortable with, the hope is that one day, they’ll be able to speak about any topic, to any audience – small or large.
5. The results of the DfE workload challenge survey indicated that marking, planning and data management are three of the biggest areas that lead to unnecessary workload. By being shrewd about how we assess homework, we can spend time on other meaningful ways of giving feedback– it’s all in a conversation.
How Will We Assess Their Understanding?
I’ll share a few ideas, and would love to hear some of yours.
I’d give my students a choice of how to demonstrate their learning. They could record their conversation, or ask parents to summarise the key points of their talk. Parents could be provided with a checklist of points to listen out for.
Students could hand in the flashcards or preparation notes they’ve made while researching the topic for their presentation. Some brave students may wish to share their talk with other students in the lesson, providing an opportunity for peer assessment and dialogue.
I thank the teachers who, for homework way back then, asked me to explain difficult concepts to my plants – I will never forget those ‘conversations’!
It doesn’t always have to be a discussion with parents either.
What would you suggest to improve oracy and reduce teacher workload?