Encouraging our children to learn through lockdown has been a challenging process. From online lessons to socially distanced picnic meet ups – we have tried it all! Listening to their needs, we’ve discovered that writing prompts are not enough. Temptation has turned most children to televisions, social media and gaming instead of learning, writing and creating. We have had to do more with our sessions to capture their attention and keep them enthused. Here is what we have done to provide our young writers with enough inspiration to keep writing…
During the month of July, our EDS Writers’ Club used the theme of ‘Creation Station’ to motivate our young writers to expand their perspectives and use extended vocabulary without stressing the younger members or reducing their enthusiasm. Choosing focal points in nature provided opportunities to pen narratives, settings and persuasive poems. They also produced pretty good catch phrases for each writing task, such as ‘Cave Creatures’, ‘Reach for the Sky’ and ‘Let your words fly!’.
Apart from choosing focal points from nature, space and science, preparing arts and crafts to capture the imagination of each child helped secure their vision of what they wanted to create. Leading with task objectives during the creation process and opening discussions on fact versus fiction around their inventions assisted the writing process and accessed better vocabulary. Interest in finding the truth behind what we were discovering encouraged further reading on the focus points, thereby expanding their word bank and knowledge. This, in turn, built further confidence in the young writers whilst creating their crafts or art and organically grew further thought about the writing task ahead.
Driven by their creations, it felt effortless to extend the challenge within the writing tasks, pushing harder objectives such as writing in the first person narrative or perfecting persuasive prose in poetic format, as well as introducing instructional text recording their process for creative tasks. One writer brought her work back a week later, sharing how she put in the extra work to perfect her presentation beyond requirements or expectations. Another writer was inspired to write a poem after completing a writing task to note the setting of their flying mammal, giving evidence of further thought on the tasks we enjoyed during our hour long sessions.
The upheaval in school life over the past few months for many children has jarred their learning experience and put the weight of education on parents. Some have coped well and others have not, leaving some children in learning limbo. Having the stability and planning of the club has encouraged our writers to keep their momentum in learning and use their knowledge from their everyday to extended learning beyond the school room. We have been very lucky to have motivated parents too, but all is not lost for those feeling overwhelmed with the learning objectives thrown at them over the past term. We can all try some basic exercises over the summer holidays to stabilise our children’s learning without the restrictions of structured classes.
Adapting is the order of the day. Using every opportunity to encourage our children to learn more about the world around them is important. Encourage their artistic talents, construction skills or crafting abilities by showing interest in the mundane. Their paintings and drawings capturing nature can open discussions on flora and fauna in the garden. There are many free apps that identify plants and trees from pictures of their leaves. Use the app for a fun learning experience for the whole family on what grows in your garden. Press flowers between books and use them in their artwork to retain knowledge through annotated calligraphy in sparkle pens to capture scientific names of plant parts. Or, a simple piece of paper and crayon on a walk can capture texture in footpaths, bark or leaves. Symmetry can be found in the shapes of leaves, trees and building or even around the house.
Realising that we might not have all the answers and that it is okay is also important. Sometimes our children learn more through our vulnerabilities. It’s what we do about it that counts. Letting children explain things to us without interrupting, or exploring new knowledge together can build a child’s confidence and confirm that we don’t need to know everything- there’s always an opportunity to learn more no matter how old we are.
Motivate your children to solidify their knowledge. Simple instruction text or narratives on how they created or discovered their arts/crafts gives them a writing challenge driven and controlled by them with the incentive to be used by others. Baking and cooking in a mud kitchen (an outdoor play kitchen in the garden using plants, leaves, seeds and mud!) bans boredom and helps build vocabulary as they discover their ingredients, writing instructions on how to create their adventurous meals.
Try these ideas at home and see what works for you. Together, we can provide our children with learning opportunities without stressing that schools are not as accessible as before. And don’t forget, there is a wealth of knowledge at your local libraries. We are not alone as we enter a new era of learning.