Bringing creativity and focused practice into the home learning environment

Lauran Hampshire-Dell

Lauran Hampshire-Dell is an English teacher from Surrey. She now runs a tuition company and a teaching resources website, and enjoys writing articles like this one. 

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In recent weeks, I’ve found the idiom ‘how long is a piece of string?’ has entered my daily vocabulary. With parents, students, teachers and even Joyce next door all asking ‘how long will this last, do you reckon?’, it seems the monotony is getting to everyone. Throw into the mix the demands of home learning and progress concerns, and we’ve got a seemingly endless summer of stress coming our way… so how can we ease that stress, and dare I say it, even try to enjoy some of this time? 

I think the answer lies somewhere between glorious multicolour creativity and the black and white clarity of intentionally - albeit sneakily - practised key skills. 

Creativity at home doesn’t have to be Instagram level interactive workshops - it’s just about finding something new in the ordinary: noticing flowers or birds, chatting about the news, cooking dinner, and watching Moana for the 6th time this week can all have their role in helping practise key literacy and numeracy skills. 

By trade I’m an English teacher and right now I’m not too worried about ‘new’ content (think whole books/plays/anthologies). Instead, my focus is on not letting that foundational knowledge slip away: recalling basics like adjectives, similes and metaphors, practising more complex vocabulary, and using small interesting stimuli to prompt creative thinking will all prevent gaps appearing before the new academic year begins.

So what could this look like at home? 

  • Chatting about tense parts of films can lead to a chat about structure and its impact on an audience 
  • Thinking about a really good day before lockdown, or looking at old photos can lead to a descriptive writing piece
  • Noticing the changes of Spring outside can lead to a discussion around synonyms, or writing a poem in the shape of a flower or a bird
  • Watching the news can lead to a discussion about effective speeches, or responding to current events. These don’t have to lead to writing, but it could offer opportunities to think about speeches, letters and persuasive techniques in non-fiction media

It isn’t just English though: Maths runs our everyday lives and there’s plenty of chances to practise those skills without printing everything Twinkl has to offer and trying to teach algebra to unwilling recipients. 

How then can we embed Maths at home? 

  • Measuring ingredients for a meal doesn’t just practise counting skills! It also offers up opportunities to discuss ratios and percentages (and a chance to eat a lot of home baked cakes in the name of revision)
  • Looking at petals on flowers can introduce the ideas of the Fibonnaci sequence, patterns and shapes that are all around us in nature
  • Cutting shapes to make a real-life Tetris is a good chance to discuss area and shapes. You can also use cutting up shapes to discuss tessellation whilst making some artwork
  • Playing with Lego can gently introduce fractions and is a great way to practise mathematical processes.  

Don’t be afraid to leave the creativity up to other people either! Plenty of people, myself included*, have plenty of free resources, recorded and live lessons happening. There’s plenty out there on Youtube, Instagram and other social media sites. A different activity or voice might just be the thing to keep those educational fires burning. 

With so much pressure on teachers and parents at the moment, I think it’s incredibly important to just breathe. Things are strange right now, and no good can come from fighting about learning (not to mention the guilt that will come with that). Instead, we can keep practising those concrete skills as well as celebrate the newfound flexibility that lockdown offers us, which may just be the silver lining in the darkness. 

*I run an hour’s free creative writing lesson every Friday at 10am. Want to join? Drop me a DM and I’ll be glad to share the password. Not able to make it? Don’t worry! All the resources are in a free, public Google drive folder for you access whenever you’d like.

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