Five quick ways to help your child with English home learning

In the last lockdown, the overwhelming consensus seemed to be that students were not getting enough work sent home, and teenagers were either not doing anything, or struggling to continue their studies on their own. This time around, the issues seem to be to do with overload and overwhelm. Schools are terrified of being accused of not sending home enough work (thanks Gavin) so they are instead sending out unrealistic amounts. This is putting huge pressure on both children and parents, especially those who are working. These five tips are not designed to add to the workload, but to give you some simple ways you can encourage and support your child if he/she is struggling, without burning yourself out in the process. 

  1. Get them to the dictionary! Encourage him/her to be resilient, and use resources around them to aid their learning. If your child is not understanding what they are reading, do they need to be a bit more proactive, and look up words? Of course, if they are doing this and still not understanding, then it could be that the reading level is not quite right. In normal circumstances, I would recommend discussing this with your child’s teacher, but if this is not possible at present, then encourage your child to get what they can from the text, answer the questions they can, and then leave it. 
  2. Use the power of the internet. There is a lot of rubbish online, but there are also a lot of good resources that may help your child make sense of the work they have been set. This is particularly the case with some of the established GCSE texts such as Macbeth or An Inspector Calls. There is a lot of material out there that can help, especially if your child is struggling to follow the story, or needs some historical context explaining. For example, if he/she is struggling with Shakespeare, there are websites such as No Fear Shakespeare, which provide modern day translations of many Shakespeare plays. 
  3. Make use of self-assessment tools. Whilst it may be tricky to get your child’s work marked at this time, there are things they can do to help them assess their own progress. If your child is in the examination years, looking at mark schemes can be a good way to focus him/her, reminding them of the skills they need to be developing in order to make progress. Many schools also provide level ladders to encourage peer and self-assessment, so ensure that your child is making use of these wherever he/she can. These measures are of course only a short-term replacement for teacher feedback and assessment, but they will give your child some way of knowing whether or not he/she is making progress.
  4. Use film to help where you can. Film is an underrated teaching tool in English and could help if your child has hit a brick wall with his/her studies.If they are finding the text too overwhelming and cannot access any of the work, go to the film. They will get an overview of the story and the characters, and whilst it will not necessarily unlock the text for them immediately, it is definitely a start. If he/she is studying the play, then have a look and see if there are any versions of the play available online to watch. With theatres in crisis, places like the National Theatre have been streaming plays to help stay afloat, so you could see if there is anything on offer. Plus, it may buy you an hour or two where you know they are engaged in work but they do not need your help! 
  5. Ask questions. Do not struggle in silence. Get your child to ask their friends for help, or perhaps create a Whatsapp study group. This is great for their mental wellbeing as well, as it will help them not to feel so alone. If you know any other parents with students in similar age groups, make a Whatsapp group between you. Use online study forums, or post in groups, such as my secondary parents’ group, Flying High. 

For further tips and support, including weekly lives, make sure you join my Facebook group, Flying High – Helping Your Child Flourish at Secondary School Level.

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