Mirella and Charlene are teachers and education consultants who met in 2012, growing close over a shared love of Ellen Degeneres and The West Wing. Their professional concern for wanting to “do more” for mathematics education led them to create Education Equals – a pioneering educational space.
NAPLAN is about education in Australia. We strongly believe that education is most effective when approached as a partnership between parents, students and teachers. Whether you agree with NAPLAN or not, it makes sense to use it to reflect on the authentic learning opportunities that we make available for our children at home. In this sense ‘preparing’ our children for NAPLAN is essentially ‘preparing’ them for life long learning in literacy and numeracy.
Literacy and Numeracy tests are all about applying foundational skills in reading, writing and mathematics to situations and scenarios. They do not primarily test particular forms of content and this is why they are different from the everyday lessons that most students are used to. Instead, they explore the extent to which students can apply various skills in reasoning when examining text involving language and text involving numbers and numerical contexts. So helping your children prepare isn’t about drilling more skills, but exposing them to thinking more critically about the situations and scenarios they encounter.
What follows are some easily accessible and authentic learning opportunities for you and your child to engage with on an ongoing basis. These opportunities can also enhance their ability to answer NAPLAN questions more confidently.
We can all agree that one of the most important skills that we can develop is the ability to read, understand, interpret and analyse any piece of written text. The reading test is more than just reading and comprehension, although this is a large component of the test. It is about understanding that there are different styles of text (narrative, scientific, opinion etc.) written with different voices and language.
If you don’t do so already, reading a variety of texts with your children is something that you should integrate into your everyday interactions at home. Take the opportunity to read and discuss blog posts, newspaper articles, stories, non-fiction and anything else you can get your hands on, in different forms and on varied topics. Discuss the meaning of paragraphs and sentences, whether the author is writing with bias, whether the author is trying to persuade the reader and what can be learned from the text.
In a classroom setting there is not nearly enough opportunity for this individual discussion and analysis of text. Taking the time and opportunity to engage in this sort of activity at home is both rewarding and enriching for both parent and child.
Writing and Language Conventions
With the prevalence of email, social media and smart devices in our online world, writing and communicating ideas effectively is more important than ever before. The greater the audience which children can access to engage with their writing and discuss their word choice, structure and ability to convey meaning, the better.
As much as possible, read what your child is writing for school assigned tasks and discuss with them their spelling and use of grammar. Help them discover the wondrous world of the thesaurus to help them expand and develop their vocabulary.
For social and environmental topics that your child is passionate about, have them draft letters to relevant contacts, giving them an opportunity to develop their voice and to speak persuasively.
If you feel it appropriate, help them set up a blog and develop a writing habit. These are free to set up and often the prospect of a readership is enough motivation to write and improve their craft. Or perhaps encourage them to start a public journal which they can share with family and friends.
I could talk endlessly about the many opportunities that present themselves on a daily basis to discuss and engage in activities involving numeracy and mathematics. A simple place to start is with discussions at the dinner table and we have a whole series of discussion ideas to get you started.
Some easily accessible activities that you and your child can engage with daily include: using measurements when cooking, talking about time and scheduling when discussing the tasks of the day, using money and rates when shopping for groceries, using maps to plan routes and analysing your environmental impact by monitoring and recording energy and water consumption.
Helping your child notice the prevalence of numbers and mathematical ideas in their lives and in their hobbies and interests will do wonders for their numeracy development. Maths is not something that happens in isolation in a classroom once a day, it is a suite of skills and concepts underlying the very fabric of our universe. Help your child explore its wonders!
What creative and meaningful activities can you engage with this week to help your child develop their literacy and numeracy skills?