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Power of Talk

26 September 2014

A few weeks ago I wrote about the topic of homework and this has led to several interesting conversations with parents about the best way to support their child’s learning at home.

In my discussions I always go back to a key theme which is really impactful on children’s learning; the power of TALK. I have written about this before but thought that the start of a new school year was a good time to again share this message with parents, both old and new.

If parents talk with their children, then they are giving them a great gift for life and success in the world. When parents take the time and effort to create opportunities for real and meaningful talk, children are exposed to a rich oral language culture and this has a positive and significant impact on all aspects of their learning development. In order to achieve well in an academic setting, children need to be able to effectively use higher order language and if children “can not talk it, then they can not write it”. This is why so much time is spent within primary classrooms engaging children in talking; in pairs, small groups, or in full class discussions or debates. When children are involved in learning talk, they are articulating their understanding, expressing and defending their thoughts and opinions, acting as peer teachers or givers of feedback and expanding and refining their language and literacy skills.

It follows therefore, that if the purpose of homework is to consolidate and extend children’s learning, then some of the most powerful and impactful  homework is when parents actively engage in discussions and debates, and make a conscious effort to talk with their child. Talk about what is going on in your child's life and the lives of parents and other family members; talk about the news and what is happening in the world: allow your child to enthuse about their hobbies or latest interests (even if you are not really interested!); ask questions and find out more. If you also talk about books and reading, this will engage and enthuse children as readers too!

At BISS Puxi the language of schooling is English so of course we want children’s English language skills to develop. We do want to expose and engage children in as much English as possible, but it is just as important to develop these oral literacy skills in a child’s first language and then children will naturally use and transfer them into their English.

So, again and again, I will share this message and encourage you to get talking. Your children have worked incredibly hard over the last few weeks and so deserve a relaxing break from school, but do use this opportunity to really spend time with them and create opportunities for a good chat, whether on the beach, up a mountain or round the dinner table.

I wish you all a happy, enjoyable and chatty half term break.

Niki Meehan, Head of Primary