At Moredon Primary and Nursery School in Swindon, Nursery Teacher Jenna Godfrey and Year 1 Teaching Assistant Coral Bentley have been running Early Words Together this year to increase parental engagement.
They often found that parental engagement for in-school activities was low or that parents they wanted to target most wouldn’t attend. Early Words Together proved popular amongst their targeted families and the sessions were very well attended by mums, dads and grandparents alike.
Early Words Together trains Early Years staff and volunteers to work with parents and children aged three to five, building parents’ confidence so that they can support their children’s communication, language and literacy skills at home.
Jenna and Coral found that approaching parents personally about Early Words Together during parents’ evening and at pick-up time was a great way to explain what the programme was all about and get parents interested in being involved.
Jenna said: “We felt that the Early Words Together toolkit provided us with sufficient planning and so we followed this in the first round of sessions. For the second round of sessions, we changed the giveaway book to The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We planned to tailor the final session to link in with the book and have a food-tasting session but unfortunately this couldn’t take place due to COVID-19 school closures.”
The school hall was the perfect place to host some of the sessions as it allowed plenty of space for craft and seating areas as well as for playing listening games.
Activities in the sessions inspired parents to carry out similar ones at home. One parent said that she was now working on using more prepositional language at home, reading more regularly and sounding out more words with her child. Another said the sessions had motivated them to do further crafting together at home and, encouraged by the “silly soup” activity, one mum made resources to use with her child to extend their language and rhyming skills. Jenna and Coral made a display in the classroom of things families had made in sessions and at home.
During the sessions, Jenna and Coral also provided library registration forms, local library opening times and story time sessions for families to attend. They would like to incorporate visiting the local library together into future sessions, as they were unable to do that this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Four out of five families now understand better than before how important it is for them to talk to their child and read more together at home. This is clear from the children’s reading records.
Coral said: “As practitioners, we saw a marked improvement in parent/child interactions as the sessions went on. One parent in particular was quite reserved during the first session and had little confidence in her abilities to engage her child in the activities. By the third session, she was talking with her child more and he was actively engaged, with little support from us. We feel the Early Words Together Programme has been a success and has had high levels of engagement.”