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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Using Activities in the Community to Develop Social Skills

Community activities are diverse, fun, and provide a wide range of opportunities for social skill development. Meeting people, maintaining conversations, collaborating with peers, following directions, and problem solving are a few social skills to practice in a community setting. Below are a few ideas on incorporating social skill development into your community activities.

1. Story Times and Plays – Community libraries, bookshops, and theatres often have book readings or short plays for children. These events are opportunities to practice attending, following directions, maintaining personal space, and asking and responding to questions in a group setting. For children working on attending, find out how long the event lasts, if there are frequent breaks, and if the event is interactive. Attend shorter, more interactive events then gradually increase the length of time so children are successful and are engaged in the event.

2. Parks - Although primarily thought of as a place for exercise, parks are a wonderful place to learn conflict resolution, problem solving, and communication skills. Children can practice asking to join an activity, helping peers, and working with friends to create and resolve game rules. Patience can be practiced waiting for a swing or the slide.

3. People of Authority in the Community - The ability to socialise with people of authority is important for school, community, and future work environments. Doctors, dentists, and teachers are examples of people who should be addressed more formally. Use these interactions as opportunities to practice formal introductions, greetings, conversations, and good-byes. Prepare children by letting them know who they will be seeing and practicing short conversations.

4. Frequent Interactions – Addressing people at a shop or n eighbours involves less formal interactions. These meetings are an opportunity for greeting someone by name, asking questions about their interests, and ending the conversation appropriately. Practice at home in advance and remind children, if necessary, how to respond when they see the person. For example, ‘Alex, you remember Mrs. Smith who lives across the road and has a dog called Buster.

5. Leisure Centres - Leisure centres frequently have summer team activities such as football or netball. These teams are opportunities for children to learn good sportsmanship, meet with children their age, and learn to follow rules and regulations associated with an activity. Other activities offered at community centres, libraries and museums include art and storytelling which teach fun skills while providing social interactions. Children learn to work collaboratively with children their age on projects or share materials for completing activities.

Marking Guidelines and Suggestions for Making Marking More Effective

Praise and target
Marking is about gaining a balance of setting and guiding future progress and building self-esteem based on children’s achievements. A good marking policy should reflect this. Children should be made aware of what they have done well, any achievements or successes they have made. However, more importantly, to facilitate their future progress they need to be given targets on where to go next with their learning. In some cases they need to be sensitively told they are getting things wrong.

Only praise
Like all things, in marking there are exceptions to the rule of praise and target. If a child is particularly proud of a piece of writing for example, it may not be helpful to set a target or point out any errors as this may be counterproductive. It may be better to praise only, ignore any areas for development until the next time that child is working on a similar piece. In this instance the target could be set at the beginning of the piece, based on the areas for development in the previous piece and addressed in a very positive way such as “You remember that lovely piece of writing you did? Wasn’t it great? Now you’re older I bet you could do an even more amazing one if you …….”

Only target
Sometimes children (and adults) don’t do their best, other times they do very little. In general, children like to know where they stand when it comes to expectations. If you are marking a piece of children’s work and you can’t find anything good to say about it, that is probably because there is nothing good to say about it. So be honest with the child, set their targets and then, instead of scrambling around trying to refer to something good in the piece in front of you, use the praise element to refer to some previous submission i.e. “You are usually really good at extended writing, perhaps we should have another look at the recount you wrote about the school trip last week, that was very well written” (personal retrospective praise).

Is the marking focussed to the objective?
Have a balance of focussed and unfocussed marking. It is often helpful for the child if they are aware of what is being marked, for instance; using apostrophes. Indeed, it is useful for a teacher to have a clear focus and can make marking a lot quicker. However, we are back to the magic f word in education; flexibility. If you notice any glaring errors, particularly repeated, don’t be afraid to break the rules and mention them. Even more importantly, if you notice that a child is attempting something to extend their learning i.e. using colons in sentences, mention it.

Don’t over mark,
Are the teachers writing too much? Are the teachers up all night marking? Praise and target marking is hard work. If there are three pieces of work in a day per child in a class of 30, that is 90 pieces of marking. At two minutes each (conservative estimate), that is three hours’ work Consider how much written marking that a teacher is doing in a day. Even two pieces would take two hours. Marking is a crucial part of a teacher’s role, but should only be a part of the role. Maybe we should only thoroughly mark one piece in a day. Furthermore, some marking should be done with the learner during the day, allowing them to address their targets immediately.

Have the children read it? Have you made time for the children to read it? Do they understand your feedback?
Make time to analyse the marking with the children. Just because you have marked and annotated a piece doesn’t mean that they will read it. In a busy curricular ethos here may not be time to read it in class. Sometimes, they may read the feedback but not understand it. A good marking policy is an essential part of the overall academic plan. Therefore time to reflect should be integrated into the timetable, this can be done sensitively as a whole class activity, in small groups or in certain circumstances one to one. Just because we set a target, doesn’t mean it will be acted upon. Under these circumstances provision is made for next steps.

What does the child think?
Ask the child what they would do if they were the teacher. “Imagine that you are the teacher. What would you say about this piece of writing? What is good about it? What needs improving next time? You will be astounded at how insightful many children can be given the opportunity.