What we did:
Members of Falkirk Children’s Services Literacy Team created family learning packs to make learning at home fun, easy and engaging regardless of the resources available. The Storyline approach (developed in Scotland in the 1960s) was selected to provide a flexible framework for the two family learning packs produced between May and June 2020 for our primary and early years schools and centres. We used the familiar tale of Jack and the Beanstalk for our first family learning pack because of its accessibility and its variations across the world. Digital and print copies of the storyline plan and all of the resources required were delivered to every school and centre.
Our second family literacy learning pack was called “My Dream Holiday” and enabled families to prepare for and enjoy a “pretend” holiday during lockdown. This pack was designed to be multi-purpose – it worked as a family learning support tool, but was also used by practitioners as a framework for blending school-led online learning with family learning tasks at home. It was great to see how Falkirk teachers integrated these ideas into their daily literacy teaching, but also adapted these for their learners and their communities.
Who we involved:
These storylines were created by Falkirk Children’s Services Literacy Team. The team collaborated with their literacy network and colleagues in schools to help shape the content and form of the storylines. The materials were subsequently shared with Forth Valley and West Lothian Literacy team colleagues also.
The difference it made:
These storyline packs offered engaging themes for our pupils’ consolidation and application of literacy. Each storyline targeted literacy skills relating to real life during lockdown, but also referred back to school-based learning and forward to skills for work and life. The key questions in each storyline helped parents to differentiate the learning tasks for all of their children so that their family could build their relationships while learning together. The fantasy context of the Jack in the Beanstalk storyline and the pretend visits abroad ensured emotional involvement and some light-hearted relief from the restrictions of lockdown. The key questions also encouraged relationship-building tasks such as looking at family holiday photos and recalling enjoyable days out.
The packs were also designed to reduce planning pressures on practitioners at a time when they were grappling with the technical challenges of teaching and learning online. The structure, links and resources they offered left plenty of scope for practitioners to adjust the tasks or present these to their pupils in different ways. It was heartening to see so many family Twitter responses to schools explaining which capital cities they wanted to “pretend” visit and what essentials they planned to put into their imaginary suitcases!
What we will do differently in the future:
Working on these literacy family learning packs was a new departure for the literacy team and fostered their online collaboration too. Their use of Microsoft Teams, email communication and collaborative document creation helped them to build and maintain their collegiality and work toward a purposeful shared goal with wide benefits to their service. Team members had previously worked either with practitioners and senior leaders, or mainly to support individual pupils or small groups face to face. Having a shared family target audience really focussed each member of the team and helped them to identify how their particular skills and knowledge could combine towards a practical, accessible and valuable family learning resource. In the short term therefore, they created resources which were directly useful at that time. In the longer term, however, the team and our service more broadly have realised that the design and creation of family learning materials has multiple purposes and potential benefits for children’s literacy and beyond. We are already looking at how to build on the legacy of our lockdown family literacy learning packs.