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Opinion/Commentary

Children encouraged to play card games to gain social skills

Uno has become popular among primary school – aged children

It’s no secret that peoole have worried about children’s wellbeing over the past two years. The pandemic and lockdowns have seen thousands of children completing schoolwork at home. Controversially, this has included children in early primary school.

To build up wellbeing and social skills, some primary school teachers are using strategies outside of traditional subjects like reading, writing and arithmetic. The card game, Uno has proven a hit by the children.

‘Brain breaks’ — in addition to recess and lunch — are also being implemented.

Teachers are using these techniques to address effects of lockdown on children’s development.

New South Wales’ Primary Principals Association’s vice president, Michael Trist has highlighted effects on children’s development.

We know children have missed out on some of those basic building blocks for their social skills and the resulting mental health benefits those social skills bring.

Trist is optimistic that lost and under-developed social skills can come back and improve:

Just like a student who arrives at school with limited literacy can make up ground, so can a child who arrives with social deficiencies.

These techniques are being used not only to increase social interaction, but to also build prosocial behaviours. In locations that had the harsher lockdowns, challenging behaviours and emotions have increased.

Play – based learning is essential to early development

Image: Pexels

In the early 2010s, Australia’s Labor Government introduced reforms to early childhood education.

As a result, the Early Years Learning Framework was established.

In early childhood education (daycare – Preschool), play-based learning is seen as an essential part of childhood development.

According to the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF):

Play provides opportunities for children to learn as they discover, create, improvise and imagine. When children play with other children, they create social groups, test out ideas, challenge each other’s thinking and build new understandings.

Belonging, Being and Becoming: Early Years Learning Framework, p. 5

Play is recognised as, not just important for identity, but also prosocial skills in children.

So, it makes sense that it would help primary school – aged children who may have regressed in some of these skills over the past two years.

Mental health, especially among children and young people, has been such a hot topic over the past two years. Having children in organised play can only help increase children’s mental wellbeing.

It’s not just about reading, writing and arithmetic

In mainstream media, there has been concerns raised over writing, reading and mathematics standards. Concerns have only heightened since the pandemic.

While skills in reading, writing and arithmetic are important, I think it’s good that social skills, play-based learning and rest are also being highlighted.

It’s good for children’s mental health. And that’s important for learning.

Children may need to be eased back into school life again. I think relearning social skills using games is a great first step.

What do you think? Should all primary/ elementary schools develop play – based programs and extra breaks? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary

Education Union calls for NAPLAN to be scrapped

School students taking test in hall
Image: iStock

 

The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is  under fire.

Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe has called for the program to be abolished:

NAPLAN has been plagued by a lack of credibility with teachers and parents for years. It is time for the Federal Government to scrap NAPLAN for good and replace it with a new sample – based assessment strategy that has students and teachers at its heart.

The purpose of NAPLAN

Across Australia, students sit for NAPLAN tests in Years Three, Five, Seven and Nine.

student writing
Image: iStock

The tests focus on a range of skills such as comprehension, spelling and grammar, creative writing and mathematics skills.

NAPLAN was around when I was at school. I remember taking it in Years Three, Five, Seven and Nine.

Teachers used NAPLAN results to assess students’ abilities. They could also see the areas students needed help.

From helping tool to competition

The invention of the MySchool website in 2010, made NAPLAN contentious.

Rather than teachers focusing on improvements and struggles of students, school reputation was the focus.

In 2016, a Sydney public school came under fire when a student was asked to stay home in fear that the student would drag the school average down.

The parent of the child received a letter from the school about the request. The excuse given was to avoid “stress” for the student.

The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) warns teachers not to exclude students.

Other recommendations from ACARA

On their website, ACARA endorses NAPLAN. Its recommendations for teachers and parents include:

  • Tell the students to do the best they can that day
  • Avoid cramming and coaching leading to the tests
  • Parents should ask teachers questions

ACARA and the media

The media have right to publish results by ACARA under Freedom of Information and Copyright Act 1968.

Any journalists who wish to report on results are responsible for gaining copyright clearances.

NAPLAN could have merit

I’m not an educator, teacher or education researcher. I took the NAPLAN tests in Years Three, Five, Seven and Nine.

When I sat for NAPLAN, I was average. One of my biggest weaknesses was comprehension and creative writing was my strength. I think that’s an accurate presentation of me, especially throughout school.

My primary school and high school didn’t worry or emphasise on results. It wasn’t a competition. The aim was to see where students’ strengths were and where they needed help.

I’m not sure whether NAPLAN itself is a terrible tool. But I think it’s original purpose is lost.

I think the MySchool website should be abolished. That’s when issues seemed to start.

NAPLAN’s focus should be on helping children in English and Mathematics. Any areas students struggle in should ne addressed.

NAPLAN shouldn’t be about the egos of schools. Unfortunately, I think what NAPLAN’s become.

Bring back NAPLAN’s original intent. Then maybe it could benefit ALL teachers and students.

 

What are your views on NAPLAN? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary

Schools are doing away with awards

School children on running track
Image: iStock

According to the ABC, some primary schools have abolished or are phasing out merit awards, presentation night awards and sports ribbons.

St. James Parish School near Ballarat, Victoria is one of them. At sports carnivals, students focus on their own performance and improve their personal best.

While sceptical at first, Co – principal, Peter Fahey told the ABC that the response has been positive. He said it was a “relief” that students didn’t have to worry about coming last or be stressed out over academic achievement.

 

Westmead Public School, Sydney is also on the way to abolishing ribbons and awards. Currently, awards are not handed out during assemblies. End of year achievement awards are currently awarded for students in Years Three to Six. Students in Kindergarten to Year Two are presented with a ‘celebration of learning’ event.

 

 

Approach gets mixed response

This non – traditional approach to education has had mixed reviews. Well – being advocate and author, Helen Street has been critical of the school merit system for years and has been encouraging schools to abandon it.

She argues that “bribing” children to act a certain way or achieve may work in the short trem, but will not enhance self motivation in the long run.

However, some education experts finds the no awards approach concerning. Senior lecturer of education policy at the University of Western Australia, Dr. Glenn Savage argues that, while the lack oof awards in schools may work for some students, it wasn’t realistic. He argued that some children thrive with competition and that competition was a part of life that children should not be sheltered from.

 

My take

When I was at school, it was very awards -oriented. Awards were given in class, at assemblies and at end – of – year presentation nights. Ribbons, trophies and medals were also frequent in sports events. Was it hard not getting one? When I was little, sure. But I survived.

I can see the merit (no pun intended), in holding off achievement awards until after Kindergarten/ Prep. I remember when I was in that year, all Kinder students were presented with a picture book.

Beyond that, I don’t see the inherenr harm in competition at school. Students will eventually be able to go with it.

All children need to be able to recieve success with humility and deal with disappointment. That’s a part of life. In fact, I don’t think there is enough emphasis on disappointment and setbacks. There wasn’t when I was in school, anyway.

I think students should be acknowledged for their achievements. However, I think it’s equally important that students are commended for dilligence and hard work, regardless of where they rank in the class.

 

Lastly, while they are important, I don’t think schools, either primary or high schools, should solely focus on academics and sports. Music, Drama and art offer valuable skills in creativity, team work and discipline. These skills will be valuable beyond school and should be acknowledged.

 

What do you think about schools abolishing sport and academic awards? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below (or the Twitter poll @GQueenMedia).