Spotlight on Family Interactions

The PYP art and music programs hold monthly “Spotlight on the Arts” events each month.  This is a time for families to come to school and learn about what their child is doing in music and art class.  The evening is always: student centered with student guided activities, connected to the current unit of inquiry, allows for families to participate in and give feedback to their child about their learning and growth.

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Our first Spotlight on the Arts this school year was focused on Grade 3 families.  Their task was to interview each other (using prepared questions), draw family members based on their interview answers, and then share/reflect on commonalities and differences using an Exit Ticket.  As I observed families interacting in this portrait game together, I saw parents asking students to translate the written instructions and interviews on the table, as well as families speaking multiple languages within one conversation to understand the activity.  I recognized that many parents were at a BICS level of communication in English, but I hadn’t realized it because this I had typically only communicated with them in a more casual, social, and verbal setting.  When it came to more technical steps in writing, specific art terms to describe procedures, and routines that were not familiar to them, parents needed assistance from their child to better understand the activities.  It was wonderful to see how confident students were in explaining the activities (in multiple languages) and to allow them to be the teachers for an evening.

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I realized that while I had practiced the activity and procedures with my Grade 3 students to ensure confidence for the evening, many of the parents exhibited signs of nervousness and lack of confidence communicating verbally and visually at first.  However, with the encouragement of their children leading them, everyone completed the activities, using a range of multi-lingual strategies and seemed to have fun as well!  These interactions are always a point of learning for me, but perhaps I should be paying them more attention in future Spotlight evenings.  How am I using these events as a way to better understand students’ language profiles and backgrounds?  How can I fine tune my observations on these evenings to consider language learning in the art room?  These family interactions are moments of children communicating socially and academically, as a student and as a teacher.  There are so many levels of learning going on and I hope to use this as a new way of gleaning information about students’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds throughout the year.

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2 thoughts on “Spotlight on Family Interactions”

  1. Hi Dana,
    I love that students were able to confidently translate their learning for their parents. It would be a challenge for them, because I’m sure they aren’t used to using the academic language at home in their mother tongue – just as their parents aren’t used to using academic language in English.
    Spotlight is a great way to gain insight into students mother tongue and home culture. I look forward to hearing more about how you use this new insight to guide your teaching.

    1. Thanks Sara. Good point about the type of language that’s being used at home vs. at school. I imagine it is quite a shift for our students to translate that learning into their MT and visa versa throughout the week. I wonder if this topic ever comes up in home learning tasks for classroom teachers?

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