Have you ever been asked that question and simply answered, “Same ol’ same ol’” without making any attempt to elaborate or delve deeper into the day’s activities.
If so, did this mean that you didn’t enjoy your day and that there wasn’t anything interesting in it?
Sometimes much of what we do on a daily basis can become routine with activities seeming to flow from one to another without a great deal of change or significance worthy of a remark.
There are many reasons people don’t immediately share what has happened in their day, and the lack of a truly amazing outstanding event may be just one of them.
Similarly, in response to the question “What did you do today?” school children, often simply answer “Nothing” (as described by SHECANDO) without making any attempt to elaborate or delve deeper into the day’s activities.
Parents and others often jump to the conclusion that the child’s day has been uneventful and boring and, unless the child later volunteers some information, or the parent has a specific question to ask, that may be the end of the subject.
However, just as with adults, there may be a number of reasons the “Nothing,” response is given, including the generalised nature of the question.
Some reasons for this failure to elaborate, although unspoken and often unidentified, may be:
‘I’ve just finished a hard day, I don’t want to talk about it right now.”
“So much happened today, I don’t know where to start.”
“I don’t think you’d be interested in anything that happened to me.”
“I can’t really think. What do you want to know: something bad, something funny or something amazing? I didn’t get into trouble.”
Additionally, if children are not already practiced in the art of sustaining conversation with an adult, then these discussions will rarely come easily or spontaneously.
Sometimes specific questioning, requiring more than a yes/no answer, may elicit a more detailed response that in turns leads to a more in-depth discussion of the day’s events, e.g.
“Who did you sit with at lunch today?”
“What games did you play at recess?”
“What story did your teacher read to you? What was it about?”
Knowing something of what occurred during the day helps parents formulate appropriate questions to elicit conversation.
In my role as a year one classroom teacher I believe in the importance of these conversations between children and parents for a number of reasons, including:
- to keep parents informed of what is happening the classroom, which in turn encourages a positive attitude and participation;
- to develop children’s language skills by engaging them in conversations which require them to describe, explain, respond and exchange ideas;
- to develop children’s thinking skills and memory, “What did I do today?” “What did I learn?” “What happened before/after lunch?”
- to provide a time for reflection and review e.g. “What can I do now that I couldn’t do before?” “When we were doing x, we had to y. Oh, now I get it. That means . . . “
- to provide opportunities to sort out feelings and emotions experienced during the day, but not yet dealt with e.g. “I don’t know why that happened at lunch time. Tomorrow I will . . .”
- to strengthen the child-parent relationship by sharing ideas, attitudes and events in their daily lives.
In addition to giving children reminders before they left for home in the afternoons, I developed a strategy that specifically targeted the need to provide parents with a window into the child’s day in order to arm them with sufficient information to instigate robust discussion.
I called this strategy
Each day I published class news which the children pasted into a book to take home and read with parents. These days many teachers, like Miss Hewes, use a blog to keep parents informed. However there were no blogs around when I began doing this in the 1980s!
The class news consisted of three main sections:
- News of individual students
- Class things we did today
- Class reminders
News of individual students
Each day 2 – 3 children told the class about an item of interest to them e.g. an activity, a recent purchase, a family event, or a wish.
After each child shared their news, the class and I cooperatively composed a brief summary (one or two sentences at first). I scribed and the children read. Later in the day I printed this out for the children to take home and read to their parents.
As well as being a very effective literacy learning strategy (which I will write about in a future post), it helped parents get to know the names of classmates and a little about each one; it provided a discussion starter about which their child could elaborate. It also affirmed the children by providing each a turn of “starring” about once a fortnight.
Things we did today
In this section I would tell parents briefly about a few things we did that day, e.g.
“Mrs Colvin read “Possum Magic”. We talked about what it would be like to be invisible and discussed what we thought would be good and not-so-good about being invisible. Then we wrote our very own stories about being invisible. We had some very interesting ideas!”
“We learned about odd and even numbers by finding out which number of different objects we could put into two even lines. Where can you find some odd or even numbers of objects at home?”
“In art we learned about lines: straight lines and wriggly lines; long lines and short lines; jagged lines and curved lines; thick lines and thin lines. What sort of lines can you see in your pictures?”
When parents are informed about things that have happened during the day, they have a firm basis for opening a meaningful discussion with their child. This in turn validates the child by giving importance to the child’s activities.
I often included a question to help parents realise that they could easily extend the child’s learning at home.
A reminder or two would be included if particular events were coming up, or payments needed e.g.
“Sports day tomorrow. Remember to wear your sport uniform and running shoes.”
“Friday is the final day that excursion payments will be accepted.”
These reminders helped to reduce the possibility of a child being upset by forgetting or missing out on a class activity. They also provided parents with another opportunity for discussion and the ability to enthuse their child with the anticipation of future events.
Publishing the class news like this every day did eat into my lunch time, but the advent of computers in the classroom helped as I was able to set up a template and print copies on the classroom printer. In the “olden” days of the spirit copiers, every day meant starting out again and having to go to another room to churn the copies out by hand.
I continued using this strategy throughout three decades of teaching because I believe in its power to develop readers and talkers, and to involve parents by keeping them informed of classroom learning and activities. Having already received a child’s answer of ‘nothing’ to the question “What did you do today?” I was determined that no child from my class would have a reason to answer in the same way.
What questions encourage you to open up and talk about your day?
What questions encourage you to keep your mouth shut?
What do you think of my daily class news?
What other strategies do you suggest to encourage communication between parents and children?
All images courtesy of www.openclipart.org unless stated otherwise.
I remember you doing this . At the time I didn’t see what you were doing until I read this, I just thought what a great teacher for all the effort she takes.
Thanks for your comment. I am grateful for the recognition of my effort. But I wonder: did the activity have the effect I desired? Did it help you glean some information from your girls about their day? Maybe since your communication channels were always so clear and positive anyway, you possibly didn’t need the extra stimulus!
What a great post – such practical ideas for teachers to adopt. It’s great to use communicating necessary (and fun) information as a platform for engaging parents and children in learning.
Thanks for your comment Bec. I’m pleased you consider it a practical idea. Communication between parents, children and the school is vitally important, the exchange of information is beneficial to all.
Thanks for the ping back! I had a similar thing when I was in primary school. We all had a diary (even though it was a public school and not the usual m.o.) and we had to write three sentences about what we’d done that day. By doing this it prompted us to discuss our school day with our parents. It worked a treat (well so I heard, I on the other hand was a chronic chatter box and so it wasn’t necessary for me).
I think these ideas are a lot more effective than the methods most schools use these days, being to post everything up on the school online portal – not many parents find the time (remember) to check it!
Thanks for your comment. I agree that these methods do make it easier for parents. When everyone has arrived home in the evening after their busy days, they want to spend the time that they can together while completing all the activities that are part of daily life. Going online to find out what has been happening in school would not be a priority. By the time parents get a chance to check online, the children are usually in bed, too late to have the discussions.
Exactly the case.