FFL – Literacy and the community

Unfortunately, two of our families succumbed to the dreaded gastro and flu in week 5 so our numbers were somewhat depleted.  This meant we had a smaller group and it was focussed on the K-2 girls and mums. Leilah, Pat and Bek worked with the girls on oral language using language games whilst Jann read with the mums. We practiced strategies such as echo reading and paired reading to maintain meaning to begin with, then the mum’s had free choice reading which Jann supported where necessary.  We used rhyming books such as Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and some Dr Seuss classics.  Elizabeth really enjoyed There’s a wocket in my pocket!

We had noticed that there was a need to revise simple safety in relation to walking and/or cycling to school, car safety and cyber safety amongst the South Sudanese families. So we invited Greg Ayton, a member of the local police force to come and share with both the children and the parents.  Greg was easy to understand, engaged the audience and shared his message very well.  We all learnt something new!  The children enjoyed the Kenny Koala resources Greg provided too.

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This project would not have been possible without the faithful support of our volunteers and to celebrate we had a sausage sizzle in true Aussie fashion to celebrate the end of term.  The sun could have provided more warmth, however the sausages and sauce provided sustenance and a warm sense of community that has developed over the last 6 weeks of this project.  Our thanks go to Pat, Bek, Kristy, Leilah, Jack, Anthony, Angela and Matthew for their unwavering support and to a very special boy called Ekol who cheerfully helped and learnt alongside us.

Following our barbeque we moved into the warmth of the library and whilst Bek provided support with parent-teacher and swimming carnival forms, Elizabeth was keen to build on the skills she had already received and we read some more.  We also gave each family a bag of books to encourage them to continue reading with the children over the school holidays. Kirsty and Leilah showed the children how to make their own books out of paper and much rich conversation was had around the table.  We parted having made new friends, found new skills and deepened the sense of belonging.  What a wonderful journey this has been. The last word goes to Elizabeth, mum of four who said,

“ This has made me want to learn more and understand the meaning of words. I want to learn more and read more as English is my second language. I like reading!”

FFL – Supporting literacy at home

Weeks 3 and 4: Supporting literacy skills at home

Our focus for weeks 3 and 4 of our pilot program have been about building literacy skills for our families to use at home.  We decided to divide the various age groups to cater for their differing needs. For our littlest ones we organised a librarian to come and do a “wiggle and giggle” session focussing on oral language development through song and rhyme. This was followed by a story book or two.  Leilah and Pat wiggled and giggled along and ensured even the littlest members had a good time.

Whilst the little ones where practising their rhyming, Bek and Greg worked with the middle age group to create a movie trailer of their favourite book using the ipads.  The boys were engaged and loved seeing their interpretation of their stories spring to life. Once they had learnt how to use the app they began publishing their own stories on the ipads.  Greg and Bek supported the boys with expanding vocabulary, punctuation for impact and ensuring sentence structure was effective in conveying their message.  The boys were engaged and honed their skills which will transfer to the classroom.

Angela introduced the concept of a book orientation to the parents and we shared the wonderful story of a young girl’s journey as an immigrant to Australia through the book, My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood (2015).  We spoke about the importance of introducing a book and drawing on background knowledge to ensure meaning is made whilst reading and practiced this on each other. Once we all had a good understanding of the story we used multiple copies, which meant we all had our own copy, to take turns reading and supporting each other’s understanding.  The topic of the book was culturally relevant and meaningful to the parents who participated.  We also read the The Colour of Home by Mary Hoffman and Karin Littlewood, which carries a similar theme.

Each evening concludes with a meal and this time chicken rolls and salad was enjoyed by all. We even finished the night with a dance – see the video, click ‘Watch on Facebook’ below.

FFL – Literacy in the kitchen – week 2

This week:

This week our theme was Literacy in the Kitchen and what fun we had!  With the generous support of teachers from St Francis Xavier and our wonderful volunteers, we had our own version of Masterchef.  On the menu was a vegetable pasta salad, croutons and banana bread, which the parents and older children worked in teams to prepare.  We had lots of rich conversation around the importance of hygiene in the kitchen, names of implements and cooking methods whilst understanding how to follow a recipe.

Whilst the older set was whipping up a delicious dinner and learning the names of new foods, our Kindy, year 1 and year 2 students were baking up a storm and learning the finer art of not over mixing scones, whipping cream and that we don’t touch the hot oven without adult supervision.  Collecting the correct ingredients from the cupboard, measuring accurately and following a recipe added to the children’s practical literacy and numeracy skills.  Many of the students had never had the opportunity to bake and so the level of excitement was very high!

Angela and Jann entertained the littlest ones (13 months to 5 years) with picture books about food which, together with the delicious smells wafting from the kitchens, made us anticipate dinner even more.  We set up a ‘shop’ with a vast array of plastic food stuffs, little shopping baskets and a till with pretend money with which the children actively engaged. The names of different fruit and vegetables were a focus as we tried to send a healthy eating message as well.

At last we got the call to come and eat!  We all sat around and sampled the fruits of our labour with many a sceptic being turned into a fan of foods they had not tasted before. The evening was full of fun, fellowship and conversations around food, which made the vast quantities of kitchen equipment to be washed up all worth it!

Next week we are looking at supporting your child’s reading at home.

Australian initiative – Florey Family Literacy Program

Florey Family Literacy Project

In partnership with teachers and volunteers we have begun an initiative, the Florey Family Literacy project, that aims to support families in literacy and language development from South Sudan who have fled their war torn country. One of our partner schools, St John the Apostle in Florey, ACT, together with St Francis Xavier High School, has a large population of African families who have taken refuge in Canberra. A very effective homework club is already operating which provides academic support to these students on a weekly basis. However, a need was identified for the parents of the children who attend homework club, who also require English language skills and basic numeracy.

So in response we are running a six week pilot program for 5 South Sudanese families directly after homework club with the following aims:

  • To further develop the literacy skills of the school aged children as well as siblings through supportive, engaging literacy activities
  • To assist parents with strategies to support their child’s literacy and to develop and practice their own literacy and numeracy
  • To connect parents to each other and to the school community
  • To build cultural awareness in the wider community

We ran our first session on Monday 15th August which 3 families attended, the youngest child was 18 months – it’s never too early to read to a child! As this was the first week, our aim was to get to know each other, break down the barriers and share a meal together.  After a speaking and listening getting-to-know-you ice breaker, what fun we had learning a couple of Aussie bush dances with the wonderful Jan Simpson. Jan patiently delivered the instructions, demonstrated expertly and then led us through as we listened, laughed and danced together. The time flew by and we ended with a shared meal, rich conversations and the promise to meet again next week. Our thanks to the wonderful volunteers and teachers who are making this possible.  Next week our theme is Literacy in the Kitchen – watch this space for an update!