What did you do at school today? Does this question sound familiar? Most parents ask this very thing to their children when they pick them up at school or come home from work. The answer is often, “I don’t know” or “I played.” Not very informative, huh? It isn’t that your child didn’t do anything all day (I assure you that they are very busy learning), but it can be difficult for young children to remember and describe what they did while at school. Sometimes this is simply a language barrier, they cannot recall the words to tell others about their activities. Other times, they are just so focused on the present that recalling past events from memory without a trigger, or clue, is just too much for their developing brains.
As parents you want to know about your child’s day. You want to feel connected and a part of their lives. You want to hear what they learned and experienced.
Here are a few things that St. James does to help with these conversations:
- Each day your child’s teacher will write out several things that the class did. Students generate these at the end of the day, in hopes that this will trigger their own memories of the activities. The lists are posted on the bulletin boards outside of the classroom before pick-up. As you are waiting for your child’s classroom door to open at the end of the day, read these “What we did today” sheets and start thinking about how you will ask your child what they did.
- We Instagram photos of classroom activities. The daily photos are accompanied by descriptions of what is going on developmentally and academically. Use these photos to talk with your child about their experiences. Show them the picture as a catalyst for their memory of the event and to enrich your conversations with them. View early childhood photos here and elementary photos here.
- Teachers may also give conversation openers to you at pick-up time. For example, they may say, “Ask Sally about the giant moth” or “Ask Timmy what he built today.” The bits of information can build on what a particular child did and lead to a rich conversation instead of “I don’t know” or “I played.”
Here are some things that you can do to keep informed about what your child is doing at school:
- Stay up to date on planned events so that you can ask specific questions. For example, “Did you get to go on your nature walk today or was it too rainy?”
- Avoid general questions like “What happened today at school?”
- Avoid questions that allow for one-word answers.
- Ask specific questions like, “Whose sharing day was it today? What did they share?” “What science experiment did you do?” “Tell me about this drawing in your backpack.”
You may also consider telling your child something about your day just to get the conversation started. This teaches them that sharing news and feelings about our day is important. These practices can help keep the home school connection and your relationship with your child strong.