ORIM in WF13
Working with Bilingual Children and Families
A collaborative partnership between The University of Sheffield and Kirklees Local Authority (2012–2013)
In this 6-month project, funded by the University of Sheffield, three bilingual pre-school settings (Blenheim, Ravensthorpe and Boothroyd) in the WF13 postcode area of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, working in collaboration with Kay Davies, the Kirklees Local Authority Early Years Consultant, used the ORIM Framework to raise the outcomes of children’s early literacy learning. The Framework challenges practitioners to reflect on their engagement with parents and families and to plan interactions that will engage all children and their families in supporting early language and literacy development.
As reflective practitioners, we started by asking ourselves “What stops 100% of our parents from engaging with us about our children’s early literacy development?” We came up with the ‘standard’ responses:
- Parents aren’t always aware that helping their children at home will benefit their child’s achievement.
- No routines, consistency or boundaries.
- Time and opportunity.
- The weather- particularly snow or rain!
- Family commitments- younger siblings or time.
- Transport issues to the setting.
- Parents who can’t access our communications in English.
Next, we considered some examples of previous work with bilingual families using the ORIM Framework and thought about barriers from the parent, rather than the practitioner, perspective. We moved away from a deficit model of parental involvement and moved towards thinking about barriers that we could be responsible for and work on:
- What can we do to support isolated bilingual families – especially if no one speaks English at home?
- The ‘recognition’ of what counts as early is interesting – do parents know that learning can be playful?
- “I think that there is a real use for parents coming in and seeing other parents, as well as practitioners, modelling for them.”
- “How can we empower the parent to feel that it is possible to support their child’s learning and how they can fit it into their busy lives?”
- Children who are bilingual have special language skills – are we celebrating and using these?
- How can we get older siblings helping the younger ones? Are we recognising that the ‘family’ learning is wider than parents?
The practitioners were inspired by a book on early reading tips which was written for parents by parents at Blenheim Pre-school.
Staff from the three pre-schools met together as a ‘learning community’ and explored how the four strands of the ORIM Framework could be used to engage parents about children’s early readerly behaviours. A central thrust of the work was Parents as Recognisers. In consultation with the parents, events and opportunities were planned where staff interacted and modelled early literacy behaviours alongside the children and the parents, so that this recognition could grow and be built into daily practices at home and in the setting.
The practitioners who took part in the project have shared their ideas and practical strategies, and these can be accessed by clicking on the links below:
- Blenheim Playgroup – Songs and Rhymes for Bilingual Families
- Boothroyd Playgroup – Supporting Home Learning
- Ravensthorpe Community Childcare Pre-School – Increasing the Dialogue between Parents and Practitioners
- Children have become more confident in their early literacy skills and this will be reflected in their development in the Early Years Foundation Stage. Some less confident children are really engaged with their learning as a result of the home learning support.
- Parents have become active partners in their children’s learning and are recognising how families can support the small development steps that will build their children’s reading and writing skills. Parents understand that reading and telling stories to their children in their ‘home’ languages (or heritage language) really supports their children’s literacy skills.
- Practitioners have seen the importance of the home learning environment and the setting’s responsibility to work with parents to nurture this. Staff have felt really positive about their deepening understandings and the growing relationships with the parents.
The full extent of the impact of this project, and a related one which took place at one of the settings, can be seen from this diagram (click the image to view larger version):