St Catherine of Siena Catholic Primary School

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Children at the Playground

Home Learning

Miss Kane’s Home-Learning Challenge

Every few weeks, I am going to set a Home-Learning challenge. We want home-learning to be pupil driven, so this task will not be compulsory. However, they will be open-ended, real-life problems, which will enable the children to apply their learning, broaden their understanding and, hopefully, have fun doing so. I will set two home-learning challenges at a time – this is to enable pupils to exercise independent choice, but also to cater for all ages and abilities in a given curriculum area.

In order to support you with how my Home-Learning Challenge could be approached, I have provided some suggestions below, but this is only guidance – feel free to let it go in whatever direction your child chooses! I have also included a FAQs style section in order to anticipate some questions you may have. Please feel free to email with any other questions – I will add these to our list!

In future weeks, it is my intention to leave the tasks completely open to the children’s interpretation, but I am aware they (and you) may initially wish for more support on how to tackle these. The FAQs are for you, not your child – please don’t ruin the fun by sharing them!

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Miss Kane’s First Home-Learning Challenge

Challenge 1 - 
Chicken Conundrum
I’m in a bit of a pickle! I’ve got an awful lot of chickens to feed and I don’t know how I’m going to find the money to do it. I didn’t put any money in the budget for chicken feed and now I’m lying awake at night worrying about how much it is going to cost me to feed the chickens and what the most cost-effective way to do it will be. If I can’t find enough money to pay for their feed, the Governors might make me send them back!! I’m so desperate that I’ve been thinking about only feeding them once a week…do you think that will be OK?
Please help me! I don’t know how often I should feed them, what I should be feeding them, how much it will cost and how I can save money. Can you please work out the cheapest way to feed the chickens and how much it will cost me over a year? I will be so grateful!

Challenge 2 – The Boredom Buster

I hate my new office - I miss being able to see the chickens! I know you all love the library (which makes me very happy) but I miss my view! I wish that I could still see our chickens (though I don’t know how I could manage that), or at least have something to look at in my office which would remind me of them. Maybe someone could create an incredible picture, take an amazing photo, write me a chicken song, or come up with an invention which would help me out. It would be even better if someone could explain the inspiration behind their idea – they might research a famous artist, photographer, composer (someone ‘outdoorsy’ like Brahms) to give them ideas.

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Adult Support Guidance


I have a KS1 child, or a child who finds maths challenging. They want to take the challenge and I want to help them. How should I approach this?
1. Focus on the questions they need to ask.
I deliberately haven’t given all the information the children will need to solve the problem. Asking questions involves critical thinking and is every bit as important as answering them. How many chickens do we have (sadly not as many as we started with!)? How much do they eat every day? Do all chickens eat the same thing? How often do living things need to eat?
2. Don’t feel you have to address the whole problem – focus on their strengths.
Feel free to focus on a specific part of the challenge – I will try to include things which will be accessible by all ages and abilities. Your child could look at what animals need to live and whether it is acceptable for me to just feed the chickens once a week. They could write me a letter telling me that I need to feed them twice a day, or do a poster with the foods that a chicken can and can’t eat.
3. Make the numbers easy!
Tasks like this are focused on the problem-solving aspects, not the end result. Chicken feed on one website costs £9.50 for 10kg. Tell your child it is £1 a kilogram. Look at a bag of sugar and estimate how long it would take one chicken to eat the whole bag. Talk about how many chickens we have and that we need to ‘scale up’ – if we have 10 chickens, we need to multiply this by 10.
4. Research together.
Children need to understand that the internet is a practical tool, not just a vehicle for social media! You could just focus on finding the cheapest 1kg bag – they could learn about internet search terms, how to search within websites and how to compare costs. Alternatively, they could just focus on telling me what the chickens can (and can’t) eat and what I should be feeding them.
I want to stretch my child/children, how can I do this?
Let’s take the Chicken Conundrum, the learning around this is endless. A more able pupil or an upper KS2 pupil could take this in many different directions and, with a little adult support, could be really challenged.
Approaches you could take:
1. Leave them to it.
Give them a computer or take them to the library and let them get on with it. Let them research independently, do the maths on their own and come to their own conclusion. Extend them by asking probing but open questions, e.g. ‘How do you know that is the cheapest?’ ‘Why have you selected that feed?’ – Get them to justify their choices. The maths alone will be extremely challenging and require a lot of cross-objective thinking (money, measures, multiplying decimals, estimation etc.).
2. Through dialogue, encourage them to be critical, practical and ‘think outside the box’.
Could we grow our own food to feed the chickens? How much would that cost? Would it be sustainable? Could we use scraps from the kitchen? (The answer is no, but you could support them in finding that out and the reasons behind it). Critical thinking and debating are key life-skills which are essential for pupils to develop.
3. Go wild.
Encourage your child to be a rebel and turn the problem on its head. Should we be finding the cheapest supplier or thinking beyond that? Is my whole mindset wrong? Perhaps rather than saving money (which might mean Amazon or another multi-national corporate), I should be supporting local suppliers – even if that means it will cost more. Am I taking into account the total cost or just the financial? As a Steward of Creation, should I be considering the environmental cost of delivery from a ‘cheap’ supplier, based in Scotland versus a local supplier? As well as ‘hard skills’ such as maths and writing, we want to encourage our children to develop a strong Catholic ethos and drive for the Common Good – sometimes this may mean making choices which are counter-cultural/not the obvious ones.

How should my child present their response to the challenge?

Be creative!  Ideas include:

  • Written form – reports, letters, explanations etc. all of which will support their writing in school.
  • Posters – draw, stick, paint, collate images from the internet – make a visual representation of their learning.
  • Record them – get your child to speak about what they have learnt and email it to us. We are in the 21st century – not everything needs to be in ‘hard’ format.  We would love to post these clips on the website to show other children what excellent home-learning looks like!
  • Presentations – Power-point or Prezi are great (and fun) ways of children presenting their learning.
  • Let your child go wild. In the past we have had learning poems and raps, models and sculptures, baking and making - let’s add to that and have dances and collages, e-books and cartoons, woodwork and invention… The possibilities are only limited by your imagination! 

Whatever format you, or your child chooses, please focus on the learning – however wide that might be.  All learning is good learning – this isn’t about the National Curriculum, it’s about life.  Even if the learning is about working with an ‘annoying’ sibling, it is still important learning! 

How much should I help my child?

That’s entirely up to you and them.  We want to promote independence, but it is also lovely when families view home-learning (HL) as an opportunity to work together on a project.  It’s helpful if we know the degree to which a child was supported, so that we can acknowledge their achievements.  Amazing independent work is every bit as deserving of Miss Kane’s Award Board as amazing family-collaboration work, but might not get the same recognition if the class teacher doesn’t know that the child worked completely alone.  It would be lovely if your child could mark their work (this can be on the back) with either:

 I - to represent completely independent HL

S -to represent some family support or

C – to represent family collaboration

We are then committed to ensuring that all types of HL are equally recognised and praised.

My child hasn’t got to the right answer.  Should I tell them that?

There is no ‘right answer’ with a HL challenge.  The focus should be on the learning generated by the process, not the end result.  In the Chicken Conundrum, it really doesn’t matter what overall cost the children come up with, or where they think I should source my food, the key is their practical application of maths, research skills and use of the internet or other sources (local pet shops) for a real task along with their understanding of economic realities such as trying to achieve best value.

My child doesn’t understand some of the vocabulary in the challenge.  Can you make it more child-friendly?

One of the tasks will always have challenging vocabulary/technical terms – this is to encourage the children to understand these concepts, extend their vocabulary and stimulate discussion with you or their teacher.  This is a good thing!  If you can, talk to them about what the words mean.  Alternatively, (and depending on the age of the child) encourage them to use a dictionary to work it out for themselves.  Other children are also a good source of understanding – collaboration between pupils should be encouraged!  Finally, if you want it to be an independent task (or simply don’t have the time that week), suggest that they have a go at the other task – this will be more ‘child-friendly’ and easier to access without adult-support.

Is there a KS1 task and a KS2 task? 

No – there are two challenges and these can be accessed by any pupil, depending on the level of support they receive and the direction they want to take it.  For instance, as a parent of a KS1 child, you could tell them that chicken feed costs £2 a bag (it doesn’t matter whether that is true – make the numbers easy and then the child can engage with the process).  The problem then becomes one of repeated addition/multiplication with a great opportunity to talk about things like how many days in a week, weeks in a month, months in a year…  You can talk about measures, estimate how long a kilogram bag would last etc.

Children notoriously struggle with word problems, so anything that puts this into context is going to help them. 

What should I do if my child isn’t interested in the HL challenge set?

That’s fine – let them be in control of their own learning journey and work on something else.