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Learning at home (5–11 year olds)

Photo: Simple things you can do at home to improve your child's reading, writing and maths skills

As a parent, you play the most important role in helping your child to learn and succeed. There are many simple things you can do to develop your child’s reading, writing and maths skills while they’re at primary school and before they start.

Top tips for learning at home
  • Give your child lots of opportunities for conversation so they can develop their language and learn new words and phrases, including talking about things related to maths and number.
  • Read with your child and encourage them to read a wide range.
  • Provide opportunities to be creative in play to help develop their maths thinking and understanding.
  • Encourage them to write.
  • Make learning as fun as possible, especially with games and everyday play.
  • Use everyday activities as opportunities for learning, such as cooking.
  • Recognise what your child does well and praise them.
Develop your child’s maths skills

During their early years your child will have started learning the language related to maths and should now be using it in everyday life without noticing, for example, ‘bigger than’, ‘same as’ or ‘shorter than’. Check that your child has picked up and understands key maths language as teachers at primary school will be using it in class (there is a table in our resource that outlines the key maths words used in the first year of primary school). If there are gaps, reinforce maths language during everyday play and activities.

  • A child’s working memory affects how easy or difficult they find maths (this is the ability to keep a limited amount of information in our heads for a short amount of time). You can develop your child’s working memory by helping them to picture things in their head, for example, ask them to get three spoons and two forks when laying the table for dinner.
  • Counting – by the time they’re seven most children should be able to count up to 20 and then up to several thousands and beyond by the end of primary school. You can help your child by encouraging them to see relationships between numbers and recurring patterns.
  • Using numbers – by the age of seven many children will be able to undertake simple addition and subtraction in their heads for numbers up to 10. You can help your child to use number with pictures, marks on paper, counters toys and games to understand the effects of adding and taking away. You could also help them to understand numbers with more than one digit, being able to recall addition and subtraction sums (mental arithmetic), multiplication and division.
  • Shapes – by the age of seven, most children should be able to use maths names for common 3D or solid shapes (cubes) and 2D or flat shapes (triangles) and describe them. Encourage your child to point out different shapes when out shopping or on walks and describe them, for example, ‘a circle has one side, but when it’s cut in two you have two semicircles, each with two sides.
  • Measurement – introduce your child to quantities and weights in everyday activities, such as cooking, where ingredients can be weighed. Cooking is a good way for them to learn about smaller quantities such as millilitres and for them to compare quantities.
  • Understanding time – at age five some children may already be interested in learning to tell the time (if they can count up to 12). Help them by using a clock face (you could make or buy a ‘practice’ clock). Start by explaining about the short and long hands and then build on this at your child’s pace.
  • Money – it’s useful to get children used to coins in primary so that they get used to their weight and appearance. You can use them for problem-solving and reasoning activities, for example two children may each have three coins but they could have different amounts of money – one may have three pennies and the other three pound coins. As they get older, you can encourage them to use money in real situations in shops, for example, to work out if they have enough pocket money to buy the toy they want.
  • Sorting and classifying – by the age of seven most children should be able to sort objects and classify them by shape and colour, for example, pick out all the blue circles on a table. Help your child by asking them to do simple tallies of friends and family, like their hair colour.
  • Problem solving is an area that can be difficult for some deaf children as it relies so much on understanding the language of the question and then using language to work out how to get to the answer. Give your child ‘story problems to solve to get them used to this, for example, ‘If Tom has two cars and Sanjit has one car, how many cars are there altogether?’

For more ideas and activities to support the development of your child’s maths skills, read our resource Helping Your Deaf Child to Develop Maths Skills (5–11 year olds).

Develop your child’s reading skills

When your child starts school they’ll begin to learn to read, building on what they learned in their early years setting. By the age of seven they should be reading with more fluency, accuracy, understanding and enjoyment.

  • Encourage them to read lots of different types of texts – fiction, rhymes and poetry, non-fiction books, magazines, newspapers, leaflets and even holiday brochures! At this stage in school they will gradually be introduced to a wider range of reading materials.
  • Don’t assume your child knows all the words that they or you read – check by asking simple questions and encourage them to ask you if they don’t know what a word means.
  • Make sure you read together in a good listening environment, i.e. make sure your house is ‘acoustically (hearing and listening) friendly’ and away from distractions like the TV or radio.
  • If your child lipreads they may find it harder to develop phonics skills. Use hand shapes or gestures to accompany sounds – visual cues. Check with your child’s teacher and Teacher of the Deaf to find out more about how phonics is being taught to your child and how you can support this.
  • Children also learn to read by sight reading – a word is learned as a whole word and the child recognises it by how it looks, rather than sounding them out like you do using phonics. High frequency or ‘tricky’ words are often taught by sight reading – ‘you’, ‘this’, ‘are’. Support your child with learning these words (see activities in our resource).
  • Look out for books with deaf characters as they can help give your child a positive self-image.
  • At the end of a story ask your child which parts they enjoyed and why.
  • Talk about who is telling the story – is it through the eyes of a character or narrator?
  • If your child hasn’t understood a sentence, encourage them to go back and read it again, or read the next sentence to see if it helps, before you explain what it meant.
  • Take it in turns to read a page or chapter from a book so your child can learn the rhythms of language from your voice.
  • When reading information books with your child, encourage them to use the contents and index pages to look up information and the glossary if they need to find out what a word means.
  • Even when your child is reading well independently, they might still like to have a challenging book read to them by a parent. This is important for their language and vocabulary development.

For more ideas and activities to support the development of your child’s reading skills, read our resource Helping Your Deaf Child to Read and Write (5–7 year olds) and Helping Your Deaf Child to Read and Write (8–11 year olds).

Develop your child’s writing skills
  • Encourage them to write. Drawing and art activities and ‘pretend’ writing will help your child get ready for writing and help them to learn how to hold a pencil correctly.
  • Talk with your child about their writing and ideas before they start – it might be helpful if make some notes or a rough plan for them as you talk.
  • If your child becomes stuck, as them to read out what they’ve written so far. You can then ask them what they want to happen or what they want to say next.
  • Be precise when praising your child’s work, for example, rather than saying ‘that’s good’, say something like ‘I like the beginning – it’s really exciting!’.
  • Your child might find it quite daunting to be faced with a blank piece of paper – it’s normal for children to need help getting started (see our resource for a table of different types of writing you might want to help your child with).
  • When your child has their main ideas on paper, take a look at the words together and talk about how they could make some of the language more interesting. Show them a thesaurus and talk about how they can use it to improve their vocabulary in their writing.
  • Encourage your child to write – postcards or letters to friends or family, a book review, a story for a younger sibling, a mini project during the school holidays

For more ideas and activities to support the development of your child’s writing skills, read our resource Helping Your Deaf Child to Read and Write (5–7 year olds) and Helping Your Deaf Child to Read and Write (8–11 year olds).

Make the most of learning at home by creating a good listening environment.

Your child’s Teacher of the Deaf will also be able to give you ideas for games and activities you can play at home.