Recently, I had an interesting conversation with a friend about school holiday workshops and camps. As she is a working mother and is unable to take a whole month off from work, she plans and schemes on activities to occupy her children that don’t include the words ‘Minecraft’ and ‘tablet’.
She feels that short-term holiday workshops are beneficial to her children as they get to brush up on certain subjects they are weak in and try out new things that they don’t have time to do during the school term. Thus, her children enrol in Math workshops, cooking courses and art and craft. One holiday, they even tried acting which they loved and have repeated several times.
After discussing with several parents, there seems to be two different camps on the topic of workshops. One camp believes that they are beneficial and another think that their children don’t learn much during such a short period and should have regular lessons.
If you are one of those parents who belongs to the first camp and is planning a few educational workshops for their upper primary child, here are a few things to look out for when selecting for one.
The objectives of the workshop should be clearly stated, whether it is Mathematics, Science or Languages. What is the teacher trying to impart to the students by the end of the workshop? Unlike regular classes, workshops are not the time to be ‘drilling’ the children. I can’t speak for any other workshops, of course, except for my own.
I view my workshops as a time to focus 6h on certain components of the English Language. Language papers have so many components to work on, that very rarely is a child excellent in all. Some may be strong in Paper 2 but extremely timid for Oral.
It is also the time for students to stop rushing through all the components, slow down and understand what is expected of them in certain components. Are they aware of the types of questions that are asked during Oral? Are they aware of exactly how they can improve their writing and which techniques they should focus on? Do they know their strengths, not just their weaknesses? Are they able to visualise a Comprehension Passage and sequence the events? Can they comprehend what inferential questions are and how to answer them?
2) Workshop size
Workshops (especially educational ones) shouldn’t have too many participants. If your child is going to be focusing on certain components or areas, then he or she needs to have individual attention so that they can know what they need to work on and how they can do so. I keep my workshop sizes small, 8 students, like my class size, 8 students, because I need to interact with the students and watch how they work.
During my Oral workshops, students are tested twice for Oral, individually,, during the 2 days. Then I give them individual feedback on what their strengths are in both reading and SBC. After which, I tell them the areas they need to work on and how they can do that. The advice given is tailored for each child because the SBC part of the Oral component reflects the character (shy, confident, outspoken, introverted) of each child.
3) An Individual Report
Parents should have adequate feedback on what are the strengths of their children and areas to work on after the workshop. This feedback can be passed on to their regular tutors or used at home to help them, especially just before the PSLE.
So as the school term draws to a close and you start to look around for some good June holiday workshops, like my friend, I hope the pointers above have given you some fuel for thought. Please note that the points above are my own personal opinion based on my teaching experiences.