1. Exploring family networks with large classes
We all have very different family networks but there are often many common elements and structures that we can compare.
When discussing family networks, some children in your class are likely to come from very different family set-ups from the others. You will need special skills to help and support these children cope with their differences and ensure that the other class members also respond positively to these differences.
Large classes present particular problems for teachers – especially if they are multigrade classes. Case Study 1 and Activity 1 make some suggestions for exploring family networks with different-sized classes and pupils in different grades.
The strategies used here are presentation, small group discussion and giving feedback.
Key Resource: Working with multigrade classes gives further ideas.
Case Study 1: Discussing family types with a large class
Miss Ndonga from Namibia has a class of 72 pupils. The class is working on social networks and she wants to use different methods to help her pupils identify family types. She knows it is important to help the children to discover things for themselves, rather than just telling them. She talks about family types and asks her pupils lots of questions about different family types. This tells her what they already know and keeps them interested. She notes that three girls sitting at the back never answer her questions and decides to talk to them at the end of the class. Together, the pupils identify different family groupings including nuclear and extended families, single-parent and child-headed family groups.
The pupils are sitting in desk groups of five and Miss Ndonga lets them stay there. Desk groups are not always the best grouping, but sometimes it is the only practical way, especially with very large classes. These groups are mixed age and mixed ability.
Each desk group discusses their own situations and identifies the different family groups they live in. The groups then feed back and Miss Ndonga lists the different family types on the chalkboard. The pupils copy the list into their notebooks. They do a survey with a show of hands to count the number of each different family type in their class. They have a class discussion about why it is important to respect differences in family types.
In the next lesson, Miss Ndonga asks the same desk groups to talk about why we live in family groups. The reasons they identify are shown in Resource 1: Reasons for living in families. The groups also talk about the types of houses they live in and what their houses are made of. Finally, they write a short essay on their own family and house and explain how it is different from that of another class member, usually a close friend.
Activity 1: Discussion and feedback on family networks
For this activity, you need to plan a lesson on exploring family networks. To do this, you need to consider the following:
- If you have older pupils or a large class, it would be appropriate to use the same discussion and feedback methods as Miss Ndonga. With younger pupils, you can still use group or whole-class discussion, but you may find drawing family trees will help young pupils to understand their family relationships better (see Resource 2: Family network).
- With younger pupils, you can also use drama, letting group members play the roles of the family members. It might be fun to find out who has the largest family in the class, or the family with the most females. You could link this to survey work in mathematics lessons.
- Be careful if you have child-headed households in your class, as these pupils may feel they are too different from the others and may feel ashamed or embarrassed. You will need to support these pupils and help them feel good about themselves. Make sure that other pupils do not react badly to the difference and make these pupils feel uncomfortable.
- How you will start the lesson to capture their interest? What activities do you want the pupils to do to achieve the learning outcomes of the lesson?
- When you are happy with your plan, carry out your lesson.