I have written about the “equipment” that we need to take with us on our journey through life. Whichever metaphor we choose, ensuring that we have the best personal, mental and physical tools enables us to face and overcome challenges now and in the future.
Schools can get locked into rigid thinking through systems that are introduced as whole school initiatives. However, greater value is found in exploring the variety of ways that we can get children to think and behave more intelligently. This flexibility of thinking as a staff team, itself an intelligent behaviour (we model for the children!), leads to varied opportunities for them to tackle learning more effectively and successfully in the classroom, in PE and in the playground – and life in general.
Here are some of the techniques used throughout my school:
- 3B4Me. In the Early Years this is called Stop, Think, Act. Before you go to the teacher for help, there are three steps you can take: Have you thought carefully about the problem? If you are still stuck, have you looked in a book for help or clues? If you are still stuck, have you asked a friend? If you are still stuck after these three steps, then you can ask the teacher. And even then, they may not tell you the answer…
- Open Questions. They may not tell you the answer because they will use open questions: how, what, when, where, who and why. A question with any of these words at the start immediately engages any of us, children included, in deeper thinking and encourages wider use of language to describe what we know and therefore construct our learning – and that bit of educational psychology I’ll save for another day!
- Positive Psychology. Not fluffy psycho-babble, but a contemporary branch of research that has brought about success for people by developing high positive emotion, engagement, meaning and good relationships. By focusing on strengths and what can be done to improve what needs developing we will all flourish.
- WWW and EBI. “What Went Well” and “Even Better If”. Using positive psychology in the classroom is straightforward. Asking children these two questions about their learning allows them to identify strengths and areas for development in their own and, in peer assessment, other’s work. It leads to far more rapid progress and much better understanding.
- The power of “yet”. “I can’t draw…yet”. “I can’t do take-away sums…yet.” By establishing a growth mindset, regcognising that challenges can be overcome eventually, enables staff and children to work on the steps to reach any goal. These steps may be few or many, but by setting achievable goals and knowing how to get there, learning becomes far more secure.
- Regular feedback and assessment for learning. Thorough engagement occurs between pupil and staff through marking books, tutorials, parent-teacher meetings, transparency and our professional authority. This granular approach to understanding pupil progress coupled with more objective measures of progress means that we can know the children exceptionally well.
And before you think we have entered the rabbit hole, there are more techniques at our disposal and sometimes those well-used, traditional methods, like actually telling children what to do, work very well indeed.
We are equipping children with an intellectual toolbox which requires something for every eventuality, from thinking independently to listening to someone more wise teach, and everything in between.
We are excited about these and many other ideas that find their way into the classroom to enhance learning experiences. Because we are all learners here.