Chris Taylor, Head at Patcham Infant School, has written another insightful piece for us. This week he explores the introduction of learning power heroes to his pupils.
How do you help infant children develop the notion of learning muscles and become better learners?
Patcham Infant School and Nursery Class is not unlike many other schools in that we have introduced learning characters to aid the children’s understanding of how we can learn better and develop the necessary skills. As a school we are resolute in our aims to ensure children are emotionally engaged in their learning, use a wide cognitive range, engage and learn socially and start to take strategic responsibility.
Bearing in mind the very young age of our children we needed to find a tangible way to support the process. We also needed to ensure that it was memorable for everyone and manageable for teachers. We decided that the characters for each disposition should have their own tool kit to help them become better learners.
We started off by considering the learning habits of resilience and how learning muscles can be learned and developed. We knew resilience was a disposition we could teach and children could actively learn from, including our nursery cohort. When introducing it; we designed lessons and held assemblies, teachers modelled by ‘learning aloud’ and demonstrated strategies, we celebrated effective resilience through our displays and started commenting on powerful efforts through our celebration assemblies.
Meet Incy Independent, our resilient learner
Incy has ‘stickability’ which means it doesn’t give up and it keeps trying different ways until it achieves the goal. Incy doesn’t get distracted by anything or anyone around because it becomes absorbed in what it’s doing. Incy is really good at noticing things that will help it learn.
Incy remained a focus for the autumn term and children were exposed to different experiences and stories that helped them understand how Incy’s tools helped it stretch its learning muscles. The immediate impact of this was the shift in the language of learning. We instantly started hearing children talk about persevering, having stickability, managing their distractions, noticing and being absorbed in their learning. However, it is one thing saying it and the other doing it! This is where the teaching and learning really started; designing specific activities, tweaking plans, being explicit in the delivery.
One year on and Incy is a well embedded character in Years 1 & 2 and has recently been introduced to the new EYFS cohorts.
Meet Give and Take, our social learners
Give and Take, who joined us in spring 2016, are flexible and collaborative meerkats who love to learn in harmony with other people. They enjoy sharing their thoughts and ideas, discussing problems and solutions. Give and Take encourage everyone to take on a role and get involved, but they can also see when it is best to learn on their own. They are good listeners, empathise and value everyone’s ideas.
It took us the best part of a year from our first Building Learning Power INSET with Maryl Chambers to firmly rooting the notion of resilience and reciprocity into school whilst always being mindful that the characters are just a vehicle for supporting the learning attitudes of the children.
Meet Ratty, our resourceful learner
Our newest and very recent recruit was introduced to our Year 2 children towards the end of last term and is a hot topic in Year 1 this week when it left some clues about itself and has given the children the task of solving the puzzle of who it might be.
Ratty is a real problem solver; it ‘digs deep’ and asks lots of different questions about all sorts of things. Ratty likes imagining new ideas and wondering what if….? Ratty sees connections and patterns and likes making links in the learning. Before tackling a problem Ratty thinks very carefully and takes a step by step approach when planning. Ratty uses reasoning skills to think logically and methodically. Ratty is very good at capitalising and uses all sorts of resources to help find out answers.
This term a focus for our Professional Development Meetings will be researching the concept of reflectiveness; we will begin to plan how we can develop learning habits of planning, distilling and revising as well as empowering the children with the notion of learning to learn. We will then create a character and its tools around the key concepts.
Has it taken us a long time to get to this point?
BLP forms a large part of our vision which drives the school. We could have introduced the children to all dispositions sooner and have characters for each across the school. However, we believe that the pace in which we are exposing our children to these lifelong learning habits and providing opportunities to deepen skills is instilling effective characteristics that are clearly visible; this was corroborated very recently after an external visit from our School Partnership Advisor. Our learning characters are such a tangible feature of the school with their dispositions rubbing off on our children. We believe that time needs to be spent understanding, practising, embedding and deepening these skills in readiness for life ahead.