You may already be very familiar with the ideas that underpin Building Learning Power or you may have only a passing knowledge of the capacities that make up the Supple Learning Mind. Wherever you find yourself on the BLP journey, the Explanation section should enhance your understanding of the capacities and give you pause for thought about just how these ‘habits of mind’ already have a place in your own life and that of your young learners.
Building Learning Power is, in a large part, about developing a common language to think and talk about learning. But that language needs to be varied, appropriate, lively and meaningful. If it becomes stilted and too ‘hide bound’ to a rigid vocabulary then it becomes irrelevant and worthless. In the section,Language to encourage… we hope not only to offer you different ways to talk about the capacities but also to show you that, in the ways you already speak with your children, you are helping, even now, to develop their learning power.
We suggest that a good way to start with each capacity is to Introduce it with a story. You will find a story for each of the capacities. You can read these stories to your children but they are likely to be more successful if you are able to ‘tell’ them. This way you will be able to adapt or present them most appropriately for your particular year group. The stories should suit children from Foundation to Year 2 (or maybe sometimes Year 3), but if you familiarise yourself with them beforehand you will be better able to make the slight amendments that give them the best possible match for your children.
These are not ‘picture’ stories because we would like you to use this opportunity to ‘stretch’ one very important and useful ‘learning muscle’ – imagination. Please encourage your children to use their ‘mind’s eye’ to picture the characters and situations in the story and help them to appreciate that whatever they see is ‘right’.
To follow up the stories we have offered you two sets of questions to enable you to start to talk about the capacity. There are connecting questions which relate directly to the story which we hope will guide you to bring out the main points as you introduce each capacity, and there are transferring questions which will enable you to link the ideas of the story to the real-life experiences of your children. A taster activity is offered for most of the capacities.
In this section we offer you a ‘bank’ of activities and further ideas. Some are very specific, planned activities to give your children experience of the capacities in action. Others suggest ways in which you can incorporate the essence of the capacities into the everyday routines of your class. Some activities require materials and resources which will be commonly available in your classrooms, others are more specific and are available as resources.
This section contains suggestions of what to look for in developing learning power habits. Each capacity for young learners is summed up in a few simple statements which we hope will enable you to find the focus for your teaching about learning.
We have suggested three levels of progression: moving the children from being unaware (using the capacity unconsciously) to beginning to be aware of the capacity, to consciously developing the capacity. The statements are merely a guide and include ideas from SEAL and the Early Years Framework. We also offer a set of reward stickers. The larger ones enable you to add a personalised statement whenever you use them.
Things to think about
- Which of the capacities do your pupils need to use most?
- What order of introducing the capacities seems appropriate?
- Would it be useful to mix capacities from different dispositions?
- Which of the approaches will work best for each capacity?
- Do some capacities lend themselves to all or some of the approaches?
- Which activities are too difficult or too easy for your pupils?
- How could you adapt or replace them?
Using the activities
The construction of the Activity Bank offers you tremendous flexibility.
For example, you could:
- String the topics and approaches together to form a whole programme
- Use taster activities at the beginning of the day
- Infuse stretching activities into the curriculum
- Encourage learning mentors to use the taster activities
- Use any of the activities to structure an assembly
- Use some stretching activities to introduce teaching for learning power to staff
- Use the progression statements as a way of reviewing pupils’ learning.