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Myself a learner

Myself – a learner

The sun already felt hot this morning as I drove to work. The oranges are ripening on the trees and the harvest is imminent.The air has been superbly clear for the last few days and the views extended for tens of miles. Wind farms and centuries old castle ruins littered the peeks of distant mountains, the ancient and the modern taking the most prominent positions side by side. The drive from The village of La Barraca to Xativa takes about half an hour. Even if leaving home has felt a rush the drive itself is quite calming. A single carriage road winds through the orange groves and from ten minutes outside of the town, Xativa castle can be seen looking down on the town. A rural area with dominant industries mainly based on the land, Xativa is a historical town with the claim to fame of being the first town in Europe to manufacture paper.

Today, school contained all of the usual management issues that make the day feel full: an 8.00am call from a teacher who was too ill to come to work, a concern about upcoming observations, issues with the school Internet and Intranet and two different staff meetings to prepare and deliver.

The highlight of my day though was to spend the afternoon in class with pupils from Year 5 and Year 6. In partnership with the school psychology team I am planning and delivering a course of lessons called by the school ‘Study Skills’, although I personally prefer the title ‘Learning to learn’. Apart from being more a more accurate description of what takes place ‘Learning to learn’ can be abbreviated to ‘L2L’ which seems to carry a certain SMS style kudos with the pupils.

We have just completed a series of lessons exploring our own barriers to learning and how we can manage these effectively to ensure that learning can take place. The pupils were incredibly astute in recognising their own barriers to learning. They have now developed a range of strategies to overcome these barriers with the emphasis on maintaining a positive and happy approach to learning. Today we were introducing the next unit of this work ‘Myself – a learner’. The children will be exploring themselves as learners which will give an opportunity to think about how we learn and to develop an awareness of different learning styles.

We began with the following fascinator:
“If your best friend scratched your father’s new car with his bike what would you do?
Pretend you knew nothing about it? Tell your father it was you? Tell your father what your friend had done? Something else?”
That provided a five minute energy filled discussion!
(Thanks to John Turnerfor introducing ‘fascinators’ as a way of hooking children in at the start of a lesson.)

We then used the BASIS questionnaire resource from Alistair Smith and Nicola Call’s ‘The alps approach – accelerated learning in primary schools.’ (ISBN: 9781855390560).
To those not familiar with the alps resources, BASIS is an acronym for:
Belonging
Aspirations
Safety
Individuality
Success

These aspects of a child’s self-concept are important if they are to be willing to learn. As a teacher it is an opportunity not so much to diagnose issues but more to create a conversation about the class and school environment.

As we were working helicopters and planes were fighting a fire that had developed on a nearby mountain side. We could see the flames and smoke through the classroom window and watch the planes dropping their water. Ringing in my ears were the words of Hywel Roberts from our recent training event. In demonstrating how as teachers we can sometimes squash the energy that pupils bring to school he gave the example of an elephant walking past the classroom. Clearly there have been times when at such a point we have been guilty of demanding the children’s attention with lines such as “Look at me! Haven’t you seen an elephant before. You’re not going to learn anything by watching the elephant!” I decided to resist the temptation to fight for attention with the mountain fire and instead we all took a couple of minutes out to watch and discuss what was going on. In a classroom where pupils have English as a second or third language it is incredible how much great language and vocabulary development can take place discussing an exciting event that wouldn’t normally be a part of our classroom curriculum.

Myself today, I learned something about Guy Fawkes. Caught totally unawares by questions that a teacher had hoped to answer using the currently non-functioning school Internet, a colleague instead went online using her mobile telephone to find the answers. I had always thought, I’m sure from some mis-guidance in a classroom when younger, although it is possible I just wasn’t listening, that Guy Fawkes (aka Guido Fawkes) was a Spanish catholic intent upon destroying the protestant British parliament. It turns out though that he was a home grown terrorist, born in York and that his name ‘Guido’ was only given to him when he opted to fight with the Spanish catholics. My own learning style today was to listen to a colleague reading from Wikipedia. I think probably “Let’s Wiki it!” is my current dominant learning style.

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