Teachers as learners …

John Hattie and Guy Claxton both advise us to show the “guts” of learning to children as much as possible. The idea of this is that they learn about the process of learning and don’t just see the finished, near perfect product. Children can then see all the struggles, bumps, successes and failures in the process of learning. By sharing this with them, they are more likely to be able to see their own learning struggles through as they will see learning as a process as well as being proud of a finished product. I quite like the way this diagram demonstrates success:

There are many ways of helping children see this learning journey; for example:

– Reviewing learning whilst it is “in process” – getting the children to ask each other questions about their learning to reflect on in.  We often ask, “Which bits have been tricky so far?” And “What do you think you will do next to improve it?’

– Show the process of learning on displays, not just the finished product. For example, you might show drafts, redrafts, comments from children and put photos of the children during their learning process. See the Learning Environment section on my website.

– Show famous writer’s, artist’s, architect’s, mathematician’s, scientist’s drafts.

– Review your own learning with the children.

The last one really seems to grab their attention because,

a) children are naturally curious (or nosey!) and like to see what teachers get up to out of school (at least the 5-7 year-olds in my class do – but perhaps my French teacher bringing in his red y-fronts to teach use “les slips” in French was a step too far! Mind you, it obviously stuck in my memory!)

b) they can relate to some of the feelings, successes and struggles you, as an adult have with learning (which normalises these feelings for them, or makes them “okay”),

C) they can see some of the skills they are learning being used in context (both lifelong learning skills and curriculum content),

c) it demonstrates to the children that learning is a life long endeavour.

I have talked about demonstrating yourself as a learner in my Active Ingredients on the “Teachers as learners” page. Here is my latest example of my learning, which I will share with my class at the end of a day/in story time/ whenever I can find 10 minutes!

As I have said on this page, one of my latest learning endeavours is learning to sew. I began by sewing pretty basic things (that often went wrong!) and am gradually trying to challenge myself further. Since the weather is getting brighter, I thought I would sew myself some skirts. I would probably use my class Learning Ladder (see Learning Environment on my Active Ingredients) with the children here, levelling myself somewhere between “good” (I’m practising something I know) and “high” (I am challenging myself to learn something new) because I used lots of skills I already knew, but I also had to learn to sew with elastic and in a curve, which I found pretty hard.

I began by making a template on paper (like a draft for sewing! Because otherwise I might have cut my lovely material in the wrong place – I have done this before – very frustrating!). To do this I had to use some measuring and tricky maths to calculate the diametre of a circle:


As you can see, this is a quarter of a circle and I needed a whole circle. One problem I had here was that the material wasn’t big enough to draw the whole circle. I would ask the children how they thought I solved those two problems:


I folded the material carefully in half so that it would make a semi-circle when it unfolded, then repeated this to make another semi-circle (lots of links to shape and fractions here!). I also had to be careful to make sure the material was the right way around, otherwise the pigeons on my pattern would have ended up on their heads! I pinned the two semi-circles together and sewed along the seam. This part was fairly easy but there were a few distractions!:


I ended up with this circle skirt, which I was pretty pleased with. Because I had tried something new, I ended up with a skirt that fell nicely instead of a straight skirt, which I had done before:


Now came the trickiest bit – I had to sew elastic on the top in circle shape which is really hard because machines are made to sew straight. The first time I tried I made lots of mistakes (first photo – I didn’t make a very neat job of it! Although it doesn’t really matter because you can’t see from the outside.); the second time I improved and made my sewing a bit neater. I worked out how to fold the material more carefully and instead of sewing the skirt directely to the elastic, I folded and sewed the seems first. I also put the sewing machine on a slower setting so I could take my time. This a is visual example of an adult having a positive attitude to making mistakes and learning from their mistakes.

Here are my finished skirts (I made two because I wanted to practise the skills I had learnt again):


I find when I review learning like this with the children, I can refer back to it when they are struggling with learning. For example, I might empathise with them and say, “I know how that feels. Remember when my was sewing my skirt and it got all crumpled?”. I have also found children refer back to this learning themselves by saying, “I’m practising again; like you when you made that skirt.” In short, reviewing your own learning as an adult can be a very powerful tool for motivating your learners and building their resilience.
 

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