One teacher used the lyrics of the Heather Small song ‘Proud’. Children translated the lyrics into what they felt it meant for them after much discussion about what learning is. They were then asked to think about what that would look like in the classroom. The end result was an interactive display in the room ‘What have we done today that makes us feel proud?’ Children are now more focused on their learning styles and how to move them forward. They quote the lyrics from the song. Every class in the school now has the same poster.
Another teacher created a display using the statements from the ‘successful learning’ sheet (e.g. use your imagination, be curious etc.) Each statement is on its own little poster with a coloured thumbs up sign. Each lesson children and the teacher choose which thumb to focus on that day. At the end of each lesson children assess whether they have been successful. Children seem to have more self-belief and confidence. Children know the statements well and what each one looks like in the classroom. The coloured thumb is moved from the big display and put on the white board with the learning objective, so that children know what they are focusing on. At the end of the day children answer questions:
- What have I learnt today?
- What did I do well?
- What could I do better tomorrow?
Parents have noticed that children are able to tell them what they have learnt and done well.
Another teacher showed the class the taxi driver YouTube clip and children pulled ideas and statements from the commentary. A display of these was made. Children were more motivated and they vocalise this across all areas including church service.
Two children were asked by the Rector to take part in a challenge. One child was cheered on and generally encouraged by half the congregation and the other child received no encouragement.
After the challenge the child who received no encouragement explained that it didn’t worry him because he knew if he kept trying he would succeed. He didn’t need others to encourage him.
One teacher said that they had a two week focus on the brain as a whole school topic which happens every two years. She had presented TAs this year with the fixed and growth mindsets and they had watched a Charlie and Lola clip (‘Too many big words’). It was hard at the beginning but the teachers persisted and kept referring to the mindsets in the classroom. Children chose their own characteristics of the mindsets and became happier with mistakes. Instead of saying ‘I’m finished’ they are more likely to say ‘I’ve done a good piece of work.’
Another school started by determining children’s current mindsets then introduced the brain by using a sponge, water and video clips. Children became more aware of their potential and teachers are expecting more from each child. Children are taking more responsibility and making ‘good’ mistakes. TAs have been enthusiastically involved in the concept.
Another teacher asked children to rank various celebrities in order of intelligence, introduced stories for the fixed and growth mindsets such as ‘Oliver’s veg’ and ‘Giraffes can’t dance’. The class also created a brain display on which they add post it notes when they feel they have made positive changes or decisions. Children are now more accepting of mistakes and more creative in their problem solving.
One teacher had children playing maths from around the world and some higher achievers lost. They all discussed how the brain can be fixed on one thing and lose important points. This led to greater awareness of different achievement levels and strengths and the need to remove the fixed mindset.
Another teacher asked children whether they agreed or disagreed with the statements about the mindsets then introduced characters to represent them. Children are now more reflective, perhaps changing their thinking.
All teachers had developed and reinforced a growth mindset with displays and key vocabulary. Children now talk more and are more confident and willing to have a go. Children tell each other when they recognise the fixed or growth mindset.
Children were told about the brain development and shown the taxi driver clip. One teacher used a character to introduce the growth mindset – Lenny the Lemur. She asked ‘What would Lenny say?’ ‘What wouldn’t he say?’
The story ‘Giraffes can’t dance’ had been used by someone else to introduce the growth mindset.
Another teacher used a picture of a bicycle to support children – although you fall off, you have to keep getting on to get better. You first start with stabilisers or a balance bike and lots of help.
Teachers had changed to mixed ability groups, changing the groups every 6 weeks. This was agreed to have had the best impact, especially for lower achievers. It had lifted the ceiling of achievement and given children more confidence. One quiet high achieving girl was particularly helped by this.
All teachers now ask children to choose which level of difficulty maths task they want to tackle. There was concern about how to support children who consistently choose tasks which are too difficult and conversely, lower achievers who choose an activity but then are not motivated enough to complete it and switch off. Also teachers asked how they should challenge higher achievers to choose an appropriate challenge level. There needed to be a transition in maths from success being equal to the number of ticks or right answers to how hard they worked or stretched their brain. It was felt that once children really see where they are in their learning, they do well, because they choose appropriately. The children who most challenge themselves are the lower achievers and quiet high achievers.
I found myself using my ‘achievement’ groupings less and less in the autumn term with my new class who were already confident with using BLP (Claxton’s Building Learning Power) and were very much active learners. After ‘Day 1’ on the learning team I returned to school determined to sort out the structure of the lessons and try something completely different with the children.
We now always work with our talk partners (now called learning partners), the tasks are more open and all children can choose the level of challenge. I have teaching sessions within the lesson called ‘star groups’. I invite certain children to these and children can sign up for them on the board. Children often sign up straight away and then remove their name once they realise which zone they are in and vice versa.
The initial difficulty to overcome with this was ensuring children picked learning that was appropriate to their level. We used the ZPD (zone of proximal development) with the children to talk about where they are in their learning – comfort zone, stretch zone and stress zone. I needed to make this explicit to some children (e.g. ‘You are in your comfort zone because this is applying…’ Children use the zones in their talk and self/peer assessment.
The impact has been that all children are challenging themselves appropriately and they are in competition with themselves and not others. They use their BLP muscles to get into the stretch zone or to get out of the stress zone. They see themselves as responsible for their own learning. They have moved into a growth mindset
One school had created an octopus with a name with each tentacle having a different learning power. Children were given a brief input for each power in one class and introduced to one power a week in another, with each power given a different colour. This seemed to help children remember each power. Children point to the octopus and it has helped them not to give up.
Some teachers had started split screen lessons (e.g. learning fractions + learning not to give up).
Another teacher had written a story for each of the 8 powers and children had to guess the moral of each story.
The taxi driver clip went over one class’s heads but another class really got it, helped by some of them having taxi driver dads.
One teacher has a reminder above the whiteboard – ‘Are your neurons firing?’, which has led to children using this language.
Teachers in one school now focus on the 8 powers to celebrate rather than other rewards. Verbal praise has led to children beginning to praise each other and understanding the importance of practise. One boy who likes drawing cars was told by another child ‘You’re really amazing’. He was asked ‘Do you practise?’ and replied ‘Yes-lots’. The second child said ‘I could do that’.
There is now more learning and more focus. Teaching is also more focused with more readiness for learning.
Children are now helping each other to learn and the powers have given the children language to explain. Children’s feedback now focuses on specific aspects of learning (e.g. I’m concentrating more/When it said concentrate it reminded me not to look at other people/It reminds me to enjoy my learning).
In one school children used to have to stay in if they had not finished. Children are now reassuring each other that they won’t have to if they have tried hard.
Claire Hodgson | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tower Hamlets, London
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Stella Smith | firstname.lastname@example.org
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