Teacher MOT: Cultivating learning

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By Huw Thomasheadteacher and writer

Help your class to grow as confident and successful learners

teacher-mot

Under the new Ofsted framework, we teachers are going to be increasingly asked to focus not on our teaching, but the children’s learning. We will be asked to look at how we secured the learning for a child. So, we need to put some thought towards how we can cultivate success in learning.

The door

My first truly challenging school was also the one where I worked for Pat – a headteacher who taught me oodles about children and schools. Top of these lessons was the one about ‘the door’. Our children may come from tough situations and chaotic lives, but the school door is a boundary and what is accepted our side of it matters. At the time, this applied to challenging behaviour, but such thinking has another strand. However down in the dumps or put-down a child may be, we can change that the moment they get to school. Smiles, personal greetings, asking about their day – all are examples of the crucial job we need to do reshaping the feelings of some children at our door.

Automobile mogul, Henry Ford, once said: ‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.’ So, as teachers, we need to keep a positive perspective on what children ‘can do’ – note it down, send home certificates about it and highlight it. Even those who seem incapable of doing anything, have one area of expertise and, in truth, there is no such thing as a zero learner.

Avoid stress

One of the best ways to disengage a learner is to stress them out. It’s a physical thing – stress scuppers the capacity to learn. It puts us into ‘fight or flight’ mode – explaining why children can get difficult or disengaged. That’s why we need to avoid putting children on the spot with our questioning. We can still get them thinking through quick fire questions. They could discuss answers with a partner and contribute jointly. Children can be given three questions and asked: Who has an answer to any of these? If you need to draw in a child who is switching off, a gentler: In a minute, I’ll be asking you…? with a heads up on the question beats putting the child on the spot.

A good way of navigating stress away from children is to encourage them to visualise success. Jonny Wilkinson visualises the line from ball to conversion with precision accuracy before he takes a kick – and it’s paid off. One way of reducing stress in a lesson is to ask children to imagine what success will look like.

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