Mrs Dodds’ Weekly Blog
The Learning Charter
12 October 2018
During their PSHEE sessions, each class devises their own ‘Learning Charter’. The Learning Charter sets outs the expectations (and rewards) for positive behaviour alongside the consequences for failing to meet the expectations. It’s a balance sheet of sorts and the aim is that by making expectations clear at both a class and whole school level, we can create a harmonious learning environment.
Of course, children are children! They don’t always follow the rules, meet the expectations or behave in the way we would wish. Just like with their learning, children need to make mistakes to help them to learn effective lessons. Behaviour is always a matter of choice; most of the time we make the right choices but we occasionally suffer from poor judgement and make the wrong choices. It’s not always a conscious decision as children are often impulsive and they don’t realise they have made the wrong choice until it is too late.
Young children do not always understand or appreciate that their actions have consequences. When they make the wrong choice, they need time to reflect about the impact this has on themselves and those around them, and consider how they would approach a situation differently next time. Next week, our ethos theme is: ‘We choose to follow the Learning Charter.’ We will be talking to the children about making the right choice and doing the right thing and having the courage to face up to consequences when they do not make the right choice. Your help in reinforcing this concept of ‘choice’ at home will be of great help.
5 October 2018
Many of you may have seen for yourselves the amazing Redwood trees in America which stand taller than any other living thing on the planet. Have you ever wondered how deep the roots of such giant trees extend into the ground? Probably 200 feet? Maybe 300?
Try closer to 60 or 70 inches! The secret to scraping the clouds as the world’s tallest tree has nothing to do with its individual roots. Instead, it’s the roots of the Redwood next to it that help each tree maintain balance. The roots intertwine with each other to form a close network of Redwoods that’s nearly indestructible by any force of nature.
My point? Collaboration is powerful.
Collaboration is an essential skill in a child’s on-going development. Children who co-operate and participate in collaborative activities develop a greater sense of social awareness as well as self-confidence. By learning to make friends, working together in team activities and supporting their peers, what children learn in the classroom is vital preparation for adulthood.
Collaboration is just like any other skill; it has to be taught. There are three main aspects of collaboration: communicating with others, resolving conflicts, and managing tasks. In 2015, the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, added interactive tasks that gauge how well students can develop shared understanding of a problem, take action together to solve it, and maintain a team organization. The ability to collaborate with others has become one of the most sought-after skills in the workplace.
Caring For Other People’s Feelings
28 September 2018
It can be challenging for very young children to understand and empathise with their peers; the concept of ‘walking a mile in someone’s shoes’ requires higher order thinking skills. Young children are generally ego-centric and inclined to think about themselves and their own needs.
Many of our friendship and playground squabbles are a direct result of a lack of empathy between children. When staff intervene in these fall-outs, we focus on resolving the situation through acknowledging the impact of the negative behaviour on the feelings of the other child; helping the children to understand that their actions have consequences e.g. ‘How do you think Billy felt when you snatched the ball from him?’ rather than ‘Don’t snatch the ball. It’s not nice.’
Developing a sense of empathy is an important developmental process and the benefits can flow through into adult life. Evidence shows that empathetic adults may experience:
- greater personal and professional success
- higher levels of happiness
- an ability to understand and relate to co-workers or clients
- more satisfying relationships
- improved skills in conflict resolution
- lower levels of stress
Modelling empathetic behaviours is so important; children learn so much about social behaviour from watching the adults around them. As Maya Angelou said: ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
‘I’m Having Nun of It’
21 September 2018
I have been thinking about habits this week. We often think about habits as a negative behaviour such as biting our nails, procrastinating, watching reality tv or drinking too much coffee. There is a widespread belief that it takes just 30 days to break a ‘bad habit’ and, although scientific research suggests it takes at least twice as long, the time frame is still short enough to be inspiring, but long enough to be believable.
I am not about to share my personal bad habits but I am endeavouring to develop some ‘good’ ones! The time frame to establish a good habit must surely be the same as it takes to break one. Drinking more water is high on the list as is avoiding checking my phone for at least an hour before bedtime.
All this has led me to think about what good habits we could encourage the children to adopt as part of their on-going personal development. Next week, our ethos theme is about respecting everyone’s right to learn. Below is a list of the good habits the children should try to develop versus the bad habits they should try to break. Any help with this would be appreciated!
|Good Habit||Bad Habit|
|Actively listens||Waits for a gap in the talking so they can speak|
|Puts up their hand to speak||Interrupts|
|Takes turns/shares||Dominates others in the group|
|Respects each other’s ideas||Wants their own way|
|Manages distractions||Creates or engages in distractions|
‘It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.’ Ann Landers
Our school motto is: ‘Giving a flying start to the citizens of tomorrow.’ I have been thinking recently about what ‘tomorrow’ holds for our children; given the pace of technological growth, the ‘shrinking’ of the world and the subsequent uncertainties of the future workplace. What will tomorrow be like and how can we prepare our young children to face its challenges with courage and independence?
When we teach our children to ride a bike, they usually start with stabilisers and, as their confidence grows, we remove the stabilisers until they are cycling solo. They usually fall off a few times until they find their centre of balance but that feeling of elation and success when they look over their shoulder and see you waving from the distance is one of life’s precious moments as a parent.
This scaffolding of support is common in all aspects of our children’s lives but sometimes we forget to remove the stabilisers and our children end up relying on us too much. All too often, we hear the excuse that, ‘My mum forgot to pack my kit’ or, ‘My dad didn’t sign my planner.’ At Froebelian, we are constantly reminding the children of their personal responsibilities and encouraging them to be proactive in their organisation, even at a very young age.
Over my career, I have seen many parents who, out of the deepest love for their children, want to do more, not less, for them. They believe that the more time, energy and attention they can devote to their children, the better. They carry their bags for them, check lost property for things they have lost, hand in letters at the office, unpack and repack their sports bags (guilty as charged!), tying their shoe laces etc. Some parents even do their homework for them – we can always tell!
We cannot expect our children to learn the skills of independence if we are always doing things for them. Every time we do something for our children that they are capable of doing for themselves, we are telling them that we can do it better/faster/more efficiently than they can. Sometimes, the pace of our busy lives dictates this – we tie their laces for them because we are late and need to get work. Making children taker greater responsibility for themselves involves taking a risk, on both sides. Parents can be desperate to step in as soon as the child starts to struggle, instead of leaving them to try to solve the issue they face. For the child, it can be too easy to give up rather than persevere if they know mum or dad will do it for them.
It may be hard to hear, but there are times when your child is better off without you! Wonderful things can happen for children when they are away from their parents, no more so than when they are away on residential. We have a number of trips coming up over this half-term and they are excellent opportunities for the children to develop their independence skills.
It’s a paradox: a 19-year-old member of staff at a residential centre – a stranger – is often better at getting a child to pick up their clothes than the child’s 39-year-old parent is! Why? Because the child knows it won’t be done for them. Making beds, clearing tables, preparing lunch, packing their rucksack, taking a shower – these are all things we expect from our children on residential. They will do it because they can do it and they are expected to do it. No excuses!
In order to grow in the ways they need to grow, children have to take the lead, and usually away from us. Every child needs opportunities to practise being independent, and every parent needs to step back to provide those opportunities. Independence is like high jumping: you have to run and jump and sometimes fail, and then put the bar back up and run and jump again. As a parent, you’ll wince when your child hits that bar, but you can’t jump for them.
‘It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.’ Ann Landers
‘Honesty is the best policy.’ – Benjamin Franklin
Children are the light of any parent’s life; they bring so much joy and happiness. Parents have high expectations and aspirations for their children and they all want what is best for them.
Education plays an enormous part in shaping children’s futures. Working alongside parents, schools endeavour to equip children with the learning and life skills they will need to be successful adults. Engaging in an on-going dialogue with parents about their child’s progress is vital to ensure that we are all pulling together and heading in the same direction.
Parents’ Evening is a fantastic opportunity to bring together teachers and parents to work for the good of the child. Teachers relish sharing stories of success; celebrating each child’s achievements and strengths. However, to balance this, it is also important to share with parents the areas in which their child needs support and encouragement to develop their skills. Year on year, the expectations for each cohort of children grow and the demands made on them for homework, learning behaviours and personal organisation ramp up; ultimately preparing the children for a successful transition to, and experience in, secondary school.
At Froebelian, the teachers are encouraged to be honest with parents. If we truly want to make a difference in the lives of these children, we would be doing them a disservice by sugar coating the issues. Honesty really is the best policy. Sometimes, it can be hard to listen to what your child cannot do yet, but the key word here is ‘yet’. We teach the children about having a growth mindset which centres firmly on the ‘yet’. The children are not failing; it’s not that they can’t do it, they simply need a little more help, guidance and support to be successful. In your parent consultation, your child’s teacher will have highlighted a number of areas of development – there are next steps identified in the notes. Teachers will have shared with you what they plan to do to help your child move forward and may have also suggested what parents can do to support this at home.
Parents and teachers working together brings out the best in children. We firmly believe that parents having a clear picture of what their child can do has much more benefit than masking over or brushing off any issues they may be having in their learning and personal development. All members of staff at Froebelian, teachers and teaching assistants, are dedicated and highly-experienced practitioners who pride themselves on knowing the children in their care extremely well. And, just like all parents, we have your children’s best interests resolutely at heart.
You may have heard your children chatting about their ‘dojo points’ since the start of this academic year and been wondering what on earth they are talking about! If, like me, you were a child in the 1980’s, the first we knew about dojos was from Mr Miyagi in The Karate Kid!
As part of our development of the Promoting Positive Behaviour Policy, the staff wanted to reboot our reward system and bring in a fresh and dynamic approach to help motivate the children with their learning and social behaviour.
After extensive research and liaising with colleagues in other schools, we decided to set up ClassDojo; an online based reward system which promotes positive learning behaviours. The main benefit of the ClassDojo system is its positive support and approach to behaviour and learning. It is a predominantly a reward system not a punishment system.
Mr Finan and Mrs Smith trialled the ClassDojo in the Summer Term and the children engaged with it instantly. From September, each class from Remove upwards now has their own ClassDojo and each child has chosen their own avatar. Throughout the course of each day, children are awarded positive reward points when they demonstrate desirable learning behaviours such listening attentively, being organised, showing resilience, handing in homework, working collaboratively etc.
Points can be awarded for whole class, individual children or small groups. All the children’s points combine to create the class total and teachers set targets for the class to aspire to each week. All members of staff in school can acknowledge positive behaviour so conduct in the playground, in the corridors, in the Dining Room and at Breakfast Club/HAC all counts towards the total score. Along with positive reward points, there is also a stock set of negative target points for areas which ‘need work’.
Points are then tracked by the teachers and reviewed regularly by the class and class teacher so they can reflect on the past week and improve upon target areas for the coming week; giving pupils further ownership of their behaviour and learning.
The response from the children has been fantastic and because the rewards are instantaneous, the children are continually driven to perform to the very best of their ability. As with all new initiatives, we are monitoring the system closely and further work has now started on how we can harmonise dojo points with merits.
Childhood amnesia? Or just the wrong question?
‘How was your day at school today?’ or ‘What did you do today?’ are questions posed by so many parents in the car on the way home from school. For many children, the standard response is: ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I can’t remember!’ A typical day at Froebelian is jam-packed with exciting lessons, thought-provoking assemblies and fun activities. Every day should be memorable in some way or another!
So why can’t they remember? The problem is not the child’s capacity to recall the events of their day. The problem is often that the question is too generic.
By asking more precise questions, the child has to zone in on a particular element of their day and provide a specific answer. It’s also important to give the children some thinking time. Typically, when we ask a question, only a few seconds go by before an answer is expected. Children need a little time to reflect on their day and process the question you have asked before they can come up with a response. Try giving them ten seconds before they reply – this makes them work harder at giving an answer.
Make sure your focus is on the good stuff. Through your questions, actively seek out the positive behaviours you want to promote to your child such as sharing, politeness, helpfulness, kindness, honesty, determination and co-operation. By encouraging positive dialogue about your day, you will reaffirm with your child that school is a happy and nurturing environment. Focus on what your child has done well and celebrate it, rather than spending time on what another child in the class might have done or said.
Next time you’re in the car going home, why not try one of these suggested conversation starters?
- What was the best thing that happened at school today?
- Tell me something that made you laugh today.
- Tell me about new word that you heard today. What does it mean?
- What did you have to try especially hard with today?
- Tell me about three different times you used your pen/pencil today at school.
- If I phoned your teacher tonight, what would she tell me about your day?
- How did you help somebody today?
- How did somebody help you today?
- Tell me one thing that you learned today.
- When were you the happiest today?
- Tell me something good that happened today.
- How have you demonstrated this week’s ethos theme today?
- What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?
- Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?
- Who do you play with the most at break times?
- Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny?
- What was your favourite part of lunch?
- If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?
- If you could switch seats with anyone in the class, who would you trade with? Why?
- Which Froebelian Flyer have you tried to be today?
In our house, happiness comes when wriggling into freshly laundered sheets at bedtime. Clean sheets are gently fragrant, smooth and crease-free and seem to promise a refreshing night’s sleep!
For me, the start of a new academic year is a time for fresh starts and resolutions about what we hope to achieve in the coming school year. Children, parents and staff are full of optimism and expectations for what the year will hold. It’s like having a big, white sheet of paper to draw on – a day full of possibilities! It’s like 1 January all over again.
Optimists believe that we should live every day as a fresh new start. We should not be held back by what happened yesterday. It is really important that children have a ‘clean sheet’ as they move into a new class. No matter what mistakes they may have made in the previous year, a new year in a new class with a new teacher provides the perfect opportunity to start again with a blank sheet of paper; to write a new ‘story’, to redefine who they are and what they want to be known for.
The future is spotless; enjoy your clean sheets…
Look For The Helpers
Television, radio, the internet and social media make it very difficult for parents to shield their children from upsetting stories such as the attack in Westminster last week. Despite the best will in the world to protect them from horrific and potentially frightening news, children will undoubtedly become aware of these events through relentless news feeds and even through chatting with their friends.
For parents it’s a real dilemma. How much should we tell our children? How do we stop them from worrying or panicking? How can we help them to understand why these things happen?
Winston’s Wishes, a charity for bereaved children, has produced useful guidance for parents in how to talk to children about upsetting news. Click here to access the guidance which will be relevant to any situation, not just last week’s attack.
One of the best pieces of advice I have come across was from Fred Rogers, an American television personality, who recommends that adults should guide children towards seeking out the ‘helpers’ in these dreadful situations. The heroes who come running to the rescue, the good people who stop to try and help those who are injured or distressed. Whilst the news bulletins will focus on the facts – the whys and wherefores of the event – the footage will usually show humankind at its best. Teach children to focus on those people doing ‘good’, showing care and compassion, as a way of restoring their faith that the majority of people in our world are decent human beings and that we should not be afraid. Someone will always be helping.
DIRT – Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time
What is DIRT?
John Hattie is a world-renowned researcher in education. His research on the Visible Learning theory states that pupil self-assessment is one of the most effective tools teachers have for accelerating the learning of their pupils. This is further supported by research from the Educational Endowment Foundation which recognises the positive impact of high-quality feedback in improving learning outcomes for children.
Providing feedback to pupils through verbal and written feedback is integral to effective teaching. Equally, gathering feedback on how well pupils have learned something is important in enabling teachers to clear up any misunderstanding and provide the right level of challenge in future lessons.
To strengthen the impact of our marking and feedback in accelerating the children’s progress in learning, we introduced DIRT to the school timetable in September. DIRT stands for Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time and these sessions give children a daily opportunity to:
- reflect on their learning and progress
- make improvements through reviewing and editing processes
- tackle further work to either consolidate their understanding or extend them towards mastery of a given skill.
So what are the benefits of DIRT?
DIRT is an effective way for children to act upon the feedback given by their teacher. Teachers spend a significant amount of time every day marking books and making comments. DIRT ensures that the time teachers have invested in the marking process is maximised as the children have to actively engage with the feedback. Making the time to review feedback within the classroom routine helps to focus the children’s minds on improvement and enable it to be a meaningful component of the children’s learning journey. Valuing the process of improvement also teaches children to continually strive for their very best and puts them in the driving seat of their learning.
DIRT allows children time to reflect/act upon the comments that have been written, as feedback. Therefore, we are ensuring the feedback is being put to good use and is supporting the progress of the children. Children initial teacher comments to acknowledge they have read them. The general idea here is that children don’t accept that the first draft is the only and final draft of a piece of work. Whilst we are not striving for unrealistic perfection, we are encouraging the children to find ways in which they can improve on their first attempt in learning. Making mistakes is proof that children are trying; if they are not making mistakes they are not trying hard enough. We celebrate mistake making – it encourages the children to take risks in their learning, build their resilience and dismantle their fear of ‘failing’. As Thomas Edison once said, ‘I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’
Children need to be able to view their own, and other’s, work with a critical eye. By giving them dedicated time for this, regularly and often, we are enabling them to improve independently. Can they improve anything? Have they missed anything out? Can they identify what they found difficult and what they found easy? Can they attempt something more challenging? Not only do the teachers have high expectations of the children, but the children are encouraged to place high (and realistic) expectations on themselves.
DIRT sessions can take as long as teachers feel necessary. As well as specific slots on the timetable, they can form the starter of a lesson or for longer pieces of work (such as editing and redrafting stories) may take a whole lesson. This dedicated time allows children to get the most out of chosen learning activities; embedding and extending knowledge skills and understanding.
A great way to show the progress of the children and enable them to see the improvements that they have made, is to get children to complete the ‘DIRT’ work in a different colour. We use a ‘Purple Polishing Pen’ to demonstrate easily where children have responded to their teacher’s feedback.
What has been the impact of DIRT on the children?
A recent monitoring exercise in school by governors involved a pupil conference where children were asked specific questions about how teacher feedback helps them to learn. The children understand the purpose of DIRT and could explain the types and range of activities they undertake each week to improve their learning. The children’s work was also shared with governors and it was clear to see the on-going dialogue between the children and their teacher and the impact this was having on improvements in learning.
We shall continue to monitor the impact of DIRT on the children’s progress but hope you have found this a useful explanation of the purpose and benefits of a rather ‘unusual’ acronym on your child’s timetable!
Children’s Mental Health Week
6-12 February 2017
This week is Children’s Mental Health Week and in school we shall be focusing on this year’s theme of ‘spreading a little kindness’ (#alittlekindness)
You may have noticed on the internet and social media that there are a number of movements across the world, such as www.randomactsofkindness.org all of which encourage showing kindness towards others.
From their beginnings in Lower Kindergarten at The Froebelian School, we teach the children the value of kindness and its importance in a caring and civilised community; modelling this in our daily interactions with them. However, while our children generally treat each other kindly, some children are not showing this kindness towards themselves. They may say that they are rubbish at maths or spelling or state they feel stupid when they don’t understand something new. They can be quick to criticise themselves if they do not perform as well as they hoped in a lesson, a test or a sports fixture. As they get older, social media can reinforce these messages as they start to compare themselves more critically with their peers.
Just as charity starts at home, kindness must start from within. Developing a growth mindset and growing the necessary resilience or ‘mental toughness’ to meet the challenges they face, is a life-skill learning opportunity for our staff to address.
You may be thinking that children at our school are not at risk of developing mental health issues. Increased rates of mental health issues in children have been making national headlines over the last year or so and the statistics are worrying:
- One in ten children aged between 5 and 16 years (three in an average classroom) has a mental health problem, and many continue to have these problems into adulthood.
- Over 8,000 children aged under 10 years old suffer from severe depression.
- Over half of all mental ill health starts before the age of 14 years, and 75% has developed by the age of 18.
- More than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood. Less than half were treated appropriately at the time.
- Children are less likely to suffer from serious mental health difficulties in later life if they receive support at an early age.
Growing evidence indicates that promoting positive mental health also improves a range of positive school outcomes, including attitudes to learning, better attendance and improved behaviours.
Dame Benny Refson, DBE, president of Place2Be – a national charity providing emotional support to children in schools states:
‘During their first eleven years, one in five children will experience a mental health difficulty. Children who are distracted and unable to deal with their worries will not be able to engage with their learning and reach their full potential. We all need good mental health to engage positively with our lives, have a sense of hope and optimism and develop the resilience we need to cope with life’s problems. These are vital life skills to help us through childhood and into adulthood and underpin successful relationships, engagement with learning and ultimately help us develop into thriving, flourishing adults who can face the world with a sense of confidence and self-belief.’
The practice of mindfulness, a key component of our PSHEE Jigsaw Scheme, is partly based on the concept that true happiness comes when we demonstrate kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others. As well as being mindful, our children also need to be ‘kindful’ as psychologists believe that the ability to empathise, connect and co-operate is just as hard-wired as our ‘fight or flight’ response.
Kindness is a soft skill that we can practise and grow. Next week, we will be talking to the children about proactive ways in which they can put kindness into action. We will be posting our activities through the week on Facebook (@FroebelianSchool) and Twitter (@FroebelianS) – watch out for your children flexing their kindness muscle at home too!