Blog Post – October 2017
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!
Blog – 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!
The Froebelian School