My classes will be beginning the year by taking a good look at themselves. It is getting late but if you still have not planned your lessons for the first day back, feel free to steal and adapt this idea.
Currently number 20 in the charts, Little Mix will be playing as pupils enter. Love it or hate it, the lyrics of this song go very well with the reflection that is about to take place. Pupils’ clarify, prepare, share question is, “What does the word RESOLUTION mean to you?”
As pupils discuss the question, most likely reflecting on the resolutions that they made this year, they will be greeted with the image of 14 year old Mrs Ashes alongside her resolution at that age (to have fun and avoid school as much as possible). Following a tour of my journey through education, pupils should see that I thought in a way very similar to many of them. School was not my first priority.
However, they will hear how nobody taught the fourteen year old me how to be an effective learner. It wasn’t until I got my first job as an access assistant, removing barriers to learning in a secondary school, that I learned the importance of knowing how to be a good learner. That job changed the purpose of my life and I resolved to pass on this knowledge to every pupil in my care. Today, I want pupils to reflect upon their own learning skills and resolve to ensure that they are reflective now, avoiding missing any opportunities in education like I did.
Search for Meaning
Pupils are then provided with the following quiz which, as well as being a bit of fun, also gives them a starting point to reflect upon their current learning behaviours. Joseph Swan Academy uses PLTS as a cross curricular way of developing effective learner behaviours; this quiz could be adapted to include any behaviours you want pupils to reflect upon. It is not scientific and I have just made up the section about ‘what this says about you.’ The outcome is to get them to think about their current strengths and weaknesses, not to put them in a specific box.
Learner Behaviours Quiz
When your teacher gives you feedback do you…
a) Ignore it and continue texting under the table
b) Read it and the forget about it
c) Read it and use it to improve on your next piece of work.
During group work, which best describes you:
a) You’re the one throwing pencils at other groups for a laugh
b) You’re very quiet and avoid working too hard
c) You question others, make decisions and help everyone towards success.
How often do you go out of your way to learn something new?
a) Never – why would I try to learn when it is being done to me at school every day?
b) Sometimes, if it is for homework
c) Always! I know that knowledge is power and I want to be successful.
If you are presented with a problem, which best describes you reaching the solution?
a) I wait until someone gives me the answer
b) I talk to my friends to see if they know the answer
c) I come up with an inventive solution of my own.
Which of the following best describes how you manage homework?
a) I don’t bother with it, getting a negative comment is far easier
b) My Mam reminds me to do it
c) I check my planner every night and highlight priorities. I do a little each night and never miss a deadline.
Which of the following best describes you following a teacher giving you a task to complete?
a) You haven’t listened because you’re too busy on facebook
b) You get stuck quite quickly so have a chat with friends before asking for help
c) You give it your best shot and avoid distractions.
What do your answers say about you?
For every question that you answered choosing option a, give yourself 1 point; for every b, 2 points and for every c, three points. Add up your score and use it to find out what kind of learner you are at the start of 2014.
0- 6 points
You do not see the point in school. The only reason that you get out of bed in the morning is because a) your parents force you up and b) you get to hang around with your mates. You can’t be bothered to make plans for the future because you think the future will never happen to you. It will! You’re looking forward to leaving school so that you can wear what you want to wear and act how you want to act. Team tasks are a chance to mess about; homework is school’s way of controlling your behaviour out of school time so you don’t bother. You’d rather be given the answer than work it out yourself and you are not listening anyway so I might as well shut up. The potential for great achievements is within you but you are in need of some serious inspiration if you are ever going to let it out.
6- 9 points
You take part when you feel like it but you’re your own boss and you decide when and where that is going to be. School quite often bores you and you’d rather be doing something else other than learning. If a lesson captures your attention, you will get involved but you would just as soon lock a teacher in a cupboard than go out of your way to get your homework done. To unlock the potential that you have inside of you, you are going to need to make some changes and find your love for learning.
10 – 12 points
You are a nice kid…most of the time. You quite like school but you don’t always get why teachers have to be so boring. You know that you can achieve but sometimes you lose your way in getting to your chosen goals. Having fun is more important than learning and you don’t have a clear path to success because you will deal with that when you are older. If you are going to achieve your full potential, you will need to make a few changes to your priorities but you need to know that the effort that goes into those changes is worth the sacrifice.
13 -15 points
You know how to learn, even if you don’t always put that knowledge into practice. You have a good balance between fun and working. Homework gets done but deep down inside, you know that you do not always give 100%. You are already achieving many of your targets in school but it is time to set the bar higher. If you are going to be the best that you can be, it is time to get organised with a clear path towards success.
16 – 18 points
You’re the kid with their head in the future. You have a good idea already that you’re going to be successful and you enjoy lessons at school. If we need someone to lead the team, we always know that you will do an excellent job. If your motivation continues, one day, you are going to be the best at whatever life path you choose to take. To ensure that you are the best, you need to continue to be reflective and see every learning opportunity as a chance to become an even better version of you.
Pupils will use their answers to reflect upon their strengths and weaknesses as a learner and make resolutions of their own. The resolutions will take the form of a letter from their future, successful self. Pupils can use my example (provided below) and should describe how they overcame their barriers to learning and improved their weaker skills as well as enhanced their strengths. Pupils should imagine that they are the best version of themselves that they could possibly be and give their younger selves some great advice.My Example: Dear fourteen year old Lisa,This letter is coming to you from the not too distant future. I know you don’t believe it is ever going to happen but from where this letter is being written, you are all grown up. You own your own house and drive your dream car (you might be surprised to know it is not a Nova as you may now believe). You have two beautiful, highly intelligent children and a crazy but loving husband. Life is good. You have the best job in the world! You get to teach children a subject that you love and you get to develop pupils’ skills in a way that your teachers never did for you. Right now, learning is not at the forefront of your mind; you’d rather skip school with your mates than sit through one more hour of Mr Green telling you that you are not even trying. I understand that your priorities are with having fun and not with learning but I need to let you know that you’ve got that all wrong. The future is on its way and the path that you are choosing will lead to much harder work for you in the long run. Your strongest skill is your creativity. You have the power to make links between all things and, although you don’t realise this now, not everybody has that skill. Combine that with your fearless risk taking behaviour and you will use these skills one day for more than just interesting graffiti. Creativity is a talent and talent needs to be used or you could lose its power forever. Your weakest learning skill is your ability to be reflective. You plough through life without reviewing your steps. You don’t look back and reflect on how you can improve on your successes or failures. This skill needs to be learned; without it, you will never improve. This skill will be taught to you during your first job but you could begin to learn it now, making a huge difference to the results you are soon to receive. You don’t see what amazing potential you have inside! Once you can see that learning is far more than subjects at school, you will unlock this potential and truly shine. You have so much to look forward to!Remember this advice:
- Seek out new opportunities to learn because knowledge is power.
- Everything happens for a reason. Never feel like a failure because you do not ‘get’ something first time (you will pass maths eventually). Seek new opportunities to reach your goals.
- Live in the now but learn something new every day to achieve a richer tomorrow.
- Always make time for your friends but do not be led away from what is important. They do not live your future, you do.
We will meet sooner than you think.
Yours in the future,
Lisa (Insert married name here)
Pupils will seal the letter in an envelope addressed to themselves and pin it up in a space on the wall which has been cleared and titled ‘Hopes and Dreams.’ This lesson should allow pupils to stop and think about themselves, what they want to achieve and how education is going to get them there.