Natalie Mears Research - Learning to Learn Classroom enquiry

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					Natalie Mears

Research -      Learning to Learn: Classroom enquiry
                Learnie the Learning Frog

Bio-Note
Natalie Mears is a teacher at Oakfield Primary School, situated on the outskirts of
Cardiff. She has taught in the school for six years and hold the post of Early Years
coordinator and Maths Key Stage 1 subject leader.

Rationale
I was fortunate to be accepted onto the ‘Learning to Learn’ course run by Cardiff
County Council Schools and Lifelong Learning service. The course is about the
development of children as resourceful, resilient, reflective and reciprocal learners.
The course encourages teachers to look at their current classroom practise and
decide upon a focus for an enquiry.

When deciding upon a focus for my enquiry it soon became evident that I had a
challenging Reception class. The problem was that the class was dominated by
lively, immature boys who flittered between activities during free playtime. Some of
these boys sole purpose seemed to be to either destroy resources or to disrupt
others as they were playing. Tidy up time was also a challenge, as the children
seemed unable to complete a job and needed constant direction and
encouragement. These children were displaying a lack of resilience and although
they seemed to be working in the different areas of the classroom they were unable
to ‘lock onto learning’ and stay engaged on one activity.

I decided to collect evidence to support my initial feeling. I had participated in the
Effective Early Learning programme and decided to use the child tracking
observation techniques and sheets to observe the children. The tracking evidence
collected highlighted that all areas of the classroom, indoors and outdoors were
being used regularly by the children, but the children’s involvement levels, especially
the boys when at these tasks were low.

Description of the research
In order to develop the children’s involvement levels I decided that there were a
number of ideas I needed to introduce in order to develop their learning power. The
way in which I wanted to approach this was by having a character and a central
display for the children to respond to.

On a trip to Ikea (what did us teachers do before Ikea!), I purchased a crowned frog
soft toy and a treasure chest, and decided that this could be our character and
thought about how to use him.

One morning the children came into school and there on my chair was the treasure
chest. Straight away the children were curious and asking questions. After the
register I opened the chest and took out the frog. With the frog was a storybook that I
had created and I told the children the story. In short the story is about a Prince
called ‘Prince Learnie’ who lives in the learning castle. The Prince isn’t very good at
learning so one day a wicked witch turns him into a frog. The Prince hops down the
road to a pond and sits on a log and decides to call it ‘Learnie’s Learning Log’ The



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story ends with the frog asking the children if they can help him learn lots so that` he
can turn back into a handsome Prince.




Boys reading the Learnie story during free playtime.


As I read the story the children sat there and listened attentively. They thought that it
was amazing that Learnie the frog needed their help. During learning time,
immediately the children took Learnie with them to learn in the classroom. Initially
there were a few arguments as all the children wanted him but the children began to
share him and learn together.

The children accepted Learnie the frog as a class member and were very thoughtful
with the way they handled him and also in the way they spoke to him. The children
take him everywhere, indoors and out and he often needs a trip to the washing
machine as he is covered in paint! The children also take him on school trips to learn
with them!

The display board is a focus for the children and there is a road from the castle to the
pond. On this road we add photographs and work and developments in the children’s
learning. The children use the words ‘learning journey’ and compare the learning
journey to the road that the frog is travelling along so they are able to visualise the
learning process.

I also purchased a digital camera and the children take photographs of each other
learning. This was a great success as the photographs can be accessed immediately
and added to the learning display.




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The learning display board

At the end of the day I choose a best learner. I have a special display with a large
mirror in the middle surrounded my individual photographs of the children. I select a
child and state why he/she has been the best learner that day and what they have
achieved. Sometimes the children themselves nominate a best learner, that child
then wears a special badge home and chooses a small treat from my treat box.

The parents ask their children questions when they have been chosen and the
children are usually able to answer what they have done. Many parents are aware of
what is going on, one even went to Ikea to purchase a Learnie frog for her daughter,
which was a bit confusing! Children have begun to bring into school their toys from
home because they want them to learn with them in school.

Outcomes
The steps introduced have had such a positive effect on increasing children’s
resilience; especially the boys who were unable to stay focused on any task. The
children responded very well to the whole concept and I immediately noticed a
change in the general atmosphere of the classroom.

I have observed that children now spend longer on tasks, which are not adult led.
The project has also had a very beneficial effect on children’s personal and social
skills. They are able to communicate well with each other and work well alongside
each other, in pairs and groups. The children have also been taking photographs of
each other being kind and helpful such as helping a friend out their coat on. These
photographs have also been displayed.

The plenary time at the end of the day is a great time to talk and to share successes.
I point out all the positives from the day that I have observed and encourage the
children to do so too. It is at this time that I can really see how far these four-year-
olds have come. At the beginning of this project I worried that these lively immature
children may have been a little young to accept the building learning power concepts
but they have exceeded my expectations and more!

Evaluation and Reflection:
During the course itself I valued the opportunity I had to discuss classroom practice
with other colleagues from across Cardiff. The discussions, presentations and
sharing of ideas were very interesting and beneficial.




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Completing the classroom enquiry has made me stand back and really evaluate my
classroom practice. It has also enabled me to experiment and try new ideas with the
children.

The results have been above what I expected and the enquiry has made it quite clear
that you should never under estimate young children. It has been wonderful hearing
four year olds talking about their own learning. I do hope what the children have
achieved from this enquiry will benefit their future learning as they continue to
develop and grow throughout the school.

But the most important outcome of this enquiry has been that we must never forget
that learning is fun and whatever your age you are still learning!




                  A child learning with Learnie at the writing table




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Learnie the learning frog




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A child teaching Learnie the letter sounds




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         A child taking a photograph of other children ‘learning’, using the digital
camera




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Description: Natalie Mears Research - Learning to Learn Classroom enquiry