How We Develop a Love of Learning in Reception
By Nick Goligher, Assistant Head
As a teacher of Primary-age children, one of the most important things we all aim to instil is a love of learning, a trait that will surely serve them well in the future. At Sedbergh Prep School, our Early Years Foundation Stage, including The Mulberry Bush Nursery and our Pre-Prep Reception class, is rated outstanding by Ofsted, which noted that our staff support children “towards them becoming highly motivated and successful learners.”
So how do our dedicated team of Early Years and Pre-Prep teachers encourage children to stay curious, to question, to think critically and devote themselves to gaining new skills, knowledge and experiences? Below are ten strategies we employ in the Pre-Prep School (Reception through to Year 2) that can also be used at home:
- Our small class sizes allow us to personalise learning, not just in Reception but across the whole Prep School. This approach ensures teaching and learning is focused on each child’s interests and takes into account their different learning styles, key to building on their natural curiosity. Much like fingerprints, everyone has unique ways of learning; tapping into what fascinates and attracts your child will help to unlock this love.
- Get out of the classroom and bring learning to life – go on visits and see examples of what your child is learning in action. Our Reception have a timetabled ‘Out and About’ session each week when they go outside, come rain or shine, and take inspiration from the outdoor environment. From drawing spring’s first daffodils, to visiting the stables and grooming the ponies, this both supports and motivates their learning in the classroom
- Ensure learning has a real-life purpose, for example writing a letter to the author of your child’s favourite book to describe what they liked best about the story. This example supports reading, spelling and letter writing skills.
- Children learn by example and showing you are a lifelong learner and have a passion for discovering new things will make a long-lasting impression. Have you read a new book that you really enjoyed, learned to cook a new recipe, do you have a new interest discovered in lockdown? Talking about and demonstrating newly learned skills to a young child will result in lifelong learning being considered a normal state of affairs
- Allow your child time to follow one of their passions and produce a piece of work / project to share with their family, friends and classmates. Weekly show and share sessions in the Reception class allow the children to discuss their personal interests with the class. From dinosaurs to golf, we find out something new about our pupils each week which also feeds into our planning and personalisation of lessons.
- Keep things challenging by ensuring any learning is within the ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD). This concept was developed by psychologist Lev Vygotsky and is defined as “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978). If children feel challenged, but supported to master what they do not yet know, they naturally will want to progress and further their knowledge and competence.
- Ensure children feel secure to take risks and make mistakes in the environments in which they are learning. Praise hard work and effort over intelligence to help to cultivate a growth mindset (Dr. Carol Dweck); this supports children to feel comfortable to take on challenges and learn from them.
- Give feedback on the next steps children need to take to succeed, be that using full-stops at the end of a sentence, learning how to ride a bike or how to get dressed independently. Consistent and regular communication between teachers and parents is particularly important in the Reception class. Parents then know how their child is developing in their first year of school and what their next steps are as learners, so they can be consistently supported both at school and at home. We use Tapestry in our Reception class to upload photographs, videos and information outlining each child’s individual school experience, allowing parents to view and understand their progress on a very regular basis.
- A child’s ability to learn is also dependent on their well being, on them having emotional, mental and physical health and balance. If this is achieved, then children are much more able to focus on their learning and development.
- We demonstrate that learning is also about having fun. By always looking for the fun in what they are learning, what child would say no to accruing more?
As every child travels along the journey to greater knowledge, the most important thing we can do as teachers is to provide encouragement and inspiration within a nurturing and inspiring environment. This will surely support tomorrow’s generation in developing critical thinking and problem solving skills alongside a lifelong love of learning.
For more information about our Pre-Prep stage, which includes Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, please visit this page or speak to our Admissions team to arrange a visit on +(0)15242 79200, email [email protected]
Vygotsky, L . S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychologi- cal processes. Cambridge, MA: Har- vard University Press.
Dr. C. Dweck: http://mindsetonline.com