Monday, 30 May 2016

Observing the learning characteristics

I have written lots of blogs about the learning characteristics ... here is another one! I keep trying to share the information in different ways so that it is accessible to everyone.

Observing the characteristics of effective learning
Each of the learning characteristics is split into 3 sections – and there are examples of observations you might spot given for each section. The 3 sections help you to describe, in your paperwork and when chatting to parents, how the child is learning. You can then use what you have observed in your planning.
Let’s look at the characteristics in more detail –

Characteristic 1 - playing and exploring – you are being asked to observe the child’s engagement in activities. What does ‘engagement’ mean? Engagement describes when a child is curious and wants to learn more about what is happening. They have their own interests (schemas and learning styles) and they are positive about challenges.

Finding out and exploring Playing with what they know Being willing to ‘have a go’
• The child is curious about what is happening around them;
• The child explores using their senses;
• The child enjoys activities for the sake of them – not just because there is an end product;
• The child uses a schema • The child role plays by themselves – using the buggy, making tea etc
• The child uses a block or banana as a telephone
• The child pretends to be someone else in their play
• The child joins in with other children’s role play • The child involves other children in their play
• The child wants to challenge their learning and understanding
• The child is positive about what they are doing and keeps trying
• The child takes risks to try something new

Remember – not all children display all learning characteristics at the same time. Think about your own learning characteristics – do you prefer to read a book or listen to an audio book or watch the film? Children are just the same as you – they have favourite learning characteristics which you can develop and support through your planned and free play activities (routines) and any extra planned learning activities you provide for them. Have a look through the characteristics and see if you can work out some links -
• Jane talks about an outing at the weekend with her family… links to playing and exploring - ‘finding out and exploring’;
• Janet makes a cup of tea… links to playing and exploring - ‘playing with things they know;
• John struggles but carries on and finishes… links to active learning - ‘keeping on trying’;
• Jane says that if you add water to the oats they ‘might go fluffy’… links to creating and thinking critically ‘making links’.

Characteristic 2 – active learning – you are being asked to consider whether a child is motivated to learn. Do they want to learn? Are they interested in what is happening around them?

Being involved and concentrating Keeping on trying
Enjoying achieving what they set out to do
• The child can concentrate for longer periods of time when they are enjoying something
• The child is fascinated / involved / excited in their play
• The child sits and works something out
• The child looks at things around them in detail / points things out • The child does not give up, even when the going gets tough
• The child tries to do things in different ways
• The child copes with a problem and tries again
• The child struggles but refuses to give up
• The child asks for help and is determined to finish a game or work something out • The child is proud of their achievements
• The child is proud of trying – not just succeeding
• The child copes with disappointment when something goes wrong
• The child enjoys challenges – not just to get a sticker or praise – but challenges for their own sake

Remember – you are less likely to spot learning characteristics in a very little one – aged under 1. While the EYFS expects us to use the learning characteristics for all children, you need to think about how you can provide experiences to help little ones develop the characteristics.
For example, you might –
• Provide lots of sensory play to help a child enjoy exploring and using their senses;
• Introduce challenging games and support the little one to try – even if he doesn’t succeed just yet because he is too small;
• Talk about what is happening and point out places and things of interest so babies learn to look carefully at the world around them;
• Take babies on outings and plan lots of outside play so they learn about the world around them – expose them to the weather (not extremes obviously) but let them learn what rain and sun feel like on their faces;
• Encourage little ones to guess ‘how many do you think?’ or ‘what do you think is happening?’ in stories and when watching television;
• Provide activities that stimulate all the senses so babies learn to use them all;
• Praise a little one for trying as well as succeeding;
• Help little ones to make choices and ask them what they prefer to do / wear / eat etc, even if they cannot respond clearly yet.

Characteristic 3 – creating and thinking critically – you need to think about the ways the child thinks and how you can use these to support their learning. We all think in different ways – some children are leaders and others prefer to follow… some children talk a lot about home and family life while others are more reticent to share information… some children work out how to do things while others get quickly frustrated… what sort of thinkers do you look after every day?

Having their own ideas Making links Choosing ways to do things
• The child thinks up new games
• The child finds new ways to solve problems
• The child watches other children and learns from them, trying out new things in their own play
• The child wants to add something new to a game to change the play
• The child thinks up new ways to do things • The child uses learning from home or another setting to solve a similar problem
• The child can predict / guess what might happen next
• The child tests their ideas eg they try to do something even if it might not work.
• The child learns about cause and effect – if he does xx then yy will happen • The child can plan their time
• The child solves problems by thinking them through
• The child can make choices
• The child makes decisions about what they want to do
• The child recognises he might need to change how he is doing something
• The child can review and consider how well / badly things went

Remember – it’s not just about spotting a child using a learning characteristic in their play. It’s also about using your observations of the child’s learning characteristics to plan for future learning. So when you observe a learning characteristic, think about how you can plan.
Here are some examples…
• Jane is learning through a transporting schema – provide lots of baskets, bags and small toys that she can transport in the house – and a buggy and dolls in the garden (playing and exploring – finding out and exploring);
• Janet enjoys playdough – and next time you play with it she says she wants to add the lavender scent she smelled in the garden (creating and thinking critically – having their own ideas);
• John tries to get the jigsaw piece into the space over and over again before deciding to turn it another way (creating and thinking critically – choosing ways to do things / active learning – being involved and concentrating);
• Jack picks up a block and pretends it is a telephone. He makes a call to mummy to tell her about something he has just done in the garden (playing and exploring – playing with what they know).

I hope you find it useful. Chat soon, Sarah x

PS E-book 59 'Characteristics of Learning' contains a lot more detail. You can buy it for £3.99 from my Knutsford Childminding website. Thank you.