As we continue exploring how we can make the best of home learning, it’s worth thinking about exactly what we’re learning.
Formal subjects like phonics or maths might be more difficult right now. But parents and caregivers need not have a background in education to help their children learn the fundamental skills that support the process of learning. These skills are called the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning. They are the bedrock of skills that lead to more formal learning later in life — and we can all develop them at home.
In the first of these articles, we looked at why the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning are so important to develop as a basis for secure future learning.
Before looking we dive back in, here are some important reminders:
This leads us into looking at the third characteristic, which is critical thinking. You could define this as helping children have their own ideas — thinking of ideas, finding ways to solve problems, or new ways to do things.
Here are some behaviours that exhibit critical thinking skills:
Choosing ways to do things
‘Critical thinking’ sounds like such a grown up skill, but the skills can be encouraged from very early on. Take getting dressed in the morning for example. Deciding what to wear is about solving a problem involving various bits of information. For example:
Even if you’re in a hurry, it’s still possible to build some problem-solving. This can be quick and informal — helping your child choose between a limited set of clothes for the day, or what to eat for breakfast, and the plates or bowls they might need. But you shouldn’t have an answer in mind before you present this challenge — keep it meaningful and open-ended.
Finding ways to solve problems and finding new ways to do things was something that was being introduced in the first two Characteristics that we looked at in the last article, so now we are moving that thinking forward to making links and choosing ways to do things.
Ideas always come from somewhere. They are based on experiences that we’ve already had that enable us to bring some experience to a new situation. For example, it’s a lovely sunny day. What does your little one want to do? Perhaps you might go for a walk to the park, sit in the garden, get the paddling pool out or have a water fight?
As adults, we have these ideas because we have had the experiences. But in order for children to have these ideas too, they’ll need to experience them first. These experiences do not need to be expensive outings, or new toys and equipment. For example, looking out of the window could provide the potential for all sorts of ideas, no matter what the view may be. It’s all a matter of recognising the little details and opportunities that are all around you.
Using the window as an example, let’s think about what you might notice to talk about with your child. Any of these could be the basis for a conversation, a learning experience, or an outing:
The crucial part of any experience are the interactions you have while you are together, whatever you are doing. Remember the ‘wondering questions’ from the first article? These are all about forming ideas. Once the ideas are flowing, the learning starts.
It’s not about trying to rush them to writing their name or counting to a million
This was recently said to me by someone when I was explaining the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning to them. Too often, being in a Nursery or School is seen as just being about learning to read, write and count, but there’s a lot more to teaching and learning than this.
Let’s think of our children as capable learners, because they all are. They are all mathematicians, readers, writers, scientists and artists in various ways. Of course, we want our children to be able to investigate, explore and embed the skills and knowledge they gain at their settings — so we want to give them the skills to connect what they’ve already learned.
Let’s look at how what we’ve covered so far can help us. These five things are key:
It’s all about realising the meaning of what you are doing, and noticing the potential of what your child is demonstrating. Let’s just look at our routines as we’re waking up and getting ready for the day, and how we might find some ‘hidden skills’ in everyday tasks.
Often enough, all we need to support these core learning skills is a bit of structure. Here are some activities and questions you can use throughout the day to help your child start thinking and learning.
Your home and the environment you live in, wherever you live, are a powerful source of opportunities to explore the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning with your child. You will both be teaching and learning together when you become aware of these opportunities.
Dr Sue Allingham has both an MA and a Doctorate in Early Childhood Education from the University of Sheffield. She is the author of Transitions in the Early Years and writes regularly for Early Years Educator – EYE – magazine where she is Consultant Editor. Sue is also an independent consultant and trainer with her company Early Years Out of the Box Consultancy.
Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.