The only certain thing about the future is that it will be different from today. To make the most of whatever comes along, our pupils need to be creative, risk-taking, independent thinkers, happy to respond positively in the face of change.
Developing habits such as courage, co-operation, perseverance and resilience should be part and parcel of any child's education but these qualities need to be carefully nurtured.
That's why all our pupils get to know and understand the learning habits – key attributes encompassing everything from curiosity to creativity, empathy to self-discipline.
We see these as fundamental building blocks of learning. They are displayed in our classrooms, incorporated into our lesson plans and are the focus of regular assemblies, so everyone has the opportunity to explore what they mean, try them out and practise them until they become second nature.
Although it was tempting to think about courage as just being something for firemen and soldiers, we began to realise that this was not how we use courage at school. To understand its real meaning we made up an acrostic to help:
C - can do attitude
O - open mind
U - uncertainty
R - risk
A - action
G - get back up
E - encore
So, with this in mind, the children were given some ideas of what courage could look like in school and were challenged to find opportunities to practise using this habit.
Over 130 feet of courage were filled in and displayed in our entrance hall. The examples ranged from those who put up their hand when they were not sure of an answer to those who had the courage to try new food, strike up a new friendship or join a club.
To understand self-belief, we used examples of successful people who, had they not had self-belief, would have given up and never reached their goals. As the children were left to think about developing their self-belief they considered this quote by Henry Ford: "Whether you think you can, or think you can't ... you're right.".
The children were challenged to create Little Miss and Mr Men characters they would like to have in their group:
Our focus then turned to collaboration. We looked at examples of famous collaborators whose sharing of ideas and skills creared successful partnerships: Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Michael Marks and Tom Spencer, Henry Rolls and Charles Royce, James Watson and Francis Crick, and John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
Finally, all the classes were given a challenge to collaborate and co-operate as a group to create something together. What a range of work appeared at the culmination assembly! We saw an origami picture, an iMovie story, a map of Alphatown and a Puppet Pals presentation and then we heard a percussion filled tale.
It was good to see the children actively involved in the disucssion and the decision making needed to choose their task and exciting to see true co-operation as they worked together towards a common goal.
We started with the best examples of concentration which were surprisingly very young children learning everyday tasks like eating with a spoon, holding a pen and using scissors. In fact, you can actually see the concentration on their faces. As we get older though, we become more easily distracted and we are often thinking about and doing several things at once.
After a bit of research it became clear that concentration was a learning habit you could only imporve through practice so we downloaded ten concentration games onto the iPads and gave the children free access to them during break and lunch-times in the library.
Nearly the whole school visited the library at some point during the next few weeks and soon a competition began as they tried to beat the times and levels others had achieved on each game - so much so that prizes and certificates were handed out in the end of term assembly. Parents even downloaded the games at home and tried to beat their children!
The other part of the definition talked about being able to stay focused and avoid distrations. As teachers, we are very aware of the things that distract the pupils but it is not always clear to them when they are being distracting.
We finished with a challenge and each class was given a task to learn something together and perform it to the rest of the school. The tasks ranged from learning to say something in semaphore or sign language to being able to recite the 17 times table and create a complex clapping rhythm.
We all agreed our concentration had improved by the end of term.
However, although we knew how important it was to be creative, we were surprised to find out that we tend to be less creative as we get older. We were amazed to see the lengths some companies like Google and Red Bull are prepared to go in order to make their working environments stimulating for the creativity of their employees.
Next we looked at the two main factors that lead people to be creative. Firstly, people create because they want to. They need to satisfy an inner drive to design which is what motivates people like poets, artists, authors and chefs. Others create because they have to. They see a need for a product that can solve a problem so they invent something that will provide a solution.
We all agreed that being creative is about having ideas and lots of them. So we decided the best way to explore and develop our creativity was to practise and so the plans for Creativity Day were announced.
As assembly finished, we scattered to the four corners of the school to begin our chosen creative option from the many on offer. There was excitement in the air as the day wore on and the time to share the results approached. When the parents arrived, the enthusiasm was obvious.
We looked at a powerful example of real life flexibility in the film Apollo 13 where the engineers had to find a way of fitting a square filter into a hole for a round one with only the items available on the space ship. By using their flexibility they managed it and saved the lives of the men on board. It was a powerful message.
After playing flexibility games on the iPads we finished the study of this learning habit with Flexibility Afternoon which was a house event ful of problem solving activities involving marshmallows, straws, helium balloons and jam jars.
We played a game to find some of the pitfalls of making judgements. Volunteers came up to choose which object they wanted by feeling the object through the bag. When they had chosen, they opened their bags to see what they'd got and there were a few surprises.
We completed a quiz to see how resilient we thought we were and then looked at ways to improve our ability to bounce back.
We found out that our intelligence is not fixed and that by focusing on different skills we can improve our ability in different areas. We used Howard Gardener's multiple intelligences to illustrate this and decided which 'smarts' we were best at.
Through a simple questionnaire we discovered our preferred learning styles and we challenged ourselves to learn somethin by using auditory, visual or kinaesthetic methods.
Then we had to learn a passage of Latin and we were sent to different rooms to use our preferred learning style to do it. The visual learners were shown a version with added colours and pictures to help them remember the strange words, the kinaesthetic learners made up actions for each line and the auditory learners were told it was a translation of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star so they learnt it by singing it in Latin to the well known tune.
Mica, mica, parva stella,
Miror quaenam sis tam bella.
Super terra in caelo,
Alba gemma splendido.
Mica, mica, parva stella,
Miror quaenam sis tam bella.
It was surprising how much we could remember after just five minutes of practice and it certainly made us think about how we could use these techniques in future.
As usual we began by exploring what it meant to take risks in our learning. We decided it would be having the courage to take a chance, have a go at something new, or to do something even if we weren't sure it would turn out well. However, we knew this was easier said than done because our fears would keep us firmly in our comfort zones as it can be difficult to take a risk when we are worried about getting things wrong, failing, other people laughing at us and being different to our friends.
Safe Sadie and Risky Rita showed us how being prepared to take a risk can help us make the most of the opportunities on offer at school and can make us more interesting and positive people. Each class was given a pack of 'Took a Risk' cards which could be filled in whenever they felt they had taken a risk in their learning.
Mrs Roberts demonstrated taking a risk by creating a 'comfort zone' in the corner of the hall and leaving it to risk accompanying the assembly hymn on her flute. She used this illustration to show how our comfort zones can frow with us the more we are willing to stretch their boundaries but that they can be like a prison if we are afraid to step outside their walls. The challenge was set for everyone to find an opportunity to venture out of their comfort zone and try something new.
Some concentration games opened our study of this learning habit to practise the ability to make our bodies do something our brain was telling us not to. Although this was fun, it was important to understand that self-discipline is the way we can reach the goals we set for ourselves.
We spent some time on the idea that we make choices about the things we do and don’t do and that self-discipline helps us to make the right choices which will lead to the right consequences.
We looked at ways to exercise our self-discipline muscle and practised this with a game. Finally we watched a video about a student who has a strict training regime in her chosen sport of swimming so one day hopefully she will make it to the Olympics.