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|Boys are naturally curious. Between the ages of 5-13, boys seek out and absorb information at breakneck pace. It’s true that academic development in literacy and numeracy are key factors in allowing boys to examine and learn in the New Zealand context. Literacy allows them to explore the world using the English language to read books, surf the Internet and learn orally. Numeracy is another language to develop logical thinking and reasoning strategies. Numeracy allows boys to solve problems and make sense of numbers, time, patterns and shapes for activities like cooking, reading receipts, reading instructions and even playing sport.
Literacy and numeracy are critically important, but there is more on offer at Wellesley. Innovation in learning comes from designing, testing and reflecting on what’s being delivered and how this affects student outcomes. We look at key skills in communication and thinking to give boys a chance to develop on multiple fronts.
Critical Thinking Skills
In a complex world where there is information overload at our fingertips, it’s never been more important to scope the problem you are trying to solve. This involves critical thinking skills and a personalised approach where teachers know each boy’s strengths and interests They then wrap their teaching and learning around these interests. Specifically, we look at the following areas:
That’s quite a lot for a 5-year-old! But we start early at Wellesley. Our inquiries and feedback loops are designed to address the skills needed in thinking critically. We develop an understanding of each boy and draw out their curiosity and use questioning to develop critical thinking.
Innovation in Learning
It is hard for us not to immediately think that innovation is technology. With the advancements made in the last 20 or so years, we as adults immediately think that technological advancements are innovation. But it’s not that simple. It’s true that the invention of say, the iPad, gave educators a tool to look at blended learning, a new way of delivering education that enhanced personalisation through the use of internet sites such as MathWhizz, Mathletics or Reading Eggs. It moved practice away from direct instruction of each boy, to one where the boy can access his own learning journey, at the right level and pace, and give immediate feedback in a structured and fun way.
But innovation in learning is more than that. Innovation in learning means improving the practice, not just substituting one way of teaching for another. With the tsunami of technological tools at our fingertips it’s never been more important to upskill teachers to retain the relationship and understanding of each child and change their practice to leverage off innovations to improve student outcomes.
This is where our values of Risk-Taking in Learning and Perseverance come to the fore. Teachers need to be ready to try something new and not just fall into the trap of doing it the same way they always have. It’s true that we do not wish for teachers to take a risk on a boy’s learning journey and diminish the outcomes. However, we must create a culture where teachers are innovative in practice, using new approaches, leveraging off digital resources, creating a safe and engaging learning environment and partnering with parents about each boy’s progress.
It certainly paid off during Lockdown. Our teachers had the skills and knowledge, along with the tools, to effectively implement a fabulous online learning package. After reading the students’ reports recently, it is obvious this has paid dividends in students progress, with many students retaining the required knowledge to continue to achieve excellent results across a range of curriculum areas.
I cannot emphasise enough, that the teacher has the greatest impact on learning outcomes. It begins with relationships and encompasses opportunities for learning.
Wellesley teachers are personalising learning through having a good understanding of each boy’s needs, building excellent relationships and constantly feeding back on learning outcomes. We focus on the explicit teaching of the core subjects, providing engaging lessons each day and then add value by:
A quick snapshot of this type of experience was seen in the use of the Play and Build trailer. This activity was boy friendly and gave students the chance to explore, build and play using discovery methods whilst being taught hands on skills. One boy decided he would use a saw to make a circle, then spent a large amount of time working his rectangular piece of wood into that circle. Some boys decided to hammer screws into pieces of wood to create the object in their mind. Each boy being encouraged to learn through doing by their teacher.
Another recent achievement was the completion of our speech competitions. Our boys learn their speeches by heart and rarely use cue cards. They pick interesting and engaging (mostly boy friendly) topics and deliver high quality speeches from Year 3. The standard is particularly high and always leaves our staff and parents amazed by the quality.
There is so much on offer here at Wellesley and we always come back to engagement and relationships with our boys. Our dedicated teaching team are brilliant at working with boys, allowing them to discover their best. We always focus on our values of Risk-Taking in Learning, Perseverance for Personal Bests and Empathy and Respect in all aspects of Wellesley. If you want to learn more, visit www.wellesley.school.nz and check out our Facebook page.