Make writing relevant

Pobble helps us see how to plan better for writing.

Literacy is simply defined as the ability to read and write, but these skills are prefaced by the development of oral language and vocabulary. These three skills—oral language, reading, and writing, in that order—are the key to creating literate children.

Writing, then, is the glue that cements the mastery of oral language and reading for the child. All the more important, then, that children not only learn to write, but learn to see themselves as writers. Here are five suggestions to helping children become life-long writers.

1. Provide authentic writing experiences.

When children are asked to write for a specific purpose, not only does it show children that writing is important, it shows that them that their opinions are valuable. Some examples are below.

Examples of authentic writing experiences

2. Provide multiple writing materials.

In our daily lives, we do not limit our writing to one medium. We write on computers, in notebooks, and on scrap paper. Encourage children to see writing as a multifunction activity by providing them with lined paper, colored paper, graph paper, notecards, scrap paper, white boards or chalk boards, notebooks, diaries, and online word processing programs. Writing instruments could be lead pencils, colored pencils, pens, crayons, markers, highlighters, chalk, paint, computers, typewriters, or even letter stamps and ink. Keeping all child-friendly areas stocked with various writing supplies will encourage spontaneous writing.

3. Encourage stress-free spelling.

Imagine if every paper or writing that you created were marked with corrections, would you want to continue to write? If we are trying to encourage our children to write and write more often, then we need to understand that a child can read words (‘decoding’) before they can write those same words (‘encoding’).  Decoding is always easier than encoding, so reading will usually be more advanced than writing, even at further developmental stages. Encourage children to write the sounds they hear and use words around them to help them write what is difficult. If a child is writing a list of cities or attractions to visit, they can use a map, website, or brochure for reference.

4. Value children’s writing.

If a child creates a piece of writing, but it is only read once and then filed or forgotten, this fails to show that their writing is appreciated and useful. Copy a child-created shopping list to use on the next several trips. Display children’s writing in frames, on a bulletin board, or in other locations. Have the child address and send postcards, thank you cards, and letters. Use a child-created checklist when preparing for an event or trip.

see the whole article on the following blog;

http://blog.pobble.com/ways-to-help-children-see-themselves-as-writers/?utm_content=buffer78711&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

What is Dialogic reading and how does it develop language skills?

Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read to Preschoolers

Dialogic reading works. Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading.
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 Over a third of children in the U.S. enter school unprepared to learn. They lack the vocabulary, sentence structure, and other basic skills that are required to do well in school. Children who start behind generally stay behind – they drop out, they turn off. Their lives are at risk.

Why are so many children deficient in the skills that are critical to school readiness?

Children’s experience with books plays an important role. Many children enter school with thousands of hours of experience with books. Their homes contain hundreds of picture books. They see their parents and brothers and sisters reading for pleasure. Other children enter school with fewer than 25 hours of shared book reading. There are few if any children’s books in their homes. Their parents and siblings aren’t readers.

Picture book reading provides children with many of the skills that are necessary for school readiness: vocabulary, sound structure, the meaning of print, the structure of stories and language, sustained attention, the pleasure of learning, and on and on. Preschoolers need food, shelter, love; they also need the nourishment of books.

It is important to read frequently with your preschooler. Children who are read to three times per week or more do much better in later development than children who are read to less than three times per week. It is important to begin reading to your child at an early age. By nine months of age, infants can appreciate books that are interesting to touch or that make sounds.

What is dialogic reading?

How we read to preschoolers is as important as how frequently we read to them. The Stony Brook Reading and Language Project has developed a method of reading to preschoolers that we call dialogic reading.

When most adults share a book with a preschooler, they read and the child listens. In dialogic reading, the adult helps the child become the teller of the story. The adult becomes the listener, the questioner, the audience for the child. No one can learn to play the piano just by listening to someone else play. Likewise, no one can learn to read just by listening to someone else read. Children learn most from books when they are actively involved.

The fundamental reading technique in dialogic reading is the PEER sequence. This is a short interaction between a child and the adult. The adult:

  • Prompts the child to say something about the book,
  • Evaluates the child’s response,
  • Expands the child’s response by rephrasing and adding information to it, and
  • Repeats the prompt to make sure the child has learned from the expansion.

Imagine that the parent and the child are looking at the page of a book that has a picture of a fire engine on it. The parent says, “What is this?” (the prompt) while pointing to the fire truck. The child says, truck, and the parent follows with “That’s right (the evaluation); it’s a red fire truck (the expansion); can you say fire truck?” (the repetition).

Except for the first reading of a book to children, PEER sequences should occur on nearly every page. Sometimes you can read the written words on the page and then prompt the child to say something. For many books, you should do less and less reading of the written words in the book each time you read it. Leave more to the child.

How to prompt children

There are five types of prompts that are used in dialogic reading to begin PEER sequences. You can remember these prompts with the word CROWD.

  • Completion promptsYou leave a blank at the end of a sentence and get the child to fill it in. These are typically used in books with rhyme or books with repetitive phases. For example, you might say, “I think I’d be a glossy cat. A little plump but not too ____,” letting the child fill in the blank with the wordfat. Completion prompts provide children with information about the structure of language that is critical to later reading.
  • Recall promptsThese are questions about what happened in a book a child has already read. Recall prompts work for nearly everything except alphabet books. For example, you might say, “Can you tell me what happened to the little blue engine in this story?” Recall prompts help children in understanding story plot and in describing sequences of events. Recall prompts can be used not only at the end of a book, but also at the beginning of a book when a child has been read that book before.
  • Open-ended promptsThese prompts focus on the pictures in books. They work best for books that have rich, detailed illustrations. For example, while looking at a page in a book that the child is familiar with, you might say, “Tell me what’s happening in this picture.” Open-ended prompts help children increase their expressive fluency and attend to detail.
  • Wh- promptsThese prompts usually begin with what, where, when, why, and how questions. Like open-ended prompts, wh- prompts focus on the pictures in books. For example, you might say, “What’s the name of this?” while pointing to an object in the book. Wh- questions teach children new vocabulary.
  • Distancing promptsThese ask children to relate the pictures or words in the book they are reading to experiences outside the book. For example, while looking at a book with a picture of animals on a farm, you might say something like, “Remember when we went to the animal park last week. Which of these animals did we see there?” Distancing prompts help children form a bridge between books and the real world, as well as helping with verbal fluency, conversational abilities, and narrative skills.

Distancing prompts and recall prompts are more difficult for children than completion, open-ended, and wh- prompts. Frequent use of distancing and recall prompts should be limited to four- and five-year-olds.

Virtually all children’s books are appropriate for dialogic reading. The best books have rich detailed pictures, or are interesting to your child. Always follow your child’s interest when sharing books with your child.

A technique that works

Dialogic reading works. Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading. We have found these effects with hundreds of children in areas as geographically different as New York, Tennessee, and Mexico, in settings as varied as homes, preschools, and daycare centers, and with children from economic backgrounds ranging from poverty to affluence.

Dialogic reading is just children and adults having a conversation about a book. Children will enjoy dialogic reading more than traditional reading as long as you mix-up your prompts with straight reading, vary what you do from reading to reading, and follow the child’s interest. Keep it light. Don’t push children with more prompts than they can handle happily. Keep it fun.

Permission for the original article was provided by Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst, Ph.D., Director, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education

read the article on;

http://www.readingrockets.org/article/dialogic-reading-effective-way-read-preschoolers

Get them lost in a book

Top tips for engaging pupils with literacy

By Dr Julie Wood on Monday, 07 December 2015

Children love to read, right? Because we love to read! We grew up vicariously tumbling down the rabbit hole with Alice or exploring the Chocolate Factory with Charlie. Or sampling saltier fare with Roald Dahl and his humorous worldview.

“Once pupils have learned how to read, they often opt out.”

If you’re reading this article, it’s likely you have noticed that your students are really not always that keen on reading. You might be concerned that they are falling behind as readers and writers. You might be thinking in particular about pupils who have been diagnosed with some type of learning challenge, such as ADHD or dyslexia. Or, you might have English as a second language (ESL) in your classroom who are fluent in one or more languages, but who are struggling to learn English.

To better understand why many children of average and above-average intelligence have difficulty learning to read, we need to consider how hard it is for young learners to make sense of small squiggles on a page. To be able to associate sounds with letters, to combine letters to make words, and combine words to make meaning. In other words, as researcher Paul Kropp summarises:

“Between the ages of four and nine, your child will have to master some 100 phonics rules, learn to recognise 3,000 words with just a glance, and develop a comfortable reading speed approaching 100 words a minute. He must learn to combine words on the page with a half-dozen squiggles called punctuation into something – a voice or image in his mind that gives back meaning.” (Kropp, 1996)

Today’s children are more likely to be hooked on cool apps and games than on the Jolly Postman or Lemony Snicket and colourful, if unfortunate events. While young children are often avid readers, ironically, once they have learned how to read, they often opt out, spending only a few minutes each day reading on their own.

We need to find ways to entice children to read—a lot! As Dr. Marilyn Jager Adams points out: “If we want children to learn to read well, we must find a way to induce them to read lots,” and likewise, “If we want to induce children to read lots, we must teach them to read well” (Beginning to Read, 1994).

How can we help children learn to read well and often? Here are ten classroom-tested ideas.

1. Make It a Party Every Time You Share a Book with a Child

Every time we read with children, we have an opportunity to interact in fun ways using dialogic reading techniques. Dialogic reading is a playful, interactive way of sharing a book that is hugely beneficial for children. Rather than zipping through a book, doing a “straight read,” with dialogic reading the child become the teller of the tale – or the sharer of new information in the case of nonfiction titles.

In short, dialogic reading gives you an opportunity to do things like: listen, ask questions, encourage the child to act out a scene, and “become” a character from the book.

Research indicates that children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Studies also show that children can jump ahead (in terms of reading proficiency, including vocabulary development) by several months after just a few weeks of dialogic reading. Give it a try.

2. Partner with Parents

Parents are your best allies in helping your students learn to read. Full stop.

Parents can entice children to want to read well beyond the school day. They can encourage children to read their original stories and do dramatic readings. They can also read aloud books, that children are excited about but aren’t yet ready to read on their own, such as Harry Potter.

Invite families into your classroom to read with children. Demonstrate for them how to read dialogically (see above). Call on volunteers to share their strategies for encouraging children to enjoy books at home. Then ask whether they can commit to having their child read for enjoyment at least twenty minutes a night, four nights a week.

Make a list of ideas parents come up for reading at home with and share it via email or your class blog.

3. Expose Children to Lots of Nonfiction Books

Children like to know things. They enjoy becoming experts. Maybe it all starts with dinosaurs. Then snakes. Then volcanoes. Then the geography of the world. Next up: the universe.

Make sure to fill your bookshelves with as many nonfiction titles as you can manage on all the subjects your students are curious about.

Follow up with inquiry-based projects based on what they want to learn next, tapping into websites such as NASA, Science, the British Museum, and BBC’s History for Kids.

4. Keep a Literature Journal

Literature journals offer children a way to express themselves while they’re in the throes of a good book. Pupils can jot down their responses to character, plot, setting – and whatever strikes them as funny or interesting – while they’re reading a book they enjoy. When children respond to new ideas in writing, even in just a few sentences, it helps them deepen the sort of immersive experience that a book can provide. Extra points for noting new and challenging vocabulary words and their meaning(s).

Collect the literature journals once a week and write a few comments. Or have children swap their journals with a classmate and talk about the book they’re reading.

5. Mystery Authors

Children are often stunned to learn that authors are living, breathing, human beings. Working in teams or small groups, have children research their favourite author, using book jacket copy as well as author and publisher websites.

Culminate the project by having children dress up as their favourite author. Have them write five clues about their chosen author and see if their classmates can guess his or her identity.

6. Have Children Write their Own Books

Writing a spin-off or a sequel for a favourite book offers children a chance to develop their comprehension, creative, and analytical skills. What if Jack of Beanstalk fame had not traded his cow for magic beans? What might have happened then? Would everything have gone perfectly, or would Jack have had other misadventures?

Or, how else could the Three Little Pigs have outwitted the wolf?

Encourage pupils to write their own books, then share them with classmates—and the larger world. If possible, have them create their books using word processing software and digital art tools. Or, if you have access to iPads, show children how to use a writing app such as Book Creator.

7. Create a TV Commercial to Advertise a Favourite Book

What are the selling points of a book that a student loves? Is it exciting, scary, funny, adventurous? Thinking about questions such as these helps children develop their comprehension and analytical skills. It also helps them be able to summarise complex ideas.

Lead a discussion with pupils about the selling points of various books you’ve shared together. Then have them write an advertisement to entice classmates to read a book they think is terrific. How can they say just enough, without giving too much away? What types of readers would especially enjoy this story or information book? They need to be sure to consider their audience.

If you’re able to film students on smartphones or other devices, have them take turns filming each other as they give their pitch. Feature the videos at an evening for parents and/or a school-wide literacy event.

8. For the Love of Words

Children who have a rich vocabulary have an excellent shot at understanding and interpreting what they read. While children learn many words indirectly (eg by encountering them several times), they also benefit from direct instruction, focused on new and interesting words they’ve come across in their reading.
“What if Jack of Beanstalk fame had not traded his cow for magic beans?”
One strategy for direct instruction involves creating Word Webs. These networks of words help children process the meaning of new vocabulary on a deep level. Begin by helping children generate a network of words that are related to the target word. If the new vocabulary word is scared, for example, create a Word Web by placing scared in the center of a web, with related words – such as “frightened”, “afraid”, “shaking in his boots”, and “fearful” – radiating out from the new word.

Then have pupils zero in on a few interesting and challenging words of their choice. Working in teams, have them create Word Webs to share with the class. Extra points for adding illustrations! Post their Word Webs around the room for extra exposure to the new vocabulary words. Or, if your students love crossword puzzles, have them create their own, using Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker (Extra cool, since to create puzzles, children will get extra practice in spelling the target words and composing a definition).

Most importantly, encourage pupils to use the new word in a sentence that demonstrates their understanding of its meaning.

9. Blog About Your Students’ Work

Get word out. Let parents know what their children have been studying so they can reinforce learning at home. If you don’t yet have your own blog, don’t worry. With so many educational bloggers willing to share their expertise, it’s relatively easy. Edech star Steven Anderson, for example, says that blogging is an important part of his practice. For today’s students, he continues, “ …the audience is global and anyone can read, and in some cases respond and comment. Kids can post their writing projects, thoughts and reflections. Teachers can provide prompts or starters and kids can pick up and run with it.”

If you’re not already blogging, check out the “getting started” sections of these two platforms: Edublogs and Kidblog. For more tips and tricks, see Steven’s blog post.

10. Go Global

When it comes to finding an authentic audience for you students’ writing projects, think big. Have students select their best story or nonfiction article and go global, showcasing their work for an international audience.

Check out Pobble, a free website created by innovative teachers in Yorkshire. As of this writing, Pobble has over 30,000 pieces of writing, with over 100 countries represented. Read more in this article in Schools Week.

* * * * *

Above all, keep in mind your end goal: To create lifelong readers and writers who love books and learning, and who feel connected in meaningful ways well beyond classroom walls.

read the blog and links at:

http://www.innovatemyschool.com/industry-expert-articles/item/1632-top-tips-for-engaging-pupils-with-literacy.html

Understanding distraction and using Maslow to aid effective teaching

LEARNING THAT WORKS (PART 1) – SOME IDEAS FROM PSYCHOLOGY

A few basic ideas about helping students (or indeed teachers) learn based on how the mind works.

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Taken from David Westons blog;

Learning that works (part 1) – some ideas from psychology

How do we teach resilience?

The Guardian newspaper reports;

The science of resilience: how to teach students to persevere
Neurologist and teacher Judy Willis shares three simple techniques to help teachers build resilience in their students

In schools today, the focus is not only on helping students pass exams, but also on improving their character by making them more resilient. Resilience in learning, as in life, is about being able to persevere through setbacks, take on challenges and risk making mistakes to reach a goal.

Studies show that resilience has a positive influence on academic performance of undergraduates, as well as their social and emotional wellbeing.

It’s not always clear, however, how to develop more resilient students. I believe there are three main areas to focus on: a child’s competence, their tolerance to mistakes, and their ability to set goals. These components help young people to sustain effort even when a challenge seems too great.

Competence builds resilience
It is not uncommon for students to come to your class with past experiences that have left them feeling like they can’t move forward when a task is overwhelming. You can help them overcome that mindset by building their confidence through experiences that develop their competence.

One activity involves showing students that some things, which seem impossible or too confusing at first, can be broken down into easy-to-understand parts. Give groups of students broken (not repairable) clocks, watches, or safe (ie not sharp and unplugged) appliances or mechanical toys (eg a jack-in-the-box).

When each group has an item, first ask them to discuss how it might work. With objects of age-appropriate complexity, it is unlikely they will be confident in their initial ideas. Then invite them to take their object apart, without any requirement other than they must discover how it works. The object is to build their resilience to feeling overwhelmed by letting them discover, on their own, how complex things can be broken into parts.

The following questions and instructions might be useful (and you can modify them for your students’ age, ability and task):

1 Look at your object and discuss how it might work.
2 Now take it apart and look at what makes it work. Write down what you recognise, such as springs, screws, coils, gears, batteries or wiring.
3 When finished, write down any ideas about how the parts might work together.

When they’ve completed the task explain that children have just experienced their ability to break something down into more understandable parts.

The experience will build their competence awareness. Dividing big assignments or jobs into small tasks will give them the confidence to get started and the resilience to persevere. Invite groups to put their new awareness into mottos or posters for the classroom, for example: “By achieving one task after another, you’ll get the whole job done.”

Learning from failure
When you incorporate opportunities for students to experience mistakes as an expected part of learning, you build their resilience to setbacks. Through class discussions, your own mistakes, and building pupils’ knowledge of their brain’s programming, your students will gain the competence, optimism and understanding to persevere – and even make progress – through failure.

When students make mistakes, explain that these are not failures: they are opportunities for the brain to build a bridge that will bring them success in future. They need to understand that their brains have evolved to be survival tools: the brains of mammals in the wild adapted to make rapid decisions and choices in response to change or threat. Our human brains still have that primitive quick-response reaction to new situations – even to questions in a test. But because we are not out in the wild or in danger, instead of jumping to conclusions, we can take few seconds to be sure our brain’s first choice is the best.

More importantly, when you correct an error, your brain builds new wiring to guide you to make a better choice next time. So doing something wrong can actually be beneficial in the long-term, replacing misinformation with firm experience. The strongest understandings we have do not come from what we’ve memorised but rather from what we’ve learned from failure.

Other ways to help students see mistakes in a new light include:
• Discussing common errors made by previous students.
• Pointing out your own mistakes and acknowledging how you felt at the time.
• Inviting your class to share their past mistakes and recognising they lived through them and can see them with the perspective of time and even humour now.

Personal meaning builds persistence
Students will engage more if they have to use the facts or procedures as tools for participating in personally relevant tasks.

One way to ensure this is by including appealing activities throughout the study unit. For example, invite students to select a recipe from a cookbook that uses standard and not metric measurements. They will want to know how to convert metric and standard measurements to make what they have chosen. The personally desirable goal of making delicious cookies or play dough will motivate them to do their sums.

Elsewhere, if units are particularly challenging, use examples or comparisons of historical conflicts to present day issues that are of interest to your students. Adapt word problems in maths so that they include the names of students, sports heroes, or other people of high interest to your students.

A final thought
By building students’ resilience in this way you can help them realise that when they engage confidently with a challenge, anything is possible and failure is not something to fear. This is vitally important. After all, it’s not what students know, but what they can do with what they know, that is the goal of education.

Dr Judy Willis MD is a neurologist and trainer of educators worldwide, formerly a teacher for 10 years. She writes at her blog Radteach.com.

Read the article and follow further links by reading the article online at

http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2016/jan/12/science-resilience-how-to-teach-students-persevere?CMP=ema-1708&CMP=&utm_content=buffer887ba&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Is your SLT working?

A misfiring SLT can be incredibly harmful to all involved in school life. Phil Denton, assistant headteacher at St Edmund Arrowsmith RC High School in Wigan, and ambassador for Future Leaders, lists the five things an SLT needs to watch out for and effective ways to avoid them.

1. Lack of trust

Without trust, the long-term development of teams and an effective culture is impossible. Engendering trust is not just a question of “being nice”, but of speaking from a place of mutual respect and the understanding that everyone is on the same team, working towards the same goal. As a leader, it’s vital that this is held up as a virtue and practised in public, as well as private, discussion.

2. Lack of attention to results

Dysfunctional teams include (and are often led by) individuals who are more concerned with their own results, status and ego than the collective success of the team. Without a national shift in the judgement of schools, this short-term approach can only be tackled by schools becoming advocates and defining agents of the communities they serve. In this way, leaders are forced to aim for a broader impact than their own CV.

3. Fear of conflict

During SLT meetings, individuals within defective teams frequently become passengers and offer little help in the refinement of new ideas. To avoid this, challenge and discussion should be celebrated and the team should understand that without each other and their feedback to each other, their great efforts will not be as productive.

4. Lack of commitment

If senior leaders don’t insist that colleagues can voice concerns, share support and arrange planning in an open forum, this can lead to a lack of buy-in. Leaders mustn’t accept non-committal meetings where some team members allow other colleagues to accept all the risks in terms of strategic decisions.

This means ensuring that all team members have taken the opportunity to state their opinion and, in doing so, freely given up their safety clause of “it wasn’t my idea”.

5. Avoidance of accountability

As soon as avoidance of accountability is accepted by leadership, it spreads like wildfire throughout any organisation. Once decisions have been made and the direction taken, leaders must take on the accountability of the collective. This responsibility should be a key consideration when recruiting and adding new members to the SLT.

read the article and see the links on the TES at;

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/five-ways-spot-a-dysfunctional-slt

Using childrens’ texts to teach equality

Since the government instructed schools to promote British values, schools have struggled to understand what exactly those values are and quite how they should be taught.

Andrew Moffat, a teacher at Parkfield Primary School in Birmingham, thinks he has an answer. He has published a book called No Outsiders In Our School: teaching the Equality Act in primary schools, which explains that children’s literature is a vital tool for moral and character education, and also for the promotion of diversity.

“I believe that British values are values of humanity and democracy,” he says. “The key thing we hope to achieve is for our students to want to live in a diverse Britain and our school’s promotion of diversity will give us the agency to help our students see all the good that can come from living in harmony with people different to us.”

Moffat says promoting British values is not just about countering radicalisation – as some have interpreted it – but ensuring no person faces discrimination because of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

“For schools to continue on from the success of the Equality Act 2010 and Ofsted’s requirement of schools to demonstrate their no tolerance of homophobic bullying, they need to look at all dimensions of equality.” he says.

So why children’s literature as the medium to teach these lessons?

“I chose the books very carefully to talk about characters that were different so that children were taught to not be scared of difference,” he explains. “In Reception, the book Red Rockets and Rainbow Jelly shows that we can like different things but still be friends. In Year 1, the book Max the Championshows a child with a disability who is mad about sport. King and King is used in Year 4 to talk about gay marriage and in Year 6, The Island has the purpose to challenge the causes of racism as the book gives children an opportunity to talk about refugees and to understand how racism occurs and what actions they can take to stop it.”

“I use books because I want to embed the work in to the school curriculum and these lessons can be used to support literacy, guided reading and PSHE. Talking about characters makes a tricky subject accessible; we talk about the character and the situation first and then relate it to real life and our own experience”

Alongside the schemes of work pinned to children’s literature, Moffat also ensures students have opportunities to mix with students of other backgrounds and faiths and that they are aware of global events.

Read the full article and download resources at;

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/why-literature-a-vital-tool-teaching-students-about-equality

Using immersive activities to enhance learning potential

It’s 10.30am and fifteen Year 2 boys are huddled inside an old army parachute dappled in green and brown light, the noises of gunfire rattling in the distance, while outside they are confronted with life-size images of young soldiers in battle. Each child whispers to their partner as they write down their experiences. Which of these children are unengaged? Looking at the wonder and anticipation in all of the children’s faces as they scribble words and drawings on their paper, it’s hard to tell. And while we know each child will have different levels of engagement across different learning approaches, it reminds us that everybody has the capacity to be engaged.

It’s my opinion that everybody has a skill or experience that they are good at, that they can be absorbed by, and that they can learn from, whether that exists within a traditional learning environment or elsewhere. The difficulty is often having the time to find out what that skill is, and creating a flexible, personalised learning environment that can cater to individual needs.  Immersive spaces can’t solve the problems of the complex context or history of those children who have, rightly or wrongly, been labelled as ‘unengaged’, but they can provide a forum in which their barriers to learning can be disregarded, and their approaches to enquiry, communication and experience identified and championed.

So how does this work in practice? Huddled in their enormous parachute tent, the Y2 boys at Bowlee Primary school in Middleton are looking at a single red poppy that is trapped in a glowing white box in the middle of the tent. They are asked to write down what they think it is and how it makes them feel, looking at that poppy, hearing the gunfire and being in that space.

For a school that is outstanding across the board, but where children have limited experiences and where engagement within boys’ literacy is an ongoing challenge, providing them with an opportunity to use writing to express their own feelings in their immediate surroundings was powerful. Not only did the children begin writing straight away, using vocabulary and WOW words that the teachers acknowledged was at a richer level than previous work in the classroom, but most also started working together in small groups of two or three, without direction. Taking charge of the way they learned and engaging in an experiential way encouraged them to engage more deeply.

At Ormiston Horizon Academy in Stoke on Trent, they create immersive experiences that blend the vocational with the theoretical, the practical with the abstract to engage pupils in maths and science. By creating experiential scenarios within their immersive environment, pupils must employ their maths knowledge to solve a series of mysteries, from working in a Criminology lab to find out who murdered the Y9 maths teacher, to exploring engineering by designing and building balloon cars within the space. So what’s different? In all of these short examples, the immersive experiences created did more than just excite, provoke and enthuse.

On a basic level, they permitted the pupils to travel to worlds – real or otherwise – that most had not had access to before, to experience new sensations, landscapes and scenarios in a safe space. Crucially, they were allowed to experience these environments in their own time, as individuals, without being singled out. With labels disregarded, they could take ownership of their learning by using their own experiences to shape that learning, and teachers in turn could observe the different ways in which pupils processed this journey.

One of the most powerful things a teacher said to me was that in their immersive space, the differences of ability between the pupils in her class became much less apparent. Because each child had the freedom and space to nurture their imagination independently and interpret their experience and their responses to it in a space that belonged as much to them and their peers as to the practitioners supporting their transition through education.

Read the article at the innovate my school blog

http://www.innovatemyschool.com/industry-expert-articles/item/1630-how-immersive-environments-are-inspiring-reluctant-learners.html