Numeracy and Understanding


Developing independence stems from developing interest...

Attempting to develop independence in my classrooms, I realised after reading Zoe Elder's Full on Learning, it is driven by the power of interest.

It comes down to "Learning with an Intention". We all know how important it is to explain to students what they are learning for that lesson, or series of lessons, using an L.O/WALT/WILF but how many of us actually explain "why" we are teaching students a particular topic, or "why" it is important for them to understand this new knowledge or skill. This is something I haven't done consistently; after reading Zoe Elder's Full on Learning for Book Club, it made me think about it in more depth.

Zoe says by doing so, we are providing them with an understanding of why it is important to engage with the learning, and they will develop an interest for the subject/topic. If an interest is there, then pupils will be happy to engage in the lesson, most of them will get on enthusiastically, in collaboration or independently. If students are actively participating, then they are understanding-everything so far that always makes at least a good lesson!

Developing an interest by providing a purpose...

"Not hearing is not as good as hearing, hearing is not as good as seeing, seeing is not as good as mentally knowing, mentally knowing is not as good as acting; true learning continues up to the point that action comes forth (or, only when a thing produces action can it be said to have been truly learned)." ~ Xunzi (340-245 BC)

Listening and watching are passive activities, however when given a purpose, they can be just as rich as doing an acitvity. It is this purpose that provides an intention to learn and drives the learning. So long as they are listening and watching with an intention. Back to Zoe Elder's Full on Learning; it is this idea of providing the "Why of learning ahead of the how and what," as well as asking your students, "are you ready to learn?" There is a graph Zoe Elder suggests uses for students to add up their scores on page 50 to help them answer this question. It can be done at the beginning of a topic/lesson, or even midway/end of a topic/lesson.

So it is just as important to listen, observe and do in a lesson if we can provide them a "why" in the objective. Some subjects, for example in my case with Maths, some topics are not so obvious and it is a question that is asked all the time! They always want to know the point in learning how to factorise and solve a quadratic equation. It is helpful to know connections to the future, cross curricular links and uses of that skill. For example, one of the most challenging learning objectives I had to provide a "why" for was, "To be able to factorise and solve a Quadratic that you can solve an abstract problem and give a solution. This might help you in the future when you decide to study Mathematics at a higher level, or quite simply when you come across a problem when you open up a business of your own!"

This is a very long L.O but only because it required more explaining...and it resulted in a lot of questions so for the very curious ones, I shared and asked them to do some research of their own. No one has asked the popular question of "Why are we learning this again" since we started the topic Algebra.

Sometimes, they just love knowing what you love about the topic or when they are given a "heads up" on the tricky bits that are forthcoming.

In the end, it should develop an engrossment and independent learning- something I am going to try to do more consistently! Let me know if it works for you.