Written by Lianne Clarke – EYFS Team – Leo Academy Trust
Characteristics of Effective Learning
At the LEO Academy Trust, we are truly committed to delivering a world class education for the 3500+ pupils to which we serve. Integrated into our curriculum is the LEO Pupil Outcomes which has character education at the heart of all that we do for all pupils. including our EYFS pupils. Through adapting the Amazing People Schools resources to the needs of our youngest learners, we have been able to develop our provision to help us build our own little amazing people.
In many schools, EYFS staff across the sector find themselves attending training and CPD which isn’t always well matched to the needs of Nursery and Reception children. However, at the LEO Academy Trust, we are all incredibly fortunate to work for an organisation which is so committed to providing high quality, age appropriate, CPD to all staff. Amazing People Schools is a fantastic example of an incredibly high quality and inspirational staff training our team have been able to engage with. Within minutes of hearing about this fantastic resource, I soon realised that this was a hidden gem in the world of EYFS resources, even if Amazing People Schools didn’t know it yet. The potential to help us provide a classroom rich in the values of the all-important Characteristics of Effective Learning was evident. As well as presenting opportunities to open discussion with our own little ‘Amazing People’ about others, the potential to catch them exploring this in the classroom with complete engagement was clear. So, after a quick discussion about the plans Amazing People Schools had for expansion into EYFS, my class and myself were building our character strengths.
Creativity, Adaptability and Thinking outside the box (or under the table!)
Like all staff working in the education sector, EYFS staff are incredibly creative, adaptable and flexible beyond measure. Every day, I am constantly reminded how privileged I am to work with such passionate and committed staff at Cheam Fields Primary, which is part of the LEO Academy Trust. I am in awe of the team that I have around me with their wide range of skills, but more importantly, their absolute passion and commitment to enhancing the lives of our pupils. As I reflect on the great learning opportunities which our children have engaged with this week, I can’t imagine many activities we wouldn’t do to help the children learn, make progress and crucially, become the best version of themselves. It is, of course, absolutely true that different children thrive when presented with different challenges and this is one reason why our team always ensures that we are creative, adaptable and innovative about how we use resources.
So it is of little surprise that when looking at the wonderful and wide range of achievements of Michelangelo, we had to really consider how we could best support some of our harder to engage learners. It would have been all too easy to default to using a resource or approach that has previously worked, but instead we decided to use the fantastic resources, such as the videos, timelines and colouring pages from Amazing People Schools to engage some of our most reluctant learners. So, what creative ideas did Michelangelo spark? The children loved the idea of painting pictures on a ceiling, so we stuck paper under the creative table and gave them a selection of resources and sent them under to do just that! Beautiful pictures of rainbows, houses and landscapes came out from under the table, as well as some wonderful interpretations of Michelangelo himself using the Amazing People Schools colouring template. Those children, who normally shy away from this kind of activity were lining up, swiftly prompting the opening of a new table to accommodate the number of children who were keen to have a try. Was colouring upside down tricky? Of course! But the resilience and persistence needed to finish the task in hand were exactly some of the character strengths our children had just learnt about, and the same strengths we want to encourage in our learners.
Imitation is the Greatest Form of Flattery
Despite public perception being that Early Years just play all day, in the LEO Academy Trust, structured play though learning is a crucial aspect of education for our youngest children. Whilst there are many amazing resources available to teachers, all too often these resources lack detail on how play can be used. However, this isn’t the case for the Amazing People School’s resources; we’re able to easily relate these resources to EYFS and integrate play as a key aspect of the resource. For example, our Reception children have loved using the masks to explore and imitate the real life people that they have been learning about – literally becoming them and exploring both their lives and achievements as well as the character strengths that person has shown.
When turning our role play area into various ‘Doctors’ themes, the children became Elizabeth Blackwell using the masks, or Elizabeth Arden promoting wellbeing at a spa. Both the engagement and depth of learning has been incredible to see. Alongside the masks, the printable characters that can be shrunk to a smaller size, complimenting the small world set ups. Albert Einstein, albeit pint size, really helped the children get into the mindset of a scientist during science week along with some old shirts for lab coats and the children were completely immersed and inspired.
We have only touched the surface of the role play opportunities that could arise from using the Amazing People School’s resources and I can only begin to imagine the fun our class would have with a museum set up by Charles Darwin, in the style of The Natural History Museum. Or perhaps Thomas Edison’s workshop set up with tools, plans and junk modelling – the possibilities are huge, and the children love nothing more than getting into character, particularly if they know the person they are pretending to be.
Enabling Character Strengths
Amazing People Schools is far more than a set of carefully crafted facts about significant individuals; it is an inspiring resource that really helps all children to understand the personalities and character attributes that make each individual special. Amazing People Schools believe that in order to provide an inspirational, engaging and relevant approach to character education, character strengths have to be both taught and caught. We ‘catch’ those opportunities by developing the resources to enhance the learning environments. Looking at how a task can teach more than just the Prime or Specific Areas focus, adults are able to focus more on the character strengths that an activity can promote, which align with the important Characteristics of Effective Learning. For example, a game where children are encouraged to beat a timer can build and show resilience or cutting fruit for snack encourages children to show fairness.
Curiosity, Courage and Open Mindedness
As explored in this blog, the use of Amazing People Schools across the LEO Academy Trust has supported how we approach character education. As a result, there is no doubt whatsoever that our pupils are better equipped with an understanding of a diverse range of significant individuals who have shaped the world we live in today. I really recommend anyone who is curious about building character strengths in their young children to have a look at the Amazing People Schools resources with an open mind – I am sure you won’t be disappointed.
We look forward to continuing to explore the new resources being added to the extensive Amazing People Schools resource and seeing how we can use this to enrich the lives of our youngest children and to support our own little Amazing People.