Teaching Learning Behaviours and Resilience with Primary Classes

We often talk about positive behaviour management strategies that keep our classes calm and focused; that keep our entry routines as disruption-free as possible. But how often do we consider explicitly teaching ‘learning behaviours’ that empower our students to support themselves? If you take a step back and consider: self-sufficient independent learners is the ultimate end goal for our students. Why not spend some time steering towards this in lessons?

‘Learning behaviours’ are those behaviours and habits which encourage students to have ownership over their learning. How many times have you heard a child say, ‘I can’t do this!’ or ‘I’m rubbish at Art!’ or seen a pupil copy their partner’s answers sneakily to avoid having to face the dreaded failure. Resilience is an important skill which needs to be practised and grasped by students. It doesn’t happen naturally.

Tell your class that ‘FAIL’ is the ‘First Attempt In Learning.’ Encourage pupils to reflect on their mistakes, and work together on turning those bumps in the road into learning opportunities.

Using tools such as the ‘Blob Tree’ (fantastic for AFL and plenaries) can be very effective in teaching children to become more self-reflective and to regulate their own learning. ‘Jim, which blob represents you in this lesson and why?’ ‘Oh, you’re the blob out on his own facing away because you felt very stuck with the work? That’s OK, I love your honesty! Next lesson let’s think about the resources you can use for support. We can also pair you up with Charlotte to offer a helping hand, well done for being reflective and not giving up!’

Working as a class on a task, and modelling evaluating and improving writing can be really helpful when teaching resilience and learning behaviours too. What do we like about this piece of writing? What can we do to make it even more gripping, descriptive, exciting? We can use this to teach children how to improve their own writing independently. Many children rush to finish a writing task and fill the space. ‘How much do I need to write sir? Half a page? A paragraph? OK, I’m done!’ We need to train our students to recognise quality over quantity and show them that writing is never really ‘finished’ until the author is fully satisfied and has considered the effect on the reader. A huge amount of low-level disruption can be dispelled by training our children on what to do and where to go when they feel that they are ‘finished.’

It is also important to reflect on how our behaviour as education staff affects students. What may you do which ‘pushes students buttons’? Picture the scene: young Charlotte has had a tough evening the night before and is anxious about arriving for her Maths lesson first thing. She had an argument with her Dad over breakfast and is late. She arrives at class 8 minutes late. “What are you so late for?!” the teacher exclaims in front of everyone, “I’ll deal with you later!” How likely is Charlotte to want to engage in this Maths lesson? How will she feel about her Maths lesson next week?

What if the teacher had said, “Morning Charlotte, nice to see you, get yourself settled and I’ll come and have a chat with you in a minute.” A simple, calm and positive exchange which is not ignoring the lateness, but welcoming Charlotte to engage in the lesson creates a much more positive experience for her and encourages active participation. Let’s lead by example on learning behaviours.


More on this next week, but for now please get in touch with your thoughts and experience of teaching learning behaviours: training@prosperoteaching.com