Four-year-old child at Papakura West Kindergarten says, “I asked for more help.”
“You persisted and you didn’t give up,” his kaiako says.
“Cause it won’t get done if I give up. Some of the time I use my brain because not all the time I make things. I am clever,” says the child.
It has been a year since Papakura West Kindergarten began to focus on growing their children’s decision-making skills and awareness of their own thinking.
In this time, the service has introduced new language strategies for kaiako and collected quotes from children showing their developing sense of agency.
Head Teacher Donna Leaf says her teachers trust that children are capable and competent enough to make their own decisions and to create and act on their own ideas.
“We believe they can make decisions about what they want to plan for, what they want to do, how they want to do it and their preferred way of doing or learning something.”
Teachers work on language awareness
Through an internal evaluation (as part of CORE Education’s professional development to support the implementation of Te Whāriki, the teachers found they were good at writing stories about what children were learning but needed to work on having conversations with children about their learning.
“We weren’t saying in the moment ‘wow, you’re really persisting’ or ‘well, I can see questioning is a good strategy to use to figure out the answer’ or ‘asking for help, that’s a good way to solve this. If asking for help didn’t work for you what are you going to try next?’” says Donna.
“We needed to be more aware of the language we were using so they learned the language to use with each other and be aware of their thinking.”
The Empowerment | Whakamana principle of Te Whāriki recognises that kaiako play an important role in encouraging and supporting all children to participate in and contribute to a wide range of experiences that expand children’s competence and confidence and over time, enable them to direct their own learning.
The ability to learn is learnable
The team was also influenced by Guy Claxton’s ‘Building Learning Power’ approach, in which he states that it is a misconception that intelligence is genetic. Instead, he advocates that the ability to learn is learnable.
The children can now articulate their learning strategies and thinking, which is helping them to become skilled learners.
“They have discussions amongst each other about having to think and having to concentrate if you think really hard. They’re really aware of metacognition, they’re becoming aware and understanding their own thought processes and because of that they’re becoming aware of their own strengths and the strategies they can use,” says Donna.
“In Te Whāriki there’s this quote I’ve read on page 23, about te rangatiratanga ‘recognising and appreciating their own ability to learn’. That one sentence, that’s it.”
Although teachers know to ask open-ended questions, it was helpful to consciously choose to focus on practising this, says Donna.
“I think all teachers do it, but we became very conscious of it. We became very aware of the words we were using and we kept repeating those words so the children could use the words back to us,” she says.
“They’re aware of how they learn best. They can’t articulate it as well as I am now, but they’re aware of it at three and four.
Te rangatiratanga in practice
A group of three children swing on the monkey bars:
“Look what I can do.”
“I can easily do that too.”
“I’m still learning how to swing with no hands.”
Teacher Rachel Chapman asks the children to think about how they know how to swing from the monkey bars. They share how to swing from the bars, how they learned and the tools they used to master it:
“You have to learn.”
“You need strong muscles.”
“You have to swing your legs.”
“You have to hold on.”
“You need to eat your vegetables.”
“You can’t be scared, or you might fall.”
“You keep trying and you will get better.”
From this discussion they decided that patience, confidence, determination and strong muscles were important when mastering this tricky challenge.
Source: Education Gazette