Long Bay College is changing. Arguably the most influential change in our school this year, the Learning to Learn Programme is doing just that – teaching students how to learn. The curriculum aims to develop our Year 9 students into the most effective, productive and involved learners they can be. The programme has been met with enthusiasm, not only by teachers and students alike, but also by parents on our information evenings earlier this year.
Biology of Learning
The brain is made up of tiny tree like cells called neurons. In fact, 100 billion of them. Furthermore, each of those neurons may be connected to an astonishing 10,000 others. Scientist estimate we have as many as 1000 trillion connections and that would take over 31 million years to count. As we think, perceive, reason and remember, tiny electrical signals race through the brain, travelling from one neuron to the next. Signals travel up to 100m a second. Incredibly though, between each and every connection in our brain is a gap called a synapse. These gaps are only 0.0000000016m wide, however they can be immensely difficult to traverse. As we practice a task over and over again, the connection between neurons strengthens, making tasks or knowledge easier to do/recall respectively. This is the process of learning. Click here for a video we showed our Year 9 students, comparing the process of learning to crossing a ravine:
Interestingly, many students believe they are intelligent as they’ll ever be. This is classified by Stanford Professor of Psychology Dr Carol Dweck as a fixed mindset. But we now know, this is not the case and intelligence can be developed. When this is realised by students, we see a measurable incline in academic performance which is called “growth mindset”. To help develop a growth mindset, we encourage you to praise effort, motivation and other characteristics that lead your child to success, rather than praising intelligence. Encourage them to always do their best, as indicated by students’ grade target on their school report, rather than simply setting a level they must reach. Lastly, when you catch them thinking in a fixed mindset (i.e. that their ability cannot be improved) simply utilise the word yet. “I’m not good at it…yet.” “I can’t do it…yet.” “I tried but it didn’t work…yet.” You can help your child reach their potential and exceed their expectations.
Professor Carol Dweck 'Teaching a growth mindset' at Young Minds 2013 – although 23 minutes long, this clip is well worth the investment to better understand a growth mindset.
When we exercise our brain produces growth factors which help brain cells stay alive and live longer. This, in turn helps the learning process. Exercise promotes the growth of new cells in the hippocampus – an area of the brain associated with short-term memory and learning. Exercise promotes more cell growth than anything else we know.
NCEA is increasingly writing based and it is important to equip students with the relevant skills. We have worked closely with Dr Ian Hunter, author of bestselling series, ‘Write That Essay’, to improve students’ writing.
There are 12 different sentence styles.
Students have covered 5 to date.
Very short sentence: a sentence of five words or less is used to create drama. Use it sparingly to get the reader’s attention.
1945 London was booming.
-Ing start: begins with a word ending in ‘ing’
Sitting in front of the fire, Sally was lost in her own thoughts.
Adverb start: to add interest and intrigue, start the sentence with an adverb and then place a comma. Write the rest of the sentence.
Remarkably, Peter Pan had forgotten about the Lost Boys
Explore the subject: begin with the subject and place a comma. Say something interesting about the subject before placing another comma. Finish the sentence.
Tinkerbell, a tiny fairy with a big temper, stole the hearts of little girls all over the world.
The W start: start your sentence with when, where, while or what.
When Susan realised that she could get smarter, learning became much more enjoyable.
Aim for 20 words or less per sentence
For more, visit Dr Ian Hunter’s website: www.writethatessay.org. All Year 9 students have been issued a password to this site.
Pomodoro technique: 20 minutes of studying is followed by a 5 minute break, with every fifth 20 minute study period to be followed by a longer 10 minute break. As students become accustomed to this style of studying, study periods should be increased to 25 then 30 minutes. By working in short bursts, students automatically set short term, more manageable goals. When students know that there will be a break in twenty minutes, their desire to procrastinate is alleviated.
More tips and methods will be taught closer to exams