Our mantra at Wandsworth Prep is that we aim to create a love of learning through memorable and meaningful learning experiences. Any visitor will walk away from the school with the certainty that conditions are created from an early age, to ensure that children are intrinsically motivated to learn. What can sometimes be frustrating, is some feeling in the profession, that such an approach is a complicated and time-consuming science to follow.
In an era when data and league tables can lead to a somewhat ‘tick-box’ culture, a report published by Ofsted encourages schools to boost pupil performance with simple learning techniques such as drumming to teach multiplication tables. ‘Memorable, practical activities make learning relevant and enjoyable to pupils’ the report found.
Patrick Leeson, Director of education and care at Ofsted, said: ‘When teachers use more creative approaches, pupils' learning is more relevant and engaging, it fires their imaginations, they enjoy the challenge and feel a greater sense of achievement.’
One of the Headteachers, whose aim was to develop the teaching techniques of her staff, and featured in the report, noted how ‘doing a few wacky things - for example making sculptures out of fruit to explain dehydration,’ had a measurable impact on children’s engagement and understanding.
The style of learning which the Ofsted report promotes, however, is the bedrock of each child’s classroom experience at Wandsworth Prep. How better facilitate children’s understanding of digestion than recreate the process in the classroom using household items such as paper cups, orange juice and a pair of tights?
In the past, children have built their own stop-motion animations and created their own volcanoes from clay. In maths, they have learned about the structure, properties and use of 3D shapes by building models of well-known buildings.
We have also found that using drama and exposure to ‘real experience’ in English has improved children’s engagement and standards in writing. We have used themed days, such as a Hogwarts Day and a plane-crash simulation, to immerse them in an event, giving them the ability to write about the subject with a deeper understanding and knowledge.
Whilst creative techniques do not replace the importance of grounding pupils in basic skills, we do find that our teaching style helps children better understand, remember and enjoy their learning; why should it be otherwise?