Alison Waterhouse

 

Home Circles for Learning About Us Research Reports Training Contact Us


What is Circles for Learning?Baby in classroom

Circles for Learning is a unique whole class inquiry-led Learning Journey that supports and strengthens learning skills alongside the development of social skills, emotional literacy and wellbeing. It facilitates and encourages children to experience how learning happens and explore brain development, relationships and emotions. This includes how other people might feel or experience situations, aspects of bullying, child development and what it is like to be a parent.

 

Baby and childrenHow does Circles for Learning work?
Circles for Learning allows children of all ages to work with a Learning Guide and watch and interact with a mother and baby for 1 hour each month for a year. This amazing experience allows children to experience early blocks for learning being laid down and developed. It allows time and space for children to observe the importance of relationships and attachment as well as brain development. The baby observation sessions are supplemented with sessions led by their Learning Guide focusing on one of the programmes’ three key areas.


What are the key areas?Mother and Baby

1. Creating Foundations for positive Mental Health and Wellbeing:

 *Self-Development: including developing and strengthening resilience, positive habits of mind and social skills.

*Developing emotional literacy

*Developing healthy relationships: understanding attachment, restorative practices, attunment and reciprocity

*Understanding of how our thoughts can influence out feelings and our actions and the link with neuroscience.

 

2. Developing Skills for Learning:

*Developing the skills needed to be a successful learner.

*Managing the emotional aspects of learning.

*Mindsets.

*Developing a shared language for learning.
*Neuroscience and learning.

 

What will the children learn?Baby and Children

Through the observations and the skillful guidance of their Learning Guide children are able to watch learning unfold. They witness the importance of a safe secure relationship which enables a baby to be curious and explore the world. Watching a baby learn to move, manoeuvre a toy, crawl and finally walk and talk is an incredibly powerful thing. Whilst doing this the Learning Guide is in a privileged position to help the children link what they see to their own learning.

 

How the baby develops curiosity, creativity, resilience, how they interact with the people around them and learn from them all becomes a rich source to explore and develop with the children.

 

All these areas are discussed through a range of exciting activities within the classroom and linked to the children’s own learning. Through this they create a rich language around learning and start to understand that learning is not static but that it grows and develops.

 

Children in classroomWorking alongside a trained Learning Guide the children explore how they relate to others, how someone else might feel and how that feeling influences their actions. Children extend their emotional literacy. Through the work on temperament they are able to understand their own ways of interacting with the world and explore how they deal with change and transition. They see why early relationships are important and why a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy impacts on a baby. They watch and experience the amazing task of being a good parent and therefore extend their own knowledge and experience for their own parenting in the future.

 

 

What are the benefits for my school?

Supports Teachers in a range of ways:

 

• Develops solid foundations for Mental Health and Wellbeing.
• Teaches strategies and skills to develop and maintain positive Wellbeing both now and in the future.
• Develops and extends a shared language for learning within the classroom.

• Strengthens and supports the development of resilience

• Promotes emotional literacy

• Supports the development of class cohesion and empathy.

• CPD for staff focusing on the 3 key areas

• Comprehensive resource pack full of a range of activities to explore and

• Develop with children. Training to be a Learning Guide.

 

The training extends knowledge and understanding and supports the creation of a positive learning environment. It increases confidence in discussing and developing emotional literacy and highlights the importance of positive learning relationships. It also supports the development of a rich language for learning shared by everyone in the class. Through the Circles for Learning resources pack, teachers are provided with a range of exciting activities to support and extend learning dimensions, emotional literacy, and the development of social skills.

 

Circles for Learning is a very powerful learning journey that, with a Learning Guide, is easily shared in all schools. It has the potential to make a real difference to children’s learning, social skills, the development of empathy, resilience and emotional wellbeing. It therefore supports their role as positive members of both the school, wider community and as future parents.

 

How does Circles for Learning fit in with whole school objectives?


1. Schools need to promote personal development, behaviour and welfare. It is important that children manage their own feelings and behaviour and how they relate to others. Better Inspection for All. 2015 Circles for Learning enables young people to observe the behaviour of a mother and child and involves them in discussing and thinking about what they have seen and how both Mum and baby might feel. It enables the young people to watch how a child seeks out and is soothed by their mother before they learn to self sooth. These observations and discussions naturally link to conversations about themselves. Strategies to sooth can be shared and talked about. The ability to think and understand others can be developed and through discussions emotional literacy is extended. Managing anxiety and stress are other areas that the Learning Guide and the children will explore.

 

2. Schools need to support young people to develop self confidence, self assurance and knowledge in their potential to be a successful learner. (Better Inspection for All. 2015) Watching learning unfold as a child tries to get the correct shape into a shape sorter or fit a lid on a box is a powerful stimulant for discussion about what learning is and how it develops. This opens up a range of areas for discussion and work around self esteem and the importance of a growth mind set.

 

3. Schools need to develop whole school approaches to promoting resilience and improving emotional wellbeing. (Future in Mind. Government Paper 2012) Within the Circles for Learning Project young people will watch their class baby learn to crawl or walk for the first time and will visibly be able to see the skill develop over time and the many and inevitable failures before success. These rich observations act to facilitate young people to develop an understanding of perseverance, allowing discussion and exploration of how this develops. This knowledge then supports self reflection and self development within the group. The importance of early years in child development provides the focus for discussion about emotional wellbeing and how we use strategies we may have learnt from our parents as well as new ones that other members of the group utilise. The Learning Guide can support discussion and facilitate a range of activities to promote the development of a range of positive psychological skills using the resource materials.

 

4.At the heart of health and wellbeing for young people is their relationship with others. (Future in Mind. Government Paper 2012) Watching the interaction between a mother and child is a very powerful experience and demonstrates the importance of social interactions and communication. Circles for Learning facilitates this and enables the young people to be supported in developing their ideas and thinking by a well trained Learning Guide.

 

5. Children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural, social and school wellbeing on average have higher levels of academic achievement and are more engaged in school. (The impact of Pupil Wellbeing on Educational Outcomes. Department of Education 2012) Circles for Learning incorporates both the development of skills for Learning, and emotional growth. It supports the belief that one cannot be achieved without the other and that both are intertwined. It supports young people understand the link between learning and state of mind, and supports them develop positive strategies to address a range of issues including positive self talk, mindfulness, goal setting, and the link between thoughts and behaviours. The Learning Guide has access to a range of resources and lesson plans to explore these areas with their group.

 

6. Meta cognition and self regulation strategies have been found to have the highest impact on learning for the lowest costs. (The Teaching and Learning Toolkit. The Sutton Trust. 2011) Circles for Learning allows young people to focus on learning and what this means. It enables them to explore the skills that make a good learner and how these can be strengthened. Through participation in the project the group will create a culture for learning looking at skills, beliefs values and environments.

 

7. Promoting a culture for learning, including beliefs about self, and learning to learn skills, impacts on academic performance. (Resilience and academic performance. A review of literature Christine De Baca 2010) Circles for Learning enables the Learning Guide and the young people to explore both the skills needed to be a successful learner as well as the emotional implications of learning. The Mother and baby observations engage the young people and support their developing understanding of learning and of the nature of interactions between people. It also enables them to link their own experiences to how they think about themselves and to support self reflection and the understanding that they have choices.

 

8. Improving children’s attitudes for learning and developing a growth mindset impact on performance within school. (A review of literature Christine De Baca 2010) The Circles for Learning project enables the Learning Guide and the young people to create a culture for learning within their group and to share positive learning as well as wellbeing strategies with each other. The project is an all inclusive one and relies upon the group sharing knowledge and understanding with each other so that the group itself becomes a valuable resource.

 

How does Circles for Learning fit with the whole school objectives for Mental Health and Wellbeing?

 

1. Baby and ChildrenIt is widely recognised that a child’s emotional health and wellbeing influences their cognitive development and learning as well as their physical and social health and their mental wellbeing in adulthood. Promoting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing 2015

Circles for Leanring trains teachers to support children develop emotional literacy, resilience, social skills and self development. It increases knowledge and understanding and supports staff create a culture for wellbeing within their classrooms.

2. The physical, social and emotional environment in which staff and students spend a high proportion of every week day has been shown to affect their physical, emotional and mental health and wellbeing as well as impacting on attainment. Promoting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing 2015. The culture, ethos and environment of a school influences the health and wellbeing of pupils and their readiness to learn. The Link Between pupil health and wellbeing and attainment 2014.
The training to be a Circles for Learning Teacher includes developing practice enabling staff to create a classroom culture to support wellbeing

3. Schools need to promote personal development, behaviour and welfare. It is important that children manage their own feelings and behaviour and how they relate to others. Better Inspection for All. 2015
Circles for Learning enables young people to observe the behaviour of a mother and child and involves them in discussing and thinking about what they have seen and how both Mum and baby might feel. It enables the young people to watch how a child seeks out and is soothed by their mother before they learn to self sooth. These observations and discussions naturally link to conversations about themselves. Strategies to sooth can be shared and talked about. The ability to think and understand others can be developed and through discussions emotional literacy is extended. Managing anxiety and stress are other areas that the Teacher and the children will explore.

 

4. Schools need to support young people to develop self confidence, self assurance and knowledge in their potential to be a successful learner. Better Inspection for All. 2015.
Watching learning unfold as a child tries to get the correct shape into a shape sorter or fit a lid on a box is a powerful stimulant for discussion about what learning is and how it develops. This opens up a range of areas for discussion and work around self esteem and the importance of a growth mind set.

5. Schools need to develop whole school approaches to promoting resilience and improving emotional wellbeing. Future in Mind. Government Paper 2012
Within the Circles for Learning Project young people will watch their class baby learn to crawl or walk for the first time and will visibly be able to see the skill develop over time and the many and inevitable failures before success. These rich observations act to facilitate young people to develop an understanding of perseverance, allowing discussion and exploration of how this develops. This knowledge then supports self reflection and self development within the group. The importance of early years in child development provides the focus for discussion about emotional wellbeing and how we use strategies we may have learnt from our parents as well as new ones that other members of the group utilise. The Teacher can support discussion and facilitate a range of activities to promote the development of a range of positive psychological skills using the resource materials.

6. At the heart of health and wellbeing for young people is their relationship with others. Future in Mind. Government Paper 2012.
Watching the interaction between a mother and child is a very powerful experience and demonstrates the importance of social interactions and communication. Circles for Learning facilitates this and enables the young people to be supported in developing their ideas and thinking by a well trained Teacher.

7. Children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural, social and school wellbeing on average have higher levels of academic achievement and are more engaged in school. The impact of Pupil Wellbeing on Educational Outcomes. Department of Education 2012
Circles for Learning incorporates both the development of skills for Learning, and emotional growth. It supports the belief that one cannot be achieved without the other and that both are intertwined. It supports young people understand the link between learning and state of mind, and supports them develop positive strategies to address a range of issues including positive self talk, mindfulness, goal setting, and the link between thoughts and behaviours. The Teacher has access to a range of resources and lesson plans to explore these areas with their group.

8. Meta cognition and self regulation strategies have been found to have the highest impact on learning for the lowest costs. The Teaching and Learning Toolkit. The Sutton Trust. 2011
Circles for Learning allows young people to focus on learning and what this means. It enables them to explore the skills that make a good learner and how these can be strengthened. Through participation in the project the group will create a culture for learning looking at skills, beliefs values and environments.

9. Promoting a culture for learning, including beliefs about self, and learning to learn skills, impacts on academic performance. Resilience and academic performance. A review of literature Christine De Baca 2010
Circles for Learning enables the Teacher and the young people to explore both the skills needed to be a successful learner as well as the emotional implications of learning. The Mother and baby observations engage the young people and support their developing understanding of learning and of the nature of interactions between people. It also enables them to link their own experiences to how they think about themselves and to support self reflection and the understanding that they have choices.

10. Improving children’s attitudes for learning and developing a growth mindset impact on performance within school. A review of literature Christine De Baca 2010
The Circles for Learning project enables the Teacher and the young people to create a culture for learning within their group and to share positive learning as well as wellbeing strategies with each other. The project is an all inclusive one and relies upon the group sharing knowledge and understanding with each other so that the group itself becomes a valuable resource.

Highlights of the Primary Research Project

Schools that have run the project have explored a range of areas with children and young people and have:

 

• Written a transition policy with the children after work on temperament which led the children to explore how they respond to new things in different ways. For some they found they needed greater support as they were more anxious about change. For others who enjoyed new adventures too much support felt restrictive.

 

• One school used the Circles for Learning project to explore resilience with the children in Year 2. Their class teacher felt that the children gave up when struggling with a task too quickly. Through watching their class baby struggle with a shape sorter she introduced the concept of resilience and perseverance. The children grappled with this and were able to explore and support each other with this in the classroom. They shared and suggested ways that they managed frustration and kept themselves going with a task. This made an impact on their academic success. They developed the ability to tolerate frustration and understand that learning was something that grew as you used it.

 

• One Year 6 class debated whether ‘love grows brains?’ This question was raised by one of the children. The class researched this and then explored this during a class debate. This work led to individual projects focusing on a range of work including: The babies digestive system: From mouth to nappy. Immunisations positive or negative? The importance of nutrition for a young baby. Teeth and how they develop: An animation to help young children clean their teeth. Child Development: The first year of life.

 

• A year 3 /4 class watched their baby look to her Mum when she was upset and couldn’t cope. This led their class teacher to explore how the children managed to regulate themselves and to calm when they became cross. This piece of work extended emotional literacy as the children had to discuss and decide on words that described angry feelings and rank them. They then shared strategies that they used to calm themselves. This supported a range of work that followed on managing frustration in class as well as arguments in the playground. It also led to work on getting yourself into the Learning Zone. This explored how their focus and concentration peaked and ebbed during the day and how they could affect this.

 

• Another Year 6 class worked on what skills made a good learner after watching their class baby learn to put rings on a stick. They worked in groups to explore the skills they used to learn something new and then put forward their case for each of the skills. The work of Ruth Deaken Crick and Bristol University on developing learning dimensions and the ELLI project was then shared with the children. This work continued throughout the year. The work supported a creation of a shared language for learning within the class and enabled a greater focus on learning which in turn had an impact on academic success.