Friday, August 26, 2016

Engaging Tamariki and Whanau

The Learner aged 3 to 7

A great day yesterday with Nathan Mikaere-Wallis and Hana O'Regan about engaging tamariki and whanau.

One thing I got out of it that really resonates with some of the professional conversations people are having at the moment is the needs of the learner in their first couple of years at school.

Between the ages of 3 and 7 the learner is developing their limbic brain.  They cannot access their frontal cortex until the limbic brain which deals with emotions is developed.  The frontal cortex is where academic achievement happens - reading, writing, self-regulation etc.  Hence the Te Whariki early childhood curriculum focuses on learning "dispositions" - what learners need to feel in order to be good learners because this is the role of the limbic brain.

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Nathan told us there is lots of good research to show that success in the adult is predetermined not by the age they start to read but by the strength of their positive dispositions aged 5.

Many learners are not ready to engage in reading and writing until they are 6 and 7 and when they are ready they can learn to read in two months.

Given the brain is not ready and simply won't do it yet - children should be carefully transitioned into formal learning.  For instance in Finland children don't start school until they are 7 and they have the most successful educational outcomes in the world.  By 9 there's no difference in outcome between the child who learnt to read at 5 and the one who learnt at 7.

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So our new entrant and year 1 teachers who are desperately trying to measure children against national standards in their first year or two of school - those teachers who report to us -" the children aren't ready, they need six months to settle into school, they still need learning play, they're still learning to play" etc - they're right.

Those schools which ease off on stressing about the national standards in the first year or two but expect children to meet the standard by year 3 - they're right too.

Systematic, extensive, physical research into how brains work and develop proves that they are right.

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Nathan also quoted the work of Sir Peter Gluckman our chief government science advisor.  He was commissioned to find out why there is such a high level of teenage delinquency (including depression) in New Zealand.  No doubt the massive document he produced has been simplified somewhat but the two main findings from two years of meta-analysis according to what Nathan told us yesterday are:

1. Teenage delinquency is primarily linked with a particularly punitive culture in NZ, and

2. It is linked to engaging in academic learning before the brain is ready for it.