Empowering pupils to take control of their

learning Comment by JONATHAN HANCOCK, deputy headteacher and founder of the Junior Memory Championship

When it comes to reaching their full academic potential, pupils face two battles. The first is understanding what they’ve been taught, and the second – maybe even more importantly – is being able to commit it to their long term memory. Comprehension of a concept is only useful if it can be retained and, ultimately, recalled in pressurised exam environments. It’s not all about exams, however; in order to develop as knowledgeable and well-rounded individuals, children must learn how to make their memory work for them. They need to be able to take ownership of their learning, so that knowledge is not something that is forced upon them, but rather something that they enjoy accumulating and retaining. Fortunately, a number of highly effective memory techniques exist and can be used by teachers to help pupils take ownership of their learning and develop fruitful memory skills. Children are naturally curious and inquisitive – they want answers

to the ‘hows’, ‘whys’ and ‘wheres’ of the world. This thirst for knowledge grows organically and, when combined with effective memory skills, can produce children who are capable of performing mental miracles! Just like any skill, memory requires practice – it’s something that needs to be nurtured in order to flourish. Therefore, teachers should not only focus on imparting knowledge to their pupils, but also training them to retain it. This can be done in a number of simple and effective ways, one of which is through the power of imagery. A simple image can trigger so many ideas, emotions and senses

through the power of association; ask children to remember ten random words and they will struggle, but encourage them to build connections between the words through imagery and they will be able to recall each word as if it is a vital part of a story. For instance, to help children remember the following ten words, use imagery, humour and storytelling to make them stick in their minds:

sheep, banana, bath, ice-cream, phone, dragon, circus, potato,

bicycle, beach Start them off with, for example, the sheep eating the banana

but then slipping on its skin and falling into a bath full of ice- cream…Children will pick up the idea quickly and use their imaginations and natural sense of humour to create memorable stories. This strange form of storytelling is fun, and children love the feeling of being able to remember the ten words easily at the end, backwards and forwards. Many will be able to learn lists of twenty, fifty or even more words. Once you’ve given them the tools they need to remember this

kind of information, the same tools can be used to help them remember anything: historical events, scientific facts, French vocabulary and so on. By teaching children the power of imagery and associations in fun and comical ways – the funnier the better – you’ll be giving them the tools they need to absorb and retain all kinds of information, to take control of their learning and their memory, and to be able to recall a vast array of information in pressurised exam environments. Memory training brings with it a special sort of confidence, which can inspire children to push themselves to be the best they can be.

December 2016

Inspiring young minds - learning outside the

classroom Comment by FAY GIBBIN, training manager at the Busy Bees Early Years Training Academy

There’s no question that some students thrive outside the classroom. Young minds need constant stimulation to keep them engaged; some find this through classroom-based teaching and others prefer to learn though experience. After our recent second annual “Greens to Gourmet” competition, which

challenges food technology students to use their catering skills to create healthy, wholesome dishes from seasonal produce, we found that, for those wishing to learn more practical-based subjects, offering an alternative learning experience away from the confines of a classroom was a great way of inspiring their creative imaginations. For those motivated to continue their hands-on learning journey and pursue successful careers, this is where vocational learning can really help. There is no denying that vocational learning methods are vital to ensure

young people can gain a good level of understanding of a subject or field, whether this is within a classroom or workplace setting. Placing our catering apprentices into operational settings means they can gain real-life experience handling ingredients, operating with a working kitchen, and providing meals to a discerning audience. Vocational learning gives students context to their learning through real

experiences that they can relate to. Some people naturally excel in the classroom arena and that’s great, but for others, they need to be inspired through learning that is geared towards an occupation.

Plugging the skills gap According to the government’s Employer Skills Survey in 2015, 6% of all employers had at least one skill-shortage vacancy – and as the number of job vacancies continues to rise, quality apprenticeships and professional traineeships can help tackle this growing skills shortage. Not only do they help to provide young people with vital employability skills

and a nationally recognised qualification, they address the required knowledge needed for specific occupations and break down divisions between education and employment. Employability skills in today’s work-place mean having transferable skills such as problem-solving and cross-cultural team working, both of which are a focus of apprenticeship programmes. It should therefore be a collective effort between government, training

providers and key UK employers to reach out to young people who may not realise the career opportunities inherent in vocational learning.

Reaching young people Over 900,000 people across the UK are currently completing an apprenticeship, but more could be done to encourage pre-16 students to think about future vocational training opportunities by informing them of the many benefits they provide and positioning them as equal in value to a degree. As educators and training providers, our mission should be to equip students

with the right information to help them make an informed decision as to whether a vocational or academic career path is right for them. It is only by being proactive and reaching out to young people across the

country, through events and initiatives such as the “Greens to Gourmet” competition, that we demonstrate the benefits real-life experience bring. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to the catering sector but a variety of industries that place particular importance on practical understanding and skills. There is much more that can still be done by those in industry to help young

people of today realise their potential. For some individuals, it is only when they reach the age of 16 that they begin to consider the career options available to them. Vocational learning opportunities should be offered throughout a child’s journey through secondary school, particularly in subjects that have a focus on practical skills, inspiring them to develop a passion for their chosen area of study and consider a more hands-on route to a successful career. 19

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