The new term has begun and for those in education our thoughts drift ahead to the next three months. Thinking about all the opportunities and challenges. Learning and the relationships to be made bring excitement. Curriculum content, covid interruptions and other frustrations could perhaps disrupt.
It is all new
For your child, they have a new teacher, new peg and probably a new pair of shoes; when will they stop growing? Transition is always a challenge, moving to the unfamiliar can cause anxiety. This is why most schools offer induction days for every year group. Firstly, neuroscience tells us that our natural survival instincts are urging us to give up as soon as anything becomes difficult. Secondly, it is important to remember that the prefrontal cortex does not reach full maturity until the early twenties. It affects the ability to control our impulses and emotional reactions to unfamiliar situations. This is crucial knowledge for teachers, our Cognitive Coaches and children themselves; we try to teach them that only through repetition and practice can they rewire their brain.
For instance, you might be thinking how this is linked to the new term? Every year, one of the challenges is more words: words become phrases, phrases become paragraphs, paragraphs become whole chapters. Even in Maths, arithmetic and dealing with numbers turn into word problems; as you move up through Key Stage 2 the problems become longer and more complex. Challengingly, this is just another task thrown at their feet, another mountain to conquer. Breaking down the steps and showing that repetition and practice will help is important.
We want to equip children with the tools and strategies that get them to keep climbing; even when it is difficult and try the harder path. Like any habit, it is not an overnight process and those words are not going to go away. I won’t labour the necessity of reading. The key is to break down the word problems and learn how to decode accurately.
How to help the brain adapt
This week, we have been offering trial lessons, meeting new pupils, setting diagnostics and offering motivational maps to all joining Meta Prep. After many months of different educational experiences, new pupils come with their own fears and worries. Sadly, some of them have experienced lessons on Zoom beforehand and found it a challenge. Armed with knowledge about neuroscience, our Cognitive Coaches are adept at creating lively lessons that use all the tips and tricks at their disposal. Never underestimate the power of fun and enjoyment to boost the brain’s ability to retain information. Smiling at a child sends messages to their brain that enables them to attempt tricky questions and challenges that usually terrify them.
We want to ensure that preparing for senior school is a fun and enriching experience built on a strong foundation of learning principles. Similarly, the goal is to get children thinking deeply, equipping them with a ‘metacognitive’ toolkit so that they understand how to learn and are set for life, able to sail through the 11+ and onto their next challenge with confidence. By taking ownership of their own learning, knowing that their thinking is malleable and understanding their motivations they will be self-confident and fulfil their true potential.