Independence, Continuity and Confidence

I was in Macmerry Primary School this morning observing a P1/2 class and a P3/4 class.

I watched active learning  in action when I observed the infant class work in three groups on reading and writing. I was really impressed by the ability of the pupils to work independently with real quality, whilst the teacher worked with another group. When they finished their task they went to the play area and chose what they wanted to do next – building with blocks, painting, drawing letters in sand, wieghing and measuring, playing in the ‘house’ area – and many other options. The pupils were confident about making their own decisions and focused on the task they selected. Such independence doesn’t just happen – many of the class were in P1, i.e. only a few weeks into term – yet they had become accustomed to clear and consistent expectations of their teacher.

It was interesting when I went into the P3/4 class that I saw a similar level of independence and expectations from the teacher. It’s this level of consistency and continuity which makes it easy for pupils.

This set me to thinking about the levels of independence we offer older pupils. We have this tendency to think that independent working is something we should work towards in later secondary years – when in actual fact children have been used to working this way in their first two years of primary – or even earlier. It also struck me that there is a huge amount to be gained from having consistent expectations and ways of working in classes – so many difficulties arise when a pupil has to work within different parameters as they move from one classroom to another – does it have to be this way?