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School Leaders' Weekly

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Term 4 Week 2

The end of-year examinations for our P2 to P5 children are in about a month’s time and the children should be starting on their revision soon. Revising work regularly is an important part of learning. We hope that all of us can take some time to understand the learning process and how we can support our children in their learning.

Learning is not simply the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Deep learning requires understanding the knowledge and skills and applying them at a later time and in a range of contexts. When we acquire some new knowledge or skill, it is stored in our working memory. Being able to repeat this knowledge or skill immediately simply shows that we have stored it in our working memory. It does not mean that we have learnt it. When we are able to store that knowledge or skill in our long-term memory and retrieve it at a later time and in different contexts, that is when we have truly learnt it.

Learning is not about doing countless practice. When we retrieve knowledge and skills from our long-term memory at regular intervals over time, it helps in retention and it becomes easier for us to retrieve them. However, if the knowledge or skill is not fully understood, it will simply be a regurgitation. If we completely understand something, we will be able to apply the knowledge and skill in different contexts. Hence, it is important to provide different contexts for children to apply their knowledge and skills. For example, when we go to the supermarket, we can ask our children to add up the cost of items as we put them in our shopping basket. Ask them to calculate the change we should receive when we pay at the cashier and get them to count the physical change returned.

Acquiring new knowledge or skill is something that comes naturally to us. Young children ask questions all the time because they are trying to understand the world around them. Just yesterday, my mum was sharing how my 4-year-old nephew had been asking questions non-stop from the time he got home from school. He will ask the most innocent and strangest questions at times that it floors us totally. Sometimes, we tell him to take a break as we are have run out of ways to explain it for a 4-year-old mind to understand. On hindsight, I realised that discouraging him from asking questions is not a good move as he may take it as a sign to stop asking questions as he gets older.

In school, we have observed that as some of our children grow older, some of them tend to be more introverted and ask less questions. As adults, when we see this happening, we should encourage them to continue to ask questions. Asking questions is important because it allows us to make sense of things. So let us not wait for them to ask first, we too should ask questions in our daily interactions with them. For example, with the recent hurricanes in Asia, ask them how hurricanes are formed and why they occur at certain places. Ask what we can do to help the victims who have lost their homes and families. We may not always know the answers to these questions but we can always find out the answers together with our children.

We can help our children become better learners in many ways. Here are some of them:

  • Ask your children to share what they have learnt every day. It need not be something they have learnt in school; it could be something they learnt on their way to school or something they read or saw. Ask them questions to probe further into their understanding.
  • Encourage children to look through their schoolwork every day and ask questions to their teachers and parents.
  • Ask your children to make personal notes or create mind maps of their learning. This helps them to have deeper understanding of the knowledge and skills learnt. Refer to the notes or mind maps to promote easy retrieval.
  • Provide opportunities for your children to apply their learning in different contexts.
  • Allow children to make mistakes, which is part of learning. Encourage your child to look through his/her mistake to understand why they made the mistake and how he/she can correct it.

Learning can be engaging and joyful. Let us work together to support our children in their learning and growth.

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