Becoming a Successful Learner

emphaSIS 2020

At SIS Männedorf-Zürich, all classes start each year with the same topic, “Learning to Learn”. Over two weeks, students learn about the class rules, expectations and routines of their classrooms and school. In addition, they spend time thinking about what it means to learn, how we learn, and how to be a successful learner and part of our school community.

For the younger students, this time might be their very first introduction to a school environment. As such, teachers use this time to settle the new learners into their new school career. Of course, they learn how to hold scissors, how to glue and how to pack away. At the same time, they learn where things are located – developing a sense of familiarity. Further, they learn who is who in their class, and get to know the adults around the school – developing a sense of belonging. More importantly, this learning to learn period is a good time to start developing important skills such as how to actively listen, how to be inclusive inside and outside of class, or how to stay safe in school.

In primary school, children are immediately introduced to online platforms. From the start, students learn how to log into the computers, onto Office 365 and into the shared classworkspaces. Additionally, older students become familiar with online learning platforms such as Mathletics, Reading Eggs, Lernlupe and Schabi. All students learn how to properly use, share and return the ICT materials.

Older children also helped in setting their own classroom expectations. Grade 3 this year focused on developing a shared understanding of what it means to be respectful towards ourselves, our classmates, our teachers and our school. They created a shared anchor chart of respectful actions and behaviors, on display in the class. Students set individual academic and social goals that they revisited at the end of the semester, and will again at the end of the year.

The oldest groups discuss deeper concepts about how we learn. Last year, grade 6 explored the idea of growth mindset – an educational theory about learning from Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University. They learned that no one is born smart. In fact, we all have the capacity to learn. Students learned about how the brain works: like a muscle that you can either use or lose, that gets stronger through practice. They explored how having a growth mindset helps us be successful learners – learning from our mistakes, understanding that learning is sometimes hard and takes time, and that we need to practice to improve.

This year, grades 5 and 6 discussed the concept of children’s rights. They began by looking at human rights, specifically at UNICEF’s “Convention on the Rights of the Child”. They used this to develop a shared understanding of children’s rights and responsibilities within the classroom. For instance, they have the right to be safe, but also, they have the responsibility to act safely around, and towards, others.

By using this settling in time in a deliberate manner, students have a clearer understanding of what is expected of them and how they can have a successful academic year.


Article by Catherine Harris, Teacher Primary School