Characteristics of Effective Learning – Engagement 

In EYFS, engagement is playing and exploring but why stop that in the later years? Here are some examples of ways.


Using senses to explore the world around them

We start off each topic with an engaging activity.  Two years ago our theme was called ‘Bounce.’  It had a PE and art focus but our day was not focused in this way.  We just wanted to engage our children and give them the opportunity to explore.  It led to some good pieces of writing and our children still talk about it 2 years later, despite being in key stage 2 now.

Taking on a role in their play

Year 6 can play too. They took the role of an evacuee.  They learnt how it would have felt waiting for a family, hearing the air raid siren and some of the work that they would have had to during their time in the countryside.  Children enjoyed playing the role at a time when SATs revision could end up taking over.  It was  a great thing to witness because a world class curriculum should be able to enrich learning that will lead to better results, rather than hinder them.

Showing particular interests/ Initiating activities

In a history lesson in Year 6, children were placing events from WW2 on to a timeline.  They were encouraged to ask their own questions.  A child who was originally from Poland wanted to create a timeline about WW2 from a Polish point of view, while another child wanted to find out about the timeline before the war for the Jewish community.  They were given opportunities to find information and create their own timelines using formats they may have learnt throughout their primary education.

Showing curiosity of objects, events and people

Another Year 6 experience (but this can happen across the school), was a visit from an evacuee from WW2.  We use Building Learning Power at our school and the learning muscle children had to use during this session was listening and empathy.  This really does work on developing children’s curiosity.

Pic 1

Pretending objects are things from their experience

Children in Year 1 used Beebots to learn about algorithms and coding. They were given the challenge of taking a Beebot on a journey.  They were given a range of equipment from the PE cupboard (easy, right?!) and made tracks that the Beebot could be controlled around.  Children used chairs as tunnels, hockey sticks as motorways and skipping ropes as a maze.

Acting out experiences with people

Using plasticine during our ‘Dinosaur Planet’ theme, children created dinosaurs and generated a story with their characters.  We linked this learning with computing by forming a stop motion animation.

Seeking challenge

As we entered the third term of our new curriculum, children were beginning to seek more challenge.  This was scaffolded by the teachers and with more training on challenging ourselves, children will become more confident. However, during a science lesson, children were making flowers and naming the parts.  This is a lesson that most key stage one teachers will have taught but this time, I challenged children by getting them to link plants to humans.  “If humans have babies, what do flowers do to make tiny flowers?” Eventually children were asking their own questions.  “What is the wee and poo of flowers?” One child asked.  Disgusting, I know but then the child went on to research using an ipad.  He found out about photosynthesis and explained to the class.  Then some of the class drew what photosynthesis might look like.  This all from the question of a 6 year old!

Taking a risk, engaging in new experiences and learning by trial and error/ Engaging in open ended activity

Across the school, we had a ‘Science Day’ which consisted of children having a challenge to take on.  They had to investigate how to make the biggest bubble.  There were no limits to what the children could do.  It was new to many children, as science can be daunting for some teachers.  However, with a simple start, teachers were less worried and children were given a great opportunity.  And when it didn’t work they got to change their mixture or their bubble wand until it did work.


Show a ‘can do’ attitude

Year 5 realised that they could find out information that may at first feel impossible to find out – how do the planets in size and distance from the sun.  They used toilet roll as a measure of distance and placed their already made to scale planets to show how far away from the sun they were.  This attitude to finding out more information meant that we had children reason about planets in a way they may not have been able to before when the work was done in the books.

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