The Little Bendigo Primary School Staff define ‘Academic Excellence’ as:
‘Striving for excellence in all areas, with all children, built on a system of positive reinforcements, with the belief that achievements do count as a pathway to individual success.’
This has become a program within our school where staff and students are continually analysing their achievements and looking for self-improvement. This program is also linked to our ‘Four Pillars Curriculum’ (see below).
The children are provided with a wide variety of opportunities to set their own goals, create and implement strategies for learning, analyse the processes they used and evaluate their achievements.
In literacy, numeracy, music, physical education and art the children use their own personal learning checklist to monitor the areas they need to work on. The teachers help them with this process so they can identify areas for improvement.
This provides opportunities for the children to develop skills for the future of analysing where they’re at, where they want to be and how to create and implement the strategies to get there.
REAL LIFE LEARNING
This program is designed for children to excel in a variety of areas using and applying the skills, knowledge and understandings they have developed.
The children participate in our specialist program which includes visual arts, performing arts, science, design technology or physical education.
At the beginning of each program the children and teachers design their program together.
They decide on areas they would like learn more about, skills they would like to develop, the outcomes for major projects, (often linking these with the wider community), excursions to organise and attend, how their achievements will be evaluated and how the program will be structured, for example, with small groups, as a large group or both.
Some examples of the program so far have included:
- the physical education students studied the history and development of volleyball, developed their volleyball skills, wrote coaching manuals for the library and played a demonstration match with parents,
- one group of science students studied chemical reactions and organised a ‘My kitchen rules’ cook off with sixteen parents judging the foods they had made,
- some music students decided to learn how to write their own songs and place them on CD, they also performed their songs during a ‘Learning expo’,
- some art students decided to raise funds for the ‘Anti-cancer council’ by having an art exhibition and silent art auction of their pieces of work, and
- one group of design technology students designed a range of packaging for different professions. One student created amazing flower arrangements and designed the packaging for these.
The children take great pride in their achievements and enjoy sharing their work with the whole school and local communities.
Children recognise and celebrate their own achievements through the use of ‘Buzz-o-meters’.
We describe learning as the point of achievement that produces success and the warm fuzzy feeling.
It is the feeling of ‘I’ve got it or I can do it’. It creates the feeling of pride and satisfaction.
The process to achieve this, we see as the journey we take to ‘Get the Buzz’.
Children feel the ‘Buzz’ of learning and identify this with learning a new concept, fact or further developing a skill. The children then decide if their achievement is enough of a ‘Buzz’ to be recorded with a sticker on their ‘Buzz-o-meters’. They decide if their learning for that ‘Buzz’ was a real challenge to achieve or if it just came easy to them.
The ‘Buzz-o-meters’ are a powerful tool in motivating and inspiring children to want to learn. They also help children understand how to be lifelong learners.
As one child said, ‘It helps us to learn so that when we’re adults we can create our own challenges and get our own ‘Buzzes’ as there won’t be teachers around then to give us rewards or other stickers.’
This is a school structure that we have designed through a comprehensive process of analysing the needs of students, staff and parents.
The learning continuum utilised for numeracy and literacy is designed to more efficiently and effectively meet the specific individual learning needs of students. It enables teachers to identify the very specific points of development of the children and provides greater flexibility in meeting the variety of student learning needs.
FOUR PILLARS CURRICULUM
We have a very strong commitment to students being engaged, responsible, motivated and proud of their achievements. From discussion in relation to these areas we created our own ‘Four Pillars Curriculum’ using the Four Pillars of Learning – Learning to Be, Learning to Know, Learning to Do and Learning to Live Together – (Jacque Delor – UNESCO) as a framework.
Our curriculum provides students with an understanding of the learning process and how to learn. This enables students to reflect on and analyse their own learning processes and set their own higher standards resulting in greater achievements.
There are too many learning concepts to be included here but below is an example of one category from each of the ‘Four Pillars’.
Being a team member.
Co-operative group worker.
Listen to others.
Conform with group consensus (where appropriate).
By being positive.
Support/encourage/other group members.
Share – leadership, responsibilities.
Respect views of others.
Complete work without any additional instructions.
Desire and sense of achievement/success.
Having beliefs in your abilities.
Can work individually.
Reflecting/evaluating on their progress.
Be able to verbalise.
Relating to others positively.
Respected by peers.
Conveying a point.
Use appropriate language for targeted audiences.
Variety of forms/styles.
Develop research skills.Quality of content.Planning.
Variety of resources.
Summarizing, analysing, synthesizing.
Styles of thinking.
Sharing, presenting information.
Being selective – appropriate information.