Stages of Learning - Years Prep to 4
Laying the foundations
Beginning school is a major upheaval in children's lives, especially those who have spent the majority of their lives at home. The foundation knowledge, skills and behaviours that children must develop in Levels 1 and 2 to become successful learners at school are:
- English (Reading, Writing, Speaking and listening)
- The Arts (Creating and making)
- Interpersonal Development (with an emphasis on socialisation)
- Health and Physical Education (Movement and physical activity).
Without the knowledge, behaviours and skills that are learned in these domains, children will be restricted in their capacity to succeed in the other domains as they progress through schooling. At Level 3 students begin to respond to information, ideas and beliefs from contexts beyond their immediate experience. Consistent with this development, additional standards across a range of domains in the three strands are introduced.
Domains without standards in Levels 1, 2 and 3 are nevertheless important areas of learning for children. Teachers are encouraged to provide experiences for children in each of these areas, either by teaching relevant subject matter independently or by integrating it with those domains that have measurement standards.
The first challenge at school is for children to socialise and to become engaged behaviourally, emotionally and cognitively. Engagement is a state that remains critical to success throughout schooling. Engagement moves from a minimal level of engagement where children conform, motivated by extrinsic demands, to a higher level of behavioural engagement where their motivation is more intrinsic. The latter includes resilient behaviour that is the capacity to overcome stress and adversity. Resilient children achieve more highly at school and better manage the ups and downs in life. Schools play a significant role in helping children to develop resilience.
Being socially engaged is also critical to the development of cognitive skills. Children build their ability to reason from a context or environment. The environment provides the practices, assumptions and values upon which reasoning is constructed. It follows that if children fail to socialise in a way where they understand the norms and values of a classroom, they will have difficulty understanding the reasoning that flows from those norms and values, and they will be subsequently hindered in their capacity to transfer that skill to more formal applications.
While behaviour is significantly determined by habits, it is also sometimes reactive, being influenced by emotional states and cognitive processes. Emotional engagement may be defined in terms of general wellbeing at school; for example, happiness, safety, calmness and empowerment, as opposed to sadness, worry, helplessness and stress. A key emotional skill that should be developed early and maintained throughout schooling is impulse control. Teachers can help children to develop impulse control by teaching them to recognise the feelings in themselves and others, by implementing behaviour management approaches that encourage children to regulate emotions, and by helping children to reflect on their behaviours.
Another key theme is that knowledge is constructed. We build our brains through experience, both real and perceived. Learning is cumulative, and consequently, the ability to transfer learning is a key skill. Children begin schooling with knowledge and skills. Much of this will be true and accurate, but some of it will not, even though it is believed to be true. One of the fundamental skills successful learners must develop is to reflect on learning, to link new knowledge to existing knowledge, to establish what is true and accurate, important and useful, and to challenge what is untrue and inaccurate. Giving children opportunities to be reflective improves the quality of learning, since learning with understanding is more likely to promote transfer than memory.
In the Victorian Essential Learning Standards Level 1 is broadly associated with the Preparatory Year of schooling.
Learners in their first year of schooling begin to develop social skills such as understanding classroom behaviour and making connections between school and home. Through curiosity and encouragement they take an interest in learning, begin to learn basic literacy and numeracy skills and develop some simple technical and coordination skills.
Key characteristics of students at this level include:
- building a sense of belonging
- understanding classroom values and practices
- making connections between school and home
- building positive behaviours
- engaging behaviourally, emotionally and cognitively
- developing curiosity and intrinsic motivation
- expressing ideas and feelings through a variety of artistic forms
- mastering technical skills
- developing physical capacities and an awareness of their own health needs.
Students have a sense of belonging and socialise in a way where they understand and accept the values and practices of the classroom, contributing ‘to the development of positive social relationships in a range of contexts’ (Interpersonal Development). This process is aided when students feel socially and emotionally secure and are supported by their peers, teachers and family.
As students develop a sense of belonging they will be more likely to follow the rules, participate in activities and appreciate opportunities, take turns and consider the feelings of others, focus their attention for extended periods, find satisfaction and enjoyment in learning, and have enough trust to take risks such as asking and answering questions, performing in front of groups and creating novel ideas during activities. This behaviour is supported by the development of simple organisational and listening skills, and a capacity to follow instructions.
Students will spend significant time mastering technical competence by discovering how, and for what purpose, objects and systems work, and by practising tasks that include the forming of letters and numbers. They ‘recognise how sounds are represented alphabetically and identify some sound–letter relationships’ (English: Reading), and ‘count the size of small sets using the numbers 0 to 20’ (Mathematics: Number). They also begin to develop the skills of keyboarding and navigating computer systems, drawing, measuring quantities and constructing models.
Students respond to novelty and this curiosity is the basis for asking questions and developing explanations for events. They make works of art that express and communicate ideas and feelings about themselves and their world, exploring and using ‘a variety of arts elements (on their own or in combination), skills, techniques and processes, media, materials, equipment and technologies in a range of arts forms’ (The Arts: Creating and making). At times they become deeply focused and will demonstrate the capacity to avoid distraction. They are introduced to concepts like time, space, safety, feelings, location and beauty by using their personal experience, texts and their environment as a starting point for learning.
With support from their teachers, students test ideas and beliefs, identify inaccuracies and make adjustments to improve. They learn about basic patterns by identifying similarities and differences, sorting and sequencing. They learn about processes by knowing how to organise their resources and time, by understanding rules and consequences, by making comparisons, and by discussing thoughts and ideas, as well as offering explanations.
They enrich their imaginations by playing games, making links between their own experiences and the ideas in texts, by discovering difference, by interpreting and appreciating the work of others, by exploring their senses, and by sharing and participating in group projects. They also engage in a variety of physical activities and gain an appreciation of basic health needs, including the performance of ‘basic motor skills and movement patterns, with or without equipment, in a range of environments’ (Health and Physical Education: Movement and physical activity).
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In the Victorian Essential Learning Standards Level 2 is broadly associated with Years 1 and 2 of schooling.
Learners begin to organise ideas, use language to work with peers and further develop basic literacy and numeracy skills. They begin to develop an awareness of other groups, cultures and times.
Key characteristics of students at this level include:
- taking control of learning processes
- becoming an independent reader and writer
- developing basic computational skills
- using imagination and experience to create arts works
- learning to collaborate with peers
- beginning to organise ideas and share thoughts
- becoming more confident physically
- becoming aware of the local community.
Students are encouraged to read and write texts independently, responding ‘to short imaginative and informative texts with familiar ideas and information, predictable structures, and a small amount of unfamiliar vocabulary’ (English: Reading). This develops their capacity to enter the world of ideas and to extend their knowledge and imagination beyond their immediate community. Students become aware of different groups in society and their place in one or more groups. They start to develop an awareness of other cultures and times.
Independent reading and writing provide opportunities to develop and reflect at a personally suitable pace. Students become aware that ideas can be located and communicated within text. They use this awareness to predict endings and to empathise with the feelings of storybook characters. They ‘contribute to group activities by making relevant comments and asking clarifying questions to facilitate communication’ (English: Speaking and listening).
Students develop an understanding of basic numeric functions, begin to use units of measurement of different sorts including informal units ‘such as hand-spans, to measure length’ and formal units ‘such as hour and minute for time’ (Mathematics: Measurement, chance and data), and begin to create and manipulate sets.
They explore ways of creating arts works using a range of arts forms, media and materials, and experiment with ways of expressing and communicating ideas to others. They explore and respond to works of art by other artists and ‘describe and discuss characteristics of their own and others’ arts works’ (The Arts: Creating and making).
Tasks are structured with a definite end-point. In line with their independence, students manage tasks according to instructions and within time limits. Interdependence also increases the importance of giving, seeking and receiving support with learning. Students develop their capacity to follow directions, identify needs and find solutions. They improve their learning by offering assistance to peers, and by seeking assistance from peers. Students become aware of their own contribution to a positive learning environment.
Having more control of their learning helps students to develop the skills to monitor their learning, noting success, recognising mistakes and failure as part of learning, and by seeking to improve. They begin to measure improvement over time and connect effort with achievement.
Positive attitudes to learning and effort are fostered when students participate in collaborative tasks and learning experiences. Social skills and behaviours allow students to participate in processes where they work together ‘in teams in assigned roles, stay on task and complete structured activities within set time frames’ (Interpersonal Development: Working in teams). In this sense, students develop an awareness of audience and the different types of strategies and formats required to communicate ideas.
Students use tools that enable them to organise ideas. They are able to use technology to manipulate material, format, use filing systems and access information ‘to create simple information products for specific audiences’ (Information and Communications Technology). Knowledge and understanding is collected and classified through listening, observing, measuring, testing and displaying in appropriate formats. Repeated observation is used to build patterns, to make estimations and approximations, and to seek answers. Active learning through collection and organisation of data over extended periods develops deep thinking and intrinsic motivation.
Students begin learning how they develop, extend the range of physical activities they undertake and ‘regularly engage in sessions of moderate to vigorous physical activity’ (Health and Physical Education: Movement and physical activity). They also participate in more group, rather than individual, activities and gain an appreciation of the importance of the rules of the game.
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In the Victorian Essential Learning Standards Level 3 is broadly associated with Years 3 and 4 of schooling.
Learners become more persistent and prolific in their learning and develop confidence through using specific skills, particularly literacy and numeracy. They are able to participate in discussion about ideas and beliefs and express informed opinions.
Key characteristics of students at this level include:
- broadening their knowledge and interest in a range of disciplinary domains
- developing an awareness of common values
- embodying resilient attitudes to learning and social behaviour
- transforming ideas into objects and systems
- applying independent thinking strategies
- discriminating between the quality of information when forming opinions.
Students have developed relationships with peers that provide opportunities for social growth, including ‘giving appropriate feedback and acknowledging individual differences’ (Interpersonal Development: Building social relationships). Through their relationships with family, friends and the local community students learn about the values and beliefs of others. They begin moving from a preoccupation with their own needs towards some level of recognition of the needs of others. Students become aware of values such as loyalty and trust, and experiment with negotiation, conflict management, group decision making, tolerance and social problem solving. They control their impulses and are aware of appropriate conduct in diverse contexts. They have the capacity to recognise feelings in themselves and others, they manage to regulate their emotions in routine situations, and they reflect on their behaviour, making adjustments when necessary. Values education and community involvement help to inform interpersonal development. They take increased responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, explaining ‘basic concepts of identity and (using) simple strategies to maintain and support their self-worth’ (Health and Physical Education: Health knowledge and promotion).
Students are aware of the development of specific knowledge and skills within a wider variety of learning domains, responding to information and ideas that go beyond their immediate experience. They ‘read and respond to an increasing range of imaginative and informative texts with some unfamiliar ideas and information, vocabulary and textual features’ (English: Reading) and ‘express a point of view providing some information and supporting detail’ (English: Writing). Their writing reflects a structure and uses a range of words and correct punctuation. In Science they develop a vocabulary to describe their observations and investigations, and ‘plan, design, conduct and report collaboratively on experiments related to their questions about living and non-living things, and events’ (Science: Science at work). In Mathematics they collect and display data and ‘apply number skills to everyday contexts such as shopping’ (Mathematics: Working mathematically). Students learn about the importance of laws applying equally to everyone in a democracy and ‘explain the difference between rules and laws’ (Civics and Citizenship: Civic knowledge and understanding). They also describe some key events in Australian history ‘including Anzac Day and key aspects of the histories of cultural groups that make up their class, community and nation’ (The Humanities: Humanities knowledge and understanding). Students ‘describe the human and physical characteristics of their local area and other parts of Victoria’ (The Humanities: Humanities knowledge and understanding), and ‘describe key features of arts works from their own and other cultures’ (The Arts: Exploring and responding).
As students develop confidence in using specific skills, their effectiveness as learners increases rapidly. They are encouraged to set short-term goals and achieve these in cooperative and competitive situations. They interpret each other’s work and participate in discussions to share and explore ideas and beliefs. They are encouraged to manage their level of effort, and to take steps to improve by implementing a range of strategies that may include rehearsing, organising, summarising, remembering and understanding. They ‘identify their learning strengths and weaknesses and learning habits that improve learning outcomes.’ (Personal Learning: The individual learner).
Students begin to discriminate between the quality of information when forming opinions, making sure that they ‘collect information from a range of sources to answer their own and others’ questions’ (Thinking Processes: Reasoning, processing and inquiry). They apply thinking strategies to organise information and concepts in a variety of contexts, and transfer knowledge, skills and behaviours between contexts. Such strategies are supported by increased technical competence with computers, including the use of graphics and ‘simple editing functions to manipulate the images for use in their products’ (Information and Communications Technology: ICT for creating). Students also take a more active role in developing design briefs to meet a range of different needs and ‘use their list of steps … to choose appropriate tools, equipment and techniques’ (Design, Creativity and Technology: Producing). They provide reasons for arguments, justify conclusions and participate in problem solving.