1. Flexible seating
Gone are the days when primary school pupils were confined to desks organised in neat rows. Today, classrooms have flexible seating with options such as bean bags, mini sofas, mats and rugs, as well as collaborative tables with chairs.
Why it's important: Flexible seating arrangements allow children to sit where they feel most comfortable and to move and change seating based on a given project or activity. Benefits include an increase in communication and concentration, plus a greater sense of community.
2. The importance of play
George Bernard Shaw wrote that “we don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” These days playtime is in short supply and the lack of play can lead to negative consequences, including anxiety.
Why it's important: Like Shaw, informed educators understand the importance of self-directed or free play, both inside the classroom and out, in building creativity and problem- solving skills—ultimately advancing knowledge, social skills and self- confidence, and encouraging risk-taking. Play, after all, is the young child’s work.
3. Learning how to fail
In our changing world, children need to learn how to fail, bounce back, change and reform. Resilience is one of the essential 21st-century learning goals. Children need to learn that mistakes are an essential part of cognitive development and that being smart is not a fixed trait but an ever-evolving process.
Why it's important: When we make a mistake, we have learned something and our brains grow bigger. Children should be praised for their struggles and efforts, as well as their achievements. Teaching children to fail leads to success.
4. Fast does not mean best
Mathematics in primary schools is changing. Slow, deep thinking is increasingly valued over quick solutions. Ineffective speed-driven classroom practices, such as timed tests, are being replaced with methods that teach students to investigate patterns, make connections and share their thinking process. Students now learn number facts and number sense through engaging activities that focus on understanding, rather than rote memorisation.
Why it's important: In the ‘number talks’ activity, for instance, the teacher poses a problem and the students share their strategies and offer critiques. The focus is not on the correct answer, but on all the possible methods of finding the answer. As a result of this practice, mathematics classes look different: they are full of engaged, excited and talking children.
5. Morning meeting, an essential start to the day
While developing social and emotional skills has long been at the heart of primary school teaching, it is now more important than ever. Many educators believe that our fast-paced, over-scheduled, success-driven lifestyle is causing primary students undue stress, resulting in an anxiety epidemic. The morning meeting is an effective way to counter stress and support healthy development.
Why it's important: This daily gathering, where children sit in a circle talking, sharing and having fun, connects students and prepares them for the day ahead. It also meets the student’s need for belonging and builds a strong sense of community, which in turn sets them up for success.
6. Inquiry-based learning
Inquiry-based learning begins with an open-ended big question, which acts as a catalyst for students to develop their own knowledge or solutions. Rather than explicitly teaching facts, the teacher leads the students on a journey of discovery—one that places the students’ questions, ideas and observations at the centre of the learning experience.
Why it's important: With an emphasis on ‘how we know’ rather than ‘what we know’, students are engaged and the atmosphere is high in energy and motivation.
Makerspaces, an environment where children can tinker, invent and build, are popping up everywhere. A Makerspace has elements of a science lab, woodworking shop and an art room but it is more than the sum of its parts, designed to accommodate an even wider range of tools and activities.
Why it's important: Providing students with hands-on opportunities to design, create, experiment and construct, the space is a collaborative, creative learning environment with unlimited possibilities.
Amanda Holroyd is a primary school teacher in Hong Kong.
See also: Hong Kong Schools To Get More Books