Learning how to be a good learner
October 11 2016

The Gweru Drop-in Centre caters to the needs of the city's street-children by providing them with a meal every weekday.  Through ALERT, a Basic Life Skills course was introduced to help these children develop ‘soft skills’ that will support them in their lives.

A recent lesson aimed for students to learn that different people learn in different ways; to understand how to behave positively to help learning take place; and to understand how our behaviour can affect others.

To begin the lesson, staff explained the importance of understanding how you learn, and how your attitude towards learning affects your progress in both learning and in the wider world.  Students were asked to categorise a selection of words into two groups: those associated with good behaviour and with bad behaviour. The majority managed to group them correctly, e.g. bad behaviour words such as ‘annoy’, ‘lazy’, ‘ignore’, and good behaviour words such as ‘respect’, ‘help’, ‘listen’.  Students were then tasked with explaining the words to ensure that they understood their meaning.

The children were then given a questionnaire to identify which learning style suits them best.  From the results, it was determined that the majority of the students learn best by trying things out.  However, it was discussed that many people learn best when they use a combination of different styles.

The next lesson, titled “My positive learning environment”, covered what a good lesson should look like.  Students were asked to name things they think would make a good lesson.  Some of the points made were:

  1. Good behaviour (listening)
  2. Asking questions (participating)
  3. Trying your best

To show how they would like their working area to look, students were tasked with designing a poster.  Using pictures and words cut out of magazines, their posters showed that they would like their working environment to be clean and tidy.

Students were then asked how they hoped their lessons would be and how they feel they should behave in class.  They stated that they hoped lessons would be fun and exciting, that they should be respectful, listen well and adhere to class rules during lessons.

Lastly, to consolidate the lesson on participation (learning to learn), a memory game was played with the students.  A few random items were placed on a table e.g. map, book, pencil, plate, jar with beads, stuffed toy, spoon.  Students were then given 30 seconds to remember all the items on the table and see how many they could recall without looking at them.  Next, one item at a time was removed to see if they could identify what was missing. The children not only enjoyed this game, but performed very well, demonstrating effective observation skills.

Overall, students learnt that they should actively participate in lessons, behave well, and listen carefully to have a positive learning experience.

About Kids Club

Kids Club is our opportunity to implement our Basic Life Skills Course.  The aim of the course is to assist children and adolescents to gain essential skills needed to operate effectively in society in an active and constructive way.  Topics in the course include; self-esteem, coping with stress, effective communication, decision making, problem solving and non-violent conflict resolution.  The course has been developed by David Brackstone of John Taylor High School, UK using a programme in use at that school and adapted for use in our schools in Africa.

About ALERT Education Centres (AEC)

Basic Life Skills courses are one aspect of the work of our ALERT Education Centres.  The AEC operations at Livingstone (Zambia), Victoria Falls and Antelope Park (Zimbabwe) are all aimed at supporting the formal education system by offering extra-curricular activities to enhance student learning, and assisting with access to education for vulnerable students.  Current programs include the provision of classes in conservation education, basic life skills, and English literacy.  In addition, we provide funding to pay the fees of vulnerable students to take part in education from pre-school to university level, and fully funded internship and facilitated research placements for university level students.  Future programmes will incorporate classes in numeracy, health & nutrition, physical education and business studies/entrepreneurship, as well as a variety of vocational training.  The AEC is operated in association with Coventry University (UK), Midlands State University (Zimbabwe) and Copperbelt University (Zambia), and with the assistance of David Brackstone of John Taylor High School (UK).   The first AEC, at Antelope Park, was opened in 2012 by the then Zimbabwe Minister of Education, Mr. David Coltart.

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