Learning Friends: More than just a cuddly toy... - Mill Hill Schools

Head’s blog

Learning Friends: More than just a cuddly toy…

At Grimsdell over the course of the year we have been embedding our ‘Learning Friends’ project. Each cuddly animal represents a learning skill that you need to employ to achieve success. The children have a set in every single classroom and have become well-versed in what each character represents, using this language readily in their lessons. This has been an area I have presented in a previous blog but I am revisiting it this week because as we approach the final weeks of term, we have been assessing its impact on children and have been delighted with the culture this has helped us to create – with children recognising when they have used a certain skill and striving to apply others whenever they can.

Case studies:

The Unicorn and the Bee make a water park

In Nursery a little girl had created a stunning collage with her friend we she described as a ‘water park’. Her teacher spotted it and commented on the intricate piece of work and her wonderful imagination. The little girl explained that she had worked on it with a friend who came rushing out to share her thoughts on the water park. The teacher suggested that such an impressive creation deserves a ‘learning friend‘

‘Which learning friend do you think you should get?’ she asked.

‘The unicorn’ cried one little girl – because of our imaginations’

‘The bee’ cried the other child – because we worked together’

In the end the teacher rightly choose to give them both learning friends which they shared happily throughout the rest of the session.

The tortoise builds a bridge

In Reception I observed a child making a bridge that was strong enough for a large animal to cross. She was adding to the bridge, testing it and making improvements. I asked her what she was doing and she explained the purpose of her task, adding:

‘I need to keep on trying and not give up. When it goes wrong I will keep trying and keep trying and then the tortoise learning friend will be happy’

These are just two simple examples of the impact that an initiative like this can have when it is embedded in school culture over time. The child centred used of cuddly toys also brings these skills to life and gives them tactile, visual reference point.

Which learning friend do you need to work on?