LONG POST AHEAD! Can’t be helped as I have much to share about the newest class, which the kids asked to signed up for after the trial session with The Little Executive (TLE)
About the TLE Approach
All information can be found here but I wanted to highlight some points that were our push factors for giving up a portion of our weekend.
TLE Approach is built on 3 strong pillars – Essential Skills, Learning Habits and Growth Mindset.
Essential skills include Executive Functioning Skills, which consists of working memory, impulse and emotional control, flexibility, planning and prioritizing, self-monitoring, and task initiation. These skills are necessary to ensure tasks are followed through from the beginning to the final stages, enable us to make decisions, see the big picture as well as details, switch gears from one activity to another, incorporate feedback, and use information and experience from the past to solve current problems.
To be able to follow through tasks from the beginning to the final stages – 有始有终 is one skill I really hope the kids can pick up.
The 5 Step Learning Process aims to develop a well-rounded approach towards learning with these habits:
By framing this as a systematic approach for the children to be more aware of, it would be easier to guide them along and have them develop these learning habits with practice.
These habits are going to help them are not only going to come in handy when they start primary school, but for anything new challenges as they grow older.
Based on the movement and findings of Dr Carol Dweck, the Growth Mindset explains why intelligence and talent alone often do not bring success but may even get in the way of it. It explains how praising these traits, or praising results alone, can jeopardize self-esteem and accomplishments instead of fostering them. What all great CEOs, parents, teachers, and athletes know and have, is recognised as a Growth Mindset. A mindset that allows insight to emerge from failure, resilience to be built from mistakes, and that every misstep holds an opportunity to become better.
Most of us have read articles from the know-it-all-Internet about how best to teach our kids, not praising traits or results, or not being positively encouraging enough to nurture our children, etc. Really, parenting these days seem to be do-or-don’t-do-also-wrong. So what I’ve decided for myself as a parent is to, within our means, equip our kids with the skills to help themselves in good or bad times. Hence, I think it’s important that the kids have this mindset that allows them to know it’s okay to fail, to build resilience from mistakes they make, and to see failures (big or small) as opportunities to improve themselves.
These seem to be really deep stuff – Executive Functioning Skills for preschoolers?! Self-monitor and self-check their own work?! But hey, if there’s any good time to cultivate good habits, I’d say the younger the better. With any luck, I might save on tuition fees when they go primary school if they can put these learning habits to good use!
Of course, it helps that lessons at TLE appear to be extremely enjoyable for the kids! They have been going to TLE for some weeks now. Bobo bear class, as they call it affectionately. I have days when the kids would rant that they don’t want to go for Berries or piano lessons (in the case of the cub), but so far, none for Bobo bear class. In fact, when we had to miss one session due to school events, the kids kept asking me “how Mommy?? We cannot go Bobo bear class!” If only the enthusiasm stretches across all enrichment classes.
Had the opportunity to sit in for one of the sessions to see for myself what exactly do they do that made the kids look forward to classes every week, and for me to start seeing positive results in the Cub after 4 sessions!
Before I get to my thoughts based on my observation, here’s sharing some of the activities the cub did during the session and rationales behind them provided by TLE:
Activity: Number Hunt
Teacher recalls last week’s lesson: “We called out apple whenever we saw the number 3. You did well last week, do you want to be challenged this week?”
Teacher steps up the activity from last lesson, and demonstrates replacing 2 numbers with 2 fruits, without giving explicit instructions, then proceeds to ask “What happened here? What did I do?”
After the children understand the requirements, they take turns to do the exercise to the beat of the metronome.
Rationale: It is an important skill to develop selective attention and to be able to block out distractions (metronome) and information you do not need. Distractions in a school setting could be having to block out external noises e.g. construction noise, or a classmate’s incessant cough during an exam, or noisy classmates/other distractions in day to day situations. It is also the best way to develop processing speed, executive functioning and improve the ability to manage multiple instructions. By not giving them explicit instructions, it develops their observation, deduction and inference skills.
When we tell our children to ‘concentrate’ or ‘pay more attention’, they may not know how to do that. By making them aware of which senses they need to use, and what they need to focus on, we are equipping them with strategies which they can use in other areas of learning as well.
Benefits: Improves visual and auditory processing, working memory, concentration, and training the brain to persist and perform under pressure. When a number is replaced by a fruit, flexible thinking is being enhanced as past information (number) is being replaced by new information (fruit).
Growth mindset: The children are asked if they find it difficult or easy. Children are given time to reflect and respond, and guided to the conclusion that “It was hard at first but it gets easier when we keep paying attention. We learn that paying attention is important and that practice helps us to do our work faster and better.” This growth mindset can be encouraged by the parents in home/school setting. Praise them for taking on something more difficult and asking them how it makes them feel after being able to accomplish it after a few tries. Children become empowered to face challenges and take ownership of their own learning.
Activity: Help Bobo find his things!
Description: Children to find objects around the room, using complex directional phrases, and giving each other instructions to find objects. This introduces them to the concept that everyone sees things from a different perspective.
Rationale: Spatial awareness is how a child senses his body in relation to his physical surroundings. It may look simple, but this skill relies on a complex interaction between the body’s sensory systems. It helps them to pay attention to details, and strengthens their ability to give and receive directions to their peers.
It also requires communication skills like providing enough accurate details in a description instead of vague instructions such as “Go there” or “Over here”. They become aware of seeing things from the angle of their friends (your left is my right), and learning to clarify when they are unsure.
Benefits: Communication skills, social perspective taking skills, increased body and spatial awareness, the ability to mentally imagine or visualise the direction and orientation which is what we use when we give directions.
Learning Habit: The ability to plan and visualise an action before doing it. Checking understanding before carrying out an instruction and clarifying the segment they are unsure of instead of asking for the entire instruction to be repeated.
Finally, my thoughts!
Things that I like:
The teacher shares the schedule for the session with the children before starting. I like that this helps the cub to know what to expect.
There’s a sense of achievement as they get to check off activities after they completed them.
They have the kids to walk on the line (follow the tape marked on the floor!) with different instructions as a physical activity to help calm them and focus on the upcoming session. Thought this is really good cos sometimes we are all flustered when we rush to class in the morning.
During the session, I noticed how the teacher gave immediate feedback on what was not done correctly. When the Cub works on it and still doesn’t get it all right, the teacher’s focus is on what was done better than before and the improvements the Cub made in comparison to his previous attempt. This is something I’d personally need to work on!
There were plenty of positive reinforcement during the session – the teacher was encouraging with specific praise of effort, e.g. when the Cub takes initiative to go first (he used to prefer to go last).
In our case, the cub’s goals are to listen better and become more positive towards new challenges. As he is somewhat averse to new challenges and things that he’s not familiar with, the teacher sets little challenges during the session to train positive attitude towards accepting challenges.
The goal was narrowed down to becoming more positive towards piano practice. He struggles with new pieces, knows that he needs to practise more to become better and does it. BUT he whines a lot about having to do it all the time.
What the teacher did in class to work on his attitude was to keep reminding him to smile and say yes to challenges, instead of going “againnnnn??” and encouraging “practicing makes it better” instead of saying “I don’t know”.
This is one attitude the Husb and I have been trying to correct for ages. Am glad to update that with some practice at TLE classes and reinforcement at home, we are beginning to see a positive shift in attitude. He would stop himself halfway while whining and say, “ok, I will try!” when he practises the new piano pieces.
He seems to be getting better with the listening as well. I noticed small successes at home with his listening, with lesser need for me to repeat myself. During the chemistry workshop we went to recently, I observed the cub paying attention to what the facilitator was saying instead of fiddling with his notebook or apparatus and was able to ask questions!
YAY! Now to keep these going!