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Walker Learning Approach - Prep to Year 2

The Walker Learning Approach at Bray Park State School Prep to Year 2
At Bray Park State School we believe that the Walker Learning Approach pedagogy is an effective and age appropriate pedagogy for our school context and that through the Walker Learning Approach, we can meet the particular needs of our early years students.
 
Description
The Walker Learning Approach uses a range of open ended experiences to allow students to investigate, explore, manipulate, create and interact along with instruction in skills and knowledge in literacy, numeracy and other curriculum areas. This investigative learning approach places the child at the centre of the curriculum and teaching strategies. It ensures authentic, personalised learning for each student. Formal, explicit instruction in The Australian Curriculum occurs alongside the much more active engagement of students working on their own investigations.
 
Each day the teacher scaffolds the learning of the students through a ‘tuning in’ process. This is followed by ‘investigations’ in which students work in a learning environment that has been intentionally set up to meet the learning needs and interests of the students. Following ‘investigations’ the students spend time with the teacher reflecting on their learning and making links to the explicit teaching that will occur later in the day.
 
Rationale
Walker Learning ensures that opportunities for the development of the whole child are authentic, relevant and meaningful for all children regardless of their age, culture, family context, socio-economic background or geographical location. It places an emphasis on the social and emotional aspects of a child’s life as well as the academic aspects.
  
Walker Learning emphasises:
  • personalised learning
  • explicit instruction
  • skills in literacy and numeracy
  • creativity and self-expression
  • self-awareness, self-management and self-regulation
 
The underlying belief behind Walker Learning is that young children learn best when they are highly engaged and motivated.  This is achieved best through active exploration and investigation of their environment alongside explicit instruction and scaffolding.
 
Daily Structure
The Walker Learning Approach comprises three main structural components. These are:
  • Tuning In
  • Investigations
  • Reflection
Walker Learning occurs a minimum of 4 days a week.
 
Tuning In
The purpose of Tuning In is to prepare students for the learning that will occur across the whole day. The teacher highlights the learning and events that are going to happen that day. The teacher recaps aspects of literacy, numeracy and other curriculum areas from previous learning. Focus Students, Photographer and Reporter are welcomed by the teacher. These students are encouraged to speak and plan with the teacher. They are rostered on regularly to participate and their role forms a model for their peers’ learning as well as their own. Children are dispersed to Investigations with intention by the teacher.
 
Investigations
Creative and open-ended investigation areas are an integral and essential element of an authentic play based pedagogy. During Investigations students work within the learning areas that have been intentionally planned and set up by the teacher. Teachers work with students during investigations to scaffold, make the links to curriculum areas and develop skills in literacy and numeracy.
 
Reflection
Reflection is considered the most important aspect of Investigations. Through reflection the teacher ensures that skills and learning are modelled explicitly with students, links are made back to curriculum areas for the rest of the day’s learning and student’s work and investigations are honoured and respected.    
 
Resetting the Learning Environment
The reset is designed to help children to take responsibility for their learning and to demonstrate respect for their learning environment. Students are encouraged to plan ahead and to think about what resources or books they may need for the next day. This promotes continuity and persistence. ‘Work in progress’ signs or a ‘work in progress’ shelf are used to protect students’ incomplete work.  Students arrange to take additional photos that may be needed to record work or investigation areas. Packing away should be slow, careful, thoughtful and methodical. 
 
The Learning Environment
The learning environment is a critical element of the Walker Learning Approach. The learning environment, provocations, materials and resources are what provide the richness, engagement and personalisation of the learning for each student. The learning environment provides opportunities for teachers to scaffold and to make links to the learning intentions.
 
The learning environment is set up with investigation areas. Planned learning within the investigation areas is linked to children’s interests and the learning intentions. The learning intention behind the investigation area will only change every 2 weeks.
The investigations areas are:
    Science/nature
    Tinkering – locks and keys, things that can be taken apart to see how they work, wood and tools
    Sensory – engaging the five senses
    Construction – blocks, Lego, tape measures, sticky tape, etc.
    Reading – cosy, quiet enclosed area for reading
    Collage
    Dramatic play – set up as an authentic context e.g. hospital, shop, vet, etc.
    Numeracy resource – an area where children go to get the tools for learning that they need
    Literacy resource -– an area where children go to get the tools for learning that they need
Other investigations areas can be included if they meet the learning needs and interests of the students.
 
The classroom is designed to have cosy corners, nooks and crannies so that students feel safe and enclosed. This is known as psychological containment. Teachers define spaces and create rooms within rooms. Major changes to the room are only made once a term.
 
Every classroom has a carpet area for formal teaching and scaffolding as well as for Tuning In and Reflection.
 
Students choose where they go and what they work on each day; however it is the teacher who sets up the learning areas as they are carefully planned and set up with intention. Students are allowed to work in the same area repeatedly if they wish as repeating and elaborating leads to deep, structural learning. Students may move around the investigations areas when they are ready. The teacher may make a decision to move a child but this must be intentional and have a good reason.
 
60 to 80% of the learning that occurs during formal teaching is linked to what has happened in the Investigations. Teachers make these connections explicit for the students.
 
Focus Children, Reporter and Photographer Roles
The Reporter and Photographer roles are a very important and integral part of the Walker Learning Approach pedagogy.  Each day different students are rostered to perform these roles. The tasks the students are given are relevant to the current learning intentions and to the individual needs and interests of the students involved.  They are designed to be engaging, intentional, fun and special for each child.
 
The purpose of identifying Focus children each day is to develop relationships with students and to scaffold their learning through their authentic interests. Each day three students are scheduled to be the focus children for that day. The students and parents are familiar with the schedule and know when it is their turn. Over a two week period the teacher connects with every student in the class and makes notes on the student’s progress and interests.