The Thornhill Learning Toolbox is a skills-based, child-centred approach to teaching and learning.
THORNHILL LEARNING TOOLBOX – TOOLSET 1: COMMUNICATION
This toolset includes: Speaking & Listening, Reading, Writing, ICT, demonstrating something, visuals such as posters and artworks etc.
By focusing on communication, we encourage children to see a purpose in what they are learning and build a sense of audience.
Children need to evaluate how well they are communicating individually, in groups, as a class and begin to decide when to use different forms of communication e.g. ask children how and to whom they think they should communicate a piece of learning.
THORNHILL LEARNING TOOLBOX – TOOLSET 2: THINKING
This toolset includes: questioning, comparing, mathematical thinking, debating, explaining, problem-solving, logical thinking, reasoning, separating fact from opinion, weighing up evidence etc.
By focusing on thinking skills, we help children to develop different approaches to different learning situations as well as sustaining curiosity and willingness to challenge authority and ask for evidence to back up opinions.
Philosophy for Children (P4C) is an excellent model for developing children’s thinking across the curriculum (generate questions from a stimulus or theme, group and categorise the questions, then decide which question to examine and discuss in depth, helping children to make connections between different children’s ideas).
Children need to evaluate how well they are thinking individually, in groups, as a class and begin to decide when to use different approaches e.g. ask children what thinking skills they need for a particular piece of learning.
This toolset includes: risk-taking, generating ideas (brainstorming, hypothesising, speculating), making interesting connections, making unusual comparisons, looking at everyday things in original ways, asking unusual questions.
By focusing on creativity, we help children to develop confidence in being original or different and willingness to try things out and make mistakes. Creativity is about exploration and curiosity about the world.
Creativity is not just about art – you can be creative in Maths, Science and all subjects. For example, Einstein was a highly creative thinker who often visualised his ideas on sub-atomic physics in terms of images and metaphors.
Children should become increasingly aware of what creative learning is like and learn to talk about their own creative learning.
THORNHILL LEARNING TOOLBOX – TOOLSET 4: SOCIAL & EMOTIONAL
This toolset includes: self-awareness, self-control, empathy, social skills
Children can’t leave their emotions outside the classroom and learning is often a very emotional experience (excitement, frustration, elation, fear, panic etc).
Children need to learn to understand their own emotions and realise that emotions are not bad but sometimes need to be managed or channelled.
‘Emotional literacy’ and ‘emotional intelligence’ are different names for the same idea: we need to be more aware of how our emotions affect us so that we can express them in ways that help our learning and development.
Older children could explore whether there is such a thing as positive anger e.g. anger over injustice or poverty or positive fear e.g. fear of danger so that we stay safe.
THORNHILL LEARNING TOOLBOX – TOOLSET 5: PHYSICAL
This toolset includes: role play, drama, simulations, brain gym etc.
Children need a balance of physical and intellectual learning activities every day. Learning is better when it is varied and broken up by physical activity.
Simulations: finding physical ways to represent concepts e.g. children show physically (linking arms, running about etc) the difference between water, ice and water vapour by representing how the molecules relate in each state.
Extended simulations: e.g. re-enacting the voyage of the Tudor explorers to Virginia in the 1580s; planning the supplies needed, role-playing the key characters etc.
Collaborative learning approaches often involve moving around e.g. jigsaw, snowballing etc
Techniques like frozen pictures, forum theatre etc can be used across the curriculum.
THORNHILL LEARNING TOOLBOX – TOOLSET 6: LEARNING ABOUT LEARNING
This toolset includes: reflecting, evaluating, planning, sharing, choosing strategies etc
Children are able to think and talk about their own learning even in the nursery! As they get older they get more articulate and can explain their thinking in more detail.
Talking about their learning enables children to identify how to apply skills, knowledge and understanding to different situations.
By making it OK to explore learning openly, including mistakes, children can become more resilient and prepared to risk sharing their thinking with others.
In a classroom where it’s the norm for there to be ongoing talk about learning, a shared understanding of what learning means can develop. Children begin to see themselves as contributing to a learning community.
Learning about learning helps children to see the purpose of being at school and then to take responsibility for moving forward in their learning, accessing the resources they need. Children’s understanding of learning is something that will help them in their lives beyond school.