Giving learners ownership over their learning

Bedford Borough Council EAL Conference – Thursday 12th July 2018 – Park Inn Bedford
Bedford Borough Council EAL Conference – Thursday 12th July 2018 – Park Inn Bedford
8th May 2018
Marking and Feedback
Marking and Feedback
19th June 2018
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Giving learners ownership over their learning

Author: Sarah Jones, EAL Coordinator

Studies have found that learning a skill yourself, and then applying it, not only brings immense personal satisfaction (among other valuable benefits), but also leads to greater achievement. It’s an important part of an enquiry-based curriculum.

Personal satisfaction can be achieved through learning that is personalised and by promoting a growth mindset. Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, explains simply how achievement and success can be perceived:

“Those with a fixed mindset see intelligence as being inherent. They are good at some things naturally and see no reason to develop other talents or skills beyond their current abilities. Those with a growth mindset see intelligence as fluid; something which will increase and flourish through hard work, grit and resilience.
When people believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore they put in extra time and effort which leads to higher achievement.”

Dweck (2012)

But how is this achieved when there is a language barrier?

At Lea Forest we pride ourselves as educators on promoting a growth mindset and on customising our lessons to support our children learning English across the curriculum. Through customising our curriculum, our learners become more independent. Key information is pre-learnt, so that children may access more of the lesson content, applying higher-level skills.

All you need to do is to give them the means…

At Lea Forest we use the Learning Village, which provides targeted blended learning for English language learners in schools. It’s designed for teachers supporting children who are new to English and stepping into the mainstream setting. The Learning Village enables us to customise our curriculum for each year group and for every topic they do. It’s completely pictorial, which means that learners of any language background can access it.

Customising the Village

We customise the Learning Village by looking at our unit of work (our themes) for each half term, identifying the key skills and vocabulary needed for the children to succeed. Sessions in the Village are then selected based around the theme of the unit, with the children pre-learning key vocabulary and/or sentence structures.

Every day the children access the Learning Village for 15 minutes independently, completing the sessions designated through matching, listening and speaking activities. They also play an array of flashcard games, such as pairs, bingo and snap, using the flashcards from the Learning Village. This promotes some wonderful collaboration, as well as increased opportunities for speaking and listening. It also allows groups of learners to take ownership of their learning. We sometimes make our own flashcards too! 

But what does this achieve?

Not only do children learn how to say, read and write a wide range of vocabulary and sentence structures, they also develop their social skills in areas such as turn-taking and communication. They are better able to access class-based lessons independently and to achieve the learning outcome. With a greater understanding of the learning intention and the lesson content, children are less overwhelmed.

Sessions selected in the Village are transferred onto customised stickers, which are stuck in the front of the children’s topic books. These act as a quick reference to the current topic and the sessions to be completed. The Learning Village tracks the children’s usage, so progress and attainment can be monitored. The curriculum may be personalised further by assigning specific sessions in areas where the children are weaker. At the end of each unit, the data produced from the Learning Village allows assessment of each session – and the sticker is completed appropriately. If any sessions are not fully achieved, they are incorporated into the children’s intervention sessions.

The pre-learning process allows the children a ‘sneak preview’ of upcoming lessons and provides them with the scaffolding to access lessons more independently. In this way, children become masters of their own learning. They feel a sense of personal satisfaction, which in turn boosts their confidence and self-esteem. They begin to take ownership of their learning, becoming independent learners.


We need to remember that the barrier to accessing the curriculum is mostly language. Children simply need the language tools to help them access the content. Here’s some food for thought:

“For learning to occur in meaning focused input, unknown words must be equal to 2% or less (1 word in every 15).” (Nation & Waring, 1997)

Support your young language learners with a carefully customised approach to language learning in the curriculum – and see the benefits for yourself!



Dweck, Carol S (2012), Mindset interview (available here), Sunday 30th April 2018

Dweck, Carol S (2015), Mindset, Eureka Books

Nation, P. & Waring, R. (1997) Vocabulary size, text coverage and word lists in Schmitt N. & McCarthy M., Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy, Cambridge, UK






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