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How Laughology’s PSHE lessons support children to achieve and be successful

PSHE Lessons pupil

‘Achievement and Success’ is one of the themes in Laughology’s Happy-Centred School PSHE programme. This blog explains why it is so important for children to have a sense of achievement and feel that they are being successful. It also gives some top tips for PSHE lessons, that you might like to try with your class.

Why is achievement and success so important?

We’ve all heard the expression ‘success breeds success’ and studies show that this is true. The reasoning behind this is that success breeds momentum. Children who are successful are more likely to be confident; they will have increased levels of energy; this energy will lead to them accepting and dealing with new challenges and, from these, forming great habits, such as:

  • Having a growth mindset and understanding that the majority of things that you achieve in your life will be down to hard work and effort
  • Knowing how to lose and fail; dealing resiliently with the lows and blows
  • Understanding that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them
  • Knowing how to win and succeed; appreciating the highs
  • Having perspective and recognising if you are catastrophising
  • Making links and applying learning from previous tasks or situations to new ones – knowing what went well, what really didn’t and why
  •  Being reflective and striving to be even better; not settling for the first attempt
  •  Enjoying intrinsic happiness, as well as smiley faces, stickers and certificates

Did you also know that…

When we achieve our goals, our brain sends messages to our body to say, ‘Well done you!’ We release neurotransmitters such as serotonin (the happy chemical) and dopamine (the motivation and reward chemical), which help us to feel great.

In both children and adults, the levels of dopamine and serotonin that we have in our bodies play a part in our overall wellbeing, digestion and sleep. For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a widely-used type of antidepressant. The NHS states that: ‘It would be too simplistic to say that depression and related mental health conditions are caused by low serotonin levels, but a rise in serotonin levels can improve symptoms.’

With reports saying that an increasing number of children are being referred to mental health teams each year, and many services struggling to cope with demand, we have to look at what we are doing in schools to further encourage good mental health and wellbeing. Providing even more opportunities for children to achieve and succeed has got to be a step in the right direction.

Don’t children just naturally know how to achieve and be successful?

In a word, no! Of course, there are opportunities for teachers and support staff to highlight great learning habits during subject specific lessons. For example, pointing out that resilience and reflection, during the editing process, will lead to an improved piece of writing. Or perhaps encouraging children to win and lose graciously at sports and be proud of their personal bests, which may not necessarily lead to a trophy.

However, for children to become increasingly self-aware; to really learn how to learn (metalearning) and think about their thinking (metacognition), they need to be taught the skills needed, practise them and embed them. Which is why, in the HCS programme, all year groups spend half a term doing just this.

How do we teach the skills and attributes needed for children to achieve well?

In the Foundation Stage:

Set a whole class target – perhaps to tidy up the classroom. Ask the children to help you write the steps that they need to follow, to make sure that they meet their goal. Discuss ways in which they can help each other and what would happen if not everyone joined in. Regularly review how it is going and what they could do to make the classroom even tidier. Encourage the cleaners to give them a score out of 5 for their efforts each evening (and tell them not to be too soft!)

In Key Stage 1:

Show the children pictures of Thomas Edison. Ask them how many attempts they think he took to invent the light bulb. Show them his famous quote: ‘I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 1,000 ways that won’t work.’ Ask the children why it was so important for Edison and his team to eventually succeed - for them personally, but also for all of the things that now use light bulbs. Discuss the different emotions that Edison and his team might have felt at different points of the process and compare these to how the children feel when they are learning something new.

In lower Key Stage 2:

Explain to the children that, although they are still relatively young, they have achieved a lot so far in their lives. On a whiteboard, draw a rollercoaster and explain that this represents the highs and lows in your learning life journey. Share some of your personal experiences as a teacher, describing the emotions that you felt at each point. Then ask the children to draw their own rollercoaster life journey so far. Once they have identified highs and lows and their feelings at the time, ask them if those feelings are still as strong now. Ask how this might help them to cope with the setbacks in the future.

In upper Key Stage 2:

Ask the children if they know who Richard Branson is. If not, explain that he is a business entrepreneur and tell them some of his achievements over the years. Explain that he is dyslexic and really struggled at school with tests, but was very creative and had lots of ideas. Set the children a challenge – to work in teams to plan something which will raise money at the school’s Christmas or summer fair. This could be a game, a service or an object. If possible, acquire a small budget for this activity and ask the children what else they might need, such as time, resources or a way of advertising. Set them off and, at different points of the process, encourage reflection by asking questions such as: ‘What is going well?’ and ‘What could be even better?’

And finally …

As we’ve said, it is really important for children to taste success and to know how it feels to achieve their goals and dreams. When working in schools, we know that staff are some of their own harshest critics – always wanting to do ‘even more’ than they have done, or are doing, for the young people in their class.

As Laughologists, we recognise the amazing job that you are doing each and every day, in increasingly difficult and challenging times. So, whilst we know that you will continue to be reflective practitioners and strive for continuous improvement, make sure that, in equal measure, you sit back and count up all of the things that are going fabulously well and that you’re proud of. And now enjoy that rush of serotonin and dopamine – Mmmmmmmmm!

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