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The Child-Oriented Model for Wellbeing

location_on Lappeenranta, Finland

Want to support the individual needs of students and teach communication skills?

The child-oriented model for wellbeing improves students’ behavior and communication education with support in three stages. Students are given support that focuses on wellbeing and finding joy in learning.

Finland 100

Overview

HundrED has selected this innovation to

Finland 100

2015

Established

-

Children/users

1

Countries
Updated
November 22nd, 2022
The wellbeing model has helped us to improve the wellbeing and school satisfaction of our students and bullying cases have decreased. According to our latest survey on wellbeing, 90% of our student look forward to coming to school every morning.
Hannele Heikkilä, the Lappee school

About the innovation

What is it all about?

The child-oriented model for wellbeing is based on the idea that children are and should feel like they are equal members of the school community. However, children are at very different stages in the development of their emotional and communication skills.

Teaching emotional and communication skills benefits especially children who have difficulties in controlling their behavior and focusing. Good communication skills prevent conflicts and help the student take a constructive approach on difficult situations as well as bond with the community. Teaching these skills will therefore promote the wellbeing of the entire school.

The Lappee school has developed a child-oriented model for wellbeing with three stages of support.

The first stage of support, general support is the most important stage and concerns all children at school. If general support is not enough to impact the child’s behavior, they are given more individual goals.

In the next stage, intensified support, the student gets a specific communication skill to practice, and the progress towards the goal will be tracked systematically. However, the first step is to check that the child has received enough general support.

The third stage or special support is sometimes required to give even more individualized and intensive support so that a child can improve on their skills. In this stage it is still important to ensure that the child is supported by the other two stages – general and intensified support.

In special support, a student learns and is taught communication skills individually in small groups and with peer tutors. The school designs a personal study plan for the student, which can include goals for learning a certain social or communication skill.

The aim of the child-oriented model is to support the wellbeing of all students and prevent bullying and social exclusion. The model achieves this by teaching and supporting children’s emotional and communication skills. The model aims to promote growing up in a community where everyone feels like they belong. This is a school-wide operational model, so the implementation will take a long time and you must commit to it for several years.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

Innovativeness

Years of development have resulted in effective ways to put students and their support in the center of school practices.

Impact

In a safe community, students become happier, their communication skills improve and bullying decreases.

Scalability

The innovation is applicable to all kinds of schools. It requires long-term commitment from the school.

Steps

Defining wellbeing and committing to the model
Start with a school-wide discussion about what wellbeing means. This helps you to find common practices you can all commit to.

Defining wellbeing

Have a discussion about what wellbeing means amongst the adults of the school and gather student opinions on the same issue.

  • What kind of elements are required to build the best school day for students?
  • What does wellbeing mean in the context of a school day?

We also recommend you have a pedagogical discussion with the teaching faculty about the following questions:

  • What are the strengths of our school?
  • What could we do better?

These discussion form the foundation for promoting wellbeing at your school.

Founding a committee for promoting wellbeing

The purpose of the committee is to maintain and promote practices that promote wellbeing, prevent unwanted behavior and gather data on the atmosphere at the school regularly.

The committee members can be teachers, the principal, the school social worker, the school nurse, the school psychologist or members of the school board.

Discuss how you could involve the parents and make a plan for how parents can add their important support to the school’s wellbeing by, for example, acting as a committee member or gathering information.

Agreeing on common rules of conduct

Having rules of conduct is one way to promote wellbeing and it is important to agree on how unwanted behavior will be met. Students need to know what kind of behaviour is expected of them and on the other hand, how unwanted behaviour will be met. All members of the school community must be aware of the rules of conduct and commit to them.

Example: Values and a communication agreement

At the Lappee school, the shared values that guide decision-making at the school are:

  • Caring
  • Respecting others
  • Justice

The school created a communication agreement based on these values. It combines things that the staff, parents and students feel are important.

The agreement has been pictured as a tree and the things on it are thought to apply to all relationships: between adults, between children and adults, and between school and home.

Surveying the need for support and support methods
The next step is defining what things promote wellbeing at your school and dividing them into the three stages of general, intensified and special support.

Consider, for example, the following questions:

  • How can you support students who do not get enough support from general support?
  • What methods do you use for intensified and special support at your school?

Children’s learning paths can be built flexibly between the general, intensified and special stages of support. The school should constantly observe the student’s need for support and the adequacy of the supportand if need be, make changes in partnership with the child and their guardians.

1) General support

The school’s resources and the child’s needs define how much general support is required and what methods to use. The stronger general support you provide, the less intensified and special support the children will need.

General support applies to all children at the school. General support is built from things that support a child’s wellbeing, such as

  • Teaching communication skills,
  • A positive rewarding system,
  • Individualized pace for learning,
  • Structure and prevention,
  • Active learning methods,
  • A feeling of belonging, and
  • That adults have agreed on the ways unwanted behavior is met.

Other forms of general support include remedial teaching, differentiation and part-time special-needs education.

2) Intensified support

A student has the right to receive intensified support, if general support is not enough for their development. At Lappee school intensified support means various emotional and communication skills lessons in small groups led by the school social worker, special-needs teachers, a class teacher or a teaching assistant.

The school should provide intensified support regularly and the focus should be on remedial teaching, part-time special-needs education, and organizing instruction in flexible groups.

3) Special support

The Lappee school gives special support through inclusive class arrangements as well as a separate special-needs class.

The special-needs class provides educational support in a small group within the school. It aims to ensure that students have a learning environment that promotes their emotional, social and cognitive development.

The way students work in the special-needs class is designed to promote the social development, development of collaborative skills, positive interaction and academic skills of the students. The students receive individual attention. The idea is to maintain school routine together with the guardians. Lappee school’s model of special-needs class is very flexible and takes the capacity of a child into consideration.

Learning communication skills
Communication skills are learned. You should not presume that children know how to behave appropriately: children must be taught. You can even teach communication skills just like any other school subject.

Communication skills that can be practiced include listening, conversing, asking questions, thanking, helping others, welcoming others and talking in a friendly manner.

Students can be instructed to thank, praise, encourage, help, invite, be friendly, be fair, do as their told and clean up after themselves.

Other skills that the children practice include social skills related to emotions such as recognizing one’s feelings, expressing one’s feelings, understanding the emotions of others, and managing one’s own anger and the anger of others.

Lappee school also teaches the children how to replace difficult behavior with other skills. This can mean self-control, negotiating, reaction to bullying, keeping out of arguments and staying out of trouble.

Example: How can children practice these skills?

If there is some sort of altercation during recess, you can discuss it with the whole class using a case example. The example used should be distanced from the actual altercation.

Students can play out how you should act in the situation and what kinds of feelings and emotions result from it in small groups. This way the students can verbalize and illustrate the actions and feelings involved.

The example can be as follows:

Sam, Tony and Joanna are playing soccer. The teams feel unevenly divided. The other team is in the lead 8–2 and the students are annoyed with the other team’s domination – they’d like to break the rules and play more aggressively. What do the students think and how should they act to turn it into a fair game?

The following materials and methods can be used to learn and teach communication skills:

  • Kimochis emotion dolls
  • KiVa material
  • Lions Quest material
  • Emotion cards
  • Games for promoting good group dynamics
  • Case examples
  • Drama exercises
  • Other related literature

Remember how powerful positive feedback can be!

Implementing child-oriented practices in the school and teaching
This step presents different methods that can be applied to different support stages. The Lappee school culture is based on these nine methods.

In addition to these methods, you can develop your own or modify other practices to suit your needs.

1) The ProSchool model 

This model promotes good behaviour by rewarding it. ProSchool is an efficient way to prevent and deal with behavioral problems and is used widely at the Lappee school. 

The focus of ProSchool is on developing behaviour through positive feedback. If a child gets attention by behaving a certain way, the child will do it even more. This does not, however, mean that unwanted behavior will be tolerated.

2) Solution-oriented and positive school culture

The solution-oriented approach is founded on the idea that schools should focus on the good in the students and find new and positive things for their lives.

The traditional way of looking for problems and correcting mistakes is replaced with a solution-oriented approach. It turns problems into goals the students can pursue with the help of an adult and the resources and strengths they already possess .

3) Inclusive instruction 

In inclusive instruction, all of the local children are welcomed to the school. The classroom brings together all the support that the children needs. There are students from all stages of support in inclusive teaching groups: general, intensified and special support. The methods also allow for differentiating lessons for more advanced students.

Inclusive instruction is always based on the student's skills and requirements for support, which can differ between subjects. The key to inclusive groups is cooperation between adults, active learning, and teaching communication skills. Educating children to become social and tolerant is as important as imparting cognitive skills.

4) Primary 2 groups

This approach is based on education teams made up of a kindergarten teacher and a class teacher. Children from preschool and grades 1 and 2 study together in workshops and other forms for two hours every day. The goal is to support growth and learning at the children’s personal pace.

The Lappee school strives to create a unified and flexible learning environment for preschool and primary education. The children are supported and taught according to their developmental stage which requires time and guidance. This approach creates a natural road forward from preschool to school and allows children to progress from their own starting points.

The children learn primarily in an integrated class with preschool and primary school students. The classes last about two hours every day and they are led by an education team made up of a kindergarten teacher and a class teacher.

The kindergarten school allows the two to share spaces and equipment, so the school culture and learning environments are familiar to children even before they start first grade. Working in education teams combining early learning and comprehensive education enables pedagogic dialogue.

5) Co-teaching and teaching in teams

In co-teaching, two teachers teach one class together and participate equally in lesson planning, teaching, assessment and dividing the work. Co-teaching enables teachers to better meet the individual requirements of every student.

Lappee uses the following forms of co-teaching:

  • Class teacher + kindergarten teacher
  • Class teacher + special-needs teacher
  • Trios – three teachers planning schooldays together.

Teaching assistants often take part in planning as well.

The benefits of co-teaching:

  • Enabling teachers to give individual support to students
  • Observing, assessing, monitoring and giving feedback to students is easier and more accurate
  • Sharing pedagogical knowledge and expertise
  • The strengths of both teachers benefit students
  • Managing day-to-day activities is easier
  • Disturbances are easier to notice: four eyes see more than two
  • Increasing discussion on values and long-term development
  • Improving the wellbeing of teachers and students 

6) Individualized learning

Every student gets to study at the pace and manner best suited to them. School subjects like mother tongue, mathematics and foreign languages are easy to organize in an individualized system.

7) Active pedagogy

Students learn by doing and playing.

8) Participation

Student participation is an important part of child-oriented pedagogy. Students participate in lesson planning and implementation. They carry out design-oriented pedagogy projects that are focused on phenomena based on the children’s own interests.

Kids cannot grow up to be active participants if they are not members of a community. Including kids in the community is important at the Lappee school and kids are taught communication and emotional skills to promote their ability to be real participants in everyday school life.

9) A flexible school day

A flexible school day is comprised of several parts. Innovative operational models have created a new kind of school culture. 90-minute lessons promote active and child-oriented learning. An hour’s siesta makes it possible to organize clubs in the middle of the day.

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