Friday 22 August 2014

Using SOLO Taxonomy to Empower Youngest Learners

I truly think "If I had more time I would..." is a very understandable, realistic response to so many questions asked of teachers! Expectations for accountability and meeting 'standards' can become overwhelming.

A conversation I had with @ewanmcintosh at the 'Working in our Wired World' conference in Rotorua this year (as I expected!) activated wondering...

How am I making what I HAVE to do, balance & work with what my learners and I WANT to do?

We all know there are always going to be things we just HAVE to do...

This post is focused on literacy and numeracy (though I do believe holistic development of our learners IS most important).
As a teacher, there are outcomes I must help my learners to meet. I help little ones learn how to read, and write. I help them learn how to count forwards and backwards, add/subtract.. I help them learn how to 'do' school. As an early years teacher, I know these skills are important foundational skills to learn, and these are goals that take effort and time to achieve.
I think though, the most important thing I can I help them do is notice how to learn, so they can apply the strategies to learn anything THEY want. Be empowered, sustainable 'life-long learners'.

I want my young learners to notice:
They are already experienced learners,
They can learn how to learn anything,
Learning is a process - it requires effort.

I love teaching early literacy and numeracy skills. I do find that many of my learners WANT to read,write and 'do' maths. In these early years I see this as valid 'inquiry':

"Ms Casse, what does that say?" (Prestrucural at knowing letter names & sounds)
Let's find out what some of those squiggles we refer to as 'letters' are called and what some of the sounds are, with lots of help at first (Unistructural), then less help (Multistructural).
"Yep I got this now - I know these letter names and sounds!"(Relational)
What if we use our knowledge to do something else? To read simple high frequency words, blends, chunks? Can I help someone else learn their letter sounds? (Extended Abstract - for this learning outcome)

This is where I see SOLO Taxonomy as being SO useful - the symbols and signals we use mean it's a visible reference for my learners to connect with. I find using Pam Hook's HOOKEd Visual Rubrics are instrumental to the success of this. I am always 'thinking aloud' and 'noticing learning' so that the how of learning becomes more visible and ingrained in our classroom culture. They are not just learning letters, they are learning to learn as well.

Using SOLO when teaching early years learners to be early readers (or writers, mathematicians, scientists, artists...), helps to make the pathway between "I can't read that" and "I can read that and I understand it!" become visible and manageable. They don't need to know how to read it instantly - it's not luck that will help them, they just need to know how to take their very next step. This is particularly helpful I find, with those learners who are reluctant in case they make a mistake. Meeting that very next step is attainable!

SOLO Taxonomy is as applicable to 'learning to read letters' as it is to 'learning anything'.
I am using it now to help me learn to share my practice more! We are all in the early stages of something!

My next steps: I am looking forward to taking part in +Sonya Van Schaijik 's TeachmeetNZ in October talking about using SOLO with early years learners, and presenting at Ulearn.

But please remember the BEST place to go to learn about classroom based practice using SOLO Taxonomy is NZ's own Pam Hook's site:


  1. "I think though, the most important thing I can I help them do is notice how to learn" -

    Using SOLO Taxonomy to make connections for belonging, being and becoming a learner.

    Great reflection Bridget - and so valuable to other junior school teachers.Thanks

    1. Thank you Pam for your encouragement and for all the knowledge you generously share with educators every day. :-)