Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Key to Learning® unique?
The Key to Learning® program is unique because it moves the focus from educational content (what) to the cultural tools and pedagogical practice (how). It focuses not only on teaching children skills and knowledge but on developing learning abilities too. It offers optimal learning experiences that are:
- precisely matched to children’s learning and development
- challenging but attainable
- emotionally vibrant, playful and enjoyable
- shared by children and responsive adults
It provides all the pre-requisites for successful learning, creating the right conditions for minds to open, for learning to become a pleasure and for creativity to flourish.
Why 'learning abilities'?
Learning abilities are whatever it is that determines the speed and flexibility with which we acquire, and are able to apply, new knowledge and skills – the qualities that provide successful learning.
The current focus for teaching young children is skills and knowledge. However, the skills and knowledge that the children need for survival depend on where they happen to be born, and vary from place to place. Therefore they are not enough. To prepare children to become brilliant, global citizens of our rapidly changing world, they need general learning abilities that enable them to learn quickly and easily whatever they have a need for. Because of the way our brains develop, there is a window of opportunity between the ages of 2.5 and 6 to give children that gift for life.
How does the Key to Learning® approach work?
When a child learns to use cultural tools, new psychological qualities that we call abilities, emerge. Abilities are those universal “mental habits” and human qualities required for success in any skilled cultural activity. The most significant route for the development and expression of abilities is through cultural tools (concepts, visual signs, symbols, models, plans, texts, maps, formulae, language) which are not merely taught in isolation as skills, but offered to and grasped by the child as practical actions, used in particular ways for particular purposes.
The Key to Learning developmental cognitive curriculum:
- considers play as a vital, self-regulatory activity
- amplifies development but doesn’t accelerate it
- unlocks possibilities to a maximum
- prepares children for the educational challenges they will face
- supports parents to help their children to learn
- introduces different ‘symbolic languages – once children have acquired “symbolic literacy”, it is much easier for them to cope as we continue to challenge them to master new and ever more demanding learning tasks
- develops abilities that will give children control over their lives and their learning, for their learning there will be no end
- provides a substantial basis for a child’s early learning experience in the foundation stage of their education – it creates a love of learning and gives them the tools for life-long learning
We provide you with teaching manuals, resources and training according to your specific needs.
A centre using all 12 modules typically does two ‘sessions’ a day for each group of up to 10 children.
What differences will we notice in the children? What results can we expect?
Many research projects have revealed that the ‘Key to Learning’ curriculum has an extremely positive and unique effect on achievement in young children.
This approach to developing learning abilities leads to significant changes in children’s personalities. It facilitates self development, helping children become independent learners. They begin to plan and organise their own activities, openly express their point of view, provide non-standard solutions for various problems, interact freely with other people and what is most important, believe in themselves and their abilities. Development is not an accumulation of knowledge, facts, information or skills. In fact, it’s not the accumulation of anything! It’s a qualitative transformation.
Children who have participated in Key to Learning:
- can interpret the world and it’s sign systems
- can make choices and state preferences
- can explore different possibilities
- know what to do, when you don’t know what to do
- have a positive attitude to learning
- use models, that are schematised and generalised representations of objects, processes and their relationships
- orient themselves in a new material quickly
- can adapt and apply what they can already do to brand new situations that they have not encountered before
The development of cognitive abilities is very important in preparing children for school. What is important is not so much what they already know, but their readiness to learn new things; their ability to learn with and from others; to think, imagine, reach conclusions, create stories, draw and design solutions.
In addition to the research, we have story after story from teachers, other educational professionals and parents who tell us about the differences that they have seen in children who are participating in the Key to Learning curriculum. These include exceptionally high levels of or abilities in the following:
Critical thinking skills
Articulation of ideas
Passion for learning
Seeing things from another’s point of view…
Simply put, everyone comments on how smart, kind, creative, curious, motivated, empathetic, articulate, happy, passionate and resilient the children are.
Where does Key to Learning® fit within a traditional curriculum?
Key to Learning can be used in any early years setting to complement, extend, enrich and systematise existing good practice.
Here is an example of how the modules of the Key to Learning developmental cognitive curriculum also provide appropriate opportunities for children to achieve the early learning goals or objectives of a national curriculum, in addition to specifically developing the full range of learning abilities:
What do the materials look like?
There are over 600 learning activities and games included within the Key to Learning curriculum divided into the 12 modules shown here.
Each of the 12 teacher-friendly modules includes:
- 30 or 60 developmentally appropriate and carefully sequenced sessions
- A manual describing the teaching aims, learning outcomes and the teaching procedure for each session
- The printed resources necessary for each session
- Any necessary supporting materials
Does the program use worksheets or involve any screentime?
No, these are hands-on activities. You might want to show some of the supporting images to the children on screen, instead of using printed ones, and there are a some activities that involve a sheet that the children draw on or make markings on, but that’s it.
At what age can you start with the activities?
The earlier you can start with the children, the better. The window of opportunity for changing their learning path for life closes at around age 6. Some modules can be started at age 2.5 and others around the age of 3.
Is this child-centred learning?
The Key to Learning approach recognises three types of learning and teaching process:
During the activities, the facilitating adult leads short bursts of structured activity. Sometimes they share their expertise with the children, modelling and mediating the use of mental tools through developmentally-appropriate and engaging activity. At other times, the adult and children collaborate to create something together, through joint activity. Finally, the expectation is that the children will continue to do what they already do, spending much of their time engaged in spontaneous free choice play, under the watchful eye of the facilitating adult.
Whilst it’s important for children to have plenty of time each day for play of their own free choice, it’s critical for their intellectual development to remember that children do not just happen to reinvent the knowledge of centuries (Edwards and Mercer). Culture is not discovered; it is passed on or forgotten (Jerome Bruner). So an active, facilitating adult is an essential part of the equation for children’s overall development.
Do children need to be able to read or write to do any of the sessions?
Not at all – formal teaching of reading and writing should be left as late as possible, at least until the learning foundations provided from this curriculum are in place for each child.
Is it a religion-based program or secular?
Does the curriculum include phonics?
No, it covers pre-reading and pre-writing skills. Learning to read is a process that starts with the ability to ‘decode’ letters as signs. Likewise, learning to write is a process that starts with the ability to ‘code’ letters as signs. The Key to Learning activities help children develop symbolic thinking, decoding and coding abilities so that they can ‘read’ information represented in signs, letters, numbers, drawings, pictures and symbols of all types, and make markings to begin to ‘write’ such information too. The sessions focus on getting children’s minds ready to learn how to read and write, not teaching them to actually read and write.
We recommend not starting specific reading/phonics work until the children have completed the full Key to Leanring curriculum, or at least the majority of it. By waiting, you’ll need to spend less time teaching phonics and reading than if you had started earlier, before the children had the learning foundations from doing the Key to Learning sessions in place.
How much teacher preparation is required?
Each session takes about 10-15 minutes to prepare, and less the second time around, of course.
We provide as much as possible for you, to keep preparation time to a minimum. Also, the animals or characters chosen in the print-outs for the games and activities in each session can easily be substituted, if you wish, without losing the focus of the session.
Do we need any special resources to do the sessions?
There are 2 types of resources needed:
- Printable resources, which are all provided.
- Other materials/toys/objects that you would most likely have in your school or centre anyway or can acquire easily and cheaply, for example, soft toys, animal figures, paints, string, bowls, coloured paper, and so on.
If you are going to use the Construction and Creative Modelling modules, you will also need specialist blocks and pre-cut felt pieces from us, as well as a few other related materials, that go with the activities from those modules.
Is 20 minutes twice a day really enough?
Being a participant in the Key to Learning program has been proven over and over again to change a child’s learning path and give them superior levels of mental abilities. It’s normal to wonder how such a short time each day can achieve something so great but when the sessions are done effectively, it does – it works!
Some sessions can be completed in as little as 5-10 minutes, while some other sessions will take about 20-25 minutes. In many sessions, additional ideas for you to extend the activity should you wish to, or add further play opportunities for the children, are given.
How many children can participate in the activities at the same time?
The Key to Learning materials have been designed for use with 7 to 10 children at a time, based on the results of the years of research that was carried out into the best number of children to have in a group for optimal learning to take place, and for the optimal development of their communicative and collaborative abilities.
Are you available as a speaker and/or to run workshops?
Yes. Galina speaks regularly around the world and with enough notice, can be available for your event.
We currently offer conferences, training and masterclasses in the overall approach or the separate Key to Learning Modules, depending on what you need. These are tailored to the individual needs and budget constraints of each client.
Audiences can range in size from 5 to 500.
Whilst Galina is happy and experienced in travelling to any part of the world, we also have experienced trainers and partners in several international locations.
There is usually a need to book at least 3 months in advance for any of the options above. Please email [email protected] and tell us what you are looking for.