Body to Brain Learning Professional Development Series | Integrating Thinking

Learning Readiness is Different to School Readiness.

learning at school learning readiness school ready start school Jan 06, 2022
Integrating Thinking
Learning Readiness is Different to School Readiness.


"Learning Readiness" is different to "School Readiness", which is also different to "Readiness for Learning at School." Discuss! 

"Learning readiness" is about being ready to learn and adapt to our environment. We are born ready to learn. Nature provides us with the wiring, systems and processes to learn about our environment and adapt to the world in which we live. That adaptive learning process is life-long. 

"Learning" doesn't just happen because we have reached the magic age of school entry (which, as we know, varies from culture to culture and nation to nation). Before we even get to school, we have learned: to move, to have refined the control of our body in space, to talk, to listen, to interact with others, to manipulate objects, to play and to realise there is so much about our world to discover and explore. Some children can read at this age. Others don't even know what reading is, but they probably know a good story when they hear one. And, the difference between the two is OK.

"Learning readiness" is neuro-biologically wired into us from the beginning. How and what we learn in our first years of life, our experiences and opportunities set the foundations for how we will learn in the next stage of our lives, including our new academic and school life. These early years are crucial for getting us ready to successfully learn in school situations. Our early development prepares us for later learning.

"School Readiness", being ready for school, isn't just a child's issue. I've heard one educator say recently, "It's not just about the child being ready. It's about all of us being ready." It's about the child, the family, and the educators. 

The beginning of school and the beginning of the school year is an exciting time. It can also be a scary time. Families are often very excited about this milestone stage of education. Some family members, however, may be sad, nervous, and anxious about the "new world" the children are about to encounter. Tears and anxiety on the first day of school are real and not just limited to our Prep and Year 1 students.

"School readiness" is more than just getting books, uniforms, and laptops ready for school. It's also about preparing ourselves for participation in a school learning environment. We aren't born "school ready" and, it doesn't magically appear at the predetermined school starting age. We need to learn and adapt to become "school ready". 

"School readiness" for each child and family will vary according to the needs of each child, the age of the child and their previous experiences, including learning at home and in other early childhood or educational settings. Transition to school programmes for young children (and early high-school students) often attend to the logistics and social support required for students as they make the change into a different and more formal educational school environment. For some, those programmes are more than enough preparation. For others, it's not enough. Clear communication between parents and educators around individual child needs is crucial to assist in the "school readiness" process.

And then there's "Readiness for learning at school." This is often less talked about, but, as a Neurodevelopmental Educator, it's one of my pet topics!

As a pre-schooler and prep student, "readiness for learning at school" is generally about being ready to interact, work with and learn from others in a more formal educational environment. That environment probably has considerably more structure, processes and different behavioural expectations that are likely to be foreign to the new students.

Implicit in the concept of "readiness for learning at school" is an assumption that a level of maturity and development has already been attained. Some students don't have that. I'm not just talking about emotional and social maturity here. I'm also talking about physical and neurological development and maturity of the body systems that support learning. "Readiness for learning at school" is not all about whether the young child can read, write, count etc. before they get to school.

Broadly speaking, from an Educator's perspective, "readiness for learning at school" is about a student's disposition, attitude, and ability to grow to meet the academic and skill requirements outlined in the educational curriculum for their year level. It's also about being able to meet the social expectations of the school environment. It involves general behavioural expectations.

Teachers know it takes time for students to understand the new context in which they find themselves and learn about the new expectations, parameters for behaviour and ways of working. Much of the work in the first week(s) of school is concerned with establishing familiar processes, routines, and systems of working in class so that the transition into the schooling environment supports the new students. Some students are very ready for learning at school. Others struggle.

In my role as a Neuro-developmental Educator and Learning Consultant for Educators, I often hear teachers say: "So many children just don't seem to be ready to learn." "They can't sit still." "They really struggle to pay attention." "They behave in ways that make it really difficult for me to 'reach them' let alone teach them". "They distract others." And "They are super hard to engage with in learning situations." "They aren't ready for what we are supposed to teach them."   

Those statements are about students' readiness for learning at school. The challenge for teachers to do their work in supporting academic learning at school for all students becomes very real and often presents significant dilemmas. Learning for some students in the new school environment can also become a struggle because, as the teachers I work with have noticed, no matter how creative the teachers can be in their presentation of their lessons, the children/students aren't always ready to engage in the academic learning activities presented.  A student's "behaviour" shows they aren't yet "ready for learning at school", and telling them to sit up, focus and behave properly doesn't work.  They haven't reached that maturity level I spoke about earlier. 

If you've followed anything I've written or spoken about in the past few years, you will know that I talk a LOT about the body being ready to learn and supporting the learning process. I often say, "If the body doesn't support learning, it can interfere with learning." 

What does that mean? And, from a teacher's perspective, how is this concept of the body supporting or interfering with learning associated with the student behaviour or 'lack of learning readiness' we see in the classroom?  [I'll be sharing more about all of that throughout this year if you want to explore it in more depth – that's my thing!  I love to share my knowledge and experience in this area. (You can join us in our Body to Brain Learning TM Community – details are at the end of this article.)]

Essentially, we learn with and through our bodies. Learning is not just a brain-based activity. We rely on our body's sensory systems to accurately receive information from the world around us. We also need to develop a repertoire of experiences, memories, processes, and ways of working that support our ability to succeed, respond and adapt to the new experiences encountered in our new environments. Our body supports our brain functions. If those body systems aren't developmentally mature enough to meet the academic, school-based learning requirements, we often see a "lack of readiness for school learning."  

Our body systems help us accurately receive and process sensory information. We use our body and brain together to help us understand and use these new experiences to adapt and learn wherever we are (including in new school-based situations).  It's how we are wired as humans. Learning is a sensory and motor process, a body and brain learning process. If all our nervous systems and motor responses aren't working well together to support learning, they can interfere with learning, create anxiety and nervousness, and even make the learner feel unsafe.

If a student feels insecure or overwhelmed by the new situation/environment or tasks they are asked to complete, they will sometimes respond with behaviour that is often considered inappropriate. Sometimes the behaviour is obvious, other times, it expresses itself quietly and the student struggles to succeed. Not all learning challenges students face are communicated through loud and obvious "inappropriate behaviours." Sometimes we see difficulties learning to read, write, spell, listen to instructions, pay attention, remember sequences of instructions, move in a coordinated and non-clumsy manner, sit still and so much more. Sometimes we don't know if there are body-based learning challenges until the child experiences the educational/academic learning processes. It's complicated.   

A student's body needs to be neuro-developmentally mature to help support the cognitive learning and executive function processes that our education system requires. That can take time. It may require some assistance and support.

We need to understand how our students learn and how our students use their bodies to learn. Their body tells us if they are ready to learn. We need to know how to read those body-based messages.  And if they aren't quite ready for learning at school?  Well, then we can probably help them using neurodevelopmental, body-based activities.  It's not too late.

"Learning readiness" starts as a body to brain functional process in which the body helps build the neurology for learning success. It is a developmental process. It starts early. It takes time and requires the opportunity to develop. It happens in the child's body. 

"School readiness" is broader. It involves a community effort that best supports the student's success in a school environment.  School readiness happens best when there is open and clear communication between students and their families, educators and practitioners who support learning development opportunities and are aware of the student's needs to succeed in school. It is about the child but also includes those involved in establishing the school-based learning environment for that child. 

"Readiness for learning at school" is individual and specifically about the child learning in the school context.  Readiness for learning at school depends on developmental maturity in the body and brain systems. Sometimes those developmental processes need support to 'catch up' so that academic learning in a school environment becomes an easier task. When the student's body supports their academic learning rather than interferes with their academic learning, the student is then "ready for school learning."

Understanding and applying the Body to Brain Learning process helps students and teachers attain better academic learning outcomes. It impacts wellbeing at school and can help support neurodiverse students and those who work with them. It also assists those who are underachieving academically and are experiencing learning challenges because of neuromotor and sensory immaturity. 


If you would like to learn more about the Body to Brain Learning process and join in the conversation, then sign up for regular updates, training information and other 'neuro-nerd' learning facts using the button in the section below.  

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Dr Christine Payard (PhD) is a Neurodevelopmental Educator, founder of the "Body to Brain Learning Professional Development Series", Director of "Integrating Thinking", a neurodevelopmental education consultancy and professional training organisation, and the INPP Australia Principal.  

Christine is an experienced teacher, a passionate educator who could talk all day about learning, how we learn, the body, the brain, and a functional and developmental approach to learning.

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