The term of 13 weeks at The Learning Lab (TLL) has come to an end and there is so much to say about our experience there, but I’ll try my best to be concise.
In my previous blog post about TLL, I shared photos of the various cool features of some of TLL’s eight centres located conveniently around Singapore and our initial review and thoughts about TLL (if you’ve not read the post, please hop over to take a look).
I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to sit in in one of the Math and English classes during the term for awhile to observe how lessons are usually conducted, so I’ll share some of my thoughts about the lessons as well as the overall experience at TLL.
When we entered my boy’s classroom on the day of observation, we saw some items laid out on the table:
It definitely was a fun lesson as you’d expect. The kids got to taste, touch and smell ingredients such as cocoa powder, salt, sugar, butter; used descriptive words like smooth/rough, sweet/salty/bitter; pretended to go through the processes of baking a cake; and most significant of all (at least to the children) was when they got to eat the cake (the teacher had bought earlier that day).
I’ve never been in a lesson with him where I’m not the teacher (because we homeschool) and it was so refreshing to just focus on watching his curiosity unfold, his enthusiasm abound and listening to his laughter without conducting the lesson. Indeed, I think not many parents have actually watched their children in classes and I’m indeed blessed to have the opportunity.
That was the hands-on part of the lesson. Other parts involved some writing where the kids would attempt comprehension questions (choose from two options with pictures) after the teacher has gone through the passage, learn sight words and word families.
TLL has a 30-people strong curriculum team who refreshes the learning materials weekly. The week before that, they also had a more interesting session where they learned about Mexico and got to eat tortilla chips and salsa (which according to the teacher, my boy ate the most even though he found the salsa to be spicy). The National Day week saw them going through related materials as well and they all got to have a Singapore flag tattoo which they were so eager to show off at the end of the lesson.
I have many more photos of my boy’s (N2 English) class observation than my girl’s (Primary 1 Math) class simply because of the nature of the lessons for the age groups. Nursery level classes naturally tend to be more exciting and hands-on, and even so, I do find that TLL does require the students to be more focused and able to handle more seat work. As mentioned in my previous blog post, the curriculum at TLL though designed to follow MOE requirements closely, is pitched 20-30% higher so the students have an edge over others.
My girl’s Primary One Math class was definitely more academic in nature, which was totally expected since at that level, the focus is on honing exam skills and getting the students to understand Math concepts.
For the Math class, I found the teacher to be very organised and systematic. They started the class with housekeeping matters where the students all filed their marked worksheets in the correct sections. The teacher also played simple games with the students so the students could distinguish between the concepts of long vs. tall. To help the students understand length of curved/winding lines (as opposed to straight ones), the teacher also used concrete objects. There was also constant revision of concepts and exam skills taught in the course of attempting questions and the students all took turns to chip in with their answers and were not afraid to ask questions.
As the lesson I observed was approaching the test week in primary schools, I’d say the lesson was definitely gearing the students up for their test by revising earlier topics covered in Term 3. The teacher also reminded the students of the exam skills that had been taught previously when she observed any one of the students not applying the knowledge when attempting the questions. I like that answers are not fed to students and they are given time to work through the questions one at a time, individually first, then checking and explaining how they derived the answers as a class.
After a term at TLL (Westgate), we were encouraged to sign up for another term for my girl. I think at the end of the day, for parents to be willing to spend the time and money on enrichment for children, the most important thing is that the enrichment has to be effective, especially when you are paying good money for it.
For my girl, my hubby and I have noticed how much more positive she is now towards Math and attempting challenging questions. It’s also something that her TLL teacher commented on in the informal progress report she gave me at the end of the term. In her words, my girl “started off with apprehension in her mathematic ability. She would hardly attempt questions on her own and would require me to look over her shoulder as she did her work … Now, she takes the initiative to attempt questions on her own, even if she is unsure of the correct answer.”
Indeed, she used to give up immediately when she felt that the question was too challenging but now I notice that she really tries to apply the exam skills she learned at TLL. Her speed of mental calculations has also improved – when she started at TLL, she was still using her fingers to count when doing addition within 20.
Overall, we find that the lessons at TLL have been effective in boosting her self-confidence and improving her attitude towards Math. I also like that we don’t have to check through her TLL homework to ensure that she got every question right as the teacher expects the students to complete the homework without assistance so she knows which learning gaps to address. There is also constant revision of various topics as TLL assignments done in class and for homework span a wide range of topics, not just concentrating on the new one introduced. I will share more about the Math classes when I get to observe another lesson some time in Term 4, before the end of year exam preparation goes into full swing, to give a fuller picture of the Math programme – so be sure to keep a look out for my blog post.
As for my boy, I’d say that his attitude towards practising writing has improved in the course of the term. Before we started lessons at TLL, he already knew how to write his alphabets but he was not very keen on writing and there was plenty of room for improvement in his handwriting. When his TLL teacher first passed me the Reading Log, I was quite flabbergasted that there was actual homework to be done but eventually I realised that not only did the whole assignment provide the kids with good readers to learn to enjoy reading, it actually encouraged them to write purposefully and in my boy’s case, he got used to doing some writing and copying every week. For that, we are actually very pleased with him and how he adapted quickly, though he admittedly took a little longer to deal with separation anxiety in the first few sessions at TLL.
In the first week, I thought he wasn’t up to writing so I did the writing for the titles. In the second week, I let him take ownership of his work:
This is the page for his last assignment at the end of 13 weeks. It is so much neater and he takes pride in writing on the line!
I personally find that the N2 English class is pitched at really quite a high level as letter sounds are covered in N1, so N2 focuses on word families and letter sounds are not re-visited for new students who join in N2. There’s a gap there and TLL tries to fill it by providing new students who were not with them in N1 with an A-Z book which is issued in the term that they join.
Even though my little boy enjoyed the lessons at TLL, unfortunately being a single-income family, we have only enough resources to let my girl continue with her lessons. It’s a matter of who-needs-what-more for now. Meanwhile, we will definitely continue to encourage our boy to continue with what TLL has started with him.
For more information about the locations and programmes offered at The Learning Lab:
Disclosure: This is an advertorial. All opinions expressed are 100% mine.