Educational leadership & learning

Primary planning thoughts

The staff at my school and I are developing our Teaching for Learning policy over the course of this year. It seems an ideal time with the change of National Curriculum, with myself starting in post 2 weeks ago and with the school only opening 12 months ago.

We have already had conversations about developing a creative, engaging and purposeful curriculum which we hope will inspire our pupils. I have started dropping in to lessons and discussing the learning with both staff and pupils, but with an open dialogue approach, which involves lots of listening, posing of questions and minimal giving of suggestions.

We have also started looking as a staff at some of the research from Hattie, Peacock and Dweck and considering how some of the ideas might effect our practice. We are booking teachers time out to visit other schools and see learning in action there and will be undertaking some Research Lesson Studies ourselves starting next term.

 This week I have given staff the following hand out. I have made it very clear that this is not a prescribed expectation, a policy already written, or a checklist to tick off when planning. Having worked with a very inspiring HT recently I have seen first hand the benefit of encouraging staff to engage in creative and critical thinking when planning learning experiences for pupils. Developing people’s thinking leads to far more positive and powerful outcomes.

The ideas below are not exhaustive, I’m sure you could suggest more.

Also there are questions posed which indicate that there may well be a range of opinions about some of the content. That’s fine – because it gets people thinking.

If you have any thoughts you would care to share, please do reply. All debate gratefully welcomed!

Thoughts when planning…

You are planning “LEARNING EXPERIENCES” – learning should be the crucial focus of the thought process throughout.

Seeing the learning through the eyes of the learners

  • Sessions (series of sessions) / learning experiences / lessons (L.essons = learning sessions)?
  • WHY?
  • What is the PURPOSE of the planning?
  • Who is the planning for: Learners? You? Colleagues?
  • NB. This is not a checklist to be ticked.
  • There is no one right way to teach a lesson or to structure a learning experience. A plan is merely your intentions for learning based on knowledge of the learners from a range of previous assessments but the real time learning is an organic interactive process which cannot be 100% predicted.
  • (Variety, creativity, innovation, spark curiosity, engage, active participation, ownership of their process)
  • Consider:
  • LEARNING AIM (not the activity / not what they will do – what you want them to LEARN). Does it always have to be shared at the beginning? Can they work it out as the learning proceeds? Do they know what they are learning? Do they know WHY they are learning it? How does it fit with previous and future learning?
  • BIG PICTURE explanation for the learners: How does this fit into other learning? Previous learning? Their lives? How is useful / can be applied now and in the future?
  • Success Criteria / WILF / Target Tips… whatever we call it, do they know? How often do the learners create it with you? With each other?
  • INPUT: what information / explanations / instructions do they need? What can they discover for themselves? How many different ways could this be done (VARIETY)? Modelling / Shared / Guided? Short / focused / interactive. How can the children’s cognitive and physically active engagement be enhanced? What might be most effective way for these children, with this learning on this day?
  • LEARNING ACTIVITIES. How open? How much choice do the learners have? Variety of types developing a range of knowledge and skills in a wide VARIETY of contexts over a period of time? How do they apply their LEARNING across the curriculum
  • ENGAGEMENT: Are they engrossed in the learning? Is it impossible to distract them? Are they EMPOWERED – given the learning and attitude to take it further? Are they IMAGINATIVE and CURIOUS? Are they PASSIONATE about what they are LEARNING? Is there effective pace and rigour?
  • CHALLENGE: Are they in their comfort zone (too easy)? Are they in their panic zone (too hard)? Stretch zone. A LEARNING GAP, not a chasm – one that they can cross (maybe with some help). HIGH EXPECTATIONS. Do they have a positive / resilient attitude towards challenge? A ‘Growth Mindset’ where they embrace challenge? How little can you do to maximise the learning? How often do you allow struggle? How much problem-solving do they do for themselves?
  • DIFFERENTIATION: Balance between identifying specific groups / individuals for targeted precise interventions / guided work and ‘low threshold – high ceiling’ tasks. HIGH EXPECTATIONS.
  • SCAFFOLDS / PROMPTS: What do predict will be learning hurdles? What pre-prepared scaffolds have you got? How responsive are you to LEARNERS ‘in the moment’ of the session? How adaptive are you and they? Learning is messy / non-linear / organic. Do you ACTIVATE the learning?
  • MINI-INTERVENTIONS / FEEDBACK: When and how do you pause them? Is it always whole class? How do you use questions? Is it to re-focus? To support? To challenge and extend their thinking? How often do LEARNERS share their ideas / learning to move others on? Are they given quality time to respond to FEEDBACK and make improvements?
  • CHOICES: Do they have some choice of the level of challenge? Choice over tools / resources that they can use when and how they wish? Choice over flexible working independently / interdependently? Do they think critically and make wise choices to enhance their learning?
  • BALANCE: Knowledge, skills, concepts, attitudes. MASTERY of key knowledge / skills (e.g. decoding, writing, number bonds, concept of Place Value…) with opportunities for DEEPER THINKING and developing HIGHER ORDER SKILLS (analysis, applying, evaluating, creating). Are they making sense of their learning for themselves (being MEANING MAKERS)? How are they applying their LEARNING across the curriculum?
  • EVIDENCE OF LEARNING: What do you expect to see / hear to evidence learning and progress? How are you tracking LEARNING and PROGRESS to adapt future planning?
  • REFLECTION TIME / PLENARY: Is there sufficient time? Do the LEARNERS understand why this is crucial? Do they reflect on content / progress / how they learnt / how it might be applied / how it might be developed in future?



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