Showing posts with label national curriculum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label national curriculum. Show all posts

Monday, 8 June 2020

Decolonising and Diversifying the Primary History Curriculum: A Journey (Part 1)

Before you read this, please consume the following:

Jeffrey Boakye's 'The long, insidious, shadows of colonialism': https://bigeducation.org/lfl-content/the-long-insidious-shadows-of-colonialism/

Pran Patel's 'Decolonise The Curriculum': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JjRQTuzqTU (and when you have time, check out the whole stash of articles on his website: https://theteacherist.com/category/decolonise-the-curriculum/)

And, if you've got even longer, seek out both Akala's 'Natives' and Reni Eddo-Lodge's 'Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race' who both have a little longer to convince you of why it is necessary that we decolonise the curriculum.

If you're still here, and it is OK not to be because the above articles are far more important than my own, I'd like to mull over what we might do to decolonise and diversify the primary curriculum. Writing this way is my way of thinking things through, but it may help some readers on their own journey. It may be that I get loads wrong - in this case I hope I am told I am wrong by those who know better. Hopefully, in the very least, it can be a conversation starter that moves us all on in our thinking, understanding and actions.

For the purposes of this blog post, I have set a starting point for myself of analysing the subject of History, and more specifically, British History.

In the above article Boakye says: "In education, manifestations of structural racism are both dramatic and visible. We can list them: The pervasive whiteness of our curriculum. The lack of criticality towards Britain’s colonial past. The lack of diversity in texts, narratives and voices."

What I want to consider is how we can begin to make meaningful changes to the curriculum we teach. Rewriting a whole curriculum is something that takes time and collective decisions. So, for practicality, first of all I ask, is it possible to adapt our current curriculum in order to better represent the history of BAME people and to begin to deconstruct systemic racism?

In his book 'Black and British', David Olusoga writes: "Black history is too often regarded as a segregated, ghettoized narrative that runs in its own shallow channel alongside the mainstream, only very occasionally becoming a tributary into that broader narrative. But black British history is not an optional extra. Nor is it a bolt-on addition to mainstream British history deployed only occasionally in order to add – literally – a splash of colour to favoured epochs of the national story. It is an integral and essential aspect of mainstream British history. Britain’s interactions with Africa, the role of black people within British history and the history of the empire are too significant to be marginalized, brushed under the carpet or corralled into some historical annexe."

Firstly, if we are considering adapting the curriculum, we really must be serious about avoiding the pitfalls that Olusoga outlines above:

  1. Black history cannot be optional - it must be insisted on, part of the written, set curriculum, and shouldn't be left to the whims and desires and expertise, or lack thereof, of individual teachers - it almost needs to be set in stone. Why does it have to be there? Look at the last sentence of the Olusoga quote - that's the truth.
  2. Black history should not be seen as a bolt-on - it should not just be 1 lesson in 12 which, for example, highlights a famous black person from history. This will be seen, whether consciously or sub-consciously, as paying lip service to teaching black history. Students under this curriculum will know that it means that it doesn't matter as much as the other 11 lessons.
  3. Black history can, and should be, black British history - there are more easily-accessible resources out there to teach about the American Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, but we need to to do better than this. Actually, there would be no black American history if it was not for black British history - we, and other European countries, were the colonisers. The Atlantic slave trade should not be taught as disconnected from the ones who made it all happen - the British, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the French, the Dutch and the Danish. Teaching slavery as something that only happened in America in the cotton fields is dishonest.
Secondly, we must ask if teaching Black history is the same as truly decolonising the curriculum. Actually, if you take Boakye's quote from above, there is a separation between making the curriculum less 'white' and being more critical of Britain's colonial past.

Simply teaching about Mary Seacole, self-funded nurse in the Crimean War, without exploring her parentage (Scottish soldier father who was stationed by the British empire in Jamaica, Jamaican free-woman mother), and how Jamaica came to be peopled by those of African descent, may well be teaching some aspects of black history, but it is not decolonising the curriculum, or attempting at all to deconstruct systemic racism. It is hiding away inconvenient truths about Britain's not-so-great past. Truths that make us feel uncomfortable - that's if we even bother to question and find out about them in the first place.

To us white teachers, it might actually be quite scary to begin to ask the question Why are there black Britons? After all, it all sounds a bit racist to be even be focusing on the colour of their skin, or their ethnicity. It even feels sort of go-back-where-you-came-from - and most of us don't want to be racist at all.

Olusoga recounts how Stuart Hall, British-Jamaican sociologist, "explained to his British readers that the immigrants ‘are here because you were there’". If we pretend to be colour-blind then we ignore too much. He need to see ethnicity in our curriculum, and we need to interrogate and explain how the history of a black British person is deeply connected to any other aspect British history, particularly colonialism, because it inevitably will be. In carrying out this kind of investigation, both at planning stage as teachers, and with the children during lessons, we will begin to decolonise the curriculum.

But in doing that, we will only begin to decolonise the curriculum. The next step would be to call into question the actions of the British empire. I don't think I'm too naive to think that most children, when exposed to the truths of the British empire's modus operandi the world over, will quite quickly identify the injustices, cruelty and immorality.

However, children will not have the chance to identify the above if teachers do not present it to them. And teachers who have also grown up within the British education system have also fallen prey to its whitewashed curriculum and scarce mentioning of the actions of the empire and its colonists, slave traders and apologists. We teachers must educate ourselves. It won't be enough to download a powerpoint from TES about Harriet Tubman and teach through that one afternoon. We have to know so much more. In order to educate or children we must educate ourselves - I can guarantee that there are very few of us who actually know enough history to really begin to make amends - myself included.

My current action - and I believe sharing our actions is a good thing to do, even if it might seem self-centred - is to read the aforementioned David Olusoga book. Now that I am convinced of the need to see colour, and that the curriculum does need a major renovation, I know I must read incessantly to begin to learn everything that my education has so far deprived me of. As I've read I have already identified lots of interesting case studies which can be brought into the current units of work as set out by the National Curriculum. I have noted areas of the History curriculum that most schools cover which should take in significant portions of history which, if taught and critiqued, would be a good step towards providing a decolonised primary curriculum. I already have some ideas forming of how the curriculum at my school, which is by no means devoid of BAME history, can be vastly improved. I also benefit from standing at a point in time where I am currently writing unit overviews which outline the content of each session within the sequence so find myself well placed to really set things in place which ensure a better curriculum for the future.

At the outset I asked is it possible to adapt our current curriculum in order to better represent the history of BAME people and to begin to deconstruct systemic racism? I'm not sure that in the above ramblings I have actually answered that question. Instead I think I may have extracted from the writings of more knowledgeable people than I some principles that might help me as I continue on my journey to having a decolonised and diversified primary curriculum. It remains my quest to continue to learn, to think and to create in order to come closer to answering that question.

And if the answer to the questions ends up being a no? Well, then I suppose a complete rewrite is in order.

I would love to hear from any readers who have been prompted by any thoughts or questions about the primary curriculum during the reading of this, or indeed during the last few days. I know that my own musings will be hugely enhanced by some collaboration and discussion, and as mentioned at the start, I am open to criticism (although would request, if I may, that it remains constructive and is conducted in a respectful manner). Crucially, I acknowledge the fact that as a white British male, my curriculum design, even after reading books by people who know what they're talking about, might still not cut the mustard - I will need to listen to the voices of those who are most negatively affected by the current colonised curriculum. Please do speak and join with me in this journey.

Next I will most likely tackle the question if it is possible to adapt the current curriculum, in what ways would we go about doing that? in which I will hopefully be able to share some specific examples pertaining to specific units within the primary history curriculum of how the curriculum could be decolonised and diversified. In doing so I am sure that I will be able to share a great many resources that are already in existence, as well as perhaps some of my own ideas.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Beware The Reverse-Engineered Curriculum (or The Potential Pitfalls Of Going For Retrieval Practice Pell-Mell)

Aren't Knowledge Organisers brilliant? Isn't Retrieval Practice just the bees knees? As for Powerful Knowledge... sigh - the stuff dreams are made of.

Over the last couple of years, many of us have taken the outcomes of relatively recent research and applied it to the way we teach and we are pleased with how it's going - children are actually learning, retaining and retrieving information, something which, if we're honest, didn't always happen before.

But what seems to me to have happened is that we have found something that actually, reliably works, and we have made our curricula work for it. We've realised that retrieval practice does make a difference and we've begun to design a curriculum which focuses on what can be learned by that method.

Sure, there are other arguments for teaching Powerful Knowledge - it's supposed to ‘enable students to acquire knowledge that takes them beyond their own experiences’ (Young et al., 2014, p. 7) and for this reason it is often held up as essential for children from disadvantaged backgrounds who we see as needing to be upwardly-mobile socially. Powerful Knowledge is seen to be the answer to closing the gap between the rich and the poor.

Perhaps it isn't even Powerful Knowledge that we're even talking about here, but actually what is known as Declarative Knowledge - facts and information stored in the memory. I'm not sure Powerful Knowledge could be defined so narrowly. Powerful Knowledge is supposed to be more than that.

Whatever terminology we use, the focus on knowledge is potentially narrowing what is taught and how it is taught. And this narrowing is perhaps now coming as a result of the most vaunted method of teaching the knowledge from a knowledge-rich curriculum: retrieval practice. And more specifically, the activity that seems to have become synoymous with retrieval practice: quizzing.

Because retrieval practice works so well, we seem to have searched out the things that best suit the method: the sort of information that can be retrieved and recited e.g. history dates, word definitions, geographic processes, scientific theories and outlines of philosophical concepts, for example.

But is it right to have allowed a certain understanding of the concept of Powerful Knowledge to reduce our curriculum to the identification of exactly which pieces of information we are going to teach, and to the teaching of that information using retrieval practice techniques?

Indeed, possessing Powerful Knowledge, and being able to retrieve it, is supposed to be so much more than rote learning; more than memorising and regurgitating facts. Done right, it should, lead to better understanding and it should improve complex thinking and application skills.

But is an approach to teaching and learning which is satisfied by children who can simply recall information really what's best? The recall of information is not the end of the story. A high score on a (supposedly low stakes) quiz should not mean job done.

Actually, I'd argue, once the facts are memorised, that's when the real teaching and learning begins. Once children know the facts, that's when they can start to use and apply them in various ways. Powerful Knowledge is supposed to allow us to generalise and use what we've learned to think beyond the immediate context.

And don't forget procedural knowledge - how to do things. You can't teach writing, artistic techniques or how to use a tool just by teaching facts. Any time we model something (and this is something we should do a lot in teaching) we are teaching procedural knowledge. This procedural knowledge is separate from 'common sense' knowledge which we gain from everyday life, and therefore lands it more in the realms of Powerful Knowledge. However, the focus on bolstering the curriculum with declarative knowledge has the potential to leave procedural knowledge behind. A balanced approach is needed.

Does your recently-re-written curriculum (all 'i's dotted - intent, implementation and impact) allow the learning to go beyond the retrieval of facts? Or has a child who has learned all the dates on the knowledge organiser and filled in the gaps in the booklet succeeded in all you set out to do? And did that child get the opportunity to do anything else that half term, or did they spend all of their time ensuring they knew all the facts?

If we reverse-engineer the curriculum based on one teaching method which allows one aspect of what might be taught to be taught, then we might not end up with the curriculum we really need.

Those of us involved in curriculum design or review should think carefully about the problems we are trying to solve in order to decide on the criteria we need to set for our curriculum development. We should definitely identify the declarative knowledge we want children to learn - the facts, the information - but we should also be thinking about other kinds of knowledge too.

Things to think about

  • Don't narrow your curriculum down to just the things that can be learned through quizzing. 
  • Think more broadly about how a greater range of retrieval practice techniques can be used to help children learn things from a wider knowledge base than just simple facts and figures. 
  • Ensure that your curriculum really meets the needs of the children in your school and let them be your starting point.

Friday, 29 November 2019

History Key Questions To Ask When Learning About A Person, Event or Period in KS1

Last year I provided a list of Key Questions linked to the KS2 National Curriculum. Since then , a few people have asked for a KS1 set of questions. When it came up as a potential need in my own school, I decided to act.

Here are a set of questions, split into three categories (People, Events and Periods of Time) that teachers can use to structure their planning and teaching. Some of the questions may be suitable for children to ask themselves, others might be better used as guidance for teachers as they plan content. Many of the questions across the three categories are very similar although there are one or two more category-specific questions.

to download these questions as a Word document, go to TES.com: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/key-questions-to-ask-and-answer-during-ks1-history-units-12217633

People

Questions to ask about historical figures who are studied in years 1 and 2:

Characteristics:

What are the most important facts about this person?
What do these important facts tell me about this person? (focus on understanding, rather than knowing facts)

Where (linked to KS2 Elsewhere):

Where did this person come from?

Evidence:

How do we know about this person?

Significance:

What did this person achieve or help to achieve?
Did this person’s actions change anything for the future? How did they make a difference?

Timeline:

When in history did this person live? (birth dates and death dates)
Did this person live before or after [another person/event they have studied] lived/happened?
How many years before or after [another person/event they have studied] lived/happened did this person live?
What period of time did this person live in?
Did this person live within or beyond living memory? (living memory: can be remembered by people who are still alive now, not children’s own living memory)

Events

Questions to ask about historical events which are studied in years 1 and 2:

Characteristics:

What are the most important parts of (key facts about) this event?
What do these key facts tell me about this event? (focus on understanding, rather than knowing facts)

Where (linked to KS2 Elsewhere):

Where did this event take place?

Evidence:

How do we know that this event happened?

Significance:

Did this event change anything for the future? How did it make a difference?

Timeline:

When in history did this event happen? (day/month/year(s))
What period of time did this event happen in?
Did this event happen before or after [another person/event they have studied] lived/happened?
How many years before or after [another person/event they have studied] lived/happened did this event happen?
Did this event occur within or beyond living memory? (living memory: can be remembered by people who are still alive now, not children’s own living memory)

Periods of Time

Questions to ask about historical periods of time which are studied in years 1 and 2:

Characteristics:

What is similar about the way people lived in this time period and [another time period they have studied]?
What is different about the way people lived in this time period and [another time period they have studied]?
What are the most important things (key facts) to know about this period of time?
What do these key facts tell me about life in this period of time? (focus on understanding, rather than knowing facts)
What important events happened in this time?
Which important people lived in this time?

Where (linked to KS2 Elsewhere):

Did the things that happened in this time period happen in a particular place?
Were things the same everywhere in the world during this time period?

Evidence:

How do we know about this period of time?

Significance:

How did life change during this period of time?
Did this time period change anything for the future? How did it make a difference?

Timeline:

When did this period of time begin and end? (specific years and approximate number of years duration)
Was this period of time before or after [another person/event /time period they have studied] lived/happened?
How many years before or after [another person/event/time period they have studied] lived/happened was this period of time?
Did this period of time occur within or beyond living memory? (living memory: can be remembered by people who are still alive now, not children’s own living memory)


Also available:

Geography Key Questions for KS1 and 2: http://www.thatboycanteach.co.uk/2019/06/geography-key-questions-place-national-curriculum.html

Friday, 14 June 2019

Geography Key Questions To Ask When Learning About A Place

When reviewing and revising our curriculum to ensure better humanities coverage I began to think about how there were potentially missed opportunities for children to be revisiting and re-enforcing geography knowledge and skills.

For example, when children learn about the Ancient Romans, they might learn about Italy, or indeed any of the other places in the Roman Empire. As well as ensuring that children can place the historic period on a timeline and so on, I think it is also worth them knowing about the places where events took place.

I began to think that a common approach to learning about these places might help teachers to provide sufficient and consistent information about them. I decided a set of questions that could be asked and answered whenever a new place was 'discovered' might be a good way to structure this common approach.

The hope is that, with these questions, children will begin to build up a) a good knowledge of the world, and b) a good bank of questions that they might begin to ask more autonomously whenever they come across the mention of place that they do not know much about.

I used the National Curriculum as guidance for the following questions with the intention that NC objectives would be covered multiple times during a child's time in school.

As well as sets of questions, I've also proposed some actions that might be undertaken each time a new place is learned about - one of the main aims of these actions is that children know where in the world each place that is studied is located.

A downloadable version of the below is available for free on TES: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/geography-key-questions-linked-to-ks1-2-national-curriculum-12133248

Thanks must go to Geography Meg on Twitter for inspiring me with her CLOCC acronym.

KS1

When learning about a new place (for example, during non-geography-based units, such as history-based units) always ask and answer these questions:

COWWS:

  • CONTINENT – Which continent is it in?
  • OCEANS AND SEAS – Which oceans or seas are nearby?
  • WEATHER – What is the weather like there? Is it hot or cold there? Is it near the equator or the poles?
  • WHO AND WHAT – Who (people) and what (animals and plants) live there?
  • SEE – What would we see there? What is natural? What has been made by humans?

A pre-populated COWWS grid - a blank
version can be found in the TES download.
When learning about a new place (for example, during non-geography-based units, such as history-based units) always carry out these actions:

• 1st: Locate it on a map of the county/region it is in (and show and discuss, using simple compass directions and locational language, where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location)
• 2nd: Locate it on a map of the country it is in (and show and discuss, using simple compass directions and locational language, where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location)3rd: Locate it on a map of the world (and show where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location)
• Locate it on a globe (and show and discuss, using simple compass directions and locational language, where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location)
• Locate it on a plan perspective or on aerial photographs
• Show images of the place (avoid only showing stereotypical images, especially when studying a whole continent or country)

KS2

When learning about a new place (for example, during non-geography-based units, such as history-based units) always ask and answer these questions:

General questions to ask about location:

HOTCLUB:

  • HEMISPHERE - Which hemisphere(s) is it in?
  • OTHER PLACES - Where is it in relation to other places we have studied or know about, including countries and continents (using 8 points of a compass)?
  • TIMEZONE - Which timezone(s) is it in?
  • CLIMATE - Which climate zone(s) is it in? (Tropical/Dry/Temperate/Continental/Polar)
  • LATITUDE - Where is it in relationship to the main lines of latitude (using 8 points of a compass)? (Arctic Circle/Tropic of Cancer/Equator/Tropic of Capricorn/Antarctic Circle) What is its latitude and longitude?
  • US - Where is it in relation to our village/town/city/county/country?
  • BODIES OF WATER - Which bodies of water are nearby?


A pre-populated HOTCLUB grid - a blank
version can be found in the TES download.
Questions to ask about the location…

…Of a continent:

• Which countries are in this continent?

…Of a country:

• What is the capital city?
• Which major cities are in this country?
• Which other countries are nearby?

…Of a city/town/village:

• Which country is it in?
• Which continent is it in?
• Which other cities/towns/villages are nearby?
• Which county/region is it located in?
• What is its grid reference?
• What are its origins?

General questions to ask about any continent/country/city etc:

Human Geography

• Who lives there?
• Which major landmarks are found here?
• What human-made features are found here?
• How was the land used here now and in the past?
• What types of settlement are found here?
• What kinds of economic activity happen here?
• Which natural resources can be found here?
• What is its population?
• (If studying a country) What do they export and where do they export it to?
• (If studying a country) What do they import and where do they import it from?

Physical Geography

• Which (terrestrial) biomes are found here? (Rain Forest/Deciduous Forest/Desert/Temperate Grassland/Tropical Grassland/ Taiga/Tundra)
• What lives there?
• What is the elevation like?
• Which major rivers and valleys are found here?
• Which major mountains are found here?
• Which natural disasters are known to happen here?

Additional, non-essential questions to ask (a non-exhaustive list):

• What is the place famous for?
• What kind of food is eaten there?
• Which religions are followed there?
• Which famous people are from there?
• What are houses and buildings like there?
• What happened there in the past?
• Which sports are played there?
• What is it like to live there?

Geography Units

If carrying out a geography-specific unit use the majority of the questions from STEEP in addition to the above questions in order to ask more in-depth questions about the place:

• Social
• Technological
• Economic
• Environmental
• Political

(Thanks to Geo Josie on Twitter for STEEP)

When learning about a new place (for example, during non-geography-based units, such as history-based units) always carry out these actions:

• 1st: Locate it on a map of the county/region it is in (and show where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location; lines of latitude; hemispheres)
• 2nd: Locate it on a map of the country it is in (and show where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location; lines of latitude; hemispheres)
• 3rd: Locate it on a map of the world (and show where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location; lines of latitude; hemispheres)
• Use computer mapping (e.g. google maps) to zoom in to and out of the place, discussing location in relation to other known places
• Locate it on a political map (and look at nearby countries and borders)
• Locate it on a physical/topographic map (and look at elevation, mountains, rivers, bodies of water)
• Locate it on a climate map (and look at the colours used to show different climatic areas)
• Locate it on a map with a satellite image overlay
• Locate it on a globe (and show where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location; lines of latitude; hemispheres)
• Locate it on an Ordnance Survey map (and identify its grid reference and use symbols to locate local features)
• Show images of the place (avoid only showing stereotypical images, especially when studying a whole continent or country)

Useful resources for preparing information to help children answer HOTCLUB questions:

HEMISPHERE - Which hemisphere(s) is it in?

Use Google: type in ‘ + hemisphere’ e.g. ‘Algeria Hemisphere for the following, or similar:


OTHER PLACES - Where is it in relation to other places we have studied or know about, including countries and continents (using 8 points of a compass)?


https://www.climate-zone.com/ - gives information about where any country is located in relation to nearby places


TIMEZONE - Which timezone(s) is it in?


Use Google: type in ‘ + timezone’ e.g. ‘Madagascar timezone’ for the following, or similar:



https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/personal.html - use this customisable site and the snipping tool to get a snip of clocks showing GMT and any other city in any other time zone e.g.:



https://www.worldatlas.com/ - click on a continent/country; use the ‘time’ tab to find out about timezones


CLIMATE - Which climate zone(s) is it in? (Tropical/Dry/Temperate/Continental/Polar)


Tropical (A)/Dry (B)/Temperate (C)/Continental (D)/Polar (E) are the main 5 classifications in Köppen’s climate classification system. More information can be found at the following sites:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%B6ppen_climate_classification


https://www.mindat.org/climate.php - use the colours on the map to ascertain climate zone


https://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Geography/Climate - some of the terminology here is slightly different to Köppen’s climate classification system but it is useful nonetheless.


LATITUDE - Where is it in relationship to the main lines of latitude (using 8 points of a compass)? (Arctic Circle/Tropic of Cancer/Equator/Tropic of Capricorn/Antarctic Circle) What is its latitude and longitude?


https://www.climate-zone.com/ - gives the geographic coordinates for any country


https://www.worldatlas.com/ - use a world map from this site (or similar) to find and describe a place’s location in relation to the main lines of latitude. This site also gives latitude and longitude of any country and its main cities.

US - Where is it in relation to our village/town/city/county/country? 


Use a map to locate both places and describe position using compass points with reference to the prime meridian (Longitude 0º, Greenwich Mean Time) as this runs through the UK e.g. ‘India is to the south east of the prime meridian making it south east of the UK’


Use Google: type in ‘ to distance’ e.g. ‘UK to India distance’ for the following, or similar (add ‘km’ to search to change unit of measurement):



BODIES OF WATER - Which bodies of water are nearby?


Use a map to locate nearby major oceans and seas


Use Google: type in ‘rivers longest’ or similar e.g. ‘rivers France longest’ for the following, or similar:



Generic resources, useful for answering most of the questions:


https://www.climate-zone.com/ - gives official name, capital, area, climate, location, geographic coordinates, comparative area, land boundaries, coastline (length), terrain and elevation extremes for any country.


https://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/flags/flags.htm - flags of the world


https://www.worldatlas.com/ - for each country there are various maps (including physical, outline and location maps), basic information (including area, population, population density, currency, largest cities), history, famous natives, weather, general facts, historical timeline and more.


https://www.mapsofindia.com/worldmap/ - a wide selection of world maps can be found here including physical, political, outline, climate, tectonic plates, world time and religion maps (these maps cannot be downloaded but can be viewed on screen)


https://askabiologist.asu.edu/sites/default/files/resources/articles/biomes/world-biomes-map.gif - a useful map of the world showing biomes closely matched to the biomes selected to use (its accompanying article is useful too for defining the different biome types: https://askabiologist.asu.edu/explore/biomes)


https://www.internetgeography.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/world-map-biomes-.png - a useful map of the world showing biomes closely matched to the biomes selected to use (its accompanying article is useful too for defining the different biome types: https://www.internetgeography.net/topics/what-is-a-biome/)


https://www.britannica.com – use this site to search for information about a place – best for countries, but also works for cities too – information for towns is limited.


https://www.kids-world-travel-guide.com/


https://www.natgeokids.com/


https://tutorful.co.uk/blog/learning-geography-useful-websites-and-resources-that-will-rock-your-world - a huge list of websites and apps to support geography learning

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

From the @TES Blog: 7 Ways To Make Art Inspiring At Primary

Actually '7 Ways To Choose Artists, Artworks and Artistic Movements For Your Primary Curriculum' would have been a more accurate title...



As well as developing skills within the realms of drawing, painting and sculpture, and producing their own creative works of art, children, according to the National Curriculum, should also ‘know about great artists, craft makers and designers, and understand the historical and cultural development of their art forms’.

The artwork of others is one of the greatest sources of inspiration and information when it comes to children learning, and then applying, skills to their own pieces of work. So it is important that we teach them to appreciate the human creativity and achievement of the world’s most renowned artists.

But it is also important that the artwork, artists and artistic movements we expose our children to isn’t just a line up the usual suspects. A planned, whole school approach to developing an art curriculum is essential. Perhaps due to a lack of knowledge or time, teachers will often wheel out the same old, same olds, often meaning that children see similar things over and over again.

Read more here: https://www.tes.com/news/art-curriculum-inspiring-primary

Thursday, 7 March 2019

From The @TES Blog: 6 Ways To Get D&T Right At Primary


“Design and technology is an inspiring, rigorous and practical subject…”

But is it really, in your school? I mean, it could be. But how do we ensure in primary schools that it is?

Read the article here: https://www.tes.com/news/6-ways-get-dt-right-primary

Friday, 21 December 2018

A Model For Teaching The Wider Curriculum

After two half terms in my new school, and since curriculum planning and delivery is a hot topic, I thought I'd share a document I put together to help us visualise and explain the logistics of how we teach the wider curriculum.

The purpose of organising the delivery of the curriculum this way is to achieve the following, which we consider to be aspects of the school's culture which help us to deliver on our vision and values:
  • Responding to misconceptions through same day intervention
  • Setting children learning challenges (Apprentice Tasks) that are open-ended and encourage decision making (and time management)
  • Setting up inspirational areas of provision within the environment
  • Providing frequent masterclasses which communicate age-appropriate skills in all areas of the curriculum
  • Supporting children to critique their own work and that of others
By delivering the curriculum this way we hope to ensure that all areas of the curriculum are covered and that they aren't being squeezed out by Maths and English. We also hope that as a result of taking this approach children will not produce near-identical pieces of work. As well as this we aim to provide children with less structured time which gives them opportunities to engage in decision making and time management. Because there is less structured time than in a more traditional timetable teachers are also freed up to spend time on same day interventions based on feedback gained during all lessons, including Maths and English.

The green sequence shows what the adults are doing during the sessions; the turquoise sequence shows how children are grouped.
Units of Work

Each unit of work runs for one half term. The length of the half term will dictate the number of Apprentice Tasks set and the number of Masterclasses that take place.

Each unit of work is based on a book. Units of work cover National Curriculum objectives as well as objectives taken from the school’s own skills continuums for painting, drawing, clay work, woodwork etc. Long Term Planning documents ensure coverage of all objectives.

Each unit of work is also centres around a question which should be answered by the end of the unit using information learned during the half term.

Units of work usually cover a range of national curriculum subjects although there is often a predominant subject e.g. Space covers mainly Science but also some History and Geography, Castles covers mainly History but also some Geography. Currently most Science is taught discretely by a cover teacher during teachers’ PPA.

Key Fact Sheets

Knowledge teaching is supported by Key Fact Sheets which contain 10 key facts for the topic and 10 key pieces of vocabulary. This information is learned by heart supported by various retrieval practice activities. A Key Fact Sheet is produced per unit of work prior to the planning of the unit to ensure teachers know what it is they want children to know by the end.

Facts on the Key Fact Sheets should spark intrigue and should be a gateway to further learning. They should provoke children to ask questions and to want to find out more.

Key vocabulary words should be linked to the theme of the unit and should be words that will be used regularly in both spoken and written language during the unit. Child-friendly definitions should be written by teachers.

Diagrams and useful images may be included on the Key Fact Sheet.

The Showcase

The Showcase event provides an audience and purpose to all the apprentice tasks. It might be in the form of an exhibition, gallery, exposition or a screening. Alternative audiences/purposes might be a website, a tea party (e.g if the unit is formed around Alice in Wonderland) or a show. This event is decided upon before planning the Apprentice Tasks to ensure all tasks feed into this final event.

Apprentice Tasks and Masterclasses

Apprentice Tasks are open-ended tasks which allow children to operate with some freedom and creativity. However, each task has a set of objectives that should be demonstrated in the final piece. The expectation is that each child produces unique and original pieces of work.

Each Apprentice Task, or sequence of Masterclasses, is typically controlled by one member of staff: they source or make exemplars, research information further to the core information contained on the Key Fact Sheets, deliver the masterclasses and support children during the independent application stage.

One Apprentice Task might require more than one sequence of Masterclasses running consecutively. For example, an Apprentice Task which requires children to produce a painting might have two sequences of Masterclasses: drawing skills and painting skills.

During a Masterclass focusing on creative skills such as woodwork, painting, drawing or clay work, children will create studies which will help them to practise the skills they will need to complete the Apprentice Task.

Not all Masterclasses focus on skills teaching. There are also regular Masterclasses focusing on knowledge teaching, particularly linked to Science, Geography and History. These Masterclasses expand on the Key Facts from the Key Facts Sheets.

Some Masterclasses may focus on producing a final piece for an Apprentice Task – this would occur when children need more adult input, for example if it is too soon to expect independent application of the skills.

Some Apprentice Tasks may be group tasks, most are individual tasks.

Some Apprentice Tasks may be worked on as part of the English lessons, particularly where writing is a major component e.g. a script for a documentary, a poem, a story, a report. In this case, the Masterclasses become the whole class/half class teaching inputs.

Logistics and Organisation

Although a detailed Medium Term Plan is produced, logistical and organisational planning takes place weekly to ensure best use of time and adults. This might sometimes making decisions to provide whole class inputs rather than repeated group inputs, making decisions about length of time needed to complete a Masterclass carousel and so on. No two weeks look exactly the same where timetabling is concerned.

Most of this work takes place in afternoons once Maths and English has been taught. However, English is sometimes taught in half-class (or smaller) groups whilst some children complete a Masterclass or work on their Apprentice tasks.

Materials needed to complete Apprentice Tasks are readily available either in classrooms or in shared areas. Most of them are displayed in sight and not kept in cupboards – children can access what they need when they need it without needing to ask for it.

The Environment

As well as the Apprentice Tasks and the Masterclasses there are also further activities (linked to prior teaching in all subjects) which children can access (usually independently) during the time set aside for work on the wider curriculum. These will be set up in classrooms in the same way that Early Years classrooms have activities set up in areas of provision.

Equipment for all subjects is available to the children at all times enabling them to continue to practise skills learnt in Masterclasses.

The following are some images of the studio area we have developed outside of the classroom as an additional learning environment. The classrooms in year 5 are set up as fairly traditional classrooms with a bank of 5 computers each - the size of the rooms and the size of the children meant that to provide the aforementioned items in our environment we had to use some other space.







Monday, 25 September 2017

What Does 'Greater Depth' Look Like In Primary Maths?


What do we mean by 'Greater Depth' in maths? What would a child working at greater depth be doing? How can we support children to work at greater depth? With a little detective work we can piece together a good idea of what we might be talking about.

At first, we might think that to be working at greater depth in maths children should be fluent in their mathematical ability, and that they should be able to solve problems and reason well. But that can't be it as the National Curriculum states that those are the aims for ALL pupils:


So whilst children working at greater depth will be fluent and will solve problems and reason mathematically, we can't use those indicators to define 'Greater Depth' in maths. The National Curriculum document does give us another clue, however:

We might define children who work at greater depth as still working within the expected standard but at a deeper level; this is how the Interim Teacher Assessment Framework (ITAF) classifies them. These children will most likely be children who 'grasp concepts rapidly' - let's assume the two are synonymous. For these children, the ones working at greater depth, we should provide 'rich and sophisticated problems' and we shouldn't just be getting them to move on to the next year group's work - this is made clear in the NC document and the language of the ITAF: working within the expected standard. So, as an indicator, those working at greater depth should be able to access 'rich and sophisticated problems'.

But what about 'mastery'? A word mentioned only twice in the National Curriculum document (in relation only to English and Art) but one which has been bandied about a lot since its publication. If a child demonstrates mastery, could they be considered to be working at greater depth? In a word: no. The NCETM have this to say: "Mastery of mathematics is something that we want pupils - all pupils - to acquire, or rather to continue acquiring throughout their school lives, and beyond." Again we see that word 'all'. The NCETM say that "at any one point in a pupil’s journey through school, achieving mastery is taken to mean acquiring a solid enough understanding of the maths that’s been taught to enable him/her move on to more advanced material" - mastery is something which allows children to move on to be taught new content (c.f. to the NC) whereas working at greater depth pertains to working on current content, but at a deeper level. Notice those words 'solid enough' - a child working at greater depth won't just have 'solid enough' understanding - they'll have something more than that.

The Key Stage 2 ITAF does not contain any information about what a children working at greater depth should look like by the end of year 6 so we have to look to the Key Stage 1 ITAF for more clues. Thankfully Rachel Rayner, a Mathematics Adviser at Herts for Learning, has done a great piece of work on this already. Her article 'Greater Depth at KS1 is Elementary My Dear Teacher' identifies three key differences between the statements and exemplification material for working at the expected standard and working at greater depth within the expected standard: she says that for pupils to be working at greater depth they should confidently and independently be able to deal with increases in complexity, deduction and reasoning. Please do read her article for more information about, and examples of, these three areas.

Complexity

Complexity is not about giving children bigger numbers, nor is it necessarily giving them more numbers (for example, giving children more numbers to add together, or order). Complexity needs to be something more as, based on curriculum objectives, giving bigger numbers is just a case of moving children onto the content of a following year group.

So, how do we provide more complex work which will challenge those children identified as working at greater depth? One consultant advises that "in order to provide greater challenge we should keep the concept intact while changing the context." And, anyone who has witnessed a year 6 class doing their SATs will know that if there's one thing that throws them more than anything, it's the context of the questions. The test writers come up with endless ways of presenting maths problems but children working at greater depth are very rarely phased by these, whereas children working at the expected standard will come up against a few that they cannot answer.

The best bet for increasing the complexity of the maths but continuing to work within the expectations for the year group is to present the problems differently, and in as many ways as is possible. The more children are exposed to problems presented in new ways, the more confidently they will approach maths problems in generally - gradually, nothing will phase them and they will have the determination to apply their maths skills to anything they come across.

The NCETM Teaching for Mastery documents, although designed for assessment purposes, contain a wide range of complex problems under the heading 'Mastery with Greater Depth'. Organised under the curriculum objectives, these provide a great starting point for teachers to begin thinking outside the box with their maths questioning. Here's an example from the Year 1 document:


A working group from the London South West Maths Hub have also begun putting together some similar documents, focusing initially on number, place value, addition and subtraction and again categorised under NC objectives - those documents can be downloaded here. Here's an example of one of those, taken from the year 3 documents:


It's also worth looking at the KS1 and KS2 tests to get an idea of the question variety. The mark schemes will help you to decide which year group's content is covered in each question. When picking a question from the tests, decide whether or not it could be considered as an example of greater depth, rather than just mastery. Here's an example (from last year's year 6 test) of how different the questions can look:


Reasoning

Reasoning is defined in the NC document as "following a line of enquiry, conjecturing relationships and generalisations, and developing an argument, justification or proof using mathematical language." 

As already discussed, reasoning is a skill that we want every child to have. But the greater depth exemplification makes more of reasoning than the expected standard exemplification so we need to be able to differentiate between those who are reasoning at the expected standard and those who are reasoning at greater depth. When it comes to assessing children on their level of depth in reasoning, NRICH have a very useful progression of reasoning:


I would suggest that those working at greater depth would be able to work at at least step 4: justifying. The NRICH article gives excellent examples and analysis of children's reasoning work so it is a must read to become more familiar with recognising reasoning at these five different levels.

For further discussion of reasoning skills, please read this article, also on NRICH, which discusses when we need to reason and what we do when we reason.

Deduction (and asking mathematical questions)

Making deductions, a key part of reasoning, is similar to making inferences when reading and is all about looking for clues, patterns and relationships in maths. Once they have found clues they need to make conclusions based on them, and to then test them out. To be able to make conjectures, generalisations and to follow a line of enquiry, children need to ask their own questions. They need to look a sequence of numbers and ask themselves, 'Does the difference between each number in the sequence is the same?' - this is all about wonder: 'I wonder if...'.

In order for children to ask questions about maths, so that they can begin to deduce things such as patterns and rules they need to be provided with activities that encourage them to do this. But even more importantly, initially they need to have these questioning skills modelled to them by an adult. They need to be taught and shown that maths can be questioned because many children think that every maths problem just has one set answer to be found.

NRICH is the go-to place for such activities, but don't just give children a problem and expect them to be able to get on with it on their own - they need to have had much practice in questioning mathematically. Only when children are asking questions about maths, testing out their hypotheses and following lines of enquiry that they themselves have set, will they be able to reason at those higher levels set out by NRICH.

Confidence and Independence

In order for children to be working at greater depth we would expect to see a certain confidence not seen in all children. We would also want to see that they were working independently on the three areas outlined above. As already mentioned, children may need plenty of modelling before they become confident and independent - especially those children who are currently working at the expected standard who could work at greater depth with some extra help. A key indicator of whether or not children are working at greater depth will be their levels of confidence and independence (especially the latter, as some children are of a more nervous disposition yet are still highly capable).

In Summary

To answer our original questions we would hope to see that children who are working at greater depth would confidently and independently:

  • access maths problems presented in a wide range of different, complex ways;
  • be able to justify and prove their conjectures when reasoning;
  • ask their own mathematical questions and follow their own lines of enquiry when exploring an open-ended maths problem.
In order to make provision for children working at greater depth we must:
  • model higher-level reasoning skills (justification and proving) and encourage children to use them;
  • model mathematical questioning during open-ended maths problems and encourage children to ask them;
  • provide complex maths problems (open and closed) with a variety of contexts and support children initially to access these, until they can do them independently;
  • motivate children to be confident and resilient enough to do the above.

Friday, 15 September 2017

9 Important Changes to the Primary Maths Curriculum and Assessment

In response to the DfE's latest documents, I wrote this for Third Space Learning. It's a summary of the key changes in the way primary maths will be assessed over the next few years:

On 14th September, just as we were all getting settled into the new school year, the DfE published not one, but two documents of considerable importance: ‘Primary assessment in England: Government consultation response’ and the 2017/2018 ‘Teacher assessment frameworks at the end of KS2’. Both documents reveal changes that will no doubt affect our approach as teachers and leaders.

Whilst the most imminent and significant changes involve writing and reading, there are also some interesting developments in Maths.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

I Thought I'd Lose My Job.

A few years ago I really thought my career had come to an end. It was definitely an overreaction but for a few days I had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach 24/7. In my more rational moments I was sure that at least my being trusted to work in year 6 was over.

It was July and my first set of SATs results had come through. I'd been teaching a really high-achieving and compliant (if not a little boring) year group in what might be considered a leafy-lane school. They'd worked well and had aced practice tests. But the results arrived and calculations were made and there were disappointments. Enough disappointments for it to be a problem.

I went into overdrive: worrying, gathering evidence, mentally phrasing and re-rephrasing my defence. I met with the senior leaders and with my partner teacher and the School Improvement Officer was drafted in for a special meeting. Nothing else occupied my mind; I sat glued to my computer compiling page after page of reports based on the year's data (which thankfully I'd kept a good record of). I only remember one moment of peace: I'd cycled home and, in an attempt to clear my head, I lay in my garden listening to a favourite album from my youth: Kula Shaker's 'K'. 'Hey Dude' still reminds me of that time.

"Smell the rose, the sweet, sweet rose,
Catch the sun, find where it grows,
Smell the rose, the sweet, sweet rose,
That grows on castle walls in heaven."

Things were not smelling of roses and my experience did not seem like anything approaching heaven.

In short, the finger was pointing squarely at me. Well-meaning leaders tried to attribute the perceived failure to some difficult family circumstances I'd had that year. The problem was that they had all occurred after the SATs - they were clutching at straws, perhaps because they didn't want to say I was a bad teacher. They couldn't say that anyway as they had no evidence from their own monitoring that would suggest it were true. My carefully collected (and subsequently curated) practice papers and assessment grids were proof that there were no real issues in the achievement and progress throughout the year. I'd been successfully observed, my books had been scrutinised and there had been no issues with my data; pupil progress meetings had gone well and I always followed through with any interventions or changes that were suggested.

All this made it worse because it was so hard to put a finger on what had gone wrong. I doubted myself but at the same time was the only one being proactive about explaining the differences in the data. My confidence was shot yet I had to repeatedly defend myself, having to appear confident in what I had been doing for the year. 

In the end we put it down to an increase in challenge in the tests - these were the 2013 tests, the first year of the SPAG tests and the first time we began to see Tory ideals creeping in (inclusion of an excerpt from classic literature). Many perceived the tests to have already begun moving towards assessing principles from the incoming National Curriculum.

The agony I felt was prolonged until I'd been told which year group I'd be teaching the following year. I knew there was deliberation. I wanted out because I didn't want that pressure again - and my confidence had taken a severe blow. I wanted in because being ousted would have been proof (in my mind) that they thought I was incapable. In the end I was asked to teach year 6 again - that was probably the best outcome. And I've never taught another year group since.

The following year we had a visit from Ofsted. The previous year's data (which I'd had sleepless nights over- not to mention the terrifying days) did not stop the school from getting 'Good' overall (with two areas of 'Outstanding'). I was observed twice - SLT directed the inspectors back to me on the second day so they could see my cross-curricular use of ICT. An SLT member and an inspector told me there were no points for improvement in my lesson. It was noted in the inspection report that provision for reading (the test in which we'd suffered most) was 'Outstanding' - I'd led on reading for a year and a half. I'd already secured my current job by that point - assistant head at another school. The School Improvement Officer conducted a book scrutiny and affirmed that from what she'd seen in my books I'd make a good Maths leader in my next school. Those awful few days from the year before were long forgotten. We had a successful set of SATs results through that July. All was well. 

And I've learned something from all that; something I'd like my readers to learn too. There's probably a cleverly-worded, pithy quote somewhere which will better express this next point, but here it is in my own words: the things we worry about rarely have any lasting impact. A month, term, year down the line they are all but forgotten. Now, whenever I'm worrying about something work-related, the memory of this event reminds me that it probably won't have any lasting consequences. I do all I can to make things right and then let it go - it's a very freeing way to be but if it wasn't for the described event I wouldn't have learnt that lesson. 

Although at the time I was certain I'd lose my position as year 6 teacher, or even my job entirely, I didn't. Even though I worried that it'd harm my chances of procuring a leadership role, it didn't. All that you are most afraid of may never came to fruition - don't worry unnecessarily. Don't allow your fears to limit your potential. That thing you're living in fear of? It'll probably never happen. 

At least, that's how I see it.

"Smell the rose, the sweet, sweet rose,
Catch the sun, find where it grows,
Smell the rose, the sweet, sweet rose,
That grows on castle walls in heaven."

PostScript: It must be said that throughout this whole experience my wife constantly reminded me of what I ended up learning for myself. She reminded me too of the comparative insignificance of the event and of the principle laid out in Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him". Her support was, and is, invaluable to me.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

All Aboard!

In 'All In The Same Boat' I touched very briefly on today's subject matter and after a couple of conversations after yesterday's post it became clear that more needs to be said. Previously I wrote "Make sure your leadership are taking responsibility too - don't let them allow you to be alone in the boat" and I'd like to say a little more.

I am going to address this post to year 2 and year 6 teachers, but if you are a senior leader reading this, it is your responsibility to make sure that everything I suggest they do actually happens.

Most leaders will naturally want to be on board - it's their school and their data. Most leaders won't be leaving year 2 and year 6 teachers to hoist the mainsail themselves. Many leaders will now be adopting an 'all hands on deck' approach, but even the best captain needs to know from his crew what is happening in each area of the ship's life. He'll need the quartermaster to inform him when the ship is low on supplies, and he'll need the boatswain to tell him if such-and-such a part is in need of repair. Head teachers, and other members of SLT, will need feedback from teachers in order to understand what the needs and priorities are. And that's where this blog post comes in.

At the earliest possible opportunity, call a meeting with phase leaders (UKS2 and KS1), class teachers (Y2 and Y6), the head and any other SLT members. At the meeting discuss the new assessment arrangements (if you have not done so already) and its implications. If you have new thoughts and feelings after last week's revelations then it will be worth having another meeting anyway. It might be a good idea to take some assessment information with you so that you can identify the areas of greatest need. It'll also be good to approach it with some ideas already - if you go with only problems and no solutions the meeting will take longer, plus leaders always like to see a bit of initiative. Arm yourself with a list of questions you'd like to ask too. The meeting then needs to become a practical planning meeting with decisions made on what your school approach will be to this year's assessments. It's also worth considering as a team how you are going to keep a balanced curriculum instead of just doing maths and English (read this excellent blog post on the matter).

Even if you don't get to have a proper meeting, it'd be wise to ensure that the leadership of your school knows the course you are deciding to take with your year 2 or year 6 class. I would also involve them in any changes you're planning to make. Even when you begin to feel like you're pestering them, keep on asking for advice and informing them of your decisions.

The point of all this?
  • So that you're not alone in the boat at your school. 
  • So that you are supported. 
  • So that collective wisdom, and the wisdom that comes from experience, influences decisions.
  • So that you have the chance to suggest that more manpower might be needed. 
  • So that when the data eventually comes in, it is data that represents a team effort. 
  • And so that no leader can make accusations of you, blaming poor results on you alone. This should not be about taking one for the team, but taking one AS a team
It's a sad state of affairs that I'm even suggesting safeguarding yourself against these eventualities but I know it goes on - there are plenty of disheartening stories out there of teachers stuck in schools with leaders who absolve themselves of these responsibilities and then point the finger at the ones who have slaved all year to make as much progress as possible with each child.

In short; make sure everyone is on board with everything that will end in assessment this year. Do everything you can do get the support that you need - even the best leaders need proactivity from their team.

 Photo Credit: Eje Gustafsson via Compfight cc