Involving pupils is planning is a key element of the ‘Learning Culture’ which needs to be established in classrooms if teachers and children are to play an active role in moving learning on.
To ask children on the first day of a new topic ‘What do you already know?’ is too late, as detailed planning will have already been completed. Pre-planning discussions with children are vital to ensure maximum impact on motivation. By presenting the children with the knowledge and skills to be covered, it provides the opportunity for the class teacher to take account of the children’s ideas and prior understanding.
Why involve children in planning?
It was found that there are several reasons to involve children in pre-planning discussions. For example, it recognises children as important participants in their learning and shows that their opinions matter. In addition, it gives children a sense of ownership and belonging, enabling the children to connect with their learning.
More importantly, it soon became apparent that pre-planning served to motivate the children due to the thought of them being able to have input into what was to be taught/ learnt and how. As they began to see what a unit of work would look like, they started to become excited and were eager to talk at home and undertake their own research about the new topic.
Pre-planning in Years 3 and 5
Pre-planning meetings were held at the end of each term, in preparation for the beginning of the next term’s work.
The children were provided with a visual overview of the unit of work and the learning objectives were shared. Children were told that this was the bit that was non-negotiable! However, they soon became excited when they were told that how they could learn the learning objective was up to them.
First of all, children shared their prior knowledge of the topic mainly through discussions with learning partners.
Following this initial discussion, children then thought about what they would like to learn and how. This was done using questioning. For example, Year 5 children studying The Romans were asked to think of 5 questions they would like to answer whilst working on the topic. These were then displayed on a Working Wall and referred to at the start of the lesson to which they related. Children were excited and motivated by the idea that ‘this was their lesson’ and their question would be answered.
It also became apparent that this approach to planning also meant that a range of learning styles could be incorporated into the teaching. Year 3 children studying electricity were amazed to hear that, in a lesson about the dangers of electricity, their findings could be presented as a poem or a piece of drama. Surely that was English and not science! Children’s minds were beginning to be opened to the different possibilities as to how they could learn.
Impact of Pre-Planning
The impact of pre-planning was almost immediate. Children were instantly involved when they knew they could have input into their learning. Their ideas were interesting, creative and, sometimes, surprising. Children became more motivated and seemed to gain more satisfaction from their learning than was seen previously. It was also found that the pitch of lessons were also raised as children’s prior knowledge than was greater than previously thought. As a result, learning and outcomes were higher.
Kerry Poncia – Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Primary School