One teacher had organised the class to brainstorm with learning partners, which she found difficult, as not all children were willing to respond. However, she realised that they knew much more than she had thought and they were motivated to investigate.
Another teacher wrote ‘socks and shoes’ on the board and gathered children’s ideas from that. Although the teacher was uninspired by the topic title, the children’s ideas made it exciting and interesting. Children were creative and imaginative.
In one school they held an immersion afternoon using story sacks. Children explored than chose which stories they wanted to do, giving them more ownership over the focus. Parents were sent blank topic webs to discuss with their child and send back, which led to parental involvement and different ideas.
One school used ‘take one picture’ (National Gallery chooses one piece of art each year as a starting point topic for schools) which was very enjoyable. The picture was cut into pieces and they discussed what could be learnt from each part. Symbols of skills were attached to the parts of the picture (e.g. model of the lobster/what tools will we use/clay – manipulating skill). Children can now tell the teacher what skills they are going to use before a lesson: ‘Oh, if we’re doing about the lobster, we must be doing this skill etc.’ Higher achievers created their own skills which were not in the bank they were given. There was concern about covering everything if children were given too much choice.
Parents were invited in to discuss children’s learning journeys from the previous year, thus celebrating what they had learnt.
SLD: this was very difficult, even with immersion weeks. Responses vary. Children do not necessarily retain information from previous learning. The only way to do pre-planning was to make it the first part of every lesson – choosing how they are going to learn something (e.g. drama/writing). Children are more focused and motivated and teachers are finding children have unexpected interests.
One teacher set up an ice cream parlour and led discussion about ice cream in order to determine prior knowledge. Children drew then designed their own ice creams. Learning was based on children’s interests. All children’s ideas extended their thinking and stimulated their creativity. They were motivated and excited to learn.
Another teacher described how prior knowledge was captured by talk partners discussing after some kind of hook, such as dressing up as a character linked to the topic, artefacts, pictures etc. Thinking is extended by questioning, pitched to the needs of the children and all ideas are celebrated equally, all written up. Children are engaged, their ideas are extended, their language and vocabulary is developed and children are left feeling valued.
Teachers started an Olympics topic by discussing the different games involved on the GetSet website. Children said how they wanted to learn about the Olympics and came up with ideas in 15 minutes which showed their current understanding and what they wanted to know. They were imaginative, focused on the task and more focused on the actual activities when they arose. The quality of work is higher when the ideas are theirs.
One teacher took children on a trip to the seaside, gave them a list of DT skills and they talked about what they could build. They designed their own hats, lollysticks and packaging etc. Ideas which could not be incorporated into the topic were used for homework. Children were enthusiastic and engaged.
One school invited parents to come in to contribute to the under the sea Olympics topic and no one volunteered. However, parents did come in and do a Greek afternoon which was very successful.
The summer (2) topic for our whole school was the Olympics. The children were immersed in the topic through whole school interactive assemblies, visits from Olympians and video clips.
We wanted to involve the children in planning activities for our Foundation Stage provision areas for this topic. We made an A2 grid with visual images of our areas – construction, graphics, maths, role play, outside, painting, malleable and discovery and discussed our learning targets for these areas. The children then discussed with talk partners their ideas for activities in each area in turn.
The children came up with fantastic, creative ideas. They had similar ideas to ours but had so many more. We had separately spent 3 hours, between us as teachers, preparing ideas for our planning meeting, yet the children had suggested all these and more within 20 minutes.
- Children are more focused and on task when using the provision areas
- All activities are attempted because they were their ideas, especially boys and the creative activities.
- The quality of work is of a higher standard
- Behaviour and attitudes are improved
Charis Fletcher St.Nicholas Primary
One teacher spent initial time establishing prior knowledge, recording children’s feedback, then planned the theme around their misconceptions. This led to more imaginative planning and more focus on what they needed.
Another teacher described an immersion day of an alien landing, which led to more ideas for activities from the children, greater enthusiasm and more engagement.
A focus on the Olympics began with googled images. Children came up with questions and ideas for the learning journey. Their use of language was ‘amazing’ and the process improved their questioning skills.
It was felt that without an immersion day, more guidance is needed to establish children’s ideas.
Presenting skills coverage to children as a starting point for their ideas is easier if it is simplified into strands, many teachers have found.
The impact has been improved behaviour, greater ownership, unexpected ideas, extended vocabulary, more engagement, personalised learning, children being given choice and a voice.
Claire Hodgson | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tower Hamlets, London
Stella Smith | email@example.com
Stella Smith | firstname.lastname@example.org
Pauline Hill | email@example.com