One school had a ‘wow’ day of immersion – dressing up, making an Ancient Greek temple, having mini Olympics. Children were excited, eager to learn and filled with awe and wonder. Play activities, exploring materials and a giant egg found in the playground were other starting point ideas. One teacher had the class play a game of ‘history detectives’, presented with an old box found in an attic containing old photos of the school, the docks, the river and the Isle of Dogs. Children were shown a grid of 4 areas: literacy, science, geography/history and arts for their ideas to be jotted into.
The same approach was used for a ‘wet wet wet’ topic, starting with a range of seaside objects and creatures, microscopes and sketching paper. They were given information leaflets and booklets about whales and the teacher cut out a huge whale for display which children graffittied facts about whales on.
Teachers felt it was a management issue to do this session early enough to feed into planning.
Mind maps were used to generate prior knowledge, displayed as a starting point, feeding into weekly plans.
Some teachers felt it was difficult to fit in the immersion time, but felt that if you did it, children arrive ready for the new term’s learning feeling excited and feel that their ideas are valued.
One teacher began a topic with a Chris Quigley ‘What I know/What I want to find out’ sheet. There are now fewer worksheets for homework, girls and boys are engaged in the topic and there is more child initiated learning.
Parents have been involved in planning the topic. A newsletter sent home in one school to collect ideas for homework resulted in 111 ideas. The whole school was involved and there was greater awareness of skills.
A problem in one school was whole school rigid planning from a ‘top down’ directive.
All schools had used immersion days, DVD, trips, exploration days, artefacts, linked homework, role play, visitors and exit days. Impact had been more effective launches of topics, children creative and enthusiastic, realistic starting points, less work for the teachers and use of expertise to make real life links.
Children in one school planned a lesson on pirates for a reception class (given 3 hours to do it as part of a BLP (Building Learning Power: Claxton) learning challenge. Children are aware of the planning process and steps involved – evaluations from them were fantastic. As well as stretching lots of BLP muscles, they problem solved and overcame challenges. They were more aware of skills they were learning.
One teacher began a planning session by showing children a picture of a lamb with the statement: This is a cow. Discuss.
Another teacher had 4 tables with objects for children to explore for a Noah’s Ark topic. ‘Talk for writing’ was used in which children chose a book and designed it. Children’s levels rocketed as they used their own ideas. Boys’ writing was particularly improved.
One teacher had an initial start of saying that a dragon had broken into the classroom and trashed it. The discussion brought out their beliefs and thoughts about dragons, then the skills were discussed in terms of what they would like to do. They talked about falconry, castles and dungeons, banquets and invitations etc. Children were very enthusiastic.
One teacher had difficulties because the teachers usually planned together, whereas this approach means different classes will come up with different ideas.
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