All teachers had used the prior knowledge starter questions. This had changed their teaching because they didn’t then have to teach what they thought the children would need. Teaching is more efficient. They discovered that children sometimes didn’t understand what they had been taught in the previous year, which led to revised planning.
Specifically, the ‘odd one out’ starter and ‘Which is the best wrong answer’ had helped children’s mathematical language.
All teachers had given children a key question to discuss in science or used concept cartoons. Planning was adapted in the light of their misconceptions and knowledge.
Mind maps of prior knowledge allowed children to start thinking about what they know and informed the teacher’s planning.
One teacher used pictures and asked what children could see (e.g. a room with various light sources and a mirror – which led to misconceptions about reflected light etc.)
Another teacher used a bronze, silver or gold starter question (children choose) and changes the lesson plans based on their responses.
Cold tasks show progress and needs clearly.
Easing the cognitive load
One teacher used lego pieces covered up to demonstrate the cognitive load theory. Children can now say when they are overloaded with feedback.
Modelling something at the board silently then did it again talking had created calm and fewer children feeling panicked. Children had better eye contact with the teacher. In one science class a silent practical demo made students clearer on the method. The first time the demo was silent, the second time students could talk through it, then the students carried out the practical. The whole class was more focused.
Retrieval practice via QSM (Quick start maths) questions on already covered maths was also used to rehash prior knowledge (e.g. 5 x table questions before working on time). This has made children more focused. Also last lesson, last week, last term, last year questions gave children constant retrieval practice and also informed planning.
Making sure children experienced ‘desirable difficulties’, more challenge in lesson helped them remember more.
Jotters have been given to children for writing notes while they are listening to use later one if needed. Children also have reminders left on the whiteboard.
Resource trays are readily available and left for longer than before.
Children’s explanations are displayed by one teacher which has helped them remember key concepts.
Mini plenaries throughout lessons help check their understanding but also give feedback to the teacher about what is needed next.
Real life contexts (e.g. teaching about the heart and relating to own family) had children more engaged and therefore more easily remembered.
Two teachers had reduced the amount of information on PowerPoint slides and working walls which has reduced over- stimulation and kept children more focused and engaged.
One teacher teaching the children Mandarin has given them a folder of all the words learnt, which they use for constant reference.
Two teachers used prior learning starters linked to the previous lesson. Three teachers found these most useful at the beginnings of maths lessons, giving ongoing assessment and retrieval practice. Misconceptions can be identified and vocabulary gaps. Using the questions mid lesson for a quick response on their mini whiteboards kept the teacher informed of learning.
Hinge questions (Kahoot) had been used for revision and to inform planning. Reasoning questions to develop and check understanding were used – White Rose Hub questions are a good resource.
Easing the cognitive load
All teachers had used a ‘Fast Four’ (last week/last month/last term/last year) for maths and spelling revision. This keeps the skills ticking over and is low pressure as children can work things out with their partner.
Knowledge organisers help ease the cognitive load.
For a lesson about knowledge of polygons and their properties, I asked children to bat the shape name to each other: triangle —–square——pentagon—-hexagon etc. I could easily pick up how well the children can name shapes. We played once, identified gaps, had some input, played again and could see the progress immediately. This technique could be used for times tables, counting etc.
Liezel Jacobs -Broadwater Primary
I have found using the plenary of my lesson to check prior knowledge before the next lesson hugely beneficial. I have used odd one out, range of answers or do you agree or disagree. I have shown pictures or diagrams and asked learning pairs to discuss. It has informed my future planning because I can pick up on misconceptions and vocabulary they know a lot already or I can plan work and activities that will close any gaps they have. It doesn’t take away from the learning of an existing lesson because here isn’t the assumption that they know everything or have no knowledge at all.
Yamini Patel – Fircroft Primary
Prior knowledge starters were used mostly in maths lessons, as pre learning and post learning tasks. These are a good way to assess where the children are and what they need to do/how to move the lesson on. Some teachers were trying this approach for other lessons.
Stem questions like odd one out, or spot the mistake were displayed on the learning wall.
It was felt that teachers needed to do more of this but felt the pressure of time.
Recalling what had been learnt previously through a question on the board and then feedback to keep things in their minds had allowed teachers to know what they need to focus on and how much time might be needed.
The question ‘Which is the wrong answer?’ or ‘What went wrong?’ in maths deepened their understanding.
‘Which is the best wrong answer?’ was difficult for children but ‘Convince me…’ they really enjoyed as it helped back up their ideas.
Higher attainers struggled to explain their thoughts and ideas, as they are so used to being right. Lower achievers are more used to verbalising their difficulties and understanding, so were able to justify their thinking.
Easing the cognitive load
Two teachers had scrap books for children to write in during inputs. This had helped ingrain the input.
Three teachers were modelling new things in silence – making a mistake and children have to put their hands up straight away to point it out. This has caused much greater engagement.
All teachers were giving children more time to read and discuss anything written on the board so that the responsibility is on them and stops them from drifting off.
Knowledge organisers have been given for key facts and used for retrieval tests. The knowledge is more accessible so is more easily retained, so there is more time to teach the skills.
Using knowledge organisers for a topic based on Shackleton enabled children to gain the necessary knowledge to support their learning. Children could easily recall facts which improved their writing and meant it was of higher quality. They first started with regular tests then slowly they became less dependent on the knowledge organisers as it became learnt. We discussed the tests as deliberate practice to pout the knowledge into our long term memories which give them ownership over gaining the knowledge.
Holly Elvin – Sellincourt Primary