OUR LESSONS AND LEARNING
At Heyford Park School, children take part in lessons which are carefully planned to be engaging, informative and maximise learning. The primary school day is planned so that Maths and English (our ‘core subjects’) are generally taught in the morning (including reading, phonics and spelling) while other subjects (such as science, humanities, art, sports, music) are generally taught in the afternoon. The two main morning lessons are generally separated by a break when children go outside to play. Younger children typically also have an outside break in the afternoon. Morning and afternoon sessions are separated by lunchbreak which provides time for children to eat lunch, socialise and spend time together outside. Breaktimes are structured so that children are not all outside at the same time and different aged children use different playgrounds.
Lesson content is varied and sequenced in order to make it as engaging as possible. All our lesson planning is carefully informed by Rosenshine’s Principles; a set of research-based principles based on cognitive science, observation of master teachers and cognitive support and scaffolds which have been shown to underpin the most effective approach to lesson instruction. More information about Rosenshine’s Principles can be found here.
Lessons follow a sequence based around our Heyford Park Primary Curriculum and usually fit within a wider topic (such as ‘The Romans’ or ‘World War II’). Topic overviews can be seen on our website here. For each topic, pupils are provided with a printed KCV document (Knowledge – Content – Vocabulary). At the start of each topic, children stick the KCV into their workbooks. The KCV details the key knowledge that pupils will need to learn – this includes vocabulary (words) and spellings necessary for the topic (including technical words specific to the topic) along with the concepts that will be learned. During the sequence of lessons, pupils are encouraged to revisit the KCV, to identify key knowledge, support their spelling/vocabulary and to independently assess what they are learning using a series of concept questions.
Most of our lessons follow an evidence-based structure (EEF blog: Modelling Independence - The ‘Seven-step Model’… | EEF (educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk)) designed to maximise learning:
The Learning Objective
Each lesson has a Learning Objective setting out exactly what the children will be learning (rather than just doing). The Learning Objective (LO) is described and discussed at the beginning of the lesson to ensure all children know the purpose of the lesson and the key knowledge they will learn during the lesson.
The start of the lesson will involve aspects of retrieval practice – pupils are prompted and asked about what they have previously learned focussing on information that will be relevant to today’s learning. It is important that children have an underpinning knowledge of the subject – this is the foundational knowledge that will be built upon during the lesson. The teacher ensures that links between different areas of learning are made explicit to the pupils – this supports pupils to memorise the new knowledge being taught.
Explicit Strategy/Instruction – The Input
During the input, the teacher leads the learning, carefully explaining new knowledge and/or skills. Frequently this involves the use of resources such as reading materials, guides, PowerPoints, videos and practical demonstrations in front of the class. As the instruction progresses, the teacher uses questioning to check the children’s grasp, understanding and retention of new knowledge.
As part of the instruction, the teacher models the learning tasks that are to be completed. For instance, the teacher may model how to do a piece of writing using the new knowledge that has been taught. Likewise, the teacher models – through doing – a new method for completing a mathematical calculation.
As part of the modelling process, the teacher verbalises their own thought processes – this aids the pupils’ cognitive understanding and ensures they realise the thinking that underpins the learning taking place. The teacher carefully takes the class through the various steps needed to achieve the learning often using an ‘I do – we do – you do’ approach.
Assessment for Learning
Throughout the lesson, teachers use questioning to dynamically assess the children’s understanding and to determine what they are learning. Pupils may be invited to give responses verbally, by writing answers on a mini-whiteboards or documenting an answer in their workbooks. If needs be, lesson content is modified in response; this ensures that all the children are understanding and able to meet the learning objective. It is critical that children remember the knowledge (facts) that are being taught and that this content builds on prior understanding.
Guided Practice, Independent Practice and ‘I cans’
Once the formal lesson input has been completed, pupils embark on learning tasks set by the teacher. The tasks are designed to give children the opportunity to show what they have learned and to retrieve the new knowledge that they have gained. Multiple opportunities are provided for pupils to practice; support is gradually removed as pupils take on more responsibility for the task they are doing – gently moving from guided to independent practice.
Tasks are carefully designed (a process called ‘differentiation’) so that all children (including those with special educational needs) are able to access the learning. Activities are typically split into three different tasks, each described by an ‘I can’ statement. ‘I can 3’ is typically more cognitively demanding than ‘I can 2’, and ‘I can 2’ is cognitively more demanding than ‘I can 1’. Over the course of the academic year, I can’s will become progressively more challenging to reflect the changing cognitive abilities of the pupils as they get older. Likewise, ‘I cans’ will become increasingly challenging as children progress from one year group to the next. This may mean that children who were confident at tackling I can 3 at the end of one year may find themselves having to start on I can 1 when they start in the next year group – this is a normal part of the learning process.
When planning, teachers use Bloom’s Taxonomy to inform the design of the learning tasks and I cans – see Bloom's Taxonomy (ucf.edu) for more details about Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Depending on the lesson and the level of learning, children may be directed to a particular task/I can or may be encouraged to select their own I can based on how confident they feel to tackle the tasks (or a combination of both). Teachers carefully monitor the pupils so that are well supported but also challenged and stretched to maximise their learning. Children are actively encouraged not to pigeonhole themselves as an ‘I can 1 learner’, or an ‘I can 2 learner’ but to challenge themselves to select whichever task best drives their learning. Extra support – sometimes called scaffolding – may be provided to support targeted learners to achieve their goal. This scaffolding may include the provision of additional practical resources (such as counters, spelling sheets, how to guides) or direct assistance from an adult or peer.
At Heyford Park, we endeavour to promote a ‘can do’ attitude in all the pupils we teach. Pupils are encouraged to regard getting ‘stuck’ as a normal and expected part of the everyday learning process. When they are challenged by their learning, children are prompted to use the 5Bs displayed in the classrooms:
Brain – can you use the knowledge that has been taught in the lesson to solve the problem?
Board – is there something on the board (or one of the other classroom displays) that could help you?
Book – can you refer to your book, other resources of the KCV to support your understanding?
Buddy – can you talk to a learning partner who may be able to help?
Boss – if you remain stuck, seek help form an adult – the teacher and/or teaching assistant.
To promote independent learning, children are encouraged to use the Help Desks which are in all of our classrooms. Help Desks have a range of resources which learners can independently use to help them learn. See our Our Classrooms section to read more about Help Desks and about our classrooms.
The end of a lesson usually involves elements of structured reflection. Knowledge gained during the lesson may be revisited, the whole class may be asked to reflect on their learning, pupils may be asked to complete an ‘exit task’ demonstrating what they have learned and the next steps in the sequence of learning may be introduced. Pupils might also be given individual next steps to take their learning forward.