So my post today comes with two aims:
- The first aim is complete self-indulgence; I need to rectify the unacceptable definitions I scrabbled through the other day...although I may not do any better here.
- The second aim is to let you know how I plan, as it may be something you can add to, or want to try yourself.
I’m a big believer in teaching a concept before expecting the children to apply it. Many will do both at the same time; model a series of skills while applying them. Personally, I’ve found it difficult to do this. I prefer to break down a process and teach the steps, then model how to use the steps to create success. In my class, this often means that Success Criteria can be the same for a few days in a row, as we gain confidence and learn about each piece of the criteria. Over time, I have found my children more able to retain their learning through this method, as I try to make the learning more explicit before attempting the applying.
To illustrate, I’m going to give a commentary of my decision making process, alongside a fictitious sequence to demonstrate what I mean.
First of all, I choose a book as a vehicle for our learning; a book to inspire different types of writing. High quality texts allow us to use the characters, settings and situations. We spend the term enhancing our reading skills, while learning aspects of writing too!
Secondly, I decide what it is I want the children to learn. When first meeting them, I most often want to recover the very basics. This enables me to refer to these basics in a mutually recognisable way, adding them to our Tool Box. Once these simple metaphorical plates are spinning I begin to choose age appropriate skills to teach.
I choose a type of writing that I want them to eventually example these skills in. While I’m not teaching them the genre, I choose a text-type that would best show off the skill I’m going to teach (although once we have experience of it, I will continue to refer to the same skills across other writing too, outside of the text-type, using the Tool Box as a reference).
I write an example of the text type, ensuring I use lots of instances of the skills I want them to learn about. I use this in the lesson to explain what I’m going to be teaching over the next few days, before we have a go at writing our own. The children label the examples I have included, ready to begin to refer to as soon as possible.
Although they haven’t ‘learnt’ about them yet, the class are ready to tell me ‘what I’m looking for’. Now I can teach the different pieces I need them to learn. Depending on how many things I’ve chosen to teach them, and how complex they are, the next duration could be varying lengths. I try to fit in lots of chances to collect words, phrases, read extra examples…, and then have the children apply each thing separately to improve their experience of each piece of the criteria. This also gives them more variety when it comes to independent writing as they’ve had longer to think of ideas.
My favourite book is ‘Stormbreaker’ by Anthony Horowitz. It’s such a great hook and once they’re into the first one, they have a whole series to get through! I also like to use snippets of the film alongside the writing.
In this example, let’s say I need my Year 4 children to learn how to ‘express time, place and cause using prepositions and prepositional phrases’, and ‘use fronted adverbials to provide the reader with additional information’.
Lots of parts of language are best represented in various non-fiction, but for this I am going to choose narrative. I will be asking the children to write the next chapter and, alongside the other skills we have learnt so far (that I expect to see present) I will be specifically looking for prepositional phrases and fronted adverbials.
I have written my own version of a chapter, and I have filled it with examples of prepositions and fronted adverbials. We spend a lesson where I talk to them about my thought process as I was writing, we highlight the examples I have used, and also spot ‘other tools’, to reinforce the idea that our writing skills are transferrable.
The last lesson ended with me constantly placing my flat palm on my head every time I said ‘preposition’ and slicing my palm through the air when I spoke about a ‘fronted adverbial’ (I may also tap the back of my head when I explain these tools give the reader more information). These lessons start with me asking for the purpose of these tools, providing writing where they haven’t been used. We discuss the effect that has been lost, before adding examples of our own to see how we can change the effect the writing has; cue ample post-its as we celebrate great examples.
To be continued...