Recently I’ve been thinking about whether Schemes of Work are the death of spontaneous learning opportunities.
As a Geographer (originally) and now all-round Humanities Teacher I love teaching about current affairs and events; they simply make learning more appealing to students. However throughout my training and NQT year I stuck to the Scheme of Work because I had to; the scheme of work laid out the learning that should/must take place for the end of term assessment.
If I didn’t teach it, they wouldn’t learn it, if they didn’t learn it, they couldn’t pass the test! Ultimately my data would appear like they were not making progress, despite the fact that they had just learnt where Japan is in the world, they had just learnt how a tsunami formed and they had just discovered the short, medium and long term impacts of such a disaster, not only that they could describe geographical locations, explain physical processes and assess the level of impact. That however was not on the exam for Exploring England and therefore missing a lesson or two from the SoW meant they missed an important aspect of the test material.
In my eyes such rigid schemes of work mean students miss out on learning experiences that might develop through their inquisitive natures, they might miss out on learning about topical events or current affairs because it’s not on the test.
For me learning is more than just passing an exam and demonstrating progress in a linear fashion. For me learning is about developing interests, practising skills for the future, creating a whole individual and not a piece of data.
In the Schemes of Work for this year I’ve tried to develop some of that flexibility and opportunities to diverge from SoW to encourage that love of learning.
This is an example of the year 8 Weather and Climate SoW from last year
That was just one lesson, there’s another 13 of these and over 2500 words. It took me several days over the school holidays to write this entire SoW and plan the corresponding lessons which were attached.
However I was starting a department from scratch since it was a new school and being new to the Head of Department role meant I didn’t have bags of resources stored away that I could just tweak. I had to do this for 4 year groups by myself every term; it was hard work.
Whilst these are still available for reference for other staff teaching Humanities, this year I decided to go for a more simplistic approach. From feedback, these make a lot more sense to the non-specialists in my team and easy to understand is always a good thing in my eyes.
Key Stage 3 Humanities is taught through 2 Humanities lessons which incorporated Geography and History primarily and a single lesson we call Opening Minds which is essentially our RE/Citizenship/Values curriculum.
In the SoW each lesson or series of lessons has a variety of skills depicted that should be worked on and developed through the teaching of the specific aspects of the topic along with the subject content.
In each SoW I’ve simply identified what aspect of the topic should be covered. Each lesson has a Powerpoint and resources to go with it but teachers can adjust and adapt these to suit their class/es or they can change them entirely to look at a topical event. For instance this year ‘m hoping we get snow before Christmas so we can look why it has snowed or on the other hand we will look at why we haven’t had snow yet by looking at the current forecasts, Met Office weather observations and air pressure whilst linking this into air masses and forecasts which we looked at in lesson 1 and 4 retrospectively.
The Learning Objective is on the corresponding PowerPoint and are inquiry driven now rather than skills based for example the LO for Week 1, lesson 2 is Where are the main climate zones and why do they exist? For this lesson you can see that the skill focus here will be description, explanation and map skills.
We now have an exam week at the end of each term, so that’s 3 a year. I’ve opted for tests that take into account learning over the entire term and previous terms, so that student’s are constantly coming back to their prior learning. Whilst throughout each term there are several opportunities for an assessed piece of classwork which will be graded on the 1-9 GCSE scale.
To keep track of student progress over the term I’ve (slowly) developed a new learning matrix for the covers of books. This is my first one and I need to get it approved by T&L but I think it should be an effective approach to track student progress over the course of a term.
My plan is that this sheet will be on the front cover of student’s books. It outlines what student’s need to know as part of the topic, this can be taught in any way e.g. projects, teacher led, individual learning routes etc. each corresponds with one or more of the assessment objectives I’ve developed with help from
@sarahcnokes through the 1-9 Collaborative Dropbox. By no means are we certain on the criteria for each grade but when there is no clear information out there, ours will work until we have clear clarification from the exam boards. Finally the expectations for each band (white, bronze, silver and gold) are clarified for student reference.
Whilst this will be on the back cover of student books, the criteria will be highlighted in yellow when a student meets and evidences the criteria. As part of the DIRT process some will be highlighted pink if I believe they can achieve it e.g. if they’ve under performed in a criteria or if they are capable of the challenge. They will have time in lessons to attempt the highlighted criteria and when done it will be ticked as evident by the key at the bottom.
At times I will ask students to reflect upon the band they place themselves for particular criteria and ask them to underline it. They can then see when I highlight the criteria whether their assessments were accurate, I will then justify the banding in their written feedback.