I teach in a rural, 3-class school with its sights firmly set on achieving outstanding results for all of our pupils. We are focusing very closely on teaching and learning across school this year, and are looking to achieve the consistency in practice and strategies that our head has seen is a feature of many outstanding schools. We want to lay down very clearly “this is how we do it here”, but we also want to make sure that the consistent approaches we are using across school are being used because we know that they have a positive impact.
At a staff meeting before the summer break we unpicked barriers to outstanding teaching and learning. These included things like too much teacher-talk; glass ceilings placed on fixed groups or individuals; lack of independence in learning; lack of tenacity in learning and keeping some children engaged and focused. As a staff, we also put forward ideas for a consistent, common-core of strategies that could be used
across all year groups from YR to Y6. Some of those strategies and practices were already being used in some or all of the classrooms, and some are new to us all.
The five consistent approaches we agreed to implement from September are:
- 3 before me
- No hands up
- Stop and look
- Pit stops
- 8 Secrets of Success
3 before me
In order to encourage independent learning skills, we decided “3 before me” would help move the children from automatically asking the teacher towards being able to support their own and others’ learning. My Y2/3s spent time at the beginning of term thinking about what those 3 things might be and came up with a huge list, from looking on the walls, to asking their talk partner, to asking another child on their table, to using resource books and the internet. My more able children in particular are really enjoying helping the younger ones and, whilst it’s easy to
forget and just give a child the answer to a question they could easily find by themselves, I think this strategy is going to have a really positive impact on the learning skills of pupils.
No hands up
This was a strategy I had already been using for some time, especially in mini-plenaries. I have a lolly stick for each child with their name on and, after everyone has had a chance to talk to a partner or find something particularly successful in their work, I choose a name at random. It’s important that children are given time to talk or look first, and that they can ask a friend to whisper in their ear if they are really stuck for something to say.
Stop and look
We are looking to improve transitions between activities and have children moving around the classroom in a fuss-free way. We also want to ensure that all children are focused in mini-plenaries and that all children are actively listening and on task. In our aim for consistency, we wanted a phrase we could use across school. “Stop and look” was already being used successfully in one class and so we decided to roll it out
across school. It seems like a small thing, but it’s another step on the way towards our “this is how we do it here” approach. The key is zero tolerance – all children need to stop and look before the teacher moves on.
Pit stops are essentially mini-plenaries: a chance to re-group and refocus, address any misconceptions, move learning on through grasping happy accidents or misconceptions… the list is endless. They’re natural stepping stones rather than forced breaks to tick boxes.
8 Secrets of Success
We use the 8 secrets of success (from Chris Quigley’s Creative Curriculum) to inform our PSHE planning. From this year, we are going to thread the 8 secrets through all teaching and learning, making explicit links to the skills themselves and encouraging children to think about which secrets are applicable to different tasks. The 8 secrets are:
- Try new things
- Work hard
- Push yourself
- Understand others
- Don’t give up
More information can be found at http://www.chrisquigley.co.uk/Productspage.php
It’s early days yet: we’re only two weeks into term so we can’t begin to evaluate the impact the strategies are having, if any. There may well be tweaks along the way, and there will certainly be discussion about what is working well, and why, and just as importantly, what is not working so well and what needs to change. Those discussions will be collegiate and collective, and decisions will form the basis of our “this is
how we do it here” approach.