A new school year, planning to be done…..lots and lots of planning.
Long-term planning helps you see the breadth and sequence of expected learning within a Milepost, Key Stage or grade level. If changes are made to long-term plans, (for example, the selection or ordering of units) the consequences may not be initially obvious.
Changes to plans need monitoring and attending to, consider the following:
Is the breadth of learning still varied, relevant, and engaging?
Does the sequence of learning still make sense? Does any particular unit need to come before another one?
Are there repetitions causing redundancy in learning, as opposed to revisiting and extending which learners will benefit from?
At this planning stage, thought can be given to field trips and visitors. While more details of these will be included in both medium and short-term planning, if there is a key local resource make arrangements now so you don’t miss out on using it to improve learning. Fingers crossed field trips can be included in plans for learning in the coming year.
Medium-term planning for the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) is a thematic unit, in other curricula it could be a topic or time period such as a 1/2 term. Gaining an overview of anticipated learning is a good opportunity to make links between different subjects. As the brain learns associatively, looking for patterns and connections, identifying these connections to explicitly draw learners’ attention to, will improve learning.
But sequence also matters, if the children will be creating an advertising campaign for a product, there are benefits to learning about advertising features and techniques before and not at the same time as creating. Firstly, it avoids cognitive overload which suggests acquiring domain-specific knowledge before using it in novel ways will not demand the brain does two things at once and should result in more effective learning. Secondly, applying knowledge of advertising techniques after learning demands knowledge recall, which supports retention and by connecting it to a context will strengthen neuronal connections, essential for acquiring knowledge, developing skills and deepening understanding.
Short-term planning for learning is not a paper exercise that fits into neat little boxes, like a learning journey it is messy and will need adapting as learning progresses. If you try and plan a whole unit before the first step on the journey, your learners are less likely to reach the desired destination.
The IPC thematic units begin with an Entry Point followed by a Knowledge Harvest, these provide the information a teacher needs to begin detailed planning. Providing a ‘hook’ primes children for learning through promoting curiosity, attention and engagement. (Read more on this from Judy Wills here).
Previous learning and memories will be activated, which means if you follow the ‘hook’ with an initial assessment, rather than the other way round, you will get better data to plan from. Planning can now be thoughtful and learning focused, you also have the initial data to help you identify the anticipated needs of learners and can plan for how you can support these through differentiation.
There are many things that impact on learning and therefore many elements to consider when planning:
The organisation of children: individual, pairs, groups, whole class. Will there be choice, or will it be directed?
Resources for research: Will these be the same for everyone? How will they be made accessible to each learner? Will they be levelled, presented in different formats or will assistive technology be provided? Will there be a choice?
Method or process: Will everyone do the same activity? Can choice, which motivates learning through increasing relevance be offered? How will all learners be appropriately challenged?
Planning where the learning is headed (Learning Goals or outcomes), gives an indication of who has reached the goal, what the evidence looks like, and what happens in-between (the path the learning will take). While the destination is largely the same for all learners, the journey can be quite different as can the assessment, children can show their learning in a variety of ways.
Planning for monitoring is also needed as monitoring learning through formative assessment will have the biggest impact on subsequent planning. At the most basic level, the data you collect may indicate whether you can move on or if you need to plan for other ways to help make learning happen. Questions or strategies need to be included in it, without this teachers might not ask the most effective questions that provide feedback on the learning taking place. Taking part in monitoring cannot rely on just a few learner responses. Technology (e.g. Plickers), whiteboards or letter cards can all facilitate whole class participation. (Read what Dylan William has to say on this here).
Planning at all levels is ‘an essential contributor to effective teaching and learning’ (NASUWT) and how this is approached can vary vastly. Does your current approach enable teachers to improve learning? Is the new school year a good time to reflect on planning in your school?