Activity

4.1: What you will learn, and video introduction to the Block

4.1a: What you will learn

Time allocation

5 minutes (10 minutes with video)

Instructions

  • Look over the statements covered in this Block.
  • Watch the video, which introduces what you will learn in this Block and why it is important.
  • Take your reflections, and any questions you have, to discuss in your first mentor session.

In this Block, you will learn the following:

Learn that
3.1 A school’s curriculum enables it to set out its vision for the knowledge, skills and values that its pupils will learn, encompassing the national curriculum within a coherent wider vision for successful learning.
3.2 Secure subject knowledge helps teachers to motivate pupils and teach effectively.
3.3 Ensuring pupils master foundational concepts and knowledge before moving on is likely to build pupils’ confidence and help them succeed.
3.4 Anticipating common misconceptions within particular subjects is also an important aspect of curricular knowledge; working closely with colleagues to develop an understanding of likely misconceptions is valuable.
3.5 Explicitly teaching pupils the knowledge and skills they need to succeed within particular subject areas is beneficial.
3.6 In order for pupils to think critically, they must have a secure understanding of knowledge within the subject area they are being asked to think critically about.
3.7 In all subject areas, pupils learn new ideas by linking those ideas to existing knowledge, organising this knowledge into increasingly complex mental models (or “schemata”); carefully sequencing teaching to facilitate this process is important.
3.8 Pupils are likely to struggle to transfer what has been learnt in one discipline to a new or unfamiliar context.
3.9 To access the curriculum, early literacy provides fundamental knowledge; reading comprises two elements: word reading and language comprehension; systematic synthetic phonics is the most effective approach for teaching pupils to decode
3.10 Every teacher can improve pupils’ literacy, including by explicitly teaching reading, writing and oral language skills specific to individual disciplines
Learn how to
Build on pupils’ prior knowledge by:
2d Identifying possible misconceptions and planning how to prevent these forming
2e Linking what pupils already know to what is being taught (e.g. explaining how new content builds on what is already known)
2f Sequencing lessons so that pupils secure foundational knowledge before encountering more complex content
2g Encouraging pupils to share emerging understanding and points of confusion so that misconceptions can be addressed
Deliver a carefully sequenced and coherent curriculum, by:
3a Identifying essential concepts, knowledge, skills and principles of the subject and providing opportunity for all pupils to learn and master these critical components
3b Ensuring pupils’ thinking is focused on key ideas within the subject
3c Working with experienced colleagues to accumulate and refine a collection of powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations and demonstrations
3d Using resources and materials aligned with the school curriculum (e.g. textbooks or shared resources designed by experienced colleagues that carefully sequence content)
3e Being aware of common misconceptions and discussing with experienced colleagues how to help pupils master important concepts
Support pupils to build increasingly complex mental models, by:
3f Discussing curriculum design with experienced colleagues and balancing exposition, repetition, practice of critical skills and knowledge
Develop pupils’ literacy, by:
3o Teaching unfamiliar vocabulary explicitly and planning for pupils to be repeatedly exposed to high-utility and high-frequency vocabulary in what is taught
3p Modelling reading comprehension by asking questions, making predictions, and summarising when reading
3q Promoting reading for pleasure (e.g. by using a range of whole class reading approaches and regularly reading high-quality texts to children)
3r Modelling and requiring high-quality oral language, recognising that spoken language underpins the development of reading and writing (e.g. requiring pupils to respond to questions in full sentences, making use of relevant technical vocabulary)
3s Teaching different forms of writing by modelling, planning, drafting and editing

4.1b: Video introduction to the Block

Time allocation

5 minutes (10 minutes with 4.1a)

Instructions

Watch the video. The video outlines what you will cover in this Block.

Video transcript

A school’s curriculum sets out its vision for the knowledge, skills and values that its pupils will learn. In most schools the curriculum is made up of discrete subjects, such as maths, or groupings of subjects, such as humanities. You might already feel confident in one or more subject or curriculum areas having studied it at university. Many people become teachers because of a passion for a subject and – if you ask them – will try to make the case for why their preferred subject is the most important in the curriculum! Of course, depending on the phase or department in which you teach you may well be teaching multiple subjects.

In recent years, there has been an increasing appreciation that a teacher’s subject knowledge is critical. There is acceptance in the literature that secure subject knowledge is a defining characteristic of effective teaching.

The in-depth, advanced subject knowledge you may have developed through university study will need to evolve further in order to make this knowledge accessible to the pupils you teach. Learning to do this will help you motivate your pupils and teach more effectively, leading to improved pupil outcomes. If you are teaching a subject or subjects which you feel less confident with, it is even more important to spend the time developing your subject and curriculum knowledge.

  • Secure subject knowledge will allow you to better sequence lessons and episodes of learning as you have a more sophisticated understanding of the small steps it takes to master the particular content you are trying to teach.
  • Secure subject knowledge will allow you to anticipate common misconceptions and to plan intentionally for these.
  • We know that pupils’ motivation is derived from their feelings of success ‒ the better they are taught, the more likely they are to be successful and therefore motivated.

To be effective in teaching any subject you will need to be explicit in teaching pupils the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. You will need to have a particularly strong understanding of the essential concepts within the subject or subjects you teach in order to ensure that pupils have a secure foundation from which to begin to think critically about the subject.

Experienced and effective teachers have a strong repertoire of examples to explain these key ideas – we know that pupils learn better when abstract concepts are illustrated with multiple, concrete examples. You will also start to see how generic pedagogical strategies can best be applied within each subject: tools like questioning can only be truly effective if the question is devised from a place of secure knowledge.

Dedicating time to developing your subject and curriculum knowledge can also be hard to do among the myriad of competing priorities that you face in school, especially at the beginning of your career. It can feel more important to deal with immediate concerns, such as planning your next lesson or dealing with a behaviour incident, instead of setting aside time to enhance your understanding of the subject and curriculum. This Block will show you the importance of making time to prioritise this aspect of your practice.

This Block will also support you to develop your understanding of the importance of literacy and build a collection of teaching skills related to it. Improvements in literacy skills support pupils to access the curriculum across all subject areas, not just English or Humanities; and good literacy develops throughout pupils’ school careers, not just in early primary. Every teacher must take responsibility for improving pupils’ literacy skills in their subject area.

Block 4 has been designed with all of this in mind and seeks to support you with practical strategies to develop your subject and curriculum knowledge, encouraging you to seek out the support and expertise of more experienced colleagues to do so. It builds on everything you have learned so far about classroom practice, how pupils learn and adaptive teaching.