Activity

4.4: Developing your teaching

Time allocation

1 hour 10 minutes

Instructions

  • There are three areas for you to develop your classroom practice.
  • Click on each one to go to a summary of what you will learn, what success looks like and ideas for practice.
  • Select one of the ideas for practice from each area to try out in your classroom.
  • This will require some additional planning either individually or in collaboration with a colleague.
  • You should also evaluate the effectiveness and impact of this in discussion with your mentor.

The intended outcomes of this activity are for you to:

Learn that
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.
3.7 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.
Learn how to
Deliver a carefully sequenced and coherent curriculum, by:
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.

Area 1

Area 2

Area 3

Securing your subject knowledge

Sequencing effectively

Explicit teaching of subject-specific knowledge and skills

  • Mining your colleagues for information
  • Utilising subject associations
  • Utilising resources effectively
  • Developing a knowledge organiser
  • “Working backwards”
  • Reviewing and reflecting on a sequence of lessons
  • Scripting an exposition
  • Reflecting on quality explicit teaching
  • Developing a bank of high-quality examples

Securing your subject knowledge

By trying this activity, you will…

Learn that:

3.2 Secure subject knowledge helps teachers to motivate pupils and teach effectively.

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.

3e Being aware of common misconceptions and discussing with experienced colleagues how to help pupils master important concepts.

3f Discussing curriculum design with experienced colleagues and balancing exposition, repetition, practice of critical skills and knowledge.

Having a secure subject knowledge will mean…

  • Pupils are motivated by the subject and the work.
  • Pupils’ misunderstandings are revealed and dealt with.
  • Pupils are successful and derive satisfaction from this.

Practice…

Mining your colleagues for information

Your colleagues will be a very valuable source of information for you in terms of subject knowledge, especially to give you intelligence on what pupils typically get wrong and/or find most challenging. You should spend some time talking to colleagues and asking for advice. The following question stems might help you to do this:

  • “If you were teaching X, what would you want to make sure pupils knew before starting… ?”
  • “Where does X fit in the wider curriculum map? What comes before, what comes after?”
  • “What common misconceptions do pupils have within this topic?”
  • “I am going to be teaching X and am unsure what the most important things for pupils to think about are. Can you help?”
  • “When you taught X previously, how did you make sure that pupils were thinking about the most important thing?”
  • “What do pupils typically get wrong in this topic? How do you deal with this?”
  • “How do you go about making sure that you provide enough time for repetition within your planning?”
  • “What kinds of activities have you found helpful for supporting pupils to practise critical skills and knowledge?”

Utilising subject associations

Subject associations can be a useful source of information to develop your subject knowledge. Most of them have regular publications. Spend some time exploring the relevant one for you. https://www.subjectassociations.org.uk/

Utilising resources effectively

Your department or phase team will be able to help you identify high-quality resources for your subject or phase. These might include:

  • Textbooks
  • Websites
  • Department/phase resource banks

You can use resources to improve your subject knowledge. Here are some things to consider:

  • How does this resource explain a particular concept?
  • What types of practice activities does it provide?
  • How do the examples in the resource address possible misconceptions?
  • What language does the resource use to explain key concepts and knowledge which pupils need to understand?
  • Are there any potential misconceptions which the resource has explicitly highlighted?

In your notepad – reflect on your practice…

● Which idea(s) for practice did you try?
● What did you do?
● What happened?
● What will you do next?

Sequencing effectively

By trying this activity, you will…

Learn that:

3.3 Ensuring pupils master foundational concepts and knowledge before moving on is likely to build pupils’ confidence and help them succeed.

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.

Sequencing effectively will mean that you have…

  1. Pupils that are confident.
  2. Pupils who are clear on what they are doing and why they are doing it.
  3. Pupils who are able to make links to existing knowledge.

Practice…

Working backwards

Deciding what to put in your units of work (and even in individual lessons) is a challenging task. Approaching your planning by starting at the end is an effective way to approach this task. 

For example, imagine you are planning a unit of work on energy. Instead of starting with the topic and being overwhelmed by all the things you could teach, begin by thinking about the end. Follow these steps, working backwards:

  1. What are the fundamental things (knowledge, concepts and skills) you want your pupils to take away from this unit? Therefore…
  2. What needs to be in the end of unit assessment to check the knowledge and skills have been taught?
  3. What do the individual aims and objectives need to be in the preceding lessons to support pupils to be successful in the end of unit assessment?
  4. In what ways will you check that pupils are on track within each lesson?
  5. Have you ordered your content from foundational to more complex to ensure pupils are more likely to build confidence and succeed?

You can use this approach for the design of individual lessons within the unit.

  1. What do I need my pupils to know by the end of this lesson in order to meet the overall aims and objectives?
  2. What do I need to provide input on for them to achieve this?
  3. What tasks/activities can I design around this input to check pupils have understood?
  4. How can I make sure pupils have connected this learning to what they have done before?

Connecting the learning

Review your lesson plans for the next week. For each lesson, make sure your starter or “do now” activity is one which connects the learning of that lesson to the previous lessons. Some ideas for doing this are below:

  • Five quick questions: pupils answer five quick questions in their books or on mini-whiteboards based on the learning from the previous lesson.
  • Ask five questions: pupils have to write five questions about the previous lesson.
  • Unscramble key vocabulary: use key words from the previous lesson and scramble them up. Pupils need to unscramble the words, define them and then write a paragraph using as many of the words as possible.
  • Beat the teacher!: Write a paragraph based on the previous lesson but containing mistakes. Pupils need to find the mistakes and correct them.

Develop a knowledge organiser

A knowledge organiser which outlines the essential knowledge required for a specific unit of work. It can support the learning of foundational concepts because:

  • It provides a reference point for pupils to continuously refer back to.
  • It provides the essential contextual knowledge (i.e. definitions and key words) required to access the learning.

Knowledge organisers can be helpful for teachers as well as pupils – the process of developing a knowledge organiser can be an effective way for you to decide what the foundational knowledge/concepts in your subject or current topic are.

An example of a knowledge organiser for history:

  • A one-page document, including:
    • Key dates
    • Key vocabulary and definitions
    • Key individuals
    • Other pertinent information such as legislation relevant to the period being studied, e.g. The Elizabethan Poor Law.

The use of the organiser needs to be integrated into your lessons. For example:

  • Train the pupils in how to learn the material. Be explicit about the fact that learning information organised in different ways will help them to remember it. 
  • Use it as an aid for homework, e.g. “Learn section 1 of your knowledge organiser for homework.” Test the pupils on the knowledge in the next lesson.
  • You can also use it to track whether pupils have secured the foundational concepts and knowledge before moving on, e.g. pupils highlight green when they have successfully learned an aspect. 
  • Use it as an aid for retrieval within lessons.
  • The knowledge organiser needs to be presented in such a way that further organisation of it could take place by pupils.

Read more about knowledge organisers here: https://my.chartered.college/2019/05/organising-knowledge-the-purpose-and-pedagogy-of-knowledge-organisers/

Reviewing and reflecting on a sequence of lessons

Dedicating time to review and reflect upon lessons you teach will give you information which will help you become a better teacher. Take some time to carefully consider the way you sequenced your lessons. Ask yourself:

  • How well prepared was I to teach this sequence of lessons? (Did I do pre-reading? etc.) What would I do differently next time?
  • Did the way I sequenced the lessons work? Did the pupils acquire the fundamental knowledge, concepts and skills that I wanted them to by the end of the sequence? If not, why not? Would I change anything about the sequencing next time? Why?

In your notepad – reflect on your practice…

  • Which idea(s) for practice did you try?
  • What did you do?
  • What happened?
  • What will you do next?

 

Area 3: Explicit teaching of subject-specific knowledge and skills

By trying this activity, you will…

Learn that:

3.5 Explicitly teaching pupils the knowledge and skills they need to succeed within particular subject areas is beneficial.

If this is happening in your classroom, you will see…

  • Pupils who can connect what they are learning to prior learning.
  • Pupils who are clear on what they need to do.
  • Pupils who are able to give subject-specific explanations and examples.

Practice…

Reflecting on quality explicit teaching

Ask a peer or your mentor to observe you teaching. As an alternative, you could find a colleague to observe and time them. Ensure you are clear on the purpose of the observation and what you are there to do.

Keep a note of when the teacher explicitly teaches the knowledge or skills pupils need. This might be through:

  • Quality explanations
  • Giving examples, modelling or using illustrations
  • Discussing or teaching vocabulary

Note down:

  • What did the teacher do / say?
  • What resources / examples did they use?
  • What was the impact on the learning after the explicit teaching moment? How did it affect pupils learning?

Reflect on the following at the end of the lesson:

  • Was enough explicit input provided to pupils to help them succeed in the lesson? What evidence was there of this?
  • Were the explanations high-quality? How did they support pupils to understand the key concepts?
  • Were the examples of high quality? How did they support pupils in understanding the key concepts?
  • Did the teacher spend enough time on making sure pupils had the right subject-specific vocabulary to produce high-quality work? How did pupils demonstrate this during the lesson?
  • Did the explicit teaching support pupils to learn the lesson outcomes? Why/why not? What would the teacher do differently next time?

Script an exposition for a topic you will teach

Choose a lesson where you are going to have to teach pupils a concept that is challenging. Write a script for how you will introduce pupils to that concept. Use the following questions to support you to do so:

  1. What do my pupils already know about this topic?
  2. How can I use what my pupils already know to help them understand this new material?
  3. How can I make explicit how this new content builds on what they already know?
  4. Is my explanation clear and carefully constructed?
  5. Have I used pictures/diagrams/illustrations to support my explanation?
  6. What examples have I used to support my explanation? Are they high-quality?
  7. Are there any non-examples I could use?
  8. What misconceptions might my pupils have? How can I address these explicitly?

Here is an example script from a teacher who is going to teach her class about metaphors for the first time. She has already taught them similes.

“Today we are going to learn something new. By the end of this lesson, you are going to be able to tell me what a metaphor is and be able to use them. This builds on the work we did already on similes.

Can you now turn to your partner and remind them what a simile is and give an example. You have two minutes. [Pupils discuss with their partner while the teacher circulates and listens to conversations.] 3, 2, 1… thank you. Joseph, I liked what I heard you telling your partner, can you please share with the class. [Joseph shares with the class.]

Remember, when we use a simile, we compare by saying something is like or as something else. For example, ‘you are as cold as ice’. Today, we are going to build on this knowledge to understand and be able to use metaphors.

A metaphor is when you compare something by saying it is something else. Both these techniques are used by writers to pick out characteristics of the thing that we are describing to convey meaning to the reader and add depth to what we are describing; they help us to show, not tell. Here is an example of a metaphor: ‘He is a shining star.’

Can you now turn to your partner and decide which of these is a metaphor and why: a. Hope makes me feel optimistic and positive about the future; b. Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. You have one minute. [Pupils discuss with their partner while the teacher circulates and listens to conversations.] 3, 2, 1… thank you. Nadia, you and Rajib said b ‒ can you explain why?” [Nadia shares with the class.]

Develop and use a bank of subject-specific examples for a topic

Take a unit of work that you are going to teach soon. This may be a unit that you are planning from scratch or one that already exists. For each lesson consider:

  1. What are the key pieces of knowledge and skills that are being taught?
  2. What are the current examples being used to illustrate? 
  3. Could these current examples be better (i.e. more relevant, more up to date)?
  4. How will I explain this example? Is there a diagram/picture/illustration that could support its explanation?

Examples of knowledge and skills needed for different topics:

Biology ‒ Respiration

  • To know that respiration is a cellular process
  • To know that during respiration the energy stored inside glucose is transferred
  • To know the difference between breathing and respiration
  • To be able to contrast respiration and fermentation

PE – Basketball

  • To be able to dribble the ball
  • To be able to chest pass 
  • To be able to bounce pass
  • To be able to pivot 
  • To know the key rules of a basketball game 

It would be useful to share your thoughts or ask questions of colleagues and also pupils to help you.

In your notepad – reflect on your practice…

  • Which idea(s) for practice did you try?
  • What did you do?
  • What happened?
  • What will you do next?