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Thoughts on a New Year

Dec 14th 2021

As we write this blog, we are aware that we still face uncertainty as to what 2022 has to offer. Will we make it through the rest of the school year? Will our trips and performances go ahead? Will we get to go on that European city break in half term that we have moved 5 times already? We sadly don’t have these answers but as we have all learnt to do recently, we will continue to change and adapt to the situation around us.

Putting these uncertainties aside though, we remembered that a new year gives us the chance to hit a re-set button. In schools, we generally do this come September but maybe now is as good a time as any to focus in on some little changes that could make the world of difference to us (and others) personally and professionally.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Prioritise reading – get pupils reading early with fully decodable texts matched to their phonic knowledge (not led by a book band colour) and keep with these books until they are fluent and confident.
  • Give pupils a varied yet well thought out diet of books. Look at what you have on offer in your classroom. Have you got a good mix of old and new (check out our 2022 newsletter for books to look out for)? Are they accessible to pupils and hooking them in? Books need some key elements in order to be engaging so think about: vocabulary (not too many difficult words), theme (can the pupils relate?), emotional responses and engaging images (you can judge a book by its cover and subsequent pages).
  • Model writing at every opportunity – we all learn best when we can clearly see what we need to do and the steps taken to be successful (think about the non-dancers in Strictly Come Dancing and how this approach works for them). It’s not cheating! Remember though to use a slow-release approach (teacher modelling followed by scribing pupils’ ideas then collaborative writing and finally independent writing).
  • Get pupils writing often – as with reading, pupils can only practise the skills you have taught them and modelled to them if you let them have a go. Don’t wait 3-4 weeks before producing one final piece of writing, instead write little and often with a clear purpose and focus on a finite number of skills.
  • Use AfL regularly – the keep up approach often associated with phonics provision works in every lesson. Don’t wait for assessment to tell you which pupils are struggling with a concept, identify early and plug that gap asap. Short, specific intervention based on individual need and close to the point of learning makes such a difference. Equally, don’t forget to use AfL to inform you of what your pupils do know as much as what they don’t. These are your building blocks to take their learning to the next level.
  • Consider purpose and audience of writing tasks rather than being led by genres. Repeat the teaching of familiar tasks and don’t get bogged down with teaching the features of a tricky text type. We want pupils to use grammar skills appropriately and effectively – doing this alongside the features of tricky text types can lead to cognitive overload! Think about the skills you want pupils to use and which outcomes support the teaching of these skills rather than trying to shoehorn them in. One consultant is still haunted by the estate agent house descriptions written with a Y1 class in an attempt to fit with a particular topic in her early teaching career. Never again…..

We could go on but will leave you on a lighter note with some of the more personal resolutions being made by the team. Can you guess who they belong to?

Whatever your hopes are for 2022 (big or small) we wish you all the best and look forward to catching up with you after the break.

From us all, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year