At Calder Vale St. John's CE Primary School we place our learners at the heart of our curriculum. We know our children inside out, and this enables us to tailor the learning experiences we offer to their individual needs, interests and learning styles. Our curriculum grows and develops throughout the year along with our children.
How do you organise your curriculum for mixed age classes?
Because we have mixed classes, our curriculum works in a different way to that of other schools. Teachers often use a ‘box set’ analogy to describe the curriculum in larger schools, where the classes are single year groups. Each subject is like a different TV series and the curriculum builds up as a box set - each year group is a different season, each lesson is an episode. In our small school, this design doesn’t work. We use a different analogy, which we have Aimee Tinkler to thank for, in her article on 'Solving the curriculum conundrum of mixed-age classes’ (‘Huh: Curriculum conversations between subject and senior leaders 2021Myatt & Thomset).
Our curriculum is more like the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a collection of lots of different films (subjects) which are all stand alone epics. Our teachers are the superhero ‘geeks’ who have an expert knowledge of the curriculum and how everything links and flows. Our teachers know multiple years’ curricula inside out because of the multiple year groups they teach, giving them an overview of learning for their children which is second to none.
In order to be an Marvel Superhero expert, it doesn’t matter which order you watch the movies in, as long as you have seen them all – our curriculum works in the same way. Our mixed age classes, allow our children to revisit their learning in lots of different ways as they apply the same knowledge and skills in lots of different contexts during their time in each class. In their latest inspection handbook, OFSTED are keen to see that children make progress through ‘knowing more and remembering more’. Our curriculum model makes sure this happens.
What is your approach to teaching?
Our teachers love what they do and we strive to keep up to date with the latest research into how children learn, to make sure the experiences we give our children are the best they can be. Our approach to teaching is based on 'Rosenshine's Principles of Instruction'.
1. Daily Review
We always begin a lesson by reviewing what we learnt in the previous lesson and sometimes revisiting what we learn last week, last month or last term. We give the children lots of opportunities to remember their learning in different ways because we know that when children can recall information instantly, it gives them more space in their working memory to solve problems and be creative.
2. Share new material in small steps
When we introduce new learning, we present it in small chunks because we know that our working memories can only hold a few pieces of information at once before they become overloaded. We make sure the children have mastered the first steps of learning before they move on.
3. Ask questions
We know that the most effective teachers spend lots of time explaining, demonstrating and asking questions. We make sure the questions we ask engage all the children, not just a few and we use lots of different techniques that allow everyone to participate and share their answers.
4. Give worked examples
When we show the children how to do something, we think aloud and explain what we are doing and why - we ask ourselves questions and answer them, just as the children will do when they're working. Together with the children, we agree the steps we need to take to be successful. The children watch the teacher model how to do something, they work through another example together with the teacher, talking about their thinking and then they practice individually.
5. Guide children's practice
We always build time into our lessons for the children to rehearse, rephrase and expand their learning - showing what they know in lots of different ways to make sure they understand and can remember it.
6. Check children's understanding
We don't just ask 'Are there any questions?' and when no one answers, assume all the children understand. Our teachers check in with every child and use questions carefully to check their understanding and identify mistakes and misconceptions. We want all our children to know that getting stuck sometimes, is part of learning and we should celebrate being 'tricked' because it gives us a chance to learn something new.
7. Generate success
We teach in small steps with lots of opportunities to show and practice what we know. This makes sure that the children's working memory is not overloaded and they can transfer what they have learnt into their long term memory - making sure they know more and can remember more. Because of this, our children are confident in their skills as learners.
8. Scaffold difficult tasks
We use lots of different ways of supporting the children as they acquire new learning. This could involve modelling how to do something; providing reminder cards or checklists or giving finished examples.
9. Independent Practice
We give the children lots of opportunities to practice showing what they've learnt in different ways. This 'overlearning', along with lots of chances to revisit previous learning, helps the children on the way to recalling learning automatically.
10. Weekly and Monthly Review
We revisit recent learning regularly, leaving longer and longer gaps in between, until we know that the children have transferred their knowledge to their long term memory.
If you have any questions regarding the curriculum we teach, please contact the school directly.