Over the past six months or so I have benefited profoundly from the plethora of educational blogs and Tweets that have been generously shared by professionals from all around the world. Although I have not yet been teaching for a long time, the CPD which has been afforded by these avenues has been among the best I have experienced.
This is a re-blog post originally posted byJoshua Clarkeand published with kind permission.
Around the turn of the year, I was tasked with redesigning my school’s KS3 English curriculum. This has proven to be, once getting past the undeniably daunting and overwhelming nature of the task, immensely rewarding and a challenge packed full of creativity and opportunity. My thanks to a host of voices from whom I have gleaned tips and advice throughout the process so far, including, amongst others, Rebecca Foster (@TLPMrsF), Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher), David Didau (@learningspy), Michael Tidd (@MichaelT1979) and Daisy Christodolou (@daisychristo).
Adding to the challenge of allocating curriculum content across Years 7-9 has been the ubiquitous difficulty of designing new assessment frameworks to be operational for September as National Curriculum levels fade away. I hope to share my progress so far in an upcoming post. I am all too aware that what is being created is by no means the finished product, nor is it an example of a perfect assessment system, but what we are moving towards is something based upon best practice from around the country and something which will be flexible enough to be adopted after a period of reflection on its worth.
Of full agreement in our department is that we have a rare opportunity to make real, tangible improvements to our KS3 provision (and indeed our beginnings have recently been backed by OFSTED). Underpinning the process of the redesign has been a set of core principles which were outlined at the very earliest stage. By revisiting these guidelines at regular intervals we are ensuring that our changes are first and foremost based upon our own pedagogical values with support from a broader professional consensus.
In a draft form our values are as follows:
the teaching of writing must come out of reading and the study of existing examples
students should be immersed in rich and varied examples of language
grammar may be taught explicitly but always contextualised (i.e. draw out the effects of a text, identify the components causing the effect, and add meta-linguistic terminology to describe those techniques)
the teaching of spelling should be integrated throughout schemes of learning and come from an etymological and morphological perspective in accordance with David Crystal’s views on rule-bound teaching (see ‘Spell It Out: The Singular Story of English Spelling’ – 2012)
students should be afforded regular opportunities for ‘real-purpose’ writing
speaking and listening should be re-prioritised and oracy for literacy promoted
text-internal inference should be taught explicitly from the earliest point (Williams, Jazz C, 2015)
learning is gradual; skills must be returned to at regular intervals in order to become embedded – topics should not be rushed.
It is our hope that our new curriculum and methods of assessment will set up our students for success in the subsequent phases of their education, but that it will also ignite in them an excitement for the subject and a love for learning more generally. These are, of course, lofty ambitions, but if we don’t have the highest hopes for, and expectations of, our own practice and for the achievements of our students then is any of this really worth doing?