A1: Do all participating teachers and a member of SLT need to attend both of the live training sessions?
Yes. Attendance at both sessions is essential for understanding and teaching the programme. The training will ensure that you understand the rationale behind the materials. This will better enable you to use the materials skilfully and flexibly. If you want to tweak and adapt things, you will find you can do this far better if you fully understand what the materials are designed to achieve.
To make your attendance convenient for you, you do have some choices:
Training Half-Day 1 is EITHER Tuesday 2 OR Friday 5 March
Training Half-Day 2 is EITHER Friday 23 April OR Friday 7 May
All training is 8.45am – 12.15pm.
In the training, you will also meet the two friendly faces behind the materials – Christine and Steve. You will be able to ask them questions at the end, get to know them a bit, and feel comfortable raising questions with them thereafter.
A2: Can we start Year 4 on the programme as well as Year 3?
You can, but only with the Year 3 materials!
We strongly recommend that you teach the material in sequence because each part makes the next part much more understandable. Numerous words that are explicitly taught and practised in Year 3 are taken for granted in the Year 4 lessons.
Many Year 4, especially those with weaker literacy, would be stumbling over a lot of vocabulary if they hadn’t done the Year 3 work. This would slow progress and limit enjoyment. You will be startled by how future Year 4s will fly with their reading and all the Year 4 tasks once they have done the Year 3 programme.
If you would like to get next year’s Year 4 a little bit ahead, however, you can start teaching them (as this year’s Year 3) during the summer term. We recommend that Year 3 teachers do this anyway, because it is a good way to practise teaching with the materials.
Current Year 3 teachers can therefore teach Year 3 Autumn 1 and Autumn 2 during this summer term, i.e. starting straight after Easter. This will also mean that Year 3 teachers and SLT get even more out Training Half-Day 2, because you will arrive at the training with some experience of actually teaching the programme.
A3: When will the Year 5 resources be available?
We will release the Year 5 resources in January 2022.
B1: Are there lesson plans?
Lessons have been fully planned, but as a set of Powerpoint slides, not as lesson plans. We have found that this gives teachers both much more guidance and much more flexibility than conventional lesson plans.
The Powerpoint slides for each lesson provide a lesson structure, with varied activities that reinforce each other across the lesson. Each Powerpoint slide is self-explanatory. Little symbols and simple instructions at the bottom of each slide steer you to the type of teaching approach or pupil activity we recommend.
You can follow the Powerpoint exactly or adapt and tweak to suit your pupils.
The live online training sessions, together with further remote training sessions that we will later release, will enable you to get the most out of the Powerpoint slides as lesson structures.
B2: How flexible can I be with my lesson planning and use of the resources?
We have deliberately designed our resources as Powerpoints so that you can flex their use to suit context and your pupils. For example, as you get more confident in using the resources,
In general, our advice is this: Provided your practice reflects what we know from research about how ‘schemata’ transform pupils’ vocabulary recognition, and provided you stay with the spirit of the Opening Worlds programme as explained in your training, then making little tweaks to make the resources work even better for you, is fine.
But we do urge you to avoid missing out any chunk of content. If you do that, you may discover that pupils’ access and inclusion is thereby removed from a later section of the programme!
And if you choose to replace any teaching activity with another kind of activity, make sure it is ‘high-leverage,’ as explained in the training sessions.
It is really secure retention of the stories and descriptions that matters. The more these build up, the more the vocabulary within them will be recycled and therefore readily recognised.
If you make any adaptations, always keep in mind key features of strong, well-taught, knowledge-rich primary humanities curriculum:
B3: Why do we need to be so thorough in building the core knowledge?
Knowledge is ‘sticky’! This gives it a wonderfully powerful effect. The more pupils are secure in various reference points, the more they recognise words, put things together, make links, draw implicit comparisons, notice changes in meanings and so on.
Thorough knowledge ensures that when pupils read, they don’t get slowed down and discouraged by stumbling. The flow of the story can work on them as it should, at speed. You, the teacher, don’t have to keep interrupting that to explain numerous words.
When we are thorough in making sure pupils really know the stories and concepts, we are giving them frameworks. These frameworks make their grasp of further, future knowledge, with all its vocabulary, much easier.
This is why, you will notice that we normally steer you to read from the booklet at least half- way through each lesson; sometimes even right at the end of the lesson. By then, pupils will not find a single word unfamiliar! They will either have practised and/or discussed it during the lesson, or in a previous lesson.
For more information on why knowledge is helpful in building literacy and inclusion, please see the full programme and rationale.
B4: What is high-leverage teaching and why does it matter for inclusion?
‘High leverage’ is a term used to describe teaching that is time-efficient and thorough in ensuring pupils really do take in and then retain what they learn. High-leverage activities ensure that the knowledge being learned is at the centre of the task. Pupils are not distracted by the fussy mechanics of an activity and all the superfluous information that can come with it.
It is important not to see teaching activities in isolation. A range of smaller activities used in combination can be high-leverage. For example:
Try some quickfire, whole-class choral repetition of words and phrases with their definitions, followed by brief punchy storytelling or explanation accompanied by visuals or speedy, fun dramatic actions to go with stages in the story. Then choosing 8 or 9 pupils, check that recall of original words and phrases is both accurate and fast (in other words, fluent). Then more to some slightly different (but still speedy!) creative oral question and answer, requiring pupils to mix up the words, phrases, stories and definitions so that they have to use them flexibly but in whole sentences.
As you go, check for understanding, fix any misconceptions and ensure not one single pupil has failed to wrap their tongue around the new words.
THEN and only then, read the text together. You read aloud as they follow OR choose confident readers to read aloud. The pupils’ comprehension of and interest in the text will be transformed by the focused, punchy, thorough earlier work.
That combination of activities, making for high-leverage teaching, will then free up time for genuine discussion of the text or more reflective and creative activities. This is because all pupils arrive at the discussion with a good chance of grasping what the discussion is about!
In the Powerpoints, we have included much space for discussion and reflection, whether in pairs or as a whole class. But that works well when all pupils have been thoroughly prepared by punchy, inclusive, pacey, oral work, such as using lots of choral response so pupils actually practise their new words and phrases.
Ensuring all pupils use the words and are called to account in recalling the words is a great way to get all pupils moving with the content of the lesson.
Making sure every single pupil has said the word, isn’t frightened of the word, has played with the word, is true inclusion. Always ask, ‘how much practice does it take?’ for every pupil to be secure in the vocabulary. Then ensure that they all get that practice.
B5: Are there particular techniques or approaches which will make my teaching high-leverage?
Yes, there are! We have a package of ten of them. We introduced these in the live training, and you can revise them in the remote training packages too. Here is a summary of the ten techniques which will make your teaching really thorough.
Implementing the following approaches and techniques across a lesson is likely to result in pacey, lively, enjoyable lessons that see pupils becoming secure and really enjoying their security as they find they can recognise more and more words, and so become interested in connections, relationships and possibilities
The ten high-leverage techniques:
If you follow the Powerpoints, you will see that we never begin the lesson with reading. Children need to be secure in all the vocabulary before you start to read a section with them.
All lessons in the Opening Worlds programme pick out four or five key words (not too many) which pupils will find in the passage that they later read. The trick is to make sure pupils are really interested in these words and have practised saying the words, in different contexts, before you get anywhere near reading. Double check, through fast-paced questioning, that all pupils are really secure in these words and then when you (or they) read the passage aloud, they will recognise the word quickly and interpret the sentence more easily.
Don’t go anywhere near the booklets, until you have done a lot of pre-teaching!
The booklets help you here. If you’re not familiar with the various stories, you can learn about them from reading the relevant chapter of the booklet beforehand, to help you prepare. Then, wherever there’s something that stands out as a story, try to tell that bit of the chapter freely, not just reading it out, but telling it as an enthralling story. Go steadily, move slowly. Find pace, surprise, shock, delight!
The words in bold help you to identify core knowledge. So these are the things you will highlight and emphasise.
The easiest way for you to become familiar with the story, before the lesson, is simply to read the booklet yourself.
Often a story involves mystery and drama. Big this up; build on it. You won’t be able to find those moments of drama and tension, unless you have read the story yourself beforehand.
Don’t be afraid to spend a good while on storytelling. It is the glue that holds the lesson together.
Your storytelling will engage pupils and entice them in; they will want to know more. You will learn more about story telling both in the live training sessions and in the remote training sessions that you can do in your own time.
Watch pupils as they are enthralled. Watch their eyes. Watch as they want to know more…
When storytelling, it’s avoid falling back on ‘so… what do we think…?’ Just tell the story!
iii) Pupils need to hear you say the words.
It’s important to pronounce new words clearly and carefully, ensuring all pupils are listening. Say them in different contexts – not just with definitions but in varied sentences which model their flexible and interesting use.
If a tricky word has many syllables, then sound each syllable out in their choral response, until they get faster with saying it accurately and until they enjoy saying it accurately.
This means you need to be loud and proud in how you say each syllable, making sure each consonant is heard and every vowel is super clear. Practise one syllable at a time if they are being sloppy with it! For example, you would split these words like this, taking care to ensure they have heard you express every consonant properly:
Tut – ankh – amun
Trib – ut – ary
When pre-teaching some selected vocabulary before pupils encounter it in the text, get all pupils to say it together, several times, in differing contexts. This is fun, powerfully inclusive, and keeps the lesson pacey.
Get all pupils to say it together, several times, in differing contexts. This is what we mean by ‘choral response’. Watch their lips and make sure all are joining in. It’s a very safe way for shy or quiet pupils to find a ‘voice’ and practise words.
There are so many fun ways to do this. For example, in some Powerpoint slides, you will find lots of slides with ‘example/non-example’ problems:
You: Is this a polar climate?
Pupils: Yes! This is a polar climate!
You: Is this a polar climate?
Pupils: Yes! This is a polar climate?
You: Is this a polar climate!
Pupils: NO!!!! This is NOT a polar climate!
Also, ask pupils to say the word in different ways:
Whisper it. Sshhhhh.
Shout it loudly and slooowwwly.
Let’s say the word to the floor!
Let’s say the word to the ceiling!
Let’s say the word to our partner!
Turn to the window. Let’s tell the car park our new word!
We sometimes call this ‘retrieval practice for the many, not the few’!
If you’re checking particular pupils have understood and remembered the word ‘irrigate’ or ‘irrigation’, don’t just choose one pupil. The rest of the class will know they can fall asleep. Choose five in quick succession so that all pupils are doing the work of retrieval in their heads because they know they might be asked.
Take a sentence and keep rephrasing the question in different ways so they have to use the words in different combinations in a full sentence. For example:
You: What was the name of the man who became the governor of the Roman province of Gaul?
Pupil: The name of the man who became the governor of the Roman province of Gaul was Caesar.
You: Which Roman province did Caesar become the governor of?
Another pupil: Caesar became the governor of the Roman province of Gaul.
You: What was Caesar’s role in the Roman province of Gaul?
Another pupil: Caesar’s role in the Roman province of Gaul was governor.
In those bits of lessons when you’re teaching pupils the meaning of the word, a little sequence in a story, the location of something on a map or diagram, and you want to check they’ve got it, demand accurate response quickly. A good definition of ‘fluency’ is not just accuracy but accuracy plus speed. The goal is for knowledge to be so embedded that pupils do not have to stop and think about it. Then their struggle to remember basic things won’t use up spaces in working memory that you want for other things. You want basics (like what ‘irrigation’ means) to be automatic – i.e. fast and accurate. Then we can move onto something harder and more geographical such as thinking hard about the effects of irrigation or studying a photograph to describe an irrigation system.
If pupils are completely secure in fundamentals, then working memory is freed up for interesting thinking and higher order operations.
A sign of security in those fundamental is rapid retrieval in differing contexts. Strong teachers build an expectation in pupils that they’ll be asked to recall things fast. Their classrooms are full of fun in ensuring pupils practice this and enjoy the wonderful sense of accomplishment it brings.
vii) Be clear in your own head, what is core knowledge and what is supporting hinterland.
Interesting details, fascinating analogies, stories of a particular river in geography, big dramas or little examples in history, intriguing elaborations about Rama and Sita in RE and the wonderful flow of the narrative in all these gorgeous stories …. all these things may not be part of the core knowledge that in itself is vital, but they play a part in making that core knowledge make sense and they prop it up. We call this the hinterland.
We can’t just learn the core facts in isolation. They join up, and they join up through story. If we just jumped straight to a vocab list and learned it as a dry set of definitions, or just memorised a boring old knowledge organiser, we’d have a very clunky, narrow view of a subject. Pupils need to learn the subject, in its fullness, to ensure that vocab is embedded. So don’t be shy of elaborations and details that make things make sense, or draw pupils into the issues. The intriguing story to kick off the lesson, the little puzzle that leaves pupils wondering, the fascinating picture to picture….
These may not be things necessary to call up with retrieval practice, so there is no need to fixate on their recall, but they play a crucial part in communicating fascination and in making everything make sense.
It is the words in BOLD that are examples of core knowledge to hear, practise, rehearse, quiz, retrieve, revisit… e.g. shield volcano, embalm, Rama
Words with pronunciations, e.g. Djoser (joe-sir), but NOT IN BOLD, are not core knowledge. They are hinterland details to help you teach and to support the CORE.
viii) Secure pace
Pace yields pattern yields memory!
Across a lesson, pupils should be able to spot patterns.
It’s that word ‘empire’ again!
The Romans are marching again!
Oh look, it’s yet another government official, glacier, angel, law, ancient monument …
You will only spot these things by thinking about the lesson in the context of the unit as a whole and the subject journey as a whole. So try to get familiar with whole booklets so that you spot the patterns to bring out.
A punchy lesson that keeps the core knowledge to the front and moves at a pace with lots of pupil involvement ranging from choral repetition of words or phrases, to quick physical demonstrations or mini-role plays, will help pupils to see the bigger patterns and underlying story that drives the surface drama of the lesson.
Take care to avoid wasting big chunks of time with ‘Can anyone remember?’, ‘Does anyone know?’. This can really make a lesson drag because pupils start guessing or getting basic things wrong. Misconceptions are simply repeated. Other pupils hear and embed wrong information.
Either they SHOULD remember / know, because you’ve taught it and reinforced it explicitly (and you’re doing some pacey retrieval practice in the interests of memory and full inclusion) in which case it’s not appropriate to ask ‘Can anyone remember?’ because you know they all can and you’re just getting them to retrieve and rehearse it for practice. OR they genuinely don’t know, because they have not been taught, in which case it’s time to teach it explicitly, not to meander into it through half-remembered confusions.
Never just put a picture up and begin with a totally open-ended question such as ‘What can you see?’ Be much more focused than this (the Powerpoints will help you see what is important). Otherwise, pupils will bring up all sorts of very random stuff that won’t allow you to keep up pace and will not help you to get them thinking about the specific religious, geographical or historical things you want them to think about.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you don’t want to make space for open discussion of stories, for pupils’ own questions, for more open-ended questions, for whole-class reflection and exploration. But don’t confuse this with getting secure in the basics. You, as teacher, can control and drive that process, and the more you do, the more space there is for ALL pupils to feel involved in any whole-class discussion or reflective/creative activity.
In the Powerpoint slides, you will find that every lesson includes a lot of retrieval practice. Sometimes this is a set of questions, requiring full sentence answers, sometimes it’s true/false quiz, sometimes it’s just prompts or more creative questions. Some can be carried out fast, with the whole class, some are for pair work. You will find a lot of variety in approaches to retrieving old knowledge, both knowledge just taught, five minutes ago, and knowledge from lessons before.
B6: My own subject knowledge is poor in these subjects. How will I cope?
The booklets will quickly give you confidence. They contain all the essential core knowledge, organised not as dry facts, but as rich accounts – descriptions and stories which are full of connections and surprises. If you read the whole booklet (which won’t take you long!) you will feel confident quite quickly.
You can also turn your new enjoyment, curiosity and confidence in the subject matter into an advantage! High-leverage teaching also requires you, the teacher, to be a passionate example of someone excited by the knowledge being taught. If you share your own personal interest and fascination, if you tell them briefly what particularly fascinated you when you first learned a fact you didn’t know, if you are enthusiastic about the material, pupils are much more likely to retain and recall the material.
Make the specific content front and centre. In high-leverage activities, the content is the interesting thing. Your personal enthusiasm for it will be infectious!
Tip: you don’t have to tell the pupils that you only just learned it either! They will admire your great knowledge, seeing the pleasure and fascination it brings you, and want to be as knowledgeable as you.
C 1: How are pupils assessed in the Opening Worlds programme?
The Opening Worlds programme has three types of assessment:
This happens all the time. It is built into every lesson. You are constantly checking that knowledge is secure and that pupils are learning to think historically or geographically with their new knowledge. The regular quizzing and short tasks are always giving you ongoing information about how well your pupils have remembered and understood, so that you can adapt and/or re-teach immediately, or at least in the next lesson, ensuring no pupil ever gets left behind.
After the sixth lesson of each unit, pupils do an extended, synoptic task. This is often a piece of extended writing. It might also be an annotated diagram or a more creative outcome such as a story about the past or a little problem to solve using their historical or geographical knowledge. These extended tasks allow pupils both to further develop and to demonstrate, their new knowledge, both substantive and disciplinary, from all six lessons. We will supply guidance on assessing these extended tasks. Normally, you would do these in a seventh lesson. Older pupils may be able to do some tasks as a homework or extended project.
At the end of each term, we will supply schools with a short, simple-to-administer multiple choice test that randomly samples pupils’ history and geography knowledge (and RE knowledge if you have chosen to use that part of the programme) from across the whole term (two units in each subject).
These are termly summative tests, giving you data about how well your pupils are mastering the curriculum. Each test has 12 questions (H&G) or 18 questions (H,G and R) questions. With thorough teaching, all pupils should gain at least 10 (H&G) or 15 (H, G and R) every time.
If their marks are constant at this level, they are making excellent progress. You will have clear evidence that they are mastering the curriculum.
D1: What about differentiation?
In making knowledge do its work of strengthening reading, we are being inclusive. This means we need to think in refreshingly different ways about differentiation. The content may appear challenging, but the moment we contemplate not giving pupils access to the core vocabulary and the content that sits underneath it, we exclude them more, not less.
A key goal of the humanities curriculum is to bring many more pupils into the conversation of the lesson and into the knowledge that makes reading possible. If we exclude pupils from that knowledge, we widen the attainment gap and widen the disadvantage gap.
So take great care not to think about differentiation by curricular input. We need all pupils to encounter the stories, repeat the words and participate in recalling them together. Any pupil struggling needs more practice in the new vocabulary not less.
Remember what the Ofsted inspection framework says about differentiation. Overly elaborate and unnecessary differentiation is to be avoided. Such differentiation often excludes some pupils from the knowledge. This will widen the disadvantage gap.
We recognise, however, that some pupils, because of severely limited prior knowledge or specific barriers, may need extra time and help to access some materials. The other FAQs in this section attend to this.
D2: How does whole-class teaching help the lower attainers?
Those parts of the lesson where you are teaching the whole class are crucial for the very low-attainers. They will benefit hugely from:
D3: How can I give extra practice to the very lowest attainers or to pupils with significant challenges arising from SEND?
When pupils are not in whole-class teaching, that is, when they are working on their own, or perhaps in pairs, some differentiated provision can be helpful. Think of it in terms of ‘extra practice’ and ‘extra access’ rather than alternative input. You are not giving them easier work; you are giving them extra input to ensure they understand the thrust of the lesson. Then they have more chance of clambering into the main drama and direction of the lesson when whole-class teaching resumes.
A few pupils will certainly struggle to tackle even simple tasks such as writing a sentence in response to a question, let alone writing a couple of paragraphs. Some pupils will need further reinforcement of the story, concept or process just taught.
Rather than struggling to write a paragraph and not really reinforcing the knowledge or tackling misconceptions in the process, they would be better off hearing or rehearsing the knowledge again or differently, or having a chance to talk about it with a classroom assistant, or to ask a question about it in order to process it, or to look again at a map or picture and have fundamentals explained again with additional visual reinforcement.
For these reasons, we recommend with a very small minority of pupils, where the task the majority of students are doing is prohibitively difficult or would take so long that the time taken would outstrip its value, one of the following might be useful, depending on the child’s needs and available classroom assistant support:
Samples of such ‘extra practice’ tasks to go with each half-termly unit will be found in some of the subject’s resources sections. You may wish to make more, along these lines, to suit your pupils.
But it’s important not just to think about opportunities in terms of alternative tasks. Classroom assistants could profitably spend the five minutes or so spent in individual work simply doing some re-explanation, some oral repetition and some additional quizzing for core knowledge so as to build pupils’ security and sense of satisfaction and motivation that comes from that security.
D4: What if a very small minority of pupils are too confused by fundamentals to gain much benefit even from ‘extra practice’ tasks?
Sometimes, it is oral work that such children need. Often oral work is the only way to emphasise story or process, and make it interesting. Completing an easier worksheet might keep the pupil happily busy, but it may not be addressing the issue head-on and overcoming it. This is where judicious work with classroom assistants, or, where classroom assistants are not available, focused brief teacher input with particular pupils, can be invaluable.
Often, what certain pupils need is a reiteration of the really big main story (what a glacier is and how it moves) or outline concept (“the water in the river is being spread all over the land!”) so that they are at least not confused by fundamentals. For example, a struggling pupil who has not appreciated that the Romans came from Italy to Britain, and cannot yet make meaning out of a map to show those places and people, is going to be very confused about the idea of Britons rebelling against invaders. Who are these invaders? And they won’t readily identify Claudius with the people in Italy and Caractacus with the Britons. Grasp of what is going on then quickly unravels and they cannot make sense of listening to a story, watching it acted out or hearing it read.
For this reason, additional one-to-one teacher input or precious moments with a TA are often best spent not in ‘busy work’ that isn’t actually addressing these confusions, but in simply going over such outline summaries or ‘big picture’ stories. For example:
Look: here is a map showing where we can see the places where different people lived. See how this country, Italy, is a long, long, long, long way away from Britannia! The people here were called the Romans. They travelled all this way, a long, long way (trace it together with fingers on the map), all the way to Britannia. They tried to invade and conquer. This means they tried to march in and tell everyone what to do. The people who lived in Britannia didn’t like this. Why didn’t they like it? They had a leader called Caratacus. And so on.
This is a crude simplification of the story, but it can be necessary where such underlying confusions such as distance, the concept of there being different peoples or the idea of leadership are still extremely alien. These abstract notions need extra concrete reinforcement through one-to-one talk with an adult, and appropriate visuals.
Helping TAs to stay focused on the ‘big stories’ such as this could be more useful than a pupil spending ten minutes annotating a Roman soldier when they still don’t really know what a ‘Roman’ was in any geographical or historical sense.
D4: how can we help our classroom assistants?
TAs need help in understanding the fundamental purposes of the curriculum. To assist with this, you can help them by ensuring that they: