B: Using the resources in teaching

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.

All Implementation training is 8.45am – 12.15pm.

Find your Project Lead’s contact details here.

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,

  • You may want to tweak the opening slides to suit your school’s normal lesson starts.
  • You may want to add in additional reinforcement where you feel some pupils need yet more practise using a particular word or extra story telling.
  • Where you are really confident every pupil is secure, you may choose to remove or adapt some reinforcement, such as a particular recall exercise. Be careful though! It is important that pupils become fluent, recognising new words instantly. Much research shows that ‘over-learning’ is a thoroughly good thing! ‘Over-learning’ (lots of practice on the same thing until it is automatic) builds that fluency.

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:

  • varied and secure knowledge which transforms subsequent reading comprehension;
  • ensuring vocabulary is absolutely secure through rich stories and through plenty of practice in using vocabulary in context;
  • steady building of curiosity and wonder through your own infectious enthusiasm;
  • plenty of inclusive, fun, punchy, oral work, where every child gets to practise new words, try out new phrases and have fun with their knowledge, together with others;
  • building pupils’ disciplinary thinking so that pupils learn the subject’s traditions of enquiry, becoming questioning, creative and critical thinkers within the subject.

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.

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.

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:

i) Pre-teach some key vocabulary.

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!

ii) Practise your own storytelling… and enjoy it!

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

iv) Pupils need to hear themselves say the words (choral response).

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! etc

v) Don’t ask one, ask five

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.

vi) Secure fluency (fluency = accuracy + speed)

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.

ix) Avoid guessing games

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.

x) Check they’re secure as you go along with well-spaced bits of quizzing.

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.

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.