You must remember that although I have always taught with a National Curriculum in some form (yes there was education before the National Curriculum), when I started to teach there was no literacy or numeracy hour. How you organised your time was really up to you and I was always keen for children to take the lead role in their learning. It was because of this that I used to run an integrated day – what is an integrated day I hear you ask? – well that is what this week’s waffle is all about.
Recently I went on a school visit to West Heslerton CE Primary School. This was suggested to me by the Dean of Faculty due to the work they were doing on learning journeys. I was really looking forward to it since they still ran an integrated day in some of the sessions. An integrated day, to me, can be best described as taking the EYFS way of working and putting it into the KS1/2 setting. Children decide what they want to learn and how they want to present/record this – in my original way of working, they also decided when in the day they would want to do this. The best way to describe this is to focus on ‘topic work’.
I used to have a simple A4 sheet of separated up into quarters. This was way before integrated use of technology within the classroom!
Initially I would provide them with a stimulus for the topic – this might be images or a story or a video. The children would then start by thinking of a question that they would like to answer. This is similar to the questions set up when completing KWL sheets. Once they have decided on their question they would decide what they needed to do to answer this, what support they would need, how they would record/communicate it and how they would know they had been successful. I used to have a simple A4 sheet of separated up into quarters. This was way before integrated use of technology within the classroom! I collected these in and wrote on them, supporting them with resources that they might want to use and other people who were working on a similar area of learning. Once this was completed then they would start their learning.
Throughout the lesson I would move around the groups supporting the children, motivating them, challenging them and ‘marking’ their work. Although they were not called this – I also used mini plenaries to support the children’s learning throughout the session/day or even week. Some children needed more ‘encouragement’ than others and some I would actually work with them in small groups to support them in learning the skills of independent learning. This was especially important at the beginning of the year when the children were new to the way of working or when new children came into the class.
At the end of the learning – children would come together and present what they had learnt or what they had found out. This could be in a mini class assembly or booklets which were put out on display for parents’ evenings. For me, as a teacher, I would record what they had learnt by keeping the A4 sheets and attaching these to the recorded work and marking and providing feedback for the following topic/session. This would include identifying skills which the children would need to work on or how well the children had done with their learning. This of course also lead to the children becoming experts in certain areas of the topic – which could feed into entries for the Purple Book – although this was not actually around at the same time. Their learning was linked to the National Curriculum both at the start and the end – although this was sometimes difficult since I felt I was focusing on skills rather than knowledge. Sometimes there was some very good links – especially if the curriculum content was knowledge based – other times it was…well more difficult.
This way of working is definitely not for every practitioner or every child, although I did feel that it was one way to develop the children as independent learners and focusing on how they learn and what they want to learn. As I now attempt to facilitate learning in higher education, I am considering whether this approach would be viable at university – or does this already exist and I am not fully aware of it. Are we, as educators, promoting independent learners? A question that I know I will continue to ponder.
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Have fun, engage and I’ll catch you later