It is essentially thinking and analysing available information, planning for progression in learning, presenting appropriately challenging information and learning opportunities, thinking during and between lessons, adapting to evident needs, recording those bits and pieces that are worthy of record, as aides memoire.
Of course, around these central elements lie further lists of sub-tasks, any of which can be grown, through over-systematising, into over-demanding activities, just to double-check the system.
The essence is analyse, plan, do review, record. Each step is a thinking step… and anything that detracts from that is to the detriment of the children’s learning.
You’ll have organise the classroom to provide the most efficient arrangement of tables, that enables ease of movement, as well as good sight lines from different areas of the classroom. You will have ordered and organised resources; some at each table and more in labelled drawers for easy access and return. Reading corners, maths equipment, display boards or working walls will be evident. Much more besides will have been labelled or arranged in a display.
In addition, you will have considered the curriculum organisation for the period of time that you are responsible for the class, with a specific focus on those areas that will form the initial topics in each subject. The best planning is longer term to focus on the interaction of knowledge and skills as they develop and are reuse during the year. Being ordered and organised is the hallmark of good teaching.
The sharing of information has always been a central feature of good teaching. The quality of information sharing can be a variable, in that all information exists in a narrative that draws from the children’s prior experience, sifting and adding the new information after challenge or reflection.
If you need to collate the relevant information to be shared, that seems like an excellent idea, but the narrative sharing abilities of the teacher, the security and depth of the information, together with the articulacy of the adult will determine whether imagery is conjured in the minds of the receivers. If images are shared, that support the narrative, children can utilise recall or perhaps indulge in abstraction to further their own imagination.
Classroom vocabulary is closely connected with contextual experiences; if children’s home experiences are limited, this will have an impact on their understanding, compounded if the linguistic experience is also limited. Teaching and learning rely on words, embedding worldly concepts. The teacher is the generator of words, through the breadth and depth of experiences that they offer, inside and outside the classroom. Words, in some form, are needed to be able to interact with the world.
The interactions between teacher, other adult or children are key. Quality of questions, responses to their answers, follow-up questions for clarification, providing feedback in timely fashion, subtle adjustments or specific coaching and modelling might be needed in some cases.
Pitch of challenge, interaction and feedback are the equivalent of tailoring; a piece of clothing might be approximately the right size, but for individuals might require taking in or loosening, depending on how it is perceived to fit.
Teacher standards 6&5 describe these detailed actions, within the 24652 continuum; know your children, plan efficiently, interact and adjust to need, make decisions about subsequent learning. If planning was broader, over a longer timescale, with teachers making notes on next needs, it might decrease some anxiety about workload. Much planning is, in effect, continuous, with additional information added to need.
- Standards 6 and 5 are the key to getting closer to individual, group and class needs. The judgemental aspects of standard 6, between and within lessons, are effected through adaptations between lessons or within a lesson. That nuance can be lost in a delivery model. It is often evident in ITE trainees, who are focused on getting through the lesson more than the actual learning and getting to know the needs of individuals.
- Assessment, to my mind, has always meant knowing your children. It also means knowing the generic progression in each of the subjects that make up the Primary curriculum. Marrying the two together is the essence of good planning that embeds appropriate challenge for different needs.
- Planning is, at heart, a(n) hypothesis, a general descriptor of what will happen if all your prior judgements have been accurate.
- All plans should be subject to adjustment within the lesson, if, on the balance of evidence and the teacher judgement, individuals, groups or the whole class seem to be finding aspects harder or easier than expected. In-lesson interactions and oral and written feedback are likely to be influenced by these judgements.
- Teacher Standards 6&5 together effectively mean spot and deal with learning issues in a lesson.
- Reflection after the lesson, or period of lessons allows for future plans to be adjusted to outcomes. This could be in the form of “interleaving” or adjusting future demands to cater for known needs.
The teacher, as a good captain, should also be looking out for the well-being of her team.
It’s not simple, it never has been simple and, given the complex nature of any group of humans, will never be a simple role; but it is still a great job and you get to be captain…!