Schemes of work are funny things, especially in English. One school in which I worked insisted upon all KS3 classes following the same SoW to the same day. Another school (in fact, most schools) have very loose SoWs indeed, which perhaps mirrors the practice of planning throughout the past thirty years or so.
Those who follow this blog might remember two years ago I spoke about planning a year in advance. I did have some content roughly organised the entire year, and it was a big step forward. It had flaws, though, in that was inflexible. Like a writer constructing a paragraph, it is immensely hard to break apart sentences are landlocked between others (especially when connections seem established.)
Medium Term Plans differ between departments, let alone between schools. I must admit, I have never seen an exemplar MTP that has excited me (although a few have come close.) As my school does not have a specific KS3 co-ordinator, I have the freedom (and the responsibility) to explore how to attain a balance between cohesive planning, and a life (!)
Every teacher needs to know how they plan best. Aside from my exam classes, I do not plan well on an evening. Although the time to planning in the evening is finite, it feels like I should extend it. I am exhausted (emotionally as well as mentally) from the intensity of the day, and I find this is not the conducive mindset in which to plan ambitious lessons.
I do wake up early and prepare the day’s lessons for an hour or so. Having my own classroom is a boon: other schools have excellent reputations, but without a base of operations, I do not know how teachers can teach as effectively as they could. This time shouldn’t be about deciding on the content of the lesson: that is something a teacher should know before. Instead it is collating the resources, ensuring everything necessary is loaded on my screen, and that I can decide how capable I feel for the lessons due that day.
That might seem a strange thing for someone to read: how would a teacher’s feelings affect the lesson they teach? The truth is – especially in English teaching – that the same resources and same lesson plan can lead starkly different lessons. Knowing, or at least sensing, the pupils’ mood is as useful as assessing their academic ability, and their capabilities. Without making allowances for the mood of the class – and myself – a lesson will struggle to achieve its aims. As termed elsewhere, it might be ‘porridge’: hard to stir into action.
This is because learning (and, indeed, working) in a group of pre-set peers is tiring for all concerned. Imagine trying to run five different board-meetings for five hours each day. Such a role is unrelenting. The image of the teacher of 30 years ago (where getting the kids to be quiet was considered an achievement) reading a newspaper or marking in class wasn’t always representative of unprofessionalism: it indicated (at times) the smartness of someone who conserved their mental and emotional energy.
The government think that anyone can be a teacher. It is apparent in their decisions and in ‘teacher bashing’. And, if teaching is merely giving kids something to do and delivering sanctions by a set system, anyone with a degree can teach. However, teaching has progressed somewhat, and so have the expectations. Not anyone can develop the professional judgement on how to tweak a lesson or a task because it is windy outside, or a student has just lost a parent, or because an exam board has change (aka refined) its requirements. Not every person can, or is willing, to judiciously waste time on the concerns of a child that are monumental to them, but insignificant to all others.
All these mentions are for the purpose of establishing new ways of planning. Previously, I have been unimpressed with MTPs available from resource websites. That is because I have not understood how they worked: they inform (and usually only the person who writes them) what is expected in the upcoming lessons. The order and content can change: what is expected doesn’t. Yes, there are certain facts and certain content that must be covered. That shouldn’t change.
My ambitions for each class are:
Year 7: Finishing media unit: either a film review, or creative writing based on a film’s scene (perhaps the latter?)
metaphor and simile
paragraphing (describing/statement and explaining)
Year 8: Writing creatively about a trip taken abroad.
Paragraphing (recapping paragraphing)
writing in correct tenses
Year 9: Writing creatively about a scary film watched.
How to take notes.
Writing in full sentences.
Varied sentence starters
Year 10: Writing creatively about OMAM (two lessons maximum) and then writing analytically comparing sections 1 and 6.
Analysing quotations – how to do so.
How to plan using quotations
Year 11: Finishing admin, writing responses to paper 1 etc. Completing exams and marking in class.
Reading appropriately and skilfully.
Planning and writing interesting articles.
Poetry and short story writing.
Now, from each of these I should have some expectations of skills. I can allocate the type of starter and plenary in an almost arbitrary manner (at times) as its creative implementation leads to the task. For example, I want to teach metaphor and simile to year 7 with the intention of developing level 5/6 figurative language that specifically infers something about the description. For my starter, I could allocate a list starter, or a thunk starter or a spot the picture starter or an odd-one-out starter.
a) list starter: list everything that you could compare/associate with happiness/sadness etc.
b) what colour is sadness? Do colours have feelings?
c) a picture of a famous sculpture/Jackson Pollock, what does it mean?
d) Odd-one-out of a fist, a rock and piece of cake: to combine the fist and the rock in its shared qualities.
Such starters would be created on the morning of the lesson itself (if I got into work for something like 7:30 or so.)