Planning your term goes in 3 stages and it doesn’t matter which type of system your school uses – you should make your thought patterns work in this way.
Most Primary schools nowadays have returned to the Topic based system of curriculum planning and delivery and to be quite honest it works well. Some schools will adopt a whole school approach where everyone is doing the same topic at the same time and others will have a programme of topics that graduate up the academic years.
There are plus and minus points to each and of course delivery of each is slightly different .
One of the good things about whole school topics is that it is possible to see the progression of work related to the topic as it unfolds across the year groups and this can be displayed and illustrated beautifully in displays around the school. One of the minus points is that the younger age classes usually have a 1/2 term project focus and the older age groups use a termly approach. There are other pluses and minuses and its really for the management team to work out the logistics.
Personally, although I am quite happy with whole school topics occasionally , I do prefer to have an organised and progressive system of planned topics across the year groups.
You may now say to me “Charles, I am in a school where we have a computerised planning system”….lucky you (and I say this tongue in cheek!)
Computerised planning and recording systems are a commercial way to do the same job of planning and recording. However they are usually top heavy and too involved. …what do I mean by this?
They involve programmes that are directly related to the national curriculum to “guarantee coverage” and teachers tick boxes to include areas of the curriculum or activities – however as the programmes cannot be specific on what you are doing, then as a teacher you will have to identify activity areas that are going to be covered so that these can be “guaranteed”. In the core subjects it is usually better and specific areas can be ticked!
Programmes can be extended to cover all levels of the planning system and will produce plans, coverage charts and tables so that you can see just how well everything is being done. ….oh and it will be in full colour.
My impression – total waste of time but acts as a crutch for management teams who want to explain to OFSTED how organised they are and how they can guarantee coverage. Often these systems run in tandem with computerised assessment procedures which have to be completed as topics progress. Basically pages of tick boxes.
Have I used these? – yes in 1 school and my opinion – great revenue earner for the publishing company and cost the school hundreds of pounds if not thousands. Lots of coloured graphs and tables galore – completed the system as I went along but practically never looked at it – waste of time and money!
However if you’ve got it then you’ll have to go with the flow…..sorry!
Organising your planning thinking….
- Long term planning –
- Medium term planning
- Short term planning or as I prefer to call it Personal planning.
What does each mean?
Long Term Planning…..There are 2 ways to approach this and really depends on your school. Some schools will have in place a planned progression of topics so that, for example, if you are in year 2 – the Autumn term, you will have a topic on “my school”…..in year 4 spring term it might be “minibeasts” . Basically you know what you will be doing or at least the topic area.
Alternatively some schools will have nothing in place and so its up to you to choose a topic which you think would be interesting for the age of the children you have and something that will have a decent amount of material that you can draw on and teach.
The next step is to be acquainted with the National Curriculum requirements for your age group. In other words what sort of things do you need to be teaching to the children through you topic teaching choices (knowledge / skills etc).
You don’t need to get too bogged down with the national curriculum – just get the basics from which you can form your activity ideas. A useful tip is also to look at any text books you may have for your class which are age specific (maths is a great example) – these are based on the N.C and can tell you what you should be covering for that age group.
The next activity is, I think, the most fun – designing a TOPIC WEB. Its strange to say but about 14 years ago the teacher training colleges were not teaching students how to plan using topic webs. So a huge tranche came into the profession without this basic skill and we had to hold training sessions to instruct on how this worked!.
Ok – let me show you an example of a topic web – then we can look at a few specifics
I’ve put this in on a decent resolution so that hopefully you can read it! – Its a good example of a LONG TERM planning topic web.
Notice the following –
- The topic title is central to this design and everything is based around it
- All areas of the curriculum are identified and activities listed under each subject.
- The activities match the curriculum requirements for the age group
- No detail is given – basically the activity areas are bullet points
- All subject activities are integrated into the “Topic title” – however some curriculum requirements may mean that activities do NOT match the topic title. This is OK and these areas are listed as discrete teaching (taught but not directly stemming from the topic). This can happen quite often in Science.
If you look at the completed plan you can see at a glance how the terms topic is to be approached and how it develops across the subject areas – all on one page !
Here’s a KS1 plan for you to look at
And here’s an example that is along the right lines but is a bit too sketchy….it needs a bit more substance to it. I would be sending it back !
Ok so that’s as far as we go for today – I hope you can see how we organise our thoughts in planning and its quite simple to set it out in this way. From here we will look at developing and refining things towards Medium Term planning and finally Personal or Short Term planning systems.