What does good teaching and learning look like at Rosary Catholic Primary School?
Good teaching and learning is what we aim for in every corner of every classroom every day here at Rosary!
There are so many strands of teaching and learning all woven together in an intricate web but at Rosary School we believe that at the heart of all good teaching and learning is relationships.
Within a school there are lots of different kinds of relationships and they all matter:
Relationships between colleagues engaged in professional collaboration and a network of support for each other.
Relationships between teachers and support staff.
Relationships between staff and the parents and the wider community.
One of the most important relationships is the one between teachers and pupils…
These relationships take time and effort to create. It is about staff knowing each child as both a learner and as a person.
It’s about eating lunch together, dancing together at the disco, having conversations in the playground and enjoying school traditions together such as the Danceathon or the Christmas Fair.
It’s about teachers knowing what children find hard and what’s too easy; what lesson types make them come alive, knowing how much encouragement and support they need to get started without forming a learnt dependency, and knowing which friends they should sit near so they will be motivated to achieve their best. We know that effective behaviour management is all about relationships too.
By knowing our children back to front and inside out teachers can plan the right lessons through careful assessment for learning – both during and after a lesson. We can pitch the lesson as the exact right ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ (ZPD) – which means making sure that the work we set is not too hard but not too easy. We can challenge children with questions to move their learning on. We can use targeted questions rather than hands up – for example, asking one child to “give us a multiple of 10” but another for “a multiple of 7 that is also a perfect number”….We must always remember that teachers are only as good as the questions they ask! We need to know the child to know the next question so that children are never stopped in their tracks – rather that learning here is a constant journey, moved forward by effective questioning.
Know the child – know the task!
We can only differentiate for our children when we know them inside out. We don’t mean that we differentiate by printing three different colour worksheets with increasingly large numbers, but by giving the whole class rich activities and ‘low threshold high ceiling’ tasks that everyone can access yet the possibilities for where the lesson goes are endless – depending on individual ability and the questions asked OF them and BY them. We look for depth of understanding: the new curriculum is all about depth before breadth!
Solid relationships in class allow us to make judgements about when to cut in and when to cut back: when children need input or guidance from an adult and when they need to work independently or within a group of peers.
We know children’s personal bests and we encourage them to aim for this, not compare themselves with others. We have a strong culture of PBs – achievements at all levels are celebrated by the whole class.
Effective feedback and reflection by all
Good relationships allow for an honest and open dialogue between teachers and pupils so that meaningful, effective and personal feedback (both written and verbal) can be exchanged.
Teachers can use pen-in-hand marking (where they write and comment on children’s books in the lesson there with the child rather than looking at a book at the end of the lesson) and all children can be encouraged to write a reflective note to their teacher to let us know how they got on with that lesson.
We love our lessons!
For great teaching and learning to take place lessons need to be fun, active and exciting – rooted in real life experience and working towards meaningful outcomes. Children can’t learn letter writing without sending their letters off and hopefully getting a reply! We cannot study Shakespeare in London and not visit the Globe, and we can’t learn life cycles of plants without planting seeds in pots at in our classroom.
Classrooms should be filled with talk, laughter and engaged children who take pride in their work and are open to new challenges. Good teaching and learning creates a collective sense of wonder and curiosity about the world in classrooms between teachers and pupils.
‘Pace, Pitch, Passion and Purpose’ are the ‘four Ps’ for a wow lesson at Rosary Catholic School!
Teachers need to have strong subject knowledge, and if we don’t know about something we need to be keen and willing to learn about it. We need to share a sense of curiosity with the children about the world around us. We love asking questions and finding out the answers.
Passion and Perseverance
Staff need to be furiously ambitious for their children. At the start of the year we get 30 chicks in our nest all wanting to be fed and it is up to us as staff here to get them fed and ready to fly from the nest at the end of the year. We understand the need to do this with passion and perseverance and a strong sense of never giving up on them.
In lessons there needs to be no time wasted. Every second counts as a learning opportunity and it is up to staff to find ways to include learning in every opportunity; examples could include asking children to hold up their fingers in number bonds when you want their attention, chanting their sic times table as they move from the carpet to their tables or playing a grammar game with a spare ten minutes because assembly has been delayed.
A culture of error – good mistakes!
Good teaching and learning will only take place in a classroom where a culture of error has been created: an environment in which mistakes are celebrated and acknowledged as the way we learn. The most powerful weapon in our teaching armoury is the phrase ‘good mistake’.
Children make good mistakes when we can see what they did – we can understand their error. For example “7 x 2 = 9”. Often good mistakes are the common misconceptions. Teachers can use these or ‘borrow’ this celebrated good mistake to teach the children something and teach away from the good mistake. They can use mini plenaries to bring the class together and show the good mistake. They can make their own and see if children can spot what they have done. This is far more powerful than just telling children the misconceptions. Outstanding teachers plan for the good mistakes and seize upon the teachable moments that arise from them. Good teaching and learning can only take place in a supportive classroom where children are encouraged to takes risks, have a go and fail. The old saying ‘fail early fail often and fail forward’ is a powerful one. We want to build up children’s resilience and perseverance.
Growth Mind Sets
As a staff we are learning lots about Growth Mind-sets- a theory by an American phycologist called Carol Dweck.
The theory is that people can have a ‘fixed mindset’ or a ‘growth mindset’.
A fixed mindset is when people believe that their basic qualities like talent and intelligence are fixed innate traits. They spend time documenting their intelligence and talent rather than developing them; they believe that talent alone creates successs without effort. They are wrong.
A growth mindset is when children believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Brains and talent are just the starting point. Having a growth mindset creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. We want every child who leaves the Rosary to go forward in life with a growth mindset.
Carol Dweck also looked at the effects of praise on the mind-set of children. By using praise that encourages hard work effort and perseverance rather than just praising intelligence or talent “clever boy” we encourage a growth mindset in children….
Children of different abilities were given simple problems; half were praised for their effort while the other half were praised for their intelligence. Later when they are were all given harder problems, the children praised for intelligence gave up while the others continued. And when asked which they would like to do more of – harder or easier – most of those praised for effort chose the harder puzzles while the other children chose easier ones.
Praising effort rather than intelligence is essential for good teaching and learning. It helps create a positive, supportive environment.
Fluid groupings are essential for establishing these growth mind-sets in children. Children KNOW when they are in the bottom group or “red circles”. What does this do for their motivation? Self-belief and attitude? At Rosary School, we set the children work and base so called ‘groups’ on what they have achieved so far in a particular area and what they have been given the chance to do. How can they show they can do something if they are never given the chance to prove they can do it? How can we see where exactly the child is going wrong (and then help them with this) if we don’t ever give them access to that work?
Daily marking means a daily reshuffle of groups. Who has really not understood today’s lesson and needs to be re-taught, possibly with a new approach? Who has mastered the teaching and now needs to use and apply this knowledge to an activity that will stretch, challenge and deepen their understanding? Who needs time to consolidate what they have started? We do not all learn at the same pace in the same area every day.
Teachers plan lessons based entirely on what the children in each classroom have proven themselves able to do so far.
Good teaching and learning is about understanding and overcoming barriers to learning whatever they be. Anticipating these barriers and removing them before they grow bigger or even start is essential for progress to happen.
Good teaching and learning is about creating the right growth mindset in both teachers and children – holding the passionate belief that everyone – no matter who they are or where they come from – can achieve and reach their full potential…and the staff at Rosary Primary School will stop at next to nothing to get them there.
Coming soon – our very own video all about Teaching and Learning at Rosary School!