This blog post does not claim to have all the answers. Lord knows I definitely don’t but I do a lot of listening and then thinking and then planning and then every year, we move forward just a little. So this blog post reflects nearly three years work and is a reflection of where we, as a department, are currently at, and where I am in terms of my thinking.
(Apologies for the quality of the photos, where possible the documents have also been attached.)
NB 2 – you know when you write a blog post and someone simultaneously writes a blog on the same topic which is just so much more innovative and inspiring. Well, that just happened. So whilst I would describe my curriculum as ‘safe’ currently, it is what is entirely right given our context at this point in time.
Assessment objectives at KS4 is where it all begins.
To plan an effective curriculum, one must be clear on how the students are going to be assessed. With a new specification came new assessment objectives:
These assessment objectives, therefore, provide teachers with a framework for their curriculum in which we know that our students need to develop skills in interpretation and personal response, analysis of language, form and structure, context and the relationship between text and context and comparison. In writing, students need to be able to write in a range of different forms for a range of different audiences and purposes, organise their texts effectively, use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures as well as demonstrate accurate punctuation usage.
The framework is there. To dig deeper, analysing the mark-schemes from exam boards enables one to see what the development of a particular skill might look like. For example, this mark scheme assessing AO2: analysis of language, structure and form.
Therefore we can see, at GCSE, a student working at a lower level will start to be able to identify language, form and structure techniques within a passage whereas a student working at a level 3 will be able to identify these techniques but also show an understanding of how these techniques have been used using relevant subject terminology. Finally, a student working at the highest level will be able to evaluate all three: language, structure and form cohesively using precise and integrated subject terminology.
This level of progression is a great starting point for thinking about a curriculum beyond the GCSE years. My first task, therefore, was to create a progression map for yrs 7 – 13 using the AOs as my framework to map how our students would develop their skill sets.
(NB this needs to be updated for 17-18 as we have changed our A level specification and I need to ensure this continues to marry up).
When this progression map had been created and a flight path for students established, I then began to look at each year group working with our assessment system in KS3. We have a very simple system in which students are either Learning, Mastering or Extending. If students by the end of year 9 are mastering then we expect them to be ready to achieve a level 4/5 at GCSE or whatever an old school C might look like!
Using this framework, I then came up with our LME grids for each year group. The year 7 one is below.
Once the assessment structure was in place, the curriculum planning – in terms of content – could begin. The department sat down collectively under the leadership of the KS3 co-ordinator and constructed the curriculum, deciding, like many other schools, to reduce the content down from six core units to four. For the most part, this curriculum will stand moving into 2017-18. The only change being less teacher autonomy over text choice so that we are all teaching the same texts. Here is our KS3 curriculum content.
One of the main drivers for our curriculum was that reading was at the heart of it and that students across the three years were exposed to a range of reading texts. Whilst we have sought to challenge students with particular texts, we’ve also opted for texts that we think are the most engaging for our students as we want to capture their imagination and love for literature early on.
Mapping assessment to curriculum content
Once the curriculum content had been established we then needed to map our assessment objectives to the curriculum content. I have re-drafted this for the academic year 2017-2018. The reason for this is that I want to ensure, as far as possible, that the AOs being assessed in each unit mirror the AOs being assessed at GCSE. So, for example, when studying a play I want students to be assessed on the same criteria they would be assessed on when studying a play at GCSE so students begin to become familiar with the structures of GCSE. Here is our year 8 assessment mapping:
Our academy has moved to an assessment system in which students complete three summative assessments per year. These are formal examinations, with the majority of these conducted in the exam hall. All other assessment is used formatively.
This year, we have allowed the formative assessments to be decided by the teacher but I have decided that, again, we will all complete the same formative assessments to ensure a level of consistency across the department. These are identified in the medium term plan. Below is an example from a year 7 MTP
(NB – not all formative assessments follow this rigid structure but this is unit 1 and a foundation unit).
Each of these formative assessments target the key AOs for the unit to ensure a focus and clarity in terms of skill development and are only short in length – 1-2 paragraphs at most. Depth rather than breadth. Formative assessments will be marked by the teaching using a marking grid. Staff green criteria that is met and pink one area for development.
(NB. The L1, L2 will be changing this from September. To fit in with our school process we will be awarding a proportion of marks to learning, to mastering and to extending (much like the GCSE mark schemes) so learning 1-5 marks, mastering 6-10 marks etc or something along those lines).
Yr 7 Novel Summative Assessment marking sheet (The markig grids have been used this academic year for both formative and summative assessments)
Our summative assessments are also identified in the Medium Term Plan. Below is an example from the same year 7 MTP for the reading section of the summative assessment.
Our summative assessments all contain three sections.
Section A: MCQ questions to test students’ knowledge (this is differentiated in terms of volume and focus of questions asked depending on ability)
Section B: Reading (this is differentiated. At the higher end, students are provided with one essay based question whilst at the lower end, students are provided with a number of shorter questions)
Section C: Writing (this is not differentiated. An image is provided and key bullet points given to act as reminders for what students should seek to include).
Here is an example from the year 7 unit for the lower ability
Summative assessments will be marked using a Whole Class Marking sheet as invented, I think, by Mr Thornton on Twitter. These are being used to speed up the marking process and reduce workload for staff. I was privileged to observe two feedback lessons at Michaela in which this kind of document was in use and the level of personalisation and improvement / response to feedback was staggering. We are currently trialling this with a few teachers at the academy and are incredibly pleased with the results so this will be rolled out as standard practice across the department from September. An an example of our Whole Class Marking sheet is below.
For both formative and summative assessment, staff are directed to complete 1-2 feedback or DIRT lessons addressing misconceptions and areas for improvement.
However, as you can imagine, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes before any formative assessment or summative assessment occurs. I have always been a fan of booklets, having produced a number of grammar workbooks for the department. However, after my visit to Michaela I have become even more determined to create a workbook department. The benefits of workbooks are plentiful:
- Abandoning power point or active inspire strips back all of the gimmicks and places a real focus on content and learning
- All resources are in one place – no forgotten resources or last minute photocopying
- Students have all the information they need in one document. This is excellent for revision. Our GCSE students place their workbooks into their folder for revision after use so all revision materials are already prepared.
- If a student is away or sent out / isolated, you have work ready prepared for them to complete as they can be directed to complete a lesson.
The workbooks contain all class work. They contain the notes, the exercises, the practices. These fundamentally are like exercise books which will be lightly marked. Students will be provided with one other exercise book in which they will complete all their formative assessments. This will, therefore, function as an assessment book which I am hoping, again, will focus teachers on the important stuff to mark and reduce workload.
Here is an example from our year 7 workbook
The entire workbook is available here: Y7 Unit 1 Lang Through Time booklet
All booklets begin with a LME self-assessment – although keen to review this as I’m not sure all of the language is student friendly – in which students RAG themselves against the AO criteria. This is then RAG-ged again for each formative assessment and for the summative assessment so progress can be tracked. Then the booklet is divided into lessons with a vocabulary activity, retention questions / do it now task and then the content for each lesson. (I will need to add in our learning goals and learning objectives as this is a focus for our head).
As Head of Department, I am in the process of producing all the booklets which is a huge task. However, my SLT are very supportive and are giving me time once year 11 have left to complete this task. I am doing this because I am clear about my expectations and the core knowledge / skills I want taught / developed and after years of variable planning and quite a new department next year, I am more keen than ever that a bar is set and a level of consistency achieved.
Staff will be provided with these booklets alongside quite a detailed medium term plan – here is a year 7 one:
Staff will be provided with both the Medium Term Plan and the workbook with a shared understanding of core coverage. If they choose to accompany with a power point, with an activ inspire that is up to them. If they wish to add to the unit, that is also up to them. I am simply providing them with a base package, if you like.
The final piece of the puzzle with regard to core curriculum is homework. We don’t set enough homework and I am mindful that homework is, in fact, valuable in preparing independence and the realisation that with hard work comes success. I see so many students in year 11 who think that work in the classroom is enough to gain them the grades they need and want to push that the harder you work, the more effort you put in, the more successful you can become. However, I am also keen that homework is not onerous for staff. I do not want to generate huge amounts of marking.
Amy Forrestor and Kate McCabe have provided an excellent idea for meaningful and impactful homework without it being onerous on staff.
Amy recently presented at Research Ed on her retention strategy which is here:
Kate McCabe then shared her revision strategy for year 11 which is here:
I love this approach and feel there is so much mileage here for KS3 so, along with my current and my new KS3 co-ordinator, will be constructing these to support the units we teach at KS3. Thank you so much to Amy and Kate for sharing.
Since first sharing this blog post I have created a homework task sheet for my year 10s which you can find attached here: T5 Homework grid