Our approach to teaching and learning supports our curriculum by ensuring that lessons build on prior learning and provide sufficient opportunity for guided and independent practice.
We use Barak Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction (2012) to support the structure of our teaching:
- Begin a lesson with a short review of previous learning
- Present new material in small steps with student practice after each step
- Ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students
- Provide models
- Guide student practice
- Check for student understanding
- Obtain a high success rate
- Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks
- Require and monitor independent practice
- Engage students in weekly and monthly review
We work on a research informed approach to teaching and learning, drawing on research and informed writing from organisations such as The Education Endowment Foundation, The Literacy Trust, Ambition Institute and educators and authors such as Doug Lemov (Teach Like A Champion) and Tom Sherrington (Rosenshine’s Principles in Action). We have a focus on developing the vocabulary of all of our students, ensuring that we explicitly and implicitly teach both tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary, building on strategies students are familiar with in primary, and ensuring that these continue to develop the powerful vocabulary and subject specific knowledge of our students.
Where students have gaps in reading, writing or spelling, we aim to effectively support students from their starting points to ensure they are able to access and be successful within classrooms and access the ambitious curriculum we have in place. Interventions we deliver include Lexia and Direct Instruction to support students developing their literacy and reading skills.
With thousands of pupils across United Learning following the same curriculum, we have been able to develop common assessments in many subjects. These are summative assessments which allow pupils to demonstrate their growing understanding of their subjects and teachers to assess the impact of their teaching. These summative assessments are typically taken once or twice a year, enabling teachers to focus on formative assessment from lesson to lesson.
Our formative assessments are designed to support students in achieving fluency in each subject. This means that in lessons pupils are quizzed on prior knowledge in order to embed this knowledge in their long-term memory. Students will often recognise these as their ‘Do Now’ tasks or their ‘Retrieval Practice’ activities. Once students have embedded learning in their long-term memory, this will free up their working memory to focus on current learning. We are particularly conscious of the role that literacy and vocabulary plays in unlocking the whole curriculum. Our teachers explicitly teach the meaning of subject-specific (tier 3) language, and we expect lessons to contain challenging vocabulary (tier 2).
Knowledge organisers provide students with key information in each subject, enabling them to develop their understanding of key concepts outside of their lessons. Our form time activities support students in their exposure to literature with at least 90 minutes of form reading per week, for example, Year 7 read ‘Wonder’ by R. J. Palacio; and a form time also dedicated to developing oracy through discussion and debate on topical subjects, such as climate change.
Every child has an equal right to an ambitious and enlightening curriculum. By teaching this curriculum well, and developing excellent habits in our pupils, we give our students access to powerful knowledge and bring out the best in everyone.