What we do on our Planning Days

We are a 3-form entry Junior School. Every six weeks the teachers in each year group to get together for a Planning Day to prepare for the coming half term. These days are invaluable, and here are some of the things teachers do during this precious time.

Reflection the first part of every planning day is spent thinking and talking about what the children enjoyed learning about and the successes they had the previous half term. This acts as a reflection and a celebration, and helps teachers thinks about what made particular activities successful in helping children learn most effectively.

Hook ~ Visit ~ Outcome We plan each half terms work using the same structure. Teachers decide on a hook to engage the children, and visit or visitor to give them a broader experience, and a final outcome that gives the children something tangible to work towards. For example, next term our Y4 topic is ‘The Great Outdoors’. Their hook will be spending a day out in the school grounds shelter building, creating art work and cooking their lunch on an open fire. They will visit a local outdoor centre for a guided walk, and their outcome will be to perform poetry and a dance routine in our amphitheatre.

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The content to be taught in each of the Foundation subjects has been agreed across the whole school to ensure we teach everything we need to. The way it is taught is up to the teachers to decide.

Revisit assessment policy We ask teachers to remind themselves of our school assessment and feedback policy. The policy is designed to make feedback as effective as possible while reducing the need for written marking. It has changed over the last year, and it is worth the time spent reading it again and talking about it with colleagues to ensure everyone understands it in the same way.

Gap Analysis At the end of each term the children complete standardised maths and reading tests. At the planning day teachers go through the results, and identify which topics individuals, groups and perhaps the whole class are clearly struggling with. This information is used to help plan what needs, perhaps as a personalised intervention, to be taught during the coming weeks.

What key objectives are we going to teach? Teachers also look at key objectives in reading, writing and maths to identify what the focus of their teaching needs to be for the next six weeks. This is another opportunity for the team to talk together about the approaches they will take and to really understand and think about what the objectives really mean.

Homework Menus Each year group plans homework for the coming half term to give the children (and their parents) a choice about what kind of activity they would like to complete. This came about because our parent questionnaire showed a wide range of preferences, and we wanted to try something that would meet as many of these as possible.

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Online Safety and PSHE The final thing teachers do is to identify the activities they will use to reinforce online safety. For example, this term our Year 4, 5 and 6 children will all be following the ChildNet ‘Trust Me’ lessons. We use 1-Decision as our PSHE programme, and teachers decide which units to teach that best fit in with the rest of the curriculum.

As you can see, our Planning Days are very busy. I think the most important aspect is that teachers get time together to plan, think and reflect on children’s learning. The quality of teaching, the exciting curriculum and reflective practice we get as a result of prioritising this time make them worth every penny of the money invested into them.

 

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Slow down, it’s amazing what you notice.

The last few weeks have been busy.

We send out our Annual Report to Parents towards the end of the spring term. We do this for two reasons: the reports contain targets for improvement, and are of more use now than they would be at the end of the summer term; and we found that everyone is so tired by the end of the summer term that report writing becomes even more challenging.

Our teachers have worked so hard to craft individual reports that give parents a real insight into their children’s achievements, progress and attitudes to learning. They have spent hours and hours, and I am always so impressed by their efforts.

My role is to read every report and make a short comment. This is time consuming – although nowhere near as much as the time spent writing the whole report – and squashed into a short time period. Over the last two weekends I have read and commented on 350 reports. Every spare minute has been used to do this, and it’s really easy to get a bit overwhelmed with such an important task.

One of the #teacher5aday strategies for improving wellbeing is to notice, so I decided that I would consciously look out for some positive things that are happening around our school. Here are a few of them.

IMG_0521We got to play on the grass! It always gets the children so excited when the ground dries out enough to get on the field, and we are happy to put up with the muddy
clothes that result
from this enthusiasm.

Year 4 are practising for their Production, and their singing is amazing. It is wonderful to hear children singing the songs to themselves as they walk around the school.

Year 6 are engrossed in their history, learning about the 1950s and 60s. They are extremely interested and are amazed by how much the world has changed, and how different their lives are to those of their parents and grandparents.

Year 5 are learning about characterisation. They started by describing mIMG_0515e – grey, no fashion sense, old, but also kind and nice to them. I can put up with that.

A group of Year 3 boys are absolutely fascinated by birds, and had their birdwatching book with them at lunchtime to identify any new ones that flew past. They somehow seem have seen virtually every bird in the book.

Year 4 have been making paper, and bounced into the workshops. It was messy and brilliant.

Film Club are enjoying Mary Poppins (they are following Disney films through the decades). The appeal of these films has surprised me – one of our Year 5 boys described Snow White as ‘the best film I have ever seen’.

The positivity and can-do attitude of the amazing staff that work here. I am constantly impressed by their resilience and care for our children, and how far they are prepared to go to meet their needs.

It’s so important to take a step back and reflect. When we are at our most busy it is easy as teachers to forget what an amazing, privileged position we are in.