At Rimrose Hope we understand that good pedagogy requires a broad repertoire of strategies and sustained attention and focus on the things that help our pupils learn in their context. We recognise that as teachers we are part of that context and we rely on quality educational research for different pedagogical models and strategies and it is our role to refine those strategies over time in order to evolve our teaching to suit the needs of our students. Our curriculum reflects this approach. It is a curriculum that has evolved over time and continues to evolve as teachers and pupils progress and develop greater knowledge and skills.
One of the approaches we use at our school to deliver the curriculum is 'Storyline'. Storyline creates a partnership between our teachers and our learners in which the teacher designs the ‘line’ – the chapters of the story, and the learners create and develop the story. The line or plan aims at curricular content (knowledge) and skills practice while the story provides the context within which the pupils feel motivation through ownership. They create the characters that will bring the story to life. The ‘line’ is designed in a series of key questions. Storyline is not only about knowledge and skills but also about feelings and attitudes.
In our school a Storyline topic typically begins with an episode designed to create either the characters or the setting. Our Year 1/2 children became the youngest child in a local family during WW1. The eldest child in each family left to enlist in the Liverpool King's Regiment and subsequently fought for King and country and the youngest children stayed at home immersing themselves in the every day life of late Edwardian Seaforth.
Arthur Evans' commemorative plaque.
Like all ‘good’ stories the Storyline should end on a high note. It might be a celebration – a wedding, a street party or a festival. In this WW1 topic there was a celebratory homecoming of the young men who had left home to answer Kitchener's call.
The final chapter of the story takes the form of a review in which the pupils are asked to answer the key question “What do you think you have learned in this topic?” Supplementary questions may include “Is there anything yet to learn?” “Should anything be changed in future?”
In Storyline it is also possible to explore topics in literacy (such as our upper school slavery unit) or with a science focus. Here the story will give a sense of purpose to research as once again pupils seek answers to the key questions planned by the teacher. Needless to say these topics require careful planning and appropriate reference material.
We find that the Storyline approach encourages our children to study and search for information with a real sense of purpose. They learn to discriminate and make decisions as well as going on to create. There is thus a blend between knowledge, skill, analysis and creativity in the Storyline experience and centrally the children learn that learning is within their power to do.
Developing the Cultural Capital of our children
At Rimrose Hope the development and accumulation of knowledge is an important aim in itself. Staff believe that understanding and remembering content or facts is an important part of our children’s journey towards deeper learning, however we also strongly believe that the soft skills exhibited by those in positions of power and influence are equally important. With that in mind our core knowledge curriculum and our basic offer involves our children experiencing both knowledge and skills as a matter of entitlement. This is not to simply repeat that our children require a broad and balanced curriculum (against which there is no argument) rather it is to say that both knowledge and learning to learn must be specifically taught.
In our curriculum knowledge content is specified in detail: Units of work are supported by knowledge organisers that detail the knowledge to be learned – something that can be written down by the pupil. We do not merely want to ‘do the Romans’; we want children to gain some specified knowledge of the Romans as well as a broad overview. We want children to know specific things about plants and about the Amazon Rainforest, WWI and the Slave Trade. We want children to have more than a general sense of things through vaguely remembered knowledge encounters; in addition to a range of experiences from which important tacit knowledge is gained, we want them to amass a specific body of declarative and procedural knowledge that is planned. This runs through every phase of school: units of work are not defined by headings but by details.
Knowledge is taught to be remembered, not merely encountered: A good knowledge-rich curriculum embraces learning from cognitive science about memory, forgetting and the power of retrieval practice. Our curriculum is not simply a set of encounters from which children form ad hoc memories; it is designed to be remembered in detail; to be stored in our students’ long-term memories so that they can later build on it forming ever wider and deeper schema. This requires approaches to curriculum planning and delivery that build in spaced retrieval practice, formative low-stakes testing and plenty of repeated practice for automaticity and fluency. Staff members design quizzes for homework and for pre and post unit assessment using our interactive frog play tool as a means of motivating and rewarding children for their efforts.
We are developing our understanding of how to ensure that knowledge is sequenced and mapped deliberately and coherently. Beyond the knowledge specified for each unit, a knowledge-rich curriculum is planned vertically and horizontally giving thought to the optimum knowledge sequence for building secure schema – a timeline for historical events; a sense of the canon in literature; a sense of place; a framework for understanding cultural diversity and human development and evolution. These units are drawn from our objectives entitled: What a Good Scientist Knows at Rimrose Hope; Becoming a historian at Rimrose Hope etc, thus giving a direction of travel that ties together the whole of a child’s school experience.
There is an understanding of the instructional tools needed to move students from novice to expert in various subject domains. These tools are key to our development of Mastery and Depth within the curriculum.
The development of Mastery and Depth within our curriculum
“The development of deep knowledge and deep understanding can only be achieved by engaging our learners in the learning process and the thinking process. The new basics are used to develop the old basics. It isn’t either/or, we must have both.”
We use Lane’s thinking tools to develop our children’s understanding. Our children need to have a good content specific knowledge before they can then deepen their thinking and broaden their understanding, but they also need the steps towards deeper thought broken down and made explicit. We believe that thinking is a skill that can be taught to the children. Our thinking tools help children, compare and contrast; describe and explain; record and communicate as well as analyse and evaluate in a systematic and consistent way. Our Easter project highlighted how all children, regardless of age or ability can be led to deeper thinking and expression.
The Project Approach
Indentifying Mastery and Depth at Rimrose Hope
analyze, evaluate and create
innovate, argue, compare
Developing soft skills using the mediated learning experience of Reuben Feuerstein
Our children need staff to explicitly mediate and promote the processes of learning. Good learning and the skills of empathy do not naturally occur within many of the cohorts attending our school and we have identified these skills as central to our children’s future success. Feuerstein’s Enrichment Instruments have been taught in all phases of the school for three years. Initially staff focused on identifying and managing emotions within the children and have now developed children’s understanding of the importance of empathy.
Rimrose Hope Canon of Literature (2008 – 2019)
Our mission since 2008 has been to ensure that our children benefit from pleasure that can only be derived from studying complete texts and we have continuously developed the texts studied in class to reflect new ideas as well as to root our children’s reading development in some great traditional and contemporary works of fiction. We are proud that throughout an age of abridged stories and photo copied extracts, we continued to promote whole texts to our children and ensured that in every session, each child had their own copy to hold, read and work from.
The Mathematics curriculum at Rimrose Hope aims to develop children’s ability to calculate, reason and solve problems. We have worked towards developing this approach to the teaching of mathematics for the last five years. Our maths coordinator is a maths specialist teacher and our maths consultant delivered the advanced skills training at Edge Hill University prior to working alongside us and our partner school. Our commitment to this approach is longstanding and developing.
The way in which we teach Maths considers research into the way children learn mathematics, with a focus on giving the children clear images to support their thinking. Teaching is based on the research of Jerome Bruner who proposed three modes of representation:
Children's mathematical understanding is then applied to reasoning and problem solving activities, covering word problems, finding all possibilities, describing rules and patterns, visual puzzles and diagrams and logic.
Our mathematics curriculum aims to give the children the mathematical skills needed in many areas of everyday life including future employment, but equally strives to develop the children’s enjoyment and curiosity in the subject. Delivery of this curriculum relies on a strong commitment from the school for continuous professional development. All staff work alongside our consultant six times a year.
Spelling Mastery and Phonics Teaching
Phonics instruction is explicit and systematic from nursery to Y2. It is explicit in that sound-spelling relationships are directly taught and it is systematic in that it follows a scope and sequence that allows children to form and read words early on. At Rimrose Hope the skills taught are constantly reviewed and applied to real reading and authentic learning.
All staff have agreed that good phonics lessons contain the following critical parts: Phonological Awareness/ Introduce Sound-Spelling/ Phonics Maintenance/ Blending/ Word Building Dictation/Spelling.
Spelling teaching incorporates explicit instruction, multiple practice opportunities, and immediate corrective feedback and our lowest performing students benefit from increasing the opportunities for academic call and responding. Our spelling lessons are characterised by regular timetabling, direct teacher instruction, phonemic, whole word, and morphological techniques and immediate feedback.
Research Conducted By School Staff
“Exploring the effects of the modern consumerist society on education in urban communities.” (A Case Study 2015)
“Understanding the Diversity of Children’s Needs.” (A case study 2016)
“Review of pedagogical approaches used at Rimrose Hope School to promote the development of children from predominantly low socio-economic groups.” (Case study 2017)
“What skills are lost when high stakes testing agenda takes over the urban school curriculum?” (Research Question MA Dissertation 2018)