Critical Analysis of an Example of Subject Specific Learning in a Practical Context
Learning and Progression in Primary Core Projects
According to the DfEE (1998a, p. 8), “the most successful teaching is interactive.” When organising the curriculum, there are various learning objectives to achieve; schools should aim to know a range of ways for organising the Primary Curriculum, consider the importance of subject based teaching and learning and to also consider the importance of an integrated curriculum. Primary schools aim to have less prescription and greater flexibility to build a curriculum based on local circumstances, to support a curriculum that will raise standards for all children and to better meet pupil needs. They aim to have more integrated learning across subjects so that skills can be transferred to other areas of study within the curriculum, so that there can be smoother transitions between phases of development and learning. Shoemaker (1989) defines an integrated curriculum as “education that is organised in such a way that it cuts across subject-matter lines, bringing together various aspects of the curriculum into meaningful association to focus on broad areas of study. It views learning and teaching in a holistic way and reflects the real world, which is interactive.”
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The main aim of the lesson for Tanya Redhead, a teacher at Dulwich Village C of E Infants School, is to inspire a Year 2 writing session with the short film, Dangle. The lesson uses film as an alternative to printed texts, helping children to gain an understanding narrative. Children of KS1 should be easily drawn into that type of story narrative world. Redhead tries to encourage story writing by providing each of the children with their own three part story plan which they will complete throughout the day. Film is used as it can help children understand the importance of story. Dangle is a six minute live action film with a clear beginning, middle and end; this will make clear to the children that there should be a structure to any story they write. After the children have experienced their feelings of discovering a rope hanging from the ceiling in the classroom, the teacher gathers the whole class on the carpet in front of her; this could be to make sure that all of the children are listening to her and what she is asking them to do. Such interactive learning makes it possible for the contributions of the pupils to be encouraged, expected and extended. The teachers seems enthusiastic about the topic they are about to explore which engages the children. The teacher explains the task ahead of them and makes it clear that she wants to see the children writing “wow” words. The concept of “wow” words must have already been covered and understood by the children in a previous lesson as they understood exactly what the teacher wanted from them.
Short films can be used over and over again to provide a form of familiarity, this increases the children's confidence which impacts their writing skills. Redhead continually praises the children's words of feeling despite the fact that they are often spelt incorrectly. There is an SEN child within the class, who has a support teacher working with him on an individual basis; this allows Redhead to focus her attention on the rest of the class whilst also catering to the needs of Roofus (SEN child), this links into the aims of The National Curriculum, which states that “the school curriculum should develop enjoyment of, and commitment to, learning as a means of encouraging and stimulating the best possible progress and the highest attainment for all pupils. It should build on pupils' strengths, interests and experiences and develop their confidence in their capacity to learn and work independently and collaboratively.” The SEN Code of Practice provides practical advice to Local Education Authorities, maintained schools, early education settings and others on carrying out their statutory duties to identify, assess and make provision for children's special educational needs. This Code takes account of the SEN provisions of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 which states that there should be a stronger right for children with SEN to be educated at a mainstream school, _ new duties on LEAs to arrange for parents of children with SEN to be provided with services offering advice and information and a means of resolving disputes,_ a new duty on schools and relevant nursery education providers to tell parents when they are making special educational provision for their child and_ a new right for schools and relevant nursery education providers to request a statutory assessment of a child.
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Working in groups benefits the children's skills, enabling them to develop their team work, however Roofus (SEN child) is not benefiting from this experience as he does not get the opportunity to work in a group, something the teacher should consider as he may feel segregated from his classmates. The group task proves to be very engaging as the drama/ role play keeps the children entertained whilst also developing their skills. Imagination in writing is influenced by the drama group activity. Hearing some of the children read out their work, the teacher's method of teaching has clearly benefited the children's vocabulary. “Interactive whole class teaching” has been adopted in English educational policy as a means to raise standards in literacy and numeracy through the National Literacy Strategy (NLS) and the National Numeracy Strategies (NNS) (DfEE, 1998a, 1999a.) English et al (2002) state that Alexander's (1995) meticulous analyses of five classroom interaction studies between the mid-1980s and 1990s provided little evidence of teacher-pupil interaction. There are often missed opportunities for more meaningful teacher-pupil interaction in teachers' use of time and organised strategies. Fisher et al (2000) however found some positive effects in their observations of literacy lessons. They reported that in successful classrooms, teachers stated and stuck to the objectives of the lesson. The differing reports between Alexander (1995) and Fisher et al (2000) on the quality of interaction in the literacy hour suggest that there needs to be more focus on the NLS advice for interactive teaching.
By gathering her class on the carpet in front of her before every task is introduced, Redhead successfully gains the attention of the full class providing her with clarification that she has communicated the relevant information to them. Redhead also encourages occasional whole class answers in order to keep everyone engaged with the topic. She also goes on to involve Roofus (SEN child) in her questions, in turn he provides an excellent answer proving to Redhead that he is fully aware of the tasks; however he is not praised for his answer whereas all of the other pupils are. When exploring the importance of different elements of film such as camera, sound and social effects, the children are able to link the sounds and camera shots to the main plot of the story now as their understanding of ‘film and media' develops. According to the NLS ‘Framework for Teaching' (DfEE, 1998a, p. 8) successful teaching should be discursive, characterised by high quality oral work as well as well-paced work, where there should be a sense of urgency, driven by the need to make progress and succeed. English et al (2002) informs us that contradictions are apparent here, as whilst the aim of ‘high quality oral work' and ‘interactive teaching' where pupils' contributions are encouraged, conflicts with the recommendations for ‘well-paced' lessons with a ‘sense of urgency' providing the impression that work should be target driven.
In the final part of the lesson, the Roofus (SEN child) is involved once again, he provides the correct answer to the teacher's question, however just like earlier, he is not praised, an area which Redhead clearly needs to improve. Those of the class who answer with briefness are encouraged to elaborate on their answer, which one child manages to do successfully when asked to do so. One child said that he would feel “irresponsible” if he had pulled the rope in ‘Dangle', a very developed word for a KS1 pupil to use; Redhead gave this child a great amount of praise for using such extensive vocabulary. The lesson provided the whole class with ample opportunity to speak and listen, and the children were stimulated due to the activity at the beginning of the day, progression of vocabulary was also evident throughout the class when they were writing. As The National Curriculum (1999) states that children should have “opportunities to learn and develop alternative methods of recording, such as ICT, to compensate for difficulties with handwriting, to enable them to demonstrate their wider writing skills” the SEN child was seen to be using a typewriter-style aid, rather than a pencil and paper, he also had constant one-to-one help from the support teacher throughout the lesson which caters to his specific needs when learning. In assessment, The National Curriculum (1999) states that “for pupils with disabilities who are unable to write by hand, the handwriting requirement of the writing attainment target will not be applicable.”
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Throughout the video, the rates of interaction seemed very high. Redhead showed through her choice of teaching approach that her method was more efficient, as persistent questioning as one aspect of interactive teaching does not always work for all children. After the days lesson, Redhead could complete an assessment based on her observations throughout the lesson, as “schools are required to set targets for the proportions of their pupils reaching these targets” and “optional tests in English and mathematics are available to assist schools in monitoring pupils' progress towards these targets” (National Curriculum, 1999). Speaking, listening, reading and writing are all skills which should be assessed by the teacher according to The National Curriculum. In order to assess these areas, the teacher will have to spot the characteristics of such skills. Speaking and listening development can be found through increased confidence, participation in discussions and also the ability to listen with an understanding of what is being taught. Reading progression is characterised by the ability to read more developed texts, response and understanding of the text and finally the ability to gather information from a text. Progress in writing skills can often be symbolised by the development of skills in writing, increasing control of different forms of written texts and finally by witnessing the ability to adapt writing for meaning and effect. (National Curriculum, 1999).
Overall, the teacher successfully engaged all of the children to a point where they were all eager to learn and contribute to class discussion and work. The use of whole-class discussion and also group work benefited the lesson as it kept all children focused on the task at hand. All resources used were relevant and useful to the subject area, the group activity which provided the children with various scenarios proved to be a very useful and connected successfully to the topic. Redhead could possibly consider moving on to perhaps recording the children performing a drama scene of one of the scenarios that they were given in the class activity; which could then be used as part of her assessment where she could possibly analyse how the class works together as a group to bring together the scene. In conclusion, if teachers are to modify their practice in order to modify their practice in order to encourage higher order thinking, they need unambiguous guidelines or the opportunity to identify work. Through the contradictions between official advice and their own educational principles, (English et al, 2002).
Alexander, R. (1995) Versions of Primary Education (London, Routledge/Open University)
DfEE (1998a) The National Literacy Strategy Framework for Teaching (London, DfEE)
DfEE (1999a) The National Numeracy Strategy: Framework for Teaching Mathematics from Reception to Year 6 (London, DfEE)
English, E., Hargreaves, L., Hislam, J. (2002) Pedagogical Dilemmas in the National Literacy Strategy: primary teachers' perceptions, reflections and classroom behaviour, Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol. 32, No. 1.
Fisher, R., Lewis, M. & Davis, B. (2000) The implementation of the literacy hour in small rural schools, Topic, 24. Item 2
HMSO: Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, (c. 10)
Reading film at KS1: The Lesson: http://www.teachers.tv/video/23174
Shoemaker, B. (1989) Interactive Education: A Curriculum for the Twenty-first Century.
The National Curriculum (1999): http://curriculum.qcda.gov.uk/key-stages-1-and-2/index.aspx