#PrimaryRocks live. The 10 things I’ve leaned as a primary infiltrator

At the weekend I made my third trip to a rather snowy and cold Manchester for PrimaryRocks Live. I always enjoy the get together as there is a unique vibe, summed up by this tweet from one of the organisers Leah Wright:

I’ve left with a wealth of ideas and information so this year I decided to see if I could wriggle myself on to the programme and I was honoured and delighted to be selected. Even better that it was St Patrick’s Day and that Ireland grabbed the Grand Slam and Wales also won against France. This post is a summary of my session where I shared 15 years of primary collaboration and reflected upon what I have learned. For readers who may not know, I am the Chair of Governors at a primary school and work in an all through setting, so these reflections have been gathered from a variety of areas.

What I have learned can be summed up in the following image:

1. Challenge needs to be higher.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, and to anyone who will listen (and well before Ofsted’s The Wasted Years), challenge at secondary school is quite often not high enough. Secondary colleagues need to get over the ‘they haven’t done x’ and ‘they haven’t done x properly.’

A good example is watching a maths lesson in Year 2 one day about notation and watching, more or less, the same maths lesson in year 8 the next.

2. Scripted lessons are good for novice teachers.

Now, I am fairly good with maths, but when I had to teach Year 4 maths, a scripted lesson, linked to a textbook, was brilliant. As a non-specialist, unaware of the key terms or even how to structure a primary maths lesson, it helped me. I’m not saying that scripted lessons are a winner for everyone, but when I was feeling out of my depth, they saved the day. I am now more confident. Incidentally, I also learned that primary students in Year 4 are able to oragnise themselves, get their own equipment and that their books are real artefacts of learning.

3. Cognitive load theory

I love educational research and have witnessed the effects, however primary schools are wonderfully holistic places, and there are some issues around cognitive load theory, alluded to in this month’s Impact Journal.  If teachers do not critically assess educational research, and accept them on mass, aren’t they just another fad? That’s not that CLT doesn’t have a place in our schools, I think it does, but hyperbole such as Wiliam’s claim . Yes teachers need to know about it, but we also need to understand how to apply it effectively in a practical sense to the classroom. Another interested article is here.

4. Regular retrieval practice works

I’ve seen it called many things, but it’s a daly part of life in primary school whether it’s called ‘daily maths’ or ‘gimme 5’ or ‘vocab dab.’ Children at primary schools are always having to revisit previous knowledge and apply it to new settings.

5. Expectations are higher in primary schools

Similar to 1, but also around behaviour and acting independently. I’d like to add that many primary teachers struggle with data and information, mainly because they know their pupils really really well so can’t see past the individual. This is a good thing.

6.  Breaking down my subject, unlearning my learning

I taught coordinated to Year 4 and Ive taught Year 3 followed by Year 13. It’s really about chunking up the information in to even smaller bites. Trying to teach pupils about coordinates when they didn’t know the concept was difficult! This was hard.

7. We are all teachers of children, kids are kids

I don’t understand those who don’t work closely, in partnership, with primary schools. Equal as professionals. Bonkers. Yes there are barriers but they can be overcome.

8. Curiosity: the joy of wanting to find out

Teaching a child about something they find wonderful and awesome is a fantastic feeling. More please at Secondary.

9. Remember the awe and wonder

See above.

10. Research suggests the way

It needs to be contextualised and often research suggestions break down in the crazy, wonderful world of school.

So. What are you waiting for? Get out into a primary school! You won’t regret it.


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