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Learning by Stage not Age - Strand Organisation

Almost a year ago, myself and the Head Teacher reflected on how well we were meeting the needs of our Key Stage 2 pupils, particularly in Literacy and Numeracy. Whilst there have been a great many advances in moving the learning forward for our pupils, there was still more to do.

Several ideas were discussed, some of which were quite radical and may yet make their way into the school's organisation. However we were captivated by one idea that I put forward to look at vertically organising pupils, considering their attainment rather than simply age. "Stage, not age" being in the forefront of my mind meant that we were looking at identifying pupils of similar abilities and grouping them as such.



  • Raise attainment of pupils, working across all levels.
  • Enable pupils to make greater progress in each term.

  • Ensure quality first teaching could be achieved by all.
  • Ensure pupils continued to enjoy and be excited by learning.

We began by sharing the concept with the Senior Leadership Team initially to gather views and opinions and to highlight any immediate issues that might need discussing before sharing with the whole team. It's important that the plan isn't flawed before it gets off the ground.

We also discussed the vocabulary used to identify the groups of learners. We didn't want the project to reflect 'streaming' or 'setting' as these terms typically support the notion that higher sets is better. We wanted children who were in Strand 4 to feel just as successful as those in Strand 1, Getting the vocabulary right is critical. We thought about the vocabulary for class bases, 'home bases' was suggested, although disregarded because of the association to the DIY superstore chain! As the project unfolded, new vocabulary emerged and one teacher refers to her strand as the lumeracy (literacy / numeracy) group.

Once shared with the whole teaching staff, they were 100% behind the idea and were willing to commit to the additional staff meeting sessions that we needed to get the organisation right. We committed to 

Since Numeracy has been a significant focus for the school, we have looked to group children who are working at a similar level. Of course there

We evaluated the outcomes of this pilot year carefully throughout, gathering views from pupils, parents, teachers and learning support assistants.

During the first few weeks of the project, we established another outcome; improved behaviour and focus on learning. 

We also knew, we simply couldn't do this without bringing staff onboard and working together, not least because it meant a significant amount of work needed to be undertaken by staff in order to achieve our aims.


Word is out! Dictate your thoughts on the go...

Wow pretty much sums up my thinking when I first explored this new application on the iPhone. 

I've seen and attempted (!) to use dictation software on a variety of systems in the past, all mostly, time consuming and wildly inaccurate. At first, I doubted likelihood of this software being any better, but I installed it and gave it a go!

It's really this simple...

Step 1. Load Dragon Dictation Step 2. Get ready to dictate! Step 3. Dictate!
Step 4. Edit any mistakes. Step 5. Choose an alternative? Step 6. Complete and post.



Inspired by the accuracy of this tool, I'll be introducing it to some teachers tomorrow to discuss how it can support learners who struggle with writing. This of course isn't a substitute for pupils writing, but initially, it will be highly effective at allowing unconfident writers to communicate their ideas, their story without having to worry about how words are spelt or letters are formed. This can be the cause of a huge frustration for young learners, especially those who find writing difficult further into KS2 where their peers are writing confidently and freely.

On further reflection, the dragon dictate software could be a useful tool to support speech and language work, providing that reassurance and reward when pupils are speak clearly and confidently. Lots of potential here I feel.

The software also works brilliantly on the iPod Touch and iPads. Could this be yet another use for these portable devices in the classroom?

How else could this software be used to support learning in home and school? Please add your thoughts here.


Role Play and its place in the Primary Curriculum

researcherIt never ceases to amaze me how important Role Play is in engaging pupils in understanding and performing tasks to the best of their ability. I remember quite early on in my teaching career when I was working with friends from Ultralab on an eTui research project. The afternoon involved my pupils playing with toys, a radio controlled car, a programmable toy and an eTui (a meta-level learning toy.) We asked my pupils to complete a questionnaire about what they understand about how each toy moved, what it sensed and how it responded to the environment in which it was being used. 

Crucially, we gave the pupils the title of 'researcher' and issued them each with a clipboard. Short of giving them a white 'lab' coat, they were every bit the researcher, and assumed that role throughout the afternoon. Interestingly enough, I remember questioning how most of the children understood the role of a researcher, yet their experience of what a researcher actually does was limited.

Recently, in discussion with colleagues during lunchtime, I reiterated how significant children in my Enterprise Team, had taken to the idea of being in-role as designers, inventors and business people. Here's why.

Over a period of 4 days next week, pupils at Kings Road Primary School are taking part in an Enterprise Week. The pupils have been tasked with designing and making products (or providing services) to sell with the intention of making a profit on the £50 they have received to buy resources. The ideas that each team are developing are already proving to be highly secretive and there is much competition between teams and keeping ideas top secret is the name of the game.

Logo Design Sheet Primary School

Whilst pupils in my team were in-role, I had them sign a child-friendly version of a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) which gave them a sense of loyalty and assurance to each other that our ideas will not be shared with other children or teachers. Whilst other pupils have since shared confidential information, my team haven't. How significant was role-playing in ensuring that our ideas weren't readily shared with others?

Today, we finalised our plans, discussed and voted on our team name, 'The F Factor' and began work on designing a logo for the team. Again, I used role-play with the help of preprinted stationery to ensure pupils engaged with the idea of being a creative designer for our team. The logos they presented were of a high standard and their understanding of the task was obvious in the designs they had produced.

Role-play had an enormous significance in the primary classroom and is not just the domain of Key Stage 1 pupils, but can, and should be given opportunities throughout all year groups in the school.



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