You can view all the posts in the epic “Writing a Maths Scheme of Work” series on this page. It’s kind of like Game of Thrones, only with slightly less nudity and dragons.
When starting writing a new Scheme of Learning, the underlying structure is absolutely crucial. It is something that needs to be decided at the very start, otherwise you will find yourself halfway through and having to go back to the drawing board.
As I wrote about in my (rather grandly!) titled post about The Philosophy of the Scheme of Work, we want to strike the right balance between practise of key skills, and discovery, engagement and inquiry.
On top of this, we also have a duty to ensure that students are regularly and accurately assessed, and appropriate and meaningful interventions are put into place. After all, data on students’ progress is crucial for many reasons, but it much be data that is true, means something, and informs what individual teachers and departments do next.
So, here is what Karen, Colm and myself have decided for a basic structure. There is nothing at all revolutionary here, but we just wanted a simple, effective, consistent approach across all year groups that students and staff would buy into.
Tasks (my responsibility)
The Scheme of Work will be divided up into what we are calling Topic Units. Each topic unit will cover a key area of the curriculum, such as Fractions, or Straight Line Graphs.
Each Topic Unit will have a set time in which it is to be completed, wherever possible using a whole number of weeks for simplicity (from September we will have 5 x 50 minute lessons a week with all year groups).
Each Topic Unit will contain the usual objectives and medium term plans, but also probing questions, Diagnostic Questions, and links to the best supporting resources.
for each unit there will also be a Rick Task folder where I will hand-pick the best rich tasks around for each Topic Unit. I will talk about where I am sourcing these from in a later post.
Crucially, we have also decided that each Topic Unit will have a compulsory Rich Task that all teachers must deliver. This is a feature we brought into our new Year 7 and 8 Schemes of Work, and is something I feel very strongly about. I want to avoid the “Lesson Lottery” where some students will miss out on experiencing a certain high-quality tasks as their teacher chooses not to deliver it. I am acutely aware that you can go too far with this and dictate all content to staff, and this can lead to a worse outcome for everyone as they feel constrained and are not able to use their own creativity, freedom and strengths. So hopefully one rich tasks per Topic Unit is to right balance.
There will also be a selection of starter activities and extension material that I will discuss in a later post.
Homeworks (Colm’s responsibility)
We have decided that all students will receive one centrally produced (i.e. written by Colm) homework each fortnight, and one additional homework set by the teacher. So all students will have one homework per week.
The homeworks that Colm produces will be out of 30 marks and written on no more than two A4 pieces of paper.
20 of the marks will assess current content from the Topic Unit we are currently working on, and 10 marks will assess content students have been taught previously. The regular assessing of prior knowledge is something I feel strongly about. Bruno Reddy mentioned it in his tips for people writing schemes of learning, and research into the phenomenon of the “forgetting curve” also indicates that this is a crucial feature. We don’t want students to go for too long without being assessed on a given area of maths, so topics will keep appearing throughout the year.
The scores of these homeworks will be recorded on our centrally stored spreadsheet in two columns: the score for new content and the score for previously learned content. This will ensure as a department we have consistency, and also we are able to intervene appropriately for students who are struggling in particular areas. The exact nature of this intervention will be discussed in a later blog post. As I said before, the data has to be meaningful and lead to positive action.
The homework sheets will be stuck into the left-hand page of students’ books (we have ordered big blue A4 ones for next year), with the right hand page for working out.
We also need to find an effective way of ensuring effective student/teacher dialogue for the feedback on these homeworks and the subsequent actions that students take.
In a later blog post I will share one of these homeworks so you have a better idea of what I am talking about.
Assessment (Karen’s responsibility)
We have decided to assess our students every half term.
This should allow us to test the 2/3 Topic Units that they have studied that half term, as well as testing prior knowledge as well in line with the homeworks.
Again, this will be recorded centrally and appropriate interventions put in place for students who have performed poorly.
I will share a sample of an assessment in a later blog post.
So, that is the planned structure. As I say, nothing mind-blowing, and the success of this will depend on the quality of the tasks, assessments and homeworks, and of course the content and order.
So, next up we turn our attention to the content and order of the Scheme of Work, and the supporting resources we have found invaluable in helping us sorting this out.