Adaptation vs Differentiation

A short blog on adaptation as opposed to differentiation.

We have had a long debate at our school over this and have seen some stunning outcomes from well adapted learning.

At the root of adaptation is the concept that we are aiming for all or the majority of the class to be working towards achieving the same objectives. For this to be achieved, barriers to success that can be removed should be removed. Adaptation achieves this by allowing children to access the same task and show that they can achieve the same level of thought, skill and success as their peers. Differentiation is totally different. When we differentiate we give children tasks with different outcomes: which often means we just make the task easier for some children.

Differentiation has its place when, even with all other barriers removed, children would not be able to access the task. I still regularly differentiate in all subjects, but only after trying all the adaptations I have available for each child. I will deal with the mix of adaptation and differentiation at the end of this short blog.

So what effective adaptations can we make and for who?

From my experience, the most effective adaptations can be grouped in the following way.

  • Adaptations for dyslexic children
  • Adaptations for children with poor vocabulary/prior knowledge
  • Adaptations for organisational skills
  • Adaptations made due to formative assessment

Adaptations for dyslexic children

We are lucky to live in an age where the correct use of well designed technology platforms can go a long way to removing barriers for our dyslexic children


We use the Seesaw application to give our children free access to high quality voice recognition software so that they can dictate their ideas to the application rather than having to compose ideas, spellings and structure at the same time. This reduces cognitive load and children start to see themselves as writers. The advantage of using a system such as Seesaw is that we can see the progress of children’s work clearly in their journal, give immediate feedback and print out the work for their books if we want to.


Some children, who may still find the composition of coherent prose a challenge, are still able to give age appropriate responses to learning tasks by recording their responses as voicenotes or videos on Seesaw.

Access to difficult texts

In some lessons across the curriculum the texts are simply too hard for some of the children to decode and comprehend. However, if the text is read out loud they can easily access the content and perform well in the lesson. We regularly read out complex texts on Seesaw so the children can see the text and listen to the voice-over.

Task management boards

As you well know, our dyslexic cohort also tend to get quite muddled. So we often set the tasks on Seesaw so they can reread instructions (which also have a voice-over) throughout the lesson. This allows pupils to work independently and frees up adults to support more children in the classroom.

Challenges: Having the technology available to use (we are lucky enough to have 10 iPads in every class). It also takes a little bit of time to train up the children in the use of technology and accept it as part of everyday classroom practice. Our children used Seesaw throughout both lockdowns so are very familiar, yet it still took a good year to embed this as everyday practice in school.

Adaptations for children with poor vocabulary/prior knowledge


The key adaptation for this group of children will be the pre-teaching of key vocabulary and knowledge – often linked to a knowledge organiser. This removes barriers in the main lesson because cognitive load is reduced, children stay focused for longer and are more able to achieve the main aim with confidence.

Challenges: Finding the time to fit pre-teaching into the day. If you can engage parents with this it can really help.

Adaptations for organisational skills

Task management boards (as mentioned above)

As you well know, our dyslexic cohort also tend to get quite muddled. So we often set the tasks on Seesaw so they can reread instructions (which also have a voice-over) throughout the lesson. This allows pupils to work independently and frees up adults to support more children in the classroom. This also applies to anyone else in the class who struggles to organise themselves during longer tasks.

Adaptations made due to formative assessment

Another important way to adapt the learning is to respond effectively to need. If you can pick up when a pupil hasn’t met a small step towards a larger end goal, then by catching this early you can still ensure that they keep up with the class and maybe use adaptations in future lessons to support them.

Case study: Mixing adaptation and differentiation to support English writing progression

One of the biggest success stories for me this year, has been using effective differentiation in some grammar and English lessons which certain pupils were unable to access. The work they were given gave them small steps that were supported with the technologies and approaches above so that they could access the work independently whilst I taught the rest of the class. Over two terms these small steps progressed to the point where the pupils had moved from struggling to compose coherent sentences to confidently creating paragraphs that met age related expectations.

The differentiated work that steadily progressed gave them a clear a consistent pathway to follow. The adaptations allowed them to overcome their dyslexia and see themselves as a writer.

This success means that they are now beginning to write successful responses in all subjects, are much more willing to share ideas and talk in front of the class and most importantly, they are happier.

What is Quizterix and how does it impact UK education?

Quizterix is a flashcard-based learning environment for historic events wrapped up in playable games. However, it goes far beyond traditional flashcards, as it includes a range of memorization techniques that make remembering facts, years, and the answers to hundreds of related questions easy.

This learning environment is as much about a particular topic from the History syllabus as it is about building transferable skills. Building up the ability to effortlessly memorize hundreds of historical facts transfers to other subjects, especially the ones that rely on building a factual knowledge base: Biology, Geography, English (especially Literature), Sociology, Geology, and Psychology – but also parts of the Sciences. Equations and formulae in Maths and Physics, The periodic system in Chemistry, the names and characteristics of astronomical bodies, micro and macroeconomic concepts and indicators, and much more.

Quizterix promotes a brain-friendly learning and teaching style that benefits students and teachers alike. It starts from simple, and largely unstructured factual knowledge. It presents this knowledge in a way that makes it tens (with practice hundreds) of times easier to remember. It gives students a solid basis that makes the next step of understanding easier to take.

How Quizterix Works

There are things people have a good memory for and there are other things where we struggle. Historic dates and facts are not easy to memorize for anyone. We are much better with funny images and stories.

This is why competitive memory champions do not cram in numbers directly. They wrap facts that are really hard to remember in things that are much easier to memorize. Numbers turn into words that stand in for the numbers. 65 turns into Jiving Lions. Karate Zebra is a 70. There is a standard to do this translation, which is called the Major System.

If you stick to it, you can share them with others – as we do in Quizterix. If you get some experience with these techniques, you will be able to make much better use of your memory. Did you know that the world record for memorizing random events and their dates stands at 241 in only 5 minutes?   

Memory champions use highly efficient memorization tricks. They also train hard. We use a simple system to give you a good introduction to mnemonics that work well and may get you started with even better methods!

The anchor point of our system is an often absurd or funny image. The human mind can process an image in 13 milliseconds, much faster than text. It is also a great way to use the Von Restorff effect (silly things are a lot easier to remember) to our advantage. The description of the little scene is in fact an encoding for the event and its date. Here we have a Cocky Neanderthal Waterskiing. The game teaches and practices the Major System that simply turns numbers into letters. There is a card in the game so that beginners can look up the Major System whenever they need it. C is a 7, N is a 2. Cocky Neanderthal is a 72. Waterskiing creates a memory hook for Watergate. With a bit of training, our stone age friend and his shades pop into our minds when we think about Watergate.

Before you start to play with Quizterix cards

Memorization techniques and how they work are counter-intuitive for those, who have not experienced them themselves. It is not obvious why using seemingly unrelated silly images and mnemonics would form faster and deeper memories than “just” brute force memorization.

If you are in that camp: The reason why these techniques are used by memory champions is that they are highly effective. None of the competitors memorizes a deck of cards by brute force. They memorize a funny, grotesque, and absurd walk through a memory palace full of little stories and images just like those in Quizterix. With training, the human mind can memorize a deck of cards in 14 seconds. Or 48 decks in one hour. Or the dates of 241 historic events in 5 minutes. These feats take training and refined methods. Quizterix provides a gentle introduction, a beginner’s version, of these techniques. It is easy to pick up and requires no upfront training. It also performs much better than brute force.

Teachers are under time pressure. Efficiency is imperative. Therefore it is important to realize:

When your students have a giggle about leeches in the sewers or a rattlesnake kissing a doctor, they do not waste time. They memorize using the most efficient techniques available.

The immediate benefits

Quizterix teaches a comprehensive knowledge base of a given topic. These are dozens of events and their dates, and hundreds of related facts. It also teaches memorization techniques beneficial for other topics and subjects. Even a beginner level of these skills accelerates the mundane task of memorizing facts for an assessment manifold. What takes hours to memorize by brute force can be reduced to a few minutes.

This approach facilitates a revised bottom-up teaching style. Traditional teaching is mostly or partly top-down or a mixed approach. A general concept is introduced (e.g. The Cold War is an era of outstanding technological progress), and then facts are discussed that support the concept (e.g. nuclear arms, satellites, high-altitude aircraft, the moon landing). After a couple of Quizterix games, students already know the facts, and lessons can be used to stitch the factual knowledge together. The conversation can be inverted: Which of the events we have are related to technology? Can you remember which years these events were in? What was their significance? Can you think of another period in history where so much technological progress was made in such a short time? A conclusion that students reach all by themselves is much more memorable than a foregone one.

We use the metaphor of memory pegs for Quizterix knowledge. These are strong and sticky and keep new knowledge in place for long enough to be thoroughly processed. In the student’s mind, they form the anchor points for Bartlett cognitive schemas. With more and deeper knowledge, forming insights and understanding accelerates and persists.

The long term benefits

Memory tricks come down to Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curves. The flatter they are, the easier things are to remember and the longer they will stay. Unlike with cramming for a final assessment, your students will end up with vastly increased memory strength. Memory strengths after cramming sessions do not last longer than a few days. It is a common experience that all but the most fundamental pieces of knowledge will not outlive the following term. A few Quizterix games produce memory strengths of months and years. Students will come back after the summer holiday and still remember much of last term.

And then there is the social element around gameplay. You will find a discount code in your pack so that students can purchase their own version of Quizterix at less than half price. Playing with adults, especially those with advanced age, triggers lots of knowledge exchange and make talking about History at home natural and enjoyable!

Knowledge is power!

Are you looking to improve your year-on-year exam results? Do you find yourself struggling to teach the higher-order skills required because you’re spending too much time learning content? Do you often reach Easter holidays only to find that you haven’t even started some topics? If so, we can help you with Tier 3 memory techniques.

While most schools have already mastered Tier 1 and are making progress with Tier 2, effective learning requires the use of Tier 3 techniques right from the beginning of the course. Fortunately, not many schools are in Tier 0, where students attend lessons and quickly become overloaded by content, leading to cognitive overload, the cram-and-forget cycle, and poor exam results.

Tier 1

In Tier 1, knowledge organizers are available for each topic area, and students have some prior knowledge before entering lessons. However, cognitive overload can still occur, and content is often only revisited during frantic cramming sessions in the weeks before exams. As a result, students can become overwhelmed by the amount of content to remember, and their knowledge can become confused and truncated.

Tier 2

In Tier 2, pre-teaching and generalized spaced retrieval are used, with knowledge organizers available for each topic area. While this approach reduces the need for cramming before exams, it still requires revision lessons and can take time away from higher-order skills development. Additionally, spaced retrieval is not personalized or gamified, making it less efficient for long-term recall, and timelines and chronological understanding can remain insecure, leading to poorer exam performance.

Tier 3

In Tier 3, pre-teaching is made memorable using visual mnemonics that wrap up the most difficult information first, such as dates, and secure it as a solid timeline in long-term memory. Individualized spaced retrieval is used, and cramming is not required. Regular revisions of the timeline are done using Quizterix flashcards or Sproc’s History Quiz online, which uses AI to intelligently interrupt forgetting and increase memory strength.

By using these Tier 3 memory techniques, learning is never lost, and content only needs to be learned once, reducing the time needed for content revision. Both Quizterix card games and Sproc’s History Quiz app are gamified, making learning more engaging and enjoyable for students. Students can even perform speed runs of date recall on Sproc’s History Quiz, with some users recalling 30 dates in under 2 minutes! Recall under stress further enhances long-term memory strength.

Students who use Tier 3 techniques start each topic with a sound chronological framework and a wide range of facts, enabling them to develop higher-order skills. They enter the room feeling like historians, with knowledge at their fingertips, generating confident questions and debate. As learning is never lost, students also bring knowledge from other topics into new ones, enhancing their long-term memory strength and overall academic performance.

In summary, if you want to improve your exam results and spend more time developing higher-order skills, Tier 3 memory techniques can help. By using visual mnemonics, personalized and gamified spaced retrieval, and regular revisions, students can master content more efficiently, allowing them to focus on the development of higher-order skills and achieve better exam results.

Curriculum design in 2023

I was recently contacted by someone who had read my previous blog posts about my own curriculum design journey. They said it was a breath of fresh air and wanted some advice. I immediately felt a glow of pride that someone had liked what I had written, but also incredibly guilty that I had not added to my blog for what feels like an eternity.

I stopped the blog because I became disillusioned and a little disorientated with the task of curriculum design. The education space was swimming with mind-boggling terminology and a lot of people telling each other how it should be done. Books popped up all over the place, all with great advice, but often contradictory. I simply felt that I didn’t want to add to the maelstrom.

However, I am now a couple of years wiser and fell that i can now add something to the conversation, even if it is to share the many mistakes and blind alleys that I blundered down in my mission to create an incredible curriculum for our pupils.

I now believe that curriculum design can be exciting and invigorating for a school and its staff if managed in an agile and minimalist manner. I have been fortunate to have spent time over the last few years working alongside professionals from outside education, designing apps, memory games and much more and have started using more agile management approaches in some aspects of the way we manage the development and quality assurance of our curriculum. We also use good old post it notes and flip charts when it is appropriate.

Over the next few weeks I am aiming to describe what I think a curriculum should look like, try and simplify all the language that is flying around and offer ideas for processes that will help schools develop and nurture their curriculum.

1. Visualising your curriculum

I don’t expect people to agree with everything I say, but do hope that by making my approach clear, people can at least use it as a counterpoint to their own vision.

I see the curriculum as a well maintained garden. At first glance it is well organised and purposeful (because all schools are already doing a great job). However, when you spend more time tending to the garden and investigating you will start to notice weeds growing or plants taking over their area of the garden. There will be wild spaces where new things appear, and unloved spaces that need revamping. At certain times of the year different parts of the garden thrive and at other times they wilt and all but disappear

It has been said many times before, a curriculum is a living thing, it is never finished. So, much like a garden, you have to step back from time to time and marvel at all the wonderful things going on rather than focusing on just weeding or moving the lawn. Then, happy in the knowledge that the bigger picture is in good order, set about tackling those weeds and installing a new water feature!

A curriculum is a living thing.

2. Finding out where you are and where you want to go

So let’s start investigating your curriculum. I will assume that if you are reading this, you are still in the throws of designing your curriculum or are going through a reassessment of where you are.

If I were to start the process again, I would begin by doing two things. I would want to work with staff to establish what our curriculum approach was going to be. I would then want to look at current planning and teaching sequences through this lens to establish what is really happening in the school at the start of the process. From this point, you can then make sensible action plans to work on subjects, pedagogical approaches and resources that are clear priorities. I call this, low hanging fruit.

2.1 Your curriculum approach

As a school, you may already have a clear idea about how you want to deliver your curriculum and what is important to you. However, I will try and list the things that I think you should consider and would end up being the criteria which I would use to assess the curriculum design or intent. At my school, we then have these elements defined at the start of each teaching sequence and periodically review the success of our approaches and fidelity of our schemes of work. I will discuss how we manage this process in another blog and share our ‘speed dating’ quality assurance methodology and our more old-school staffroom overview meetings.

Our teaching sequences currently have the following overview sheets at the start.

I will try and explain how we got to these in the next few posts, but for now I will list the main areas I would consider when trying to evaluate a school’s curriculum. These are not in order of priority.

  • Fidelity – does the sequence follow the knowledge overview/s that the subject lead believes are being followed?
  • Memory friendliness – does the teaching sequence take account of cognitive load, spaced repetition etc?
  • Classroom Pedagogy – are teaching sessions well designed so that children are thinking about the learning to enable them to reach the endpoint successfully?
  • Time – is the sequence realistic and achievable in the time that is actually available to teach the unit?
  • Adaptation – is the learning adapted so that all children can meet the expectations? E.g using technology to aid access to difficult texts or the composition of writing.
  • Knowledge First building toward achievable endpoints – if children already know the core knowledge they are then able to access the learning in the lessons and make links between knowledge to build up a strong schema ready for the endpoint of the unit and beyond.
  • Display and celebration – are displays and other opportunities to share and celebrate children’s work planned in?
  • Cultural capital, community links and developing aspirations
  • The National Curriculum – does the sequence achieve or help achieve the required elements of the National Curriculum? Useful when you realise you have far too much content, as you still have to meet the NC requirements.
  • Outdoor learning – are some activities better outside?
  • Reading – are their opportunities to use reading lessons to give children opportunities to widen their schema and build on their knowledge.

So, if you are looking at changing your curriculum or simply want to have a fresh look at an already established curriculum, you will need to first have conversations to establish your position on all the areas above. I will endeavor to write an article about all of these areas in my subsequent blogs. I will probably start with something around curriculum language and the many descriptors used for knowledge and skills.

Fluency and mastery in writing

A semi-inverted Talk 4 Writing sequence

A quick blog just to explore my current thoughts around primary writing.

Having taught writing for the past 20 years to an ever-changing cohort, it feels like it is time for a change. We have been using Talk 4 Writing for many years and overall, it has been a success. However, our children have changed and we need to adjust our apporach to writing in order to reflect those changes.

What changes?

Good question. I think COVID has had a huge impact on children’s ability to write and their deeper understanding of grammatical structures. I also think that technology use has severely eroded children’s ability to concentrate for long periods of time, and has increased their expectation that they will get a reward for just turning up. In most apps and games, you get dopamine hits via well designed reward systems for doing very little. You also very rarely fail, as you can just drop straight back into the game and often carry on from where you left off.

Okay, rant over. So how do we approach a unit of writing that can span three weeks, often four with interuptions such as Sports day, Book week, Science Day, trips out, absences and the like? In these units of work, we expect children to carry large amounts of technical information with them and apply this in the end outcome – and if I am honest – rarely see much real progress from the children we need to see catching up. Progress is often slow and irregular with bad habits occurring time and time again. Yes we edit, and revise the work and yes they improve it – but have they mastered anything – how confident do they feel? Can they apply it elsewhere? Not really. Give them a writing task outside the unit of work and they revert to type and show a much less mature writing style which is actually where they are.

So, what do we have in our modern pedagogical armoury that can help us help them? Well, let me explain what I think might work. We will then give it a go next term and I will let you know how we get on.


DAY 1 – I think we should start each unit of writing with a hook – video, writing, artwork – something that we can ‘read’ and become passionate about. No surprise there!

INNOVATION – lots of modelled and shared writing

DAY 2 – Then we need to go straight into innovating sentence structures and learning useful vocabulary. In the innovation section we would explicity revise core grammatical structures using our SVO skeleton. The skeleton allows us to use the same codes across the school to represent sentence structures in order to scaffold their understanding of how sentences work. As an example, we may start with compound sentences (SVO,cSVO.) and explore how thy could be used.

Challenges always available for those who have mastered this – but where possible these should deepen their understanding of the different ways you could use this structure for effect in writing or any anomalies that can occur. For example – SVO,cSVO is often written as SVO,cVO. as the subject is not always repeated. Another example is when to use a comma and the Oxford comma. Using a semi-colon to replace the conjunction.

DAY 3 – We then add another sentence type (Adv, SVO.) and explor how fronted adverbials could help us express ourselves and why and when we would use them. We would then compose a short paragraph using compound sentencs and fronted adverbials. For true mastery we would also expect them to be able to identify these structures in other writing.

Challenge – using a variety of types of fronted adverbial; recognising the difference between a fronted adverbial and a subordinate clause

DAY 4 – If we have mastered the work so far we can add another structure. Perhaps noun phrases (SVadj,adj and adj O.) We could add this structure to our previous two and be playful with the way we use them in a short piece of writing.

Challenge could be around the vocabulary they are choosing and thinking more deeply about the way the adjectives work together and complement each other.


DAY 5 – At this point the class teacher may feel that the three structures that have ben introduced may need further consolidation with a group or groups and GD children have been indentified in this unit as they have clarly mastered these structures. The GD group would be given more challenguing structures with written examples to have a go at whilst the teacher and TAs worked with those who needed to master the first three structures.

IMMERSION – lots of drama and oral retelling and guided oracy

DAY 6 – Immersion – now I think it is far more appropriate to read texts and revisit the hook and expect the children to see the sentence structurs we have innovated as they shoukd have mastered them. The focus here shoud be on pulling out the WHY. Why do we use these structures and for what effect? What type of vocabulary is appropriate for this style of writing.

DAY 7 – Immersion – continue to go deeper into the text type. Use drama to explore the language they need to be confident using and have high expectations that they rehearse the sentence structures they have innovated orally. They can emphasise punctuation, conjunctions, fronted adverbials and adjectives to demonstrate their presence BOTH to improve their oral performance but also to show they understand their importance in the writing. Teacher will need to perform so they can see the standard expected. Guided groups can create performances with an adult.

Importantly – performances are done to an iPad and sahred on Seesaw so that all children have a chance to share and be heard, they have the privacy to be braver than in front of the whole class and this is far more time efficient.

DAY 8 – Further immersion and recording and oral performance of their response to the task – no writing at all – just speaking it our and exploring the language – revelling in it. AT our school they could record this as a video onto their Seesaw account


DAY 9 – Planning/writing – watch their video and then start to build on that as a piece of writing. Thy should be encouraged to use a planning style that suits them Some children like to draft ideas and redraft – other love a dtailed plan to start with. We need to get away from a one size fits all planning lesson.

Day 10 – Planning/writing/ editing – including guided editing

Day 11 – Planning/writing/ editing

Day 12 – Planning/writing/ editing

Day 13/14 – Writing a final copy to send off, share, display

Okay – that is the idea. Hopefully this means that they will carry the sentence structures with them and then be able to use them purposefully and confidently in their final writing.

Curriculum Update

I have decided that I am not a great bloggr as I get so caught up in work that I forget to share what is happening.

Getting to grips with terminology

We have come a long way this term and th curriculum fog sems to be lifting. I have to admit to some frustration with the language of curricula design in the UK. It seems that everyone I speak to uses different terminology such as:

A: component and composite knowledge

B: core knowledge and substantive knowledge

C: skills, knowledge and key outcomes

I have come to think that as long as your staff use these terms in a way that is consistent in your school then it doesn’t really matter. If it helps anyone, we use them in this way

Component knowledge – all the knowledge within your curriculum including skills (procedural knowledge) that you explicitly teach in ouder to reach a key outcome. That key outcome is your composite knowledge because you have composed the key outcome from the component knowledge from that unit of work and previous work. We don’t use the words core knowledge. Instead, we separate skills and knowledge in our curriculum. So we have procedural knowledge progressions, and an overviw of factual knowledge – this factual knowledge is split into general knowledge that is needed within the unit of work and substantive knowledge that is built upon across multiple units of work as a key strand running through the subject.

Finalising our paperwork

Our school prioritised the children and families during the pandemic and continue to do so. However, we are alos battling on with our curriculum design and how best to represent this via a paper trial.

In order to do this, we have split the subjects into three disinct tiers.

CORE – Maths and English

DRIVER – Geography, History and Science

FOUNDATION – Computing, RE, PSHE, PE, DT, Art and Music

Core in detail

The knowledge and skills progressions for our core subjects are mapped out in detail in NC2014 and we are happy with this. Subject leads have then mapped out text types we teach in writing, core texts that we read across the year groups etc. Each unit of work in writing has a detailed teaching sequence that is currently loosely based on the Talk for Writing approach which we adopted 10 years ago ( I will write anothr blog about planned tweaks to this apporach to better serve our children going forwards). For reading we follow a guided reading scheme created by Devon County which means that we are teaching from real texts all the time. For phonics, we follw the Twinkl phonics scheme and Codebreakers intervention across the whole school.

Drivers in detail

In our driver subjects we have mapped out our own curriculum in the following way.

  • Subject overviews show when units are taught and which units are revisited at the same time.
  • Detailed Medium Term Plans map out the knowledge and key questions for the unit of work and what prior learning will be revisited.
  • Knowledge organisers allow children to pre-learn core facts prior to teaching sequences
  • Teaching sequences have detailed plans of the lessons – we plan in teams so wwthis allows us to give the detail needed for other team members to understand the detail of our implementation
  • Assessment matrices – these matrices clearly show teachers the component knowledge we expect the children to have mastered by the end of the unit and the key outcome we expect an ARE child to achieve at the end of the unit of work.

Foundation subjects

We then map these using the following paperwork

In our foundation subjects we have managed the curriculum design in some areas by buying into very well respected schemes of work that have helped us structure our progressions. We use:

  • Charanga for Music
  • GetSet4PE for PE
  • Somerset ELIM for Computing
  • The UK Online Safety curriculum from Common Sense Media for Online Safety
  • Jigsaw for PSHE
  • and the Devon Sacre for RE

We then map each subject within the school using the following paperwork:

  • Subject overviews, showing where each unit of work is covered and which units are revisited at the same time.
  • Skills progressions
  • Detailed teaching sequences which clearly show the componnt knowledge that is bing synthesised to create our key outcome.

So, that is the paperwork we have created in each of the three Tiers. Subject leaders now have a full and detailed overview of the intent of their subject and are busily overseeing the implementation and impact of the planning we have put in place.

It has been a while – time to reflect

Hi everyone,

I took a break from my blog as, like everyone else, i needed to focus on getting my family and school through the COVID pandemic. It seems like there may be light at the end of the tunnel mow and discussions about curriculum development seem relevant again.

I have to say thank you to all those people who asked for copies of documents and overviews in the last year. I am glad my utterances have been helpful to some, I apologise to anyone who I manage to respond to. However, the pandemic has been a great chance to pause and look back. This first attempt to rekindle this blog will hopefully highlight what has become clear during that hiatus.

Firstly, everything I believe before still holds true, which is a relief. However, the strand plans were attempted too early in the process. They were great for Science as it already fits into neat strands but became far more complex for History where the strands weave in and out of each period of the timeline like a complex web.

MTPs – different types of knowledge

So, we have broad brushed our History and Geography Strand overviews, and will come back to them when we finish the next part of the process, MTPs for each unit. The focus being on pulling together all our investigations and conversations about a curriculum for Canada Hill. Once these are complete Subject Champions in each team will meet with the subject lead to look back at strand development, Year A/ Year B journeys, and the overall coherence of the subject.

The MTP’s will include information from, and eventually replace the boxes at the start of each teaching sequence. Each MTP plan will explore the main focus of the unit of work and teams will unpick the following elements.

  • Previous knowledge that has been taught and can be built upon (on Strand Plans)
  • Background knowledge that we would want the children to have engaged with via Knowledge Organisers and classroom quizzing and our Spark application prior to the start of the work.
  • Core knowledge that may be on the knowledge organiser or may be discovered using subject specific skills within the lessons. What would we want an average student to be able to talk about with confidence if asked about their learning experience, during the unit and in their remaining time at the school. This is the knowledge we will continue to quiz and revisit to help them hold onto it. This has to be clearly defined so that something meaningful can be achieved in 5-6 lessons.
  • Relevance of the work to our pupil’s lives -do we make this explicit?
  • Tier 3 Vocabulary for the Knowledge organiser
  • Tier 2 vocabulary that will help them express their understanding
  • Core vocabulary that links to the core knowledge that will be used in class. These are words like industrialisation that we want them to understand and be able to explain to others with examples from their learning.
  • The subject specific skills that we will be using to create, evaluate, analyse and apply their knowledge.
Template for our MTPs

Due to our strand approach, staff are confident at identifying the areas above and are busy pulling together these plans across the three main driver subjects. I will share our MTP’s as they are completed.

Our next mission is to make sure that we have a structured approach to quizzing before during and after each unit of work to help pupils retain their core knowledge.

Our Curriculum Strand Plans (S-Plans)

Sorry for the delay in the next step of the process. I have been snowed under with the everyday complications of working in a busy school. I know I promised people copies of our first finished S-Plans but felt they needed a bit more work before I was happy to share them.

As a school we now have a curriculum overview spreadsheet that has every subject broken into its strands (as defined by us and the National Curriculum). This is a work in progress and needs to be updated and changed every term as we get further into the curriculum journey. The best thing about this document is that Subject leaders are keen to get their subjects onto the overview and broken down into meaningful strands. As we have mixed-age classes on a 2 year rolling program, this spreadsheet shows us the journey for children who start in Reception in Year A and the journey for those who start with us in Year B. This will allow us to make adjustments where necessary after we have finished our S-Plans so that the journey is as smooth as possible.

We have also put new teaching sequence overviews into place and all staff are using these to structure their thought processes when designing teaching sequences so that we are thinking about cognitive science, and our agreed approach when we are planning for learning.

We have now embarked on the momentous job of creating overviews for each strand in each academic subject in the school so that we can see the narratives we are developing within the subject over the 7 years the pupils are with us. We started with Science , as we felt that Maths and English have had much more focus over the years and are well mapped out already with countless progression documents – this is not to say that the Maths and English leads are sitting back relaxing – they have plenty to look at – but the strand planning seems more pertinent to other subjects at this point.

Science offered quite well defined strands which are essentially Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Working Scientifically, and how we tell the story of the Advances in Science.

However, as we started discussing these strands we renamed them and split the Biology strand into two. We now have – Animals Including Humans; Plants; Cause and Effect; and How Things are Made. We have then included the other two areas in these strands as we think they make more sense to be included as they are ways of exploring that narrative of that strand.

When we designed these Strand documents we tried to use similar titles to our Teaching Sequence Overviews so that the S-plans become closely and regularly integrated into the termly planning process.

I have attached our Plants S-Plan as an example and am happy to share more in a few weeks time when a lot more S-plans will have matured into final versions. The Plants S-Plan alone has had many positive impacts on our curriculum –

  • we have a clear planting plan that ties into our curriculum
  • our Forest School provision in KS1 has clearer aims for Science
  • we have included far more Cultural Capital about our school site (finding out the age of the Giant Oak that was on the site long before the school when it was still a farm) and native trees that our classes are named after
  • we have seen meaningful links to other subjects that we never knew existed – links to local history – the Giant Oak, ancient history – daffodils being brough to the country by the Romans, onions being important in many ancient cultures etc etc
  • we have found repetition of learning that we can now remove – repeat as revision and then build upon for deeper learning and understanding. Year 5/6 no longer need to dissect flowers as children should know about flower parts and functions. We can concentrate on animals lifecycles and asexual reproduction in plants.

A have pasted the Plants S-Plan below – hope it helps – happy to send a copy to people – just email

Curriculum Strand Progression Document – Plants


Understanding the World: ELG 14

40-60 months-Looks closely at similarities, differences, patterns and change.

ELG – Children know about similarities and differences in relation to…living things. They talk about the features of their own immediate environment and how environments might vary from one another. They make observations of…plants and explain why some things occur and talk about changes.

Exceeding- Children know that the environment and living things are influenced by human activity.


Vocabulary linked with Knowledge organiser

maple, oak, sunflower, seeds, bulbs, tubers, amaryllis, hyacinth, tulip, daffodil, pansy, grow, growth, sprout, germinate, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, petals, water, transport, water, food, light, warmth


Specific knowledge that children need to remember

  • The name of their class tree and be able to identify a maple and an oak tree in the school grounds.
  • They will recognise and be able to name a sunflower,
  • They will know that they grow tall and that they produce sunflower seeds.
  • They will know that if they plant the seeds they will get a baby sunflower
  • They will recognise and be able to name bulbs and will know that amaryllis, hyacinth, tulip and daffodil flowers grow from bulbs
  • They will be able to recognise the roots on a bulb and on fully grown pansies and know that the plants or the bulb uses roots to get water from the soil it is planted in.
  • They will recognise a pansy and will know that it is a type of flowering plant
  • They will know that not all plants have flowers
  • They will look at the stems on sunflowers and pansies and will know that stems support the plant and take the water from the roots to the leaves and flowers.
  • They will know that stems have small ‘pipes’ in the to take the water to the leaves and flowers. A bit like the water pipes in our homes.
  • They will be able to name the parts of a pansyleaves, stem, roots, flower, petals
  • They will know that when a flower is out, it is in
  • They will know that bulbs and tubers need warmth and water to sprout – they don’t need light because they are underground; or food, because they have their own food in the bulb or tuber
  • They will know that seeds need warmth and water to germinate – they don’t need light because they are underground; or food, because they have their own food in the seed
  • They will know that plants need water, food and light to grow
  • They will know that potatoes are tubers


Application of knowledge – Autumn Term each year

  • They will use their senses to experience fully grown cut flowers and dead seed heads
  • Planting daffodil and tulip bulbs. They will decide what it needs to grow.
  • Planting pansies in bloom. They will decide what it needs to grow.

Application of knowledge – Spring Term each year

  • Observe how tulip and daffodil bulbs have grown and changed.
  • Observation and discussion of Amaryllis, Hyacinths and pots of daffodils growing and dying in class.
  • March- plant sunflower seeds in the greenhouse (FS). Discuss where the sunflower seeds came from and recognise that it is a cycle.

Application of knowledge – Summer Term each year

  • Digging up the dead tulips and daffodils, looking at roots, bulbs, stems etc (FS)
  • Planting the sunflowers that have grown along with other summer bedding plants (FS)
  • Plant and harvest potatoes.

Final outcomes for assessment

Trips and visitors

Digital Literacy

PSHE links – see separate document

Year 1 and 2


Sc1/2.1a    identify and name a variety of common wild and garden plants, including deciduous and evergreen trees

Sc1/2.1b    identify and describe the basic structure of a variety of common flowering plants, including trees

Sc2/2.2a    observe and describe how seeds and bulbs grow into mature plants

Sc2/2.2b    find out and describe how plants need water, light, air and a suitable temperature to grow and stay healthy.


Vocabulary linked with Knowledge organiser

From reception

maple, oak, sunflower, seeds, bulbs, tubers, amaryllis, hyacinth, tulip, daffodil, pansy, grow, growth, sprout, germinate, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, petals, water, transport, water, food, light, warmth

New in KS1

Canopy, branch – branches, leaf litter, twigs, trunk, leaflets, berries, fruit, buds, flower head, pollen, dispersal, dispersed, blossom, herbs, bark, dormant, sap, The Romans

Specific knowledge that children need to remember on top of revision of previous knowledge

Note that this work is reinforced through Forest School throughout the year.

Year A – Time and Thyme Again

  • Know that evergreen trees do not lose their leaves in the winter – pine, holly, cedar, bay
  • Know that deciduous trees do drop their leaves in the Autumn and become dormant – oak, maple, elm, willow, rowan, larch, ash, hazel, beech (Link back to animals and hibernation in Spring A)
  • Know that oaks give you acorns, elm seeds are surrounded by a papery wing, hazel trees produce hazelnuts, ash trees produce ash keys, beech seeds come in prickly pods and were once valued as pig food.
  • Know that daffodils were introduced to Britain by the Romans because they thought the sap had healing powers.
  • Know that some plants are grown in the flower garden for decoration and some are grown in the vegetable garden for food. (History link – The Normans)
  • Know that the trunk of a tree is a woody stem so has the same function as the stem of a plant
  • Know that you can count the rings on a tree stump to find out the age of a tree
  • To know that some of the biggest trees ( the oak by the pergola and the big trees in Forest School) on the site are over 100 years old and were here when it was Canada Hill Farm (in Year 5/6 they could work out the age by measuring the circumference of the tree and then calculating the diameter and using this to work out the age)
  • Be able to label roots, leaves, trunk, branches, twigs, leaf litter, blossom on a diagram of a tree
  • To know that some trees flower just like other plants and we call that flower blossom.
  • To know that the flower then turns into the fruit/berry of the tree
  • Know that berries/fruits and nuts are a way that the plant gets its seeds dispersed


Year B – Ready, Steady, Grow

  • Identify and name these flowers: daisies, daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, amaryllis, pansies, irises, crocuses, bluebells, foxgloves (Risk Assessed), Lords and Ladies (Risk Assessed), oak, maple, elm, holly – evergreen, willow, rowan, ash, beech, cedar, larch -deciduous, pine – evergreen, hazel
  • Know the difference between wild (foxglove, Lords and Ladies, daffodils, daisies, bluebells, iris) and garden plants (tulips, pansies, sunflowers, broad beans) and know that it is illegal to pick wildflowers. Know what a household plant is (hyacinth, amaryllis)
  • Know that flowers produce pollen – this is what causes hayfever for some people


Application of knowledge – Forest School

  • Identify trees from their leaves and appearance.
  • Create own risk assessments for staying safe around plants including ‘not eating berries which are unidentified’ and specific risks with specific plants eg Lords and Ladies and Foxgloves.
  • Identify and know the seeds that come from each tree as a means of identification.
  • Identify which berry comes from which tree.
  • Explore the different uses that the fruit from trees can have eg Using fruit in activities eg rowan berry dying, blackberry picking etc.
  • Identifying the different seeds and flowers and then using them to create art work.

Tree flowers will be the Forest School focus so garden flowers and vegetables need to be classroom based.


Application of knowledge – in the classroom –

  • Tear plants apart and label parts – stem, flower, petal, root, bulb (purpose comes in Y3/4)
  • Investigate germination of cress seeds in dark/light. Do cress seeds germinate better in the dark or light?
  • Investigate growth of sunflowers in different soil mediums.
  • Plant broad beans and observe roots and structure.
  • Investigate germination of cress seeds in hot/cold – Once decided on best medium from previous investigation we place one seedling in the fridge and one on a hot, sunny windowsill and monitor their growth.


Final outcomes for assessment –Work from books, class discussions and results from investigations.

Trips and visitors – Forest School every week

Digital Literacy – Watch germination and growth of sunflowers in time lapse video.

PSHE links –  See separate document


Year 3 and 4


  • Sc3/2.1a    identify and describe the functions of different parts of flowering plants: roots, stem/trunk, leaves and flower
  • Sc3/2.1b    explore the requirements of plants for life and growth (air, light, water, nutrients from soil, and room to grow) and how they vary from plant to plant
  • Sc3/2.1c    investigate the way in which water is transported within plants
  • Sc3/2.1d    explore the part that flowers play in the life cycle of flowering plants, including pollination, seed formation and seed dispersal.


Vocabulary linked with Knowledge organiser

From reception

maple, oak, sunflower, seeds, bulbs, tubers, amaryllis, hyacinth, tulip, daffodil, pansy, grow, growth, sprout, germinate, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, petals, water, transport, water, food, light, warmth

From KS1

Canopy, branch – branches, leaf litter, twigs, trunk, leaflets, berries, fruit, buds, flower head, pollen, dispersal, dispersed, blossom, herbs, bark, dormant, sap, The Romans

New in Year 3/4

Stigma, stamen, sepal, ovule, filament, anthers, nutrients, air, transported, life cycle, flowering plants, pollination, seed formation, seed dispersal, soil, requirements, functions, xylem, phloem, veins, celery, insect pollination, nectar, bees, hive, honey (from nectar not pollen), cherry, apple, leek, onion, root vegetable

Specific knowledge that children need to remember on top of revision of previous knowledge.

Year A

To know that the word tulip comes from the Persian word for turban

To recognise and label a stamen, stigma, sepal, ovule, filament, anthers and petals from a tulip flower.

To know the functions of a stamen, stigma, sepal, ovule, filament, anthers and petals from a tulip flower.

To know there are veins called xylem and phloem in some plants stems and these transport water (xylem) and food (phloem). Compare this to animals having veins for the same reason.

To know that bees and other insects pollinate flowers by accident when they are helping themselves to the sugary nectar in the flower. ALSO Onion’s pungent juices will help soothe a bee sting.

Know that you can see these veins in some plants like celery

Know that Lavender was introduced into England in the 1600s. It is said that Queen Elizabeth prized a lavender conserve (jam) at her table, so lavender was produced as a jam at that time, as well as used in teas both medicinally and for its taste. (in preparation for Year 5/6)

Know that seeds can be dispersed in a variety of ways – wind, animal, explosive, water

Year B

Revision of KS1 tree knowledge

  • Know that evergreen trees do not lose their leaves in the winter – pine, holly, cedar, bay
  • Know that deciduous trees do drop their leaves in the Autumn and become dormant – oak, maple, elm, willow, rowan, larch, ash, hazel, beech (we could compare this to how animals hibernate)


  • Know that fruit trees blossom and this flower turns into a fruit containing seeds when pollinated.


Application of knowledge – Year A Autumn (Tudors)

Make leek and potato soup and link to Sir Walter Raleigh bringing potatoes to England in

Application of knowledge – Year A Spring (Tomb raiders)

Plant tulips from bulbs in boxes outside classrooms so we can look at the parts in the Summer term.

Learn that onions were an object of worship symbolizing eternity in Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Greeks used them to fortify athletes before the Olympic Games. Ans were used by the Romans for their medicinal properties see:

Application of knowledge – Year A Summer (Carnival)

To understand that the rainforest is an important eco-system (geography)

We will plan and investigate a fair test investigating what plants need to grow well (building on investigations in year 1 and 2 which looked at growing plants in different mediums and in dark/light.) Year 3 and 4 make choices about the variable. The planning of the investigation will be less scaffolded.


We will investigate how water is transported by plants using food dye and celery.


We will identify the parts of a flowering part (see above) and teach their function as part of the life cycle of a plant. We will teach how bees are involved in the life cycle of plants and about the different types of seed dispersal.

Wind seed dispersal – dandelions and sycamore

Hook seed dispersal – burdock on dogs

Water seed dispersal – coconuts (palm tree seeds)

Animal seed dispersal – apples, cherries by garden birds

Bursting seed dispersal – peas

Shaking seed dispersal – poppy seeds


Plant herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, mint, lemon balm.) Children will use the basil and oregano to make pizzas in year B Spring term.


Application of knowledge – Year B Summer (From Source To Sea)


Identify types of trees by their leaves (link to classification of living things as part of Living Things and Their Habitats:

Recap from year 1 and 2:

Introduce: fruit trees – cherry, apple (ensure this is the start of the Summer so the children can see blossom.)

Plant leeks, potatoes and onions (link to previous potato growing.) Start leeks in the classroom in the Spring term (March) and onions and potatoes in April. In the Autumn term, year A we make leek and potato soup (link to Sir Walter Raleigh!)


Final outcomes for assessment Work from books, class discussions and results from investigations.

Trips and visitors     Canonteign Falls.    Heatree residential

Digital Literacy Watch seed dispersal in time lapse video.

PSHE links   see separate document


Year 5/6


Sc6/2.1a    describe how living things are classified into broad groups according to common observable characteristics and based on similarities and differences, including micro-organisms, plants and animals

Sc6/2.1b    give reasons for classifying plants and animals based on specific characteristics.

Sc5/2.1b    describe the life process of reproduction in some plants and animals.


Vocabulary linked with Knowledge organiser

From reception

maple, oak, sunflower, seeds, bulbs, tubers, amaryllis, hyacinth, tulip, daffodil, pansy, grow, growth, sprout, germinate, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, petals, water, transport, water, food, light, warmth

From KS1

Canopy, branch – branches, leaf litter, twigs, trunk, leaflets, berries, fruit, buds, flower head, pollen, dispersal, dispersed, blossom, herbs, bark, dormant, sap, The Romans

New in Year 3/4

Stigma, stamen, sepal, ovule, filament, anthers, nutrients, air, transported, life cycle, flowering plants, pollination, seed formation, seed dispersal, soil, requirements, functions, xylem, phloem, veins, celery, insect pollination, nectar, bees, hive, honey (from nectar not pollen), cherry, apple, leek, onion, root vegetable

New Year 5/6

Sexual reproduction, asexual reproduction, sweet chestnut, horse chestnut (conkers), sycamore (helicopter seeds), spider plants, stem bulblets, stolon


Specific knowledge that children need to remember on top of revision of previous knowledge.

Revision of all previous knowledge

Know that Marron grass can be used to maintain sand dunes.

Application of knowledge – Autumn A  :

Canonteign visit: children will have tree identification sheets to take on the trip and find the trees they should know at Canonteign. Collect leaves and nuts etc for a simple display in the classroom comparing Canonteign trees and leaves and Canada Hill tree leaves and fruits as a revision and bringing together of knowledge. Back in school, using identification sheets, which of these do we have in school. Add sycamore, sweet chestnut and horse chestnut trees.

Greek bread making- use herbs growing on site by Year 3/4 (basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, mint). Investigating flavours for our food tech. ‘Smelly bags’ different herbs in organza bags to investigate the smell. Which ones to use for our bread making. Briefly look at history of onion again and how revered it was by Ancient Greeks – great ingredient for bread.

Tulips – Revise that tulips get their name from the Persian word for turban.

Daffodils ( narcissus) – We get the word ‘Narcissus’ from Greek mythology. A nymph called Echo fell in love with a young Greek named Narcissus, but Narcissus told her to leave him alone. Heartbroken, she lived alone until nothing but an echo of her remained. Nemesis, the God of revenge, heard the story and lured Narcissus to a pool. Narcissus, who was very handsome and quite taken with himself, saw his reflection in the pool and, as he leaned over to see better, fell in and drowned. He turned into the flower.


Application of knowledge – Summer A- Survival

Survival: Deadly 60- What not to eat in the wild. What plants could they survive on at Canada Hill – revision on knowledge or nuts, fruits, berries and herbs. Can they remember about the medicinal properties of onions? Learn how useful birch trees are in survival.

Plant poppies and peas and lavender ready for Autumn B


Application of knowledge – Autumn B:

Investigating the process of sexual and asexual reproduction in plants, we use lilies because of their anatomy. Investigation: CSI plant to dissect the lillies, identify their different parts and learn how they can be cloned. Parts they must learn: Petal, carpel, sepal, stamen, style, stigma, filament, stem, anther, root, ovary. Key words to learn: pollination, male, female, germination, seed dispersal. Revising the classification names of living things. We don’t need to do this as it has been loads in previous years – they simply need to revise this. We should grow new plants from different parts of parent plants. Learn that bulbs reproduce asexually by producing more bulbs. Daffodils can be propagated asexually by offsets, stem bulblets, and division of basal sections. Offsets, are bulbs grown from bulblets, which are miniature bulbs produced on the scales and stems of the parent bulb. … Stem bulblets, are underground bulbils produced on the stem of the daffodil.

We will reproduce some spider plants – Spider plants reproduce asexually by sending out stolons on which smaller plants grow. … Although both spider plants and strawberries have flowers and develop seeds which is sexual reproduction, the quickest way for the plants to reproduce is through the stolens or runners, thus ensuring a more efficient survival.

We will grow lavender in our class planters. This is where we will release our butterflies.

We will also grow poppies, peas and daffodils (planted in Summer A). We will use our poppies for cultural capital opportunities: armed forces day, remembrance day.

We will use the poppies, peas and daffodils in our revision of plant life cycles and seed dispersal.

Application of knowledge – Spring B:

Trip to Dawlish warren- we will spend time looking at Marron grass. They use the natural sand dune creating properties of marron grass to protect our coastline.

Final outcomes for assessment

Trips and visitors

Digital Literacy

PSHE links


Designing a new curriculum – blog 3 of 3

Its been a while since I wrote the last blog and we are moving on nicely with our curriculum development. We have completed a whole school overview for most subjects using the giant excel sheet that I discussed in blog 2. The sheet has given us a real sense of where we are with our current curriculum and what needs to change to ensure that the narrative in each subject is clearly and methodically developed. We have now started a two pronged approach to:

  • developing detailed knowldege of each curriculum strand as it progresses from Reception to Year 6;
  • and using a new teaching sequence overview that helps us ensure that we enshrine all our teaching and learning ideals within the classroom.

Curriculum development has been almost become a struggle at times, as we could have added to workload massively by insisting that this was done quickly, however, we listened to all staff and feel that we are moving along with everyone on board and contributing to the development at a pace that means we can give each subject the time and attention it deserves.

So what are we doing now?

Firstly, we have a agreed a teaching sequence overview format that includes everything that we have all agreed should be considered when planning a teaching sequence. We have no further expecations on planning format beyond this, but agreed that a common format for the teaching sequence overview would make it much easier for subject leaders to get a detailed feel for each unit of work and the aspects of teaching that all staff agree should be thought about when planning.

teaching sequence master

Secondly, we are creating very detailed overviews of each strand within a subject. We have started with our Science Subject leader using staff meeting time to lead discussions on how we teach plant science throught the school ( we have ended up splitting biology in to plants and animals). Admittedly, at first, it felt like we were just repeating another version of the whole school overview that we made on excel. However, we were passionate that we wanted to really drill down into the details. I have to thank @primary percival and @ClareSealy for their inspiration on this front. After a few minutes of discussion, we were suddenly talking about the actual plants we used, integrating the school garden better into the curriculum, ways to reinforce prior learning and opportunities we were clearly missing in other parts of the school year. It felt whole school and cohesive. It felt joined up and driven by everybody. It felt meaningful and useful for the children. This is what we dreamed about at the start of the process and the magic was beginning to happen. We could feel vitality and purpose seeping back into the very roots of the curriculum and people were genuinely enthused. Within weeks we had done the same with Animals Including Humans, What Things Are Made Of (chemistry), Cause and Effect (physics). The History lead was chomping at the bit to get started as all subject leads could see the confidence the Science leader now has in their subject. It was clear that with the help of everyone, subject leading can be empowering and positive.

strand overviews

In the next few staff meetings we will be building more strand overviews, and reviewing the ones we have created to see where we think we might be missing opportunities to reinforce children’s understanding of the strand as a whole. Key questions will be:

Are there any inconsistencies in what we are teaching?

Are we using the same models and mnemonics throughout the school?

My next blog will focus on how we are handling the complex administrative beast that is spaced repetition so that it is manageable and effective for all, and how it is starting to help us address issues we never dreamt it would. We are using the Spark learning platform that allows us to put the knowledge from our knowledge organisers into digital quizzes. Spark then learns each individual’s forgetting curve and times question repetitions to be at the point that they are just about to forget.


The next steps will be:

  • looking at our whole school overview and looking for opportunities to reuse subject matter in more than one subject.
  • evidencing our new curriculum. Is it working – do the children and staff notice a difference? The early signs are positive but we want to be sure.

I will blog again as our journey progresses.




One page curriculum – blog 2 of 3

One place for everything(ish)

Hopefully, you have read my first blog about designing a new curriculum. I hope that in some small way it was useful. This is the second part of that blog and outlines the development of a whole school curriculum planner and the changes that were made as we started filling it in. I have also tried to expand on my own curriculum thinking by drawing some more curriculum diagrams to explore the differences in the old curriculum we had, other curriculum models and our new thinking. I am sharing these in case they are useful for anyone else.

The development and thinking behind the one page curriculum plan

history and geography

Anyone who has been in teaching as long as I have will start to recognise a sheet with topics along one side and subjects along the other. It is a reassuringly familiar medium-term or long-term planning format. This also started to worry me a little as it did feel like we were somehow back at where we started. However, we are not. The emphasis and purpose of this curriculum is quite different with vertical subject strands being the priority, enabling us to create a coherent narrative in each subject and allow children to build up complex schema.

A tour of the planning tool

Originally, we planned to have a spreadsheet for each subject. However, I was worried that we would end up with too many documents and any future changes would be hard to track. I decided to put all subjects on one spreadsheet so you could read vertically to see the subject narratives and horizontally to see where subject matter was being looked at from the viewpoint of different subjects – forming topics of various sizes

I then intend to get excel to automatically create topic overviews and subject strand overviews by linking cells to this master spreadsheet.

one page curriculum

Subject Strand additions

Within an hour or so of using the spreadsheet, staff have started having detailed curriculum conversations about subject strands they feel need creating, how English and Maths would work on the planner and much more. So, we now have an extra vertical strand for History called Timeline – as we felt that we want to think carefully how we develop children’s chronological map of history.

For English we have decided that Grammar is already clearly mapped in the National Curriculum, and in our writing tracking system so we have started with three strands for now – Class reading book, Writing Genre, Vocabulary development. I am sure these will change over the next few weeks.

Let’s look at the planner

year groups

topics within topics

call outs

Within each strand we have the key concepts that are likely to be revisited in this strand and have made them easily accessible for teachers and subject leaders when planning and reviewing the curriculum.

Now we just need to fill it in and see what we come up with. Exiting times! I will blog again about the One Sheet Curriculum Planner once we have ‘finished’ this part of the process. We are starting by looking at next term and then extending out to fill the 2 year rolling program.

Curriculum models.

During this process I have seen many other school’s curriculum models and their long-term and medium-term plans. They challenged my thinking and are alternative ways of building a curriculum. However, although grateful to colleagues for sharing, myself and our SLT decided that this wasn’t the direction we wanted to take. I have drawn a few diagrams to discuss the differences as I see them.

Skills led vs Knowledge led

I have seen curriculum designs where there is a progression of skills making the vertical links within a subject at times I have wondered if this is a better way of approaching the curriculum. Until I thought back to one of Clare Sealy’s blogs which talked about how we have misunderstood Bloom’s Taxonomy. So, I drew this diagram.

skills vs knowledge

Teaching sequence design.

I have briefly touched on teaching sequences previously, but as a school we are now fast approaching the time to create our new teaching sequences.  At the moment my list of things that should be considered is like this:

Do they remember previous learning? Can they remember key knowledge for this unit of work?

  • The ‘previously’ – what came before and how is it relevant now?
  • Spaced retrieval – has it worked? What knowledge should be repeated? Do we need to revise previous knowledge?
  • Interleaving – interrupting the forgetting with previously learnt knowledge – especially in Maths and Grammar
  • Comprehensions – using reading comprehension to support knowledge aquisition
  • Setting the scene – telling them the facts of the unit and the bigger picture
  • Pre-teaching – supporting knowledge acquisition for all

Supporting their learning

  • Working walls/displays – how do we make them work well for pupils?
  • Step-by-step guides – produced with the children
  • Word banks – of tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary
  • Cooperative learning strategies – giving them agency
  • Edtech – how can programs like Spark from support children
  • Topic books – non-fiction – to aid comprehension and broaden learning
  • Cognitive load – keep input/learning focussed and efficient – better to learn less well!
  • Horizontal links

End product

  • Purpose – can they produce something that shows their understanding of the subject through the subject matter being studied?
  • The narrative so far – can they bring together knowledge from the whole strand?


I end with a question. How do we give our pupils agency?

Knowledge curation as preparation for working in a knowledge economy.

A major consideration moving forward is how we give our pupils a sense of agency within our curriculum. How do we allow them to contribute to the learning and add their own knowledge, ideas, misconceptions, insights, questions, cultural capital into their curriculum so that they understand that the knowledge is theirs, not the school’s. It belongs to the world, as they do. How do we do this without teaching sequences become unwieldy and unfocussed?