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 alan@scintilla.ai

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: https://www.onions-usa.org/all-about-onions/history-of-onions/

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 Scintilla.ai 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?


Designing a new curriculum – blog 1 of 3 in my curriculum series

Using broad strands to tie together a rich knowledge curriculum and avoid making links for links sake.

A toolkit for curriculum design in Primary Schools.

Historically we went link mad when creating topics, and what we now called ‘horizontal links’ eventually tied up our curriculum in knots. Now I fear we will do the same with vertical links and create another unwieldy beast that will need to be rescued from well-meaning complexity.

In order to create our own coherent school curriculums, we need clarity and tools. This blog is about the journey I am currently on as curriculum lead in my primary school and will hopefully give food for thought to others who are on the same journey.

Trying to establish what we already had.

To start our journey, we met as a whole school, with teachers, teaching assistants, and governors all discussing the idea of a 3D knowledge-led curriculum. The main focus of this meeting was that we wanted to create a bespoke curriculum for our school and our children that fulfilled the NC2014 requirements but also reflected our school ethos and values. So, we wrote down everything that children should know about Newton Abbot, Devon, the South West, the UK, and the World. This was the cultural capital that we felt that children at the school should have when they left us and would help them understand their place in the world. The list will never be finished and we will never be able to cover everything, however some things really jumped out. Such as, William of Orange landed at Brixham, and was declared King of the United Kingdom in Newton Abbot! Yet this was not a major focus of study in the school!

So, what was this ‘cultural capital’ we had captured. We had all read about it and were very pleased to have a big list of it. But what was it? To be honest I wasn’t really sure. Were these the ‘vertical links’ or where they the ‘horizontal ones’? After some thought, a few more educational conferences and the odd glass of wine I started to see cultural capital as the ‘subject matter’ of the curriculum. These were the things that we would look at from the academic viewpoint of each subject.  They would be different in each school and the choices about which to include would significantly impact the character and ethos of our school.

Finding the subject specific links that existed in our current curriculum. It all got a bit complicated.

Now that I was happy that I had a hold on what we had already captured I wanted to look at the ‘vertical links’ that already existed in our curriculum. I was determined not to throw out all the fabulous work that we were already doing, so we created a shared document for each subject (below) and asked teachers and subject leaders to write down where they thought they were addressing subject specific concepts. The process was useful because as a staff we were discussing ‘vertical links’ and subject specific concepts that we felt could be carried through the whole school. We were starting to look at the curriculum in a new way, but it was not clear where to go from a document like this. We had a long list for each subject and added even more links as we went on. It quickly became clear that there was too much to map and maintain clarity. You couldn’t map out where every concept was going to be revisited and maintain real clarity and purpose. It was already starting to seem complex and, in my experience, complex things become fragile and don’t last.

The process was also useful because as we added concepts and links it became clear that we had some strong links and areas where the links were weaker. This led to an important question about what the links should be. I noticed that some ‘subject matter’ off our cultural capital started leaking in as a concept – e.g. local rivers or the Beatles. We were getting confused about what vertical links were and why we were trying to find them.


So, using the ‘curriculum as a boxset’ analogy I looked again at this vertical link mapping process. The vertical links were the undercurrents running through the series. They should be big themes that drew us deeper into otherwise shallow characters. Love. Betrayal. Conflict. Change.  Yes, there are many, many concepts that we revisit within a subject but they are all part of larger strands, so it was these strands I went looking for.

Don’t ignore the National Curriculum!

I looked for links across the internet, on websites of academic associations ánd other schools, but kept stumbling across NC2014. In the end I gave up and read it again, and there they were in black and white – not always clear to see, and easier to pull out having read all the other ideas. Strands.

In History, I found that there were 6 useful themes that seemed to be commonly used by historians and that seemed useful strands through which to make sense of our history studies. They also seemed to fit the NC 2014 aims well. I have summarised this in the following table which shows the strand, how it fits NC14 and what smaller concepts we would expect to see in teaching sequences/lessons that are addressing this strand.

Make your strands really clear – really, really clear!

You will also see where, after listening to Clare Sealy again at CurriculumED2019, I decided to rename the strands to make it really clear what we were trying to teach. If we were at all unsure, we would start getting confused when planning at a later stage. It took me ages to get to this point and I was wanted staff to really get what these vertical strands were and how they differed from each other.So now I had momentum again and so, with NC2014 in hand, I merrily went off to come up with strands for Geography and History before meeting with SLT.


Defining our terms.

As I mentioned above, with some progress made, I was due to discuss my progress with SLT and this focussed my mind on what terminology we were using. I have listed what I came up with below.

Cultural Capital – This is the subject matter that we value because we feel it gives children valuable knowledge of their local, regional, national and global identity. Cultural capital, and the National Curriculum will dictate what our topics are.

Topics – We will still have topics but they will be shorter and they won’t involve every subject. A topic may last a week or may last a month. It will last as long as the subject matter is still being used for meaningful learning. I really value topics because they encourage the re-use of the same subject matter which is an efficient way of organising high-quality resources. Topics involve horizontal links between subjects – but the link is the subject matter not some tenuous idea.

Horizontal links – I think these can be really powerful if the link is made by finding powerful subject matter. Powerful subject matter is something that is rich in learning potential when looked at from the viewpoint of various subjects. Read more about this in my blog on Knowledge-efficient curriculum planning.

Vertical Links – These are the subject-specific concepts that are revisited throughout a pupil’s studies from Foundation to KS5 and beyond. There are tens of these in every subject.

Vertical Strands – These are broader vertical links – that group the vertical links into more easily mappable and plannable narratives that can be revisited and built upon over time. These are the underlying themes of the boxset. They are the different lenses we can look through when looking at subject matter from the viewpoint of one particular academic subject.

Schema – These exist in each pupil’s head. They are their developing understanding of the world as seen through the lenses (subject strands) of each subject.

Facts – These are facts that a pupil needs to learn in order to access a lesson or lessons.

Knowledge – the building up of detailed schema by revisiting vertical strands in a subject and seeing how new facts add to their understanding the strand, deepening their experience.

A diagram of how I see 3D curriculum

My meeting with my colleagues was imminent and I was conscious I would have to clearly explain the curriculum that I could see in my mind. At this point a spent a long time reflecting on the structure of a 3D curriculum and decided to draw it so I could be clear what it was we were creating. I have tried to illustrate how the curriculum is made of a set of narratives about our world as seen from the viewpoint of each academic subject. You can see these vertical strands clearly in the diagram. I then wanted to show how powerful knowledge would still create meaningful horizontal links with the curriculum creating mini topics along the way.

vertical and horizontal links with words

diagram key

Powerful subject matter/cultural capital making mini topics

The important difference here is that the central subject matter is not the focus of the teaching. The teaching should focus on understanding and interpreting this nugget of our wonderful world through the viewpoint of each subject. And within that subject there are a variety of strands that act as lenses to view the subject matter. You may use the study of the subject matter to increase pupils understanding of just one strand or multiple strands.

Powerful subject matter

Where does spaced retrieval practise fit in the curriculum narrative? Where do we use knowledge organisers?

As I zoomed in on one unit of work, I started to think of the ‘curriculum as a boxset’ analogy. This unit of work was a season in the boxset. So, in my mind, the pupil hasn’t seen the program for a while – this is where spaced retrieval practice allows pupils to hold onto the subject knowledge and understanding they have gained before this unit. Just before they start the new unit of work, they should get a knowledge organiser to preteach them some facts to reduce cognitive load when starting the unit and give them a way in. Once the unit begins, like all good boxsets, we need to remind the children what they studied before and revisit some elements if need be. Clare Sealy calls this ‘the Previously’ like you get at the start of an episode of Game of Thrones – “Previously on Game of Thrones”. Good spaced retrieval practice should mean that they still remember a fair bit of what came before. Then we tell them the main facts from the unit – we set the scene. We then use these facts in more complex ways to gain greater understanding of the subject matter from the viewpoint of the academic discipline – in this case History. We end with a task that allows the pupils to show their deepening understanding. We then add the new knowledge to their spaced retrieval practice

Unit of work zoom in

The next hurdle: Mapping subjects timelines throughout the school for mixed age classes.

Having created the strands for History and Geography, I decided to see if I could use the history strands to map out our History curriculum narrative. Our school has Reception, Year 1/2 , Year 3/4 and Year 5/6 classes with a curriculum on a 2 year rolling programme.

I now wanted to focus on the pupil’s experience of our curriculum. Essentially, we have two curriculums – one experienced by pupils who start in Year A and one by pupils who start in Year B. The challenge was to see if our curriculum could deliver a coherent journey for our Year A starters and our Year B starters.

So, I created an excel document and started putting in what we were studying in each term for History.

blog excel pic

The approach seemed to work well so I moved on to create some broad Geography strands and then mapped these out and even tried using them to re-plan an existing Year 3/4 teaching sequence.

teaching sequence

Creating strands with for all of our subjects.

Then SLT sat down, which in our school, means that all team leaders were present and we started to think about which strands were our main focus in each topic.

We decided to focus on History, Geography, Science, Art and DT to begin with. We came up with a title for each strand with a subtitle to give more information. They are mostly very similar to NC2014 as, I mentioned earlier, the strands are very visible in NC2014 so there is no point reinventing the wheel. The hard work will be linking the narrative through our curriculum


Famous people

Learning about the people who have changed our world.



Learning how beliefs and understanding of our world have been accepted or resisted.

Concepts: religion, belief, philosophies, developments in science and technology, the development of the arts.



Learning about the battle for resources – from a human perspective.

Concepts: Farming, agriculture, trade, industry, business



Learning about how people live together and how this has changed over time

Concepts: Women in society, family, kinship, division in society, racial and ethnic differences


Learning how people have run their communities

Concepts: Empire, crime and punishment, revolution, EU, UN, Nation states, democracy, monarchy, tyranny, voting, councils, parish, county, MP, Mayor, school council


Learning how we have been and continue to be interconnected with our planet

Concepts: invention, environment, climate change, disease, population growth, industrialisation, settlement, migration



Locational Knowledge

Learning where things are

Concepts: continents, oceans, countries, UK, seas, Europe, North America, South America, UK cities, latitude, longitude, latitude, longitude, Equator, Northern Hemisphere, Southern Hemisphere, the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, Arctic and Antarctic Circle, the Prime/Greenwich Meridian and time zones

Place knowledge

Learning about the human and physical characteristics of a place

Concepts: contrasting places, similarities, differences, UK, European country, North or South America

Human processes

How we use the landscape

Concepts: city, town, village, factory, farm, house, office, port, harbour, shop, types of settlement, land use, trade links, distribution of energy, distribution of food, distribution of minerals, distribution of water.

Physical processes

Naming features and knowing how they were made

Concepts: beach, cliff, coast, forest, hill, mountain, sea, ocean, rivers, soil, valley, vegetation, season, weather, climate zones, biomes, vegetation belts, volcanoes and earthquakes, water cycle

Geographical skills

How we explore our world

Concepts: atlas, globes, digital mapping, aerial photograph, compass directions, map, symbols, landmarks, grid references, key, sketch maps




How things are made and how they change

Concepts: properties of materials, rocks, fossils, soils, solids, liquids, gases, states of matter, evaporation, condensation, precipitation, hardness, solubility, transparency, conductivity, dissolving, solution, mixtures, filtering, sieving, reversible changes


The study of living things

Concepts: identify common plants and animals, alive, dead, structure of flowering plants, structure of common animals, parts of the human body, seed and bulbs, what plants need to survive and grow, reproduction, what animals need to survive, exercise, healthy eating, classification of living things, habitats, food chains, environments, life cycles, evolution, fossils, adaptation


The nature and properties of matter and energy

Concepts: seasons, weather, light, shadows, forces, magnetism, sound, electricity, circuit,  conductors, insulators, heat, temperature; Earth, Sun and Moon; day and night, gravity, air resistance, water resistance, friction, levers, pulleys, gears, reflection, light source

Working Scientifically

How to conduct scientific investigations

Concepts: observing, using equipment, identifying, classifying, gathering data, recording data, comparative tests, fair tests, systematic observations, diagrams, keys, bar charts, tables, conclusions, predictions, questions, scientific evidence, variables, measurements, causal relationships

Advances in Science

How science and scientists change our world

Concepts: The enlightenment, The Royal Society, Darwin, Einstein, Newton, Curie


Where are the skills?

We are not proposing a knowledge only curriculum. We just believe that the knowledge is a better way of mapping a coherent and practically attainable pathway through our curriculum. When we started re-planning some teaching sequences to start testing the Subject Strands above it just started making a whole load of sense. We looked at our Year 5/6 Greece History study and quickly saw that the main focus would be on the Cultural and Political strands – so a clear emphasis would make planning what to teach much more straightforward. In the Year 3/4 Egypt study we could see that we would probably focus on the Environmental Strand and the Social Strand because they had slaves. Obviously, knowledge from all strands will creep in, but having strands that are you main focus keep the planning focussed and mean that the children will add some clearly defined knowledge and understanding to the narrative of the subject

Knowledge Efficient teaching sequences

So, at the time of writing, that is where we are at this point in time. The next blog in the series will be about how we got on creating our linked overviews and creating coherent narratives for our Year A and Year B children. I will also blog in more detail about our knowledge-efficient teaching sequences where we make the most of our understanding of

  • Working memory
  • Skills
  • Cognitive load
  • Spaced repetition
  • Interleaving
  • Pre-teaching
  • Sharing powerful subject matter
  • Use of Edtech

I am happy to share our overviews or any other documents if people want to sue them as starting points.




















Spark app research trial Jan 2019

Just a quick update.

The app is almost ready for its first outing. I feel like a proud parent. 15 schools are lining up to give it a go with a few classes prior to the big launch later this year. We have loads of knowledge content loaded in as multiple choice quizzes and look forward to seeing what pupils make of it.

Teachers will be hopping onto the app and creating courses for their classes. They will be able to select from pre-existing content that we have provided ( if it suits their curriculum) , and add their own questions to personalise it for their school. Once they have created a course they then allocate it to their class and the pupils start quizzing.  All this in a few minutes, hopefully. A bit like an electronic knowledge organiser.

After a few quizzes the AI will start to learn about each pupil and when best to ask them certain facts so that they become more firmly embedded in their long-term memory.

At the end of the term/year we will then be able to give accurate reports about the amount of knowledge pupils are genuinely retaining in each subject discipline.

We will let you know how it goes.

Towards a 3D – Knowledge Rich Curriculum

After 16 years in teaching, I am on an educational journey, and am more crystallised in my educational thinking than I have been before. This journey involves the creation of a new curriculum at my school alongside a new approach to how we design teaching, the development of an exciting new app to support learning, and the forming of new friendships with like-minded educators across the UK and beyond. I have met people who are endlessly generous with their ideas and expertise and I wanted to share my experiences with the online educational community in case it helps anyone else. This first blog is just an introduction to the sort of things I will share as we enact our ideas and see them in action in our 340 pupil primary school.

These posts will run in tandem, and hopefully give context to, posts about the Spark app that I am developing with my company Scintilla.ai Ltd – Automated Spaced repetition to support the long-term retention of a knowledge-rich curriculum.

Turning point – why did we feel change was needed?

I suppose everyone has a turning point at which the momentum for change becomes irresistable. So, I was wondereing when my thoughts on curriculum changed. In a nutshell it was when my headteacher forwarded me a link to a blog that had caught her eye. A 3D Curriculum – by Clare Sealey. Clare, summed it up so well. I remember just sitting there re-reading the blog again and again. And, this was the beginning of my journey. I know Ofsted had been talking about curriculum, but what sort of curriculum did we want/need/believe in? This was the answer that Clare gave me.

I won’t paraphrase Clare – I would just read her blog https://primarytimery.com/2017/10/28/the-3d-curriculum-that-promotes-remembering/

So, where to start? Well, I simply started reading around, not just books either, I jumped on Twitter and started finding a world of inspirational people. Soon I was building a list of educational ideas that I needed to investigate further as they all seemed to make sense. My worry was how would I knit all these things together as they all seemed to have value. My list looked like this:

  • 3D curriculum – with links that develop understanding of key concepts in each academic discipline towards a deep understanding of those concepts when they left in Year 6
  • Cognitive Load – are we overloading the children in the classroom with a variety of things: fun activities, facts, powerpoints, teacher talk? What was the role of episodic memory and systemic memory in pupils learning?
  • Marking and feedback – what actually works? ( we were already a long way down the road of reducing marking workload in the school at this point)
  • Spaced repetition and interruption of forgetting – how could we stop children forgetting the key facts they had worked so hard to learn and apply so that they would have them to hand in Year 4, Year 6, Year 9, Year 99 (not a typo)?Why know what an adverb is one day only to forget it the next day, week, year?
  • Interleaved questioning as a way to regularly interrupt learning and ask children to search their long term memory more often. How could we do this effectively?
  • Reading for enjoyment. Do our children read for enjoyment? Do our families read together?
  • The importance of local, regional, national and international cultural capital in our curriculum and how this should also be purposeful and build understanding of their world over time

I then panicked a tiny bit as the list seemed huge. I hid it in a drawer for a few weeks and went back to work on the everyday challenges of school. The ‘problem’ was that I was hugely excited about all the things above and kept blurting bits out to everyone and anyone who would listen. In the end, to spare everyone’s sanity, I retrieved the list and decided to make some sort of plan. It is the unfolding of this plan that i will share, as it may help others.

The first step was to think about why we were even thinking about a 3D Knowledge Rich Curriculum. So we had a CPD session on research into cognitive load, episodic memory and systemic memory.



Scintilla Spark



We are a new edtech company building an app to support the acquisition of knowledge within schools.

We recognise the growing thirst for knowledge and the recognition that it is a solid foundation of core facts that enables children to be more creative and develop greater understanding of their school’s chosen curriculum.

Our app is essentially a huge,  artificially intelligent, knowledge organiser that uses quizzes and games to find out each child’s individual memorisation need, and then spaces the repetition of facts in their quizzes at the optimum time for them to place the most facts securely in the long term memory.

  • Saves teacher time creating knowledge organisers as there is already a lot of build in content.
  • Contains a variety of gamified quizzes to help children memorise key facts.
  • Allows teachers to add their own content.
  • Tracks how well pupils are remembering facts so teachers can intervene.
  • Shows senior leaders how effective classroom practice is in supporting the acquisition of core knowledge.
  • Allows Senior leaders to gauge how much knowledge each child is gaining and whether this is impacting their academic success across the board.

This blog will discuss the development of the app and the forthcoming school trials in January 2019. I will also give some ideas for the type of knowledge teachers may want to include in Knowledge Organisers as a result of the time we have spent choosing knowledge of Scintilla Spark. I will also try and blog a little bit about the wider context of school curriculum design from my own experience as a school leader ina 340 pupil primary school in Devon.