I decided that today's post for the SBPC (Summer Blog Post Challenge - read here) should be about that journey, and the pitfalls I've met along the way. For a much more in-depth chronicle of writing a scheme, I suggest checking out Craig Barton's 19 part series - it takes a while to read, but has some great tips and ideas if you're in the same position I was a few months ago.
Step 1 - Assess starting point
However, even when starting a scheme from scratch, I was wary of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We already had a good deal of stuff that worked, and I wanted to keep that in our new scheme.
Step 2A - Plan an approach
I started writing a thematic curriculum along these lines, with the idea that each year group would follow a certain "theme" each turn. So, for example, the Year 7 themes were:
- Looking for patterns - Sequences, basic algebra, graphs, substitution
- Planning a Christmas party - Written and mental calculations, ratio, rounding, measurements
- The power of 10 - Place value, metric and imperial (because they were still in the curriculum then), multiplying and dividing by powers of 10.
- The farmer's field - Perimeter and area of squares, rectangles and composite shapes, mental calculation methods, unit conversion.
- The average Year 7 - Basic data handling cycle.
- Maths and Art - Shape and angle properties, transformations, 2D and 3D shapes.
I then broke it down further into single objectives for that unit - so the first unit in Year 7 consisted of:
- Generate sequences from term-to-term or nth term rule.
- Find nth term of a sequence.
- Recognise arithmetic/geometric sequences.
- Conventional notation for priority of operations, including brackets and powers.
- (Informally) Use integer powers and associated real roots.
- Use algebraic notation; understand that algebraic notation follows same convention (order of operations).
- Understand concept of expressions, equations, terms.
- Substitute into algebraic formulae.
- Work with coordinates.
- Graphs of linear functions.
- Interpret relationships algebraically and graphically.
- Calculate gradients and y-intercepts graphically.
- Link in ratio notation and discussion of proportion.
- Direct proportion and linear relationships.
- Mobile phone tariffs.
- Speed, distance, time relationships.
- Important sequences e.g. square numbers, cube numbers, Fibonacci.
- Fermat’s Last Theorem.
- Happy Numbers.
I'll add now that this isn't what we ended up doing, for reasons detailed below. With a year of mastery teaching behind me, I'm now looking back and wondering if even that list of things is a little ambitious for some Year 7s to achieve in a half term, particularly those who can't accurately multiply and divide.
I'd still like to make a thematic curriculum work, as I think it would be quite enjoyable to teach. Unfortunately, I just don't have the time to reinvestigate at the moment, particularly with all the changes we're adapting to across the board.
Step 2B - Throw it all out and start again
We decided to take this on for three reasons:
- It agreed with a lot of our aims about teaching less content more slowly - this is what mastery is in my head, and this was a few months before it became the contentious buzzword it is now.
- It sorted out our issues with assessing without levels.
- The chunking of topics was similar to the thematic bits that I'd written, but the order was more sensible - for example, starting off with basic number skills if pupils haven't already mastered those. It's difficult to teach algebraic fluency if numerical fluency isn't already there.
Step 3 - Resourcing the scheme
Because (at that stage) we had very little to go on, and schemes of work were being written over the course of the year, I decided that I'd need to do a lot of work on the bare bones to turn it into something that the department could use.
The first thing I did was collate all of the existing resources and categorise them by study step. Both the resources on our school system and my resources were in an absolute mess, with things randomly saved everywhere. Although this was probably the most time-consuming part of the project, it's saved me countless hours over the course of this year, because I can just click on the step I'm currently teaching and find all the resources I've got saved.
I'm hoping to get a similar system up and running properly on my site this year to make it easier to share resources with other schools working on the Mastery Pathway.
Step 4 - Writing the flippin' stuff
I then decided to move away from having one document to writing a scheme, then objective plans. I'll talk more about why this hasn't worked in the next bit...
I'll add that doing both of these things took absolutely forever, and I really don't recommend it.
It's not all doom and gloom - the stuff I wrote has been used this year, and we've found it useful to be able to navigate quickly to appropriate resources.
Step 5 - Adopt, Adapt and Improve
The scheme we have is now working well, but the management and improvement of it is not. It's too much of a time-sink to keep on top of managing (by a rough count) approximately 200 separate documents and maintaining all the links, particularly when I'm doing a lot of that on my site already!
I'm currently playing around with ideas for how I'll do this, and try to balance sharing my stuff with everyone, while also keeping our department's work a priority. There's another site section in development for all of this, and I've already reworked four step plans. There will be lots more blogging along these lines in my blog-post-a-day summer challenge!