Teaching and Learning at St Mary’s
What does teaching and learning look like at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School?
Excellent teaching and learning is what we aim for in every corner of the school every day here at St Mary’s! We believe that at the heart of strong teaching and learning is relationships.
Within a school there are lots of different kinds of relationships and they all matter.
These include relationships between colleagues engaged in professional collaboration and a network of support for each other. There are also the relationships between staff and the parents and wider community.
One of the most important relationships is the one between teachers and children. These relationships take time and effort to create but have a massive impact on the children’s well-being alongside their academic achievements. They are about staff knowing each child as both a learner and a person.
Our teachers work hard to know what children find hard and what’s too easy; what lessons engage them the most, knowing how much encouragement and support they need to get started; knowing which peers to sit near so they will be motivated to achieve their best. Effective behaviour management is all about relationships too.
We can only differentiate for our children when we know them inside out. Differentiation means giving whole class rich activities that everyone can access and where the possibilities for where the lesson can go are endless. There are different ways to differentiate and our teachers use all of these at different times. We encourage depth of understanding; the new curriculum is all about depth before breadth!
Our relationships with the children enable us to make judgements about when we need to support and when we can move away and allow children to work independently or with their peers.
Strong teaching and learning is about understanding and overcoming barriers to learning, whatever they may be.
Teachers ask questions for a variety of reasons. They use them to check children’s understanding, to clarify or to challenge. They use a range of different types of questions at different times, for different purposes.
Our teachers know the children very well and with this knowledge they can plan the right lessons through careful assessment for learning – both during and after the lesson. We pitch lessons so that work set is not too hard but not too easy. We challenge children with targeted questions to move their learning on and ensure mastery. Teachers are only as good as the questions they ask!
An open and honest dialogue between teachers and children is integral if effective progress through feedback is to be made. Feedback reduces the gap between where the child is in their learning, and where they need to be. It can be either verbal or written and is most effective when used throughout the lesson, rather than waiting until the end. Our teachers use a variety of processes when giving effective feedback.
Growth Mind sets – a culture of error
Strong teaching and learning will only take place in a classroom where a culture of error has been created; an environment in which mistakes are celebrated and acknowledge as the way we learn.
At St Mary’s, both the staff and children have learned about Growth Mind sets – a theory by Professor Carol Dweck. This theory covers both fixed and growth mind sets.
A growth mindset is when we believe that we can develop our abilities through effort, dedication and hard work. Having a growth mindset creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for lifelong learning.
We praise children for their hard work and perseverance, rather than intelligence. You will see this at our weekly assemblies when we give out our ‘Star of the Week’ awards.
Strong teaching and learning is about creating the right growth mindset, environment and classroom culture for both teachers and children. All staff at St Mary’s has the belief that everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, can achieve and reach their full potential. We strive every day to ensure that this happens!
The Interleaving Curriculum
At St Mary’s, we believe that building knowledge in our student’s long term memory is crucial. Knowledge precedes creativity, without fundamental knowledge, it is hard to think at a higher level (Bloom’s Taxonomy). In order to remember something, you need time to revisit it again and again until it ‘sticks’. This year, we have introduced an interleaving approach to our curriculum model; this means that topics are taught across the entire school year as opposed to one half term and content is revisited regularly. The lessons begin at the most basic level with the non-negotiables being taught and then progresses in difficulty to higher level thinking by the end of the topic. We provide our pupils with ample opportunities to make sense of the knowledge they are taught, to delve deep into the big concepts underpinning a unit and to ensure a change in the long term memory.