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Increase Learner Engagement by Involving Children in Your Planning

Associate and author of Independent Thinking on Primary Teaching, Mark Creasy, on the KWL Grid - Part One

An interesting thing happened on Twitter the other day – a genuine conversation took place with a focus on primary teaching and learning. It was like the old days.

The focus was involving children in lesson planning and for me, the question is never ‘if’ but ‘how’.

I shared an idea I have used in the foundation subjects of Geography, Science and RE, but also in in English and Science so it works in the real world. I’ve also used it when I was teaching secondary at the start of my career. See what you think.

At the start of a new piece of learning, for a term or a half-term, my class would complete a ‘KWL Grid’ (it can also be presented in columns):

K – What I know.

W – What I want to learn.

L – What I have learned.

You then work to incorporate KWL Grid in your immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term planning, as follows:

Immediate

K

The first priority is to check the ‘What I know’ section. This can be a real source of entertainment. Over time, when these have been used continually, the children will gain the confidence to leave this empty or only put in things they are certain about. However, initially at least, checking facts such as ‘What number is Henry?’ and ‘How many wives did he have?’ is vital.

Clearly corrections will need to be done sensitively. Questions such as, ‘Where did you hear that?’ and ‘Are you sure about that?’ or ‘What makes you so certain?’ all help. It is also worth being prepared to make a list of things you’re not sure about (I have in the past included some I did know) to demonstrate to the learners that you’re prepared to check things and that you’re not the font of all knowledge – a bit of humility goes a long way.

W

This is the important element in this grid, as this can be used to shape the scheme of work. Yes, you may have considered how to fill the next six to twelve weeks of learning in the subject, but I have found the following to be true:

  • It is rare for the children to go too far off-piste. They tend to consider most things you want to explore anyway
  • Their suggestions can enhance your planning, or even provide the opportunity for independent learning, where the children research and then present their own findings
  • Even within the National Curriculum, you can accommodate what the children suggest in the learning
  • It tends to be teacher ego that gets in the way of doing this
  • Their perspective is important for them. How do they see themselves in their learning? Consider this to help you shape your future teaching.

This final point was perfectly exemplified a few years ago to me when one of my children (Year 6) put in their 'W' box:

‘What happened to all the black people in England by Tudor times?’

When we explored this, he pointed out that in Year 4 he’d learned about how black people came to England as part of the Roman Invasion, but he’d never seen a black person in any pictures of The Tudors – or other peoples of Britain for that matter.

As a result of this I was determined to include such elements in the curriculum.

We learned of John Blanke (musician), Jacques Francis (salvage diver) and Diego (sailor), as well as that in Tudor England (though not on the Continent) black people were not slaves. We also considered attitudes to black people through Shakespeare’s portrayal of Othello, ‘The Moor’.

Obviously, not everything will have such resonance, but for the children I have taught who wanted to explore fashion or football, meals or medicines and countless other themes, their input has helped me hone the topic and shape their understanding of how their areas of interest developed throughout history/culture/countries/religions.

L

This is the easiest one initially as the children won’t have anything filled in – although, they may have learned from their classmates throughout the lesson, so could add to this section at the end.

Click here for Part Two all about employing the KWL grid in the short, medium and long term and if you want more practical, workable ideas like this, do check out my new book Independent Thinking on Primary Teaching.

Use the code 'ITL25' for 25% off the RRP of both my books and all other Independent Thinking Press titles, a special offer to celebrate 25 years of Independent Thinking books. [ITL]

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About the author

Mark Creasy

Mark Creasy

Mark is a Year Five teacher who also has experience in secondary - a rare breed. He is the author of Unhomework, one of the many ways he helps teachers rethink why and what they do.

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