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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Hewett

Developing Independent Learners

As previously mentioned developing independent learners in my subject area is a key focus of mine this year. So far with year 7 and 8 I’ve had a number of successes resulting from the trial of several approaches.

The first being homework

I previously discussed this years approach to setting homework for Humanities using a points menu. For the lower years (7 & 8) this has been a success within my classes. The first term they had the majority of the term to complete 100 points of tasks, choosing tasks that suited them. This led to a few challenges in terms of deadlines so this term I set two deadlines, both were for 50 points of work to be handed in. This worked much better, encouraging time management.

The range of activities and the time available led to students producing some incredible pieces of homework, all of which either demonstrated learners understanding of  the work covered in class or demonstrated that they carried out research in order to complete a task.

For instance one option this term had been to make or bake a Roman artefact – something to tell us about Roman life. I was lucky enough to receive a huge variety of pieces from a soldiers helmet to a Latin scroll, both made from cake. Others investigated Roman recipes and baked them at home for us to try in class. Others made clay pots whilst others made the amour and  weapons of a legionary solider. The array was incredible and I felt really privileged to receive them, whilst they were super excited to hand them in.

Second approach I’ve tried has been seating plans.

I’ve trialled this with two classes – both in the same year group. Both however have been covering the same content in different ways to. I’ll come to that in a bit.

The seating plans have been decided by the students based upon their understanding of the work covered in the previous lesson. 


They have decided where to sit based upon the criteria above. However I’ve felt the choice of where to sit has been majorly influenced by the differing approaches I’ve taken with each class in terms of teaching them.

So finally I come to teaching approach.

With the two classes I mentioned above I’ve taken very different approaches in how I’ve taught them.

Group A – stuck with my ‘traditional’ approach of the 3 part lesson- starter, main, plenary. Pupils have decided on where they feel they should sit based upon their assessment of where they are based upon their whole understanding of the topic up to that point. Lessons have taken the general structure of a starter to introduce the lessons subject content, recap of prior learning, information, task, plenary. During the starter, those that missed the previous lesson or needed more help were given an overview of the subject content from the previous lesson and a small task to show understanding before they could move on.

Group B – this has taken more of a supervised/guided independent approach. The start of each lesson pupils have had 10 minutes to finish the work from the previous lesson based upon the pyramid of progress (see below). I’ve then delivered a 10-15 minute information session on a new aspect of the topic delivered in the way I see suitable eg. Lecture style, video, experiment, discussion etc along with a brief Q&A session. The pupils have then been provided with a new pyramid of progress to develop and demonstrate their understanding of the new subject content. They’ve chosen where to start on the pyramid and decided upon their route to the top (some guidance has been provided when unsure).

The pupils have been provided with information sheets in the Help Yourself Resource Station and resources such as worksheets or activity templates to help demontrate their knowledge and understanding of the content. But other than that they’ve worked independently. With open choice on how to present their understanding.

The two approaches appeared to have made little difference in the overall impact on assessments, both being as effective as one another which surprised me if I’m honest.

Wonder how it will work next term.

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