What is learning?
Learning has three elements: it involves retention, transfer and change. Learning must be durable (it should be long-lasting), flexible (it should be applicable in new contexts) and liminal (it stands at the threshold of knowing and not knowing).
Cognitive development happens incrementally; the only way for a teacher to find out whether a student’s understanding of the world has changed is to wait. If we accept that learning is the retention and transfer of knowledge over time, we must also accept that learning cannot easily be observed in a single lesson. We must look at what students can do elsewhere and later.
Therefore, it follows that to know whether something has been learned, we should ask ourselves three questions:
Maths Approach at David Livingstone Academy
At David Livingstone Academy, we believe that maths is a subject for all and that every pupil will be able to develop a deep understanding of both the concepts and procedures of mathematics. Our teaching is underpinned by the knowledge that success comes through hard work rather than simply being ‘good at maths’. Pupils focus on learning key facts such as times tables and numbers bonds to a level of automaticity which avoids cognitive overload and allows them to learn new concepts and make links with previous learning more securely.
At David Livingstone Academy we teach reading through Linguistic Phonics. Our approach to phonics begins in Reception and continues to Year 6. The children, as well as having reading lessons, have explicit phonics lessons throughout their time at David Livingstone. The approach looks at the relationship between spoken language and the written word. Children will study three main skills to enable them to learn to read: blending, the skills of blending graphemes (letters) together; segmenting, separating phonemes (sounds) for spelling; and manipulating, swapping phonemes to develop accuracy in reading. Throughout Key Stage 2, the children study the origins of words which will enable them to discover the meaning of new words.
All teachers receive Sounds~Write training to aid them to deliver linguistic phonics lessons. Sounds~Write takes the children step-by-step through phonics introducing them to the 44 different sounds in the English language and their different spellings gradually and systematically.
Reading quickly and fluently unlocks comprehension of written texts. Anything that occupies our attention limits our ability to think and, if our cognitive resources are being used to decode words, then we will have fewer resources with which to consider the meaning of those words. In order to optimise reading fluency, all children read aloud in whole class reading lessons. We pitch the texts above the national reading level for each age group in order to support students to read effortlessly over large sections of academic text. We set our expectations high and anticipate that the students will meet those expectations.
Once word decoding and recognition has been mastered, a student’s ability to understand what they read is broadly the same as their ability to understand what they hear. In order to understand any information that is communicated verbally, we must understand both the vocabulary used and any background knowledge. Therefore, all teachers at David Livingstone think of reading comprehension in terms of language comprehension. Teachers intersperse reading aloud with fast paced questions about and written responses to an author’s word choices and sentence structures.
Athletic prowess results from acquiring incremental, technical skills; fluent musicianship stems from repeating scales over and over. Fluent writing arises from a similar process. Students at David Livingstone Academy automise the basic, grammatical skills that are the building blocks to extended pieces of writing. All students are taught that these extended pieces can be categorised into four different purposes for writing: to entertain, to inform, to persuade or to discuss/argue.
Before writing at length, children consolidate carefully-sequenced, composite skills in their English books. Once ready to apply these skills, children draft extended pieces of writing in their Writing Progress books. These writing outcomes are based on the text studied in whole class reading lessons. Students receive personalised feedback on their individual drafts at the point of learning and use this feedback to inform subsequent redrafts. The cycle of drafting, responding to feedback and redrafting is repeated until children publish a piece of extended writing. The true assessment of a student’s writing ability comes later when teachers observe what knowledge and feedback has been retained and transferred into new, future writing outcomes.
A knowledge based curriculum
The science curriculum at David Livingstone Academy is based on knowledge. The teaching of science is built on the understanding that you cannot work scientifically, without knowledge. Most children believe they ‘know’ some areas of science before being specifically taught. In fact, academic research shows us that children’s preconceived scientific ideas often lead to misconceptions that are carried into adulthood. At David Livingstone our aim is to find those misconceptions early on in a child’s school journey and challenge them. Concepts can then be reinforced through practical scientific investigations. As our children become exposed to alternative concepts this allows them to think more deeply and question their own initial scientific ideas. This exposure challenges what children thought to be true and enables them to develop their scientific understanding accurately.
At David Livingstone Academy we follow a knowledge based curriculum for both history and geography. This means that we focus on the knowledge surrounding the area of study and how different concepts can be built on. As the children have a greater understanding of the subjects, they are able to make links between the different concepts taught. Where possible, we link the history and geography work to the focus book of their morning reading sessions. This helps the children to gain a deeper comprehension of the text. Where this is not possible, the children work through a non-fiction booklet which has been designed by a subject specialist.