Are you regular or occasional?

4th October 1996 at 01:00
Spend time drawing up a whole-school plan and modify it only when you have to, argues Colin Webb. When it comes to planning the maths curriculum where do your teacher-planners fit in? Are they "regular renewers" or "occasional adjusters"? Regular renewers make new plans every year or term and often have difficulty in finding secure solutions to whole school key stage curriculum issues, such as breadth, balance, continuity, progression and cohesion.

Schools with many regular renewers are more likely to have teachers who are horrified by the amount of maths curriculum still to be covered by their Year 5 and 6 children. Occasional adjusters spend time constructing a whole schoolkey stage plan and modify it only when prompted by curriculum evaluation data.

The School Curriculum and Assessment Authority has produced a planning model that centres on the allocation of the maths curriculum content to sequences of units of work, which are mapped to time slots throughout the yearkey stage.

These units of work are elaborated for termly and weekly plans with teachinglearning specifications. So, to become a successful occasional adjuster, is this the planning model to be used? Yes, but it needs a little more elaboration, which I will do later.

The long-term planning cycle proposed by SCAA is the basis of an effective whole schoolkey stage curriculum framework. At this planning stage, the maths content is allocated to units of work and judgments can be made on the adequacy of curriculum breadth, balance, continuity, progression, cohesion and time management.

The planning process should work like this: units of work from the key stage curriculum framework feed into the more detailed yearlytermly planning stage and are elaborated each week or day to form teachinglearning plans.

But often the planning process is like this: scheme of work is drawn up, units of work for a term are constructed and then elaborated into teachinglearning plans.

The first step in the planning is omitted because it is diffficult to construct sequences of units of work from general programmes of study. Take as an example the programmes of study that deal with the fractions component of number. At key stage 1 the programmes of study are: recognise and use in context simple fractions, including halves and quarters; recognise and use decimal notation in recording money.

It would be difficult to use these statements for the construction of developmental units of work that span a key stage or to subject them to a rigorous curriculum content audit to determine breadth, balance, continuity, and progression.

Perhaps the associated level descriptions will help with the developmental aspect: at level 2, "identify and use halves and quarters, such as half a rectangle or a quarter of eight objects"; at level 3, "use decimal notation . . . in contexts such as money . . . and calculator displays." This is not much help with continuity and progression, and only two learning contexts are revealed for the work with halves and quarters.

It is not surprising that teacher-planners turn away from the difficulties of constructing units of work derived from programmes of study and instead produce them from a maths scheme, usually bought in.

Published schemes tend to result in units of work that focus mainly on activities and resources and are more difficult to audit for balance and progression than units that add in learning contexts, response requirements and intended outcomes. So you become a regular reviewer.

But if you construct a whole schoolkey stage maths curriulum framework from units of work that are developmental and accessible to curriculum audit, you can be transformed into an occasional adjuster. To attain this, you must unpack the programmes of study to reveal the underlying knowledge, understanding and skills.

As an example of this, let us return to the programme of study relating to common fractions and unpack it to form units of work.

The five units of work below will form the developmental programme of work for common fractions within key stage 1 and maybe edge into key stage 2. Links with the division of number, measures and scale reading would be made during the planning of the whole maths curriculum for a key stage.

The content of the maths curriculum is presented in a linear developmental way to facilitate effective planning and is not meant to represent a model of learning that is rigid and sequential.

The teacher's task is to use the units of work to construct a maths curriculum that links and integrates mathematical ideas into a cohesive curriculum framework. Having constructed and audited the framework, the task of producing units of work is made easier.

Units of work for a key stage are are the basis for all further planning. Those that fulfil the termly plan could become the school maths scheme of work.

If the key stage curriculum plan and the scheme of work were in place, the termly plans could be constructed by "picking and mixing" from the scheme of work. Then teachers could make their weekly or daily plans.

Schemes of work will differ from school to school, but the units of work will not. The maths co-ordinator should draw up the whole school curriculum plan and scheme of work, but they are rarely given time to do this.

To help all teacher-planners become occasional adjusters, I have unpacked all the maths programmes of study for KS1 and KS2 to produce a bank of units of work - Curriculum Crackers - that can be used to produce a developmental whole schoolkey stage plan and form the basis of subsequent planning.

Colin Webb, a former maths adviser, is a freelance educational consultant. For details of Curriculum Crackers, tel: 01639 845970

DEVELOPMENTAL UNITS OF WORK. During play activities partition quantities, regular shapes and sets of objects into equivalent fractional parts.

Using 3-D and 2-D regular shapes, sets of objects, money, quantities, as whole units, partition them into specified fractional parts: 22 and 12, 44, 34, 24, 14.

Match the relevant written fraction to the partition made. Say the name.

Given the fractional part of a whole unit (12, 14, 24, 34), form the whole unit. Match the written fraction to the whole unit. Say the name.

Identify the fractional parts of real and representational whole units, partitioned into 12, 14, 24, 34; then 13, 23; and tenths.

Match and write the relevant fraction with the identified fractional part. Say the name.

Partition real and representational whole units (including whole numbers) into specified fractional parts labelled with the relevant fractional value (including equivalent fractional values) halves, quarters, thirds, tenths, then eighths, fifths, sixths.

EXAMPLES OF CONTEXTSACTIVITIES. Make a lump of Playdough into four cakes of about the same size.

Give half of your 10p to Sarah - how many different coins can you use?

How many ways can you fold this paper square in half?

This (yellow) rod is half of another different coloured rod - which rod is that? (orange) Metre stick What fraction is shaded in?

How many ways can you split this 2 x 2 x 2 cube into identical halves?

Which rod is 34 of the brown rod?

What is 13 of 12?

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