Some planning tips for new teachers in Key Stage 1

1. Don’t panic! The curriculum for KS1 is fundamentally about reading, writing, maths, and lots of speaking and listening. There is a small amount of content in the foundation subjects – science, history, geography etc. – but not too much: so breath easy on coverage. For KS1 the curriculum is all about practicing the basic skills without turning school into a bore.

2. Pick a topic kids are interested in. A year with a class of bored infants can be a very long time. Here are some suggestions: castles, animals, dinosaurs, traditional stories and fairy-tales, sharks, space (especially aliens), caves, volcanoes, fire-fighters and rescue teams.

3. Pick a topic you’re interested in. The kids will soon realise if you’re going through the motions teaching a topic you’re not inspired by or know little about.

4. If you’re lumbered with a boring topic you have to teach, then find a way to make it interesting. ‘Rocks’ was always a dreaded one from the QCA schemes of work, but the actual content was tiny and so quite easy to turn into something exciting like, ‘A Mission to Mars’.

5. Use picture books if you’re stuck for ideas. There are some fantastic books for young children that make great lesson starters and stimulus for writing. Keep one or two up your sleeve. My current favourite is, “Don’t Read this Book!” A wonderful layered narrative told from multiple points of view.

6. Read the Curriculum. It’s not a riveting read, but you need to know it back to front, especially English and Maths. The appendix in the new curriculum is particularly useful and should become a constant companion. Take a look at the website Michael Tidd and I has compiled comparing the new and old curriculum and the fantastically useful curriculum resources Michael has created.

7. Plan for learning over the whole year. Don’t be in too much of a hurry and don’t leave everything until the last minute. The programmes of study in the new curriculum are incremental and designed for student development year on year, so make sure the knowledge and skills you’re responsible for are practiced and consolidated. This takes time, preparation, and planning, so make sure you start early and give the students plenty of opportunities to develop.

8. Little and often. Reading, writing, and maths skills are developed through sustained, concentrated, practice over time. So practice them every day and don’t be afraid to use silence. On the other hand, don’t over do it. The law of diminishing returns kicks in early in KS1.

9. Don’t over plan. If you plan things in too much detail you are bound to regret it. Try planning activities (rather than coverage and development) for only a few days ahead and then fill in the details as you go along. This will keep your planning flexible and responsive to what’s happening in class and help you avoid planning activities you don’t end up using. Of course, don’t go too far the other way and find yourself under-prepared!

10. Listen to the children. The best resource we have in our classrooms is the children’s imagination, so listen to their ideas and pay attention to their interests and tacit knowledge. Of course they can’t do the planning for you and they’re not in charge, but if you can use their ideas to teach the same curriculum then I reckon it’s worth twice as much as using one of your own.

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