This post tells the outline story of a collaboration between two schools, one a primary school and the other a secondary school. The story was told at the Geographical Association’s Annual Conference in Guildford.
The collaboration started out as a bit of #beermatgeog where the idea of working with a group of students across phases was thought out. As I’ve mentioned previously, connecting primary classrooms is a straight forward process in my view, but then I am not one for letting barriers get in to the way. I do however ask readers to accept that this is a story about a particular context and to get in touch if you’d like to talk further about the detail of the collaboration. A massive thanks to Leah Sharp who has very much been the driving force behind the scheme.
There is always some debate around focusing on one particular set of children over another. This is only right as we, as a profession, should reflect on what we do always. For this sequence of lessons, we decided to focus on pupil premium students. This is simply because they needed something extra. Whilst I can follow the logic if treating all students the same in a classroom setting, the outcomes for this group of students are below their peers with similar starting points and therefore it is the morally right thing to do to try to help them accelerate as much as possible. Not to catch up with their more affluent peers, but so that they meet age expectations and, ultimately, have better life chances. Having been Pupil Premium Champion for the past four years, whole school approaches must be different. We worked with 20 Year 4 students and a selection of Year 8, 10 and 11 students. The aim of the project was to:
Anyhow, the reasons why this collaboration took places are as follows.
In primary, a group of children who were behind in their writing were selected. At secondary, no new content was covered but the same material was revisited. I love the quote from Peps Mccrea in his book Memorable Teaching: retrieval beats re-exposure and this collaboration gave a good reason to retrieve information from previous lessons. I will also point out here that the Year 4 students had no real trouble in accessing the basics of urban morphology, a fact that motivated my students to do well. Year 8 students, who had no real understanding of the rural-urban fringe, also had no trouble in accessing and understanding the information. This, yet again, underpins the point that sometimes at secondary school we linger for far too long over the basic knowledge.
In terms of practicalities, the following diagram describes the workflow.
The enquiry process framed the sequence of lessons, not so that it was student led, but to ensure we followed the geographical enquiry process which replicates fieldwork processes undertaken at university level. We decided to focus on the rural urban fringe for two main reasons. The first is that both schools are located within this urban zone, although in different settlements. The second is that the need for new houses is frequently in the news as is the funding crisis in schools.
Without going in to too much detail about each stage, and example is followed through below. The first stage was to get Year 11 students to retrieve information around the characteristics of the rural urban fringe. This was done as a starter test, I’m a boing teacher and throw these at students a lot. The material was covered a year before so it was a good exercise in retrieval. The Year 11 students then discussed in groups before two students collated and narrowed down this list by identifying a final list. This bit of leadership gave students with lower social capital the chance to develop the softer skills of reasoning and compromising.
Once the list winged its way to the Year 4 group, they looked at their own location and decided if their own school was in the rural urban fringe. This work was sent to my Year 8 students (we swapped the real artefacts as there is nothing like getting a letter or other work and being able to hold it in your hands) for feedback. Year 10 students, who had looked at the need for housing in the UK and possible solutions in September, then created a scenario in which the primary school field was needed for extra housing.
Throughout the project, a number of tools were used and the end point was a geocache filled with the Year 4’s writing. Go and find it if you are local to the area! The feedback from the public has been excellent so far, and gives the children a real audience as well as providing some feedback for the teachers!
Other tools we used included:
The collaboration was successful and there are already plans to extend it further. The main reasons for this are as follows:
Of course, there were some barriers to overcome and the final outcome wasn’t was we desired as I no longer work at the secondary school, however the secondary school students benefitted by retrieving information and having to communicate it concisely. Their motivation also improved. The Year 4 students has daily writing and improved.
The main thing is to get out there, make contact and realise that the work going on in primary schools really is rather good. Ideas in the pub often lead to great learning.