Ah, Year 7: so new, so shiny, so keen, so many questions…
Okay, I am generalising and at risk of sounding slightly unkind – neither of which are admirable traits. In all seriousness, I often think that your Year 7 class can set the tone for your whole teaching year: expectations are high and we want some good ‘raw material’ to work with.
I am not naturally ‘good’ with the younger students; I like ‘em big and gobby with the cynicism of adolescence and the chutzpah of youth. I often feel like a hyped-up CBeebies presenter with the little’uns – all manic smiles, unwavering enthusiasm and brightly coloured knitwear. I’m naturally dry, borderline sarcastic and with a propensity to see sexual imagery in pretty much any text ever written; I’m not sure these characteristics make the best checklist for an excellent teacher of Year 7. It is perhaps with some irony therefore, that part of my responsibility in the department is for liaising with our feeder primaries and sharing good practice and information about the teaching of English at KS2 and KS3.
In the summer term of last academic year, I was fortunate enough to spend time at two local primaries and to meet with two other KS2 teachers. In summary, here are SEVEN (see what I did there) things I learnt and how they may inform what we do with our newest students now the new term has started.
- Everything Year 6 students do is underpinned by routine: how they enter and leave the classroom; where they sit and with whom; rewards and consequences. We have made MASSIVE strides at HCC over the past few years with this sort of routine consistency. It works! Keep doing it! Students feel safe and happy and it creates the right climate for learning.
2. Year 6 students are a lot more independent than we may give them credit for. They can edit, peer assess, use key words from displays to help with literacy, proof-read and edit. We need to harness these skills and ensure they continue.
3. KS2 exercise books are usually things of beauty: elegant, cursive handwriting; everything underlined and ruled off; pride and care running through them like a stick of rock, and LOTS OF WRITING! In our move towards notebooks and assessment books this year, we have set our expectations high: keep them high!
4. Gaps in attainment and achievement have already started forming but with the same one or two teachers and pretty much constant additional support in lessons, often these students can just about keep up. It is harder for us to close those gaps but vitally important. Find out who those children are and start employing strategies to ensure the gap doesn’t become a chasm.
5. Loads of them read and LOVE books: big, fat hurrah! Encourage them to keep reading, challenging themselves, valuing reading and talking about it with friends, parents and teachers in all subjects.
6. Post-SATs, a significant number of schools shift their focus to less academically rigorous lessons and instead, creativity and fun take centre stage. Some learning is ‘lost’: we need to establish what this is, never assume they’ve grasped something completely, re-teach and embed.
7. These shiny little dots will all too soon be enormous sacks of hormones, with all of the challenges and unpredictability that may bring but they will thrive at HCC. Let’s enjoy them while they’re little and always remember how privileged we are to be part of their journey to adulthood.
Katy Wayne, English