Staff Room Chat

The Converted Interleaver

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[In-ter-leev]

1.To arrange (an operation) so that two or more programs, sets of instructions, etc., are performed in an alternating fashion.

When I first heard the term ‘interleaving’, I rolled my eyes and assumed that it was yet another bit of teacher jargon that would float around for a while and then fade into the background from wherever it came. However, I was then presented with the new GCSE specifications for English Literature and Language and realised how essential ‘interleaving’ would be and how it would become my best friend and close ally when it came to designing the new curriculum. My aim prior to writing the curriculum plan was to ensure that students were making sustainable progress, something that, arguably, could be pushed aside when teaching the controlled assessment tasks of the now old specs. David Didau gave me some interesting insight into this in his post here: http://www.learningspy.co.uk/featured/can-progress-be-both-rapid-and-sustained/

Following my exploration of the Lit and Lang course in more detail, it became quickly apparent that many teachers would be shaking at the very thought of students having to remember Shakespeare plays by heart up to a year after being taught them. This is why interleaving is fundamental to the success of the teaching of the new GCSE and of course to the students’ abilities to learn and retain the content and skills. I began with Year 10 – the first year to begin the course. They started with studying the Poetry Anthology – about four poems were covered over ten lessons. We then transitioned them onto two weeks of creative writing skills from the English Language papers and then returned to poetry. Students said that they were surprised to find how much they had retained from the poetry unit. This was particularly successful with lower achieving students; their confidence grew immensely at studying something that seemed new but that they had prior knowledge of. As a team, we then taught a unit of work on Jekyll and Hyde followed by An Inspector Calls and then a return to poetry again. The year group are currently revising the modern text and the 19th century novel in order to sit a full mock paper in the summer term.

Along with sustained progress – students retaining information and the ability to articulate in exam format – feedback has also been effected. Students were given feedback during their shorter units of work, but had to wait for feedback after completing a final assessment until it came around again several weeks later. This was instrumental in their success because they were able to reflect back on what they had learned more acutely as they had an invested interest in contextualising their feedback first.

Thus far, interleaving has proven invaluable to the success of the planning and teaching of the new specifications and to the students’ sustained progress. This process will continue throughout my current Year 10 into Year 11 and with further integration of the Language papers. The proof, however, will be in the pudding!

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