No doubt some of these suggestions depend on your school, team, ethos etc. but here are a few things I think about when planning a scheme of work (KS3 focus).
A scheme of work is a plan that outlines a series of lessons, either long or short, that drives forward a particular skill or topic. A scheme of work should also fit into the ‘bigger picture’ of learning and progression within that particular year group. Naturally, this collection of schemes for a year should then fit into the wider Key Stage 3 and then build towards Key Stage 4 and beyond.
A strong curriculum plan should feature a range of different forms, literary movements and historical periods. Planning these in chronological order is certainly something to consider, especially with the brilliant range of adaptions of weightier texts to suit younger readers.
A curriculum plan and schemes of work within it must also facilitate the consistent and thorough teaching of the reading, writing and communication skills required to deal with a variety of texts, which inevitably become more challenging as students progress through each year.
To begin with, it’s important to choose texts that teachers on your team are inspired by and feel passionate about. It also important to think about what skills students will use the text to develop and how the content of the text can enrich their ‘cultural capital’. Choosing a text that does not present a richness of language (dare I say, ‘Boy in the Striped PJs’) or a wealth of context to offer, may not be of enormous benefit. Selecting texts that offer both richness of language and context, or even creating an extract based scheme, will inevitably support students from very early on in moving towards GCSE (without asking them to complete actual GCSE questions, which I am not an advocate of from early on). Here is an example curriculum plan.
Here are a few further things to consider when writing a SOW:
#1 Instead of learning objectives, refer to a clear skills focus each lesson that students must become better and better at as the lessons progress. This skill should be derived from your department’s success criteria. It might be something like analysis of language or exploration of relevant context or a combination (as shown on the example plan above).
#2 Once you have chosen the text or extracts and decided on the skills focus, plot out the key elements of the text you wish to use (this can be very useful as a narrative guide for weaker students).
#3 Complete a unit overview or a knowledge organiser that staff can read through and quickly see the contents of the course outlined clearly. This could include: skills taught, assessment opportunities and homework. Avoid writing out individual lesson plans; any notes or important points can be noted in the space below the slides or can be addressed in unit introduction meetings. Here is an example of a knowledge organiser.
#4 Map out how many lessons you need – create folders to begin with. Firstly, label folders with your assessment lessons. Think about how long staff will need to set work and then mark it. Then label assessment feedback lessons and also decide which lessons you wish staff to set homework in, if this follows your department policy.
#5 Once you’ve got the admin stuff out the way, you can have some fun titling the lessons from introduction and onward. Use the narrative guide. If you choose to use PowerPoint, it’s useful if they are activity based, with some content. Too much content means they are not user friendly and teachers will struggle to adapt them. Also avoid making them too busy/flashy.
#6 Despite many teachers moving away from the traditional ‘starter’, ‘main’, ‘plenary’ etc. it is important that there is a clear structure to each lesson, with clear links to the previous lessons and a strong vision of how the scheme will progress within the bigger picture. Formative assessment is a great activity to embed throughout to support memory and improve students’ content knowledge. Ideas about literary context and movements ought to begin to become automatised from Year 7. Here is a basic example for McEwan’s ‘Atonement’.
#7 It can be very useful to include key words within the lesson that students may find challenging and complex. Teachers should encourage students to use these throughout the scheme of work and return to them in aid of memory. These also make for useful end of term spelling tests and can be a good opportunity for praise when students use them in their written work or in contributions during class discussion. I try to group particular words with different genres – for example, my Year 7 recently looked at the words ambiguous, tradition and malevolent for a scheme of work on the Gothic (among many others).
#8 Learning from mistakes! The easiest way to create a great scheme of work is to teach and adapt it as you go forward. Inevitably you will find certain things that work and teachers will also come up with things to add in/remove. Naturally, certain aspects will also work well with some students and not others. It is important to have a folder for differentiated resources to be stored in alongside the core scheme of work as well.