Oakwood Park is an 11-18 boys grammar school.
To develop students’ ability and enjoyment in constructing longer pieces of historical writing.
The school’s reference library had recently been closed and boys were not often exposed to quality non-fiction writing, except in class. Students were enthusiastic about History but baseline tests in Year 7 showed a real gap between their verbal explanations and written ones.
The theme ‘Beyond Because’ was chosen to help students understand the value of using connective words to help their writing flow, improve accuracy and ultimately enhance the overall quality and impact of their writing in History. A ‘connectives’ sheet was trialled with a class in Years 7, 8 and 9. While constructing longer answers students would refer to the sheet and then underline where they had used a connective word. By giving students the linking words the written work flowed better and gave students more opportunities to incorporate their subject knowledge and understanding. Connectives posters were also displayed at the front of classrooms.
A small library of a relevant range of reading resources for GCSE and A Level students to use began to be created. Year 7 and Year 8 were tested on historical words in their Literacy lessons each term as well as ones from the English Department. A classroom display showing examples of pupils’ accomplished written work with annotations was created. This improved the learning environment and raised the profile of the literacy focus.
The Year 7 Baseline Assessment was redesigned to allow more precise judgement of the strengths and weaknesses students had in their historical writing when they arrived at the school. SPAG marks and connectives suggestions were built into all Departmental documents and student resources (0-4 Edexcel-style) to provide a constant reminder and focus on quality writing in History.
The Wall of Excellence was updated and students now ask how they can get their work on the board –these are referred to and encourage students to emulate the key skills and sophisticated writing they see. Resources and experiences were shared with Heads of RS and Geography.
Learning walks, staff feedback,
85% of students said they found connectives sheets useful. 50% of Year 8 students chose History as their Humanity subject for GCSE, a 5% increase on the previous year. The Year 8 class who used the connectives sheets most often had a higher average assessment score in Term 2 (Spring 2018) than the other classes. There is a genuine drive amongst all History teachers and a clear understanding from students, about the importance of expressing higher-order skills confidently.
In addition, there is a genuine drive amongst all History teachers, and a clear understanding from students, about the importance of expressing higher-order skills confidently in their writing.
Reflections: I learnt it was important to work with the English Department at the early stages and to adapt my plans as feedback from teachers and students suggested new directions for the Project during the three years it has been running. Work with the experts and do not try to ‘reinvent the wheel’; the English Department and our Literacy Co-ordinator both gave valuable advice.