The Big Five Revisited

Many years ago, I introduced the concept of ‘The Loop’ to help teachers to think about lesson planning (you can find it in earlier blog posts). At that time I was turning round a school in special measures and we needed these kinds of tools to simplify thinking. Another tool was ‘The Big Five’ guide to lesson planning, also reported in an earlier blog post.  Over the years, the Big Five grew to six and then seven but then I began to think it looked a bit outdated.

However, I recently met a headteacher who made me wonder if there was mileage in revisiting the Big Five in the light of current thinking. So, Louise, this is for you:-

The Big Five (v2.0)

   1.    A clear and specific focus on the learning

If you focus on the doing all you can check is that the work has been done. If you are unsure of the precise learning points then you won’t know the precise teaching points – and you won’t be able to assess the learning.

  1. Key vocabulary: identify it, teach it, display it

Every lesson has its key vocabulary; words and terms that support the learning. Identify the most significant – three to five words, no more – pre-teach them and keep them on display. The most powerful KV is that which is conceptual.

  1. Plan the learning journey

What do you expect the least confident child to walk away knowing or being able to do? What do you expect the most confident child to walk away with? How can you support their learning? Will you use success criteria? If so, then use the ‘remember to..’ approach so that it provides a pathway.  Will you provide opportunities for pupils to work together; collaborative working powerfully supports learning.

  1. Identify key assessment points

What are the key moments for assessment in the lesson? Check pupils’ starting points at the outset. Teach the concepts and plan your questions to check learning. What questions will you ask the most confident children?

  1. Make the plenary count

The plenary has four key functions:

  • It engages pupils with what they have learnt. So, if you were clear about the learning, you can show pupils their improved knowledge or skills. They need to appreciate what they are walking away with. Use the learning focus and the KV to populate the plenary.
  • It is a key assessment point. Don’t trust pupils’ self-reporting (Doug Lemov); ask deep questions to check if they really get it. Use something like exit cards so that pupils can identify their own gaps.
  • It’s the only chance you get to secure the key teaching points. Make them clearly to help pupils later recall skills.
  • It opens the door to the next lesson. ‘Now you know this (or can do this) in the next lesson you’re going to have a go at this. Then, when you arrive in the next lesson, you can look back through the open door and ask, ‘what were we learning last time? What were those words we learnt and what did they mean? You can watch the pupils re-engage. Then you can close the door and move on.



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