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Pedagogy

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Implementing Booklets In Primary

By Lucy Rundle

 

Lucy Rundle explains why and how she has introduced booklets across the primary phase at her school, Dixons in Chapeltown, Leeds

 

When a secondary colleague suggested we use booklets as a resource in primary science, I was horrified. “How boring for our young students!” I thought. But as I looked more carefully at productivity in our science lessons my eyes started to open.

Before I go any further, I first want to clarify what a booklet is. It is a hybrid textbook and exercise book that includes both reading material and written tasks for students to complete. I have been teaching and leading in primary schools for over 20 years and have never seen booklets used before. At that point, I was Vice Principal with responsibility for Curriculum Quality of Education at Dixons Trinity Chapeltown, a new all-through academy in a highly disadvantaged area in Leeds. We now have booklets used in primary curriculum for Y1 -6 Science, History, Geography, RE and Personal Development Studies. We also use them in French for KS2 and have some computing booklets for unplugged work. Looking at the consistently amazing lessons taught every day here and the good feedback from teachers, I can honestly say I am a primary booklet convert!

We have written our own bespoke booklets which match a comprehensive Scheme of Work, slides and a long-term plan. Booklets are just one part of a suite of resources teachers have at their disposal. I’m not going to lie, creating booklets from scratch has been a long an arduous journey and one I think many schools may not have the luxury to do. We were lucky. We used time during the COVID school closures as well as being in the fortunate position of a start-up school who is only just full now. I would recommend taking your time if you are thinking of introducing booklets e.g. subject at a time or year group at a time.

Why Booklets are great in Primary

So, what are the benefits of spending all that time implementing booklets?  Our teachers tend to say booklets are great for their workload, cost efficiency and the positive impact on the environment (reducing sticking sheets in books and doubling up on paper usage). But as a curriculum leader, I can see there are many more impactful benefits to using booklets as a resource.

Workload and stress

Firstly, they reduce stress for teachers which is ultimately what good leaders are constantly considering. Teachers don’t have to spend their time printing, slicing, gluing and sticking worksheets into exercise books. Teachers do not have to spend their precious time planning from scratch. This is especially useful for non-subject specialists. Primary teachers have to teach out of their subject specialism majority of the time and so having a resource, where they can be assured that the subject knowledge relating to their curriculum has been checked and is written down in an age appropriate clear and organised way, is a life line for those of us who didn’t study that subject even at GCSE (what is a carpel? How do I explain globalisation?). Teachers don’t have to waste time setting cover work if out of class one day because booklets are easy to leave for a supply teacher or support staff to deliver.

This positive impact on workload liberates the teachers of the burden of administrative tasks (including setting cover work) and revising for a topic they are unfamiliar with. That means teachers can concentrate on thinking hard about the more complex aspects of their role.

Booklets also reduce workload and thus stress for teachers through how resilient they are. Interactive whiteboard not working? No problem we have a quality resource they can read and use instead. A student needs to work away from the classroom or at home for some reason? No problem – they are portable so can be taken to other classrooms or home if necessary.

 

“When I joined DTC, I was thrilled to find that the curriculum included use of booklets as a resource to help me teach my lessons. I love the fact that they are there as a back-up when the internet is down or my board freezes mid lesson! I find them useful when I’m planning how I’m going to word certain explanations to the students. Booklets also save me loads of time because I’m not printing, cutting and sticking during my PPA. I’ve also found that lessons tend to run smoother and quicker as students don’t have to write unnecessary things or set their work out”

Hannah Lee Overton, Teacher and phase leader

 

“When I’m covering a class, booklets are a life saver. I can easily see what lesson students are up to and all the knowledge for the lesson is ready printed out for me. Sometimes I feel confident to teach the lesson as we normally would do using slides and verbal explanations, however if I need to, I sometimes take the opportunity to read from the booklet – that was I know I’m teaching exactly the right thing that the teacher would have taught!”

Louise Simpson, Graduate Co-Teacher

 

Cognitive load

The second benefit of using booklets is how they drive good quality first teaching and learning. Firstly, through efficiency. Using booklets is highly efficient and maximises every minute within the lesson. There is no gluing or sticking or giving out of multiple resources – students can easily access the text, images and tasks they need to be successful. Students don’t spend precious lesson time setting out written work on a blank page in an exercise book – With a booklet they are not just limited to writing. Instead, they can efficiently circle answers, match words, order events or sort images by numbering and answer questions; there is no time wasted leafing through previous work to find a clean page – teachers simply say “page 21” and students find it. Booklets help to maximise every minute of every lesson, so students spend more time thinking hard about the ambitious content and engaging in meaningful dialogue.

Booklets support good quality first teaching by reducing cognitive load demands on students. Clear, colour images are available for each students inspect more intricate diagrams close up and point directly to parts of a chart, map or image they are talking about. This means they don’t have to strain their eyes or guess at the detail in an image perhaps displayed on a board far away. It’s even better if you can make sure all booklets have a consistent feel to them for example, using the same simple font or set out in a familiar way. Booklets also support students in their metacognition as they can use the text as a reference for example to check correct spellings or re-read to check content from this lesson and of course previous lessons.

Leadership

The use of booklets is extremely useful for subject leaders in primary. A persistent problem for leaders across the sector is subject knowledge of primary teachers who more than likely are not teaching subjects they have had any specialist training in. Using booklets, leaders can more easily monitor that the subject content being taught is correct. We are lucky because all of our bespoke booklets have had input a “dream team” of colleagues for example, primary class teachers, secondary subject specialists and primary SLT. It’s not an exact science because teachers have the autonomy to use the booklets in different ways (more on this later) and there is still room for error during explanations. However, booklets certainly reduce the opportunity for error which is especially useful for ECTs and teachers new to the school who may have a lot of subject knowledge to learn at once.

Booklets is also great for leaders seeking consistency across a primary school. Supply teachers or anybody covering the lesson can teach an effective lesson when using a booklet. So even if a teacher is unexpectedly called away, the curriculum content can still be taught without the students falling behind. There’ve been times when I’ve been called upon to quickly step in to cover a lesson at the last minute. Without the use of booklets, I may have been tempted to do a “filler lesson” but instead I could clearly see in the booklets what lesson the students were up to and I could read what they needed to learn so was still able to teach a decent lesson. This is not ideal of course, but the point stands that booklets are a stable resource in a sometimes-unpredictable environment.

Booklets are especially beneficial in a 2 or 3 form primary where leaders work hard to ensure both classes in the cohort receive a consistent curriculum. It’s worth knowing that leaders trust staff and don’t use booklets as a stick to beat teachers with. If page 7 isn’t completed, there’s no stress – there’s an assumption the teacher just chose to teach it a different way that day. Leaders are on the ground, talking to students so often seeing and hearing the high content knowledge that the students know that it’s easy to see the impact of the curriculum.

Booklets are a great way for leaders to support teachers with not only subject knowledge as previously mentioned, but also support with intelligently sequencing their lessons and frequent, useful assessment. Booklets with content that is well sequenced and organised coupled with planned key questions and opportunities for everyone to respond gives teachers the solid foundations they need to build a very good lesson.

Disadvantaged Students

Booklets are a particularly good resource in academies which serve areas of high disadvantage. This is because they provide the predictability and consistency our students crave so they can focus their attention on learning and reduce opportunities for lost learning. We can also send the booklets home once they have been used in school as this provides home reading material that they may not otherwise have had.

Booklets can be used as a reference tool and this a great metacognition technique we want our students to learn and be used to using ready for self-study at the next stage in their learning journey. And finally, the reduction in workload for teachers means they can spend more energy and though process on teaching core skills and building relationships which our students need to attain well across the whole curriculum and be ready for the next stage in their education.

How best to use Booklets in a primary classroom

First of all, how a teacher delivers a lesson with a booklet is crucial. How boring it would be for children to simply read from a booklet for their lessons. That would not be conducive to good primary teaching and is a misconception many educators who are wary of using booklets in primary think happens. Teachers use booklets in all sorts of ways for good quality teaching, assessment and planning.

How teachers use booklets

Firstly, booklets help teachers greatly with their planning because they have the booklet to read the content before the lesson and use the knowledge and examples to ensure their delivery is factually correct. Subject leads have checked the knowledge in each booklet so teachers can be safe in the knowledge they are teaching the correct content if they hug closely to the booklet. Teachers don’t need to plan each lesson from scratch. Because the booklet is done, teachers free up head space to consider how their students might respond and can plan adaptations for individual students.

When we first introduced booklets, I did worry that the teachers who first planned the booklets would be the only people who would learn the skill and nuances of planning. Because all out booklets are written by us and are editable they are reviewed and updated regularly. So, I set up a review system (nothing posh – just an excel document outlining which primary teacher is responsible for reviewing which unit) meaning three times a year, class teachers are allocated planning days to evaluate units just taught, and update and refine the curriculum resources to be taught in the next cycle. This keeps the booklets fresh and up to date (which is especially important in subjects like geography when content seems to change each year!) but also keeps teachers’ skills fresh.

New staff and ECTs have 1:1 time with the curriculum lead to plan together so they can learn the skills required for good planning. Legacy staff also receive feedback on their curriculum planning which supports them to continually improve and refine their skills.

During lessons teachers engage students through use of slides, practical activities and quality teacher explanations. Here’s the important part – they don’t have to use booklets to do these things! The booklets are optional for them to use when teaching – especially in Year 1 where teachers use play provision and floor books for part of the year. There are obvious opportunities for whole class reading from the booklet that the teacher can choose to use or not, depending on current data, or their own confidence explaining that particular content, but they don’t have to if they think there is a better way to explain something.

Booklets mean teachers have more time within each lesson to focus on allowing students to think hard about the lesson content rather than completing low function tasks for example writing dates and learning objectives, long sentences, worrying about setting out work correctly on a blank page, giving out sheets or cutting and sticking. When the students have booklets, everything they need is easily accessible and therefore supports maximising every minute in efficient lessons.

Well designed short written assessment tasks in the booklets support teachers to quickly assess whole class answers and make a judgement about next steps – for example, quick matching pictures, circle the correct answer or ordering sentences. These type of whole class short written assessments are efficient and can quickly give quality assessment data for the teachers. Based on this, teachers are able to adapt lessons to meet the needs of their class in the same way they would without a booklet. If they need to, teachers slow down or speed up learning, re-teach content or create different work that can be completed on whiteboards.

Teachers often write extra Do Now questions on the board that their particular class need to retrieve more often. The booklets do not hold teachers back from adapting lessons to suit the needs of their class. In fact, booklets create the opposite effect because workload for teachers is reduced, so they are liberated to think more deeply about adapting the learning to their particular cohort.

Are booklets inclusive?

Yes, very!  Firstly, booklets help staff to reduce cognitive load for students which is particularly helpful for SEND students or EAL. Booklets help teachers to do this in a variety of ways.

  • Firstly, staff know the explanations and knowledge in the booklet is well pitched, has been curated and checked by subject specialists and reviewed before use. That means the booklets support teachers to know what expected looks like and what knowledge focus their teaching on, as opposed to potentially overloading students with unnecessary content.
  • Booklets are inclusive because all students have access to high quality text and images to refer to in the lessons. Looking at an image close up reduces cognitive load.
  • The booklets also support easier outsourcing for students who struggle with organisation, because support is right there in front of them all in one place. Booklets reduce split attention because they don’t have multiple places to refer to e.g. on the board or display, or additional sheets as well as an exercise book. Also, if the formatting is consistent across all the booklets in primary, students find it easier to independently reference the content they may need to read or refer to again, which further breaks down barriers, making it far more efficient for students with processing issues to succeed.
  • Booklets are also inclusive for students who struggle with attendance. It is really clear to those students and staff what learning has been missed and is easier to catch up on missed learning prior to the next lesson. Teachers can also choose to send the booklets home with any students who cannot be in school and need to complete remote learning.
  • All our booklets have quick fire planned “Do Now” retrieval practice questions based on content from previous lesson, unit and year groups all mapped out. Retrieval practice is the process of actively remembering previously taught knowledge which is highly useful for students with memory retention challenges. The subsequent “Review Now” is planned to be responsive and briefly re-teach students key concepts.

I must add that booklets are best used within a whole school inclusive environment where we prioritise ALL students participating and being supported to keep up from the day they enter EYFS. We are all teachers of SEND and there is an expectation from everybody that each and every student is entitled to learn, know and remember the powerful knowledge within the curriculum.

How can I adapt booklets for individual learners?

It can be a challenge to personalise learning for students with SEND when using booklets, but there are lots of strategies to adapt learning to meet the needs of their class.

  • Firstly, using the booklet as a resource. So perhaps if a particular student requires intervention and prevention in their reading, the teacher has a ready-made high quality and currently relevant resource at their fingertips for additional reading. Teachers wanting to pre-teach words or content to students, perhaps with EAL, can easily use the booklet for key words and pictures.
  • We don’t make separate “easier” booklets for students who are currently low attaining. Instead, all students have access to the same content, it’s just accessed in a different way or broken down a bit more. For example, teachers enable students to give verbal or shorter but still high-level answers; teachers can perhaps use a highlighter on particular words in the text to make it easier for students; handwrite sentence starters or useful words for students directly into the booklet so it’s there in front of them minimising potential to lose concentration. There are obvious benefits using booklets for students with dyslexia who need to read and write using coloured paper as the booklet can be printed onto their preferred colour and then it’s done for the whole unit and never accidentally missed or forgotten.
  • Perhaps most importantly, teachers plan and additional scaffolds that can be stuck into the booklet either as a flap that can be lifted up and down or a sheet that is stuck directly onto a page for example close text paragraphs rather than having to construct and write their own sentences from scratch.
  • Finally, when challenging students, we have a great system of using ideas for depth stickers in the booklets. This means students who have completed the core knowledge can receive a sticker in their booklet to prompt them with an additional task to deepen their understanding for example spot the odd one out in these animals and explain it; or what’s the difference between a worm and a snake?

How can I still teach creatively?

Booklets can contribute to a rich and creative curriculum. They aren’t THE curriculum. There are so many creative opportunities across the curriculum in primary and booklets don’t hold this creativity back. Classes take part in plenty of non-booklet related activities for example hands on learning, watching videos, experiments, extended writing opportunities, making models and cooking or trying food.

The teachers can choose to display the work in different ways so for example if they are designing a poster, it doesn’t have to go into the booklet, it can be published on a piece of paper and be displayed around school. Or a letter to someone doesn’t have to always be written in the booklet, it can be published and sent to the recipient.

Plus teachers can adapt and use booklets in creative ways which support their class for example if the class reading data takes a dip mid-year, they may choose to read from the booklet a bit more often in curriculum lessons that term. The booklets do have reading material for each lesson but not every teacher reads from the booklet each lesson as this isn’t suitable for primary learning.

 

Using booklets in primary comes with its own preconceived ideas and misconceptions but Dixons Trinity Chapeltown are using booklets to full effect. If you want more information you can follow them at @dixonsat or reach out to @mrslucyrundle on X.