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10. Contextualised Learning

Contextualised Learning – Leys Explains


Some pupils in our community lack some opportunities to explore their environment and make links with experiences and academic study. At Leys Primary School we believe that, for all pupils (and teachers) to feel motivated to make progress, activities must be contextualised and linked to first-hand experiences.


When pupils are shown the relevance of a learning objective, they are far more likely to achieve the success criteria of it.


Engage, enthuse, stimulate, challenge, enrich and interest are words frequently used when identifying outstanding teaching and learning. So how do we ‘hook’ in and maintain focus in our learners?


Ways of contextualising at the START of a lesson/entry point to a unit of work include:


· How the learning objective can relate to pupils’ own experiences in and out of school to ‘bring the curriculum to life’;


· Contemporary events/news

· What is the point of doing this?

· What did we do last lesson…how does this relate to other learning we have done?

· Do you remember when you were __ year old and you…?

· Pretend/imaginary situations/characters with scenarios/challenges/problems can make tasks more meaningful

· Real life situations which would call for the use of the knowledge/skills/developing of understanding intrinsic to the learning objective (use of an artefact/video clip)

- Do you remember when Daniel did/said this…?

- Who has ever…?

- Where in life do we need to…?


There any many other ways of contextualising learning and making it meaningful. At Leys Primary, teachers are continually sharing expertise to develop our curriculum intent in this respect. More examples follow:


Contextualising to explain & question/scaffold/support learning MID-LESSON


In our day to day interaction with others, explaining & questioning using first hand experience and different contexts comes naturally. This can be a powerful way to ‘help the penny drop’; examples are:


· PREVIOUS EXPERIENCES/SCENARIOS: “Do you remember when you were younger, you had to do simple things over and over again to get it right and that when you got frustrated or angry you often didn’t make progress? – like tying your shoelace, for example. You are able to achieve skills with regular practice.”


· BUILDING ON PREVIOUS LEARNING: Do you remember the higher the ramp the longer the distance of travel of the car? Well now we will change the variable of types of surface and record our findings.


· COMPARISON, SIMILES & SYNONYMS: It’s like in PE, when you jump from a higher bench and land, you can feel the extra reaction force from the ground in your feet and legs, the larger the force from heavier objects (weight), the greater the reaction force from the ground to keep the balance of forces. A force can be a push or pull.


· PERSONIFICATION: the attribution of human qualities, characteristics, or behaviours to intangible concepts can move on learning, e.g.: When we wrap up to keep warm we insulate our 37 degrees from the cold. Similarly we can wrap up an ice cube for it to keep nice and cool.




When pupils successfully complete a year group objective or statement from our target maps/Y2 or 6 teacher assessment framework, we do not simply move them on to next year’s statements, but use different contexts to move new learning into more depth.


Extension activities can be used ineffectively and as a way of dealing with early finishers so that they don’t hassle teachers while the support those that are struggling. “Go and read more about it”/”Now do your own examples”/”Help other pupils”/”do some harder examples from next year’s text book” can all be ‘holding activities’ without deepening the conceptual development and developing deeper understanding. But with a little thought about how pupil can use and apply their new knowledge or skills acquisition, we can effectively use contextualising to increase depth (the essence of the new national curriculum).


The CHARACTERISTICS OF GREATER DEPTH & MASTERY in the national curriculum:


Clive Davies (OBE) HierarchyLeys Contextualised & Integrated Curriculum Implications
INDEPENDENCEApply the skill or knowledge without recall to the teacherfollowing engaging contextualising at the start of the session
FLUENCYApply the skill or knowledge with a high level of confidence & show good resilience when the task seems demandingas above and drawing upon approaching challenges in ways such as those used in supporting mid-lesson, with personal goals (RAMCAR ) in mind
APPLICATIONApply the skill or knowledge to a range of different contexts, including other areas of the curriculumwhich would have been thought about, planned for & resourced appropriately (especially cross-curricular English & Maths)
CONSISTENCYConsistently use their skills, knowledge & understandingwith a range of opportunities readily available
SYNTHESISOrganise ideas to make connections with other areas of learning and new areasespecially during class exposition & plenary times and between subjects & units of study - integrated
RE-VISITReturn to this aspect of learning after a break and still feel confident that they can work on the skill and knowledge without difficultyespecially with KKSEs – Leys’ Key Knowledge, Skills & Experiences
EXPLAIN ITAble to explain to others their understanding and perhaps be a learning buddy to othersand how it can be applied to further problem solving in other contexts, showing metacognition
  • “I am very happy with Leys. My daughter’s progress at this school is amazing, I think the teachers are amazing.” (Parent)
  • “I’m starting to love this school! You all have made such great progress and I urge you: Keep up the great work!” (Parent)
  • “The Leys Primary School is a happy and caring place.” (OFSTED)
  • “Pupils are considerate of each other’s happiness.” (OFSTED)
  • An outstanding learning environment. All the children were engaged with their learning. A very friendly staff. (Borough Adviser)
  • “Pupils behave well in lessons and are respectful and polite around the school.” (OFSTED)
  • “Pupils respond well to the high expectations of the school.” (OFSTED)
  • “Pupils enjoy learning and are rightly proud of their work.” (OFSTED)