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Video transcript

Presenter intro: Peps McCrea

Pupils are more likely to attempt a task if they feel they can do it. This isn’t unusual. Most people are put off doing something that feels difficult in favour of something that feels easier. It’s important that teachers think about the supports they can put in place to enable and encourage all pupils to access their learning, including pupils with SEND. Providing structured support of learning can lead to positive behaviour and help all pupils to thrive.

Presenter main

Providing structured, supportive learning is about ensuring that all pupils can access the content and think hard. When pupils are able to access their learning, they’re more likely to experience success. This can be motivating and lead to positive behaviour.

Learning new material can put a strain on our limited working memory capacity as it tries to deal with lots of new information at once. This can easily feel overwhelming, but there are strategies that teachers can use to help focus students’ attention and show them a clear route through. These include reducing distractions, breaking learning into small steps, and modelling.

Breaking material into steps can really help pupils. For example, instead of setting a task in a primary maths lesson like multiply 26 by 40, we might identify specific steps. Partition the number 26, multiply each part by 40, and then add them together. In a phonics lesson, it is important that pupils practice segmenting a word into individual signs, such as er, uh, nn, before blending them together again. These individual steps helps pupils to know how to start and what to do along the way. Breaking material into steps can be especially helpful for pupils with SEND, as it can give them a clear picture of what they need to do now, and next, making learning feel more manageable. Teachers should also ensure that any new knowledge builds on what pupils already know. In the maths example, pupils will need to know about partitioning and multiplication.

Modelling learning and providing examples is another important way of supporting learning. As teachers model, they can help their pupils to stay focused by drawing attention to the key aspects of the learning. Thinking out loud and numbering the steps is another useful support. For example, "first I add up the ones. Then I add up the 10s." it’s also essential to keep checking that pupils are listening, pausing during the model if pupils get off track.

Putting supports in place like breaking learning down and modelling does not just mean making it easy. Activities should require pupils to put in effort and think, but if a pupil can’t access what they’re learning, it’s likely to have a negative impact on how they act in the classroom. Providing structured, supportive learning can help pupils to experience success, which in turn has a positive impact on behaviour.

Presenter exemplification framing

In the next example, you will see a model of how to provide structured support of learning. As you watch, pay particular attention to the following:

  • Breaks complex material into smaller steps
  • Checks pupils’ understanding of instructions before a task begins

Exemplification: Ambition Institute coach

A really good way of supporting learning is to take an end goal and break it into smaller chunks.

These smaller chunks feel more doable and help to guide pupil thinking.

Imagine that I’m teaching a reception class how to form the lowercase letter m.

“In handwriting today, we are going to be learning the sound, mm. Mmm. You would have learned the sound in reception as down Maisie, mountain, mountain. Now in year one, we need to be accurate with how our Ms look and how we form our Ms. I’m going to show you how I would do it, and I want you to pay close attention, because in a minute you will be doing it too.

[Teacher writes on white board] I’m going to start at the top of Maisie here. I’m going to do a straight line down, straight, straight, straight, come back up and stop at Maisie’s shoulder [teacher gestures to shoulder]. I’m going to form my first mountain by going around and down, and then back up. I’ll stop at the shoulder again, just to make sure both mountains are the same size. I’m going to go around, down, straight, straight, and I’ll add a flick of grass at the end.”

In this example, I was careful to break learning down into smaller steps. Individual steps included drawing a line straight down, starting the mountain 2/3 of the way up, at Maisie’s shoulder, and ensuring that the mountains were the same size. These are the most important steps that I want pupils to remember. It’s easier for them to focus on these smaller parts, one by one, rather than having to remember how the whole letter is formed at once.

Before I started the model, I made sure that every pupil was paying attention by explicitly telling them to watch me because they would be doing the same task on their own. During the model, I was constantly checking the whole group to make sure that all pupils were watching me form the letter. Notice how I help focus pupils’ attention by repeatedly telling pupils where to look: "have a look", "same size". I’m helping to guide their thinking so that they pay attention to the most important things. I also reduced distractions by writing on a blank sheet of paper. Pupils can easily get distracted, so it’s important that we think of ways to direct their attention.

After I delivered my initial model, I would ask pupils to help me form another letter, prompting them to tell me the key steps. This will give them another good example and allow me to check that they have understood the task before getting them to work on their own. When pupils are clear about what they should do and how they can be successful, it motivates them to get started.

Presenter key ideas

In this video, we have explored how providing structured, supportive learning can improve pupil behaviour, and considered some of the ways in which teachers can do this. Now read through the following key ideas that the video has covered. Which ones do you feel that the example illustrated the best?

  • Break complex material into smaller steps
  • Reduce distractions that take attention away from what is being taught
  • Check pupils’ understanding of instructions before a task begins

Presenter summary

When pupils find learning too difficult, they can easily disengage. Breaking complex material down into smaller chunks and taking them through it step by step shows them that they can be successful. And when pupils feel like they are able to do something, they’re much more likely to give it a go.