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High-quality teaching

The first step to supporting all pupils to succeed is ensuring they have access to high-quality teaching. This is sometimes known as Quality First Teaching. High-quality teaching is beneficial for all pupils, not just those who may have additional learning needs.

What strategies do you think would be considered high-quality teaching?


All the strategies would be considered as high-quality teaching.

You may recognise the strategies above as they have been covered earlier in the programme. The strategies listed are just some of the areas that would be considered high-quality teaching - there are many more. The first step in supporting all pupils to achieve success is to develop your teaching practice so that you consistently deliver high-quality teaching. As the English SEND Code of Practice states:

High-quality teaching, differentiated for individual pupils, is the starting point in responding to pupils who have or may have SEN. Additional intervention and SEN support cannot compensate for a lack of good quality teaching. (Department for Education, 2014)

An important part of high-quality teaching is seeking to understand your pupils’ differences, including different levels of prior knowledge and barriers to learning, and then being responsive to those needs. This can be done through adaptive teaching.

Adaptive teaching

Adaptive teaching means being responsive to learners’ needs. This includes providing further challenge to stretch pupils’ learning and providing additional support and scaffold to support pupils who are struggling. There are many ways you can adapt your teaching, but this is less likely to be valuable if it causes you to artificially create distinct tasks for different groups of pupils or set lower expectations for particular pupils. Adapting your teaching should be done in a meaningful way that will have a positive impact on pupils’ learning.

Listen and make notes as Katherine Fas talks about how she has prepared for and implemented adaptive teaching. You will then be asked to identify and recall at least four strategies that Katherine mentions.

Adaptive teaching – Katherine Fas

Video transcript

All pupils learn at different rates and require different levels of support to achieve, so it’s important we adapt our teaching to meet the needs of all learners in the class.

Before I deliver a new topic, I have always found a good starting point is to consider where the learners have come from. Looking at the national curriculum or progression maps informed me of what pupils will have already covered in other year groups that link to the topic I was about to teach. This supported me in pitching the sequence of lessons correctly as it helped to identify what existing skills I could build upon.

The next step was to use any available information I had that could tell me what the children’s learning needs would be in this area and more generally. Knowing my pupils was key here. Sometimes, I would give pupils a task to assess their confidence and competence in the given subject, and other times I would use information that I already knew about the children to identify who might require additional support. Before teaching a topic, I would identify a selection of children to deliver a pre-teaching session to. These children would be pupils who lacked critical prior knowledge or required content to be further broken down. Pre-teaching would allow them to be at a similar starting point to their peers when new material was introduced to the whole class. One of the main things I focused on in these sessions was the vocabulary I would be covering in the topic. Research has found that many gaps in attainment can be linked to vocabulary comprehension and when these gaps are narrowed, pupils have a much greater chance of success.

During the lessons themselves, I ensured I made use of well-designed resources to ensure the learners were supported to achieve the learning goal. I also found it really useful to give myself and any other additional adult a specific role in the lessons by working with a target group to either provide additional support or challenge to pupils. I would often start by working with the pupils that received pre-teaching, to ensure they were supported in embedding the content I delivered into practice. However, I would always ensure that these target groups were not static and built a culture of acceptance by reinforcing that these groups were fluid and any child could be in them at any given time.

How did I know which pupils to work with during a lesson?

I used a variety of formative assessment strategies, such as questioning, throughout the lesson to ensure that myself, my teaching assistant and the pupils themselves were aware of the progress they were making against the success criteria. This way, at any point in the lesson, I could shift my focus to a different target group. For example, if pupils I supported at the beginning of the lesson gained confidence, I could work with children who faced a different barrier in their learning. A particularly good strategy I have found when it comes to assessing who might need further support is the use of hinge questions. These questions quickly and effectively informed me and the learners of how well they understood something at a point in the lesson when a quick intervention could be implemented to support pupils to succeed in their next steps.

Towards the end of the lesson, I always found it useful for the children to self-assess against the learning goal by placing their books in colour coded trays. I personally used a traffic-light system, where green was used if they felt ready to go, amber if they were almost there and red if they were unsure. Generally, due to the work that had been done in the lesson to ensure pupils were on-track, there were few children who were left completely in the dark, but it still happens and it’s important for pupils to ensure they feel confident at sharing this!

Asking pupils to self-assess throughout, but especially towards the end of the lesson, helped me to prioritise my marking and feedback. Reading through the work and identifying common misconceptions present in groups of pupils helped to plan how I would group pupils in the next lesson.

In summary, the 5 greatest tools for me in adapting my lessons for the learners were:

  • Knowing the children inside and out!
  • Prioritising assessment opportunities throughout the lessons
  • Planning for questioning that will support and extend
  • Ensuring a fluid group structure
  • Using marking and feedback opportunities effectively and consistently, ensuring that these are built into lesson and classroom culture

In your notebook, list at least four strategies that Katherine uses to adapt her teaching.


There are many ways that you can prepare for adaptive teaching, but the areas that Katherine talks about are listed below. You may have grouped her ideas differently to this representation, which is fine.

  • Considering prior knowledge and assessing the pupil’s current ability.
  • Identifying pupils who have less prior knowledge and pre-teaching them key vocabulary.
  • Providing scaffolds to pupils within a lesson, including by working with a group of pupils.
  • Using formative assessment throughout the lesson to identify pupils who may need additional support or further challenge.
  • Using self-assessment and marking to provide effective feedback and decide how to group pupils in the following lesson.

Developing prior knowledge through pre-teaching

Throughout the programme so far, the importance of prior knowledge has arisen on numerous occasions. In module 2, you explored the importance of considering prior knowledge when planning how much information to introduce. In module 3, you explored how to support pupils to activate or draw upon prior knowledge when working independently by modelling using ‘Think Aloud’. In module 4, you explored how to use assessment to check for prior knowledge and identify possible misconceptions. In this session, you will explore how to develop pupils’ prior knowledge through pre-teaching.

Prior knowledge is important for learning for all pupils but especially those with additional learning needs because:

  • It reduces working memory load – pre-teaching enables the teacher to further break content down into smaller steps which helps prevent working memory overload.
  • New knowledge is learnt by attaching to existing knowledge – if pupils don’t have any knowledge of the material being taught, it is much harder for them to process and remember new information.

Therefore, pupils with poor prior knowledge are at risk from being unable to access the material you are teaching.

How do you identify pupils who require pre-teaching?

Before you teach a topic, it is important that you assess a pupil’s prior knowledge and current understanding. As Katherine suggests in her video, this can be done by considering what pupils have already covered earlier on in the curriculum. However, just because pupils have been taught something, it does not mean they have retained that knowledge. We know from our understanding of how pupils learn that information needs to be revisited in order to be retained. Therefore, you should be careful when making assumptions about pupils’ prior knowledge and, where possible, assess pupils’ current level of understanding in a topic. This will help you to identify which pupils require pre-teaching before a topic or lesson.

Often, you will already know which pupils will benefit from pre-teaching based on your understanding of your pupils and your experience of working with them throughout the academic year.

Using pre-teaching to develop prior knowledge

Pupils’ prior knowledge can be developed in a variety of ways, but this session will focus on pre-teaching. Pre-teaching is when pupils are taught key information prior to it being taught in a lesson. Pre-teaching provides pupils with essential foundational knowledge that they can draw upon during a lesson. This is likely to increase the pupils’ attention, focus and motivation.

Identifying material to pre-teach

When identifying what material to pre-teach, you will need to have secure subject knowledge and a good understanding of pupils’ needs. Therefore, it can be helpful to work with colleagues such as a subject or phase lead and your Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo).

When planning content to pre-teach, you should follow the same principles as you would when planning explanations during a lesson. Information should be broken down into small chunks and made memorable to avoid working memory overload. Pre-teaching should be an extension of the teaching sequence, breaking down the foundational knowledge into even smaller steps. Therefore, key vocabulary or facts that will be present during the lesson can be a good focus for a pre-teaching session. The example below demonstrates what this might look like in practice.


If teaching a lesson on the Ancient Egyptians, the key vocabulary or facts that might be identified for pre-teaching are:

  • Egypt
  • Ancient Egyptians
  • tomb
  • Tutankhamun
  • pyramid
  • hieroglyphics
  • shaduf For best effect, the words above should be accompanied with a graphical representation to support pupil understanding.

What might a pre-teaching session entail?

The aim of any pre-teaching session is to teach pupils key information that will help them to access the material being taught in the classroom.

There are many ways that a pre-teaching session might run in school and it will be up to you to decide what is best for your pupils based on their needs and the material being taught. There is no one size fits all. You will need to decide on the number of pupils to include in the pre-teaching session, how long the session should run for, and how regular the sessions should be. You will also need to consider how the session should be delivered. It would be beneficial to work closely with your SENCo and other special education professionals to support you in making these decisions.

Example of how a teacher could run a pre-teaching session

Adam, a class teacher, is about to begin a new topic on Ancient Egyptians. Through assessment and his understanding of pupils’ needs within his class, he identifies 4 pupils who would benefit from pre-teaching.

He looks at the first lesson he will teach and identifies key subject-specific vocabulary that will be present in the lesson. He knows that he must be selective with which vocabulary to choose - he doesn’t want to choose too many words and overload pupils’ working memory. As a result, he chooses five words that he believes the pupils will be least familiar with and which will appear most frequently.

He plans to run a ten-minute session to teach pupils the key vocabulary. During the session, he begins by explaining the vocabulary with the use of pictures, actions and non-examples (where appropriate) and asks probing questions to check understanding. He then presents one word to the group and asks them to share what it means with their partner. He works his way through the remaining vocabulary and provides corrective or affirmative feedback to pupils.

In this example, the teacher is delivering the session. However, if you have additional adults available, they may be able to run the session provided you give them the correct resources and information that they need. If you don’t feel as though you have the available time and don’t have an additional adult to support with pre-teaching, the resource could be sent home with pupils. Parents or carers can work with their child to pre-teach material ahead of the lesson.

Working closely with parents and carers is very important when supporting all pupils to succeed and is something that will be explored in later sessions.

Application to practice

In this activity, you will begin to plan how you can support pupils who have different levels of prior knowledge to access a lesson you will soon teach. Draft a plan for a pre-teaching session to be delivered in school by yourself or by an additional adult, or to be sent home for parents or carers to deliver.

Use the following points to help you when planning:

  • identify the next lesson or topic where you think pupils will benefit from pre-teaching
  • identify pupil(s) who will benefit from pre-teaching either based on their prior knowledge or your understanding of their needs
  • identify key vocabulary or facts to include in the session
  • plan how you, an additional adult or a parent or carer will deliver the session
  • make use of existing well-designed resources where possible You will share this with your mentor in your next meeting and this will be the practice focus.