Come fly with me

Tips on teaching programs to carry the whole class with you

Kathryn Bellach

Kathryn Bellach, assistant principal at Guildford West PS

Programming is key to engaging students who are learning at their level while meeting syllabus requirements. To make your programming effective, begin with these key questions:

  • What do I want my students to learn?
  • Why does it matter?
  • What evidence will I collect to demonstrate their learning?
  • What am I going to get them to do?
  • How will I differentiate the learning so all students can achieve at their level?

These questions are vital and should always form the basis of your program along with the syllabus outcomes. Make sure the focus is not just on the content being taught but also the skills for the students to become lifelong learners. After looking at the syllabus for the outcomes that need to covered there are a few other aspects to consider.

Try to program around your own and your students’ passions and interests to ensure the students are engaged and willing to participate in the learning. Try things like incorporating football scores or ladders during maths lessons or a love of cooking into literacy lessons.

When programming, it is important to focus on an outcomes-based yet student-directed approach. Let the students guide their own learning. This will encourage self-regulation and inquiry-based research into your classroom.

Only program around a few quality up-to-date resources. We could spend our whole lives as teachers searching the internet for the perfect resource or idea. Find a few websites that you trust and can always use and start with those. There is no point in reinventing the wheel.

Always incorporate assessment and work backwards — start with the end in mind. Decide, based on the syllabus, what the expected end point is. What will it look like? How will students demonstrate their understanding? Then work backwards from there and scaffold the students each step through the unit of work so they have the possibility of reaching that end point and maybe a few small assessments along the way.

Plan time to allow for self/peer/teacher feedback. We, as teachers, know the value of feedback for students. Ensure through your programming that there is enough time to facilitate the various types of feedback and that it becomes a valuable part of all lessons.

Sequence lessons and units of work around your timetable and term planner. We all know that throughout any day or week at school there are likely to be various interruptions. Try and program around events that you know about in advance like sporting carnivals, assemblies and excursions: this will ensure you are not rushing at the end and your students will be able to achieve their goals.

Your program is an important communication tool. It should be able to be picked up by anyone and understood. You never know when someone is going to have to take over from you and they need to know what has been covered and where the class is up to.

Programming relates to Standard 3 within the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. This means that we all need to, as professionals, write and implement quality teaching and learning programs to ensure all our students’ needs are being met.

Programming is an important aspect of teaching and one that does get easier over time — just remember that you are writing a program to make your life easier, not harder.

Kathryn Bellach is an Assistant Principal at Guildford West PS. She has been a teacher mentor and a presenter at many teacher training courses including those for the Centre for Professional Learning (CPL). A version of this article first appeared in JPL, Federation’s Journal of Professional Learning. For more indepth articles of use to teachers go to the CPL website and click on the JPL site.