sessions not lessons

There is a real conflict between the way schools cut up units of time and learning. This can be seen across a school year, a day and an individual lesson.

‍Learning is messy.

If we want the highest impact possible, we can't continue to box up learning into neat and tidy individual hours. That's not how learning works. It's also back to front. The temptation is to fill the time allocated by what fits. Not what is best for children's learning. A better starting point would be to decide what you want children to learn. Then approximate how long this would take. Unless you are following an off the shelf scheme of work, this is unlikely to naturally sit at a chunk of time you have available.

We need to start seeing what we want children to learn as a session that may take one or more lessons (where lessons are the traditional allocated time periods). Free from the constraints of time, teachers can be far more formative in their approach to learning. Gone are end of lesson plenaries, replaced by much more purposeful in the moment formative assessment strategies and responsive teaching based on what is elicited about children's learning.

Of course, we have to be realistic with how much time can be allocated to whatever it is that is being learnt but the flexibility created by approaching learning as a series of sessions with each one spread however many lessons is deemed worthwhile really aids impact.

This stacks all the way up to half terms, which have traditionally been seen as 6 week units of work. Why?! Instead, plan the long term order for units of work (series of sessions) but don't constrain it to be completed by the end of 'autumn 2', for example. By doing this, you'll find that children are given far more appropriate lengths of time to learn what is needed. Some shorter, some longer.

Requiring an Overview

Whilst you can usually happily go about constructing and thinking about sessions instead of lessons, stepping up the timescale to half terms does require some light touch checking from someone. This could be self-checked by individual teachers, the subject leader or SLT. Purely for the purpose of ensuring full coverage of the units and curriculum is taught (there's no point in teaching a unit of music for an extra 9 weeks at the detriment to an entire other unit not being touched).

Working in this way can be incredibly liberating and potentially impactful. You just need to have the commitment to stay on track with coverage and trust in teachers knowing what is best for their class.