Why I love…Interleaving the Curriculum

The excel documents that I have linked to are here: Year 9-10-11 Office Overviews 2017 – 2018 Curriculum Maps

As key stage four co-ordinator for English the curriculum map is adapted every year by me to consider what we want to be taught in Y9, Y10 and Y11, and in conjunction with discussions with the HOD, @Daveg5478. This year we decided that we wanted to have our curriculum focused on interleaving learning and returning to prior learning in all year groups, which meant a big shift in thinking about how the curriculum map functions for the department and how we implement these changes.

Our whole school KS4 starts in Y9, but we use Y9 in English mainly as a foundational year for the GCSE rather than teaching the texts. This means that the units that the students are taught have the GCSE skills embedded in them, but they are not the core texts (apart from five war poems from The Anthology and teaching the storyline/plot/sequence of events for Romeo and Juliet). We return to Romeo and Juliet in depth in Y11. While this approach may not work for everyone it has stood us in good stead, so far. I’ve used an excel spreadsheet as the curriculum map has several layers now, which is different to how it looked in the past.

Old Style Curriculum Map Example here: (as you can see it isn’t anywhere near as complex as the new model with interleaving included)

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We have adapted the curriculum to take into consideration a curriculum that allows for interleaving and continual reference back and revision of previous units embedded with the overview. For Year 9, 10 and 11 it looks like this:

Year 9 Overview

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Year 9 Grammar SOW Map

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Year 10 Curriculum Map


Year 11 Curriculum Map


Having reflected on previous year group results, common areas for improvement and how we wanted to tighten literacy skills, we decided that writing accuracy was a core area of focus for us. This meant that with 8 lessons a week we felt it would be important to dedicate a lesson a fortnight to specific grammar-based lessons. Upon discussion with teachers who sometimes have a class once a fortnight and based on our enduring love for Of Mice and Men and @Becky1820 trialling the use of this text the previous academic year, we embedded within Y9 these specific focused lessons using the vehicle of ‘Of Mice and Men’ to ensure that the grammar lessons were not superfluous or seen as less important by the students. We recognised that this would mean reading the text over the whole year and that this may seem excessive, however initial mid-year feedback suggests from staff and students (informally completed) that the problems we thought this might cause with boredom or the unit going on for too long have not actually arisen.

From the map you can see that the term, weeks, number of lessons are mapped out. This is to help with the SOW that sit behind the overview. When putting this together, if a SOW has more lessons, then I/we will adapt the SOW to suit how much time we have if needed or add to it. We have the main unit that is taught. In this case Roald Dahl Reading and Writing. The Reading unit ties in with Language Paper 1A questions A1 to A5 and we teach the short stories (The Landlady, Lamb to the Slaughter and The Hitchhiker for this unit) for us and the Writing unit ties in with the creative writing Paper 1B. During the teaching of this unit we expect starters to be used to revise prior knowledge and for teachers to continually ensure that the students have revisited work from the previous lesson, series of lessons or weeks of lessons and in this way we hope that continual reinforcement of knowledge being taught is embedding in the students’ long term memories.

In the first term there is no specific interleaving lessons, but this kicks in in the second term with specific revision lessons being set into the plan for revising what they have already learnt in term 1, in order to keep the knowledge and skills alive. These revision lessons increase as the terms and knowledge that the students have learnt increases and we embed specific revision weeks towards the end of the year as well. During these lessons we expect the students to go be focusing on information that is already learnt in order to ensure, again that it is in their long-term memories. When looking at mapping these revision lessons I spaced these out to consider the effect of forgetting and retrieving information, that will help students retain more in the long term.

This year we also introduced Knowledge Organisers which are embedded into the lessons all the time. We didn’t want the KO to be a superfluous piece of paper that got stuck into books and then forgotten about, however we also recognised that creating all the KO work in advance was going to be difficult. Therefore, we make sure in advance of a unit that a KO has been created with the agreed format and information on it and checked by everyone in the team. Then, we provide one of these to every student in the class and embed them into our lessons. There are many ways in which we have done this, and the list below is some useful suggestions of how the KO work can be embedded so that students understand how relevant they are to their learning. Further to this work embedded in lessons and as homework tasks with self-quizzing and other methods being engaged with, we also create a GoogleForms multiple choice quiz and two weeks after the unit has finished and the students have ‘finished’ with the unit we complete a quiz with everyone in our classes to see how much has been learnt and to highlight areas of uncertainty. The GoogleForms quiz which I researched extensively appeared to be the best platform for us to create these quizzes and because the students input their school e-mail and have their own accounts teachers can see individual, as well as whole group issues. We will then (as teachers) use this information to return to areas of concern in our embedded revision lessons or as starters to address any misconceptions and make the KO learning relevant and useful for informing our teaching.

List of ways we suggest KO learning can be useful and mean that students are engaging purposefully with them:

• vocabulary work – the students use the KO vocab in sentences linking it to the story and for the more able to create a paragraph
• Form questions using the vocabulary about the story for answering.
• Use the KOs to pose a question to another student.
• Call out some of the information from the KO to the class and got them to self assess in their books with a tick :-/ or cross how they felt about that information, then asked them to learn it.
• In teaching if I know the information is in the KO and they are asking me or each other I am saying to them – have a look in your KO and they are looking up the information, reinforcing the usefulness of these tools.
• Starter tasks being used to embed learning over time consistently
• Short quick quizzes
• Questions in teaching to link back and forward
• Homework used to interleave previous/current learning for both Lang & Lit
• Peer marking 11 down to 10 used very well to embed cognition of different skills being used (one to explore further)
• Quote explosions for concise layers of meaning being used well
• Differentiated learning in place – literacy starters embedded for lower ability students
• Get students to quiz each other using the KO
• Use the five in five starters to introduce the KO info from @TLPMsF
• Reading task – get students to read the task and ask them to analyse some of the key quotes or create a profile of the core content/characters/themes etc.
• Reading task – create a red herring information about the KO and get students to identify the herrings
• Writing tasks – give students a task which involves applying the information in the KO E.g. Write an acronym poem to explore the skills in the KO, or write about a time when you knew less about R&J than you did now and wow me with your current knowledge, or write a diary entry as Juliet explaining all the things other characters have said and done
• Create a KO bingo card and play the bingo game – students who get a line have to explain how the Bingo word in their line is relevant
• Discussion based task – explain what the KO is about and why they need to know the information on it. Get students to discuss what they know.
• Use some of the metacognition tasks. E.g. – Write a letter to a parent to explain what you absolutely must know in relation to (insert KO). Remember to include – (subtitles from the KO here) – See the Metacognition Guide as an example of some of the tasks that could be used as an example for embedding this into lessons
• Create KO bookmarks using the different sections – task the students with learning the information and reciting it to the rest of the class
• Get students into groups and do a silent debate – give 4 key titles and ask them to silently add to all sections till all full of their knowledge and added to by each other. (diff coloured pen to show who has made most points)
• Get students to create their own questions on the KO
• Learning grids and dice games – can be pictoral clues or prompts or questions in the grids

We use these KO prompts and ideas throughout our lessons and in all year groups and so far we have been impressed that the starting point of knowledge, which we want all student to have, based on the information in the KO documents has been learnt by students and that they have engaged really well with these.

Year 10

There is a slight change to the way we work in Year 10. Instead of having the specific grammar focus we have Knowledge Skills/Lessons which are lessons that are dedicated to learning/revising specific knowledge from the KO or from previous learning. Other than this slight change the curriculum map functions the same in Year 10 and Y11 as it does in Y9.

The rationale behind still teaching in units and then revisiting continuously is to try to ‘embed learning over time’ and ensure that students have in their memories the information that they will need to succeed not only in their exams but after school as well. By revisiting information and allowing students to forget and relearn we hope that the student have better recall of this knowledge and that we are better preparing them for further study or the world outside the classroom.

I hope that this makes sense and that you can see how we have arrived at the decisions we have for the curriculum maps in English in Y9, Y10 and Y11 and that it is clear that this is a work in progress that we will revisit, tweak and adapt as we discover what we like, what works, what needs to be changed and heaven forbid after all the work that has gone into this – what needs to be ditched.

Let me know whether this is useful. I do think that this could be a really powerful way of adapting units and embedding learning across the curriculum and not just in English. Thanks for reading.

For keeping track I also created this overview document with a run down by term of what we are trying to achieve and in my fortnightly bulletin for KS4 I include the relevant information for teachers as a reminder too.

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4 thoughts on “Why I love…Interleaving the Curriculum

  1. This is really useful, thank you. Great see a practical example of interleaving. Clearly a lot of thought has been put into it. However, I cannot read the images of the SOW properly. Is there any chance you can post larger images?


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