When the inspector entered, the pupils were sitting on the carpet around the teacher. She was gently exploring whether they understood the concepts ‘old’ and ‘new’and the differences between the present and the past. The pupils responded very well to this. Virtually all were keen to contribute to the discussion. Two teaching assistants gave gentle prompts to two children who, as a result, were eager and able to contribute. Next, the teacher showed a basket of toys. She explained that she wanted the children to help her sort them into old toys and new toys and then put them into two labelled hoops on the floor. The teacher took each toy in turn from the basket and then selected a child to begin a discussion on whether the toy was old or new and why. This worked well as all the children were keen to express an opinion and she found ways of enabling this. She was careful to include the pupils with learning difficulties. When it was their turn to give an opinion, she (and the other pupils) paced the moment well so that the pupils did not feel under pressure. As a result, they did well.

What was really good about this lesson was the way the teacher encouraged pupils to look carefully at each object and describe it, including some of the fine detail – for example, that it was cracked or the paint on it was peeling or a bit was missing. Not only was she teaching them to handle evidence, but she was also teaching them new words. At the end of this part of the lesson, the teacher produced a board on which she had already pinned cards showing the words the children had used. Encouraging a combination of phonic strategies and whole word recognition, she asked individuals and all pupils to say the words aloud. Pupils were set appropriate tasks, including drawing selected toys in their books and writing brief descriptions. All pupils, including those with learning difficulties, learnt a lot in this lesson – speaking, listening, handling and interpreting evidence, developing vocabulary, drawing, writing and working together.

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