20th January 2022
Resources are an essential part of your curriculum delivery. Often referred to as the ‘final foot’ of a school’s curriculum, they can make or break a lesson and support or disrupt a teaching sequence. So how can we create resources that fit the bill?
Over the past ten years, you have given us excellent feedback about the teaching resources we create to support your curriculum teaching. It’s something that we are proud of, and it really spurs us on. With the introduction of our online curriculum platform, Maestro, we have made it even easier for you to access the resources that you need.
Catherine Scutt is the Curriculum Manager at Cornerstones and leads the development of our primary lesson resources. Here, she provides insight into what it takes to create the highest quality curriculum resources.
Resources are an essential part of teaching your curriculum and can enhance or disrupt the effectiveness of a lesson. As Head of Education and Social Reform, John Blake describes in his Policy Exchange report; teaching resources are the ‘final foot’ of a curriculum. That’s why our team always takes the curriculum content and objectives as the starting point for resource creation.
Here, I’ll share the process my team and I go through to create a teaching resource. I hope it gives you some pointers about designing your own lesson resources or what to look for when using published ones, like ours.
Planning is a vital stage. People are often amazed by how much time goes into planning a resource. We start by looking at the project and its place in the broader curriculum framework, considering the main objectives, subject concepts, and knowledge that children will be taught in the lessons. Next, we decide what resources will help teachers deliver specific learning intentions and knowledge. There is a lot to consider. For example, how will the resource be used? Does this resource need to introduce new knowledge and vocabulary? Does it need to revisit previously learned knowledge and vocabulary? How will we ensure that it’s age-appropriate? Is video, audio or text the best format?
From speaking with headteachers and recently attending an Ofsted presentation, it’s clear that lesson resources are coming under increased scrutiny. Ofsted expect to see that resources are matched to the curriculum, identify and introduce children to knowledge as outlined in the curriculum, and sequence it correctly. Likewise, if the resources require a child to perform a skill, such as analysis, it must be clear that children have learned the knowledge they need to do it.
Tip: Plan your resources as you plan your curriculum, rather than doing it as an afterthought. When you plan your lessons and resources simultaneously, you can achieve much better synchronicity between the two.
Most of the resources that we create require detailed research. As primary curriculum writers and teachers, we’re responsible for supporting children’s knowledge and skills development in nearly 2000 schools, and we take this very seriously. Research is often painstaking and involves going beyond the initial internet search to check facts, looking at several sources, reference books and contacting subject experts. Research can take a lot of time but is ultimately worth it to make sure information is accurate and up to date. This stage can take us many weeks for some projects to ensure it’s completely correct.
Tip: Do your research. Don’t rely on internet information sites for accurate information – some of the most common information sites often contain factual errors or opinions rather than facts. Instead, use trusted sites such as the BBC, museums and galleries and Encyclopaedia Britannica.
As teachers, we know the importance of presenting information in a way that helps children learn. There has been much research into cognitive load theory – essentially, that our working memory can only hold so much information at one time. Like us, children can be overwhelmed by too much new information, making it harder to retain and recall knowledge. At Cornerstones, we design our projects and resources with this in mind. We sequence and build upon children’s exposure to new information, often using engaging ways to teach core knowledge, such as through stories, audio recordings and colourful video presentations. We also include low-stakes quizzes to keep things fresh in children’s minds. It’s essential that the content in a resource is succinct and to consider the layout and design, too. The knowledge organisers accompanying each of our projects are an excellent example of this approach.
Tip: Make sure your resources present information in a well-sequenced fashion without extraneous detail or decoration to distract the learner.
I am lucky to work with an incredible group of primary experts at Cornerstones, including a team of dedicated curriculum advisers. Everyone is passionate about their subject discipline, understands its practical pedagogical approaches and keeps up to date with national and research-based developments. For example, we are members of the Geographical Association and the Historical Association, attending regular events to inform our practice. When we need support, we look to external subject experts to ensure we have the best possible advice, which we then pass on to you. Recently we shared with you our work with independent researcher and heritage consultant Dr. Angelina Osborne to produce our year six project, Maafa.
Tip: Subject knowledge and high expectations are increasingly challenging for primary teachers and subject leaders. If creating your own resources, don’t hesitate to seek professional expertise for areas of the curriculum that you feel less confident with.
Layout and design are crucial for a resource to support learning successfully. Fussy design, lengthy text or poorly arranged images can detract from the learning intentions and affect children’s engagement. We work with talented designers who shape our drafts into beautifully finished resources. Visuals can involve anything from designing a simple quiz sheet to illustrated stories and animated videos. We carefully select images and captions to create consistency throughout the curriculum.
Tip: If you know someone adept at design, then seek their support and ensure the design of the resource supports the intended purpose of the resource.
It can be hard for teachers to find the right image for a resource, especially if there are copyright restrictions. To bring the absolute best images and accurate sources to children and teachers, we use professional archive services and talk directly to museums, national libraries and charities. This means that we can use rare and inspiring images that would otherwise be unavailable to teachers, such as the wartime images in the Britain at War project and the archaeological photographs in the Through the Ages project.
Tip: If you’re going it alone, take the time to source the best images you can find. It really does make a difference to the quality of your lessons and therefore children’s learning.
We create every resource with teachers and children at the forefront of our minds, and we strive to give them the very best. After all the work involved in producing a resource, there must be no errors. We are obsessive about our checking process. Each resource goes through several checks, including proofreading, visual checks and a final sign-off. When all the project resources have been created for a project, we’ll look at them as a set along with the project lesson plans. This gives us the assurance that they work as a unit and fulfil the project’s objectives
Tip: Take time to check and double-check any resource you create.
Key features of the example include:
All our resources are available online on Curriculum Maestro and are available for all year groups from nursery to year 6.
If you want to know more about the curriculum and teaching resources we offer, or want to see our materials in action, then why not book an online demo with one of our friendly curriculum advisers? Alternatively, if you would like to discover more about the Cornerstones Curriculum click the button below.
‘Cornerstones offers a real depth of well-considered, knowledge-rich resources.’ Anthony David, Executive Headteacher, Monken Hadley School, Barnet
30th March 2022
05th July 2021
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