We teach the National Curriculum together with our Federation’s;

 ‘Knowledge-Rich Curriculum’

What is it?

In a nutshell, our knowledge-rich curriculum design is not one simply based on new learning of words and their meaning, and where knowledge is retained for only the short term, but is one where knowledge is mapped horizontally and vertically, so children can re-visit and build on prior learning and it becomes permanent. 

A knowledge-rich curriculum focuses on the long-term retention of specific information and vocabulary, achieved by: immersing children in the subject or concept by layering their learning; inspiring independent enquiry and creativity through use of high-quality resources and high-leverage activities; using low-stakes quizzing; revisiting knowledge and developing it within a culture of high-challenge but low-threat learning.

How do we deliver our knowledge rich curriculum?

  • At Flourish Federation, we prioritise subject knowledge over content.
  • We focus on embedding the learning into long term memory using books as hooks in, revisiting prior learning and using a range of low threat quiz type activities to refresh and assess learning and embed learning. To this end the Knowledge Rich curriculum focuses on the knowledge children need to acquire and they are assessed on whether they have learnt that knowledge through regular and half termly quizzes. We call this; Quizzing for knowledge. Children’s acquisition of knowledge is also assessed by referring back to prior learning throughout the year and in subsequent year groups.
  • Story is everywhere.  Story gives us knowledge, story gives us meaning, it gives us process which equals progress.  Stories open the learning up, making it inclusive for all children and increase the excitement and thirst to learn more. They introduce quite complex concepts in a child-friendly manner and lead to lots of classroom discussion and engagement. We also hook children into all our foundation subjects using quality books and stories, poems and pieces of art work too.
  • Vocabulary - The 2 tier words ( frequently occurring words that are central to comprehension) are recapped throughout the year, applied in different contexts and other subjects to embed them in children’s long-term memory. We complement this through our storytime phonics approach in the Early Years and the principles from Jane Corsodine approach; ‘hooked on books’ too as we know knowledge sits under vocab (E. D Hirsch). By immersing ourselves in the domain,  teaching the words in their natural context so they will make sense, ensures children then get the stickiness. We provide a rich curriculum that is broad, has depth and an-inclusion strategy- the inclusion comes from a shared knowledge base. No child misses out, everyone is included.
  • Children can suffer cognitive overload if knowledge is unfamiliar and this knowledge can easily be lost, we aim to teach in chunks of 3 with regular recapping, choral response in full sentences and oral repetition & practice. Teachers pedagogy encourages children to make links and connections For example, don't check 1, check 5 and with high leverage activities- we let the content sing, Not the activities (Christine Counsell).

Research around why we have adopted this approach.

We need language acquisition for our learners as we know writing piggybacks on language. If you can't speak it, you can't write it. Our children need opportunities for discussion. Through their talk they create a new context. We need to move children from their present to their future potential, therefore, conversations need to be designed to find out what children already know and understand, or to support, through questioning or answering questions of the child’s current thinking. We want to take stories more seriously. Because stories are enjoyable, we have a tendency to underestimate their power. However, great stories can leverage learning, as learning is likely to be deeper by using them. The importance of stories is backed up by findings from cognitive science. Our brains privilege stories (Willingham).

We know ‘Reading’ is the bedrock on which all learning takes place and its thorough teaching of it. Children do not get better at reading by practising test questions. This is just practising surface skills. All children get better at reading by building up a richer vocabulary about the world.

School Outcomes - and the consequences of this.  We know from past tests and SATs papers that children struggled to answer questions. It’s what they don’t know that’s holding them back. Curriculum Subjects need to be taught explicitly for those 2-tier words to come about. It's simply not possible to be culturally literate without knowledge of these subjects.  We know you can’t study classics, plays and poetry without knowledge of history, geography, religion and science.

Procedural knowledge is skills. Knowledge is the foundation upon which skills are built. We can’t just practise a skill - we need knowledge. We need to foster a love of reading and help children develop their vocabulary so that children become fluent, confident and proficient readers.  This is extra crucial for disadvantaged children. Science, humanities and exciting stories provide rich vocabulary. Teaching needs to be built around high-leverage teaching activities - highly efficient use of time, Quizzing for core knowledge securing long-term retention of knowledge, and its later, deliberate re-use (Christine Counsell)

Further Research from E D Hirsch

Research from cognitive science tells us children have the same short term memory (STM) as us but theirs is not as good. We hold 7 pieces of knowledge in the working memory (STM). The working memory is limited. You can’t change your STM capacity.  The Long Term Memory is not limited, its capacity to hold knowledge is vast. Loss is caused by lack of secure knowledge. Working memory is where you hold new things, If something is unfamiliar to children it will overload them and won’t get stored. We need to store our pupils' knowledge in their LTM. If activities don’t focus squarely on the knowledge, it's distracted, it becomes lost. Working memory is responsible for temporarily holding information available for processing. We process this to the STM through chunking. We aim to build up our pupils ‘chunked’ knowledge in LTM

We know as educators we are memory builders.  If we address this for our pupils we go further.  We are aware that we must not overload children’s working memory - ‘cognitive overload’   If nothing has changed in the long term memory - nothing has been learned (Christine Counsell).

A schema describes a pattern of thought that organizes categories of information and the relationships among them. Knowledge needs to be ‘sticky’ so that links can be made. Then we have schemata. We know a reader actively brings past schemata to a specific text. Schemata sits behind words.  The reader is actively selecting the most appropriate schemata for making sense of the incoming words until a good fit is achieved but if there is a lack of quick access to appropriate schemata or its not available, the process has to be painfully restarted, they can’t make sense, can’t comprehend what they are reading. The reader isn’t able to retrieve and organise knowledge (Anderson). 

No good reader is a very slow reader. The limits of STM do not allow the integration of ‘unchunked’ material and so crucial parts of meaning are lost to memory. A well-developed schema is a kind of mental shorthand.  It allows a reader to make sense of incoming words and connect information rapidly. Speed of comprehension. We need to build our pupils' store of ‘Chunked’ knowledge, -the gist, not a list. Lesson activities must not overload children’s working memory.