In 2013 I started as an NQT in a new-build academy in a largely young and adventurous English department. Much of my practice was shaped by my time there and one of the best creations which I have taken to other schools has been our ‘Progress Pack’. A somewhat gimmicky title coined by my HOD has proven a strong tool for our students’ autonomy as well as an important method of support.
My HOD asked me to design a ‘Progress Pack’ which would contain key help sheets to support our students with the same fundamental mistakes in literacy that are common in KS3 and KS4 English classrooms: capital letters, homophones, conjunctions, generic paragraph sentence starters. This began some five years ago now as black and white word docs – essentially literacy information grouped together. Our ‘Progress Packs’ have evolved and taken many forms over the last few years and now encompass an important ethos for myself new in my own HOD role: work smart not hard, vocabulary and consistency.
I saw these packs as an opportunity to eliminate unnecessary of often repetitive printing; how many times have you found yourself printing out a support resource knowing full well you have gone through the motions days/weeks/months before only to lose that printing or for it to be tucked haphazardly into a student’s book? Let’s not even get into the endless wastage of glue and paper sticking these in… We were very lucky in my NQT school for having a printer in our department workroom yet come Monday morning and you would find twelve English teachers all trying to print their resources before morning briefing – not ideal. Having a bank of resources in our ‘Progress Pack’ became a real stress reducer and saved our valuable printing credits for booklets and revision guides. Now growing another department, I see the value in saving people time wherever possible, pooling resources and having a ‘house style’. The benefit of this is twofold: teachers focus less on the mundane: the printing, the sticking, and more on the creative and cognitive. Our mornings are now more focused on sharing books we have read or anecdotes from the weekend that bring us closer as colleagues.
Ultimately, we had a simple remit with the ‘Progress Pack’ put all the resources we use regularly in one place for teachers and students to access. Make these beautiful and reusable. The alliterative name has stuck rather like those silly jingles but we’ve grown to love it. Here are some examples and how we use it and how it has developed over time:
The first version included the basics of literacy and grammar that we used with all year groups where necessary. Often when homophones came up as a result of A4L in class, examples were crucial and to have these pre-made to give to individual students allowed more teacher freedom within the classroom. Plain and simple reference material.
Next came the addition of those acronyms for persuasive writing. AFOREST is out of fashion at the moment but bear with me, this has been a five-year journey. These were useful to share with students on their tables as their individual checklists rather than having to stick in or write on the board repeatedly over the course of a unit. ‘Progress Packs’ also helped alleviate time agonising on differentiation in observation planning if only one or two support groups needed them – there you have beautiful laminated coloured resources used regularly and not just trotted out for a visitor like a show pony.
Next came our creative writing resources and the realisation that if students came to us without a love of reading and a limited vocabulary, the need for guidance and support in their own writing was essential. I created for them vocabulary support sheets they could refer to during our feedback sessions when in my marking I had asked them to work on their use of sensory detail or emotive vocabulary. One of my favourites was the creation of a colour thesaurus for descriptive writing:
We have other pages such as a ‘dictionary of body language’ to enhance the show don’t tell principle as well as analytical sentence starters, banned words, cribs sheets for analysing tone and mood, story mountain and colour connotations.
What made this really special as the ‘Progress Pack’ grew and developed over time was that we could offer really individualised support for students by telling them to use certain pages based on their areas of development. We could take this even further by supporting our ESL/EAL/ELL students without highlighting them as receiving anything above and beyond other students by making their resources look just like the support other students received. We could give them the vocabulary used in translation without marking them out in front of other students. Here is an example of this in action for Czech students:
Improving my knowledge of adobe, office and photoshop allowed my to design all my own pages and with the inspiration of aesthetically pleasing resources on twitter such as @XpatEducator’s explode a quotation which I adapted into a ‘Shows Blows’. This remains an absolute staple in my classroom for upskilling our students’ analytical language.
Hardly ground-breaking pedagogy, but the principles of reducing workload, offering students support and reducing wastage in one resource bundle is irresistible to me. This principle can be applied to any subject where fundamentals can be revisited in this manner as well as encouraging focused literacy instruction in context. Students are well versed in ‘Progress Pack’ usage, can collect them freely for autonomous work and use them as reference material to allow the teacher to focus on more specialised work with individuals in the classroom. This dovetails with our visualiser and flipchart writing as students can draw upon these to enhance their answers. For one who is conscious of our planet, this helps our department to reduce our paper usage. We have these printed in colour, laminated and held together with little rings which allow them to be turned over easily you can find these here. Quite a small initial outlay for a slicker classroom environment.
Our next move has been to explore the uses of the ‘Progress Pack’ for ESL/EAL/ELL students in for more detail. We are building an ‘ESL Edition’ with Arabic translations as well as vocabulary in context support for all our major topics as part of the ‘Entry Level English’ provision which is really exciting.