Schools in the Outer East Area have been participating in the 6 to 7 Transition Project. The project was designed to achieve greater curriculum and teaching continuity (and consistency of language continuity) in literacy and numeracy between upper primary and lower secondary.
To support their participation, schools were provided with three days of teaching relief funding per participating teacher. Participating teachers worked in pairs and developed a unit plan using the Victorian Curriculum F-10 in a strand or sub-strand of English or Mathematics. The result was a co-designed unit of work including moderated pre and post-assessments.
Both Year 6 and Year 7 teachers delivered the same unit to their students. The teachers visited and observed each other's classrooms to assist with the delivery of the planned work and review the progress made by all students together. The project experience built teaching knowledge and ability in formative assessment against achievement standards.
At the conclusion of the 2018 projects, teachers shared key learnings, including:
- an improved understanding of resources available, especially in regard to formative assessment
- a better understanding of how to motivate Year 7 students, especially with writing tasks
- improved professional knowledge and practices.
Shared responsibility for primary-secondary transitions has led to some teachers committing to continue the project, investing in ongoing partnerships and making the Year 6 to 7 transition projects part of their regular practice and partnerships.
Supporting numeracy learning transitions with a geometry collaboration
Andrew Shattock (Year 5/6 Team Leader), Great Ryrie Primary School and Janette Bennie, Ringwood Secondary collaborated on a geometry task that focused on critical thinking and student collaboration, engaged all learners and allowed for differentiated entry points to the task. It was an accessible task for both upper primary and lower secondary students.
Participating teachers learnt how both schools approached the teaching of mathematics and how they differentiated learning in each classroom. Teachers shared the learning resources used to deliver curriculum and assessment (Essential Assessments, Google Forms and I-Tunes U-Courses).
Teachers gained insights of students who were already at Ringwood Secondary and those who were to transition to Year 7 in 2019.
Maintaining high expectations
'In schools we sometimes perceive such a gap between primary and secondary that, without meaning to, we were putting limits on our students,' explained Andrew.
'In my class, I could see that Years 5/6's could think critically with explicit teaching and opportunities to challenge themselves.'
'Although we do our own testing when the students commence secondary school, observing a Grade 5/6 Maths class in action really opened out eyes to just how strong some students are when they enter secondary school,' said Janette.
'This highlighted the need for us to act swiftly at the beginning of the year to identify these high-performing students and plan suitably challenging activities to ensure they are engaged from the word go and their learning needs are suitably catered for.'
Developing student agency
One collaborative task between the schools incorporated student agency, allowing students to direct their investigations at their own pace and in accordance with their own abilities. Through the project, the schools opened their Year 6 and Year 7 classrooms for team teaching and observation.
Differentiating learning for success
'I would say that observing each other's Maths classes has been highly effective. We looked at how the staff at Great Ryrie are effectively differentiating in their classrooms and as a result, have been able to improve the way we differentiate in our junior levels by adopting some of their strategies,' said Janette.
'As a result of being in each other's classrooms we can adapt our teaching practices to suit our students and really extend or support those in need,' said Andrew.
'My students' knowledge improved by being exposed to higher level curriculum and thinking strategies, which in turn created a positive mindset rather than fearing the unknown (Year 7).'
'We were a bit sceptical about the project, it seemed like a lot of work but on reflection, it was only a tiny bit more and it was beneficial. I would say to other teachers thinking about primary-secondary transition projects to take an open mindset and see all the positive outcomes.'
'You're not adding work for yourself, you're giving your students more opportunities.'
Supporting literacy learning transitions with a narrative writing collaboration
Emily Bowman (Year 6-7 Transition and Maths Coordinator) and Jodi Wilkins (Learning Specialist and Year 6-7 Transition and Literacy Coordinator) from Dorset Primary School and Marguerite Kuhne (Year 7 Coordinator and Library Manager) from Fairhills High School worked together on implementing a narrative writing unit across their Year 5/6 and Year 7 classes.
After deciding to work together, they discussed their students' NAPLAN results and identified that students needed additional support in writing. Narrative writing was also an area of the curriculum that could transition across primary-secondary learning settings.
Planning for differentiation
Beginning with a formative assessment task, mini-lessons were planned to address the areas of need for student learning. The teachers also planned for differentiation, deciding to provide additional support to some students, and to express higher expectations of other students.
'We all did the same formative assessment task using an old NAPLAN prompt. The students engaged in 45 minutes of writing and then at the end of the project we did a summative assessment,' explained Marguerite.
'Then we moderated the marking and found we were all quite close. It was useful to have that experience of moderation across levels 5-8. Moderation is useful, for example when you're assessing creative work, we often focus just on the mechanics of writing, so it's helpful to engage in moderation to identify and agree on our expectations.'
'We developed a rubric to help us with moderation, based on the F-10 curriculum, this assisted us in confirming whether we were marking too harshly or easily,' said Jodi.
Learning through collaboration
Teachers drew on the high impact teaching strategies of Explicit Teaching (HITS 3) and Differentiated Teaching (HITS 10) to support their collaboration planning.
'This project has helped me to be more aware of the importance of explicit teaching in writing,' said Emily.
'The project discussions helped us reflect on what aspects of instruction we needed to focus on. Thinking about what we did in the project made us think more about how we can prepare our kids for secondary school – we want to give them as much knowledge as we possibly can,' said Jodi.
Dorset Primary School shared their narrative structure planning template with Fairhills High School so that both classes of students were using the same resource, ensuring familiarity and continuity from year 6 to year 7 narrative writing.
Students were given the freedom to choose the topic of their narrative and they also worked in pairs to consolidate their understanding of lesson elements. Teachers found that students were more engaged in writing when the topic was of personal interest.
'As a high school teacher it was useful to be able to visit a 5/6 classroom. Year 7 can be so different from senior primary school. Sharing ideas between three teachers was really valuable - we had such rich peer discussion,' explained Marguerite.
'Working in a primary school classroom reinforces that what you're doing is in the right direction. We can look to where the gaps are.'
'Going into a secondary school was exciting – seeing how they operate, motivated us to engage in the project,' said Jodi.
During teaching team planning, and throughout the project, teachers discovered that the language used amongst teachers and students was inconsistent and they decided to expose students to a wider vocabulary.
'We started exposing kids to multiple synonyms for the same thing to enrich their vocabulary,' explained Emily.
'In Year 7, we now make sure that kids understand the concepts before we undertake a writing task. We could have kids from six or seven different primary schools in one Year 7 class' explained Marguerite.
For example, the teachers were using the terms narrative, essay, story, and fictional text interchangeably to describe the same task whereas students did not always understand the nuances and similarities of these terms.
'They come from Primary with a solid understanding of creative writing but they're not so strong with reports and informative writing. With the whole school literacy focus, teachers share responsibility for student literacy. This year, we started with a formative assessment that was then shared with all Year 7 subject teachers so they could understand where the individual students were at. For example, our numeracy teaching teams use sentences and teach explicit vocabulary for maths concepts. We've found that works better for student understanding,' explained Marguerite.
Planning for transitions projects
The project was a rewarding experience for all involved and the three would like to work together again. As always, time is key to participation.
'We're hoping to work together again later this year. Time is a big factor though. Our schedules need to match up,' explained Marguerite.
'It comes down to time. Fairhills is in a different network, maybe it would be easier if we were in the same network. And some schools are next to each other, so it's easier for them to work together,' said Jodi.
When it comes to other teachers considering a primary-secondary transition project.
'I'd definitely recommend it,' said Jodi.
'Absolutely,' agrees Emily.
Explore Professional Practice Note 13: Supporting students during the transition from primary to secondary school
For information about how the START resource can support student wellbeing through the Year 6 to 7 transition, see: Teacher tip: Practice principles that support students transition from primary to secondary school