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Hindsford C of E Primary School

Hindsford CE Primary School is a small, single form entry, mixed primary school with pupils aged from 4 to 11. We serve a mixed catchment with slightly higher than average free school meals. We are an innovative and creative school, always searching for exciting and new ventures. We are committed to the arts as a vehicle for motivation and a tool for learning and have attained Artsmark Gold in recognition of this. We also use digital media such as film and sound to enhance pupils’ learning and firmly believe that enterprise education is a vital key to raising our pupils’ aspirations.

Approximately three years ago we heard Gill Hubble speak about a range of thinking skills, one of which was David Hyrle’s Thinking Maps, and felt that this was something that fitted exactly into our creative ethos. We had also realised, from analysing our somewhat disappointing writing SATs results, that our previous efforts to improve these scores were yielding poor results. When we examined the scripts and compared the planning sheets to the actual writing produced we found that the pupils either did not understand the planning process or did not find it useful.

Thinking Maps, it seemed to us, was the answer as it would give our pupils an easy to use and familiar framework to employ.

We decided at this point to concentrate on the Maps as opposed to a range of thinking skills, this for two reasons. Firstly we felt that too many disparate thinking skills, each using a different approach, would confuse the pupils (and the staff! ). And secondly the Maps combined simplicity and manageability with the organisational structure that we felt our pupils were lacking.

We set aside a full days training at the start of the year to introduce Thinking Maps and ensure that all teaching staff were familiar with the Maps and their use.

We agreed to modify the timetable for the first term and set aside twenty minutes each day devoted to Thinking Maps. Over an eight week period we introduced the Maps with each week being kick started with a refresher session for all staff about the Map and its uses, with examples that could be used with the pupils.

The colour master of the Map being introduced was displayed in each classroom. At the start of the week the teacher introduced games such as bingo and snap to help pupils match the Map to its name and the type of thinking that it could be used for. Practice Maps were set up for the pupils using familiar stories and information about themselves. This included activities such as using a double bubble Map to compare the pig and the wolf from the nursery rhyme ‘The Three Little Pigs’ - or a tree Map of the pupil’s friends and family. By being given the content for each Map, this enabled the staff to gain confidence in that they could concentrate solely on the structure of the Map and the way it worked. The approach also allowed pupils to become familiar with each Map before the next one was introduced.

At the end of each week a short briefing was held to discuss the progress of the Map. Staff shared examples and discussed the activities that they had used. If all had proceeded well, and in all cases the Maps were introduced within a week without any difficulty, then a new Map was planned for the following week.

This process took eight weeks and absorbed a great deal of staff time and energy, but it ensured a firm foundation for the Maps upon which we could build. At the end of this period all staff and pupils could name and use all eight Maps with confidence.

The next step was to begin to build the Maps into the curriculum. We began by selecting a non core curriculum area. Staff felt this was less threatening should we fail - we chose history.

Staff planned together to bounce ideas and check Map knowledge and tried to incorporate the Maps into the history lessons for the following half term. We modified the planning sheets to show where the Maps would be used. Each week staff met to share examples and discuss successes and failures or problems. This further strengthened the Map knowledge and built in the language of Maps to the staff discussions. It was not unusual to hear staff instruct a teaching assistant to set up an activity with a Bridge Map recording sheet and a Flow Map for the plenary. Visitors to the school often comment on the seemingly secret language that staff and pupils use!

Over the first year we worked to develop the Maps into different areas and, as teacher confidence grew, they quickly found their way into all the curriculum areas. There were regular staff meetings and joint planning sessions to keep the momentum going and to continue to develop new ideas.
As time has gone on staff have embedded the Maps in their practice and plan to use them in most lessons. They have also begun to use the Maps more intuitively. When observing a lesson I will often see the teacher scribble a Map on the board as part of an off the cuff explanation.

This year we have worked on using the Maps as a median tool rather than as an end product, although they are still very useful as an activity in themselves and continue to be used in this way. We have also looked at combining more than one Map, for example, a Bubble Map to generate ideas and then a Tree Map to organise them into writing.

The outcomes for our school have been several:

  • We have embraced the Maps as part of our innovative culture and have found that they have given us a structure to work with that does not stifle our creativity
  • The staff have found them to be useful tools that they employ in all areas and continue to develop because they see them as relevant and powerful.
  • The pupils have quickly absorbed the Maps and use them with ease
  • Their writing scores have improved, particularly the boys, who have found the organisational aspects very helpful

When we first began using the Maps we were confident that the upper key stage two pupils would derive a great deal from using them but were unsure about the younger pupils. However, we have found that these pupils, particularly foundation stage, can understand and use the Maps to show a level of sophistication in their work that often surprises us!

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