At HTGFS we use knowledge organisers to give pupils and teachers the ‘bigger picture’ of a topic, subject area or specific concepts. Research shows that our brains remember things more efficiently when we know the ‘bigger picture’ and can see the way that chunks of knowledge within that subject area link, forming powerful schemas. Making links, essentially, helps information move into our long-term memory.
Knowledge organisers are also used for retrieval practice as regular retrieval of knowledge helps us remember more effectively (Roediger et al, 2011). It helps us store knowledge in, and recall it from, the long-term memory and frees up space in the working memory to take on new knowledge (Hirsch, Why Knowledge Matters (2016).
Teachers will use the knowledge organiser to support what they are teaching in lessons. Teaching will be shaped around it to ensure that we cover the key information over a sequence of lessons and that we assess knowledge-based outcomes based on it. These are used alongside our curriculum that details the larger concepts, aspects and essential component knowledge that we intend children to learn over time. We believe that carefully sequenced knowledge acquisition is integral to a high-quality curriculum, enabling children to develop a deeper understanding. Knowledge organisers are tools to help children gain, retain and build the knowledge and skills as set out in our curriculum - not a separate bolt-on resource.
As a parent/carer you may want to go through the knowledge organisers with your child to support them with their learning. This will mean that pupils come to a lesson already having some understanding of the key vocabulary or key facts needed to be successful for that lesson. Further, Professor Graham Nuthall in his work Hidden Lives of Learners hypothesises that those pupils who know more about a topic learn more about a topic. Therefore, it is likely that pupils will learn more from a lesson when they have some of this information to hand.
Using knowledge organisers in the classroom
These are the ways we use Knowledge Organisers to support pupils learning:
- Talk through the knowledge organiser at the beginning of the topic, asking the children what information has sparked their interest, and if they have any questions.
- Send the knowledge organiser home after the first lesson of the topic to encourage discussion and prior research.
- Use the knowledge organiser as a regular retrieval tool. Do the children know more than is included on the knowledge organiser? Ask higher-level ‘why’ questions to stretch the children’s understanding and add detail. This will help to check that they have deepened their knowledge beyond the baseline outlined on the knowledge organiser and have formed stronger subject schemas.
- Use the knowledge organiser to identify knowledge gaps throughout the topic.
- Display an enlarged copy of the knowledge organiser on a working wall and add examples of pupils work around it to show the learning journey through the topic.
- Use knowledge organisers to strengthen teacher knowledge in a subject area.
- Make links between knowledge organisers to help children understand how their learning connects. For example, remind the children of a previous year’s knowledge organiser and discuss how their new knowledge links and builds upon it.
- Use the knowledge organiser as a spelling and vocabulary reminder.
Science Knowledge Organisers
History Knowledge Organisers
Geography Knowledge Organisers