When it comes to planning a curriculum there are so many suggested approaches as to how to tailor, personalise, set clear targets, meet national curriculum guidelines, be inspiring and aspirational (the list goes on!) that it can often feel overwhelming and quite frankly, exhausting. You may think you’ve covered all the bases only to find that each subject or curriculum area is now like an island, disconnected and lacking links with all the other areas and subjects. It’s going to take more than just building some flimsy, tenuous ‘rope bridges’ to tie these areas together and make meaningful links.
This is where the concept of interleaving comes in. A primary curriculum needs to be thought of as a large chain of islands that has strong connections to different parts of it. Therefore, each unit, topic or key stage could be seen as one of these islands with numerous links or ‘roads’ through, around and across it. There isn’t just one straight road with small branches peeling off along the way.
We want our pupils to travel around the curriculum, revisiting areas they have seen previously, before heading down another road or across to a different island to explore a new concept using what they already know to guide them and become familiar with the new knowledge and skills they encounter.
A significant amount of research has been done on the concept of interleaving, which is the mixing together of different subjects with the intention of improving the recall and retention of knowledge.
“Teaching topics in this way will aid retention in the long term, helping pupils to transfer what they have learnt to new situations.” – Sean Kang 2016.
The integration of the subjects across a topic or theme encourages the brain to work hard to recall prior knowledge and allows pupils to return to what they have previously learnt and see it in different ways.
So, when it comes to the next time you need to plan your curriculum, consider the bigger picture, visualise that archipelago of islands that are going to make up your curriculum and consider the ways you can connect them meaningfully. Then personalisation, tailoring, clear targets in line with the National Curriculum, inspirations and aspirations should find their places on the map!
If you would rather let someone else have all the worry of designing a connected curriculum, have a look at our ‘Learning Means the World’ curriculum.