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Witton Middle School


Responsive Learning

Responsive Teaching in Maths


Increasingly, classroom organisation is used flexibly so that more able pupils are able to move on to apply and deepen understanding, rather than listen to teacher input. The feedback informs pupils what they have done well and what they need to do to improve, leading to some significant and sustained gains in learning over time.


Responsive teaching is a blend of approaches with direct response to the needs of learners at its core. The key principles at the base of this are:


  • Every child can achieve well, given the right opportunity and support.
  • Teachers are acutely aware of the ultimate aims for the groups of children they teach, with no ceiling.
  • Every child is known well by their teacher- assessment information is used continually to identify gaps and next steps.
  • Strong communication between adults is at the core.
  • Individual and group intervention can take place with any group of pupils – no ability is fixed and all children are likely to require a teacher to intervene at some point.
  • Our most needy children will receive high-quality classroom intervention from our most qualified adults.
  • Children need to master certain skills, securing knowledge and understanding which underpins new learning.
  • Learning time is precious – fluidity of organisation will allow children to move forwards or secure concepts at the rate appropriate to them.
  • Children are given opportunities to apply skills in new contexts as soon as concepts are secure.
  • Children will achieve more if the feedback they receive allows them to engage fully with their own next steps.


What will this look like in action?


Teachers at Witton have been developing this approach for some time. It represents a significant step away from some of the ‘traditional’ models, and gives teachers permission to adapt and mould learning experiences to the needs of the children. This is a summary of what this would look like in lessons:


  • Entry tasks provided so learning time is maximised – maybe a lively mental/oral activity, a diagnostic question, or a question or vocabulary to discuss… some advancing learners may be at the stage where they just need to go straight into their work.
  • Use of a model, or modelled approach, which gives pupils basic strategies and relates to the SC. The model could be introduced at a variety of points in the sequence of learning, but you would not normally expect to see pupils working independently without having had a model to refer to.
  • Pupils are not held back if they do not need teacher input. Pupil judgements on this will need careful development over time. In a ‘rolling’ lesson, some pupils may start without watching the model and may receive adult input at a different stage in the learning sequence. This group does not need to be the same pupils each time, and may change according to those who have grasped the concept more quickly and are ready to practise, or to deepen their learning.
  • Pupil groupings are not fixed. Pupils have a ‘home’ seat that would be used at the start of topics before diagnosis of gaps had taken place, and appear on a table plan. Use of a laminated list of names will direct pupils to their places for that lesson and enable a quick start and easy identification of target pupils for any adult in the lesson.
  • Pupils should have access to resources to enable them to choose and use the tools for learning. They should be able to choose the tools with appropriate guidance.
  • Opportunities for pupil talk are important but they must be structured around specific questions, concepts or vocabulary.
  • Resilience is encouraged, and mistakes are valued as a learning opportunity. Stuck strategies are taught, such as ‘the 4 before me: brain, board (model), book, buddy, boss.’ There is a culture that says ‘it’s ok not to know’.
  • Pupils should not be doing unnecessary or easy practice consolidation if they can reasonably be moved on. A culture of self – challenge is vital if pupils are to select their entry level. The opportunity for feedback or to self – mark at regular intervals can give reassurance and signal any need for further challenge.
  • Pupils must be given time to respond to marking in line with school policy. Actions in response to developmental marking may include:
    • Identification of specific errors and explaining what misconception occurred.
    • A specific correction or a skill to revise.
    • A calculation to complete: this may include reasoning.
    • A ‘what if’ question.
    • Given a calculation, write a problem that this answers.
    • A modelled example to follow and apply.
    • A worded problem.
    • Another action pertaining to the SC
  • Pupil work must represent: Appropriate challenge; opportunities to develop understanding and knowledge through reasoning; layering of topics, so that links can be made between concepts; real-life problems and contexts for learning; regular teaching, practice and mini-assessment of key mental arithmetic skills.