I'm what some people might call trad-prog fluid. I favour rigorous, focused, direct teaching but also value project based, exploratory work in equal measure. I went to specialist music school, and I'm a linguist. I know that some things don't get learnt by chance - scales, conjugating verbs.... E flat melodic minor in thirds doesn't happen by experiencing it, let me tell you that! However, I am also a Quaker and a gardener. I value sitting around for an hour in silence. I know growth and change takes time, and Kolbian cycles of learning speak to me too. Things only come together when you allow yourself to get lost in the learning. Daydreaming (for want of a better word) has its place.
So what to do about timetabling, coverage, block 'topic' afternoons and all that?
The solution we have come to at our primary school (mainstream, urban, inclusive, wonderful) is a 'shorts and longs' model. For example, we ask that all teachers plan in one 'short' and one 'long' science lesson a week. This means that there is a snappy fact check or quick refresh, or some pre-teaching, or an introductory video with some probing questions once a week. Then there is a longer period (between 45 minutes to an hour or longer if needed) when there might be time for an experiment, recording, outdoor learning, discussion and reflection.
Reading (whole class reading) for us is a short lesson, invariably second thing after a 'short' of arithmetic, P4C, handwriting... MfL we teach as short lessons, whereas art or design fit into a longer time slot.
,There are huge advantages to the short and long method with subjects like science. Just google spacing and interleaving (don't worry, I do know the difference). Hitting science hard once every two weeks really does not make sense whereas keeping the learning going in fits and starts makes things stick.
Furthermore, there is very little stagnancy. This does not mean frenetic, stressful days. They are ordered, planned, varied and designed to facilitate learning rather than trying to make the learning fit a pre-existing timetabling model.
Humanities tends to have one or two shorts and two longs. Spelling is short, PE is long. Maths is a combination of shorts and longs with arithmetic 'fast maths' balanced with longer mastery lessons. Writing is taught in longs although grammar skills fit into a short. The daily mile is a short if you run fast enough.
The typical day goes roughly as follows:
8.30-9 short -we have a rolling start so for some this is 15 minutes (arithmetic)
9-9.25 short (reading)
9.25-10.25 long (maths)
10.45 - 11.45/12pm English + short if that fits (daily mile/science)
1-1.25 short (MfL)
1.25-2.25 long (Humanities)
2.25 - 3/3.10 Maybe even two shorts! (P4C + listening to class book....)
One important thing is to keep the shorts quick and simple. There was a risk of some teachers worrying about the work achieved in this session - 'Does there need to be evidence?' It can just be a quick refresh or questioning session. What can you tell me about? What do you know about? 5 true or false questions etc. Whiteboards at the ready!
You might not even call it a lesson which is fine by me. A 'lesson' is a construct. What the model provides us all with is permission to break up our days in sensible ways and to keep all the subjects on the boil so that learning happens. That's the long and the short of it.