Leadership programme

Big Books for Big Learning

Tom Mallender

Year 2 Teacher

Drew Primary School

Unveiling the Power of Big Books: A Journey to Long-Term Learning

‘Do you remember what we learned last term in Science?’ A familiar, yet challenging question for children and quite often adults in schools to answer. Looking at displays or at previous exercise books where children have presented or recorded their work could be the answer. However, at Drew, learning journeys for foundational subjects can be found within the pages of what we call ‘Big Books’. These can sometimes be referred to as ‘floor books’ and this is a whole school approach. This teaching tool supports the development of children’s long-term memory, as they record the full journey the children experience throughout a Learning Adventure.

The Power of Big Books: Guiding Learning Adventures and Building Schemas

At Drew, our Learning Adventures are structured in blocks. Big Books play a central role in referencing prior learning and guiding subsequent lessons. At the start of each of our units, the subject lead provides a knowledge organiser. This states what each unit of learning will cover. It is the Big Book which will display the learning including: activities, discussions, pictures, videos (stuck in with QR codes) and Educational Visits. However, the learning is presented in a way that is accessible for the children in the class. For example, after making hand puppets in December, children in Year 2 visited a puppet theatre to watch a performance. The Big Book was imperative before watching the puppet show as it was a visual aid for them to remember the reason they were visiting, and how the visit linked to their own personal and class learning adventure.

A Big Book can inform planning sessions as it can help teachers identify what the pupils have previously learnt in other units of work from the current academic year or previous years. But it is also a way to plan with the end in mind. Beginning a lesson with ‘yesterday we learnt about malleable materials and we are going to build on that’. Physically opening a Big Book showing children their learning, puts prior learning back into their working memory. This helps to develop schemas.

Unleashing the Power of Big Books: A Journey of Learning and Connection

Our Big Books are not just for display purposes but as classes have Big Books to hand, children can independently read them. This allows them to reflect and share memories of learning experiences, and in some examples repeat the activities if they are interactive. This allows them to have a sense of pride over their work as a class. Particularly since children will often help to stick or put the Big Book together with the teacher.

During a Parents’ Evenings at Drew, a plethora of Big Books are displayed from every year group. Parents and carers are given time to sit down with their child and look at their child’s journey. Creating open conversations and being curious with their child, a process which quite often ends in the child teaching the adult.

To conclude, the Big Book allows pupils to articulate their learning, develop their long term memory in the foundation subjects, and reflect and remember units of work vividly. As well as enabling teachers to plan purposefully and effectively.

Tom Mallender, Year 2 Teacher, Drew Primary School

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