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Key competencies in the senior classroom at Frimley School

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Teacher Alan McKeesick discusses his approach to the key competencies in his senior primary classroom, using teachable moments and learning conversations to integrate the key competencies into everyday learning. 

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Making space for the key competencies

Making space for the key competencies in a crowded curriculum cannot be a token gesture. ... a profound refocusing of curriculum priorities will be needed, moving away from prioritising content acquisition as a primary purpose of learning. For the curriculum change to succeed, key competencies will need to be valued as a priority for learning.

Hipkins, (2006) from The Primary School Curriculum: Assimilation, Adaptation, Transformation

  • In what ways have you ensured that the key competencies are more than a token gesture in your curriculum?
  • How have you determined the classroom contexts that help to develop each competency?
  • What examples are there in student work or student voice that show the key competencies in your classroom?

Have you seen ...

Provocative questions
These questions help teachers think and talk about what students and teachers are likely to be doing in a key competency rich programme.


Alan McKeesick discusses how he approaches the key competencies in his senior classroom:

How I approach it in my class is that we don’t just say, “right now we are doing key competencies”. It will be around an issue that comes up.  For example we were talking about emotions, when is anger useful to us and when is anger not useful in situations. We used other emotions like happiness, when is happiness useful. And they all thought happiness was a good emotion and we should always express it. So we looked for a situation when happiness would not be appropriate and we would have to control that emotion. They came up with if they were at a funeral and received a text message from a family member telling them they had won lotto, they couldn’t just jump out of their seat and express happiness. They would have to control that emotion.

We do traditional literacy and numeracy etc for four days a week but on Fridays we have a little bit different focus. It is still literacy and numeracy in our newspaper programme but we shift the main focus from being literacy to being teamwork and leadership and key competencies. It is kids all over the place all the time doing all different things. All working in teams and arguing about things and experiencing emotions and problem solving and it is the perfect situation to learn about the key competencies.  I find that over the year leadership and confidence becomes so strong.

On an individual basis I might be talking to the kids who are showing leadership skills. We talk about how do you get someone to do something, you can’t make them, you have to motivate them and inspire them. At the end of the year I had students who were actively taking on situations where they could practice leadership skills. They would sit back and watch groups working and see which ones needed support and then ask if they could join that group and take it on as a leadership goal.

Students discuss their development of the key competencies:

At camp we had to relate to others in a certain way because that was how we got better at knowing each other and seeing what they are like. 

Using team work. 

Getting used to their behaviour. 

Relating to others means making some new friends. 

Appreciating what other people do. 

Realizing that we can work as a team. At the start of the year we were all in separate groups we didn’t mix and now we are all one team. 

And with our mission statement we have a lot of words that relate back to relating to others like respect and we are year 6 leaders. 

At camp we were really made a team when we had to go up to Sunrise Hut. Even though some people were quite slow lots of people were encouraging them. And we persisted to get up Sunrise Hut and getting up is really hard and you need to be a team. Now that we have done it, it is like we can do anything now, because it is a great achievement. And when we’re a team we can accomplish anything that’s possible.

Updated on: 13 Jun 2009