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Why Not Try Hamilton's Progressive Short Blocks?

Ruth Merttens By Ruth Merttens

Tailor Your Teaching using progressive shorter blocks. These pedagogically sound sequences of lessons ensure consistent mastery progression while avoiding the well-evidenced disadvantages of long blocks. Each short block provides an integrated wealth of support and a whole raft of resources in a flexible format that allows you to respond to the needs of your class.

Hamilton's short blocks provide a loose spiral curriculum, allowing children to revisit each topic within a fairly short time span. This ensures that children’s confidence is boosted by regular encounters with a specific skill or concept, and also that there is not the exasperating need for re-teaching when some of your class have forgotten something that was taught some months ago!

  • Blocks of coherent content – each block is composed of a small number of units covering one or more related skills within that content area.
  • Teaching for understanding – detailed teaching documents not only describe what to teach but suggest how you can teach the material successfully.
  • Slide presentations – ready-to-use starters, step-by-step teaching input, practice sheets and mastery questions are all in one place ready for your IWB. Practical activities are signalled on the slides so that children continue to learn by doing.
  • Group activities – guided or independent; differentiated at three levels for each teaching day – working at ARE, working toward ARE and working at greater depth, so that all of your children are able to access the day's content appropriately.
  • Procedural fluency – practice worksheets are similarly differentiated.
  • Reasoning questions – mastery questions allow you to assess children's understanding of the unit's objectives.
  • Problem solving – investigative activities develop maths meta-skills.
  • Mental/oral starters – quick preliminary activities facilitate the practice of skills required for the day's lesson or those not being revisited for a while when using a blocked curriculum.
  • Extra support – small-group activities for children working well below ARE can be run by a TA or another adult.
  • Common Misconceptions – information to help staff understand and avoid potential pitfalls and provide a quick reminder of vocabulary to use and words to avoid.

In comparison to our weekly plans and the longer flexible blocks, the progressive short blocks enable even more focused and well-targeted teaching. And, importantly, they could potentially reduce the time spent planning…

As always, at Hamilton we keep working to Save Your Sundays!

Explore the advantages of progressive short blocks.

Professor Ruth Merttens


Will children in England (as opposed to Singapore or Shanghai) really remember all the content of a particular block if that topic is not re-visited for another 5 or 6 months? If the subject is peripheral, e.g. Roman numerals or correspondence problems, this may not matter. But if it is place value or an understanding of equivalent fractions then it will. Re-teaching is time-wasting and can be soul-destroying. Revisiting more frequently works to prevent the necessity.


In maths, more than in many subjects, the order in which we teach things matters. For example, in order to teach division in Year 5, we need to have taught children fractions, so that children are able to express the remainder as a proper fraction. This means that understanding equivalent fractions is a pre-requisite skill. BUT with long blocks in Year 5, we must teach the Multiplication/Division Block before the Fractions Block because we need the knowledge of multiples and factors in order to do equivalence in fractions. And this problem is replicated twenty times in designing the maths blocks for any year group.


With long blocks, it can be challenging to sustain good learning. This is partly a function of the intellectual maturity of the children. To address this, we need to introduce big subjects in short bursts, so that no-one has time to get discouraged. When we re-visit these later in the year, our previous teaching will have had time to bed down, and we are likely to find children much more receptive to the learning required.


Many teachers report that when covering long blocks, it is almost impossible to prevent both teachers and children from simply losing the will to live as the block winds interminably on. There is a certain amount of time after which it is really good to get a break with a different topic. As we know from other aspects of life – a change is as good as a rest! It livens the mind and stimulates the creative juices.

All these issues persuade us at Hamilton that the ideal person to decide the length of a specific block is the teacher. The shorter blocks enable a more tailored approach because the precise sequencing of skills means that you can confidently amend the amount of teaching according to your class's needs as you progress. We thoroughly recommend them.

Collections: Extra Support and Investigations

The termly sets of extra support activities and in-depth problem-solving investigations that ran alongside the weekly plans are now available in a new, and more searchable, format.

You can now find ALL of our extra support activities together in one place. You can filter this collection by year group and you can input search terms to find particular mathematical areas that you want to focus on. Use the drop-down menus and the search box to find the right activities for your children. Explore extra support.

Similarly, you can now find ALL of our in-depth problem-solving investigations together in one place. You can also filter this collection by year group and you input search terms to find particular mathematical areas . Use the drop-down menus and the search box to find the right activities for your children. Explore mastery investigations.