The #Litdrive Way of Life

After receiving a vast amount of interest about my ambiguous spouting on about #litdrive on Twitter over the weekend, then sharing the original post (here if you are interested https://saysmiss.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/the-little-acorn-litdrive/ ), I have realised that there are already several things about #litdrive that are outdated. One, we shifted from googledrive to dropbox (mainly because my ICT skills leave a lot to be desired and my lack of organisational skills could do with an entire post of their own). We have also grown from the original concept that I posted about; what started in my mind as a resource for literacy has inevitably grown wings, sprouted heads and transitioned to a heaving bank of resources for all sorts.

Change is good! We are now sitting at 350 contributors (primary and secondary) and with lots of shared drives floating about, I hope that the variety of resources will add value to any teacher, anywhere. A plethora of ‘stuff,’ #litdrive offers schemes of work, exemplar work, marking ideas, reading lists and initiatives, written literacy support, literacy across the curriculum and a whole heap in between. I usually have a monthly re-arrange/clear up/back up to ensure that resources shared are safe and easy to find.

What next? I thought it may be beneficial to outlinethe purpose of the drive but also put a few guidelines/pleas in place to make it great for everyone. Excuse the bullet points (some people may not have wanted to read the rambly words above and just get to the good stuff):

 

  • DM your email address with the #litdrive hashtag for me to send over an invite for you. Alternatively, send to my email (Katherine.howard@hotmail.co.uk) and #litdrive world is your oyster.
  • Once you have access, please do share how you have used someone else’s wonderful resource, using the #litdrive hashtag! It may be that you have tweaked a resource or used it in a new way which would be invaluable to any teacher. You may just make someone’s day after an hour of pulling glue sticks out of a child’s hair. Make someone smile.
  • Please, please, please do add your own resources- the top folder entitled wittingly, ‘I have something to add!’ is the place to pop it. I get heaps of messages from people saying, ‘I don’t really have anything great,’ or, ‘what type of thing would you want?’ Nonsense to the first- you’re an ace teacher, joining an online community to collaborate and share resources. You’re resources must be awesome. To the second- if you’re sharing a resource, I will find a folder to put it in.
  • Final gigantic plea- please do not delete or modify files. By all means, download it- stick it on your usb but other shared drives are really suffering as a result of this. It’s never deliberate of course, but if your Dropbox is heaving and you want out, just let me know and I will remove you from the drive.

Thank you so much for getting involved with #litdrive- I have had teachers from all over the world say thank you and would like to pass on that thanks to the people that deserve it. Enjoy!

Making English More Like Maths?

I will open with an admission; I am a little bit airy fairy when it comes to teaching English. Rather than drilling with facts, I will spout on about the importance of personal interaction with a text, sing-songing my insistence to students that they need to consider how THEY feel, how THEY react to the words upon the page. I’ve skipped about during active Shakespeare lessons, encouraging students to shout ‘disobedient wretch’ in one another’s faces to really get a first-hand appreciation for how that poor lass Juliet felt.

I appreciate, this is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Nevertheless, is that not the point of teaching: that you will not please/teach/get through to/appeal /succeed to all of the people all of the time?

The new specification asks exactly that. No scaffold, no optional levels of difficulty, no breadth of literature outside of our little island. And so off in our metaphorical rafts we go, trying to calculate exactly how to teach knowledge without flouncing about outside to students that seem to become increasingly concerned that Lord Capulet mistook his daughter for a suitcase.

The students I have in mind are typically boys, typically not getting through a great deal of Shakespeare of a weekend, typically mathematical and linear in their approach to analysis (tentative words like ‘perhaps’ or ‘could be’ have no place here). This is where the facts come in; this is where after two years, you see a little of a silver lining in that linear spec you’ve been wrestling with.

FACTS! Full of them. Facts about poets, facts about Dickens, facts about Victorian London, facts about Priestley time travelling using only his imaginary flux capacitor and a theatre audience, terms to learn (Oooh, we do this in science, Miss), quotations to recite, vocabulary to memorise and recall which act as the hooks of security and success. Knowledge Organisers have made a fantastic start to this process, with others sharing Quizlet tests and memory banks for quotations. This is the time that we use our fellow subject heads for ensuring students have the tools to tackle the ‘why’ element of English rather than spending a considerable amount of time learning the ‘what.’ For more, please have a gander at these and mull it over for yourself:

https://goldilockshistory.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/knowledge-organisers-in-history/

https://teachingtoptens.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/quotation-retention-why-and-how-i-do-it/

https://tabularasaeducation.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/curseofknowledge/

https://reflectingenglish.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/improving-recall-in-gcse-english-language-and-literature-some-practical-suggestions/

 

 

#fiftybookchallenge 2016

Ridiculously, the easiest so far! I think I got a head start this year which saved me from a couple of months of barely getting through a page. Here we go; the full list, followed by the highlights:

  1. The Sunshine Kid by Harry Baker
  2. The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis
  3. The Here and Now by Ann Brashares
  4. The Haunting of Nathaniel Wolfe by Brain Keaney
  5. Every Day by David Levithan
  6. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  7. The Hunted by Alex Shearer
  8. Monster by CJ Skuse
  9. Noggin by John Corey Whaley
  10. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
  11. The Pearl by John Steinbeck
  12. Ein Ganzes Leben by Robert Seethaler
  13. Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
  14. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  15. Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  16. The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett
  17. The Revenant by Michael Punke
  18. The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
  19. Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl
  20. Locke and Key by Joe Hill
  21. The Accident by CL Taylor
  22. We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
  23. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
  24. High Challenge, Low Threat by Mary Myatt
  25. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  26. The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgewick
  27. Doll by Nicky Singer
  28. A Song for Ella Grey
  29. The Lie Tree by Frances Harding
  30. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
  31. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  32. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  33. Asking for It by Louise O’Neill
  34. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
  35. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
  36. A Little Book of Language by David Crystal
  37. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  38. Reading Reconsidered by Doug LeMov
  39. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  40. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  41. Feed by MT Anderson
  42. When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
  43. Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
  44. Land by Alec Campbell
  45. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
  46. The Girl with all the Gifts by MR Carey
  47. Alice by Christina Henry
  48. Nod by Adrian Barnes
  49. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
  50. The Girls by Lori Lansens
  51. The Moth by Catherine Burns

This year’s lot has definitely been my favourite to date! Although I’m still heavy on the YA fiction (soon to be rectified by Fiona Ritson’s 52books challenge including a couple of classics, eek!), a lot of the reads this year have been recommendations without prior knowledge of the author.

ALL TIME FAVE Burial Rites, Hannah Kent’s debut was a book that I really enjoyed reading. Now I know that sounds obvious but whilst I like the plotlines or ideas behind a story, I very rarely enjoy a book so much that I relish the process itself ( I rush read, a lot!)- this book made me slow down. The main character represents so many aspects and faces of society that the story stayed with me for a long time after reading.

ONE FOR THE BOYS Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. This book sparked so much discussion with male students whilst I was reading it, that we ended up in the middle of a non-fiction lesson using an extract from Chris McCandless’ diary to consider the bravery/naivety of such a boy.

CLASSROOM VALUE Reading Reconsidered by Doug LeMov has completely flipped the way I approach reading within the classroom and ultimately contributed to overhauling reading strategies within the department. LeMov provides an accessible way to teach reading to students, uncovering the mistakes that teachers often make through unknowingly missing out the ‘steps’ to effectively accessing a text. A complete game changer for any teacher.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT Harry Baker is wonderful. Running poetry club last year left me scouring the internet for performance poets and along with Jess Green, George the Poet, Harry’s TED Talk is definitely on my most watched. He’s marvellously endearing and his collection of poetry will warm your heart.

DISAPPOINTMENT Alice by Christina Henry- I am a huge Alice fan and this attempted new take on a ‘what Alice did next’ was painfully slow and incredibly difficult to understand what the eventual point was. If I had been Alice, I would have given up and headed back the way I came by the third chapter, tops.

IF YOU ONLY READ ONE Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. The way that Haig celebrates the ‘weaknesses’ of humanity, along with the incredibly personal voice to his previous self took my breath away and I hope that one day, society will be as honest as he is with the topic of mental health.

If you have any recommendations, please tweet me or find me via Goodreads- I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone! I am happy to chat about anything I’ve read too. I mean it when I say that this year has been a fantastic one for books- there are so many on this list that I could happily pass on to others. Here’s to another wonderful year of reading 🙂

#teacher5aday Pledge 2017: Nuture through Kindness

Just looking at my Nuture post from this time last year, it was clear to see that I was trying to doing too much. This year has truly been my most difficult one to date, as my experiences were not only ones that I hadn’t never endured before, but more frustratingly, I met obstacles that I had met at previous points in my life- both personally and professionally. I am going to try to make this a blog that doesn’t dwell on the negative or over share, but instead use the emotions and thought processes that came along  2016 to #learn how to be kinder to myself. To start, my 2016 pledges still ring true and I definitely think I am on the right track:

Get outside. National Trust membership is on its second year and whilst it gets neglected at the busier times of the year, I have managed to rack up 25k a week for the last two weeks of the year! Tragically (and much to my sloth of a partner’s dismay), I currently get very excited when I see a new yellow public footpath sign.

Spend regular, quality time with my small person. I am so proud of the wonderful young man that my son has become. His kindness has shone through in so many ways over the last year and he has a genuine gratitude for the little things.

Make fifty book challenge for the fourth year on the trot! Done! And Goodreads makes it easy to spot that when my mind is restless, my reading habits go out the window. You can find last year’s fifty books here and my 2016 lot will be up shortly.

Quit sugar! I managed six months before a holiday mojito broke me (happens to the best of us). I’m currently off meat a little bit and still eat considerably less sugar than I used to but I think the main learning curve that I have taken from this is beginning to change the way I look at food; instead of denying myself certain things, I eat to fuel myself and eat the things that make me feel good.

Work on my fear of talking in front of adults. Don’t worry too much about the direction. (These are important. I’ll come back to these).Write a book. (one for 20–)

Ditch the waste. To an extent; last year, I was blown away by the impact that negativity had had upon not only myself, but others within the profession. Looking with fresh eyes, I view this on a personal level at the moment. I’m currently reading Sarah Knight’s ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a f&*k’ which considers the time that we spend under obligation to the happiness of others at the expense of our own. I have learned the difference between kindness and appeasement.

Continue to blog, regularly, about more than simply musings. This has been a little bit of a 180 degree turnaround, but not in a bad way. I’ve deleted Facebook for the moment, and removed Twitter from my phone. Social media (particularly when used in a professional capacity) can be invaluable, yet creates several false allusions, including what I like to call ‘Missing-out syndrome.’ The opportunities  will still be there when I get back from whatever I’m doing in the real world.

See other teaching in action. (another one to put on a side-burner).

What can I take from these reflections? That sadly, work was driving things earlier on in the year and at one point, took far more of my brain time than the other stuff. In my constant bid to have stuff ‘done and dusted,’ I am going into 2017 at the furthest that I have ever been from a masterplan, and liberatingly so. Career path scrapped, life plan also scrunched up, and more in the present than ever, my pledges are not so much ‘to-do,’ but rather ‘to-be.’ In order to make small, effective changes, you have to strip it back a bit. Here we go for pledges:

#exercise every day, a little something. It doesn’t matter what, as long as it makes me feel good (fitbit at the ready).

#notice I subscribed to Headspace during my stay in hospital and I cannot recommend this app enough; mindfulness is something I have plugged more and more over the last few years but in doing so, I think I worked too hard at it. 2017 will be about being present and recognising the opportunities that I have to do so throughout the day rather than allocating time to be present (and somewhat defeating the object!)

#learn Futurelearn has been an amazing find and I hope to continue to find courses to explore this year at my leisure- the social wellbeing course has been fantastic. I’d also like to come back to the write a book bit here- I’m currently collecting all my recipes (sugar free, healthy bits) and compiling a bit of an introduction to how I approach food which will hopefully come to fruition at some point. #teacher5adayeat if you will. There’s a lot to be said for the way we expect our bodies to function without fuelling them properly (and what we expect from students who do the same)- but I’ll save that for another time.

#volunteer a bit of a tweak on this one. Again, instead of allocating a spot each week, I want to focus on being kind to people without expectation. Above all, I want to be kind; saying hello, smiling, making conversations at bus stops. The little stuff. Like my #notice pledge, this is a case of recognising the unbelievable kindness and positivity that people around me show me every day- @KAB21MAC, @behaviourteach, @martynreah, @thatboycanteach along with the hundreds of teachers that reach out on social media or share their experiences so that others can learn from them. This is one of the loneliest professions at times, and you cannot place a value upon the wonderful people that drive it, relentlessly and with patience and compassion.

#relax Ha! In three months I will have completed my notice period for my current role and resigned. What comes after at the minute is a blank page (which would have terrified me before). However, I keep thinking about all the opportunities that will present themselves, the people (students, staff or other people!) that I might meet and that it is actually a little exciting to not know what comes next. #relax for me this year is putting my needs as a priority in all aspects of life- we tend to view self-care as conceited, when it is actually one of the most important tasks of all. How to start? Using my voice more. Literally (see the talking in front of grown ups bit earlier on!).

My #teacher5aday pledges may not be mighty or tremendous, they may not scream change or improvement, but I think that’s the secret, for me at least. Teachers place so much expectation on themselves ( I would strongly recommend that you visit @thatboycanteach’s blog about Superheroism here for an eye-opening take on what we are inadvertently doing to ourselves) and sometimes the best of intentions get lost along the way. Be kind, always (that includes to yourself).

 

Life after Levels VS 1-9 Flight Path

Please find two guides created to support staff with marking for life after levels. We are applying a 1-9 flight path for data input so that progress is still measured through to the start of the GCSE course in Y9, but reporting home using ‘working towards, working at, working above’ expected standard. Hope they are useful:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/o3b4g3t6av8c402/A%20Guide%20to%20marking%20for%20Key%20Stage%203.pdf?dl=0 a marking guide for KS3

https://www.dropbox.com/s/co157e70k0udnyk/Life%20After%20Levels%20marking%201-9.docx?dl=0 data input guide for KS3

 

#Litdrive Moves House!

huge_2_10682A year ago (almost to the day) I started up #litdrive, a shared drive for Literacy Coordinators (and all those who think it important that kids know their exclamation form their explanation) to share resources and initiatives. A year on, we have grown from a select few to a few more and I’ve shifted us over to Dropbox to celebrate. The reason? I’m paying for all this nifty storage and want something a little tidier for what is now a hefty bank of resources.

It is the collaborative nature of this profession that will aid teacher survival (I spoke about value vs time a while ago here: https://saysmiss.wordpress.com/2015/01/) and my aim is to teach students and help teachers.

The more the merrier- as ever- so please get in touch @saysmiss if you would like to share or benefit from the shared drive.

K

The Whole Non Fiction Caboodle

After not wanting to move my MOST RETWEETED RESOURCE EVER from TES and put onto dropbox with all the other bits and pieces, here’s the link. I got sick of searching for 19th century resources and their 21st century worthy comparisons and so put a booklet together- it really is a starting point but it seems to be rather useful:

https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/gcse-english-language-non-fiction-booklet-and-starter-plenary-pack-11249532

Enjoy!

 

K