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), I have realised that there are already several things about #litdrive that are outdated.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!

Advertisements

#teacher5adayread: a little room for you

Reading is the only way I can sit still. If I’m not submerged in a story, my mind will wander to food (always food!), plans that week, what’s left to do, what I could be buying on the internet- my partner Ben says it is the only way to get me to attempt to relax most of the time. I write this after being told that there were no plans today, and so took it upon myself to redecorate the bathroom. I need reading more than reading needs me!

It is with the lounge-worthy days of Summer that #teacher5aday came about; national libraries were challenging children to read six books over the summer break and @martynreah quite rightly mentioned, why can’t we do the same?

The discussions and recommendations that have taken place as a result of #teacher5aday have been a pleasure to see- I now have several books winging their way to me because I could not resist after reading a tweet that gave a snippet of the synopsis or seeing a beautiful cover that would fit nicely on my bookshelf. After all, it is all about the shelfie…but reading is always the surefire way to #connect, #learn, #relax and #notice, and what a perfect time of the year to do just that.

It really is that simple. Use the #teacher5aday hashtag for a multitude of recommendations, update the spreadsheet as you go with a mini review to share with others, tweet your reading spots or get involved by sharing your top three books of all time, or perhaps the book you would pick if you had to read one forever (kindly shared by Stagecoach- what a crisis! One book!). You’ll find the document here https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1z6skfijOB0qFBOT4iVVQtHZmSQJpqcnSLg8f_Qan1b0/edit?usp=sharing

This will be the fourth year to attempt fifty books as part of the #fiftybookchallenge that I shared a few years ago- if you like a challenge- and it always is for me- then please do get involved. I’ve shared my list so far (currently at number 38 and counting) here:

https://www.librarything.com/catalog.php?view=SaysMiss&collectionname=fiftybookchallenge2016&collection=415140

 

Happy reading!

Learning the Hard Way: Preparing to Fail

I was raised within both a home and education where right and wrong existed. There was very little room in either setting for a grey area; what was, simply was and what wasn’t- well, you follow. My secondary school was terrifying; my option choices were honestly made on the basis of avoiding certain circles (hence my complete inability to sew) and I lacked confidence to take on an additional GCSE, selecting supported studies because ‘you get a free hour for homework). The curriculum was not an invitation for exploration, but rather an A+B+C formula to the grades that were on my target report. I remember rather vividly, my English teacher correcting me on an interpretation of Browning’s Sonnet and being shot down in an instant (this is the same woman who laughed in my face at the outrageous notion that I could study Literature A level, so without digressing too much, her putdown may not be representative here).

Did I require the extra hour? To step outside my prior self for a moment and look upon 90’s kid Katherine from a teaching perspective, no. I walked out of school with an A* (English, smugly), two As, five Bs and 2 Cs (graphics- textiles would have definitely been my bag. I’ll give you a moment for that one). This was accomplished as a result of zero revision and my speedy completion of Tomb Raider – that four week break in school timetabling to sit at home really paid off. To put it in a nutshell, it could have been better.

It is only now, nearly twenty years on that I can peruse over the situation as a professional and consider the possiblities here. My academic potential? As much of a muchness to any other student at such a fine establishment. So what kept me from success? To toss aside the black/white approach, there was a lot going on outside the classroom, behaviour in the classroom of some subjects was verging on the ridiculous but above all else, I did not develop the confidence to believe that I would cope or could experience success at GCSE. Why? Because failure was not an option.

I’ve spent the last week or so mulling over the concept of failure after discovering the counterargument to Dweck’s growth mindset via Dr Tim O’Brien thanks to Paul Dix. The realisation that growth mindset was flawed shook up my thinking a little until a colleague put it rather eloquently that, ‘anything that takes an approach that is as binary as “you are or you are not” is subject to being flawed.’ I believe in the act of learning as opposed to an end point but yet this is not necessarily the train of thought here; by adopting an adherence to growth mindset within schools, are we then rejecting all those who dare to voice that there IS black and white and there IS a sense of failure as rejection and not simply put, a circumstance that requires us to dust ourselves off and ‘have a think on it’?

Flash forward to my classroom now and the jury is currently out. I very much reward effort over achievement; progress, in my opinion is a result of hard work and the ability to recover from what psychologically the individual may view as a setback. This is not only essential to an academic setting but to the world beyond the walls; coping mechanisms are built through small, repeated actions and experiences of such an emotion as failure- the small shortcomings are received in the same way as the larger and are just in valuable in developing resilience. And so with all of this in mind, how do I accommodate for students that need specific skills to pass a linear examination with a binary grading but that I would ideally like to approach the curriculum with them in a holistic way that defies all of the above? Big breath. Dr Tim O’Brien put it nicely in his article:’Yet in this new mindset environment, a teacher trying to establish which mindset learners possess will naturally place them as learners on the fixed pole or the growth pole. Instead of the teacher having multiple lenses through which to understand individuality and commonality, they now have only two.’ One size, as we all know, is not possible. Looking for the quick win is not what will save the educational format as we have or now know it and whilst my mind boggles at the thought (all multi-faceted sides of it), it is slightly refreshing to observe with children that they can possess a sense of peace by knowing that there isn’t a formula to crack. It is, as they say, all gravy.

#FiftyBookChallenge- 2015

For the first year EVER, I ended with time to spare. Granted, it was only a day but progress is progress! As ever, my exhaustive list followed by the highlights:

  1. Robert Graves- Goodbye to All That
  2. Patrick Ness- More Than This
  3. Jonathan Coe- The House of Sleep
  4. Pierre LaMaitre- Alex
  5. Very British Problems
  6. Michael Grant- Light
  7. Anonymous- Go Ask Alice
  8. Charlie Higson- The Enemy
  9. Ray Bradbury- Fahrenheit 451
  10. Lara Williamson- A Boy Called Hope
  11. Sabine Durrant- Remember Me This Way
  12. Brothers Grimm- the Robber Bridegroom
  13. John Williams- Stoner
  14. Carol Dweck- Mindset
  15. David Almond- Savage
  16. Tom Baker- The Boy Who Kicked Pigs
  17. Tim Bowler- Night Runner
  18. Tess Sharpe- Far From You
  19. Ann Kelley- Runners
  20. Anne Holm- I am David
  21. Gillian Flynn- Sharp Objects
  22. Sophie McKenzie- Girl, Missing
  23. Siri Hustvedt- The Sorrows of an American
  24. Banjamin Zephaniah- Teacher’s Dead
  25. Matt Haig- The Humans
  26. Sarah Crossan- The Weight of the Water
  27. Jessica Kane- The Report
  28. Mary Kingsley- A Hippo Banquet
  29. Marcus Sedgewick- Cowards
  30. Albert Camus- L’etranger
  31. JP Cavafy- Remember Body…
  32. Glen Duncan- The Last Werewolf
  33. Piers Torday- The Last Wild
  34. Dr Seuss- There’s a Wocket in my Pocket
  35. George Taylor- 1 4 Sorrow
  36. Paula Hawkins- Girl on the Train
  37. Paint me Like I am- Poetry for Young Adults
  38. E.Lockhart- We Were Liars
  39. Keith C Blackmore- Mountain Man
  40. Jay Asher- Thirteen Reasons Why
  41. James Thurber- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  42. Natalie Babbitt- Tuck Everlasting
  43. Diana Hendry- The Seeing
  44. Jennifer Niven- All the Bright Places
  45. Gillian Flynn- the Grown Up
  46. Jasmine Warga- My Heart and Other Black Holes
  47. Andy Weir- The Martian
  48. Michael Acton Smith- Calm
  49. Neil Gaiman- How the Marquis Got his Coat Back
  50. Matt Haig- A Boy Called Christmas

It seems the overarching themes for 2015 were war, YA fiction, dystopia, poetry and a couple of wildcards in between! I will pick out some highlights for those that want to take something useful from this list. I would like to start by saying I did persevere with a couple of books even after my initial enjoyment waned, but I won’t dwell on these. In the same way that I would not introduce someone by saying, ‘he’s not my type,’ it would be rude of me to sway your opinion of a book. It is simply not fair.

YOU MUST READ The Martian by Andy Weir and Humans by Matt Haig. I have been standing on my soap box to anyone who will listen about both and they show a completely alternative insight to our existence as humans. They question the importance that we place on what we perceive to be extraordinary and open our eyes to the wonder of the ordinary.

ONES FOR THE BOYS if you teach are 1 4 Sorrow, Teacher’s Dead and The Enemy. Charlie Higson’s sequel has been on my shelf for a month now and is on the list for 2016. Michael Grant’s Gone series is another fantastic set that will keep anyone hooked for a considerable distance.

NOT FOR CHILDREN’S EYES but definitely worth picking up (on the basis that you are not easily offended or squeamish) are Sharp Objects and the Last Werewolf. Brutal, brash and unapologetic, Glen Duncan tells a convincing tale of the supernatural.

GOOD FOR WAR IN THE CLASSROOM are I am David and Sedgewick’s Cowards. Holm tells a story equal in poignancy to Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and places emphasis upon the impact that adults have upon children. The Report also shows the conditions that people faced in the aftermath of the war, based on an original news report of a tragedy that took place in Bethnal Green in 1943.

IF YOU ONLY WANT ONE, read Pierre LaMaitre’s Alex. It warped my brain cells in the same way that Under the Skin bent them inside and back out again.

Interested in a reading challenge for 2016? Join me (and my school!) in #fiftybookchallenge. No rules, no list- most of my reads are YA fiction as the library is free in school and kids often recommend books to me. Anything goes- as Dr Seuss demonstrates- non fiction, fiction, self help, educational… you name it. Our students started this September and one is leading on 36 books so far! For the fifty book pledge resources, please email me for access to #litdrive. Happy New Year!

Thank You To The Teachers!

I thought it would be nice to say a little thank you to the good ones. I’ve had some absolutely shocking teachers in my time (my secondary English teacher laughed in my face when I signed up for A level lit) but some absolute gems. I will share the good, the bad and the ridiculous. I think the collection sums up the quirks, spirals and highlights of education!

Mrs Muchall

From Guyana so an instant hit with my educationally suspicious West Indian father, this woman was amazing. I had a reading age of 10 at 5 and she would take me out of class reading to let me read the Hobbit out loud to her. She was the kindest lady on the planet and I don’t remember her with anything but a smile on her face.

Mr Baker

Now, if you want to be the most cool of all the Headteachers, you have to top this guy. He would rock up to assembly, turn off the projector and whip out his guitar to share his own handwritten musical delights. He organised a local Beatle-athon with the other local primary schools, as we went head to head with one another, singing a heady mix of the Liverpool’s finest. He had the hairiest knuckles I have ever seen in my life.

Mr Cassidy

Mainly a brilliant man for tolerating me in his maths classroom for three years. I hated maths; I didn’t see the point and as a result would find ways to entertain myself through the 70 minutes of hell on a Thursday afternoon. My favourite would be ‘pack up,’ where you shook your tin pencil case 30 minutes before the end of the lesson and then sat back to view your own handiwork as the sheep-like fellow classmates responded robotically to the sound by packing away. I know- I was an absolute delight. He was 23 and had a beard-which I still don’t understand- and looked a little like a garden gnome in a bad mood. I’d be in a bad mood if I had to teach maths all day. Why do we call it maths instead of math like the Americans? Oh, who cares. It makes my eyes bleed (sorry maths!)

Miss Bursnell

Yes yes, we called her bird-smell. She wore socks with sandals and had clearly been to ‘stereotypical dress and behaviour for the Spinster Teacher today.’ She was my first English teacher and she threatened to destroy the English language, one monotonous lesson at a time. For an entire term, we came into the room, sat down and opened our play books, and read Romeo and Juliet out loud. No book work. I saw her in Sainsbury ‘swhen I went home before Christmas and she was wearing sandals. With socks.

Mrs Cooley

We called her big bird. She was SIX FOOT SIX without heels, had specs like Deidre Rashid (RIP) and wore lilac eyeshadow. The boys once smashed the window next to her desk at break, in November, and she didn’t notice until last lesson. She didn’t know what planet we, her or anyone else was and her french lessons were bedlam.

Mrs Ball

One in a long line of teachers who had the patience with me to notice a glimmer of a nice child underneath all of the indifference and hostility. She did the whole cigarette in a glass with cotton wool thing and blew me away. She listened when I asked very quietly to be moved from my tutor group because a girl had punched me in the face. I liked Mrs Ball.

Mr Marshall

Mr Marshall was a gently spoken man, with giant hands. He taught Art, and I produced the one piece of artwork that I have ever been proud to bring home. He never raised his voice in the classroom and one day, a girl wet herself on her stool rather than miss part of his class (I know- we were thirteen. No excuse). One day, a rumour started floating about that he had pushed a boy in my year up the wall by his throat. Dragged along by the hysteria that always comes with a Chinese whisper, we all sat down in the car park to protest. I don’t remember much about protesting, other than sharing my Iced Gems with the girl next to me. After being shouted at by Big Bird at the end of lunch, I tentatively went to my Art lesson. Mr Marshall had been replaced by a supply teacher and didn’t come in for two days after that.

Mr Rigelsford

This guy looked like the man from Red Dwarf. Rimmer. He is quite possibly the most angry man that I have ever met in my life. Looking back with my teacher head on, he couldn’t manage the behaviour and so all I remember about Humanities is watching the film about the Amish people and Hitler. To an extent, I hold him somewhat responsible for the amount of work I had to put in to bring myself up to standard when delivering historical context. Bar the Holocaust, I had absolutely no idea what had happened in any place at any time. It didn’t help that the same boys that broke Mrs Cooley’s window would regularly turn all of the furniture upside down and proceed as normal as though everything was as it should be. And affectionately called him Wriggles. All the time. The only thing I remember about that classroom was that we always had the television!

Mr Kershaw

Chuck was his name, outbursts were his game. He now works as a volunteer, taking old folk (namely my Nanna) to their day group of choice. Previously, he was best known for teaching stuff about chemicals, his grey ponytail leftover from the sixties, and throwing a pot of pens at me once because I got up to open the window whilst he was talking. He left the room for ten minutes, came back in with a brew and carried on where he had left off.

Miss Andrews

Mr Kershaw’s cooler, more collected other half. A psychology teacher, she unsuccessfully (my fault, not hers) kept me at the Sixth form when it was quite apparent that I could no longer fathom out any direction for myself. She would call my Mum at exactly 8.46am when my backside had not made it to my lesson and then sat through several meetings with my then divorcing parents to try to get me to buy back in to my education. When I received my place at University, I sent her an email saying thank you and telling her that I had finally figured it out. Her son was my boyfriend for two whole days when we were eleven, and I got to go to a teacher’s house- the entire house was laden with books. That is my goal- to live in a house as laden as Miss Andrews’ house.

Andy Mousley

Fast forward to University, and this guy knows EVERYTHING. His class was where I discovered autobiographies including my favourite book of all time, The Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. We studied the concept of self, having a sense of self and building an identity. Andy conducts the Theory of Literature module which really opened my eyes to the motives of literature.

Keith

I feel bad for not remembering Keith’s name. He lectured and held the seminars for an American Literature module which is possibly the most practically useless but most enjoyable part of my degree, alongside film adaptation. He introduced me to Emily Dickinson by describing her as ‘someone who attempted to reach out on to the other side for us so that we may know what death would be like. Death in reality is actually pretty f***ing boring.’ He was Irish and would digress on such a regular basis that I lost track of what was or was not on the syllabus. They’re the best kind.

Victoria Elliott

Victoria was my least favourite of the two PGCE coordinators. She talked about grammar and sensible stuff, whilst Rachel the drama side of things simply hugged everyone and talked candidly about how tough it was out there. I didn’t want to think about the fact that I had been (and still on occasion take part in) comma splicing my entire life and had absolutely no idea what a prepositional preconjective personal imperative pronoun was. Why isn’t it enough that I really like books? But Victoria is a wonderful teacher because of her neverending knowledge. I have such admiration for an academic and once we realised that she was actually really rather lovely and it was simply that Rachel just liked to hug everyone that we had overlooked her and should probably not veer away from all the non hugging academia that we would really rely on to get us through and give us confidence. It is Victoria that I have to thank for keeping me going through what was a very difficult year and Victoria who has opened up opportunities to me since my completion of the course. Thankfully, she was substituted with the lovely Andrew Evans when I decided to spend four hours arguing in floods of tears that yes yes, I really did want to quit the course a month before the end and no, no, no, I definitely DO NOT want to be a teacher. I will always be grateful for a place on my course at Warwick- In didn’t think I stood a chance in hell next to everyone else there.

Ann Rayns

This lovely lady was my professional mentor during my PGCE year. She was the epitome of cool, immaculately dressed and used to glide around the corridors, smiling and speaking with everyone. I’m not sure I ever really worked out how Ann felt about me, but that was simply because of how wonderfully professional she always was, and how she found humour in everything to lighten the day. The first time she watched me teach, she pulled it to shreds and I was heartbroken. I had set out to impress her; that was the issue, she opened her feedback with- I had not put the children at the centre of it all. She taught me more in a very short space of time than I have ever learned from another teacher and I still implement a lot of the ideas I took from that in my day-to-day teaching.

Lorna Roden

This woman is an utter legend. Her brain works in exactly the same way as mine, only hers is much bigger and more impressive. We would collaboratively teach a lot during my training year and she worked in a very kinesthetic way with the children- Key Stage 3 were mesmerised when she taught. She never shouts, she teaches (as I often find myself) in a flurry of chaos and colour and we used to have long chats about autonomy of teachers and the concept that whilst the end point is still the same for everyone, that we must keep hold of our own approach to make the journey quite personal for the students and us.

I’d like to add to this from time to time- I think it is a nice process to reflect on where you have taken your teacherisms from. Teaching is a bit like parenting- we know how we want to be perceived and also how we do not want to deliver lessons. Hope you found it mildly entertaining for a lazy Easter afternoon!

Ten Steps to Standing Alone: Developing Independence in your classroom

After attending a GCSE English course today with the key focus being how to ensure achievement for all at Key Stage four as we enter linear assessment, my thoughts returned to my semi-ranty post about interdependence and how we can develop this invaluable skill within even the less confident of students. There must be a happy balance between guiding students towards success and allowing them to consider their own independent, analytical enquiry in response to a text, or their own work with regards to written pieces. I have segmented this into ten ways in which we are classroom practitioners can make adaptations to teaching that can help students complete their education with a more independent mindset; whilst Key Stage four will provide a measurable process for this in the shape of their final linear exams, I feel that Key Stage three needs to be of equal focus so that students recognise the value of their own responses and opinions.

1. Stop Providing the Answers

It is such an easy trap to fall into to give what we believe the be the ‘right answers’ or ‘the way to do it.’ But this can often be at the detriment of leading students to believe that we are the omniscient presence in the classroom. By acting as a facilitator, passing over the onus onto the students may feel risky but the act of presenting questions and encouraging the questions of the students, particularly at the start of a unit can avoid this corner of learning that leads to a tick or cross situation. This could be displaying questions from students that can then be used to respond to at a later point, or providing students with the capacity to lead a Q&A forum within lessons where you simply chip in to encourage elaboration from particular learners. There will always be an element of the non-negotiable within a subject, but that knowledge will ‘stick’ if it is they that provided such criteria.

2. Provide the Opportunity for Leadership and Ownership

Develop your own confidence to sit back and led the students lead particular parts of their learning, In the same way that you would use the strengths of teachers within a department, utilise and share the talents of your students. Student led learning is key to enabling them to have a mental rehearsal for an exam situation. How should we tackle this question? Who could provide a toolkit within your classroom for particular aspects of a response? I like to carry out a ‘Genius Bar’ lesson prior to assessments, where students act as a help tool for others in order to move towards the same goal. This develops the concept of challenge and allows those students that can quite easily become complacent when set a series of tasks to explore beyond the confines of a lesson structure.

3. Use Student Voice as a Springboard for Learning

I regularly use student voice to gauge the success of my teaching and their honesty is priceless for informing next steps as a teacher. End of unit student surveys- Survey Monkey, exit slips, short email homeworks to you directly, discussion boards- provide you with concrete, qualitative data that can then adapt both future teaching of that unit but also that of the particular class. The process also allows students to develop the confidence to own their learning journey by being provided with a voice that has an explicit and active impact within your classroom.

4. Open with Learning Questions

Linking to number 1, and something that I repeatedly harp on about is providing a question as a Learning Objective/Intention. This allows a framework for less confident students and a starting point for further challenge. By handing over the process to reach a developed answer to that questions, the student then feels a sense of accomplishment- they have achieved the response independently and to the extent that they feel comfortable. The higher attaining of the group can adapt the question to push their response further; by deciding on that adaptation at the start of the lesson, they can then stand back and recognise the progress that THEY have made, unaided and self-created.

5. Ask for Fears!

It is an old-age saying but one that students do not buy into often- failure is the first step to success. Failure is vital to learning and by addressing fears as a first step to a task or skill, it helps to then allow students to reassure one another, plays once again on the strengths within the room and builds a sense of compassion within the group. Fears identified can then inform future lessons or be addressed at a later point to demonstrate to students their achievements and capabilities. I am unconvinced from experience that students’ fears of their own areas of development and the reality match up- often, their own lacking confidence obstructs their sucess. By vocalising these, as a teacher you address the elephant in the room and they then provide the coping mechanisms and resolutions for said elephant!

6. Incorporate Collaboration Within Your Planning

Peer assessment, Group Writing, Peer created success criteria, tasks and challenges created by students not only creates a healthy, can-do mindset within the classroom, but also provides the stepping stone to interdependence. It is well documented that peer assessment is the middle ground to reaching a point of being able to become self-reliant in terms of self-assessment. The more the students can unpack success criteria for themselves, identify, prrof read and contribute to one another’s work, the more likely it is that in an exam situation, they will be able to evaluate their own work. By doing so initially with a structured framework and then over time, handing this strategy over to them, it will ensure that in a timed, pressured situation, they can recall these skills. Again, mental rehearsal.

7. Move Away from the Gimmicks

During my training year, I developed a format of processes to develop skills, with very little impact. Whilst a visual accompaniment to a term or point in assessment can be handy, the student will often (in my experience) recall the gimmick but not the skill itself. Engagement is possible without reliance on a process formula and can lead to confusion on the students’ part. I refer to a blender to ‘blend ideas’ or a pea for ‘PEA chains.’ The student recalls that there are three steps to analysis but is still none the wiser as to what to include or how to do it effectively. If students are to excel in terms of a skill, then they must recognise the requirements rather than us provide it for them. One size does certainly not fit all.

8. Create a Context

This acts as an alternative to 7. Develop tasks within the lesson that provide a real life setting to a process- those lessons will be memorable for the student because it linked to a situation that they can relate to in some way. The memorable lessons for skills focuses will ensure stickablility- Dragon’s Den for persuasion, using local information or a news story as a base for lessons. I like to carry out music quizzes to link to themes of a text prior to assessment (my recent lesson for Scrooge’s development in A Christmas Carol featured ‘I Don’t Care’ by Icona Pop and ‘Man in the Mirror’ by Michael Jackson!). The more than students can relate to a character or concept, the more likely they are to discuss it convincingly on paper.

9. Remove the Mist

Similar to 6, students seem most afraid of the Unknown. This has been a point of contention with teachers that I have worked with, but I start a unit by emailing out assessment criteria and the assessment that we will work towards. Could you teach without knowing what you were working towards? The more informed the students are, the sooner they can identify possible gaps in their own learning- this can even stretch to setting out one key target that they aim to fulfil before the final assessment, to understand or demonstrate a particular skill required in the assessment criteria.

10. Have fun!

You remember the teacher that took a risk over the teacher that taught by a specific strategy or focus. Move outside your own comfort zone and experiment. Handing over the controls to students can be terrifying and with the time constraints and pressures of teaching as they currently stand, it seems that the idea of moving away from a plan is simply not an option, but it will be the very thing that makes you more effective! We are facing a one size fits all end point, but there are many different ways to reach the end point. Do not be afraid to go off the beaten path for a bit!

Enrichment is Exactly That

Not particularly ranty or thought provoking, but I have been spending lots of lunchtimes with students either revising or tutoring and have been able to find time for enrichment now that the exams are finishing up. In poetry club today, we explored the concept of what makes home home to us, leading up to submitting entries for The Stamford Theatre competition with Wendy Cope (link can be found here We used George The Poet’s ‘My City’ to inspire us to consider how to put the comfort that we take in home into words. Here was my quickly chucked together example:

Where I Live

The porcelain teapot,
The lull of the boiler
Warming the heart
Of where I live.

The chuckling breeze
Welcomes me home,
Opening the arms
Of where I live.

Scents of me? Of him? The aroma
Of honey and laughter
Of where I live.
There can be no replacement,
No alteration or substitute,
As I adore only
The place I live.

It is such a nice outlet to teach what I consider a little bit of a lost talent and one that I am keen to open up young writers’ eyes to. With the final products of graphic novel club now in printing and film club commencing after Easter (thanks to Into Film!), I am really enjoying giving students the opportunity to explore aspects of English and Media but with ownership and controlling the pace of their own curiosity.