Googling for originality

A simple classroom technique, when drafting and editing.

Recently, I have been doing quite a bit of drafting and editing of creative writing with Year 5 and 6 pupils, and I have been finding this little game useful. I’m sure it’s not original, and I have used it with older students since search engines became a thing, but it is still new to many teachers – so here it is. (It’s very, very simple.) Continue reading “Googling for originality”

Who is doing what in the classroom? A tool for planning and reflection

It is always risky to discuss something as complex as teaching and learning in terms of any sort of ‘model’. It is always reductive and probably wrong. However, at the moment I am finding it useful to think of classroom teaching working like this. (Click to enlarge)

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Based on well-rehearsed principles, this schematic might be a useful analytic tool for reflecting on planning, lessons and teaching over time, and as a focus for CPD. Continue reading “Who is doing what in the classroom? A tool for planning and reflection”

Differentiation: pitching high, not making easy

A short post about climbing frames: pitch high and support all pupils in reaching for that level.

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This is a photo of my two children at the ‘Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream Farm’ (not ‘pick-your-own’, sadly) taken about three years ago. They are the oddly gnomic-looking child at the top of the slide and – typically – the one blocking the slide by climbing up it. (So proud.) Continue reading “Differentiation: pitching high, not making easy”

Marking for ‘literacy’ – problems with ‘codes’

Number #4 in an occasional series of short posts about feedback, appearing in no particular order.

In many schools, there is a literacy ‘marking code’ by which all teachers are meant to abide. Typically, spelling errors are marked with an ‘S’, punctuation errors with a ‘P’ and so on. Some of these codes are highly complex; some are simpler. These codes are intended to improve standards in written accuracy across the curriculum by promoting consistent messages, by making corrections instantly recognisable and – importantly – by raising the status (and teachers’ awareness) of spelling, punctuation and grammar.

I would be very interested to hear of examples where these are working well, and why. They may well sometimes succeed. However, in my experience, they often go wrong. These are some of the problems they can present. Continue reading “Marking for ‘literacy’ – problems with ‘codes’”

Folding feedback into learning

Number #2 in an occasional series of short posts on feedback, appearing in no particular order

FoldLast year, I visited a lesson in which pupils were analysing a newspaper article. They read the article as a class, then – in pairs, so that they were having to articulate their ideas before committing them to paper – they wrote answers to a set of questions. The level of analysis and of expression was variable but, on the whole, not very high:

 ‘The purpose of the article is to tell about what happened.’

‘The headline really grabs the reader’s attention’

Continue reading “Folding feedback into learning”

Written comments: three simple rules (and a fourth)

Picture1Number #1 in an occasional series of short posts on feedback, appearing in no particular order

When delivering training on feedback, I don’t tend to spend too much time on written comments: the focus tends to be on oral and whole class feedback, classroom culture, questioning techniques, editing and redrafting, ‘work-shopping’ approaches and so on. If anything, it tends to focus on ways to minimise written ‘marking’.

However, many teachers are bound by policies which insist on regular written, prose comments; many are even tied down to formulae such as ‘three stars and a wish’, or ‘WWW, EBI’. So here are some simple ‘rules’ for such written comments, which I have found helpful. (Note: there is nothing startling here, but it all seems to need revisiting!) Continue reading “Written comments: three simple rules (and a fourth)”

Objectives and purpose in English

Thoughts on learning objectives and on the way we frame learning in English

This post was originally an article for NATE‘s Teaching English (Issue 8, Summer 2015)

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‘Is that what you went into English teaching to do?’ Reflecting with English teachers on their planning, whether for lessons or whole schemes of learning, I often find myself asking them this question. It isn’t asked in a despairing sense but as a sort of a litmus test of the real value, integrity or power of an ‘objective’ (or an ‘aim’, or an ‘assessed outcome’.) For example, no English teacher went into the profession to get children to ‘practise expanding adverbial phrases’. No one followed a calling to help students to ‘make comparisons between texts’. Of course, these are important but they are not really an end in themselves; they are a means to students developing power in expression and critical awareness and discrimination as readers. They should not be the start and the end of English lessons. Continue reading “Objectives and purpose in English”

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