Jim Stewart and I wrote this for the TES in 1994, after the first round of new GCSE exams in English and English Literature, replacing 100% coursework. I wouldn’t agree with everything in it now, or with all of the expression, but – as comes across – we were a very angry profession at the time. I’m posting it here as a piece of educational archaeology! Continue reading “From 1994: on coursework and exams”
An account of a poetry lesson, with some thoughts on efficiency, on how we treat texts and on knowledge.
When I became an Advanced Skills Teacher, in 2002, the designation was still fairly new. There was quite an intensive appointment process involving a portfolio of documentary evidence, a set of testimonials and a visit by an external assessor, who watched me teach a mixed-ability Year 10 class. For this, I served up a ‘sure-fire’ double lesson on a poem, which I thought went very well. However, while the assessor enjoyed the lesson and was complimentary about it, he had a major reservation. Just the week before (he told me) he had seen the same poem “taught very well in just half the amount of lesson time.” I found this a little irksome. I argued that I could very easily have ‘taught the poem’ in half the time, but that the lesson was about more than covering curriculum content as quickly as possible. But did he have a point?
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)
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”
A short post about climbing frames: pitch high and support all pupils in reaching for that level.
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”
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’”
Number #3 in an occasional series of short posts about feedback, appearing in no particular order.
When I was 11 or 12, I did this piece of creative writing for homework. It’s called ‘An Angry Traffic Warden’.
This was the written feedback which I received: Continue reading “Memorable feedback: the power of spoken comments”
Michael Rosen recently published a ‘matrix’ of different types of comments which children make about the texts they are reading:
I have had a go at composing typical ‘trigger questions’ for each type of comment, for use in training.
Click here or on the image above to download the questions as a Word document.
This is an approach which I have used successfully when revising clusters of poetry for GCSE. (Apologies for any parts which seem commonplace or obvious.)
The basic idea is familiar – to practise summing up the ‘essence’ of each poem, so that students feel that they have a pinned-down overview of each – a handy encapsulation. This can be useful when introducing an answer; it can be helpful for unlocking or framing ideas; and – perhaps most importantly – it can give students a sense of control, of in some way ‘owning’ each poem, when it’s tucked up in a single, illuminating sentence. Continue reading “What does the poem do? A revision tool”
Number #2 in an occasional series of short posts on feedback, appearing in no particular order
Last 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’
Thoughts on assessing progress and attainment in English at Key Stage 3
Post-levels, it was left to schools to decide on how to track progress at Key Stage 3. A number of teaching schools were funded to work on and share ‘approaches’, and these can be found published online; many other schools have formulated their own approaches, and are sometimes sharing these.
However, this juncture has presented English departments with a clear opportunity to assert some important, positive principles.
Progress in English is not linear
Progress in the knowledge, skills, understandings and sensibilities which compose ‘attainment’ in English is not smoothly linear. Children don’t usually progress to their ‘expected’ or ‘better than expected’ final outcome via a series of neatly spaced milestones, but will have periods of accelerated progress in certain aspects and of slower progress in others. This is normal. Continue reading “Post-Levels: tracking progress in English at Key Stage 3”