Why I love… Unbreakable bonds (my sister)

I’m at a bit of crossroads as I write this, not a crossroads in my own life as everything remains relatively stable both at home and with my work situation (with the exception of my mother in law moving in two weeks ago), but rather my crossroads is an emotional one. We’re in a bit of honeymoon period with the mother in law, which means so far it has been good and a fairly easy transition to her living with us. She has her own bedroom and lounge, so I don’t have to watch Downton Abbey, therefore all is good in my mind! Plus, I really love her, so I’m easy with the transition.

My daughter has just turned 18 and that in itself brings emotions into play that I hadn’t even considered. How can time have passed so quickly? The years have flown by and I don’t feel ready to have an official adult as a child, but that in itself is not where my emotional crossroads is.

The emotional bit though is my sister moving back to Scotland, her children and husband have already moved and she is tying up loose ends here and finishing up at work. I’m floored by how much this has been impacting me. My head understands completely why she is going and I know that it is a quick plane ride and drive to see her. However, she won’t be here, in England, where I can easily jump in my car and go to her or vice versa, if the need arises.

She has been a constant in my life in England, since my children were little and I don’t know how I’ll manage without her here (I know I will, but right now I don’t know how). Rationally, I know that I’ll still speak to her daily and that it isn’t or shouldn’t be so hard, but it is. I also know that she is still close and at least she isn’t moving to the other side of the world, where it would be nigh on impossible to jump an a plane for a weekend. She is more than a sister though, she is my best friend, she understands me, backs me up, supports me, unfailingly tells me the truth, trusts me and gets me. She knows our shared history better than anyone else and she understands everything about me and while she isn’t the only one who does, it feels like a wrench that she is leaving. It may sound selfish, but I hope that I give her the same unconditional love and respect back. She is my rock and I’m going to miss her and the physical closeness.

There is also her children, my nephew and niece, who I’ve spent so much time with just being there with them, like my sister was with my children. I love them as if they were my own and I know I’m not going to see them as regularly as I would have, had they remained closer to where I live and this is an immense source of sadness for me. Although, I will get the quality time with them, when I visit.

I know I will find a new rhythm and that I will just have to become a frequent flyer, so as to make the most of her new life in Scotland. I spent a good amount of Saturday crying and feeling upset about her moving, which was a bit unusual for me (obviously needed).

I love her, she is beautiful, kind, caring, compassionate and the best friend I could ever have or ever need and that will last beyond her moving back to Scotland.


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Why I love…Planning reading schemes of learning

I started writing this blog ages ago, as I was thinking about the process of planning schemes of work for new texts and how that has changed, developed and evolved for me as I’ve become: more experienced; read more blogs, research and teaching and learning books;  modelled more in my classroom; evolved as a teacher; had the support and guidance of colleagues in school; had the support and guidance of colleagues on Twitter (particularly the wonderful @team_english1 and @engchatuk specifically for English teaching and @ukedchat for more general pedagogical discussions); reflected on my own teaching and learning; trialled new ideas; learnt from mistakes.

The tweet here brought to mind that I never finished my thoughts on this:

I’ve planned schemes of work or units in different ways at different times, depending on what I want the students to learn and my thinking about how much I plan in advance has changed over time, as well as how I plan. At the start as a new teacher, I made the mistake of planning as an individual unit of learning as opposed to thinking about the bigger picture. Now, regardless of how I sequence the specifics in the SOL unit I think about a bigger picture perspective at the whole curriculum level, before drilling down into the unit I’m planning.

 Bigger picture considerations for a new unit: 

  • The end goal of the unit
  • What I want them to know, learn and understand from the scheme
  • The bigger picture in the learning journey of the student and how the unit fits with this: where they are now, where they are going, how they will get there, how the learning in the unit will facilitate this
  • How the learning in the unit will fit into the future needs of the student (GCSE/A-Level/Further academic study)
  • How the learning in the unit fits into the current curriculum in place
  • How the new unit of learning will impact this curriculum (also, whether other units will need to be adapted as a result of the new unit)

Planning a unit: 

When I’m thinking about planning a new scheme or unit of work for reading, I’ll start with the text in mind. I’ll read the text and then work from there. My first reading will be a ‘dry’ read of the book to get to know it and to familiarise myself with the text. Then, I’ll use a knowledge organiser template to start noting down ideas as they come to me and that will be an ongoing work in progress throughout the unit, I’ll have the KO template open every time I’m working on the unit to reflect on, refer back to and to adapt as my thinking evolves. In my notebook, I normally scribble initial thoughts down in a very messy format to begin thinking about what I want to cover from the text. Then, I’ll decide what the end goal of the unit is and what skills I want the students to be completely secure with. Units may differ as they are important for ensuring students are secure with: extract analysis; embedding context effectively; extract to whole text understanding; whole text essay skills only or a combination of these elements. Once I’ve decided on this end point, I’ll think about the other units that have preceded this unit and what knowledge and skills the students should have already to build on. I’ll also consider whether the end goal fits with a progression model in the curriculum or whether it is ‘more of the same’, if I think it is more of the same, I’ll adapt my end goal expectations in line with what the current curriculum offer looks like.

This is the initial planning stages done. At this point, there is no actual unit or scheme of learning in place, but a scribbled plan that I will return to, add to and refine.

Researching the unit: 

As I am working on the unit, I’ll read around the text using study guides or exploring online. I tend to do it this way, rather than front-loading the research element as I find it more useful, but equally in the past I have front-loaded my reading and research.

Creating a mid-term plan: 

Next, I’ll create a mid-term plan for the unit. The mid term plan for me, is normally a word document with a rough map of the lessons that will be taught or the sequence of lessons that will be taught in that week. Sometimes I’ll do a lesson by lesson plan or at other times it’ll be a week by week or a more fluid plan. I don’t use a set mid term plan structure, as not every unit is the same. If I had a rigid structure or directed way that I had to complete a mid term plan, I would still plan in the same way and then go back and populate the more rigid form in retrospect, rather than trying to plan in a prescribed way, as I like the freedom of choice. Also, the mid term plan that I start with, is never the same as the one that I end with as, like the KO work, it changes and adapts as I re-read the book and plan individual lessons or decide on a format for the lessons.

Context focus: 

Regardless of what reading unit it is I’m doing, I’ll try to embed context meaningfully within the body of work, rather than as individual lessons. I might create a lesson or two on context to specifically teach the context points, but this will be embedded within the unit where relevant and appropriate and will always be focused on using the context meaningfully to support the students understanding of the text. In the past, I always front-loaded context and then never understood why students didn’t use it: they forgot it or didn’t understand how it was relevant to what they were learning in the novel and that meant teaching it in that way was moot. Obviously, I could have alleviated that with retrieval practice around the context, but I’m sure I’m not the only person who has recognised that they used to teach in a linear fashion and expected the students to remember everything that had gone before. As well as teaching a single lesson of context embedded in the unit, I’ll plan for opportunities to link to context during the teaching of the unit and embed this in the teacher talk, linking context elements as we discuss the learning.

Plot understanding: 

There are different ways that I might plan to do this:

  • Going through the plot with the students and sequencing it before reading so that students have an understanding of the plot before reading (I tend to do this with Shakespeare)
  • Read as a class (in different ways) and then use comprehension questions as we go through the novel to focus on the meaning, then go back and do further work on the plot, events, themes and characters
  • Read the novel chapter by chapter and work on plot, events, themes and characters as we go through each chapter
  • Using Cornell note-taking as we read to get an understanding of the
  • Fast Read/Cold Read (this is a new trial for 2019-2020) so I’ll see how this works and decide whether it is beneficial in my context

Creating individual lessons: 

Based on the end goal of the unit, I will embed those skills in lessons, as the unit progresses. I’ll focus on key characters, minor characters, key events and themes in the book and try to help students understand the wider picture as well as the close analysis, so that they can go from a whole text knowledge into a close knowledge and then back again. I don’t tend to use PowerPoints in my lessons for every lesson, but have planned individual lessons on them for the department to use when putting together new units. Obviously, they will adapt to suit their needs or style of teaching. I’m a fan of a one slide PowerPoint with different elements of the lesson coming in as you need it and then using the visualiser, pen and whiteboard with teacher questioning and knowledge to do the rest.

Often my day to day planning is reminiscent of @Positivteacha’s approach here, where Matt discusses the reality of having a text and knowing where you are going with it and just teaching it from the text: https://allearssite.wordpress.com/2019/01/09/messy-planning-part-one/amp/?__twitter_impression=true I read this blog about day to day planning and nodded along.

In previous blogs I have shared planning for schemes of learning that show different ways that I have sequenced reading units.

Blogs with SOL that link to reading:

Why I love…Writing a SOL for Purple Hibiscus

Why I love…Planning & teaching a new to me text: Animal Farm

Why I love…Planning for a new text: The Sign of Four by Conan Doyle

Ultimately, planning is a messy business, gets adapted constantly as I teach and planning will be interpreted differently by different teachers. As well as this, until I’ve actually taught a unit the first time through I can have an idea of misconceptions that might come up, but the students will throw up more and this can change the direction of lessons “best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley” comes to mind here). However, having a clear outline of where the text is going, how the text fits into the bigger picture and knowing what you want the students to learn is never going to be a bad thing. Hopefully, this is a useful look at some of the ways I try to plan schemes of learning or units of work for reading units.



Why I love…Writing a SOL for Purple Hibiscus

As part of my gained time work, I’ve been writing a new SOW for Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an author who is in my top ten inspirational people, and whose work I really do admire and love. Hopefully, what I have put together does the novel justice.

First though, massive thanks to @awaken_english Janke Schwartz for the link to her web page: https://awakenenglish.com/purple-hibiscus/ as this was a brilliant starting point for research and understanding and I know that as we are teaching the novel, it will be an invaluable source that I will return too. So, thank you for sharing this.

We wanted to bring in more diversity to our curriculum and were really happy with the work that had been undertaken on strengthening the KS3 curriculum in Year 7 and Year 8, which meant Year 9 was the perfect place for an overhaul. We decided on a poetry unit focusing on diverse voices instead of an older poetry unit that looked at a range of different poems under the war theme and various other poems and the novel Purple Hibiscus, after much debate and discussion about what we wanted to introduce to our students in the Team.

The premise of the unit is to use the research: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/lit.12141

by Westbrook, Sutherland, Oakhill and Sullivan to complete a quick read with students. This is also reflective of Jennifer Webb’s cold read from: How to teach English literature: Overcoming cultural poverty, which is an excellent read with lots of pertinent reminders of strategies for teaching English (for the more experienced teacher) or insights into what really works in the classroom for newer teachers. Hopefully, we will find that Year 9 students respond well to this approach and that it will inform our understanding of how to help students move from an overview of meaning (whole text understanding) to a closer focus on events or characters, while maintaining that understanding of the whole text context. This is a skill that students find difficult but which is imperative for a showing a wider understanding of literature. Here is hoping. 

A summary of the strategy for teachers has been completed below on the slide ‘Notes for Teachers – No1’


Further rationale for the way the Scheme of Learning has been produced is below:

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This is an example of the simplistic comprehension questions that teachers can use at different points in the reading of the novel. The quick read is designed to use these prompt questions and for teachers to address live any questions students have, as well as offering their own questions that occur as they read through the novel. Teacher autonomy will be really important in helping students understand what is happening in the novel.

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Once the quick read and comprehension questions have been completed students will be encouraged to bring together their understanding of the novel as a whole using the graphic organiser idea (see below), focusing on who characters are and exploring wider themes in the novel.

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After the whole text understanding has been completed, we will look at context (or depending on the class) this may have come earlier in the sequence of learning.

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From here on in, there are writing tasks, both creative and viewpoint that will be embedded alongside the reading analysis. Further analysis of characters and ideas in the book are included too.

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There are loads of other lessons attached below, which attempt to explore the whole novel and which offer choice about what to concentrate on.

As we teach the novel, there will be refinements and bits that I’m sure I’ve missed that will need embedding, but hopefully this will be a useful starting point for teaching this novel. I’ll also look again at the Mid Term Planning document before teaching it and am sure I’ll refine it/adapt it.  As always, it will be a work in progress.

Hope that this is useful.

Why I love…Creative Writing as a Slow Process (Part 2)

I’ve written about stripping writing back to the basics before and using modelling to really unpick what makes writing interesting. Why I love…Creative Writing as a slow process

This year, Year 10 had finished their exam for Literature and as a team we wanted to do something meaningful with writing to support our students before they fully engage with the Language course. We discussed the idea of doing a slow write for creative writing and I explained that I’d done that before and it had been a successful way of building an ‘in the moment story’. Convoluted narratives that last many days, weeks, years or months are not brilliant to read as they tend to go nowhere, in my opinion and can’t be given justice in 45 minutes. I always try to remind students that they are writing a snapshot in time, rather than a novel and that novels take months of planning, researching and writing, therefore drawing upon their own experiences (however limited) will make for a better story. That is why I insisted that they all write about a year 10 classroom and an incident within that classroom that happened within the space of a lesson (1 hour).

I put together a creative writing template on PowerPoint as a guide through the unit and created a copy for every teacher to use/adapt or ignore as they saw fit. The unit is very much based on the ‘I’, ‘We’, ‘You’ model of teaching. Sarah Barker @mssfax has a brilliant much recommended by me blog on here: https://thestableoyster.wordpress.com/2018/09/15/teaching-nothing-new/

which runs through the process. The basic premise I used was modelling a bad example, crowdsourcing the reasons for the poor quality and writing this on the board, to form the success criteria. E.g. too many short sentences became vary the sentence types ect. Then, when we had co-created the success criteria, I again crowd-sourced using questioning to get an improved version of the model, which I would painstakingly write on the board exaggerating the decision making process and rejecting words or phrases till somebody in the room came up with something that felt right or sounded right. We’d discuss these choices as they arose and we’d decide together what was right.

We did this for every step of the process – I – We – You: Plans, Introductions, character creation, rising action, climax and resolution. Although, I cheated at the climax point as I could tell the class were fatigued with the process and wrote the improved version and put it together with a success criteria for them to use as an example when writing their own climax.

The difference this time with the teaching of this unit in contrast to my previous slow write was an explicit focus on teaching skills and vocabulary and looking at name and word choices while teaching. We explored the meaning behind names, the difference between using personal pronouns and giving a character a name and how building characters engages the reader more effectively. This work was shaped by our English team and the many discussions on how to effectively teach the creative process, so thank you to them.

As well as doing I – We – You, we also looked at extracts from published writers at different steps of the process to try to mimic those techniques in our writing. The extracts were chosen specifically to explore different techniques such as use of dialogue and characterisation and resolutions. At the end of the unit we typed up the stories and I was really encouraged by the quality of thought and the development that was shown in the majority of the stories that they created.

Throughout the process it also forced the students to re-read their plan several times, to re-read what they had written before and to decide if they need to elaborate or not before they carried on. They had to take control of the writing process and the editing process or else they had very little of a story there.

I also freely admitted to the class that I’m not overly confident with creative writing myself and that is in spite of knowing the components of creative writing and having read avidly for my entire life!

Resources can be downloaded here, these are the word documents that I used alongside the modelling to support students understanding:

The template and the process that I went through with the students can be found here – the PowerPoint that is populated probably best shows all the thinking behind the scheme:

This is the ‘WE’ version of the story that was co-created with the class, which isn’t by any means perfect but which tries to build a coherent story within a short time frame.

Bombarding B11, Year 10 arrived, shoving, pushing and barging each other. Shouting with a countdown “3!, 2!, 1!” Miss Strachan tried to calm the rowdy class. Outside the sun was beaming through the windows, creating a stuffy, boiling pressure cooker. While trying to remain calm and get the lesson under way; bottles were being scrunched; pens were being clicked; students were leaning back on their seats; students continued to mutter, talk, laugh and make noises guaranteed to annoy the now impatient and irritated teacher. Rolling her eyes, she exclaimed “I cannot believe this is my last lesson with you!”

Miss Strachan was (the loud, Scottish, sometimes incredibly stressed teacher) was stood impatiently at the front of the musty, humid class. Glaring furiously at year 10, her tomato coloured face looked like it was about to explode, with frustration. Strachan’s volume was at an all-time high like an animal in pain. Crossing her arms, tapping her feet, exuding anger as she faced her class and stood her ground firmly.

Annoyingly, as the lesson with year 10 progressed the whole class were insulting each other, verbally abusing each other and generally acting up. Stressed, the teacher, Miss Strachan was getting more and more aggravated. Every time she turned her back, more noise, disruption and off task behaviour derailed her lesson.

Abruptly, with a death stare, her patience exploded. Screeching, in a high pitched tone, her frustration boiled over. “This is my last day, all I want it to have a memorable and enjoyable final lesson.”

Little did she know she would get the former!

Ignoring her, the class continued to shout and jeer and generally incite each other like a pack of wild animals. They were practically foaming at the mouth. Outside the sun pierced through the windows increasing the heat and the pressure cooker inside the room. One student, a tall, intimidating ring leader (you know the type!) started a water fight!

Control was gone. If control had ever been in place.

Water bottles with squeezable tops were whipped out of bags at a remarkable pace. Jets of water escaped from left, right and centre. White shirts were quickly soaked through and the noise levels rose even louder than the previous volumes. The chaos was unbearable.

In the corner, Miss Strachan let out a bellow, as she could feel the aggression in the room step up a level. Some quieter students were cowering in the background, trying to avoid the water, looking on in disbelief and thoroughly embarrassed by the level of disruption unfolding in front of them.

Acting quickly, Miss Strachan stepped in between two boys whose facial expression showed rage towards each other, she pushed them apart, shouted at the top of her lungs “SIT DOWN, NOW” as she continued to glower and stare at them.

The students seemed to come to their senses. Sheepishly, they sat down. Looking around, evidence of the chaos surrounded them.

Stood at the front of the class again, Miss Strachan hung her head, clearly defeated. Year 10 had finally destroyed her faith in young people.

As she began to lecture them, she realised it was futile, and stopped.

The bell rang.

En masse the students left. The main instigator asked, as he left the room “Miss, why are you leaving?”…


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Why I love…Thinking about Spelling and Grammar Strategies

First of all, this has been another collaborative approach from our Department, to try to address ‘basics’ missing in the understanding of students knowledge. Ofsted came and they rated us Good, but highlighted that although we were challenging students effectively, there was/is a need to go back to basics across the school in terms of literacy.

Our whole school literacy coordinator asked every team to come up with a strategy to embed subject specific spellings. For English, this is naturally embedded in every lesson, but we wanted to have a strategy that would add value and hopefully really get students to think about some of the commonly misspelled words that come up time and time again.

The Learn – Understand – Apply strategy was born, as well as a Find and Fix exercise approach. It is definitely a hybrid version of strategies that we all already use but is based around trying to get students to memorise spellings (Learn), know what the word means and the common issues around it (Understand) and then apply it in various contexts (Apply). We wanted to offer spellings, some grammar work and some challenge within the booklet. At the end we added complex find and fix exercises (see below) with multiple errors of SPAG that students would need to edit and then explain the correct rule. In this way we were hoping to challenge their embedded knowledge and get them thinking metacognitively about the rules underpinning the writing.  They then self-assess how many errors they have fixed and identify the rules that they are uncertain about. These become their SPAG targets.

Although, I mentioned this strategy during the #TENC19 Why I love…TENC19 Presentation: One Year a Middle Leader – Reflections, Refinements and Reasoning conference, I thought it might be useful to elaborate on it as we are in the process of changing how we are going to work with this for next year.

Initially, we took a handful of words each and created these slides (which formed part of a booklet that we had printed and gave to the students):

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This is the more complex find and fix exercise with the self assessment element afterwards:

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We launched this about the start of Term 4 and discussed how we would get students to use it and how often. We opted for twice a week (to offer consistency) and that we would model using it and then students would work independently on the exercises, so that they could work at their own pace.

The original formatting and sorting of the booklet was completed by the wonderful @megan_dunsby and she spent absolutely ages making the booklet consistent and workable. We had one printed for each student in KS3 and the intention is that the booklet follows the students across years until they have completed it in KS3. The original booklet is here: Spelling Book Final

Obviously, as yet we can’t judge the success of it. However, we did an end of year review and thought carefully about whether it did what we intended (or not).

The review threw up that they are:

  • Very expensive to print in the current format
  • Very bulky to use and don’t easily fit in books or folders
  • They are easy to forget (unless a consistent approach is taken)
  • The find and fix (with words at the top) may not be particularly useful as they can see the word and then just copy it out
  • Students didn’t know where to write the words in the ‘Learn’ section
  • Students didn’t know where to write the sentences in the ‘Understand’ section
  • They weren’t as user friendly as we’d hoped

However, we had only started using them mid year and it wasn’t easy to embed as a result. When used consistently they do seem useful. Students were also actively asking if they were working on them in lessons, which suggests they found them useful. We’ve also agreed that a lot of work went into the booklets and the thinking behind them and we’re not willing to give up on them yet.

In September, we are going to relaunch the booklets in a different more streamlined format and agree a specific set way of using them with classes.

To relaunch we’ve removed the Learn – Apply – Understand slides from the student copy of the booklet. Instead, we’ll project these on the board and go through 3 examples with the students before they work independently.

We’ve changed the find and fix exercises and added numbers to each of the exercises and removed the spelling word from the top. We’ve put the more complex exercises in reverse order from the back, so that students can flick to the back for harder work more easily.  The spellings are now numbered in the booklet at the front alongside the rules, so that students can refer to these to begin learning the spellings. Also, there is additional  space for the sentence level work from the ‘Understand’ section of the strategy.

We will have the streamlined booklet printed as an A5 document instead of an A4 booklet, which should make it smaller, cheaper and less bulky.

The find and fix exercise now looks like this:

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The new versions of the booklets are attached here:

Spelling Book Find and Fix – A5 Booklet

Spelling Book – Learn-Apply-Understand Display

Effectively, we are asking the students to do the same work but have changed the format to save money on printing, to save space and to make the format more effective for the students and team to work with.

We’ll review again at the end of 2019 and see if the booklet with a full year through has been impactful or not. If it is impactful: brilliant. If not, we’ll go back to the drawing board and start again.


Why I love…TENC19 Presentation: One Year a Middle Leader – Reflections, Refinements and Reasoning

I was delighted to be asked to speak at TENC19 earlier this year and was asked whether I’d consider doing something on my first year as a middle leader, which I was unsure of, at first. What if I didn’t do anything worthy of discussing? (imposter syndrome kicks in at times!) However, reflecting on the first year has been just what I’ve needed at this point in the term, when we are all exhausted and it feels hard to keep going.

Reflecting on the journey as a middle leader through the first year has given me the opportunity to really think about what I’ve achieved and what the amazing team I work with have achieved. I find that it is hard to write about achievements, and although I write about what I’m doing in the classroom all the time, I’m fine with that, as it is possibly useful to others. However, writing about how I’ve led a team feels different, almost as if it is boasting or immodest, but and actually as Sheryl Sandberg says in her book ‘Lean In’ (thanks @JoannesGill as this still resonates with me) women have every right to take a ‘seat at the table’ and I do feel like I’ve earned it, even if it feels difficult to strike a balance. I know I’ve worked hard, led effectively and I know that our team have appreciated the work that I do. If you saw me yesterday, you’ll have seen me with three of my current colleagues (2 non-twitterers and @joanneduncliffe1 a wonderful NQT who is joining us in September).

My presentation is here:

TENC Presentation (Final)

The Home Learning document that I spoke about is attached here:

Home Learning Programme 2018

As I mentioned in the presentation we have decided to tweak Y10 and Y11 so that the home learning is truly non-marking, as this has been a source of increased workload, despite it not being the intent. In Year 10 and Year 11 we will set learning that can be self/peer or teacher checked in class, while students complete work set that consolidates learning, but not extended essays (towards exams we may adapt this). For Y11, we will not set extended practice of the language papers but create inference style multiple choice questions that are easily checked as a starter activity. In this way, the home learning will still be purposeful and consolidation based, but not onerous for marking.

Attached below is the retrospective Y9 programme that I discussed as a living curriculum map:

Year 9 Curriculum 2019-In progress

(I’ll do a blog on the rationale behind this) but as discussed the inter-leaving in two weekly format may not take into account Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve, and I will add in/take out knowledge as the year progresses, so that this document becomes a true reflection of what we are teaching and what we want students to have learnt and remembered. The document is very much in the first stage of development and I envisage that parts of it will change and develop over time. We are still discussing for Y9 which books we will teach as well.

Also, the free things to do in Bristol – cultural capital display is attached here:

Bristol’s Free attractions 2018 tutors

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I didn’t put a slide on the powerpoint for the presentation to say what I’ve found hard but did try to thread this through my talk (some of it I did forget) about this at the end of the session:

  • Being a part of an established well-oiled and dedicated team (because at times I felt superfluous) which in many ways is great
  • My own internal self doubt (which I try/tried to quash but which still rears its head)
  • Worrying about being too vulnerable and open as a leader
  • Difficult conversations and navigating supportive stance with recognising that there is a need to work differently, smarter or sharper or even just to make little tweaks to change something
  • Stepping into the shoes of @mssfax as I know she is brilliant and I worried that I didn’t or wouldn’t or don’t live up to her leadership
  • Getting to grips with the new routines (although @katiesuther as second in department and our whole team) are an amazing supportive group of colleagues who ensure that I’m supported and valued
  • Self-doubt as a teacher. Our team are amazing and I’ve found ready to learn a really hard system to get to grips with and that in turn has led me to doubt whether my teaching is up to scratch as well as whether my shared planning cuts the mustard too!
  • Essentially, being reflective is a double edged sword and sometimes as in previous years, I’ve found it hard to switch off and then as a consequence over-think or worry, which I’d not recommend as a long term strategy!

I do recognise that these doubts and worries are entirely normal and that I need to put them in perspective (which I do) and take the advice Katie gives me: “What would you say to a friend?” and “be kind to yourself”.

Video of home learning books

I really hope that this has been interesting and useful. Becoming a middle leader has offered me the autonomy I craved and helped me improve as a teacher immeasurably and that is all thanks to our wonderful team. I’m blown away by the collaborative, kind, supportive and encouraging colleagues I work with every day and know that if I’m doubting myself or need anything at all, they will have my back, just like I have theirs.

As an extension to the real life team, the community, collaboration, collegiality, friendship, support and kindness extended by @Team_English1 is second to none. It was a thoroughly inspiring way to end the year. Well done Becky, Fi and Nicky for the wonderful work that you have done and that you do and thank you to everyone who had a chat yesterday, you really are such a solid team.

Why I love…Visualisers in the Classroom

This is a quick follow up post to consolidate all the ways I’ve been using a visualiser in my classroom since previously writing about Live Modelling: Why I Love…Live Modelling for across the curriculum 

I hope that this is in some way useful and I’m sure there a plethora of ways that I could use this tool more effectively and I’d really welcome hearing how others are using them.  Mine is a bit blurry at the moment and I am genuinely missing it. I’m also not sure how to fix it!

Live Modelling

Of course, live modelling is one of the key ways that I use this tool and I have whizzed through more than one modelling book this year while preparing students to become more independent in their writing or reading analysis. I use an exercise book and this means that I always have the model to refer back to. However, as we approach the end of term 6, I’m not modelling live as much as I have done previously, as I expect students to be able to work with more independence at this point in the year and have less scaffolding. There are various ways that I live model using the visualiser: I, we, you; me consciously talking them through the thinking process as I model; me modelling without the conscious talking process and then asking questions for them to unpick the model afterwards (with this I will annotate the model as they answer the questions); live modelling with a success criteria; co-collaborated live modelling with the students piecing together the model through verbal responses to questions that I ask; modelling a process slowly bit by bit and then the students repeating the process in their own books, almost in a step by step way.

Live Annotating 

I do this often and in a range of ways. The first is with me writing onto a poem or extract of text under the visualiser, while the students watch and listen. As I do this, I am explaining the thinking process. Sometimes I will do this for a whole piece of text or just as a starting point to exemplify the level of thinking that students should be doing. Then,  I will ask students to write up the annotations in the text.  Another way that I do this is by question and answer as I go through the text, I will ask students to feedback and then together we will make the annotations on the text. The benefit of this is that I’m not doing the thinking, the students are. Sometimes, I will just pick out key parts of the text and underline or highlight them and then ask the students to annotate those, but because the highlighting is under the visualiser there is no ambiguity about what I want them to do and where I want them to focus. This is useful as then I can get feedback and we can annotate those and anything else that the students have noticed as they work independently.

Live Feedback 

Students will ask for feedback and I’ve done this live by flashing their work under the visualiser and again explaining exactly what the students have done well and why and what they need to do next and why. As I’m doing this I will ask students to listen carefully to the process as I will be asking them to go through their own work in the same way. Often, what I will do is choose a few students either at random (based on my knowledge of those students) so that I have a range of feedback points to make. Then, when I am done with each book in turn I will write on the board the WWW and EBI points that I have discussed and then I will ask the students to do their own work. The students who had their books done will be asked to read and support the person next to them in the process. In this way I have given specific feedback live and then I will give the students a DIRT activity to do immediately based on the specific need that they have identified. Other times, I will pre-select students that I want to showcase for any reason and then ask for their books. I will have selected those students as a result of circulating the room while they are working and reading what they have done. This means that I can immediately respond to what is happening in the lesson and ensure that I am catching the common errors and getting these sorted live, while still allowing the students to continue with the independent work. I don’t also have to wait till a piece of work is finished to live mark it, instead it is a continuous process of improvement, while the work is being undertaken. Sometimes I will then take the books in to mark but other times this will be the marking process.

Self and Peer assessment 

I will ask a student if they can peer assess under the visualiser or self assess under the visualiser and explain to the class why something met the success criteria or not and how they would improve it. I will also model what a successful peer assessment should look like in students books and then ask them to swap and complete the same exercise, this works in the same way with self assessment.

Student Critique 

I will ask students if they can kindly critique the work that has been flashed under the visualiser. They will give constructive feedback and then I ask the students to identify if they have anything similar in their work.

Sharing success 

I ask the class if they have any work that they are proud of and then I flash that up under the visualiser to share with the class. This is really good for students who are quieter abou their achievements as I can encourage them to share excellence. I also sometimes ask for this based on the length of work that has been completed to show just how much can be achieved with concentration and focus. I also use it to flash up excellent home learning examples to share with the class and work that I think has gone beyond the normal level of effort that I would expect, so that we can celebrate as a class how that student has been performing.

Reading along with the class

At times, I will put the reading (book/extract/poem) under the visualiser and ask students to follow as we read along with it on the board, rather than them having a copy in front of them and following in that way.

Generally, having a visualiser is a perfect way to offer live feedback, modelling, support, challenge and is along with a board,  board pen, projector the best tool I have to use in my classroom to support students. I don’t know the make of the one I have but it looks like this and was in the class when I arrived, which was just brilliant. I also have to thank our fabulous English team as they offer these ideas to me all the time.