31 Mar 2015

Developing the art of the sentence

Edssential article from @GoldfishBowlMM :

If you have read Teach Like a Champion 2.0, you’ll be familiar with ‘The Art of the Sentence’.

The technique is described as follows:

Ask students to synthesize a complex idea in a single, well-crafted sentence. The discipline of having to make one sentence do all the work pushes students to use new syntactical forms.

Sentences are the simplest mentor texts and students with a command of effective sentence-building tend to produce the best writing. At my school, Dixons Kings Academy, we’ve been starting every lesson with The Art of the Sentence. It’s a simple strategy with a massive impact.

Improving thinking

A well-constructed sentence is about more than just literacy. The best

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26 Nov 2014

Ignite the Thesaurus! Synonymy in the classroom.

Edssential article from @Mr_Bunker_edu :

I don’t wish to start off the blog-post by sounding too boastful. But, and I’m sure you’ll be jealous to learn this, I have a full set of thesauruses in my classroom. Yep, that’s right. While most other English classrooms along the corridor struggle along with only a handful of mismatched, different editions, I have maintained my matching set of pocket wonders, in near perfect condition.

Recently though, I’ve had a little falling out with my loquacious friends, and things came to a head the other day whilst I was marking my year nine books. They had completed some

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02 Nov 2014

10 Silver Arrows: Ideas to penetrate the armour of ingrained practice

Edssential article from @headguruteacher :

Silver Arrows?

It’s very hard to change your practice.  We’re all so busy, very often it is difficult to create space to fully explore a set of ideas and to deliberately adapt our teaching routines to absorb something new.  At the same time, we’re often bombarded with initiatives and issues to address.  It can be overwhelming.  I’ve been thinking about the possibility of stripping down each initiative or development area to something very simple; one idea that captures the spirit of a wider set of strategies.  This would be the thing where you could say if you do just one thing, do this.  A Silver Arrow is one that you allow to penetrate your armour; it changes what you routinely do.

There isn’t a definitive research-informed list; I’m presenting a set of ideas that I think make good Silver Arrow contenders based on my own teaching.   You will have your own set of arrows that carry that message: if you do just one thing, do this.  Here is mine:

1. Behaviour Management: Signal. Pause. Insist. 

Effective classroom management is multi-faceted but if you can do this, you can do anything.   A class is full of students talking – on entry or after an activity or discussion:

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05 Oct 2014

Distilling the best out of words

Edssential article from @atharby:

After reading Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion this weekend, I got to considering two of the main strategies he advocates: ‘Right is Right’ and ‘Format Matters’. Essentially, ‘Right is Right’ is about holding out for the best answer in classroom dialogue, whereas ‘Format Matters’ is about insisting that students speak in full sentences with proficient grammar. It was only on Monday, during a class discussion with my year 10 group, that I realised how shamefully far away from this goal I have been for so long. The realisation was a tough one: for many years not only have I accepted sloppy speech patterns from my charges, not only have I regularly settled for half-complete answers but I have also prided myself on being skilled at leading question and answer sessions!

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23 Aug 2014

Why reading must come before analysis

Edssential article from @englishlulu:

Rewind and start from the beginning

I have hit a stumbling block in my quest for a better approach to teaching essay writing. A major one. Actually it’s not a stumbling block, it’s a person.  Me, mostly me and how and what I teach.

I have realised (yes – belatedly) that if I am going to teach students to write better essays, then they must first have more and greater things to say about the texts we are studying. If scraping by with a basic PEE response isn’t going to cut it anymore, then we need to find some truly interesting things to say about texts.

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06 Jul 2014

When will … when will .. when will I be subtle?

Edssential article from @Xris32 :

An interesting thing happened to me in a lesson: something that I didn’t really expect, or even anticipate in my planning. As I am in the last slog of preparing for the exams, I have been getting students to answer past papers. Every week I have completed the following lesson at least once. Each time I vary the question or task.

Give students a question or reading materials and a question

Students write for a set time, according to the exam specifications.

While students write, I write (type on the computer) my response to the question.

Then, at the end of the lesson, students read my response on the board (including errors) and compare it with their own piece of writing.

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03 Jul 2014

The beauty of annotations

Edssential article from @joe__kirby :

Like dewdrops on a dragonfly, annotations are microscopic, fragile and beautiful. I’ve come to believe that they’re the most important secret for teaching literature; a hidden treasure trove, waiting to be discovered. Here’s what I think is precious about them:

  1. Annotations are the best way for pupils to analyse texts in detail
  2. Annotations are an instant way for teachers to see pupils’ thinking
  3. Annotations allow pupils to return to poems and remember ideas for comparisons

Close analysis 

When pupils are taught explicitly how to annotate, they can go much deeper into texts, beyond surface level ideas. For instance, here are three pupils’ annotations of Rudyard Kipling’s poem If:

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22 May 2014

Can I be that little bit better at…improving the quality of students writing in my lessons?

Edssential article from @davidfawcett27 :

Last month I wrote a guest blog post for Subject Support (which can be found here). It looked at ways that as a PE teacher I can improve the quality of students written work in theory lessons. Since then I have had a number of very unrelated conversations about this topic and worked with a number of colleagues on this same problem. Although I am not a specialist in this field, I am still a huge advocate that I have as much of a duty to develop students reading, writing and general literacy skills as any other colleague. Simply because I am a PE teacher should not be an excuse or reason why I should see this as the work of other departments (more often than not the English Department). I feel it unfair that I should feel the benefit of their hard work and do nothing with my students to help support, reinforce or move students competence in this skill forward. At our school we have a number of whole school literacy strategies that, as individual teachers or departments, we should be following to help develop students literacy. This is a positive set of strategies and ones which are designed to

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23 Mar 2014

The Essay Emporium: crowdsourcing English essay titles

Edssential article from @joe__kirby :

Like a butterfly or a wild flower cupped in your hand, essay titles are small and delicate. Seen differently, though, they are a microcosm of our entire subject.

Chris Curtis eloquently makes the case for the humble essay. Essays are not only a sleek way for teachers to assess understanding; expressing ideas both extensively and concisely sharpens pupils’ thinking and helps them remember what they’re learning.

I began thinking: how might I craft my essay titles a little more deliberately?

So I asked English teachers on twitter to share essay titles they’d recommend. It’s quick and easy to share a question or two, so crowdsourcing seemed a good way of comparing lots of concrete examples.

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