20 Mar 2014

Multiple models and the journey to freedom

Edssential article from @atharby :

 To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil’s soul. To Miss Mackay it is a putting in of something that is not there, and that is not what I call education, I call it intrusion…”

― Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

In recent months, I have been considering the importance of modelling writing – I’ve even written a couple of blog posts about it (here and here). Yet despite my fervour for modelling, in the back of my mind a nagging doubt has continued to haunt me. Could my use of models be denying students a chance to become free writers, to find their own voices, to find their own way? In the words of the inimitable Miss Jean Brodie, is my modelling an unnecessary ‘intrusion’ when I should be ‘leading out’ the latent creativity of my students?

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20 Mar 2014

Writing Endings

Edssential article from @GoldfishBowlMM:

Students struggle with endings for a number of reasons. For many, it’s that they run out of time, and write things like ‘NOT FINISHED! SORRY SIR!’, others have no idea how to end something and a fair few have no plan whatsoever so an ending is a happy accident if it occurs. I find that some of the best writing from students can be ruined-or the impact lessened- if the ending is poor or nonexistent so in this post I’m looking at strategies to make endings much more satisfying. The ideas can be thought of in two ways: 1) strategies to allow for sophisticated, controlled endings and 2) quick wins for students struggling with endings. I’m focusing on fiction here, although it will hopefully be useful for other types of writing.

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27 Feb 2014

Frankenstein’s Essay

Edssential article from @Xris32 :

The more I teach English, the more I am faced with difficult questions. What coloured post-its should I use in this lesson? Should I use the whiteboard this lesson? Or, should I use the interactive whiteboard? There are these questions, and then there are the bubbling questions that hide under the surface of an English teacher’s brain. Or, any teacher really. The kind of questions that make you question your sanity. They are the questions that the public would openly laugh in your face if you dared speak or share them. So, you keep these questions to yourself for fear of being a laughing-stock. The problem, for me, is that these questions never go away. They sit and sit and wait and wait for the right moment.

I had some INSET training this week about pushing A*s and two of these questions came to the front of the empty, vacuous space I call a head (trading standards would have me if I called it a mind). The training session was good, but I sat there and thought of a question, well two to be precise. Questions that challenged the common accepted norm of education. Things that everybody has accepted as being the

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13 Feb 2014

This much I know about…teaching students how to plan stonkingly good essays!

Edssential article from @johntomsett :

I have been a teacher for 25 years, a Headteacher for 10 years and, at the age of 49, this much I know about teaching students how to plan stonkingly good essays!

The art of essay planning is difficult to learn. Too many students get to A level and claim that they’ve never been taught how to write essays and that they don’t like to plan, I just write it.

Maybe too many students can’t plan essays well because they have never been taught how to do it well. Teaching the art of essay planning is often a case of training students to:

Underline the key words in the title;
“Thought-shower” their ideas;
Group together similar ideas;

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22 Jan 2014

At first glance: A sentence starter adds unexpected rigor to writing

Edssential article from @Doug_Lemov :

We wrapped up two days of workshops on Ratio on Friday. Ratio is the principle that it’s not whether the teacher gets a mental workout, but whether students do. Our workshops focus on building two types of Ratio, Participation Ratio (who’s engaged in the lesson and how often) and Think Ratio (how rigorous is the cognitive work they do when they’re involves).  Generally you want both, but you sometimes do different things to get them, and sometimes you emphasize one over the other.  One way to maximize both types of Ratio, however, is via more writing. Instead of asking a question that one or two students answer verbally, consider asking all students to answer the question in writing.

On Thursday and Friday we practiced a technique called Art of the Sentence, which asks students to synthesize a complex idea, summarize a reading or distill a discussion in a single, well-crafted sentence.  After all, the definition of a sentence is, often, a “complete thought,” and

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05 Jan 2014

The Vocabulary Gap

Edssential article from @GoldfishBowlMM :

“Learning, as a language based activity, is fundamentally and profoundly dependent on vocabulary knowledge.” *

This is the first in a series of posts about vocabulary.  Some practical teaching ideas will follow.  Here, I discuss the necessity for a focus on vocabulary as a method of ‘closing the gap’.

‘The Matthew effect’, coined by the sociologist Robert K Merton, is the idea that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  This is certainly the case with students’ vocabulary.  Hart and Isley’s study suggests that those in lower socio economic classes begin school knowing fewer words than their peers and that gap gets larger throughout their education.  “Differences arise early, and the vocabulary gap between students grows larger over time”. (Baker, Kameenui  1998)

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05 Dec 2013

Modelling writing… and the meaning of life

Edssential article from @atharby :

Forgive me for starting with a personal story. My son, George, was born with a rare corneal condition in his left eye. At 3 months, his eye was operated on at Great Ormond Street giving some possibility of sight. For six months, his right eye – which has perfect vision – was patched for half his waking hours to give his left eye a chance to develop vision. This was largely unsuccessful. During the patching, George would sit in one spot, virtually unaware of what was happening around him. Over the six months, many aspects of his development seemed to stall – he did not crawl, for instance, until he was over a year old. However, as soon as the patching came to an end he was a transformed child, appearing to bounce back into life again. Now, finally, he could dedicate all his time to watching us, the ‘experts’ of his social environment, model the physical and social skills necessary for his development.

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17 Nov 2013

Gifted and talented at reading loads of books

Edssential article from @Xris32 :

I am asking the common question again: What can I do to push students? Like a pinball machine, a teacher’s head has lots of things and questions wheezing around in it and sometimes it hits something interesting and score points; other times the thoughts  go straight to the hole at the end of the game. Stretching the most able is something I feel strongly about. Pushing GCSE students isn’t just a case of giving them A-level texts. Pushing KS3 students isn’t just  about getting them to attempt GCSE questions. It is a fundamentally far bigger thing than give them work from the next stage up.

I have taught students fresh from the GCSEs and it has often saddened me that students who have chosen to do a subject lack drive, initiative, engagement and thought. But, I think the system we have does cause this. I often feel that I am cramming students with stuff

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31 Oct 2013

What Do I Do With the Scary Smart Ones?

Edssential article from @readingthebooks :

A member of SLT I greatly admire told me recently “I don’t like labels.” I think I had forgotten you were allowed to say that in a school. We have so very many labels for our sausages (another member of SLT described the kiddies thus – another thing I had forgotten we were allowed to say): SEN, EAL, FSM… At what level are there just “kids in my classroom who are all a bit different”?

In our age of advanced data awareness, we are encouraged to not only differentiate, but to do so for the target groups du jour, and in many schools G&T, AG&T, or GTP (gifted and talented, able gifted and talented, gifted and talented pupils – love a good acronym, do teachers) are a box to tick. I know of one school

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