Alterna-Front

Generative Learning in Action (2020) by Zoe & Mark Enser

Generative Learning in Action is refreshing after the heavy doses of Rosenshine I’ve been consuming recently. There are two aspects to the GL approach I find particularly engaging: it approaches learning from the learner’s perspective rather than that of the instructor (the “flip-side” that the Ensers repeated point out) plus...

Richard Skelton, These Charms May Be Sung Over A Wound

Aphotic and portentous, Richard Skelton’s new album has been played around these parts for a week. It’s magnificent. I’d even go so far to say that it’s a significant piece of modern music. The gloomy, droning soundscape evoked by Skelton on this album is perfect for both this time of...

Swamp Thing

I’ve always had a soft spot for DC Comics’ muck monster, Swamp Thing. When I was a kid, there was a newsagents in Bryant Road in Strood where they had a spinner rack full of American comics for sale. I’d buy comics on the way home from school. It was...

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

ENTRY FOR THE FIRST DAY OF THE TENTH MONTH IN THE SECOND YEAR AFTER THE ALBATROSS CAME TO THE SOUTH-WESTERN HALLS This evening I finished reading Piranesi, Susanna Clarke’s new novel. When I closed the book it was dark outside and I needed to turn the light on in the...

Young Knives, Barbarians

Just when you thought it was literally the end of civilisation, The Young Knives (or, more properly) Young Knives without the “The” any more have released a new album, Barbarians. And. It’s. Rather. Good. Indeed. Their last album was something like 7 years ago. It’s very very welcome. Their earlier...

The Goalkeeper’s Revenge and Other Reminiscences of English

This morning I was talking with Alice about my experiences of school. We’d been swapping anecdotes about childhood as you do when you get older and try to discern some sort of pattern in those early years that led to where you end up as an adult. It’s all a...

Questioning Rosenshine’s Principles

In search of the real Rosenshine In the 4th September 2020 issue of the TES, Jessica Powell argues that Rosenshine’s principles are “poorly understood”. In the article, Powell describes her initial sense that the principles are “straightforward, uncontroversial” and a framework of approaches that most teachers are already doing. The...

Some Thoughts About Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Agents of Dreamland

After the desert of ebony sand, there’s a great city of spiralling towers and crystal domes. Beyond the city is a vast methane ocean as still as glass. Furious storms travel the ocean. Benzene falls like snow. Ancient beings hunched over machines on this planet detect NASA’s New Horizons interplanetary...

Rosenshine’s (and Stevens’!) SIX fundamental instructional “functions”

Rosenshine’s principles of instruction aren’t anything new. Their origin is the 1960s in the direct instruction work initiated by Siegfried Englemann and Carl Bereiter in their work with children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Rosenshine and Stevens themselves readily point out the influences of their instructional model: Gagne’s “components of instruction” (1970), Good...

The Calm Before the Storm? English from the 1970s into the 1980s

Notes from English and Its Teachers by Simon Gibbons (2017) In this chapter Gibbons presents the period from the mid-1970s to the start of the National Curriculum as a high point for English teaching. The Bullock Report supported a renewal of importance of English across the curriculum. Until 1988, it...

Macbeth: Prose Retelling

To a certain extent it’s difficult to read a Shakespeare text with a class in the same way that you’d read anything else. The archaic and rich language can confound children even if they watch a live performance or film version. I’ve found that students approach the text if time...

Alas, Apple Watch I knew you well

At the end of June my Apple Watch stopped charging. I took it off and forgot to charge it for a couple of days and found that it just wouldn’t turn on – even after charging overnight and swapping cables and plugs. Up until then it’d worked fine. I tried...

A New Progressivism: English in the 1960s and into the 1970s

Notes from English and Its Teachers by Simon Gibbons (2017) Chapter 2 – A New Progressivism: English in the 1960s and into the 1970s In this chapter Gibbons presents the period from the Dartmouth Seminar (1966) to the mid-1970s as “pivotal” in the development of English. He identifies the influence...

Knowledge Agenda for Macbeth

In my preparations for teaching Macbeth again I’ve collected a number of knowledge organisers created by teachers working in different school contexts in the UK. There are commonalities: they name characters, identify similar themes, list a handful of quotes to learn and offer some vocabulary to learn. All provide a...

Introduction to English and Its Teachers

Notes from English and Its Teachers by Simon Gibbons (2017) Chapter 1 – Introduction Simon Gibbons presents the purposes, rationale and scope for this study of the development of secondary school English teaching from the mid-1960s to the present. He defines three periods during this time but agrees that the...

Introducing Macbeth

The first few lessons on a text – particularly Shakespeare – are crucial. Nowadays the standard modus operandi at GCSE is to start with assessment objectives, pages of (often irrelevant and subsequently forgotten) contextual information and lists of vocabulary or technical terms. Often knowledge organisers are given out before anything...

A Long, Long Time Ago…

Sorting through old school resources, I found this project from 1997. I was in my second year of teaching and still have memories of making this booklet as a media mini-project for Year Seven. The scan of the booklet shows the way in which it was constructed back in the...

Practical Planning for Teaching Macbeth

In September I begin teaching Macbeth to two Year 11 groups. I’m starting at a new school, I’ve not met the students before and have to consider the practicalities of teaching in a post-Lockdown, Covid-safe environment. Over Lockdown and the Summer I’ve had the opportunity to read and reflect on...

Intellivision Summer

Back in 1983 my mum rented an Intellivision games console from Radio Rentals. She couldn’t afford to buy a console so she added it to the colour tv she rented. I actually wanted an Atari 2600 at the time but that wasn’t available from Radio Rentals. Some of the kids...

Why is Shakespeare the only compulsory content area in this year’s English Literature GCSE?

Amid the controversy over poetry being made optional in the 2021 English Literature GCSEs, there’s been little mention that the examination of a Shakespeare play is the only non-optional component. It’s possible to trace this requirement back to the 1989 Cox Report which is when the first statutory requirement for...

Shakespeare for All Ages and Stages

In 2008 – during the era of the various National Strategies – the Department for Children, Schools and Families in collaboration with organisations like the QCA and RSC produced Shakespeare for All Ages and Stages, not only a booklet giving guidance on the teaching of Shakespeare in schools but what...