August, 2020

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 and Grouws’ “key instructional behaviours” (1979) and Hunter’s “Lesson Design” (1981). Rosenshine and Stevens also identify “How to Instruct” (1945), a series developed during in Second World War by the War Manpower Commission. Similarities with earlier models It’s interesting to not how similar all these approaches to direct instruction –…

Read More

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 was a period of freedoms for English departments to collaboratively develop curriculums and classroom learning activities that could encourage children with issues such as race, class and gender. It Enabled English to be about personal growth but also about a child’s relationship with culture and society. During this period teacher-based…

Read More

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 is spent at the start (after teaching the initial scene) securing understanding of the plot and characters before reading the play. Doing the following is effective: outline the bare-bones of the entire play in 10 steps, each with a quote that students say aloud while miming an action; reading a…

Read More

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 all the resurrection techniques suggested on Youtube, Reddit and other places but it was clear that the battery couldn’t hold a charge. The watch is a Series One second gen that I bought about 4 years ago. When I think about it, the watch has lasted a fair amount of…

Read More

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 of Growth Through English as well as that of the Language in Use Project. Comprehensive Schools + beginning of new progressive English Not until Circular 10/65 (1965) that the requirement was made for all local authorities for a fully comprehensive schooling system. Formation of the London Association for the Teaching…

Read More

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 list of terms (some straightforward, some complex [peripetaias, anagnorisis and hamartia featuring on several knowledge organisers!]. One of my favourites is set out like a Monopoly board with a brief description of each scene in the boxes around the edges. Many schools use the “knowledge” on the sheet as the…

Read More

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 centralising action of the 1988 National Curriculum was a “watershed moment” and that the loss of teachers’ autonomy has coincided with the deprofessionalisation of subject teachers. Gibbons insists that to be an effective English teacher you need to develop a personal vision based on knowledge of how English is best…

Read More

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 else. Groan. What is it that should be established during the first lessons of Macbeth? Begin by connecting the start of Macbeth with students’ existing knowledge. Plunging straight into I.i and encouraging students to consider what other texts and media experiences this opening triggers. Explore the musicality and signification of…

Read More

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 last century: printing sections out on one of the school’s computers and then pasting it all together before photocopying the whole thing and stapling it together manually. I can’t recall why I chose Star Wars as the topic. I taught it before the Prequels (possibly before I’d even heard they…

Read More

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 my practice as an English specialist and try to refine my approaches to teaching. I’m recording my thoughts on preparation and deliver of Macbeth here. It’s about 5 years since I last taught Macbeth. While I’m aware that I’m strong at engaging students in the play and fostering their ownership…

Read More