Teaching

Talk for Learning

Notes from A Dialogic Teaching Companion by Robin Alexander (2020). Chapter 2 – Talk for Learning In this chapter, Alexander explores the relationship between talk and the development of a child. He examines the shift in the 1970s between the child as “lone scientist” to “apprentice”. The persistence of recitation…

Prologue to A Dialogic Teaching Companion

Notes from A Dialogic Teaching Companion by Robin Alexander (2020) Chapter 1 – Prologue In the Prologue, Robin Alexander gives a case for teaching talk as an essential tool in teaching and learning. He describes the positive value of dialogic teaching and asserts that there is a strong evidence base…

“build a ladder of opportunity so that the able can get ahead”

Provocative New Statesman article by Adrian Wooldridge which insists that the key to the “reinvention” of the Labour Party is by going back to basics – appealing to the “new working class that is growing alongside the old one” – and reinstating a belief in meritocracy, “the belief that individuals…

To Coalition and Beyond: Back to the Future?

Notes from English and Its Teachers by Simon Gibbons (2017) In Chapter 6, Simon Gibbons brings the book up to date (to 2017 which – after Covid 19 and the lockdowns – seems an age ago). He presets a largely bleak and somewhat dispiriting picture of current English teaching in schools…

Writing Wrongs, TES

Great article in this week’s TES about the teaching of writing. Liz Chamberlain (Open University) and Rob Drane (English subject lead at the University of Cambridge) argue that writing is being taught in primary schools causes “a disconnect between how we view writing in the real world, and how writing…

New Labour, New Policies

Notes from English and Its Teachers by Simon Gibbons (2017) In Chapter 5, Gibbons focuses on New Labour’s impact on English. The Labour government sought to tackle the underachievement of poorer children. This was when I started teaching and remember all too well the exhausting period of the National Strategies….

Problems in English

Notes from Making Meaning in English by David Didau (2021) Chapter 2: Problems in English This chapter defines English as a “folk discipline” where its teachers have limited understanding of effective approaches. Didau dismisses “skills-based” teaching and, instead, proposes a “knowledge-based” approach. He also shows concern that students practise the…

What is English for?

Notes from Making Meaning in English by David Didau (2021) Chapter 1: What is English for? This chapter presents the current state of English, drawing on its history as a school subject to explain how and why English seems “lost” as a school subject with teachers ignorant of its past…

Introduction to Making Meaning in English

Notes from Making Meaning in English by David Didau (2021) Introduction David Didau offers a third way that appears to reconcile the traditional and progressive strains within English teaching. He notes how English does not have an agreed body of knowledge or purpose. Didau believes that changes to the academic…

“Capital Punishment” by Danielle Jones (TES, 20210226)

“Cultural poverty is not the pressing priority,” Danielle Jones argues in a TES article. It’s economic disadvantage. Jones refers to Bourdieu and briefly draws a connection between wealthy families and possession of cultural capital. She believes that OFSTED’s interest in cultural capital has an “unarticulated assumption, therefore, is that economic…

Standardisation? The National Curriculum and Assessment

Notes from English and Its Teachers by Simon Gibbons (2017) In this chapter Gibbons presents the changes to English during the period of the 20 years-long Conservative government. His starting point is the 1988 Kingman Report and the introduction of the National Curriculum, the first attempt at prescribing the context…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Rosenshine’s Principles in Action

Notes from Rosenshine’s Principles in Action (2019) by Tom Sherrington This is the first of my notes from three books about Rosenshine’s principles. The two most useful aspects of this book are the way in which Sherrington organises the 10 principles into 4 strands (though he rightly emphasises that the…

Interest and Enjoyment: Teachers and Pupils

Notes from The Preachers of Culture by Margaret Mathieson (1975) Chapter 14 – Interest and Enjoyment: Teachers and Pupils The final chapter of the book considers the role of pupil engagement and classroom relationships in contemporary (1975) approaches to English teaching (particularly in areas of creative writing, use of media…

The English Teacher’s Role: Strain and Conflict

Notes from The Preachers of Culture by Margaret Mathieson (1975) Chapter 13 – The English Teacher’s Role: Strain and Conflict In this chapter English is presented as placing its teachers into stressful and vulnerable roles due to its diffuse nature and conflicting ideologies. Mathieson: “This chapter suggests that progressive English…

Social and Academic Background of Teachers

Notes from The Preachers of Culture by Margaret Mathieson (1975) Chapter 12 – Social and Academic Background of Teachers This chapter examines the social background of English teachers and the impact this had on the ideology of the profession. English teachers have historically been drawn from working class and lower-middle…

Changing Views of the Good English Teacher

Notes from The Preachers of Culture by Margaret Mathieson (1975) Chapter 11 – Changing Views of the Good English Teacher This chapter considers the different qualities which have been demanded of English teachers. Mathieson argues that the development of English teaching from basic skills into Literature, creativity, growth through linguistic…

Socio-Linguistics: English and Social Justice

Notes from The Preachers of Culture by Margaret Mathieson (1975) Chapter 10 – Socio-Linguistics: English and Social Justice This chapter presents the recent (from 1970s perspective) high value placed on children’s oral participation and its link with the sense of social justice and the relativism of modern linguistics. The teaching…

F.R. Leavis and Cambridge English

Notes from The Preachers of Culture by Margaret Mathieson (1975) Chapter 9 – F.R. Leavis and Cambridge English This chapter presents the influence of F.R. Leavis, I.A. Richards and the Cambridge School on English teaching in university and schools. Like the progressives, they distrusted industrialism and believed that society’s quality…

Progressive Theories Since the 1920s

Notes from The Preachers of Culture by Margaret Mathieson (1975) Chapter 8 – Progressive Theories Since the 1920s This chapter discusses the burden placed upon English teachers by progressive educationalists. The responsibility for reviving a genuine folk culture was added to the Newbolt Committee’s demands for a liberal education for…

Anti-industrialism: The Claims for Literature and Creativity

Notes from The Preachers of Culture by Margaret Mathieson (1975) Chapter 7 – Anti-industrialism: The Claims for Literature and Creativity This chapter argues that current (1970s) definitions of English in schools have been influenced greatly by the anti-industrial tradition in literature and literary criticism. The belief in an idealised rural…

The Newbolt Report and English for the English

Notes from The Preachers of Culture by Margaret Mathieson (1975) Chapter 6 – The Newbolt Report and English for the English This Chapter presents the 1921 Newbolt Report‘s dissatisfaction with the classical curriculum and its failure to “humanise” more than a privileged few. The Report and George Sampson’s English for…

Progressive Theories and Creativity

Notes from The Preachers of Culture by Margaret Mathieson (1975) Chapter 5 – Progressive Theories and Creativity This chapter describes how European and American ideas about child development influenced teaching in Britain and the position of the child at the centre of the classroom. By 1921 English as a school…

Literature and the Threats from Commerce

Notes from The Preachers of Culture by Margaret Mathieson (1975) Chapter 4 – Literature and the Threats from Commerce This chapter briefly presents the fears about the corrupting influence of cheap press and film in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Support for study of English Literature long before…

Matthew Arnold

Notes from The Preachers of Culture by Margaret Mathieson (1975) Chapter 3 – Matthew Arnold This chapter presents the influence of Matthew Arnold upon English. Matthew Arnold was committed to the idea of a central educative subject that would “form the soul and character”. Arnold expressed views about education “in…

Essays on a Liberal Education

Notes from The Preachers of Culture by Margaret Mathieson (1975) Chapter 2 – Essays on a Liberal Education This chapter briefly examines the influence on English studies of Dean Frederic William Ferrar’s 1868 collection, Essays on a Liberal Education. A pdf of a scan of Essays on a Liberal Education…

The Curriculum Debate

Notes from The Preachers of Culture by Margaret Mathieson (1975) Chapter 1 – The Curriculum Debate This chapter presents the central issues of the nineteenth-century debate between supporters of classical and scientific studies and argues that the underlying assumptions and manner in which the debate was conducted affected the way…

What Matters in English Teaching

Over the last few months I’ve read Barbara Bleiman’s recent book, What Matters in English Teaching as well as taken two courses organised by The English and Media Centre led by Barbara. Her 2019 Harold Rosen Address to the NATE Conference is rightly insistent in its demands to broaden an…

Cultural Capital: “Slippery and Complex”

Another excellent piece by Barbara Bleiman. Here, she challenges the current interest in teaching “cultural capital”. For Bleiman, it’s a complex thing that – as she shows – is difficult to pin down: cultural knowledge is almost without limit, that you can’t teach it all, that it depends on which…

Teacher Enthusiasm and Reading

This is something I am super-interested in. Yesterday, I watched this video, a presentation in February to the Leonardo at 500: Boosting Creativity in Education by Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills for the OECD: The overall presentation concerns creativity in schools. Schleicher provides a great deal of data…

Curriculum: The Influence of ED Hirsch

https://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/curriculum-the-influence-of-ed-hirsch/ Greg Sloan is head of Media Studies at Haggerston School. He challenges the way that the ED Hirsch-styled cultural literacy is being imposed by central government. As an alternative Sloan proposed bespoke local curriculum cultures. Sloan questions why the academic arguments for a National Curriculum have “simply disappeared” and…

49% of adults in UK do not read books!

Blame tv, blame radio, blame social media and video games if you want. The fact is that nearly half of the adult population haven’t read a book within the last year, according to research by Kantar Media. just 51% of adults in the UK read at least one book in…

Vocabulary. Tiers (not tears).

I’m interested to find out the actual origin of language tiers. At the moment there is an interest in vocabulary as a panacea for improving exam performance. As an English teacher I’m thoroughly supportive of improving children’s knowledge of language and literacy. Where I have my concerns is in the…

“Intelligent Education” or the Panopticon?

Terrifying article on Sixthtone.com about the use of “intelligent education” technology being developed in Chinese classrooms. The Chinese government is actively promoting an extensive AI programme, the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan (NGAIDP), spending $150 billion to incorporate AI into every aspect of Chinese society. The article presents accounts…

“Learning” and “Path-following”

I’m reading Robert Macfarlane’s wonderful The Old Ways. Early on he connects learning and path-following: The relationship between thinking and walking is also grained deep into language history, illuminated by perhaps the most wonderful etymology I know. The trail begins with our verb to learn, meaning ‘to acquire knowledge’. Moving…

TES English Podcast: How to improve writing in secondary

My notes from recent TES Podcast where English teacher, Chris Curtis (Learning from My Mistakes blog and new book How to Teach English and former Whovian) offers some great advice teaching writing. The TES gives an overview of his ideas in the podcast. Encourages a degree of emotional detachment as…

English in Education, Summer 2019

It’s a Literacy-focused issue. John Hodgson’s editorial explores briefly the definitions of literacy and suggests two paradigms exist: one as the functional, autonomous ability of a child to read; the other: …involves reading the world and reading the word… and connects personal response and social awareness. Hodgson cites the work…

English in Education, Spring 2019

Writing is the theme of this issue of English in Education. It’s an excellent collection of thoughtful pieces by English teachers and academics. The editorial sets the tone immediately: Trying to develop excellent writing pedagogy in a system dominated by standardised, politicised assessments makes the task even more challenging. The…

Teaching English, Summer 2019

The latest issue of Teaching English, N.A.T.E.’s magazine, dropped through our letterbox this morning and is a always a welcome insight into the best thinking of English teachers’ professional association. It’s a magazine I always look forward to reading. The theme of this issue is using self-research to develop classroom…

The Great Pedagogical War is over? Huh? Since When?

The other day I was sitting in a staffroom browsing through the April 2019 edition of Teach Secondary. My attention was drawn to an article by Ben Newmark, Whose Curriculum Is It, Anyway?, in which he argues that “the Great Pedagogical War is over” and that “‘what’ has beaten ‘how’“….