Some planning tips for new teachers in Key Stage 1

25th August 2014

1. Don’t panic! The curriculum for KS1 is fundamentally about reading, writing, maths, and lots of speaking and listening. There is a small amount of content in the foundation subjects - science, history, geography etc. - but not too much: so breath easy on coverage. For KS1 the curriculum is all about practicing the basic skills without turning school into a bore. 2. Pick a topic kids are interested in. A year with a class of bored infants can be a very long time. Here are some suggestions: castles, animals, dinosaurs, traditional stories and fairy-tales, sharks, space (especially aliens), caves,...

Silence is golden (sometimes)

22nd August 2014

If we need any more proof that ideology should play no part in directing pedagogy, it is in the matter of 'active' and 'passive' learning. What even is 'passive' learning anyway? If it means doing nothing, then it's not learning. If it means not speaking or moving around, then it's not passive. Listening is active participation, just not involving movement or sound. We do this every time we read a book, listen to the radio, or watch TV. So let's consign the idea of ‘passive learning’ to the dustbin. And while we're at it, let's do the same to the...

Teaching as Story Telling, Kieran Egan

13th August 2014

Visit any primary classroom and you will find a corner of the room dedicated to books and reading These are often lovely comfy spaces, scattered with soft cushions to sit on and displays to capture the children’s imagination. They reflect, despite the growing importance of technology in schools, how books still play a central role in the education of young people. This is widely accepted and understood. Teachers tell their students stories from the very first day they start school and children’s storybooks are better made and more engaging than they have ever been. Yet stories are an underused medium...

Play as a medium for learning

7th August 2014

Some of the most astonishing photographs taken during the latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza were those of young children playing among the rubble and carnage left by the bombs. It is almost as though the games they were playing were a shield against the horror and bloodshed that surrounded them. They had no power to stop the terror of the real world of adult conflict, so they were retreating to imaginary worlds where they were the ones who made the decisions - places of greater safety. Play is, as far as we can tell, a near universal and innate human...

Review of Expansive Education by Bill Lucas, Guy Claxton & Ellen Spencer

10th July 2014

This review was first published in Teach Primary Magazine and is re-published here with their kind permission. It is tempting to think of the education debate as a battlefield. Two sides locked in mortal combat, fighting a never-ending war of ideas. Both convinced beyond doubt they are on the side of the angels, while their enemies are at best, misled, at worst, hell-bent on destroying all that is good. I exaggerate of course. Nevertheless, the dispute is real and bitter, and both sides are reluctant to concede an inch, let alone listen. But, what does it matter, you might ask?...

NRocks2014 Presentation: Introducing mantle of the expert

8th June 2014

These slides and notes are form my presentation at the Northern Rocks conference: PDF (5MB) - moe Introduction Keynote moe intro web

A Review of Mindset – Carol Dweck

28th May 2014

This article was first published in Teach Primary Magazine and is republished here with their kind permission. First published in 2006, Mindset has become one of the most influential books in modern day education. Drawing on her research from Stanford University and including many stories of high-achievers from the fields of art, sport, and education, Dweck argues, when it comes to our beliefs on successful learning, people fall into one of roughly two camps: those that believe in the primacy of innate talent and those that belief in the overriding importance of sustained practice. People from the first group she...

A Nagging Problem with Robert Peal’s Progressively Worse

9th May 2014

This blog is not intended as a review of Robert Peal’s book, Progressively Worse: The Burden of Bad Ideas in British Schools, it is merely an observation - a sort of inquiry if you like - of something I noticed while I was reading it last week. I’ve had a number of conversations since, one of them including Mr. Peal, and the observation won’t got away. I’ve tried ignoring it, but it seems quite persistent. So here it is… When I started studying history at university in the 1980’s the first book we were asked to read was E.H. Carr’s,...

A short blog on behaviour, challenge, and expectations

1st May 2014

I’ve been working in a classroom recently. A classroom where: the children come in without having to line up… choose who they sit next to and who they work with… decide when they have completed a task... and which one to do next… don’t ask to go to the toilet… or to have a drink if they are thirsty… or a piece of fruit if they are hungry. A classroom where: the children work outside when they need to… alone or in groups… alongside and with adults… in an environment that is notably calm, respectful, and collaborative… where mis-behaviour is...

A Glossary of Questions

27th April 2014

Knowing the right question to ask at the right time, one that generates thinking, compels dialogue, and promotes understanding, is a significant part of the art of great teaching. For this reason there are many books on the subject and many teachers have written excellent blogs sharing their thoughts. My favourite book is ‘Asking Better Questions’ by Norah Morgan & Juliana Saxton. I’ve read it many times and whenever I return I always discover new insights and develop a better understanding. It is a treasure trove of wisdom and practical suggestions. It is still available on the Internet and I...

My Top Ten Books on Education (this week)

21st April 2014

After a brief Twitter conversation, Phil Stock @joeybagstock suggested we name our Top Ten favourite books on education. Here are mine. They are not, let me stress, a list I expect everyone to agree with. Neither do they represent a definitive Top Ten, the best books on education ever written, or the most influential, seminal or whatever. They are just my current favourites and I'm very likely to change my mind tomorrow. 1. Asking Better Question, Norah Morgan & Julianna Saxton [1994] - A brilliant book on the art and craft of questioning, I've read many times. I'm currently drafting...

The Divisions of Culture

19th April 2014

The ‘Divisions of Culture’ is a planning tool that can help teachers and students to think in divergent ways about a subject or context. It is quite easy to use but can be extremely generative: opening up new paths for exploring and studying a subject, as well as suggesting new activities and opportunities for study. The tool is usually presented as a grid of 18 sections or divisions, each division representing a different dimension of culture and society.   War Family Shelter Work Child Rearing Embellishment Worship Myth & Memory Nourishment Learning Travel Celebration Law Health Clothing Leisure Environment Territory...

DfE Meeting on the new primary curriculum – 8 April, 2014

8th April 2014

This blog is about the meeting at the DfE on April 8th, 2014 to discuss the primary national curriculum and assessment changes for implementation in September. The first part contains my notes from the meeting. The second contains a list of my thoughts on how the curriculum should be represented by the DfE as it is rolled out to schools. In my view the follow up documents to the NC are probably just as important (if not more important) than the curriculum itself, since they will give guidance to schools on how the new curriculum should be implemented. After the...

Another Blog on Not Making Obedience a Virtue

29th March 2014

Last week I wrote a blog about obedience. I think it is fair to say it had a mixed response. However, I did have some very interesting conversations on Twitter and there were some very thoughtful comments under the line, so I’ve decided to write a follow up. I’d like to explore in more detail the range (as I see it) of different strategies we can draw on as teachers beyond merely getting the students to obey. Some might say - “Why bother? Kids should just do what they are told, no questions, then we can get on with the...

Obedience is not a virtue

24th March 2014

A choice I want you to make a choice. The choice is between tyranny and anarchy. If you chose tyranny the country will be run as a dictatorship, backed up by the armed forces. Laws will be made arbitrarily in the interests of those in power. There will be no checks and balances, no free press, no independent judicial system. All that is required of every citizen is unquestioning obedience. If you don’t break the law, then you won’t get into trouble. If you do then the consequences will be dire: there will be no excuses, no opportunity to explain,...


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