Using a painting to develop curriculum knowledge and understanding

23rd March 2014

The context Last Friday I spent the day working in a mobile with a wonderful class of Year 5/6. The topic they are studying is the Roman Invasions, which they are enjoying enormously. Their teacher, ‘Mr D.’ (as the children call him), asked if I would plan a day exploring with his students the events of the Iceni revolt. The Roman Invasions are one of my favourite areas of study in the curriculum and the students in Mr D’s class are among the most switched on I’ve ever taught: focused, self-organised, and eager to learn. They particularly enjoy learning using...

Are you a Progressivist?

13th March 2014

You may have noticed there is a narrative argument currently popular among some education commentators that lays the blame for all our educational ills at the door of the progressive movement. This argument makes the claim that the progressive movement is built on a central principle, originating from the French philosopher Rousseau, that children are natural learners who learn best when they are left alone to discover things for themselves. This is a mistake, they say, which has distorted and corrupted our system of education in the 20th century and resulted in a facile curriculum and ineffective teaching methods. Progressivism...

Getting it wrong from the beginning:
 Our progressivist inheritance from Herbert Spencer, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget

3rd March 2014

This is not really a blog, just a copy and paste job from Kieran Egan's website I hope I'm not breaking any etiquette doing this. You can read the original page here: Introduction The text comes for the Introduction to Kieran Egan's book "Getting it wrong from the beginning" I've decided to post it here because I have become increasingly frustrated in recent weeks by the way terms such as Progressivism, Discovery Learning, and Constructivism are being used interchangeably and generally negatively. In my opinion this is very unhelpful and does us no credit as a profession. I'm not a...

Some Problems with Topic Planning

25th February 2014

This weekend there developed an interesting conversation on Twitter about the merits and drawbacks of planning using Topics. Several of those involved agreed to write blogs outlining and expanding their views on the subject. List: @MissHorsfall - Creative Cross Curricular Contexts @rpd1972 - Contexts for Learning @ChrisChivers2 - Topic work; taking the long view @cherrylkd - Victorians for my special learners @michaelt1979 - The importance of curriculum design @ethinking - Authentic narrative in cross-curricular planning @ethinking - Flipping school This is my contribution. Topic Planning Topic planning has been popular in primary schools since the early 1970s. Its proponents maintain...

Using dramatic imagination to develop writing

17th February 2014

I don’t know about you, but I find teaching children creative writing to be one of the most difficult, yet most rewarding, teaching tasks I do. For the first half of my teaching career I have to confess it was, on the whole, a hit and miss process. Mostly miss to begin with, then, gradually, more hit, as I slowly developed an understanding and appreciation of what it was I was trying to do. For me, the biggest turning point came when I heard about the six forms of dramatic imagination – sound/silence; movement/stillness; darkness/light. Forgive me if this old...

Planning for engaging students in the curriculum

1st February 2014

One way to think of the curriculum is as a map of a country only partly explored. There are aspects – the coastline, a mountain range, some major rivers – that are well known to previous explorers, but there are others, too – the dark interior – that represent an unknown land waiting to be discovered. Of course, some parts of the new world we are told we have to visit, these are the mandatory places every traveller goes to, but there are others only we will find; places for us to explore and put on the map. In this...

Moving on the Knowledge v Skills debate

16th January 2014

The great Knowledge v Skills debate rages on with no sign of it running out of energy: Every week there is a new blog redefining or reiterating the arguments from one side or the other. From my own standpoint, when I first started reading education blogs about a year ago, I found the heat of the argument confusing. Why was the debate so contentious? Why was everyone so agitated? For me, both knowledge and skills are important – two sides of the same coin – and I found it a very odd idea they could be separated or one given...

Make-believe is not the same as lying

12th January 2014

Why do primary school teachers lie to their students? Some clarification In answer to this question we first have to ask what we mean by a lie. In the Chambers dictionary a lie is defined as: an intentionally false statement: they hint rather than tell outright lies | the whole thing is a pack of lies. used with reference to a situation involving deception or founded on a mistaken impression: all their married life she had been living a lie. My reading of this is that lying involves an intention to deceive for unscrupulous reasons. For me, the motivation is...

Dweck – Mindset in 60 Tweets

7th January 2014

These are my TweetNotes for Mindset. I'm planning to write a blog about it next week: Too busy at the moment. #mindset 2.6 "people have to decide what kinds of relationships they want: ones that bolster their egos or ones that challenge them to grow?" #mindset 2.7 "I'll never forget the first time I heard myself say,'This is hard. this is fun.' That's the moment I knew I was changing Mindsets." #mindset 2.8 Q"When do you feel smart?"A: (from fixed mindset) "When I don't make mistakes." #mindset 2.9 "people with fixed mindset expect ability to turn up on its own,...

Role play: from the ridiculous to the sublime

13th December 2013

I don’t like the term role-play. I’ve not liked it since I was asked, as part of a group of PGCE students, to ‘fly’ around the hall pretending to be snow-flakes to the sound of Aled Jones singing, Walking in the Air. I felt a right nob. This hatred of role-play intensified later in the year, when, as part of an Inset day, I was asked to role-play being a bully, picking on another adult role-playing being the victim. It was excruciating, the two of us play-acting our roles in front of a room of a friends and colleagues. When...

Hirsch and the importance of dialogue

9th December 2013

In answer to @webofsubstance: The Pedagogy of Serfdom We must remember, in The Knowledge Deficit, Hirsch is talking about primary education. He understands explicit instruction will be of only limited benefit after a short while - he suggested 40 minutes a day - and only for the teaching, learning and practice of specific ‘skills’ - the acquisition, application and development of reading and writing. We must presume he would also advocate the teaching of maths ‘skills’ in the same way, certainly the vast majority of primary school teachers would and do. The reason for this is two-fold. First, he understands...

A lesson on marking from Lilly, aged 7

6th December 2013

When my daughter, Lilly, was seven, she brought home from school a pencil drawing of the two-faced god, Janus. She didn’t show me or her mum, but put the picture on a table in the front-room where I found it later that night. When I saw it, I asked her why she hadn’t shown it to us. She said she didn’t think much of it. This didn’t sound right, the picture was beautiful and she had clearly spent a lot of time and care on it. I looked at it again. In the bottom right hand corner was a tick...

Some principles for effective marking

5th December 2013

In this blog, I want to look at some of the principles underpinning effective marking from the schools I’ve visited and the education blogs I’ve read. The following represents my current thinking on the subject. It is not a definitive list, neither would I call myself an expert. However, from what I understand, the principles on this list should constitute a firm foundation for developing a sound school policy on marking: One that will benefit the students and satisfy the inspectors when they call. If I’ve made any mistakes or missed out anything important, please let me know. I consider...

Pedagogy for People

29th November 2013

It is now six months since @betsysalt made her impassioned plea in "What I wish teacher bloggers would write about more…” asking for more blogging on the practice of education, in context, with examples from actual practice, with actual children. Her disappointment was that the topics covered by teacher bloggers tended to concentrate on a narrow band of subjects and rarely offered real, tangible, ideas, recommendations and strategies from authentic experiences in the classroom. Her blog asked for more honesty, more humility, and more sharing: "perhaps most of all, can we hear about your mistakes. We all know failure is...

Links to blogs on marking

27th November 2013

About six weeks ago I started work on a blog for the October Blogsync "Marking with Impact", I thought it would be a quick piece, maybe a few hours work. My focus was on marking for Early Years, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. However, once I got started I soon realised what a complex web of different strategies, purposes, and outcomes the subject is. As a consequence my blog (or blogs) are going to be a horribly late entry. Nevertheless, one advantage in being late is the opportunity it gives to read all the other blogs that have...


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