Rules for Novice Writers

With only one exception, I’ve taught year 7 for every year in my career. This may not seem very remarkable in itself, but as a head of faculty, there is often pressure to teach only exam classes, or mostly KS4. But not for me. Every year I make sure, if possible, that I have some…

Literature Revision and the Art of Giving Spoilers

As a linguistics graduate, I’ve had to work hard trying to catch up with the wealth of literature subject knowledge most of my colleagues possess. Luckily for me, when I ask about an interpretation of a poem, or a movement in English Literature, they are happy to tell me what they think. Sometimes they share factual, historical…

Reclaiming Learning Objectives

I’ve been wanting to write a blog about learning objectives for some time.  Whilst I think they can be a useful tool for teachers and students, they can easily be done badly. Certainly within English, they are prone to the type of genericism that undermines any shred of usefulness. There’s also no doubt that learning objectives have been complicit in…

What’s the Point of English?

What follows is a conversation between me and two year 11 students at school. It happened during a weekly lunchtime intervention session, where we feed the students tea, toast, and sandwiches. We also talk about their progress and help them plan their revision and study time. This conversation was about the ‘point’ of English. I’ve…

Reducing Workload Part 2: Policy vs. Autonomy

Imagine your school brings in a new element of a behaviour policy to tackle student lateness. Now, students who are late to lessons receive an immediate sanction of some sorts. You do your best to uphold the policy, but the teacher next door doesn’t – they feel it’s for the best that students don’t receive…

Teaching Poetry: Vocabulary Matters

Several months ago, I was observing a colleague within the English Department. The class was studying poetry from world war one. Their books were immaculate and showed real engagement with some difficult poems. It was clear from observing their behaviour and looking at the quality of work that they had been taught very well. After around…