Notes on Making Every English Lesson Count

‘We each have to carve out our own teaching identity’

The principles:

  1. Challenge
  2. Explanation
  3. Modelling
  4. Deliberate practice
  5. Questioning
  6. Feedback

‘Real English teaching requires you to take the harder route’ p4

‘…young people absorb new words incrementally through multiple exposures to the word in slightly different contexts over time’ p5 (ref. E.D. Hirsch Why Knowledge Matters)

‘…direction, immersion and habit’ p5

‘…establish and maintain good working behaviours’ p6

‘…a child requires many forms of knowledge: of the writer’s life and times; of genre conventions and plot; of language devices and vocabulary; of themes and allusions.’ p11

How to chose a text:

  • Lexical challenge
  • Conversation of mankind
  • Literary conventions
  • Cultural capital

And then perhaps make a final choice between good options: ‘The throbbing heart of the English lesson should be the text itself’ p15

‘A ripple that, eventually, becomes a wave.’ p16

‘…it is far more effective to teach a range of critical interpretations than it is to tell students to make them up’ p19

Daniel Willingham: “Teaching content is teaching reading” p21

Teaching vocabulary:

Wittgenstein: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”

  • words should be taught in context
  • words should be taught with student friendly explanations
  • students need to see how words work in multiple contexts
  • students should practise using the words straight away
  • students should have multiple exposures to new words
  • teach two or three words a lesson
  • model your love of words
  • insist on precise vocabulary in discussion

Preparation/priming a class for a text:

  • Provide three quotations
  • Themes first
  • Contextual clues
  • Related non-fiction
  • Descriptive adjectives
  • A question

Questioning (p34-35)

Make it concrete:


  • Pair words and images
  • keep images near the text
  • simple images
  • students drawing
  • appropriate clips

Graphs and diagrams

Drama: ‘…shed light on a moment in the play and develop it in great detail, not to act out a whole scene’ p40

Go intertextual:

  • Intertextual explanations: Scrooge and Birling are both businessmen…
  • Intertextual questions: Scrooge and Birling are both businessmen. What are the main differences..?
  • Intertextual tasks: Venn diagrams, comparison

Modelling reading (analysis):

“The goal of modelling reading, therefore, is to shine a light on implicit metacognitive processes processes so that feel simple and achievable” p46

Explode a quotation:

  • Circle key words
  • label literary devices – explain their effect
  • zoom in on one key word – effect
  • link to other scenes/quotations
  • historical context
  • ask a further question

Ask for verbal responses, list them, discuss their appropriateness, run with the best. p51

Sentence stems

Read out loud

Practising reading

Read alone/shared reading

Question templates – p68-71

Retaining knowledge:

  • Pause lessons – quizzes, essays plans etc.
  • low stakes quizzes (5 a day etc.)
  • Online quizzes
  • Essay plans
  • Extended writing


Neil Gaiman: “Parameters are the things you bounce of to create art” p80

“…make sure children know a lot about a topic before the start writing about it!” p83


  • Starter sentences
  • Shared writing
  • Class discussions and notes
  • Student examples

Rhetoric p88-90

Grammar – talk in the language of grammar and teach grammar in context

Great example of how to teach the correct use of the semi colon p98-99

Spelling memory cues p100

Writing success criteria: not too many and have both the official criteria and your own student friendly rules or targets p102

Modelling Writing:

“…working backwards from an excellent model and working forwards towards an excellent model.”

I do, we do, you do


  • Think of your reader
  • Model short (sentence)
  • Model medium (paragraph)
  • Model long (exemplar whole texts)

Creating the right culture :

  • Set the ethos
  • Clear rules and sanctions
  • Benchmark brilliance
  • Bright spots (share high quality work) (visualiser)
  • Praise
  • Nudge
  • Consistency

Flow state:

  • Write regularly
  • Adopt a position
  • Map a path
  • Retreat or circulate
  • Interrupt wisely


  • tight parameters
  • tick lists
  • sentence starters
  • key words
  • discussion

‘…independent writing is a destination, not a teaching strategy in its own right” p133


  • Mark less, mark better
  • DIRT
  • Pupils edit first (STAR)
  • Live mark – highlighter / dot marking / circle / verbal
  • Spotlight (bright spot)
  • marking tips p144





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