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The Three Rs: Resources, Reading & Reflection

Over the summer I have read some very useful texts and scoured Twitter in order to find effective methods for improving Literacy. I wanted to share my thoughts on what I have found in order to bring it together and perhaps help others looking to find similar strategies.


I wanted to start with this section so that the resources can be accessed quickly:

Pupil Premium 

A few of the resources created in collaboration with my colleagues:

Can I also draw attention to some websites with excellent resources:

Memorising quotations: 

There are other great websites out there, these are just sites I accessed recently (the bibliography contains several links).


Shakespeare on Toast

This book was recommended to me on Twitter by @evenbetterif. Shakespeare on Toast is an excellent discussion of all the relevant elements of a Shakespeare play & I would thoroughly recommend it, particularly if you are teaching Macbeth.

Don’t Call it Literacy!

I found this book to be really helpful in bringing my thoughts together in a coherent way. Barton writes in a concise and reflective way that is engaging and helpful. If you are unsure where to start, I would recommend this book first.

Reading Reconsidered

This is an extraordinary piece of pedagogical research. I would recommend this book to all Teachers of English, both new and experienced. My understanding is that Lemov, Driggs & Woolway sought to scientifically examine that practice of excellent classroom practitioners in order to codify the many elements of teaching English. There were several practical ideas that I will discuss later, but the main principle I took from the text is that as a teacher, you need to make the implicit explicit. I think that several experienced Teachers have discussed this principle and I think it has informed much of my thinking this summer.

The Literacy Leader’s Toolkit

This book lives up to its title. Tyrer & Taylor have written a practical guide that explains effective strategies and provides a timeline in which to implement them. Although I am not a whole school literacy coordinator, there were ideas that can be implemented within the English Department and perhaps suggested for whole school.

Talk 4 Writing in Secondary Schools

I found that this approach really challenged my thinking. I don’t know if I will implement the entire Talk 4 Writing approach in my classroom, but there are several key ideas discussed by Strong around creating templates or blueprints for texts types that I find fascinating.


I definitely need to return to some (if not all) of these texts as there is so much to take from them. However, there are a few practical strategies that I wish to put forward:

  • Quality First Teaching – Make sure that every teacher feels able to deliver the best lessons possible in a culture of both high expectations and support (what we want for the pupils too!)
  • Making the implicit explicit:
  • speak your thoughts aloud; speak clearly and with a sophisticated vocabulary; read clearly and with expression; write with the students; revise ‘live’; ask the questions you really want to ask; don’t be satisfied with simple answers; make feedback timely and useful.
  • Make sure that pupils are acting on marking in some way (DIRT)
  • I would strongly encourage all teachers to request a Visualiser; you can show a good piece of work to the class, mark a piece of work with the class, annotate a text with the class and show different drafts of the same piece of work throughout a lesson. There are other uses for a Visualiser, however the four strategies I have mentioned are the ones I use most often.
  •  Talk for Writing approachI am particularly interested in boxed up exemplars, blown up to A3, annotated in pairs for the following:
  • Connectives
  • Useful phrases (raid the reading)
  • Technical terms
  • Maybe you could say ‘CUT it up’

    Pupils then use these exemplars to create their own ‘blueprint’ for a text. The teacher and the pupil can then create a new text together based on the ‘blueprint’, then finally the pupil creates their own text independently.

  • One final useful phrase could be DOT: Dictionary or Thesaurus. A teacher could call out ‘DOT’ when an unusual (tier 2?) word comes up in a text and pupils would react by looking at the dictionary or thesaurus on their desk for the meaning.
  • There are dozens of strategies in Reading Reconsidered, this chart is a good place to start, created by @TeacherTrying on Twitter.
  • Front the writing – instead of discussing questions, ask pupils to Stop, Jot & Learn first, then discuss, in order to check for understanding and pupils build independence. This is a rough idea of a lesson sequence.
  • When using worksheets, use text boxes, DARTS & gloss words to allow pupils to engage
  • Develop further links with Feeder Primary Schools and try and have an exemplar piece of work travel with the pupil from Year Six to Year Seven.
  • Literacy ambassadors: reward pupils that are good writers and ask them to seek out good writing from other pupils; teacher and literacy ambassadors run assemblies about good writing; ambassadors mentor weaker pupils on their writing

As I said earlier, there are many more strategies and ideas in the books I have mentioned, these are just some key strategies that I think I can use and will benefit the pupils in my school. I hope that this has been a helpful post.




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Reflection on Teaching Backwards INSET

This INSET was held at Reigate Baptist Church on Friday the 12th February, as a collaborative event between Reigate School, The Warwick & Oakwood (three Secondary Schools in Surrey).

Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude and admiration for the presenter, Andy Griffith @OTeaching. I found his style to be engaging, thought provoking and enjoyable. Mr. Griffith used the sessions to model great teaching and I think this was one of the most valuable parts of the INSET.

In terms of the sessions, I would say that the first session was the most important for me personally. I have known for a long time that setting and keeping high expectations for students’ work has always been my weak point.

The presentation used a mixture of humour, practical examples and a reflective checklist in order to emphasise the importance of establishing and maintaining high expectations.

I have photocopied the ‘Step 1 Checklist’ as it has been heavily annotated! Underneath the checklist there are two sentence stems, the first saying ‘I need to stop…’ and the second ‘I need to start’. I have filled these out in detail with plans for two of my groups that need to have their expectations raised.

The main practical strategy that I will take from the day will be to create an ‘effort scale’ that can be personalised by each of the students.

The following sessions were a pleasing combination of principles that I recognised in my own practice and ideas that I was unfamiliar with. I found the topic planner useful and I will try to incorporate elements of it when planning future SOW.

I have a couple of final thoughts to do with the day itself (this is not as relevant to the course in question). As there were three schools involved we were sat at tables that combined staff from each school. This was to encourage discussion and collaboration. I believe there was some limited success to this, Mr. Griffith did try to encourage collaboration, however I feel like this process needs further development. I think perhaps if there had been more group tasks as a table, as opposed to pairs, this may have been beneficial.

I would highly recommend this training to other schools and I have definitely benefited from it.

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First half term: how did I do?

Below is copied text from a post I wrote in the summer. I am going to self assess on each of these targets:

Personal reflection


The pupils in my classes need me to be rested and calm and collected so that they get the best from me. Therefore, I need to ensure that I sleep well, read for pleasure, exercise and manage my workload. – I am doing reasonably well at this, however I must try not let this slip towards the end of term.

Behaviour management

This has always been the weakest area of my practice and I will be making a concerted effort to improve this. I will be taking the following steps:

Higher initial expectations of behaviour in the classroom – This could definitely be better

A calm and consistent response to disruptive behaviour – Perhaps the target I have met most convincingly and the one I am most proud of – I have stayed calm and controlled even when confronted by some very negative behaviour

Use of SIMS to record sanctions – Getting better

The biggest challenges for me will be to instil higher expectations in my middle ability Year Eleven class and to ensure that I stick to the above routines with them and with my incoming middle ability Year Ten Class. – I have been successful with my year ten but year eleven are proving very tough, probably as I did not start well with them

Marking and Feedback

I am determined that my marking has as much impact as possible. I do not want pupils just to glance at their book simply to check it has been marked. I will therefore ensure that I am consistent with the following:

Pupils instructed to leave significant space for feedback underneath their work – Not met yet

legible, specific, differentiated marking – so that pupils can read and understand both WWW and EBI. – Getting better

Directed Improvement and Reflection Time – I didn’t carry this through last year and I think it is crucial – this can be done with purple pen – Much better and it is having an impact

Peer Assessment – This will be modelled multiple times and will firstly involve highlighting the best line/paragraph in a piece of work and the line/paragraph that needs most improvement, progressing to pupils using specific success criteria in the same way that I would. – Much more work needed on this

Lesson planning

With every lesson I need to ask:

What do I want the class to have learned by the end of this lesson?
(learning objectives/outcomes/learning arrow/all/most/some) – Could be clearer

How can I connect the lesson to previous learning?  (starter/key words) – Starters have been a strength for a while now

How will I check their understanding?  (mini plenary/plenary) – This needs to be more consistent

What are the needs of specific learners in the class and how can I meet them?
(PP/SEN/G&T/what I have learned about them) – Differentiation is a strength.

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The Lords

It is an interesting debate; on the one hand the Lords is an unelected chamber, on the other hand the Tories stated explicitly that working tax credit wouldn’t be cut (Cameron even stood up, Westlife style, to emphasise his point). Also, it will be interesting to find out why the Tories packaged the bill in the way that it did, because, as I understand it, the bill could have been exempted from a vote in the Lords as a strictly financial measure. Instead it was a ‘statutory instrument’, a classification which seems perfectly placed to invite conflict with the Lords. Do the Tories now regret reforms that have lead to a greater number of Labour and Lib Dem peers? I doubt that they have invited this conflict as part of a radical belief in true democracy.

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A bit of a rant.

I posted this Guardian Article to Facebook about Teachers wanting to leave the profession and someone commented that Teachers should be pleased that curriculum reform is now aiming to place the transmission of knowledge at the heart of teaching. I replied with the following:

I can only speak from my perspective, but I don’t think it is curriculum reform that is the problem. I think it is good that we have ditched Of Mice and Men and I am really excited to teach Jekyll and Hyde. However, I think teachers are frustrated for a few reasons. Firstly, I have been teaching for five years and in that time Coursework was changed to Controlled Assessment, reformed and has now been eliminated completely, along with Speaking and Listening (which was changed mid course). Also, the methods by which pupils are assessed at KS3 is constantly under question and review. Finally, the methods by which Teachers are appraised seems constantly under question and review. My colleagues and I want to transmit knowledge, we want to make pupils better at reading, writing, speaking and listening and foster a love and exploration of great literature. Instead of this it feels like we are in a period of great uncertainty where a teacher’s professional ability is measured through endless bureaucracy.

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Something nice.

My NQT observed a colleague of mine in English this week with a behaviour management focus, she was really impressed and I made a point of letting my colleague know this.

‘It’s good to hear something nice for a change’

Was the reply, because as an English Teacher and Head Of Year, that doesn’t happen often. I was really happy to be able to pass on the feedback and it linked in to an idea I have had (which I am sure others have had due to convergence)

The Idea

An email is sent out to staff listing all the main areas of teaching and learning, with perhaps some space for ‘other’. Staff can then voluntarily nominate as many or as few staff as they like that they think are excellent in that area, for example I could nominate my aforementioned colleague for behaviour management. These nominations are then collated.

Teachers with one or two nominations will get an email telling them what they were nominated for. Teachers with several nominations will be asked if they would like to run a CPD session.

I just feel like staff will get something positive said to them and the school might get some decent CPD out of it. 

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Pupil Premium: Creating Effective Dialogue

I have really only scratched the surface of research into the most effective ways of implementing strategies for improving PP attainment (really the attainment of all pupils that are struggling). This is what I have so far:

Dialogue about PP students:

  • Precise assessment of needs – STAR reader, other SEN tests, assessments by other external agencies – Vulnerable? Carer? Looked after?
  • Regular and timely discussions about PP students with rapid interventions (internally, need some kind of back channel or ‘chat’ ability, not email or face to face meeting)
  • Regular and timely discussions about PP students with rapid interventions (externally)


  • Breakfast club
  • Homework club
  • counselling
  • taxi service
  • Mentor – older pupil? Teacher?

Dialogue between teacher and pupil:

  • Building relationships – talk with pupil about wider interests/hobbies (teacher #hack 360 data), buy simple resources
  • Effective questioning strategies
  • Marking feedback – marking PP books first, asking questions in their books, SMART
  • DIRT – make this a routine/expected occurrence
  • Quiet moment with a pupil to reinforce understanding
  • Working with a small group in order to reinforce understanding (in class)
  • Working with a pupil/small group out of class in order to improve understanding

Whole class strategies for effective dialogue:

  • Read out PP work to class for critique
  • Visualiser? Display PP work and critique
  • Differentiation – scaffolding, glossaries, challenges

Peer to peer dialogue:

  • Effective peer assessment – Success criteria, modelling peer assessment
  • Learning Spies – G&T pupils to go round with Lazy Teacher questions, perhaps quietly ask one of them to include a PP (don’t say it in those terms!)
  • Effective group work (group roles, focused tasks, silent discussions on sugar paper, time bonded tasks)
  • Peer mentors (in class or in form time)

Meta cognition (a dialogue with learning?):

  • AfL -clear criteria, all/most/some, return regularly to objectives, model answers
  • CREAM (Perfect Assessment for Learning)
  • Student Help Desk
  • Thinking Process display
  • Learning Spies
  • Plenary dice with following questions/tasks – Read out the best line/paragraph from your work – How can we recap the learning at the start of next lesson – What was the easiest and most difficult thing to understand? – One thing you have learned and one question you still have – Define a key word in your own words – Nominate someone you think has written a good piece of work 

Enrichment (a dialogue with the wider world):

  • Workshops with external groups (e.g. a Shakespeare company)
  • Writer’s visits
  • Guest speakers from industry
  • Trips

Something that I still need to read – IPPR report – Excellence and Equity

Sutton Trust

Sutton Trust PP report 

NewToThePost Pupil Premium

@TeacherToolkit Resouces

@LearningSpy DIRT

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