Monthly Archives: July 2017

We all row together…

One thing that surprised me about the response to my reading article in the TES was the response from a number of librarians. Many librarians got in touch with me to say thank you for acknowledging them. I was surprised by this. Librarians are at the heart of what we do and it got me thinking….and then I wrote this…


As I walk through the doors at just after 7.30 am with my colleague Kaz, we are greeted by Julie who is there every single morning, bright and breezy getting the breakfast options ready for our pupils. Every now and then I tuck into one of the breakfasts myself but today I have decided to be good. Kaz and I go our separate ways as she heads to the KS3 office and me, to my classroom. I walk up the steps using them as a barometer to distinguish how tired I am that morning. Often I pop into my Deputy Head’s office, Michael Goves, for a morning chat and catch up. We are both incredibly passionate about education and like to ensure our edu reading is up-to-date so we can talk for hours about the craft of teaching and learning in his office. I will eventually leave him to go into my classroom and set up for the day, hollering a hello to any of team English who have appeared: Sophie, Freya, Ria, Marija, Steve, Elizabeth – one by one the lights to our rooms turn on, our computers whirr up and the day begins to kick into action. On the way to our staffroom, I will bump into Carol Moorhouse, our librarian. I desperately need to meet with her to catch up on our AR strategy for next year and say, half-emptily, that we must catch up, knowing full well my diary is rammed. However, we will meet because we need to get our AR strategy right and I know she is really keen to do so. Before I get to the staffroom I will pop in to see Paul and Matthew. Paul is our hero – head of reprographics he will endeavour to meet any of our crazy requests. Today I’ve made a mistake and need my knowledge organisers un-comb bound and then re-comb-bound. I offer to do this and we laugh at how stupid I am but I pop back that afternoon and he has nearly done them all. Matthew is our IT whizz, developing our website and newsletters and social media content. He tells me he will get the banners done that I’ve asked for and I tell him there is no rush, it’s for September after all. Once I’ve touched base with repro, I make my way to the staffroom, shouting a good morning to ICT – Simon’s smile always makes me smile harder. As I’m heading to the staffroom, I cross paths with my line manager, Daniel Rosen, who gives me a cheeky grin. We pass sarcastic comments to one another as we fill up our coffee cups and he tells me he will see me on duty in 5. I head down to reception and grab the gate key off Denise, who reminds me to return it straight afterwards. I am notorious for going home with the gate key and, quite rightly, she has now become fiercely protective of it. I stand on duty for 15 minutes before my colleagues, Richard and Rebecca come out to keep me company. We have our weekly catch-up and look forward to the holidays exchanging notes about where we are heading. As I head to my classroom to teach, I catch up with Kelly, our Progress Leader for year 10 and tell her the Knowledge Organisers are nearly ready. And then I teach. For two beautiful hours, alone in my room with the wonderful pupils that make up my classes. At break, I head down to the atrium to check my duty team are all on duty and ensure I get round to saying hello to everyone. First I speak to Julie who, sadly, is leaving this year after 17 years teaching. She is always on duty on time. Next I say good morning to Ed – a brilliant man, ex-army and so very well-respected by staff and pupils alike. I catch up with Lucy, our amazing Head of MFL and we have a giggle about life and work in general before break comes to an end and I am ringing the bell to signal to our pupils that it is time to return to the classroom and begin work again. After I have grabbed a coffee, I pop into HR and ask Kelly and Nicky if they have heard from someone we employed last week and then I make my way up to my classroom to catch up with Matt Baker, our brilliant Head of Geography and new Director of Assessment. We discuss knowledge, exams, assessment and end of term. I then pop over to see Nev and discuss the English timetable which isn’t as straightforward as I would like it to be but we’ve been in worse positions so I just shrug my shoulders and we have a giggle about it. I am hoping I will get it sorted today. There comes a point when it just needs to be done. At lunch I go to the canteen where I am served by Karen. I ask her, as I do every day at the moment, which meal contains the lowest calories and she laughs at me as she knows this is my feeble attempt at trying to diet. I sit with the other staff – Courtney, Lucy, Sarah, Tiggy and catch up over lunch about the day’s events before heading for a wander around the atrium. I talk to Tracy who is our achievement leader for year 7 and express concern about a pupil who I know I need to have a better handle on next year. As I am walking to the staffroom, I catch up with a new member of staff who introduces herself and informs me that she will be my new admin assistant. I’ve never had an admin assistant and as I am walking away, I think about what I might ask her to do and make a mental note to tell my other Subject Leaders about this. In the afternoon, I return to teaching and receive an email from Donna, who is in charge of The Bridge – our alternative education site. It reminds me I must catch up with them about curriculum planning for next year. It also reminds me that I must catch up with Carla, who runs our nurture groups about their curriculum for next year to ensure they cover less content but in more depth.  After school, I head down to the detention room where I am on duty with Verity and Elisabeth. They kindly offer to do the detention so that I can be in the hall with staff as we focus on our planning for next year. I walk into the hall and am greeted by Rob, my new line manager and head over to where English are sitting. I’ve already put Kaz and Freya in charge of leading English so that I can wander round to my other subject leads: Gemma, Peter and Matt to see how they are getting on. Gemma has it all organised and Peter is keen to show me the new curriculum map for Ethics and Philosophy that we sat down and wrote. He thinks it is better than previous years and I am excited by his enthusiasm. Matt is working with Katy, our latest recruit. She was phenomenal at interview – one of the perks of my job and I am excited to listen to their discussion as they plan for September. I am lucky to have such excellent Subject Leads. Once I have spoken to everyone, I take a seat at a table and crack on. Our head, Abrilli, comes over to see how I am getting on and when I’ve finished I head back up to my room. Our cleaners are busy hoovering and wiping the desks so I stop and have a chat with them and offer to sponsor Ann whose son is doing a run for a local hospital. As I leave my classroom for the night, I thank them and head downstairs to meet Kaz. We leave with Sophie, another Achievement Leader who is always one of the last to leave and one of the hardest working people I know. Another day is done.


Our academy is the sum of its total parts: teachers, senior leaders, librarians, ICT technicians, receptionists, hr departments, canteen staff and cleaners. We are all pieces of the jigsaw working together to try and improve the lives of our young people. We are all as equally valid and as important as the next and I am privileged to work with as many special and talented people as I do. I would hope that no-one in our academy ever feels like they are not listened to or respected and that we continue to make time in our day for all, regardless of their position.

To the librarians, no school can have a successful reading strategy without you and the library being at the heart of it.


Tutor Time reading

Moving in to the academic year 2017-2018, I am really keen to focus and develop three things with regard to reading across the academy:

  1. Our use of AR – we have purchased this for another two years so have an absolute necessity to maximise its use.
  2. Classroom libraries – these are starting to appear across the academy in different subject areas – EVERY classroom Freya…that’s the goal.
  3. Tutor time reading programme

The tutor time reading programme has come about after reading Michaela’s blogs about how they maximise reading opportunity.  I decided that this would be another brilliant way to offer a reading opportunity to our pupils.

We have a 30 minute community time slot each day and for one of these sessions per week, a tutor group will participate in shared reading.  That is the tutor will read to the group before completing whole class reading.  Simples.

The first decision that had to be made was re choice of books.  Michaela have gone for classics.  I have decided not to.  My main driver was initially to identify books that fit in with our core values or respect and kindness etc.  I think sometimes we create values but don’t easily demonstrate to pupils what it means to possess these values and I think that literature has a powerful way into this.  You can see how this driver has dictated the choices in year 7 and beyond.

I’ve been involved in quite a few discussion re. KS2 / KS3 books so have had to rethink some year 8 and year 9 choices and still need another book for year 9 and several seminal works for year 10.  I had already purchased the year 7 books so whilst some, arguably, are KS2…they will remain as being central to our core values. These are the books I have opted for in the end

Pics of book lists.jpg

The other thing I am keen to prevent is that this reading leads into lots of writing.  Instead, I provide each tutor (hopefully in Sep – eek!) with a reading guide.  This guide contains two things:

  1. Key vocabulary (tier two vocabulary) – I want tutors to define the key words for pupils, explore the word in context within the novella and then orally identify further examples of the word within a number of sentences.
  2. Discussion questions to aid comprehension.

An example of a reading guide is attached here.  Thanks to Lucy Strange, the author of The Secrets of Nightingale Wood who actually supplied the questions for this one 🙂

Nightingale reading guide

I, of course, have to thank the SLT of my academy for backing me and this idea and providing the finances to buy tutor group book boxes.  Without their support, this would not be possible.

Reading Journal

After today’s TES article, I have uploaded an updated version of The Wellington Academy’s Reading Journal which is issued or will be issued to all pupils in years 7-9.

Reading Journal 2017-2018

The reading journal challenges pupils to read 40 books across the year and is organised into sections.

  1. Opening section – opportunity to record pupils’ AR scores.  We do this three times a year and will be using the AR screening facility.
  2. Interest survey – as recommended by Donalyn Miller.  An interest survey enables you to identify what your pupils are interested in which makes book recommendations easier.
  3. Attitudes towards Reading Survey – this helps me to establish my pupils current attitudes towards reading.  It provides an effective baseline and a similar survey is present at the end of the booklet to measure the difference in attitudes across the year.
  4. The 40 book challenge with the aim of widening pupils’ reading habits so they read a range of genres and text types.  Includes a graph to tally their progress.
  5. New for this year – a log, albeit a brief one.  Our excellent Teach First Ria Macrae would start each week by bringing up a log on the board and asking pupils what they were reading and where they were up to.  (This happened during our 10 mins DEAR time).  I am keen we track readers and what they are reading more closely as we do have some pupils who flit from book to book without reading anything consistently and I want to knuckle down on this which is why I’ve included it this year.
  6. Reading list – adapted from Donalyn Miller.  I am in total agreement with Donalyn that I don’t want pupils to think they have to write reams about a book when they have a read a book as this can be off-putting for some.  Instead we have opted for short simple reviews which have proven to be really effective this year.
  7. A reading wish-list to promote the idea that we are always thinking about our next read.
  8. End-of-year evaluation.

Displays set the tone…

This term a key priority for the department has been on creating the right environment.  Displays, you see, set the tone, establish the culture, support pupil learning and celebrate success.  Here is what we have been working on at the academy.

  1. Welcome to English board

Welcome to EnglishEvery member of staff within the English department has a space on the Welcome to English board.  Each staff member has a WeeMee.  Alongside this, to support our reading culture, every member of staff has identified a book of great significance to them and explained why.

2. Our world map

World Map

When I first joined the academy we had a graphic artist come in to design the subject areas.  Then, due to expansion, the subject areas moved which meant that I have inherited a world map and a historical timeline.  After seeing our fab Geographer Courtney Grainger’s books from around the world display, we decided to create our own using this gigantic map.

3. Pictures of our pupils in action and quotations from visitors

Opposite the map we have a picture of pupils in the library.  In September I will add to this with four further images of our pupils in action.  Underneath these images I have taken quotes from visitors such as Ofsted where they have recognised the work we are doing in English.

4. Quotation wall

Like many English departments, we display the key quotations from our core texts: Blood Brothers, A Christmas Carol and Macbeth to try and aid pupils’ memory.  Thanks to Twitter, we have a quotation wall.

5. Our historical timeline

Historical timeline

The other graphic.  We have used resources, again from Twitter, to create a social and historical timeline, detailing key events and also key literary works.

6. Vocabulary wall

vocab wall

We have displayed all of our core vocabulary in the corridor to help pupils.  When they are arriving at lessons and leaving lessons we hope that they may just soak up one or two words around them.

7. Topic banners

book posters corridor

In the corridor, we have topic banners for each year group and for each unit they are working on.  These banners change every term and makes it easy for everyone to see what we are studying.

8. Learning aids at the front

Learning aids

I strongly believe in displaying all learning aids at the front or to the side of the classroom.  For that reason I have displays to do with sentence structures, paragraphing, punctuation, connectives, adverbials and analysis to support pupils during the lesson at the front of my classroom.  Alongside this I have my biggest resource – my classroom library!

9. Recognition board

recognition board

After reading Pivotal’s book on behaviour and knowing that they are coming to do some training with us in September, I decided to introduce a recognition board.  I am pretty poor at recognising pupils, although I have great relationships with my pupils.  Therefore, I am keen to develop this next year.  Erin, as you can see, felt she deserved recognition the day I was on a course.

10. Book posters

11. Language, structure and form board

book postersWe display a copy of all of the books we study between KS3 and KS5 in every classroom to show our pupils the vast range of literature that they will be exposed to throughout their time with us.

My language, structure and (soon to be) form board is a new display for 2017-18.  I am trying to create a more interactive revision based room and this supports pupils in lessons with their analysis of methods.  One side has the term and on the flip is the definition.  I am hoping it will be an aid for revision.

12. Exemplar essays

Exemplar gcse essaysexemplar a level

I want my pupils to have access to a wide range of brilliant essays.  These folders will contain exemplar essays.  Initially, these have been taken from the exam board but every time one of my pupils creates something spectacular their work is also added to the exemplary folder.

13. Interactive revision cards.


My next revision aid.  Every core literature text has a display board and at the bottom of these display boards will be pockets with these A5 laminated revision cards covering the growth of characters and the development of a theme with key quotations.  These cards will be there to support pupils revision and retention.


So this is where we are up to and there is still a whole heap of stuff to be done!  Over the summer I will be working on my analysis board, our traffic light trays and our growth mindset resource area.  Of course, the next thing in September will be covering the remaining walls, both inside and out of our classrooms with the amazing work our pupils will produce to celebrate and sing loudly how brilliant they are in English.

Writing a scheme of work

A series to be updated over the summer holiday.

This summer is called scheme of work summer.  After a year of variable planning to say the least, I have committed my summer to writing several schemes of work:

Y7 – Poetry (Invictus, If, Desiderata, I shall rise)

Y8 – Oliver Twist

Y9 – Of Mice and Men

Y10 – A Christmas Carol (Lit), a transactional writing unit on the theme of prejudice (Lang)

Y11 – Macbeth (Lit) (re-draft) and imaginative writing (Lang)

Y12 +Y13 – The Handmaid’s Tale

It’s gonna be a fun summer 😉

Anyhow, I thought as I am writing these units that I would blog about the process I go through.  I am a good planner…no, a great planner but I am still learning and every time I read a new book (education book) there is more I learn and bring in to what I am doing.  But this is the process I go through and for any of you planning a unit for the first time, this might be of use….

Step 1: Know your subject

Next year we have taken the decision that all of us will teach A Christmas Carol.  This year, I taught Jekyll and Hyde and wrote a cracking unit.  I have never read A Christmas Carol.  I have only watched the film and, even then, that was 735836726 years ago.  So my first question is how can I teach a text well, if I do not know what I am teaching?   If we want to teach our subject well, we need to know it well and in order to know it well, we need to read up on the subject matter.  We are, after all, researchers.

Therefore the first port of call before you even begin planning is to read.

A. Read the text itself.

B. Read all of the study guides available on the text.  I can remember the first time I tweeted about reading the study guides and someone thanked me as they did not know if this was the done thing.  The person was concerned that her colleagues would tease her for having to read the study guides.  WHAT????  That’s insane.  I even joked (although not joked) at an A level course on Friday that my text choices were determined by the study guides available!!!  Someone, with more time than you, has been paid to put these together and do a lot of the research for you, why wouldn’t you use them would be my question?  When I decide upon a text, I scour Amazon and order absolutely every single study guide I possibly can on that text.  You then have two decisions, pay for them yourself and keep them forever more or….which I think I am going to start to do because it is expensive…charge them to your department and use them to build your department resource library.

ACC pic.jpg

Yesterday, knowing that I am teaching A Christmas Carol in September, I sat down and read all of the study guides I had purchased.  I learnt so much about Dicken’s motivation for writing A Christmas Carol, the era in which the novella was set, the methods Dickens used to present different characters within the novella etc etc.

As I was reading, I made copious notes in a word document which I have attached below.  I categorised these into context, characters, each stave (I would do each chapter for any other text) and the key themes.  I also, simultaneously, updated the Knowledge Organiser for A Christmas Carol that we had with this core learning (also attached below) and, therefore, the foundation for my unit.

Once I have read the study guides, I need to read some more.  Therefore, today I will

  1. Read the workbooks.  Look at the activities and the focus of the activities in these to consider what I might want our pupils to do with the text.  (I have started this process by noting down the activities).
  2. Read as many Schemes of work that have already been written for the same reason.  Rob Ward is a hero of mine and so I will definitely be going through his workbook today.

As I go through these I will add in key activities for pre-reading and then for each stave as well as activities focused on character and theme.

Alongside this I will re-read the text, adding in my ideas and my approaches that I feel will support our pupils to know this text well.

This will then leave me to focus in on how I prepare pupils for the exam (and the nice thing about these study guides are that they come with lots and lots of exemplar essays).


Part 2: Translating notes into a Medium Term Plan and beginning to frame those lessons!

My notes from study guides on A Christmas Carol: A Christmas Carol pre planning notes

A Christmas Carol Knowledge Organiser: KS4 A Christmas Carol Knowledge Organiser