Memory – the starting point

I have a crap memory so these new examinations scare me.  I have challenged myself to learn the quotations alongside my year 11 class.  Every morning as I am walking to the bus, I am going to learn three quotations.

On Friday, I started the process of memorisation with my year 11s as we completed a range of memory tasks taken from the book ‘How to develop a brilliant memory’ which is available on Amazon for under a £1.  The focus was on establishing how good our memory is.  I scored 56 eek!

Here is the lesson.  I can’t upload flipchart on here so if you would like the flipchart version then drop me a line!


Personalised Learning – PEEFEE writing

At my school we use PEEFEE to analyse texts:

P – point

E – evidence

E – explanation

FE – focused exploration – analysis of language, structure, form , contextual links etc

E – effect

Year 7 students have been introduced to this structure.  For their KS2 exams, only one of these ‘PEE’ paragraphs are required so it is a fairly new skill for them to learn.  They had written a PEEFEE on Beowulf before moving on to The Canterbury Tales.  The personalised learning lesson happens after my marking of my students PEEFEE paragraphs on The Canterbury Tales.  The idea is that once they have had their specific feedback, I will organise them into groups: those who haven’t quite nailed the point/evidence part of the paragraph; those who haven’t quite nailed the explanation part of the paragraph; those who haven’t nailed the focused exploration and those who need to tweak their effect and they will have an opportunity to work in groups to develop a particular skill.  This work is completed in these groups independently whilst  I work with the students who are doing the point/evidence.


A splurge about facing your fears and being 10% braver

In February I was following the WomenEd event as it took place in my academy. Sadly, due to personal reasons, I couldn’t be there but I was keeping a constant eye on the Twitter feed. Summer Turner had recommended a book and the tweets were coming through thick and fast. The book was Shonda Rhimes ‘A year of yes.’ Always one for a book recommendation, I ordered it and devoured it across a week in Sweden. The premise of the book was that Shonda seemingly never said yes to anything. When her sister challenged her about this, she decided that for one year she would say yes to every request made of her. Within the first few chapters it was apparent that Shonda had a phobia of public speaking. I connected with this straight away. I am totally phobic of public speaking. I will do anything to get out of it. I cry. I am sick. I hate it. But after reading this book, I decided to pledge to myself that for a year I would say yes. And so I did. I signed up to talk at the Leeds conference organised by Anne Williams, at Pedagoo Hampshire organised by Martyn Reah and at WomenEd.

Today was the most terrifying. I only finished putting my presentation together last night. Every night that I came home from school this week, I promised myself I would get it done only to find myself retiring to bed at 7.30pm, exhausted by the day. I couldn’t quite get my thoughts down on to the page or into a logical order and I certainly wasn’t quite sure what to say – what to include and what to abandon. I nearly bailed – twice. It was only out of loyalty to Hannah that I didn’t bail earlier in the week. This morning, I cried and I was sick – paralysed by fear. And then on the train, whilst putting the finishing touches together on my presentation, I thought to myself that it is exactly people like me who need to do this. As an introverted leader, I squirrel away in the background. But I squirrel away hard and I have had impact where I work and schools prior to my current one. Having worked in two inadequate / RI schools on the journey to good, I’m confident in the things that are needed and the things that work. And that is when I realised that people like me, people who are phobic, who feel the fear need to stand up more and more and find their voice because we all have something to offer. So I got to Reading.

I hid in the corner and surreptitiously went to check who had signed up for my session every now and then. I felt sick and although I was meeting and chatting to lots of people my mind couldn’t focus.

And then it was time. I took a deep breath and a sip of my water – a good confidant when presenting and did it. I looked out to the sea of faces to see whether my presentation was going ok for them and then as quickly as it had started, it finished.

After a presentation, there is a sense of release, like all the pent up worry and tension and nervousness and fear that you have been holding onto all week comes flooding out. Mainly though I am relieved that I have got through it and that now I can relax and enjoy my day.

Today I was really lucky. I had a great crowd. Many of them came up to me afterwards to thank me and reassure me my session was great. It’s hard to fathom that something that terrifies you as much can actually be good but people seemed to enjoy it.

So with no further talks planned, my year is complete. Has my phobia gone? No. Will I present again? I don’t know. But I am proud that for nearly a year, I said yes and that despite being terrified, I did it. I am 10% braver.

Thank you to Anne Williams, Martyn Reah and WomenEd for having the confidence in me.









Raising the profile of reading (2)

As promised, my presentation and all resources.  Please let me know if there is anything else you would like.

Power point presentation


Doug Lemov question types to engender close reading


Wider reading Jekyll homeworks 1+2




Library non-fiction books created by Martin Gardner with his permission to share





Reading journal





We need to take a leaf out of the Bad Mom’s book

Last weekend, on the eve of the students’ return, I went to the cinema to see Bad Moms. It wasn’t a movie that I was dying to see but as I’m in possession of a Limitless card, I’ll pretty much go and see anything. I was really surprised. It was brilliant. It was hilarious but it wasn’t that that made it brilliant. It was its gritty honesty staring directly at me from the big screen.

The premise was simple – that instead of killing themselves striving for perfection, moms should happily settle for something more realistic. And then, whilst walking home from the cinema, I began to think about how much of the film’s message actually resonates with the teaching profession.

On a simplistic level, how many teachers are constantly striving for this perfection – the perfect lesson? The perfect resource? The perfect display? And to what effect on their own personal health and wellbeing? After conducting a brief survey on teacher’s working hours, most teachers stated that they were working 14 hour days and then some at the weekend. For what? The perfect lesson? The perfect resource? The perfect display?

Last year, when life was mental because of three new key stages worth of work, I actually went a whole week without using Activ Inspire and you know what???? Nobody died. Admittedly, to begin with my heart beat that little bit faster but nobody died. Admittedly, my lessons were slightly rough round the edges but nobody died. And when I apologised to my year 9 class for giving them, what I thought were some pretty rubbish lessons, they turned round and told me I was a good teacher and they had enjoyed the week.

In addition, how many teachers make their quest for perfectionism competitive? I am sure we have all had conversations in which other teachers state ‘I stay at school until 7pm every night’ or ‘I always work weekends’ or ‘I worked the whole holiday’ as though the more hours you work, the more perfect you are and if you don’t do the same, then you are probably quite inadequate.

Sadly, across the year, I see so many teachers (including myself) lose their spark, the colour in their cheeks, the glint in their eyes because they are working excessively long hours trying to keep up and be the perfect teacher, when actually IT JUST ISN’T POSSIBLE.

It isn’t possible because the expectations on teachers are unrealistic and unfair and have been getting increasingly worse as schools budgets have been tightened. I’ve been party to seeing a number of teacher’s timetables as they post them on Twitter and cannot believe how anyone can look at these timetables and think they are reasonable. I’ve seen a lot of timetables where a mainscale teacher teachers 27/30 lessons. That works out to around 6 classes which means, lucky you, that you have less than thirty minutes per class per week to plan their 4-5 lessons, mark their books and any assessments they complete. The government is having a giraffe. In those hours, it is just not possible to do everything needed for that class. Perfectionism is out the window. Being good is out the window.

However, it isn’t easy to present the imperfect. There aren’t many teachers who openly have the confidence to admit that not all of their lessons are great, that they haven’t marked the students’ books for two weeks as per the school policy, that they forgot to go on duty, that they can’t quite control that year 8 class or that they don’t know what anaphora is. Weakness is the enemy of perfection. And in the days of budget cuts, redundancies and PRP, admitting weakness for many staff feels as though they are basically putting a noose around their own neck. The above processes and the instability of the teaching profession has led more teachers to present perfection rather than admit that, like any other teacher, they can’t do it all, perfectly, all of the time.

This is why the destruction of ‘perfectionism’ lies with leaders and establishing a culture in which the threat of PRP , job losses and budget constraints does not prevent staff honesty and development.

As a leader, I shall be doing two things to tackle this:

  1. I am going to be a BAD teacher. Not bad as in shit but bad as in realistic and kinder to myself. Publicly I have to articulate that if I don’t have perfect lessons all the time, that’s ok. If I don’t produce the most sparkling of resources every lesson, that’s ok. If my displays take a little longer, that too is ok. If I want to leave at three o’clock because I fancy a glass of wine that is ok. If I don’t want to work in the evening that is ok. If I don’t respond to emails with an hour of getting them that is ok. If I want to have Saturday off that is ok. That none of these things make me a worse teacher, in fact they make me a better one because I am prioritising my own health and wellbeing.
  2. I am going to model my teaching weaknesses as should all leaders. Using our Teacher Assessment Framework which is divided into three levels: mainscale, upper pay and leadership, I will show staff that I still have areas to develop in the mainscale teaching standards but that that doesn’t mean I am a bad teacher.

In being transparent with the staff I lead, I am hoping that we begin to knock perfectionism out of the park and engage in more honest conversations through which we can help, support and develop each other whilst also maintain healthier and more balanced lives.

So this year, forget being perfect and take a leaf out of the Bad Mom’s book.   Be kinder to yourself, be more realistic about what you can achieve and no matter what anyone presents, know that perfection is totally, utterly unobtainable and you will become a better teacher and a happier person if you embrace the ‘bad.’

Quotation menus

Seen a few menus on Twitter and then I had the idea about using menu holders to place quotation cards.  For the first two weeks this is the quotation menu card I will be using with my class:

Quotation menu 1

These will be placed on each table (and removed for my year 7 class).

Students will rote learn these with quizzes at the start of every lesson.  The key thing is that there is a quotation presence.

After two weeks, a new menu will go up with new quotations.  I will still quiz / rote learn on the old ones but with the new ones in the mix too.  One technique someone suggested works well is by removing different parts of the quotation.  So I would rote learn ‘We are all members of one body’ and then I will quiz sometimes with the words ‘An Inspector Calls’, ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ask them to recall and then show different parts of the quotation for them to fill in the rest.  e.g. ‘We are all ____ of one body.’  ‘We are all members of _____ body.’ ‘We are all members of one ____.’

I have also purchased key ring fobs so that when the quotations get taken down, students will receive a slip to attach to their key ring with the quotation on, building up their bank over the year.




Updated year 7 grammar programme

We have one distinct grammar lesson a fortnight and despite recent changes, for this year, at least, until we have greater certainty, we will continue to follow Daisy C’s recommend grammar teaching programme.

These lessons work through nouns, verbs, adjectives, tense, subject-verb agreement and prepositions.

At the end of the unit, we will test students understanding of the grammar components taught through MCQs – yet to be written.


New grammar workbook T1+T2

Year 7 Grammar Programme T1 and T2 Planning grid

An Inspector Call’s – Act One Context comprehension workbook

So in class we will be studying Macbeth with year 11.

However, I want my students to not lose the thread with the other texts so for homework, students will be re-reading An Inspector Calls in Terms 1/2.

Having not taught year 10 last year, the first thing I think is key is ensuring students are clear on what they are being assessed on.  So for me, it’s really important the students are clear that in the Post 1914 literature section (Edexcel) they understand that they are being assessed on their reference to text but also their understanding of context.

Therefore, this booklet is thread together with context sitting at the heart of it.

There is a quick summary of the relevant context, key questions that have context at the heart of them, key quotations to learn for context and finally two essay basic frameworks which will be discussed in class first.

Act Two and Act Three to follow!

An Inspector Calls Act 1 Context Comprehension booklet