CPL – English



27.02.21 Taking control of our own CPD: The teaching of writing TeachMeet English v2

25.10 What Matters in English Teacher with Barbara Bleiman What Matters in English Writing

  • In this session, Barbara argued against the formulaic writing we see in schools to ensure pupils our exam ready.  Instead, she focuses on the use of writing to develop pupil voice.
  • My takeaway: I think our reading assessments are all quite WHAT HOW WHY focused and reflecting upon whether we could approach this in a variety of ways – creative ways to develop pupil response and pupil voice.

Conferences and school visits

TENC 2020

WOW what an amazing weekend of subject-specific CPD. Massive thanks to the three Cs – Caroline, Chloe and Chris for putting this event on.  We are fortunate enough to have a strong teaching community made up of professionals who want to learn and develop their practice for the greater good of their pupils.

  1. I absolutely LOVED @JulieHuges4 session on approaching literature texts.  There were so many incredible strategies presented that I am going to embed with year 11 this year (and year 10)
  2. I absolutely LOVED @elucymay session on poetry for essay writing.  An incredibly simple yet effective strategy which I am going to embed with year 7 in our poetry from other cultures unit.
  3. I absolutely LOVED @englishlulu’s session.  I think this would sit perfectly within our year 8 scheme.  I am not teaching year 8 this year so something to consider more deeply later.
  4. I absolutely LOVED @MissMFrost session on recalling.  I particularly loved the idea of creating a revision guide during a cold read and will embed this with year 11 as we read Of Mice and Men
  5. I absolutely LOVED @realgingerella session on Register and Read / Reciprocal reader.  I am moving from being a sixth form tutor to a tutor to a year 7 group and this is something I am definitely going to embed.

So, as you reflect, think clearly about how what you have watched applies to you, your needs, your wants, your context and choose no more than 5 things to work on across the next month, term or year even.

I would love to know what your five main takeaways were.

Team English conference 2019

My final stop on this edu tour was at the Team English conference.  Hundreds of English practitioners coming together at the end of a busy school year eager to listen and learn from other amazing English practitioners.  Becky Wood and Fiona Ritson have worked tirelessly to bring this conference together this year building on the work of Rebecca Foster and Caroline Spalding last year and they did the most brilliant of jobs.

Jennifer Webb stepped in at the last hour to keynote at the conference delivering an impassioned speech about cultural capital and the diversity within our curriculum.  I’ve spoken out about this a lot recently and the need for more diversity within our curriculum, also quoting Adichie and her TED X talk on ‘The Danger of a Single Story’.  A positive move has been made by Edexcel to increase the diversity on offer at GCSE and we can but hope that other exam boards follow suit.   Thinking strategically about our curriculum is really important and that opportunity to think and reflect on our provision has been handed to us on a plate by Ofsted.  If dead white men float your boat at both KS3 and KS4, it is important that consideration is given to colouring in the curriculum (as quoted by Bennie from English and the Knowledge Symposium) with a range of non-fiction, short stories, poetry from a diverse range of writers.  In addition, cultural capital, Jennifer Webb, argues should be about the range of experiences we offer our pupils to go to the theatre, art galleries, musical events etc etc.  I definitely agree with this.

After Jennifer’s amazing key note, I joined Simon Smith.  Anyone who knows Simon knows he has a passion for reading that is infectious and book shelves that many are envious about.  This passion radiated in his session and I think secondary colleagues could learn a lot about approaches to reading from our primary colleagues.  At primary, pupils read every day.  I also saw this at Magna and it worked a treat.  I asked Magna how they were able to timetable this and they decided to reduce lessons from 60 minutes to 55 minutes to make time for DEAR.  Simon also made me think about the range of reading experiences we give our pupils – whole class reading, guided reading, silent reading, reciprocal reading and I definitely want to consider this as I plan for next year.  Finally, Simon went through the different reasons for reading: to learn something new, to make us think, to be entertained, to provoke emotional responses, to be inspired, to inform, to understand ourselves better and to understand others better.  I thought these might be really useful in writing prompts for pupils to reflect upon in their reading journals at my school – for example, what have you learnt today from your reading?  How did what you read make you feel? Etc and am going to think about these more detail.  A pressing issue though is looking at the reading habits of secondary teachers.  If we genuinely want to promote reading for pleasure, we absolutely have to be avid readers of teen fiction ourselves and this is something, I fear, is lacking.

I then went back to Jennifer who was speaking about the teaching of English Literature.  I devour edu books (in a saturated market) and I’m quite critical of a number but Jennifer’s book has a wealth of ideas to support the teaching of literature and I would heartily recommend.  Jennifer talked us through how she approaches a lesson beginning with identifying the key content pupils will need in order to access a text.  Jennifer then provides a mini-lecture in which pupils take notes using the Cornell method before repeating the lecture.  Pupils then share their notes with each other, adding to it where necessary.  Then if it were a poetry lesson, for example, Jennifer would read the poem with no comment before asking her pupils to annotate the poem independently, providing question prompts if necessary.  She would then consolidate this process before beginning a process of deepening and refining.  Deepening can involve variation – what would this look like if we were hearing the male voice instead of the female voice? etc or by making comparisons.  Finally, the process of modelling, metacognition and practice occurs to consolidate what has been done.   This was super interesting to listen to and I can’t wait to go back to Jennifer’s book when I start my planning for next term.

Next up was Chloe Woodhouse and a session I’ve been wanting to attend for a while on Reciprocal Reading.  I feel like reciprocal reading is a bit like blackout poetry in that people explain it to me but I need to listen and see how it is done to fully comprehend it.  Chloe articulated this brilliantly and now I am really looking forward to embedding next year with my year 7 class initially.  There are four stages of reciprocal reading: predict, clarify, question and summarise.  At the predict level, images, titles and other features may be used to get pupils to think about the text they are going to read before they read it.  The clarifying process is to do with pupil understanding – texts are chunked down into sections and pupils read independently, highlighting words they don’t understand.  These are then worked through as a class before moving on to questioning – the stage in which sections of text are explored for specific purposes – e.g. language and structural devices.  Then pupils summarise each section.  Chloe modelled her questions which I think is a really integral part of the process and definitely something to really plan ahead.  Initially, Chloe argues that RR is quite teacher led but as pupils grow in confidence this can be worked through in groups.  I have questions about how Chloe transitions from being more teacher led to the group work and look forward to learning more from her.

My final session was with Lauran Hampshire-Dell who is a pocket rocket. Lauran’s session was focused on work she has been doing to re-engage some tricky boys – something we have all had experience of!  It was really interesting to hear about the strategies she has put in place to do this including the importance of relevance and pupils being able to understand some core concepts before even being given a text and how much easier textual analysis becomes if the text comes second.  I also really liked her work on clear success criteria and have been thinking a lot about this since reading Hattie and Clarke’s Visible Feedback.  Clear success criteria, often decontextaulised, is so important in helping pupils to self-regulate their own learning.  I also really loved the Lenses and allusions work that Lauran has done referencing the work of Caroline Spalding and Critical Postcards and really really like the character battles, an idea taken from Andrew Tharby in his Making Every English Lesson Count.  I came away from the session with lots of ideas to implement and try out in my lessons.

I loved the panel discussion at the end of the day which tackled some really interesting and key questions and, of course, it was lovely to relax with people after the conference and chat over a glass of wine.

I would also really like to thank everyone who came and said hi.  Moving abroad is an interesting one in terms of Twitter – I’ve been told I’ve sold out moving to international private (despite having worked in challenging state schools for 12 years – something a lot of practitioners have never done) and you can feel as though your credibility is being questioned.  I’ve definitely had moments where I’ve realized I’ve been frozen out by some as a result of this.  However, the sheer number of people who came and said hi and thanked me for my resources (a year later!) was awesome and made me realise that Twitter is at its absolute best when there is no single voice or dominant way and that you can never underestimate the impact you are having on other people.  After a year of not sharing very much, I am looking forward to getting on the sharing platform again next year and have a number of exciting projects in the pipeline J  What an absolute piece of gold Twitter is!

My reflections on ‘English and Knowledge: A Curriculum Symposium’ June 29th


The start of my two week edu (and catch up with family) adventure got off to a cracking start in Norwich, this weekend at the English and Knowledge: A Curriculum Symposium organised by the Inspiration Trust and Summer Turner.  I booked, primarily, because, like many others, I have closely followed the journey of Inspiration Trust and been interested and impressed with their work.  I am also a big fan of Summer Turner.

The conference started with a keynote from Summer entitled ‘The Living Conversation: what is knowledge in English?’  An interesting point was raised that, unlike many other subjects, we have the critical task of identifying what knowledge we want pupils to garner from our curriculum.  Yes, there will be aspects we all agree on – for example, the need for our pupils to communicate effectively.  However, our decisions are broader than most other subjects so the first question we have to ask ourselves when planning our curriculum is what knowledge?  Summer argued that English is concerned with how we use and manipulate language and that our end point with pupils should be that they possess the ability to make judgements.  We, therefore, need to consider the process in getting them to be able to do this – developing skills of understanding and interpretation and, more importantly, the ability to feel – we cannot lose sight of the fact that literature is an art form that is meant to move us.  Summer argued, therefore, that when choosing texts, we need to consider two things: the beauty of the text and the power that is presented within them.   However, more urgently, Summer encouraged the need for dialogue and that we, as professionals, need to keep talking to each other as we think about our curriculum.  The enriching power of discussion in challenging ourselves to do the very best by our pupils is of paramount importance.

The panel discussion was incredibly engaging and on a topic that I have been speaking out about a lot lately – that of diversity within our curriculum.  Summer, in her keynote, argued that a ‘conversation of one is a lonely place to be’ and if we subscribe to a curriculum comprised of dead white men, we are limiting that conversation.  Instead we need to ensure that we our supporting our pupils to have a better understanding of the world in which they live.  Our teaching of literature is an integral part in approaching this.  Not only should we teach texts from a diverse range of writers but we should consider how our very British texts have been influenced by wider global perspectives.  We need to consider how writers talk to each other across time periods and geographical locations.  We could consider how classic tales have been adapted for a variety of audiences, for example.  Finally, we must consider and tap into the diversity of our readership as well encouraging different thoughts and perspectives on the texts we teach.  It is a very pertinent point that our world is increasingly hostile at the moment and, therefore, now more than ever it is essential that we embrace diversity when planning our curriculum.

Bennie Kara continued this discussion in her session entitled ‘Colouring the curriculum’.   She began by going through UNICEF’s descriptions of what it means to be a global citizen.  To be a global citizen we should be born of this world with a desire to protect it.  We should stand up against injustice and respect / value diversity recognizing our interconnectedness.  With this in mind, we should take action in meaningful ways.  I feel these are worthy of consideration when thinking about the purpose of our curriculum.  Bennie shared Spillman and Spillman’s notion that our world  is showing an increasing sense of ‘de-individualisation with a refusal to show empathy’ and argued, therefore, that in building cultural capital we can create a sense of collective identity.  She argued that we can do this in three ways: expanding the world, using parallel stories and usualising.   Bennie argued the case that, first and foremost, we need to choose texts that have depth and, if we believe that these are simply British white men then we need to think about how we can colour the curriculum in by expanding and using parallel texts.  She gave the example of Macbeth by William Shakespeare with a focus on the concept of the trinity and suggested that alongside the teaching of this, teachers could bring in other texts such as Arabian and Chinese fairy tales, Greek / Roman literature, Indian ancient tales.  I think this is an excellent way of ensuring that we are providing our pupils with a diverse range of voices and definitely worthy of consideration when planning our curriculum.   However, I also do question whether it is always sensible to have these diverse voices as the supplementary body of works.  Bennie left the session with a very pertinent message that ‘the lens we choose will change the student experience’.  Given my international context, I am adamant that the texts I choose for my curriculum provide pupils with a diverse range of voices and a greater understanding of the world in which we live in and the world that is theirs to shape.

A second panel considered the question what is an excellent English knowledge curriculum?  Elisabeth argued that she wants teachers to have an in-depth subject knowledge and a passion for their subject whilst Thomas argued that quite simply, an excellent English knowledge curriculum is one in which we tell our pupils what they need to know, show them what they need to do and check their understanding.

My second workshop of the day was with Lia Martin who I adore. Lia is an inspiring professional who is incredibly humble about the journey she and her team are on.  I am looking to trial Expressive Writing with my year 7s next year and was, therefore, drawn to the Direct Instruction title.  Lia stated that the four principles of Direct Instruction are: 1. Mastery of content 2. Clarity of instruction / explanation 3. Teacher led modelling and 4. Responsivity.  Lia then explored how she had put those principles in action when approaching the teaching of writing and some of the ideas presented in The Writing Revolution.  This was so interesting in the sense that we can apply these principles of DI to our teaching on a more general level even if we are not following one of Engelmann’s programmes.  Lia talked us through each principle in turn.  Mastery – Lia argued that we need to think about the highest utility content – e.g. what is it that we need / want to travel with the pupils as they go through their secondary school life? And that when planning a curriculum this needs to be at the forefront of our consideration.  Clarity of instruction / explanation – Lia spoke of how we need to reduce the complexity of our instructions and explanations.  She shared with us a range of explanations she used to project on the whiteboard and discussed how, in fact, the explanations contained many abstract concepts that might overwhelm or challenge pupils.  Now, instead, she focuses in on the clarity of the main message, keeping the language simplistic and introduces challenging vocabulary and complex ideas in other ways.  3. Modelling – Using Lemov’s process of I do, we do, you do.  Something Sarah Barker has also blogged about.  But I really liked how she spoke about the clarity of instructions when approaching the you do stage and suggested setting clear parameters to support pupils.  Lia modelled this with exploding a quotation and set the parameters of Step 1: who is the quotation about? Step 2: what does the quotation mean? Step 3: what does the quotation suggest about this character?  Responsivity – Lia spoke of how she uses MCQs to check for understanding but that she is also a fan of circulating around the room to see whether pupils have fully grasped a task.  In addition, she reflected upon her need to introduce interim tests to further check pupils’ understanding.

The day was then wrapped up by Claire Stoneman who spoke of Death and longing in Victorian poetry and blew the roof off the house with her incredible singing voice.

All in all, an excellent first day back in England with lots of food for thought surrounding our English knowledge-rich curriculums.

Key questions to consider:

  • What knowledge do you want to impart in your curriculum?
  • What knowledge do you consider high utility?
  • Have you planned with diversity in mind?  Does your curriculum represent a broad range of diverse voices to ensure we are teaching ‘the best that has been thought and said in the WORLD?
  • Is DI something you would like to try out?  If you aren’t doing one of the programmes, could you apply the principles?


Subject specific CPD is where it is at. According to research, it is where teachers grow the most professionally and so it was with great excitement that I booked tickets to attend the first English National conference organised by Caroline Spalding and Rebecca Foster.

Choosing sessions is always tricky. Sometimes I am guided by the person. Sometimes I am guided by my school’s priorities. Sometimes I am guided by the things I want to develop. For the #teamenglish conference I was predominantly guided by my desire to improve how I teach transactional writing (I think it is a minefield) and I was desperate to see Lyndsey Caldwell.

Opening by Alex Quigley

  • Knowledge is power and reading is the master skill of school.

What are common problems facing English teachers and teachers in general?

  • My pupils don’t read widely enough;
  • My pupils struggle to write independently, especially in timed conditions;
  • My pupils don’t plan their writing;
  • My pupils cannot craft a sentence;
  • My pupils cannot punctuate accurately;
  • My pupils have a narrow vocabulary;
  • My pupils cannot spell complex words accurately and consistently;
  • My pupils cannot remember the knowledge for their examination;
  • My pupils don’t have enough background knowledge to access the text.

Good teaching boils down to explicit teaching, consistent application, deliberate practice.

Session 1: Louisa Enstone (Developing your confidence as a writing teacher)

Louisa is the Queen of writing. She now has an established website www.theteacherwriter.com (which she only set up last week so will be a grower).

Why live writing?

  • Watch it happen
  • See the mechanics
  • Hear the rationale

We discussed how a lot of writing pieces in the examination are ‘ploddingly straightforward’.

It was raised (and I think it is a valid point) that the rigidity of the reading sections means pupils are in that zone for writing. We need to teach them to colour outside the lines.

Louisa does writing warm-ups. Short 10-15 minute bursts with a focus on crafting excellent phrases and sentences. She provided us with three examples:

  1. Provide pupils with a list of words (taken from a text you are studying) – ask pupils to join 2-3 words together but ensure that the joining of these words is out of the ordinary and creates a sense of mystery. Pupils should be considering ‘where would I go with that?’ Then ask pupils to write it down on a post it note, place on the board and then take someone else’s to carry it on. As an extension, compare / contrast with the writer’s original choices.
  2. People cut outs. Pupils receive a cut out and give the person a name. Swap. Next they give an age. Swap. Then the likes. Swap. Then the dislikes. Then you give pupils a scenario ‘You wake up late one morning….’ What would the first thought of this character be? Craft it. Good opportunity to discuss voice and get pupils going beyond their age and gender in their writing.
  3. Give pupils an object. Model describing the object – Louisa did this with colour, crafting phrases and being very particular about the details of the object (a good activity for asking pupils to zoom in). Personify the object. Imagine it lying on your floor. What would it be thinking?
  4. What one word would you use to describe your mood today? Why?

Louisa also talked about provided structure to the pupils but sentence structures. For the mood task above she gave pupils the following structure:

  1. If I had one word to describe my day
  2. It all started…
  3. It was…
  4. I was…
  5. -ing verb
  6. The…
  7. -ing verb….
  8. Only…
  9. As I said…

Session 2: Matt Pinkett (Chopping down AFOREST)

I’ve fallen a little bit in love with Matt after his session yesterday. It’s not something he will want to hear LOL but he was just brilliant.

He made a convincing case for binning AFOREST and much discussion since the exam series has been about pupils’ writing being too mechanistic and that this is dangerous and we need to move away from this.

So he spoke of rhetoric and the three proofs: ethos, logos and pathos. And this is just a superb way in to all teaching of transactional writing.

Ethos – credibility, the I, the expert

Logos – the reasons and the logic behind something

Pathos – the feelings you want to evoke

Matt talked through a structure for rhetoric writing which I am going to begin to think about using:

Exordium – hook (ethos)

Narratio – narrative (facts, less personal and more a collective understanding (ethos again and a bit of logos))

Divisio – division – acknowledging the counter argument – what you agree with? What you disagree with?

Proof – your argument (ethos / logos)

Refutation – smash the opponent’s view (Matt argued this should follow the Divisio)

Peroration – end emotively (pathos)

He then went on to talk about some key techniques he uses. I loved the idea of the flipped anecdote in which you start with an anecdote at the beginning of your piece and then you flip the anecdote at the end to reinforce your argument.

Matt referred to The Elements of Eloquence which is a great book and ran through the same techniques. It occurred to me at that point, that the techniques explored in the book would form great Writing Warm Ups as advocated by Louisa.

Matt’s rhetoric booklet is available from his Twitter page.

Session 3 – Lyndsey Cadwell (Leading the Research Focused English Department).

I chose this session because of Lyndsey. #teamenglish came back buzzing from ResearchEd Rugby after seeing her and so I feel like I had been waiting a year for my opportunity to listen to her talk.

Lyndsey is meticulous and strategic in her planning. She began by stating that we should ‘Do what is going to make the most difference right now’ whilst acknowledging we can’t do it all. Lyndsey’s decisions and planning is underpinned by her thinking that ‘Every change that has been made is making things better for the teachers in the classroom.’

As a result, Lyndsey identified three key priorities:

  1. Prioritise knowledge – Lyndsey spoke about minimal units to support deeper learning, cultural capital (choice of text is critical) – what is it we want our children to know before leaving our school? What narrative does your curriculum tell?, knowledge organisers, scripting the stories of authors
  2. Crafted direct instruction – vocabulary and a systematic approach to teaching vocabulary, providing pupils with a booklet of sentence starters for different types of writing, direct instructions on Youtube
  3. Standardised assessments

What came across more than anything was the amount of Research Lyndsey had completed in order to frame her curriculum and the practice within it. Within the session she cited: What makes great teaching? Why students don’t like school? Seven Myths about Education. The Matthew Effect. Peps McCrea. Daisy C and so on and so on. Her thinking had been careful and meticulous in order to provide an incredible strong curriculum and approach to curriculum.

Session 4 – Patrice Miller (Modelling writing)

This was a discussion-based session exploring all facets of modelling. Questions provided included: do we currently model? What are the benefits? What are the drawbacks? And this instigated some good discussions.

I was able to make a number of reflections during this session:

  1. I am more nervous of modelling writing than I am reading. In reading, there are set structures and I find analysis easier. For me, there is a vulnerability when modelling writing.
  2. This led to a debate on preparing responses ahead of a lesson to model to pupils. I think it is helpful to build teacher confidence but it is also important for pupils to see the thought-processes that teachers go through, even when this includes the struggle.
  3. Pupils need to be exposed to great models. Having examined this year, I have realised that I haven’t really exposed my pupils enough to models that are 500-600 words in length – the length we would expect them to write in an exam. I think there is a point about this in terms of really focusing in on how writers create shape within such a short piece of writing and so I am definitely planning to do this more next year.

Again, Patrice advocated model – practice – reflect as a structure to use.

Closing speech – Lindsay Skinner

A passionate speech about serving the most disadvantaged and the belief we have to have that we can close the gap. She spoke about why it is so difficult to close the gap and citied the following reasons:

  • Nutrition
  • Vocabulary deficit
  • Cultural deficit
  • Poorer health
  • At risk of exclusion
  • High absence rate
  • Lower level of literacy
  • Low expectations

And called English teachers to arms to impact upon some of the difficulties above.

At the start of the day Alex very wisely said, don’t rush back to your schools and implement any of the ideas from today, tomorrow. Instead, think, consider, reflect and identify your priorities for next year. Strategic thinking is key.

I am creating my own professional development target for next year – to improve how I teach transactional writing. I am going to weave the nuggets I got from today over the summer into a cohesive strategy which I will embed with my classes next year.

Thank you for an excellent day.  I am begging the other presenters to upload their presentations – so many other sessions I wish I could have attended.  One thing that did strike me was the consistency of messages.  #Teamenglish is a very research-informed group of people and therefore we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.  We are lucky to have each other and I hope Twitter and #teamenglish continues to go from strength to strength as a platform for sharing, collaboration and support.

Looking forward to flying back to the UK for next year’s conference.

school visits

Talking reading at King Alfreds with Alice Visser Furay

Yesterday, a small group of English teachers met at King Alfred’s in Wantage to meet with Alice V-F to discuss reading and literacy.  Alice is, perhaps, one of the most passionate educators I have ever met when it comes to reading and so it was absolutely delightful to listen to the work she has been doing to foster a reading culture in her school and discuss with other, team English, colleagues where they are at in their own literacy journey.

Reading is core business for us, as English teachers, and is the most important thing we do at KS3, in my opinion.  Exposing pupils to a range of texts and a range of stories and engaging them with this is a skill we are setting pupils up with for life.  Not to mention that there really are some incredible teen fiction books to be read on the market – we all shared our love for Long Way Down as an absolute seminal text for today’s younger generation – that we do not want our pupils to miss out on.

Alice’s school uses AR and she has really utilized this, along with her colleague Kate, in a very positive way.  In this school year alone she has seen the number of words read jump from 40 million to 350 million.  How has she done this?

  1. High expectations – every child is a reader. There is a book for every child, essentially, and it is our job as English teachers and as librarians to help pupils find that book that will help to unlock their love for reading.  The school has the expectation that all pupils will carry a reading book on them at all times and all subjects are encouraged to silent read at the start of lessons.
  2. Personal knowledge of pupils – Alice has an exceptional knowledge of her pupils. She knows what they like and what they are interested in and will find a book to suit their interests.  She knows what her pupils are reading and constantly engages in dialogue with those pupils, asking them how their reading is going, what they are enjoying about their reading etc.  She recommends pupils’ books and she orders books in for pupils when they have a particular interest in a book.
  3. The expectations with regard to AR. All pupils have an AR lesson – a lesson focused on silent reading, quizzing and reflection.  All pupils have an AR reading book.  I particularly like how Alice tracks pupils reading in this book using three very simple sentences:
    1. I am currently reading
    2. At the start of today’s lesson I was on page
    3. By the end of today’s lesson I was on page

The use of this book enables Alice to really quickly track what pupils are reading and there are a range of dialogues in these books.  For example, house points are awarded when pupils successfully quiz and Alice comments on the pupils’ reading.  All books in the library are stickered up with the levelling which is done by colour.  Pupils test four times a year but are not told their reading age which I think is a great idea – instead the focus is on their standardized score and the improvement that is seen with those.  Alice communicates with parents and celebrates successes when improvements are seen.

  1. A range of interventions and systems are in place. Alice and her colleague, Katie run a number of intervention sessions for those pupils who are struggling with their reading.  In addition, they have introduced reading partners, where members of the community and the sixth form team hear pupils read and use a reading partner book to make comments on their reading to track their progress.  Alice is incredibly knowledge about reading strategies and this is definitely an area I would like to discuss with her further.
  2. Teachers are readers. This is something I feel really passionate about!  If we want to foster a love for reading in our pupils, we need to know our books!  As English teachers, I do feel reading teen fiction is something that really enhances our dialogue with pupils about reading.  We cannot underestimate our impact!  The number of times I have talked about my latest teen read only to discover next lesson the pupils have been to the library and taken the book out or gone away and bought a copy for themselves.  Alice’s incredible depth of knowledge when it comes to books means that through dialogue and discussion she can automatically make recommendations to her pupils about what to read.

 So what next for me?

Honestly, I felt that at my old school we were nailing this.  We had AR and were seeing an increase in word millionaires and reading ages, we had introduced tutor time reading and we had started building cross-curricular classroom libraries.  We had author visits and book sales and celebrated events like World Book Day.

A new school means a new journey.  And whilst we do have our avid readers, we also have pupils who do not read and we have pupils who struggle to read.  Therefore, my journey with the strategy with regard to reading for pleasure must begin again.  We are lucky we have a library lesson once a fortnight.  We also silent read at the start of lessons. I have also introduced readtheory to my KS3 classes.

In 2019-2020, I aim to

  1. Continue to promote reading for pleasure. I will continue to read teen fiction avidly and promote books to my pupils.  I will continue to silent read at the start of lessons.  I do the book speed dating lessons after every holiday.  I would love to have a classroom library again but it is more problematic here.  I definitely think we should have more displays promoting reading.
  2. Continue with readtheory. We don’t have AR and I’m not sure it is something my school would invest in so I need to consider the next best thing available to me which is either NGRT or readtheory.  Readtheory is a free platform and tests pupils reading level.  It then provides pupils with texts and associated comprehension questions which adapt according to how well a pupil is doing.  It does not support pupils’ personal reading and is, perhaps, not as rigorous as AR but it is definitely worthy of time and investment.  I will also create a system where pupils work on this platform is celebrated with praise points or certificates and so forth.
  3. Build upon my work with our reading journal. I think I am going to make this a bigger deal.  I will get pupils to complete an interest survey at the start of the year.  I will get them to reflect on their reading during a library lesson using Alice’s three sentence starts.  I will also create reading responses that will go into this journal in relation to the texts I teach and the supplementary texts I use, including non-fiction texts. I will track their progress on readtheory.  Alice uses stickers that get stuck into pupils’ books that help to track their progress on AR and I definitely could do something similar.
  4. I have pupils who struggle to read and whose ‘reading level’ was flagged up as low on readtheory.  At the moment, I am unsure about the interventions that occur and I want to spend more time dedicated on this.  I love the idea of reading partners and our IB pupils have to complete CAS so I think this would make a perfect CAS project.  I could train these pupils up and have them listen to KS3 pupils.  Finding a slot when this might happen will be something to consider.
  5. Promoting reading across our school. I have what I am reading as my signature and I like the ‘Miss…..is currently reading’ posters.  Quick strategy but something that gives reading a continual presence.  It would be great to work with our librarian to create wider reading lists to support units we are teaching.  It would also be fantastic to work with other departments on increasing their non-fiction text selection to support the teaching of key topics in their subject areas.  Non-fiction texts with key comprehension questions. An article of the week during tutor is another obvious way this could be done.

A really great day re-connecting me with the strategy behind building a reading culture.  Thanks to Alice and Katie.

Great English sites to support knowledge and retention