About David Didau

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So far David Didau has created 904 blog entries.

Curating a reading curriculum

2021-07-22T16:31:46+01:00July 21st, 2021|curriculum, reading|

One of the roles of a school is to curate a sequences of encounters which students have a entitlement to experience before they leave. For many students, school may be the only time in their lives when they are given no choice but to navigate their way though events that are unfamiliar and intellectually demanding. Selecting a sequence of books which students will have read to them is a powerful way to force children to confront people, places and events way outside their narrow lives and ensure that they experience the expression of thoughts and ideas which would otherwise have remained [...]

Do young adult novels have a place in the English curriculum?

2021-07-11T12:39:47+01:00July 10th, 2021|curriculum, English|

When I got my first teaching job, I visited the school at the end of July to find out what I'd be teaching the following September. The Head of Department talked me through which GCSE texts I might want to go for and then, when we got to my Key Stage 3 classes, the brand new sets of Holes and Skellig had, unfortunately, already been nabbed by other teachers but he gave me the keys to the stockroom and told me to pick from whatever was left. On one side of the room were piles of unloved, dog-eared class sets of [...]

School rules

2021-07-04T16:55:15+01:00July 4th, 2021|behaviour, leadership|

Should schools have rules? Obviously, yes. No one - I think - disputes the necessity of having rules that keep people safe and make life easier and more pleasant for everyone involved. So, a rule setting out acceptable behaviour in a science lab or DT workshop are clearly important and sensible. Rules governing minimum expectations of how students should behave in classrooms and social spaces are also desirable as are rules about how teachers should and should not interact with children. So far, so good. But the sorts of school rules that tend to get the commentariat aerated are those which [...]

Specify, teach, assess: using the English curriculum as a progression model

2021-06-25T17:20:36+01:00June 25th, 2021|Featured|

One of the biggest barriers to the successful implementation of an English curriculum is that all too often students are assessed on their ability to do things they haven't actually been taught. This may sound bizarre, but it is, I think, an inevitable product of the belief that English is a 'skills-based subject'. Let's say you teach students a unit on 'Greek myth,' 'a background to Shakespeare,' or Malorie Blackman's YA novel Noughts and Crosses. How will you assess students' progress? Typically, some theme or aspect covered in the unit is brought to the fore and then students are asked to [...]

Echo reading: Building a bridge between text and meaning

2021-06-22T17:50:38+01:00June 22nd, 2021|reading|

As a student I was one of those kids who was desperate to be picked to read. When we studied Romeo and Juliet I got to read Mercutio, a part, I felt, I was born for.  I threw myself into it and felt I really connected with both the character and the play. This was obviously how to do things. Fast forward to my PGCE. For the first weeks of my first placement I got to watch a lot of lessons. Being a complete novice I felt very able to criticise the lessons of many of the seasoned veterans I got [...]

Schools and the Tyranny of Merit

2021-05-30T10:30:46+01:00May 27th, 2021|leadership|

One of the books I read last year that has most stayed with me is Michael Sandel's The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? In it, Sandel argues that meritocracy is inherently harmful to society and has brought about the huge divides in politics across the western world we've witnessed in recent years. The divide between 'winner's and 'losers' gets ever deeper and, while Sandel acknowledges that this is, in large part, due to inequality, he identifies the attitudes to 'winning' and 'losing' engendered by meritocracy as the unacknowledged catalyst that has prompted the breakdown of civic life.  [...]

The problem with ‘it makes the reader want to read on’

2021-05-23T17:06:59+01:00May 23rd, 2021|English, writing|

One of the most common and irritating of responses to be found strewn through students' literary or linguistic analysis is that a writer will have a made of particular choice in order to 'make the reader want to read on.' So far as I know, no English teacher has ever advised their students to use this phrase and, in fact, a great many explicitly forbid its use. From where, we might legitimately wonder, does this tortured construction derive? And what is the source of its enduring appeal? Like so many persistent problems in teaching, the MTRWTRO Gambit is so not so [...]

A reading curriculum: Gap-widening vs gap-narrowing

2021-03-24T12:24:23+00:00March 21st, 2021|Featured|

The idea that education acts as a Matthew Effect that disproportionately benefits those who start with most is an uncomfortable but well-understood phenomenon. Everything we do in schools either widens the advantage gap between the most privileged and least privileged students, or narrows it. This is, I think, a real dichotomy: anything that, on balance, appears net neutral is in fact acting to keep the gap a yawning chasm of inequity. This allows us to look at any potential intervention or policy and ask whether it's likely to widen or narrow the gap. Take, for instance, Renaissance Learning's ubiquitous quizzing software, [...]

How should writing fit into the English curriculum?

2021-03-06T18:48:23+00:00March 3rd, 2021|Featured|

I think like many English teachers I've long been conflicted about the position of writing in the curriculum. On the one hand, of course writing is central to students' experience of studying English. Not only should we aim to make them technically proficient, but we should explicitly teach them how to master a range of written styles and genres. But, on the other hand, writing units are turgid. Although I always dreaded the moment in the academic calendar when the inevitable writing scheme of work hoved into view,  I felt guilty. Clearly, the fault was mine and I just needed to [...]

Making Meaning in English: An exploration of the role of knowledge in language and literature

2021-02-10T16:23:49+00:00February 9th, 2021|English|

I'm pleased to announce that Making Meaning in English is available now. (Quote MME20 for a 20% discount) The book is a discussion on the role of English as a school subject: What is it for? How has it been shaped? What’s been done in the past? What’s gone wrong and what’s been successful? It particularly examines what knowledge means in English. Clearly the approaches to acquiring knowledge that work in subjects like maths and science are less appropriate to a subject more concerned with judgement, interpretation and value. I suggest there is important disciplinary and substantive knowledge that tends to [...]

Reforming GCSE English literature and language

2021-02-20T15:43:26+00:00February 8th, 2021|Featured|

Seeing as all sorts of folks have decided now is a good time to try to get rid of (or at least, reform) GCSEs, I thought I'd offer up my opinions. I should start by saying that, on the whole, I'm in favour of retaining exams. If the last two years have taught us anything it's that for all their problems (and despite all the noisy rhetoric to the contrary) no one has been able to suggest anything better. Exams continue to be the worst possible way to assess children apart from all the other ways. The problem with all forms [...]

Making Meaning in English: Book launch

2021-02-19T14:49:19+00:00January 31st, 2021|Featured|

My new book, Making Meaning in English - the final fruits of the burst of productivity I enjoyed during the first phase of lock down - will be available for your delight and edification on 10th February. It is (although you may feel this is a low bar) the best thing I've written. So much so that I'm reluctant to forego the opportunity to mark its entry into the world without a (suitably socially distanced) launch event. For those that missed it, here it is: https://academy.learningspy.co.uk/library-content/making-meaning-in-english-book-launch/

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