David Didau

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So far David Didau has created 924 blog entries.

Using tenor, vehicle and ground to analyse metaphors

2022-03-01T21:43:46+00:00February 2nd, 2022|English|

It's vanishingly rare to encounter a student in secondary school who doesn't know what a metaphor is. That said, it's equally rare to find students who are able to define what a metaphor actually is. When pressed, they tend to say things like, "It when to say something is something else," or "It's saying something is something it isn't," or, even more commonly, "I know what it is but I don't know how to explain it." Does any of this matter? After all, if students can spot a metaphor - and they usually can - why do they need to provide [...]

The problem with marking and how to solve it

2023-02-12T10:13:52+00:00January 31st, 2022|workload|

Every teacher - particularly English teachers - has huge existential guilt about marking. When I worked full time as a teacher marking was the first thing to go when the stress inevitably piled up. And if we excoriate ourselves sufficiently to make sure mock exams and termly assessments receive sufficient attention, who's got time to keep up with all those Key Stage 3 books?, There are only so many hours in the day and the only way to survive the brutal realities of teaching is to make correspondingly brutal choices. Pretty everything teachers do has value, but it's unavoidably true [...]

The shape of assessment

2021-12-31T18:47:44+00:00December 31st, 2021|assessment, curriculum|

As we should all now be aware, there are no external audiences interested in schools' internal data. If we're going to go to the trouble of getting students to sit formal assessments on which we will collect data, we should be very clear about the purpose both of the assessments and the data they produce. On the whole, the purpose of assessment data appears to be discriminating between students. The purpose of GCSEs, SATs, A levels and other national exams is to discriminate between students - to determine each individual's performance into a normally distributed rank order and then assign grades [...]

How should we teach students to interpret texts?

2021-12-17T14:00:44+00:00December 12th, 2021|English|

The default approach to so much English teaching is to present students with a text and then say some version of, "What do you think of this?" If you're fortunate enough to teach in a selective setting with advantaged students, then this must be a very rewarding way to go about things. The students make their thoughtful suggestions, respectfully challenge each other, and hone their interpretation though the lively cut and thrust of classroom debate. I've never taught in such an environment. Sadly though, this didn't stop me taking a pretty similar approach with my students. Neither did it prevent me [...]

Specifying a concept-led KS3 English curriculum

2022-03-10T21:56:34+00:00October 23rd, 2021|assessment, curriculum, English|

If we accept that we are using the curriculum as a progression model - if making progress means that children know more, remember more and can do more of the curriculum they've been taught - then that paves the way for us to move away from using unhelpful approaches like flight paths and age related expectations to make judgements about whether children are making progress. But what happens if it's not clear that knowing more, remembering more and being able to do more of the curriculum don't feel like progress? This, I think, is a big issue with the way English [...]

Is curriculum all that?

2021-09-26T13:52:25+01:00September 24th, 2021|curriculum|

Over the past few years we've all been putting a lot of thought and energy into trying to improve our specification of what we want students to learn and, whilst there have been some unfortunate consequences (intent statements, cultural capital statements, bizarre arguments about how powerful knowledge is etc.) this has, on balance been a very good thing. When I began teaching English in the late 90s no one gave a damn what I taught. At my first schools I was told to teach whatever I liked the look of in the stock cupboard. In the mid 2000s, I was told [...]

Why using the curriculum as your progression model is incompatible with ‘measuring progress’

2021-09-11T15:10:11+01:00September 11th, 2021|assessment, curriculum|

Our capacity to misunderstand complex ideas leads, inexorably, to the lethal mutation of those ides. In my last post I set out why the apparently simple and obvious notion of 'using the curriculum as a progression model' often goes wrong but I underplayed some key points about the use of numbers. Tucked away in that post are two ideas that need some amplification and explanation. Firstly, in relation to the way in which summative assessments are scored: I should note that the key assumption underpinning this assessment model is not that tests should discriminate between students so we can place them [...]

Why ‘using the curriculum as a progression model’ is harder than you think

2022-11-13T14:39:04+00:00September 8th, 2021|assessment, curriculum|

Since first hearing the idea that the curriculum should be the model of progression on Michael Fordham's blog, I immediately and instinctively felt that this was right. Of course, I said to myself, we will know whether students are making progress if they are learning more of the curriculum. Voila! And, like many others, I left the notion as a self-evident truth that required no further explanation. Once it is understood to be true, the scales will fall from the eyes of those espousing flightpaths, Age Related Expectations and incoherent statements of progress and all will be well. (See here and [...]

Curating a reading curriculum

2023-07-15T14:49:52+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 [...]

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

2023-02-11T10:53:12+00:00July 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. When we came to consider 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

2023-01-29T08:18:26+00:00July 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 [...]

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 [...]

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