When should we stop making students redraft work?

2016-08-27T09:04:17+01:00September 14th, 2015|writing|

I managed to catch a bit of #Engchatuk today and was interested to see that the discussion was on how to get students to redraft their work. Redrafting is something I advocate when travelling round different schools and I've spent a fair bit of time training teachers in how to get students to proofread their work and subject it to critical scrutiny. There were lots of useful ideas, some of which I recognised and other which I may well pinch, but I was particularly intrigued by this contribution: @EngChatUK When does drafting stop in the new era of one-chance only 100% exam...? [...]

#WrongBook extracts

2015-07-18T14:54:19+01:00July 17th, 2015|Featured, writing|

For those who have as yet resisted the temptation to buy a copy of my new book, I've put together a selection of (hopefully) tempting extracts. Have a great summer y'all. 1. Cognitive dissonance 2. Fundamental attribution error 3. Availability bias 4. The halo effect 5. Overconfidence 6. 'Passive' learning 7. The purposes of education 8. How to teach 9. Evidence 10. Meta beliefs 11. Progress 12. Tacit knowledge 13. Knowledge vs understanding    

What if I'm wrong? @HeyMissSmith savages #WrongBook

2015-07-08T21:28:03+01:00July 8th, 2015|writing|

Several people have very kindly written about why they like my new book, What if everything you know about education is wrong? but refreshingly, Jane Manzone (@HeyMissSmith) has reached entirely different conclusions. To be fair, I suggested that Jane review the book for Schools Week because I thought she'd have a very different take from most of the other people who'd read and helped me shape my ideas. I knew she'd take issue with much of it but honestly I didn't really expect quite such withering scorn. After all, no one, not even Sir Ken, spends months of their life chiseling away [...]

Reactions to #WrongBook

2015-07-04T12:23:59+01:00July 4th, 2015|writing|

In addition to the pre-publication reviews from some of the most eminent thinkers in education and psychology such as professors Dylan Wiliam, Robert Bjork, Daniel Willingham and Robert Coe, some 'real' readers have had a chance to plough their way through the 400+ pages. I realise this is a big ask but I hope the Amazon reviews below give you a sense of why it might be worth reading. Many thanks for all the kind comments and also for some of the rather blunt feedback. (I hear @HeyMiss Smith has given it a savaging in Schools Week!) Anyway, here's a taste of some [...]

An Ofsted inspector reviews The Secret of Literacy

2014-01-27T20:31:55+00:00January 27th, 2014|Featured, writing|

Over the past few weeks I've publicised some of the reviews for my new book. The advance notices I've received have been universally positive and deeply gratifying. The idea that such thinkers and writers as Doug Lemov, Alex Quigley and Tom Sherrington should all be so effusive is something of a relief. But in traditional style, I have left the best (or at least my favourite) review til last. As the count to launch day ticks down, it's finally time to share lead Ofsted Inspector, Mary Myatt's incredibly kind, helpful and specific review.   This book needed writing. Literacy, the quoin [I [...]

Black space: improving writing by increasing lexical density

2013-12-10T08:40:46+00:00December 9th, 2013|writing|

Style ... is not—can never be—extraneous Ornament... ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’ On the Art of Writing, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch So, what is lexical density? Basically, all texts are made up of lexical words which carry meaning (nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs) and grammatical words which act as the glue which hold the lexical words in place (Conjunctions, prepositions, articles, auxiliary verbs, some adverbs, determiners, and interjections.) It is the lexical words that explain information. As a general rule texts with lots of [...]

The art of beautifully crafted sentences

2013-10-18T08:30:59+01:00October 17th, 2013|English, literacy, writing|

I came across this post on Doug Lemov's blog earlier today and instantly decided to rewrite my Year 8 lesson to make use of the ideas within. The idea is, like all good ideas, a very simple one: that pupils should be taught explicitly to construct beautiful sentences. Now, I like a good sentence as much as the next English teacher. Here's one of my all time favourites, courtesy of Sylvia Plath from The Bell Jar: The lawn was white with doctors. The sparse elegance of such an utterance fills me with delight and satisfaction; it communicates so much, so simply. [...]

Thinking like a writer

2013-07-19T10:48:34+01:00June 4th, 2013|English, Featured, writing|

How do we get better at writing? By writing. The advice I always give to students to improve their writing is to write. Often. Everyday if possible. This might be a private diary entry, an Amazon review, an essay or, even better: a public blog post which someone might actually read. For years now I've been in the habit of writing with my students; whenever they have a controlled assessment to write or a question to answer, I do the work too. Apart from the desire to build a sense of solidarity, I started doing this to model the thinking required [...]

Teacher talk: the missing link

2015-03-02T17:06:48+00:00May 18th, 2013|English, Featured, learning, literacy, writing|

Back in 2008 I was told by an Ofsted inspector that I talked too much. I had always prided myself on being considered an outstanding teacher, and was devastated to be told my lesson was "satisfactory to good". My attempts to probe this judgement got little further; he offered no criticism of what I'd said or how I'd said it, just that I'd spoken for too long. This came as huge blow to my self-confidence and I spent the next few years reinventing myself as a trendy, progressive teacher. Out with modelling and whole class instruction; in with group work, problem solving and PLTS. It worked. [...]

How to get students to value writing

2013-11-07T09:10:11+00:00December 31st, 2012|literacy, writing|

Sir, do we have to write in sentences? Yes, you bloody well do! Students do a lot of writing at school but, bless me, most of it's turgid stuff. In practically every lesson they're required to scribble stuff down in their excise books, even if it's only a learning objective and the date. Having spent a good deal of the past two terms observing lessons across the curriculum, I can safely say that most of the writing students do is an exercise in missed opportunities. And almost none of this writing is valued in any way other than for the content it contains. [...]

The mathematics of writing

2013-09-18T12:59:04+01:00October 30th, 2012|English, literacy, writing|

A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns… The mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or the poet’s must be beautiful; the ideas like the colours or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test. GH Hardy How are most children taught writing? Badly. Eight weeks ago I took over an AS English Language class in which none of the students had a clear understanding of the difference between a noun and a verb. How is that they have got so far through formal education with absolutely no explicit understanding of [...]

The Matthew Effect – why literacy is so important

2013-09-24T19:58:38+01:00September 30th, 2012|learning, literacy, reading, training, writing|

Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Matthew 13:12 In the world of the 2012 Ofsted framework very few schools are going to quibble with the prominence being given to the teaching of literacy but I'm far from concerned that we're clear on precisely why teaching literacy is so important beyond the fact that Big Brother is watching you: running scared of Wilshaw is not enough. I saw the fantastic Geoff Barton deliver a presentation called Don't Call it Literacy at the Wellington [...]

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