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What can you practise in English lessons?

2018-05-04T22:52:26+01:00May 4th, 2018|English|

Over my last two posts I've argued that, contrary to popular opinion, English is not a 'skills based' subject. In fact, what appear to be skills are actually composed on many thousands of individual components of knowledge organised together as schema. In my last post I tried to demonstrate that practising 'inference skills' won't actually help students get better at making inferences, and that this ability depends on what they know about a text and about the domain of English more generally. In this post I will attempt to reclaim the concept of practice in English lessons from the confusing quagmire [...]

Why English is not a ‘skills based’ subject

2019-06-11T17:10:41+01:00April 27th, 2018|Featured|

The idea that English is a skills based subject has become axiomatic. Most English teachers of my acquaintance accept it unquestioningly, as did I until a few years ago. How do we know English is skills based? Because it depends on the skills of reading and writing. And, in turn, reading depends on such skills as inference and analysis, while writing depends either on the skill of making points, using evidence and explaining it or on the skill of using language creatively and persuasively. From this certain things have followed. If English is skills based then it obviously makes sense to [...]

How to be an English teacher: designing an English PGCE

2017-07-22T07:41:24+01:00July 22nd, 2017|Featured|

From September I will be teaching a small group of prospective English teachers what I think they need to know in order to do a decent job as part of the new BPP University PGCE course. I was very flattered to be asked to be involved, particularly as I have no special expertise and no track record at all in higher education, but thrilled beyond reason at the idea of designing the kind of course I wish I'd be on when I trained to be a teacher back in the 90s. Whilst I wouldn't go as far as to claim that [...]

Making a mockery of marking: The new GCSE English Language mocks

2016-12-05T13:38:59+00:00December 5th, 2016|assessment|

The following is a guest post from the mastermind of Comparative Judgement, Dr Chris Wheadon. The marking of English Language is likely to be extremely challenging this year. English Language has long form answer questions, typically with 8, 16 and 24 mark responses. Ofqual’s research suggests the following range of precision is normal across GCSE and A level: 8 mark items: +/- 3 marks 16 mark items: +/- 4 marks 24 mark items: +/- 6 marks So, when an 8 mark item is marked, for the same response, it is normal for one marker to give 4 marks, while another will give 7 [...]

researchED English & Literacy Conference

2015-07-08T20:37:09+01:00July 1st, 2015|English, research|

A few months ago I asked Tom Bennett if he'd be up for rubberstamping some sort of rEDx project (like TEDx but with brains) devoted to exploring the intersection between education research and English teaching and he came back, quick as a flash, with the suggestion that I organise an actual researchED spinoff. So, under the steadying hand and watchful eye of Helene Galdon-O'Shea, I have. When? Saturday 7th November 2015 Where? Swindon Academy (which is also where I'll be working next year.) What? The theme of the conference is exploring the intersection between 'what works' according to the research community [...]

Fancy attending an English & maths conference?

2015-06-10T10:36:32+01:00June 10th, 2015|Featured|

I'm speaking at Optimus Education's English & Maths 2015: Effective Teaching Strategies to Meet New Accountabilities on Thursday 22nd October. The mathematicians amongst needn't worry; I'll only be inflicting my "inspirational keynote" to the English strand. If you're interested, this is what I'll be talking about: "Curriculum creativity: Enjoy your new-found freedom and develop a curriculum plan that successfully encourages breadth and depth of knowledge". There's lots of other great speakers lined up, but I'll be particularly looking forward to hearing the wisdom of Twitter's Andy Tharby (@atharby) and Chris Curtis (@xris31). The only reason I'm telling you all this is that if you're [...]

Fancy attending an English & maths conference?

2015-06-10T10:06:42+01:00June 10th, 2015|Featured|

I'm speaking at Optimus Education's English & Maths 2015: Effective Teaching Strategies to Meet New Accountabilities on Thursday 22nd October. The mathematicians amongst needn't worry; I'll only be inflicting my "inspirational keynote" to the English strand. If you're interested, this is what I'll be talking about: "Curriculum creativity: Enjoy your new-found freedom and develop a curriculum plan that successfully encourages breadth and depth of knowledge". There's lots of other great speakers lined up, but I'll be particularly looking forward to hearing the wisdom of Twitter's Andy Tharby (@atharby) and Chris Curtis (@xris31). The only reason I'm telling you all this is that if you're [...]

Using Threshold Concepts to design a KS4 English curriculum

2015-05-02T10:19:22+01:00March 24th, 2015|English|

The big change a-coming for curriculum design is that the final vestiges of modularity will soon have been licked clean from the assessment spoon; from September it will linearity all the way. Many English teachers have never worked in such a system and there's widescale panic about how exactly we can expect children to retain the quantity of textual information they will need to know in order to have something to analyse in a closed book exam. An obvious solution is to redesign your curriculum to harness what we know about the best ways of getting students to remember stuff. I've written [...]

Who's to blame for the new English literature GCSEs?

2014-05-30T11:29:18+01:00May 30th, 2014|English|

The sound and fury surrounding text choices for GCSE English literature just won’t go away. The exam boards got their digs in first with Paul Dodd of OCR claiming Gove wanted to ban US authors because he "had a particular dislike for Of Mice and Men and was disappointed that more than 90% of candidates were studying it". Gove then struck back saying neither nor anyone else had banned anything: ‘”Just because one chap at one exam board claimed I didn’t like Of Mice and Men, the myth took hold that it – and every other pesky American author – had [...]

Whose English literature is it anyway?

2014-05-27T20:28:04+01:00May 27th, 2014|English|

Have you heard? Education Secretary, Michael Gove has personally intervened to ban the only books worth teaching in the entire canon of English literature. Twentieth century American classics like To Kill A Mockingbird, A View from the Bridge and Of Mice and Men (Not to mention one of my personal favourites, The Catcher In The Rye.) have been summarily removed from English classrooms.  Only, he hasn't. Here's what he has actually said: I have not banned anything. Nor has anyone else. All we are doing is asking exam boards to broaden – not narrow – the books young people study for GCSE. [...]

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