OAT English curriculum project

2023-02-26T15:49:39+00:00February 26th, 2023|English|

Since January 2020 I've been working for Omiston Academies Trust as their Senior Lead for English. Over that time I and the amazing team of lead practitioners I lead have created what we think is a fantastic English curriculum. Not only have we been working on a book which will explain the entire process from intent, to implementation to impact, we've just launched a website - OAT English - to host all of the resources and training materials we've created. All the materials are covered under a Creative Commons license so that - as long as you don't try to [...]

How to read creatively: noticing in English

2020-11-14T12:39:05+00:00October 3rd, 2020|English|

… languages recognized, not as the means of contemporary communication but as investments in thought and records of perceptions and analogical understandings; literatures recognized as the contemplative exploration of beliefs, emotions, human characters and relationships in imagined situations, liberated from the confused, cliché ridden, generalized conditions of commonplace life and constituting a world of ideal human expressions inviting neither approval nor disapproval but the exact attention and understanding of those who read … Michael Oakeshott, ‘The Voice of Liberal Learning,’ p. 23. In my forthcoming book, Making Meaning in English, I suggest two disciplinary branches of knowledge in English which I've [...]

The Epistemology of English

2019-02-07T15:53:11+00:00February 7th, 2019|English|

For some time now I've been thinking about how epistemology* - how knowledge is accumulated and divvied up - in English as an academic discipline. While I'm not at all sure that I've accomplished anything particularly profound or useful, I've identified four distinct areas which I'm calling metaphor, story, argument and pattern. These concepts underlie an understanding of what knowledge is in English. They are, broadly speaking, the lenses through which literature and language can be viewed and by which meaning is made. Metaphor Arguably, most if not all thought is metaphorical. Whenever we substitute a concrete meaning to shed light [...]

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 [...]

Are ‘closed book’ examinations a bad idea?

2018-01-22T08:10:42+00:00April 6th, 2017|English|

Changes to the GCSE English Literature specifications are, apparently, starting to bite. As well as abandoning the modular approach to assessment in which students sat 2 separate modular exams and completed an extended piece of controlled assessment, students are now expected to sit two terminal exams.  One change to these exams which has upset lots of English teachers is the move from 'open book' to 'closed book' exams. What this means is that students are no longer permitted to take copies of the texts they have studied into the exam and are instead required to have learned quotations by heart. The TES [...]

What are they learning?

2016-12-31T13:51:38+00:00February 26th, 2016|learning|

Learning is never neutral. Although I have no empirical evidence, I'm pretty sure that it's rare indeed for children - or indeed anyone - to learn nothing in a given situation. My contention is that children are always learning something even if that thing is not what a teacher wants or expects them to learn. In a lesson, students might learn what we have planned for them to learn, or they might learn a misconception. Equally, they might learn that their teacher has low expectations, that they 'can't do' maths, that school is rubbish, or that messing around results in greater social recognition than [...]

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 [...]

Is teaching cheating?

2012-11-26T22:52:59+00:00November 26th, 2012|assessment, English|

The Teachmobile Today I was sent this: It purports to be a briefing sheet used by an AQA advisor to justify the movement of controlled assessment grade boundaries in this summer's GCSE English exam (otherwise referred to as the GCSE fiasco.) I can't vouch for its provenance beyond saying that it was emailed to me from a Head of English at another school who I have no reason to believe would have sent her time inventing fake documents. But you never know. Now, the arguments about grade boundaries have been rehashed endlessly over the past few months [...]

The GCSE English "fiasco" – Why shouldn't all have prizes?

2012-09-02T13:30:28+01:00September 2nd, 2012|English, literacy|

Lots of folk have had lots to say about what went on behind the scenes at the various exam boards this summer and throughout it all I've largely kept my peace. Having absorbed the various arguments and counter arguments I feel I've arrived at some sort of opinion. In a nutshell, the issue seems to be that the prevailing (political?) opinion is that since the GCSE was first examined in 1988 (incidentally the year I took my exams) standards have steadily declined whilst grades have inexorably risen. For the past 24 years this orthodoxy has been if not unchallenged, at least [...]

What makes a perfect English lesson?

2011-11-27T17:02:23+00:00November 27th, 2011|English, learning|

Click me Is there such a thing as the perfect English lesson? Well, no, probably not. At least, not that I’m aware of. There is, you may be disappointed to discover, no single lesson that you can trot out endlessly and clap yourself on the back for being a good egg. If there were it would quickly become dry, boring and you'd quickly be exposed as a fraud. But, if we remove the definite article (whoa! Grammar!) and consider perfect English lessons, then we can probably agree that there is some mileage in having the discussion. If you're reading [...]

Formative assessment and the mark scheme

2011-07-23T23:03:52+01:00July 23rd, 2011|assessment, English, learning, training|

I’ve been consciously and actively using exam board mark schemes as an essential component of formative assessment with my classes for some time now and thought it was time to share what I was up to more widely. I led a CPD session on this recently and while none of what I said was new or even particularly surprising, it did at least remind us what the point of marking all those essays is. Before putting my presentation together, I decided to check out what was out there already. Plenty of stuff on formative assessment but nothing specifically (nothing that I [...]

Zooming in and out

2013-07-19T12:08:59+01:00July 11th, 2011|English, learning, reading|

For some years now I have been using what I call The Grade Ladder with students to help them understand the skills required to perform at different grades. This isn't particularly original and has been around for quite while. I first encountered the terms 'evaluate', 'analyse', 'explore', 'explain' and 'identify' in GCSE English specifications but it's obvious at even a cursory glance that these skills are underpinned by Bloom's Taxonomy.   So, to IDENTIFY, students had to be able to give an opinion and support it with textual evidence; to EXPLAIN they had to show they understood the relationship between their [...]

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