/Tag: writing

5 things every new (secondary) teacher should know about writing


Academic success is dependent on students being able to communicate their understanding of a subject and, sooner or later, that communication will be written. For many secondary teachers writing is something that just happens; some students do it well, others poorly and there's precious little you can do about it. In secondary schools teachers teach subjects and although some effort will be put into essay writing skills in some subject areas, by and large, the ability to write effectively is left to chance. Back in 2006 I marked Paper 2 of the AQA English Language GCSE and one of the prompts students were given to [...]

5 things every new (secondary) teacher should know about writing2016-09-03T10:49:22+00:00

The Capital Letter Problem – Part 1


I have almost never met a secondary age child who doesn't conceptually understand how to use a capital letter.* But, you'd never know. Students regularly hand in work liberally sprinkled with missing - or extraneous - capitals and conscientious teachers spend hours circling the errors and patiently explaining why proper nouns and words at the beginning of a new sentence need capitals. In return, students say, "I know. It's just the way I write." It's pointless to give someone feedback about something they already know - lack of knowledge isn't the problem. The problem is caused by practice. Contrary to what [...]

The Capital Letter Problem – Part 12016-08-27T23:53:35+00:00

Negative framing and No Pens Days


The framing effect is an example of cognitive bias, in which our reactions to a choice depend on whether it is presented as a loss or a gain. Our tendency is to avoid risks when they're framed negatively and embrace risks when a positive frame is presented. For instance, we’re happy to pay home insurance on the off chance that our house is burnt to the ground, but we’d likely be unwilling to gamble. the same amount of money on a hours race. Insurance makes us feel secure - we won’t lose what’s already ours, whereas gambling makes us feel we might lose what we already [...]

Negative framing and No Pens Days2017-10-04T11:50:43+00:00

Do we value pupils' writing?


Why do we ask pupils to write? There may be very many answers to that question but in my experience of working with teachers and observing lessons, overwhelmingly, teachers ask pupils to write in order to check that lesson content has been understood. This is of course a worthy aim, but do we value the actual writing? Leadership guru, John C. Maxwell said, "To add value to others, one must first value others." Likewise, to add value to pupils' writing, one must first value pupils' writing. In a lesson I observed last year, a science teacher had taught her Year 8 class about Marie [...]

Do we value pupils' writing?2014-04-26T00:07:01+00:00

A simple theory about writing


The first thing to say is this is not in any way supposed to be a complete or unified theory - I'm well aware that there are many other important strands to improving pupils' writing and have written about many of them before. But I do think this theory (which has been bubbling away on my mental back burner for a while now) describes just one of the processes that can turn otherwise able pupils from poor writers into much more able ones. That said, I tend to get a bit over excited about these sorts of things and am often mistaken. [...]

A simple theory about writing2016-09-23T13:39:51+00:00

The mathematics of 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 mathematics of writing2013-09-18T12:59:04+00:00

The Matthew Effect – why literacy is so important


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 [...]

The Matthew Effect – why literacy is so important2013-09-24T19:58:38+00:00

Slow Writing: how slowing down can improve your writing


NB - my latest thinking on Slow Writing can be found here. Exam season is nearly upon us and English departments across the land will be gearing up to the Herculean labour of training students to churn out essays which, they hope, will earn them the much coveted A*-C grade in English Language. The AQA paper gives candidates just a meagre hour to write a short descriptive, explanatory piece and then a longer piece which asks them to persuade and argue. This isn't much time and most students default position is to race into it, cram in as much verbiage as [...]

Slow Writing: how slowing down can improve your writing2014-06-28T14:50:08+00:00
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