Sunday, 16 September 2012

Something borrowed, something blue, something old and something new

I am busy at the moment. Not just busy, but very busy. In fact, I’m very, very busy, like every other teacher I know. It is that time of year where we are all acclimatising to the new academic year by marking, planning and organising stuff. Oh, and learning names. It seems that after eight years of teaching, I am getting better at remembering names. I don’t have to use my inner Gradgrind: “Child 22, sit down!”.  It is just my own name that I struggle with sometimes, as the face and nature of teaching shifts monumentally, on a daily basis.  Am I still teaching GCSEs? Am I still teaching a linear course? Am I still teaching a set of grade C students?

Anyway, as things are busy I am going to write a much shorter blog than normal. Hopefully, it will still be a bit helpful as I have decided to explain four things I am going to try this term. They are all new things, for me, but they aren’t necessarily new ideas.  

Something Borrowed
I have already dabbled in the dark arts with ‘SOLO Taxonomy’ and have found it very fruitful in my teaching. In particular, the use of hexagons. A great way to build connections and links between aspects of text. I found the hexagons particularly useful when looking at an unseen poem. During one lesson, students wrote down points they found in a poem on hexagons and then spent time looking for connections by simply moving bits of paper about.  It was simply a lesson on serendipity. They found connections that I wouldn’t have normally made with a class.

Last year, I did miss the point about SOLO. I failed to see that it is about the students' understanding of how they learn something. Therefore, this year I have decided that I am going to do it right. A display board is already covered and I am all set to do it with two classes. The principles of it are what most teachers do on a regular basis, but I think, for me, the great thing about it is that students are able to see the stages of the learning process and identify clearly where they are.  

See these websites for more information about SOLO:

Something Blue
This is where I am going to go wrong with my extended metaphor. My something blue isn’t really blue. I can’t think of anything to match up with the title. But, my new thing here is about Ofsted, and, that does send some teachers blue. I have decided, for my new idea, to get two students in a class to perform a mini-Ofsted observation of my lesson.

Now this makes me sound like I am practising to be part of an Ofsted team. I shudder at the thought, dear reader. No, the real reason I want to do this is so that I can reflect on my lessons more and make students see what they are learning and how they are learning (another link to SOLO there).  I am constantly evaluating my lessons, yet I rarely ask the ‘consumer’. I want an extra voice in judging whether a lesson went well, and not a voice that will inform me that I haven’t included the latest buzz word.  Also, the new Ofsted framework suggests that students will be asked about their learning and their experience of lessons.
I am planning to display feedback from students, so that there is evidence that students reflect on the learning process.
Something Old
I am also going to try is some one-to-one reading. In the hazy past, I remember being a spotty Year 12 and sitting with some Year 6s to do some paired reading and listening to Biff and Chip books for hours.  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It is something that is rarely done in secondary schools, but I think I will try it with a few students.  I have noticed that the fluency of some students’ reading is hampered by their stilted decoding of words. I think if I spent some time over the year listening to them read, I may be able to help them decode words with more ease and help increase their reading fluency.
To do this, I am going to photocopy some interesting pages from novels and get them to read a page. I will then highlight any issues decoding and search for some common patterns.

Something New
Talking is something I am good at. Talking to students about their learning, however, is something I need to work on. I am getting better at it, but I still think I could do it better. Therefore, I have decided to do something that will build and develop the learning conversation with students in lessons.

Each student is going to have a sheet in their exercise book, where they can write things down about their learning. What have they found hard? What do they need to think about? Firstly, this will be a way for me to track their thoughts and idea.  Secondly, this will also get them to think about acting on these thoughts and take more responsibility for their learning.  For example, they might write:

                                I find it difficult to know when to start a new paragraph.

Then, next to it will be a section about their action.
Did they ask a friend?
Did they research it?
Did they ask the teacher for assistance?

In the past, I have always got students to write me a little note after marking, telling me how they think they did and what they need advice on. Hopefully, this sheet will allow that conversation to be a permanent thing and not a sporadic thing, when I remember to do it.

 I know pronounce you...

Dear Reader,

I am married to teaching. Sorry, to go all ‘Jane Eyre’ on you, but teaching can be a bit like a marriage. It changes over time.  Sometimes you need to spice it up a bit by going away or doing something new.

I hope to let you know in the future how it all went. Here’s hoping it doesn’t all end in divorce.

Thanks for reading,





  1. 'Something blue' reminded me of a lesson with some year 9s (not the brightest bunch) which was being observed. Ten minutes in, one girl put her hand up and when I asked what was the matter just opened her mouth wide. It was full of blue ink which was dripping out of her mouth and all over the desk.
    Good ideas for the new term. The hexagon thing sounds good, particularly.

    1. I think pens exploding is a hidden problem in schools. Maybe the Daily Mail can report on it. It has happened to me several times. Sadly, it has been with red pen and it has ended up with me looking like I had been in a fight.

      Thanks for the support,



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