Sunday, 21 July 2019

How to teach English

They say within every person is a book.

Over the past few years, I have been secretly writing that one book.

Finally, the book was published in its yellow and pink glory this week. 

The book is a bit like the blog as it contains ideas, thoughts, resources and questions about the teaching of English in schools.

So, if you like the blog and would like to read more, then you can purchase the book here.


Written by Chris Curtis, How to Teach: English: Novels, non-fiction and their artful navigation is jam-packed with enlivening ideas to help teachers make the subject of English more intellectually challenging for students – and to make it fun too!

Never underestimate your duty and power as a teacher of English. English teachers help students to think and feel. They prompt them to reflect on their actions. They hold a mirror to society and inspire students to see how they can make it better.

What other subject does that?

This insightful interpretation of what makes excellent secondary school English teaching is the work of a man whose humility fails to hide his brilliance and provides educators with a sophisticated yet simple framework upon which to hook their lessons. Covering poetry, grammar, Shakespeare and how to teach writing, Chris Curtis has furnished every page of this book with exciting ideas that can be put into practice immediately.

Each chapter presents a store of practical strategies to help students in key areas – providing apposite examples, teaching sequences and the rationale behind them – and has been accessibly laid out so that teachers can pinpoint the solutions they need without having to spend an age wading through academic theory and pontification.

The book explores the wealth of learning opportunities that can be derived from both classic and more contemporary literature and offers expert guidance on how teachers can exploit their own chosen texts to best effect with their students. Furthermore, it is replete with ready-to-use approaches that will help teachers upgrade their lesson planning, enhance their classroom practice and ensure that the content they cover sticks in their students’ heads for months and years afterwards.

Suitable for all English teachers of students aged 11–18.

Sarah Barker, English teacher and Assistant Head Teacher, Orchard School Bristol, and blogger 14th June 2019

How to Teach: English is packed full of practical ideas for the English classroom. Chris’ knowledge and experience shine through in his writing, as he shares what he demonstrably knows will work in practice and provides really sound advice for trickier areas of the curriculum.

This is a timely book – schools wanting a renewed focus on the application of the curriculum would do well to start here for their English faculties.

Mary Myatt, author of Hopeful Schools, High Challenge, Low Threat and The Curriculum: Gallimaufry to Coherence 14th June 2019

This is a magnificent book that really gets to the bones of teaching English. It manages the remarkable feat of scoping the panorama of the subject: its magic, its power and its potential to take students to other worlds. And set against the big picture are commentaries on, and brilliant examples of, how to bring English lessons to life in the classroom.

How to: Teach English should be essential reading for all engaged in teaching, not just of English but of other subjects too – everyone will take something from the precision, the wit and the humanity of this terrific book.

Mark Roberts, English teacher, blogger and writer 14th June 2019

How to Teach: English is clever, wise and highly practical. Awash with creative prompts and pragmatic advice, it is an accessible and entertaining read which deserves its place on the creaking bookshelves of any English teacher.

Dipping in, you’ll find the kinds of ideas that make you think, ‘I wish I’d thought of that.’ At the same time, Chris’ obsession with self-improvement shines through. Full of humility, honesty and mischievous humour, this is a book about getting better by – to paraphrase the title of Chris’ hugely influential blog – learning from mistakes.

It includes an ambitious and comprehensive list of chapters – focusing on key areas such as writing, grammar, Shakespeare and poetry – and illustrates the necessity of building knowledge and questioning our assumptions about our students’ prior learning. With his approach, Chris places a relentless focus on the writer’s craft and the power of words, advocating a sensible balance of high challenge, accessibility and creativity.

Quite simply, How to Teach: English is a guide to what excellent English teaching looks like – so whether you’re a trainee teacher or a battle-hardened veteran, this is an indispensable resource.

David Didau, author of Making Kids Cleverer 14th June 2019

Why, you might wonder, should I invest in yet another book on the teaching of English? This is a relatively crowded marketplace – and although there are many excellent books aimed at English teachers, none are so rooted in the subject as this one. Chris Curtis communicates not only his years of experience but also his infectious enthusiasm for a subject and an occupation he so clearly loves.

How to Teach: English is studded with an astonishing array of practical ways into the study, and the teaching, of all forms of literature as well as the nuts and bolts of language. Every page is illuminated by the gentle, guiding hand of someone who has been there, made all the mistakes you have made and survived to pass on the distilled wisdom and warmth of a true aficionado.

This is my new favourite book on English teaching – it will enhance the practice of any teacher of English, no matter what stage they are at in their career.

Andy Tharby, author of Making Every English Lesson Count 14th June 2019

Curtis’ smart and shrewd guide to English teaching is a welcome reminder of the potent, and too often untapped, wisdom and expertise of those at the chalkface who have learned through many years of careful and thoughtful trial and error.

For me, the greatest strength of this book lies in its central message: that English teaching is about the communication, sharing and generation of ideas, and that what matters most is the quality of thinking that happens within an English classroom. To top it off, Curtis gifts us a dazzling array of simple approaches that will guide all English teachers – from the fresh-faced newcomer to the grizzled staffroom-cynic – towards nurturing and getting the very best out of their students.

How to Teach: English really is a fabulous read. I cannot remember the last time I took so many notes when reading an education book. Needless to say, I recommend it to all teachers of English.

Amy Forrester, English teacher and Head of Year, Cockermouth School 14th June 2019

Chris’ book is an excellent manual for new and experienced teachers alike. His mixture of wisdom and experience blends together to provide teachers of English with a number of ideas that they can use in the classroom. It is a timely text, one which encourages practitioners to love what they teach – and is ideal for dipping in and out of, allowing readers to turn their attention to the chapters which cover their teaching focus at the time of reading. It is also packed full of signposts to interesting works of literature, which are perfect for the busy English teacher looking for some inspiration with the texts and topics they’re using in a lesson or during a unit of learning.

Alex Quigley, Senior Associate, Education Endowment Foundation and author of Closing the Vocabulary Gap 14th June 2019

Chris Curtis is the ideal teacher-writer, and in How to Teach: English he effortlessly manages the artful balance of packing in sage insights alongside a range of very practical approaches.

Funny, wise and imminently useful, this is a book from which every teacher of English – from nervous newbies to seasoned veterans – can plunder a wealth of ideas. So, no matter if you are perennially busy: put down your pile of marking and gift yourself this readable gem.

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