Thursday, 12 July 2018

Challenge Africa

In the 90s, there was a show that I watched with my parents. Challenge Anneke. The premise of the show was simple. Anneke Rice had two build, fix or renovate something in a short space of time. The show tugged on the heartstrings and featured a car I always wanted, which fitted inside in a lorry like some kind of Transformer.

Anyway, I am looking to do a similar challenge. A colleague of mine is visiting schools in South Africa to help them build and improve schools. I think it is a fantastic opportunity. So far, as a school, we have donated textbooks and resources. But, they need something different. They need help with teaching and teaching resources. Things are pretty basic in terms of resources. They need guidance for teaching a lesson. A lesson with very little resources and texts. Basic lessons with limited resources.

Between all the teachers on Twitter, we have a wealth of resources. That’s why I’d like to enlist some help with helping several schools in South Africa.

Below are copies of the schemes of work the teachers have in place. I’d just like to offer guidance on how to teach the different aspects. I’d like to offer lesson plans so a teacher can teach the different elements without the need for resources.

We are at the end of the year and most of us have some gained time. Or, we have resources at the click of a button.

I’d be eternally grateful if you volunteered to write one lesson plan.

One planned lesson based on having no photocopies and just a board with some text written on it.  

Pick on aspect above. 
Like Anneke, I only have a short space of time for this. A week.  

If you are willing to help in this challenge, then DM me on Twitter @Xris32.

Many thanks,


Sunday, 1 July 2018

How many different Macbeths have I got to remember for the exam, Sir?

Dual coding has become a little focus of mine, and others, over the last few months and it is an area I think there’s scope for reflection in the classroom and especially the English classroom. It has highlighted a few problems for me.

Recently, I picked up a revision guide for students on ‘An Inspector Calls’ and in that book alone it had ten different visual images to represent the character of Mr Birling. It included a comic version, several stills from various film and TV versions, and then several stills from various play versions. On reading the revision guide, students could be looking at, to them, ten different characters. There wasn’t any visual consistency. Or visual harmony. In fact, you could place all the characters in a line up for English teachers and they’d struggle to find the common factor between them. For me, this highlighted several problems with using images in the classroom. We bombard students with images.

Pictures on PowerPoint or handout are brilliant, aren’t they? They show that the teacher has tried to engage with students. Look this isn’t dull stuff. It is interesting because it has pictures? Pictures make the work look nice. Nice and pretty. There’s become an unwritten rule for any literature focused PowerPoint that the teacher will include several googled pictures. I am going to question the use of photographs in PowerPoints and challenge their usage.

Take any still or photograph from a literature text and you’ll see that your attention isn’t solely focused on one thing. You don’t just look at a picture and see one thing. In fact, you see many things working together to convey ideas or gain interest. Pictures are quite attention seeking.

What do you think of my hair?

What do you think of my clothes?

What do you think of my lighting?

What do you think of the angle of the picture?

What do you think of the colours?

What do you think of my setting?

What do you think of my background?

There’s a large team of people who have worked hard to create this image and there are several elements working in tandem to get the final picture. A picture is never just a picture. It is something bigger. Cinema is about being visually stimulating and so therefore photographs from films are often visually stimulating. They are designed to stimulate. They have a big screen to fill. So when we put a picture on a slide it is adding something stimulating to the slide. Where we thought we were using a photograph to revise a plot point, we are actually stimulating other thoughts and idea, which could detract the student from the main purpose of a lesson. Yes, you might want students to think and be stimulated, but is that moment the right time for it? There’s a big difference between having a picture on a slide for the primary purpose of teaching an aspect and a secondary purpose of reminding and supporting the learning. Using a picture in the secondary way detracts the learning.

This year, I have taken to drawing. Drawing images from the texts to represent scenes. I have stopped googling for images and I use my own drawings and adopted my own style of visual coding instead.

By using it, I am summarising the plot and at the same time reducing the visual information that students are receiving so that there is a greater level of clarity. So when I ask students to make connections in the rest of the play, students are not think where they have seen the colour red in the play or who else in the play has such a bad haircut like Romeo. The focus, from my experience, becomes a lot more relevant in discussions too. Students are able to talk better about the texts and make more interesting connections. I have, and it took me a while, drawn the majority of the key texts so that I am able to do this and have a consistency of style. I’d also say that this way has speeded things up for me. Present a photograph to students and I’d say they get confused initially as they work out the where, when, why of the image and ask several questions along the way about facial expressions and hairy nostrils. This way for me has made things clearer in lessons for me and helped improve my explanations. I show the picture before reading. We read the scene. We look at the picture again and explore staging choices, writer’s message and language devices through the picture. Then, we look at another scene. Later, I might pick the picture out again to revise or link to another scene.

By using my own pictures, I am build a visual consistency across lessons. To be honest, I don’t think we have ever considered this. However, I have seen PowerPoints with three different actors playing Macbeth for one lesson. Or, worksheets where they have mixed up the actors playing the different parts from two different versions of the play. Lady Macbeth from one version. Macbeth from another. We don’t always think of the visual through line with text. Do we always use the same actor playing Macbeth in everything we do? I think there is nothing wrong in looking at how other actors and productions present the character, but I think we should possibly have a dominant image or actor to help students develop their knowledge of the text. Give them a carousel of bearded blokes and they will struggle to tell you who is Banquo and who is Macbeth. Plus, between lessons they have watched several TV shows or films and met lots of other people. The chances of then remembering one is limited when you haven’t just given them one to recall.    

I like Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as a movie, but I don’t like it as a support for the teaching of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ because, for me, the visuals dominate the language of the text. Both are there, but the imagery is domineering. Students remember the imagery, rather than the text. If only Luhrmann toned down the visuals, I’d be a happier. Instead, I have opted for the Globe’s versions of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Macbeth’ recently because they have changed the balance for me. They use a more naturalistic visual style and they reduce the emphasis on the visuals so that the focus can be on the verbal aspect. However, you are occasionally distracted by an audience member in dayglow yellow – must be a Baz Luhrmann fan. Do students really notice the tone and intonation of character in Luhrmann’s colourful 100 BPM version? They could tell you the colours of things and the music played at a point, but they’d rarely be tell you where the emphasis on a word was in a line.  

So, there a several questions I think we have to ponder in the classroom, when thinking about the visual elements of a lesson:

How many interpretations of the key elements of the text have they seen?

What is the primary visual source for aiding the teaching of a text?

When and where should I introduce different visual representations of the texts?  

Is the picture / image on the sheet / slide part of the primary learning?

Or, simplified:

How many Macbeths have they seen this lesson?

Who is their Macbeth?

When should they see other Macbeths?

Is picture of Macbeth really necessary at this point in the learning?

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, 24 June 2018

The stench of failure and the sweet aroma of success

There’s one thing we don’t speak enough about in the world of education. Failure. Mistakes. Errors of judgement made by adults. 

The classroom is the place where students can practise, experiment, fail and succeed, yet the school isn’t the workplace to fail, experiment and make errors. Now, before you start thinking I have had a telling off this week for making a mistake and this is a thinly veiled attack at the hand that feeds me, let me assure you that hasn’t happened. No, really, it hasn’t happened. I promise.

As an NQT, I was sold a lie. It wasn’t a deliberate lie, but it was a lie nonetheless.

My youthful self sat and observed lessons and was often presented with perfection. I was taught in university what perfection looked like in the classroom. I watched experienced teachers teach perfect lessons. I heard from students on the PGCE course telling me about their perfect lessons and how their mentor said their lesson on writing as a slug was sublime and ‘clearly outstanding’. I think that same student also informed me that another teacher told her she should be an Ofsted inspector because her lessons were so good. She was the same girl who told me her plan was to teach for two years and become an education consultant and write books.

That one experience highlighted to me from the start that there is a subconscious conflict in education. We strive for perfection, but some of us think and feel that we are the physical embodiment of perfection.

On a personal level, I think that is a dangerous place to be because it is incredibly stressful being perfect. I should know – joke!  ‘Working to achieve perfection’ is a much calmer and less stressful place than ‘holding on to perfection’. Let’s call it the ‘Perfection Problem’.

I admit I am part of this problem. I feed the ‘Perfection Problem’. I talk about more about the ‘perfect’ solutions than the problems. Teachmeets are people sharing their solutions. Books are written about solutions. Blogs are written about solutions. Nobody really talks about the opposite. The mistakes. Imagine a teachmeet about people sharing their problems. Imagine a book written about the mistakes teachers make.  There are businesses and organisations that feed on this ‘perfect solution’ to our problems. We are always one step away from being perfect, if only we had this or this tool. You can see we have an absence of discussion of the mistakes we make and continue to make. We look too much at the solutions and shy away from discussing the mistakes.

We are all guilty of it at some level. But, we do some easy ways to avoid taking ownership of the mistakes.  Errors are usually one of these in the teaching world.

  1. The teacher’s [who used to work here] mistake
  2. The other department’s mistake
  3. The children’s mistake
  4. The parents’ mistake
  5. The head teacher's / SLT’s mistake 

 We displace the ownership of the mistake to someone else. It happened to me. A teacher left one of my previous schools and they got the blame for some inflated coursework marks, when it came to moderation. I left that school and during coursework moderation came up my name was mentioned. Last out of the door gets blamed for a number of things. I was the scapegoat.

The problem is that it is so easy to divorce ourselves from mistakes. How could I possibly control things? They are out of my control so therefore I cannot be held accountable for the mistake. We are dealing with teenagers and they are unpredictable.  The situation allows us to be free from imperfection and stops us from actually talking about mistakes. Then, things transform by the power of semantics and mistakes become issues. ‘What are the mistakes we are making with the boys?’ becomes ‘what are the issues with boys and underperformance?’ I have an ‘issue’ is so much better sounding that ‘mistake’ because there’s nothing personal. And, that’s the crux of the problem.

A mistake is a mistake. It isn’t a person. Yet, mistakes are seen as being so personal. It is somehow a reflection on me. A mistake equals me. We don’t just personalise mistakes; we give them emotions. Mistakes become emotional and personal. Issues are impersonal and unemotional. They are easier to deal with.  But, issues aren’t one person’s responsibility, whereas a mistake is.  

To make us better, we need to be less personal and less emotional about mistakes and take ownership and control of things in the classroom. And, probably talk about them. After all, that’s what we do in the classroom.

With students, we talk about and highlight the mistakes.

With students, we discuss with them how they made a mistake and they can prevent them in the future.

With students, we look for patterns of errors across the group.

With students, we remind them of previous mistakes so they commit them to memory so they don’t repeat them.

With students, we show examples of work with errors and work with less errors.

With NQTs, we let them make mistakes and then afterwards we say to them it was a mistake to do it that way in the first place. Isn’t it a wonder NQTs don’t last long in teaching when we are expecting them to learn all those mistakes on their own. Why don’t we list the mistakes NQT should avoid? We don’t. Teaching isn’t a natural process. It is one that we learn to do. Wouldn’t it be helpful and less stressful if we support others with how they learn to teach? The best thing a teacher can do to help an NQT is talk about mistakes and mistakes to avoid.

‘The Perfection Problem’ is everywhere and to create real change we need to address the balance between solutions and mistakes. And, this will take some shifting of perspective, because we don’t have help from other camps.  One organisation uses words like ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’, which encodes that a school is almost perfect, just perfect or nowhere near perfect.   

My hope is that we can have some grown-up conversations about mistakes and avoid the ‘I’m perfect and don’t make mistakes’ attitude. The new wave of ‘research’ I hope will help support that. My big concern is that it doesn’t become about finding the magic solution.

Yesterday at the Teaching Learning Leeds Conference 2018, I spent 40 minutes talking about loads of mistakes I have made as a human, teacher, middle-leader and beyond and it was full of my mistakes. And it was juicy and full of salacious gossip. So juicy that the people attending have all signed non-disclosure forms.  However, I thought I’d try to categorise the mistakes I have made over the years in the classroom to start the ball rolling.  

  1. Combination mistake

Human’s don’t come with instruction manuals, so when you put Sam and Sally together you don’t realise you are putting dynamite next to a flame. These can take a number of forms like the combination of PE period 4 and English period 5.

2.       The first time experiencing it mistake

We don’t talk about this one enough. The first time I teach anything I make loads of goofs. The next time, I teach it better. We are working on the process for the first time so you can’t see the shortcuts or the problem areas.

  1. Pitching the level mistake

Finding the level of work for a class takes lots of trial and error. I’d say that we are constantly working on this and getting it wrong and right sporadically.

  1. The comfortable mistake

We are sometimes too familiar with material that it clouds are judgement. It worked with classes for five years previously, so it must work well with this class.

  1. The situation mistake

Giving students an assessment in the last week of term isn’t always the best time to get the best from a student. They will be tired and not working at their best. Period 5 on a Friday is a danger point for this too.

I have made loads of mistakes and I work hard to avoid repeating them, but we need to talk about the mistakes we make and why we make them. We need a collective effort to share mistakes in addition to solutions. The solution only really works we have understood the mistake. Our insistence in distancing ourselves from the choices we make in the classroom leads us to try to solve bigger issues in schools with solutions.

It’s all about that classroom.

When that door is closed, it is down to us to make the difference.

And you don’t make a difference without making mistakes.

But, schools need to give permission and support to staff to make mistakes and learn from them.

We won’t get to the real problem unless people can talk about they make mistakes and admit them.

Then, act on them.   

So come on, if you think you are hard enough, talk about your mistakes.


Sunday, 3 June 2018

The Circus of Knowledge – Tent Pegs and Tent Poles

There’s one thing I find dull as dishwater and that’s cloze exercises about the plot. A class reads a section of book / poem / play and then they have to show their knowledge (check they haven’t been sleeping)  of the text by selecting the right word from a selection (differentiated option) or from their brains (challenging option). And, I find them boring. Dull. Uninteresting. Yawn. They are usually involve filling in the gaps of a summary and, although the knowledge of the text is important, I don’t think they help to store that knowledge. They help the teacher to test it, but they don’t help, in my opinion, to store and retain knowledge.

When reading a novel or a play, we are constantly checking to see what students understand and we might test them on certain aspects of the text, because the focus tends to concentrate on the key things. We prioritise knowledge of the text. What is important for the assessment? The problem with that is that we make presumptions about important and ‘not as important’ knowledge. But, how can we possibly know that one specific detail in the opening chapter is as important as a specific episode in the tenth chapter? It is only when we look to make connections across a text, when we see the relevance of points. However, by the time you get to the end of the book and developed some complex ideas about the text, you probably are a bit hazy about chapter 1 and 2. The better students pick up on precise examples whereas the weaker students go for generalised instances. The trick for all teachers is to get the students to focus on precise examples. But, how do we do that and improve the knowledge of specific instances in a text? Well, simply the students need to store more of that knowledge and possibly [gasp] knowledge that might not be necessary or relevant. Because, we don’t see the relevance of one piece in a jigsaw until we put the whole jigsaw together.  

This year I have been writing lots of questions. I have ditched that wafer thin folder of comprehension activities and replaces them with a PowerPoint. A PowerPoint of a slide per chapter or scene. Each slide will contain seven to eight questions. The questions are not complex. They range from quotes, plot points, character’s feelings, aspects of dialogue. They look something like this:

Treasure Island – Chapter 1

  1. Name one character who asks the narrator to write the story down.
  2. What is the name of the inn?
  3. What did the old dog carry with him when he arrives at the inn?
  4. What did he have across his face?
  5. What did he do during most of the day?
  6. What did he ask the narrator to look out for?
  7. What about the ‘old dog’ scared people?
  8. Who had an argument with the man?

Or this:

Romeo and Juliet - Prologue

  1. Where is the play set?
  2. How are the two households alike?
  3. What makes people’s hands unclean?
  4. What kind of lovers take their life?
  5. Where are the children born from?
  6. What could not end until the children die?
  7. How long should the play last?

They are intentionally simple in context, but testing a piece of knowledge. They are used at the start of the lesson. In the middle. At the end. In fact, I put them anywhere when reading the text. Sometimes we answer the questions in their books, but majority of the time we do it verbally as a whole class – almost as a chant.  Usually the first time we look at the questions there’s a bit of hesitancy, because they need to recall an aspect from the reading. However, by the time the class has answer the questions five times, they can offer them freely. Yes, you heard me right. I use the questions again and again. Those questions don’t sit patiently for the next year when I teach the text again. They are used again and again throughout the teaching of the text. When we have finished chapter 10, I will go through chapter 1 questions. Quick verbal test of the class.

I love a knowledge organiser, but there isn’t a knowledge organiser that can effectively convey the body of knowledge for a novel. The knowledge is ‘tent pole knowledge’: knowledge is perceived as holding up a key idea or theme. ‘Tent pole knowledge’ does negate some knowledge. The colour of door. The one word utterance of a character. The flower in the garden.

We have a body of knowledge that isn’t mighty as a pole – more a peg. They are small things that you can easily trip over and miss if you are not watching carefully. They aren’t as gaudy or noticeable  as the tent poles, but they are the detail that that moves you from general to specific understanding. You find that you need a few big poles, but hundreds of pegs to keep the tent up.

This year, I have done this with ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Of Mice and Men’, ‘Julius Caesar’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet‘  with much success. It surprised me how well the students responded to the use of the same questions repeated over the course of studying a text over several weeks. I have seen students grow in confidence and the knowledge of the text improve considerably. Students often forget about Pompey when Caesar is killed, yet I had some weak students making explicit connections between the two in his death. Students were not given the chance to forget the knowledge because I repeated the questioning again and again. The bright students commented on how it helped them to keep the plot and ideas in their heads. Plus, it allowed to make connections across the text easier. God is in the detail. Or the Devil.

The great thing for me was that I was actively building on knowledge. We were adding knowledge to knowledge and acknowledging that knowledge was a cumulative process and that has to be taught as cumulative process.  The process of constant questioning made the previous chapters or scenes read relevant in a number of different contexts. It is natural for us to compartmentalise things. Chapter 1 often gets compartmentalised to ‘done and dusted’ by the time you get to the middle or end of the book. This constant questioning allowed for a renewed highlighting of relevance.

Oh, did I mention how long it takes me to write one of these slides. Five minutes. Compare that to the time it takes to write a cloze comprehension task. Oh, and I used the questions up to thirty or forty times over the term. So, five minutes covered about two lessons worth of work over the term.

If we want knowledge to last, then we need to be putting it upfront and use it hold lessons together. There is a hesitancy to ask the same questions repeatedly. I’d say we need to ask the same questions again and again to ensure the answers stick and students can have a starting point for relevance.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, 13 May 2018

Exam Hacks: Paper 1 Writing

Last year, before the exams I wrote some ‘hacks’ for students. Short little mini lessons or tips to help them get better at answering the question. They often were stylistic choices rather than big ideas guiding how to answer the question. Be clear, these are not about replacing teaching, but supplementing what students already know.

[1] Don’t use ‘crash’, ‘bang’, ‘boing’ or ‘beep’ unless you want your writing to sound like a four year old’s writing.
Instead extend the onomatopoeia with more detail about the sound.

The mutter of …
The moan of …
The rustle of ….
The hiss of ….

[2] Describe the light, reflections or shadows and you can connect things together in a paragraph. It touches everything.
Shadows pass across the various rows of books.
The reflection in the glass shows a couple sat at the table.
Light blinds the trees to the small creatures collecting underneath them.

[3] Repetition is the one technique you probably want to use more than others.
Repetition can be anything – a word / idea / sentence / adjective / phrase. Repetition is sign that you are being playful with your writing.

The cold mist smothered the cold visitors to the park.

Tears fell, tumbled, spilled down her face.

[4] Give the detail that nobody spotted. Spot something minor, insignificant that nobody will think to spot.

The chewing gum under the table.

The smudge of dirt on the carpet.

The oddly shaped stone on the beach.

[5] Build a world and create a backstory to things. And not just people. Everything has a history.
The chewing gum under the table clung with pure determination. An errant student deposited it when the teacher punished his best friend from chewing. With her back to the board, he secreted away. Over time, the chewing gum found several friend. Each one different. There was a range of colours and flavours sat together.  

[6] Your paragraphs don’t need to have hundreds of techniques in them, but it is best to do one or two of them really well.  
If you want something to be effective, develop and extend it. The sentence with a list, metaphor, simile and personification is throwing everything at the reader, hoping one of them is good. Take one and extend it. Use it to make the reader really feel something. Metaphors, similes and personification do sometimes need explaining and developing.

The trees sighed as the leaves blew in the wind. Its sigh echoed off the other tress. They looked equally glum and gloomy. However, they remained silent. That one, brave tree was the only vocal one in a sea of silence.

[7] Use a one sentence paragraph to shift the focus / tone / mood.
The trees sighed as the leaves blew in the wind. Its sigh echoed off the other tress. They looked equally glum and gloomy. However, they remained silent. That one, brave tree was the only vocal one in a sea of silence.

A secret was hidden.

[8] Avoid starting sentences, if you can help it, with ‘it’, ‘this’, ‘the’ and ‘there’. They are the default way to start a sentence when describing things. They can’t not be used, but be mindful you don’t use them for every sentence.

Cycle through different sets of words at the start of a sentence. Use them to structure a paragraph. [Warning – don’t use it for every paragraph.]

Prepositions: Beneath….  Near …. Under….  By……
Pronouns: You …. He …  She … They ….
Adverbs: Quickly….  Steadily… Slowly…. Surprisingly…
Verbs: Running….  Falling…. Sitting….

[9] Remember your quotations from literature. You have some readymade tools for writing. Feed them into the writing and do not just drop them in as a whole quote.  

In every face and in every eye, I could see the misery of life. Something held them together like some mind forged manacle.
The chewing gum sat as solitary as an oyster, waiting to be picked up.
Like star-crossed lovers, the raindrops fell.

[10] If you decide to go for the story option, remember that the plot is not as important as the setting and the characters. Describe the setting and characters.

In fact, your story should be a description with a story within it. 20% story. 80% setting.  

[11] Build into your writing contrasts, conflicts and changes.
Rather than describe everything, focus on things that will cause contrast, change or conflict to a setting.

The noisy children will contrast with the lazy, sleeping sunbathers on a beach.

A soaking wet dog will cause conflict when it runs about the beach.

Rain will change the mood on the beach.  

Focus on conflicting aspects in the setting and think about them clashing.

[12] Stop before you select a verb. There is always a better verb and make sure you give each verb appropriate thought and time.

The waves smashed the shore.
The waves pummelled the shore.
The waves battered the shore.

 [13] Pairs are underused in writing. Use pairs of adjectives to help you describe things in detail.

The cold and lonely figure stood motionless in the barren and wet field.

Cars spun and twisted in the road as they moved and swerved to avoid the pigeon.

[14] Give the objects and things in the description an interesting personality. Instead of just personifying things, give them a real and identifiable personality trait.  

The waves played their favourite game and chased the sand away from the rocks.

The wind, fed up of being ignored, pushed and shoved at everything and anything it could find.

The gulls rarely lifted their heads. Instead their glum eyes and dour beaks rested on the ground.

[15] Aim for an overall mood to the piece. Be creative with the mood. Avoid obvious ones like happy, relaxing, boredom, fear.
Try things like apathy, confusion, panic, monotony, supportive, jealousy.     

[16] Aim to have a motif across the piece to build connections across the text.
Take the idea of falling. I could repeat that in several things in a description of a supermarket. The skill is to think how I can weave these ideas together. 

Falling prices.
An object falling off a shelf.
A poster that has fallen over.
Coin falling into a hand.
A person falling over with their shopping.
Items falling out of bag. 

Thanks for reading, 


Sunday, 22 April 2018

Exam Hacks: Paper 2 Writing

Last year, before the exams I wrote some ‘hacks’ for students. Short little mini lessons or tips to help them get better at answering the question. They often were stylistic choices rather than big ideas guiding how to answer the question. Click here to see my ‘Poetry Hacks’. Click here to see my ‘AQA Paper 1 Reading Hacks’.   

Anyway, here are my hacks for AQA’s GCSE Language Paper 2.  

[1] Start in an interesting way:

Imagine ….

What if…

What does _______ and __________  have in common?

A famous woman said….

The word ‘____’ means ….

[2] Talk to the reader

My friend, I know that…

As you know,…

You know….

Picture this…

Act now and …

Save yourself…

[3]Build a relationship with the reader. Flatter and creep up to them.

My loyal, kind reader…

Only smart, intelligent people, like yourself, will see the benefits of this approach.

Obviously, you know…

A person like you has experience of the issue.

[4] Use pronouns to build up that relationship.

We must …

It is our….

[5] Move between ‘I’ to ‘you’ and then ‘We’ within a paragraph

I think …

You expect …

We know …


My concern is

Your worry is

Our duty is

[6] Repetition is better than chucking every technique under the sun in a paragraph. Repeat a word, phrase or sentence to convince the reader.

I have a plan. I have a plan to change the world. A plan to make things better.

[7] Ethos: don’t forget you need to convince the reader why you are the best person why you should be listened to.

As a teenager, I have had first-hand experience of ….

You probably think I know very little of ….., but I assure you I do because…

I may have the body of a weak teenager, but I have the strong heart and complex brain of an adult.

[8] Use a metaphor and an extended metaphor for dramatic impact.

Bad things – plague, disease, cancer, chains,

Good things – medicine, plants, seeds, light, beacon

Homework is a cancer that plagues a child’s life. They can’t move, play or think without the pain of homework affecting their life.

Exercise is a ray of light in dark, dismal world.  

Tip: it is best if you explain your metaphor in a sentence after the metaphor’s use.

[9] Lists are important – especially verbs and adjectives

Pain, anguish and anxiety are the main problems with …

We all think, feel and know the dangers of …

[10] Verbs are incredibly important when writing a piece of a non-fiction and they can often been underused.

Students cry, weep, sob at the idea of completing homework.

Parents endure the pain of homework too.

[11] Adjectives are your secret to improving your vocabulary. Show off and learn some sophisticated adjectives.

We all want to live in a harmonious society, yet we live in a distorted and disjointed world of discord and chaos.

[12] Plan for a change in tone and mood during your writing. Make your reader cry, laugh and be scared in one piece of writing. Take them on an emotional journey.

Fear -   Children are having their childhood eroded away.

Sarcasm – Most homework is as exciting as reading the Worthington bus timetable.

Serious – We must address this now or will be facing one of the biggest problems today.

[13] Use indirect speech from others to strengthen your arguments. Don’t use direct speech – direct quotes from sources. It weakens your writing.

Parents say…

Teachers say…

Scientists say…

Teenagers say…

[14] Think of the order of things in a list. What do you want to place the emphasis on?

Teachers, students, friends and family are all affected by homework.

Homework restricts fun, friendships and freedom.

[15] Raise the level of urgency and importance with modal verbs. Start with ‘could’ / ‘might’ and end with ‘must’ and ‘have to’

We can

You might ...

We should

You will

We must


Thanks for reading,



The kind people at Twinkl have given me a free account on their website and, in return, I said I’d review, occasionally, some of their resources.

This month’s finds are:  

Narrative Revision Loop Cards

We are in the revision period now and it is a rush to get everything covered. I liked this little resource for getting students to revise some key terms in a relatively easy and ‘fun’ activity. Good as a quick revision activity at the start and end of a lesson.

How to write a sonnet like Shakespeare

I liked the format of this resource and how it can be easily used. It gets students to see the structure of a sonnet and gets them to replicate the structure in their own writing. A nice little worksheet.

Gothic Writing Stimulus

There are a wealth of stimuli for writing on the website, but these ones piqued my interest, because of the topic and the story tasks. They’d make great 200 Word Challenges. They follow the GCSE format for creative writing and so I nice way in for KS3 – especially, if you are exploring Gothic fiction.

All resources can be found here: 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Power and Conflict Website Links

One of the things I am growing conscious of is the fact that there are a lot of demands for parents, when it comes to revision. Not every parent, or student, can afford to shower students with glossy revision guides and embellish them with a tutor. I am also conscious of the fact that schools cannot photocopy everything so a students doesn't miss out. With that in mind, I have been thinking of a solution.

There has never been a better time for students with the Internet and YouTube. The major issue is volume. I can't cope with 400 TV station and Netflix when selecting a TV show to watch, so how can students narrow down the focus and select what is right. Therefore, I am going to email parents and students this list next week and advise them that they will be a good starting point when revising the poems. 

The key thing is reading. I want students to read and make notes. I am not a big fan of the English teacher talks through their interpretation of a poem - sorry, not my kind of thing. I'd rather student read through text, sifted for ideas, make notes, rather than listen Dave talk about how he found a line really interesting. Plus, I want student to copy the writing and expression. Dave's monotonous intonation of ideas might be easy to mimic, but it will not be something students will imitate in their writing. Plus, no matter how many times you say 'Grade 9 Analysis' it will not guarantee a Grade 9 and in some cases it offers false hope. 

So, I have included a list. I'd like suggestions of additions and help to read through these ones I have included already. Ideally, this list will be used next year and the year after. 

If you have any suggestions, please a comment below. Dave - we are not including any YouTube videos. 



P.S. Disclaimer - I don't take any responsibility for content on the websites or the accuracy of ideas. 


Top Set


Top Set

Extract from The Prelude

Top Set

My Last Duchess

Charge of the Light Brigade

Top Set


Top Set

Storm on the Island

Bayonet Charge

Top Set



War Photographer


The Emigree

Checking Out My History