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The Book Whisperer – Scream it from the Rooftops #FabEduBooks
September 1, 2015
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Being an English teacher, I still look and cringe at my first, probably, five years of teaching. Everything that had got me to where I was, everything which I had experienced up until that point and had supported me through the years of working in terrible jobs – the wilderness years, as I like to call them – had books to thank; books and my ability to read them and stick with them. What shames me is that by the end of my fifth year I had just about thrown in the towel when it came to encouraging Reading for Pleasure in my class.

At around about that point, I stumbled upon ‘The Book Whisperer’. Slightly cynical at first, the title sounded cheesy and cringeworthy, I’ll have to be honest. It, without a shadow of a doubt, changed me as a teacher. I read through this book with increasing ardour, angry at myself for forgetting why reading for pleasure is so important. Donalyn Miller, a teacher from Texas, had written a book which rekindled my belief in reading and one which is never very far from my desk whenever I contemplate reading for pleasure in the classroom. I return to it again and again.

What struck me was not merely the simple message that if we are to create and develop children who will go on to be life long readers – and who would argue with that? – then  we have to live that philosophy every day in class, not merely when it suits us. I had become the teacher who drops reading when things get busy, assuming it to be a luxury a packed curriculum could not afford, but the passion and love for her students which oozes throughout the ’The Book Whisperer’ convinced me that there is another way: Time, Choice, and Love have become the backbone of my practice in developing readers.

Creating the conditions for our students to see reading for pleasure as a valued and valuable skill takes a lot of time and commitment but if we, especially as English Teachers, don’t do it, then who will? I’ve persisted with many of the strategist I found in this book – time to read every day, free choice, consistent support and discussion – even when it would have been easier not to. I’ve sacrificed other things in order to keep reading as a mainstay of every lesson. And, do you know what? My students make progress in all areas as well as leaving me having begun that process of becoming a reader.

If you’ve ever heard me rattle on at Teachmeets or Pedagoo sessions then you’re more than likely to have heard me mention ‘The Book Whisperer’. And, while I read some incredibly good Educational books on all sorts of subjects, this one is my favourite. Donalyn Miller has followed this up with more of the same in ‘Reading in the Wild’ but her first book is essential for those of you who are responsible for Literacy and promoting reading for pleasure. Indeed the message screaming from each page might be, “There’s more to life than oaks you know, but not much more.’ Read it soon.


#FabEduBooks is supported by Crown House Publishing

Everyone who shares a post on their favourite edubook this September on Pedagoo.org will be entered into a draw at the start of October. The lucky winner will receive a Big Bag of Books from Crown House Publishing.

To find out how to submit your post, click on the following link: Pedagoo.org/newpost

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Thank you Paul!
August 31, 2015
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It’s now over four years since we first launched Pedagoo.org!

Before we were Pedagoo, we were Education Futures: Scotland on a free WordPress site with a few keen founding members.

When we came up with the Pedagoo name we decided to go for a properly hosted site, but how would we host it with no money? Kirsty’s boyfriend Paul kindly offered to help out, and so Pedagoo.org was launched.

Four years later and Kirsty & Paul are now married with a young family, and all this time Paul has been hosting Pedagoo.org for us. So anyone who has ever posted on Pedagoo.org, or enjoyed reading a post on Pedagoo.org, or taken part in #PedagooFriday, or attended one of our events, owes Paul a thank you for making it possible way back in the beginning and keeping us going all this time.

Paul’s career has since moved on from hosting websites for folk and so it will soon be time for us to part company and find alternative arrangements…in the meantime however I really wanted to extend this thank you, especially as I’ve never managed to buy him that pint I promised him 4 years ago!

Flipping
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We’ve tried flipping lessons and we thought it didn’t work. There’s a bunch of research in favour of the idea, but also lots against it.

Essentially, as I understand it, a ‘flipped lesson’ is one where the students do the preparation by learning low order concepts (like basic knowledge) at home and come to the class ready and raring to discuss the higher order concepts (explaining, linking, ranking, coming to conclusions etc). Research suggests that students should do the difficult learning in school and the simple stuff can be done at home- in other words flipped from the traditional approach where a teacher might lecture in class and then set an essay to be done for homework.

The problem is that there is also plenty of research that in school settings rather than in universities ‘flipped learning’ may not work so well. In my school asking students to do regular homework is a challenge, and it doesn’t take many students who’ve not done their preparation to make the subsequent class go less well. Another problem is that for many students the ‘low order’ concepts are not really distinguishable from the higher order ones- lots of the knowledge for example requires explanation and support to understand.

However we have been trialling over the years in social subjects a variation on the ‘flipped lesson’ which we think  might have made a really significant difference to our exam results. Students were given lectures and knowledge questions in class, but what they did at home was the revision exercise- in this case planning for an essay. We then did the weekly essay homework in class. The students were allowed to use their revision plan sheet when they wrote their essay, but nothing else. This gave them a significant incentive to do their homework. This flipped approach to homework was done in one topic in both History and Geography Higher classes here- and the results in those papers were significantly higher than in the other papers where we didn’t do this.

Might this mean that flipping can work after all? Or is it more the sheer regularity of practice? What do people think?

Re-framing challenging behaviour
Teaching the unteachables

In ten years of teaching I can specifically recall on one hand the names of pupils who had me down and out on the classroom ring floor in terms of their excessive challenging behaviour. Each teaching moment with these pupils created a daunting sensation in the pit of my stomach and overwhelming emotions of incompetency, where I believed myself to be ill equipped to manage their behaviour.

Those un-teachable moments can shatter your confidence and make you question your ability to teach effectively. Experience has taught me that the repertoire of behaviour strategies is often not creative enough to tackle and address the challenging behaviour of some pupils. Sometimes a re-thinking of the problem is what is required and often it can be as simple as meeting the child where they are, on a cultural, social, morale and peer hierarchical level.

How can we help teenagers and young adults to overcome self-defeating beliefs and habits from holding them back?

On episode 27 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Steve Beckles-Ebusua, a Change and Life Skills Expert, and I discuss simple teaching techniques that can help radically transform a pupil’s behaviour and their ability to re-frame their thought-process.

What behaviour strategies have worked for you in the past?  What would be your ideal solution to address challenging behaviour (regardless of boundaries and resource restrictions)?

Episode take-aways:

  • Overcoming pupils’ self-defeating beliefs
  • How to adapt your teaching to address challenging behaviour
  • Allowing pupils to physically experience the learning

If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share with your community!

INSPIRATION 4 TEACHERS

BRINGING YOU INTERVIEWS WITH INSPIRING PEOPLE WHO ARE CHANGING THE FACE OF EDUCATION!

Bringing life into biology lessons: using the fruit fly Drosophila as a powerful modern teaching tool
August 20, 2015
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Introduction

LogoIn biomedical research, small model organisms such as the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster are important pillars in the process of scientific discovery. I have been using Drosophila as my organism of choice and my essential discovery tool to study fundamental principles of the nervous system (LINK1, LINK2) for 26 years.

Together with my colleague Sanjai Patel and other colleagues from the Manchester Fly Facility, I have been actively engaging in science communication for 5 years now, aiming to raise public awareness of the importance of fly research with a strong focus on school activities. From this, we realised the enormous potential that Drosophila has beyond research also for biology teaching. It is a powerful modern teaching tool not only for classical Genetics but for many curriculum-relevant areas of biology, providing unique access to informative, inspiring and memorable classroom experiments. To capitalise on this opportunity, we now collaborate with teachers and schools on the droso4schools project (see 1st movie below), developing freely available sample lessons with adjunct materials (e.g. teacher notes, risk assessments, homework tasks, exercises, experiment instructions), and a dedicated website (Resource 1) providing many helpful online resources.

Why is Drosophila so important for biomedical research?

Naturally, students want to know why flies are used to learn biology. The explanation is made easy with our two “Small fly, big impact” movies (see the two movies below), which were tested in schools with great success. Furthermore, there is a dedicated tab on our droso4schools website which provides further background information (Resource 1b). In a nutshell, the films and website explain…

  1. …that it was serendipity which brought flies into genetic research a hundred years ago,
  2. …that it were the many practical advantages and cost-effectiveness of Drosophila which made it so popular for studying the function and biology behind genes, and
  3. …that it is the astonishingly high degree of evolutionary conservation from flies to humans that makes understanding of biology in flies so relevant for biomedical research even into human disease, having led to five Nobel prizes in Physiology and Medicine so far.

Why is Drosophila so useful in biology classes?

As will become clear from the sample lessons explained in the next section, there are two important advantages for using Drosophila in classrooms, in particular (1) the breadth and depth of conceptual understanding of biology in the fly, and (2) the fact that flies are uniquely suited for live experiments in schools.

  1. Conceptual understanding: A century of cutting edge research has turned Drosophila into the conceptually best understood animal model organism that we have to date. It has not only taught us about how genes are organised on chromosomes and the rules of inheritance, but also fundamental concepts of development, nervous system function, the immune system, our biological clock and jet lag, evolution and population genetics, the genetics of learning, principles of stem cells, and even mechanisms of disease including cancer and neurodegeneration (see Resource 2b “Why the fly?”). But how does this help in classrooms?
    1. The breadth of biology topics investigated in flies provides potential teaching materials for a wide range of curriculum-relevant biology specifications, ranging from classical genetics to gene technology, gene expression, enzymes, neurobiology and even evolution and behaviour.
    2. The sheer volume of knowledge in each of those areas provides a plethora of examples, experiments, anecdotes and facts that can be used to illustrate and make lessons more engaging and entertaining.
    3. The depth and detail of conceptual understanding in flies facilitates teaching, based on the simple rationale that teaching is the easier the better the contents are understood.
  2. Live experiments: It is straightforward, cheap and ethically unproblematic to use and breed flies in schools, and there are many simple experiments that can be performed (see our sample lessons in the next section). This brings living animals into classrooms which, combined with experiments that reflect relevant contemporary research, tends to leave long-lasting experiences. I frequently talk to people who were taught classical genetics with flies decades ago and still hold positive memories.

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Examples of biology contents that can be taught with flies

There are many ways in which flies can be used as teaching tools in schools. Here we will give some examples for which resources are either provided online already or can be made available upon request.

(1) Life cycle

Teaching the life cycle in primary schools is often done using metamorphosis of tadpoles into frogs or of caterpillars into butterflies, but experiencing these examples in real time can only be done during a certain period of the year and takes many weeks. With flies this can be done in one day since all life forms are available at any time, and the whole life cycle can be experienced in real time during less than two weeks (see image below and Resource 2c).

FlyLifeCycle-3

Click on this image to see its animation.

(2) Drosophila and ICT

In ICT classes, the Scratch program has become a sensible and powerful way to introduce students to the logic of computer programming, and Scratch tempts to be taken on as a hobby at home. To engage on this path, we have published a computer video game (see below and LINK) which uses the funny cartoons of the Drosophila life cycle as the basis, and where fly stocks need to be maintained against the odds of parasite infestation and infections. Since all programming code in Scratch is open, this game can be modified or further levels added and, for this, all the used figures (“sprites”) have been made available for download (LINK). Beyond this, we envisage that easy behavioural experiments in Drosophila offer ways to generate biological data that could be analysed using more advanced and well supported programming languages like Python and the cheap computing power made available through Raspberry Pis (LINK).

A Scratch video game based on the Drosophila life cycle.

A Scratch video game based on the Drosophila life cycle.

(3) Principal functions of our organs

The physiological requirements for life are so fundamental that most of our organs have common evolutionary roots. An active and effective way to learn about our organs is therefore through exploring their commonalities with organs of other organisms. This strategy can capitalise on the vast knowledge that we have about the tissues and organs of Drosophila. To facilitate this, we provide a dedicated webpage describing the structures and fundamental functions of our organs in direct comparison to those of the fruit fly (Resource 1c).

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(4) The genetics of alcohol metabolism

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Click on this image to see its animation: A simple staining reaction for alcoholdehydrogenase activity, lasting 5-15 mins and easy to perform in the classroom.

This lesson is fully developed, was tested with eighty Year 13 students (one high achievers class, two mixed ability classes, one support class), a PowerPoint file with adjoint materials is available online (Resource 1a, e, 3b) and a dedicated webpage is available to support revision and homework tasks (Resource 1e). It is an excellent synoptic, end-of-year lesson which establishes conceptual links between at least seven curriculum-relevant biology specifications. These include fermentation, the gene to protein concept, enzyme function, pharmacology and associative learning, genetic variation, and principles of evolution. Students dissect normal and alcohol dehydrogenase deficient fly maggots and use a colour reaction to assess the maggots’ ability to metabolise alcohol. They observe the effects of alcohol consumption on normal and mutant flies, and they compare different alleles of the Adh gene by translating their DNA code into RNA and protein. This lesson offers excellent opportunities to achieve differentiation and to discuss the social relevance of alcohol and alcohol abuse.

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Genes encode enzymes which catalyse specific chemical reaction that can be assayed with simple staining reactions

(5) Applying statistics to performance tests of young versus ageing flies

A simple climbing test comparing young versus old flies

A simple climbing test comparing young versus old flies

This lesson is also available as a resource online accompanied by 5 dedicated webpages (Resource 1a, d, 3a). It was tested on sixty Year 9 pupils. It uses a low-cost, easy to set-up experiment known as the “climbing test”: two groups of flies (one week old teenagers versus five week old seniors) are tapped down in two parallel vials and are given 15 seconds to climb back up, at which point a picture is taken. Students then determine how far the ten individual flies in each vial have climbed on a scale of 0 to 10, usually finding that the young flies show much better motor-performance. This is then used to draw graphs, understand the importance of sample numbers and learn to apply statistics. To illustrate relevance, concepts of ageing and neurodegeneration are introduced accompanied by activity sheets, and examples are provided on how the climbing assay is used during ageing and neurodegeneration research on flies.

(6) Classical genetics

This lesson is not yet available online, but will be sent out upon request. During this lesson, students learn about classical genetics and the practical uses of marker mutations as they are applied in contemporary research laboratories (including Punnett squares). For this, excellent low cost dissection microscopes can be used (see Resource 2c “Outreach Resources”), and we developed simple activities where student success in identifying markers is easy to monitor. Furthermore, the lesson provides an insight into the process of scientific discovery (how it was found that genes lie on chromosomes), and how this helps understanding biological phenomena in humans, such as male predisposition to colour blindness. Where transgenic flies are permitted on school grounds, modern genetic markers can also be used, in particular fly strains containing green fluorescent proteins. Using a simple hand-held fluorescent lamp with integrated camera (see Resource 2c “Outreach Resources”), gleaming organs can be observed live in these maggots.

A simple activity in which students identify genetic marker mutations

A simple activity in which students identify genetic marker mutations

(7) Fundamental principles of the nervous system

A simple illustration of wiring principles in the brain

Click on this image to see its animation: A simple illustration of wiring principles in the brain

This lesson introduces to the wiring principles of the nervous system, action potentials, and the working of synapses, illustrated by shaking epileptic flies into seizure or paralysing flies through warming them to body temperature. Where transgenic flies are permitted on school grounds, we have a set of simple experiments demonstrating the use of state-of-the-art opto- or thermo-genetics (using light or temperature to manipulate nerve cells and fly behaviours; see this TED talk).

Further ideas or requests?

Many more curriculum-relevant topics can be taught using Drosophila as a modern teaching tool, and we are curious to hear which ones would be of interest to you, and we will collaborate with you to implement such lessons. Feel free to contact us: Andreas.Prokop@manchester.ac.uk and Sanjai.Patel@manchester.ac.uk.

Helpful resources

  1. The droso4schools website provides relevant information:
    1. an overview of the project and of available sample lessons;
    2. the “Why fly?” page explains the advantages of Drosophila in research;
    3. the “Organs” page compares tissues and organs of flies and humans with helpful overview images.
    4. the “L1-Climbing Assay” tab provides 5 pages of information supporting the motorskills experiment: (1) a description of the experiment, (2) background information on neurodegenerative diseases and ageing, (3) information of how flies are used to study these conditions, (4) a glossary of relevant terms, and (5) explanations of relevant statistics;
    5. the “L2-Alcohol” provides background information for the lesson on alcohol, covering fermentation, principles of enzymes, drug treatment of alcohol addiction, natural variation of alcohol tolerance and their genetic basis, the geographical distribution of variations and their evolutionary basis
  2. The “For the Public” area of the Manchester Fly Facility website
    1. the “Why the fly?” page complements the information on droso4schools through listing simple facts and over 80 lay articles about fly research;
    2. the “Teachers & Schools” page explains the rationale for our school work and lists the services we provide for schools to support fly lessons, as well as our past/future school events;
    3. the “Outreach Resources” page lists about 100 links to information and resources that can be useful for outreach work and teaching at school and university levels.
  3. The figshare.com resource site for download of sample lessons and adjoined resource materials
    1. zip file containing the L1-Climbing Test lesson
    2. zip file containing the L2-Alcohol lesson
  4. Manchester Fly Facility YouTube channel
    1. two educational “Small fly, big impact” movies describing the origins and importance of fly research (part 1 – “Why the fly?”) and how research in flies can help to understand disease and find potential treatments (part 2 – “Making research fly”)
    2. a film explaining the droso4school project through interviews with all involved
Previously undiscovered football skills and why it’s time you practice what you teach
PedagooPeebles

I was unloading the dishwasher yesterday and I dropped a mug. Not just any mug either; it was my brand new, most favourite mug (it’s dinosaur mug, by the way, but a cool one, obviously). Seconds before it smashed to smithereens on my kitchen floor, I threw out my foot, bounced it off my ankle and caught it mid-air. In your face, mug-smash sadness!

I looked around triumphantly and saw… no one.

No one to witness my small (but epic) win.

Teaching’s a bit like that sometimes. You plan the lesson. You teach the lesson and somewhere in the middle of the teaching your classroom goes through that indefinable change that means your learners are totally engaged. You know the change I mean- that tiny difference that lets you know something really good is going on. A little quieter (even the serial rustlers and fidgeters are with you on this one) or a little louder (is that the kid whose only spoken twice in the last 6 months getting in on the discussion?!).

Whatever it is, it’s magic. It’s what happens when, as educators, we get it right.

That magical moment can feel surprisingly elusive; behaviour issues, wide variations in ability, time constraints and general pressure can sometimes make real, quality engagement with learning feel like a needle in a very large haystack.

And it’s sad that there’s no other teacher in the room to see you make the good stuff happen. If you were a professional footballer having a really good day at work, people would be jumping on you and hugging you round the head right now.

And much, much worse than the fact there’s no actual witness to your great lesson, (which would be a nice, though clearly not essential, ego boost) is that a lot of the time there’s also no one around whose up for a debrief.

Footballers have to sit as a team and watch action replays over and over, analysing exactly what went right, what didn’t and why. Working together to identify good practice, agreeing pathways for ensuring more of the good stuff happens.

That kind of in-depth analysis of your practice is foreign to most of us as educators. I’m not suggesting we start recording lessons and organising playback sessions, but how great would it be to have a team of your peers watch what you do best and then give you high quality feedback on how to do even better?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘That would not be great’. You’re thinking ‘I’d rather stick my head in a basket of rats than teach in front of my colleagues.’

And I get that. But you know what? It’s time to get over it. Would you accept the basket-of-rats response from your learners? Hardly! We are constantly encouraging our young people to seek out and give each other high quality feedback- it’s the mantra we embed for all improvement; know where you are, know where you’re going, know how to get there.

It’s time to practice what we teach.

I understand that the ick-factor is high. Most of us have limited experience of being observed by our peers. Those of us that have experienced it usually find the experience less than enlightening. Once a session peer observation at the behest of management is a box-ticking exercise. Watching a colleague teach for twenty minutes and then telling them how wonderful they are in every possibly way (regardless of whether you actually think this) is a big, fat waste of everyone’s time.

What I’m talking about here is actual discussion. Professional dialogue that results in measurable, improved practice. Sharing what you believe is excellent about what you do. Putting it in front of others and discovering if they agree.

Scary? Absolutely. It means taking a chance. Trusting others to be respectful with something you have invested in. But it’s no more than what you ask kids to do every day. Share your learning. Ask for feedback. Use the feedback to make your performance better.

I want to be part of a profession where sharing what I do is just part of what I do. It shouldn’t be scary, or icky, or involve baskets of rats. It should just be what we do in order to get better. And wherever possible, it should involve cake.

So I set up #PedagooPeebles. I’ll be there, being brave and sharing what I do.

Ready to join me?

Where the Sun Shines #PedagooLondon
Image by @JennaLucas81Image by @JennaLucas81

A write-up of my keynote at Pedagoo London 2015. Summer Turner (@ragazza_inglese)

I am really honoured to be the final speaker today. Much like many of the people who have spoken today, I have a big place in my heart for Pedagoo and so it means a lot to me that Helene asked me to end this day.

Phil Stock spoke eloquently at the start of today about the power of this type of CPD and he also spoke about leaking roofs. Weirdly I had this metaphor in my mind about the two. I’ve always felt Teaching found me – walking into a classroom for the first time since leaving school and watching a commanding female teacher weave a magic spell over her pupils with literature – I remember feeling that I had found my home. Yet two years later, worn from an onslaught of behaviour management and an ill-balanced workload, it began to feel like the roof of my home was leaking. Seeping through were the negative images and words whether from politicians, the media or most sadly other teachers. And then my colleague, Chris Waugh, encouraged me to explore the world of Twitter. I was already online but unsure what I was doing (hence the silly Twitter handle) or what I wanted to say but with guidance I began to cut a path for myself. The next step was a TeachMeet – this one at Tom Sherrington’s previous school KEGS. Suddenly I felt that: yes the roof of my home had holes but the sun was shining! Being in a room surrounded by teachers determined to be better, to do better by their pupils was amazing but even more so was the generosity of spirit which I found there and which I find today. There is no keener example of that than Helene, who organised today, she is the embodiment of this generosity: someone who gives so much of their time to helping others in the teaching community find a voice, someone who works tirelessly to provide a space for this meeting of minds. For that I would like to thank her most deeply.

Today there has been some great sharing of ideas but, perhaps more importantly, there has been disagreement. One of the themes that has come out today is the importance of teacher autonomy. In the London Nautical English Department session they discussed the importance of this in terms of their approach to curriculum and assessment. Teachers are empowered by their ability to make choice and to therefore have a sense of autonomy. This prompted a debate about how how autonomous teachers should be – where is the role of leadership and whole school ethos?Recently bloggers such as Kris Boulton have started a discussion about whether teachers should have any say in curriculum design at all. Phil Stock provided an example of something which perhaps bridges this gap with his workshop on on collaborative teaching cycles in which there was a suggestion about the value of a framework provided by leaders but with some autonomy at department level. It’s clear there is a healthy debate to be had here, one which I have certainly begun in my own mind!

Another point of friction came through the discussion of assessment – including a continued argument about the importance of progress measures. In her session on assessment without levels Hayley Earl talked about the fear that schools have about developing a new system and called for leaders to be brave and to have conviction. It’s a concern to me that we are still discussing progress measures when we should be focused on valuable assessment systems which are driven by curriculum and by the desire to work out what our pupils know and how to help them make genuine improvement. I concur with Hayley that fear is the one thing that is holding us back. I’m not sure if it’s a hang up from previous criticisms levelled at teachers or from the accountability system and Ofsted but fear is the one thing that is going to stop us from making the change that we believe in. Fear is also what leads to some of the stupidity that still goes on in schools and results in people thinking that they can go to a PixL conference and pick up some hot trick that will make their school outstanding. There’s still this terrible culture of trends in teaching based on little to no evidence and usually ending up reducing the complex questions of education into a motivational laminated poster. If your thinking can end up in three words on a poster, I would suggest you need to think again. I think what all of the sessions shared was the importance of ethos, values and courage of conviction.

The reason this isn’t seen across school is I think a consequence of a fear of “the struggle”. We constantly encourage our pupils to embrace risk and struggle and that point between challenge and failure – yet half the time we run a mile from it ourselves. We run from the feeling that comes when you have to think about something complex and have to navigate the difficulties. Yet sitting in sessions today hearing ideas that I disagree with forces me to consider and refine my ideas. How do you know what you really believe until it is challenged?

These challenges are easier to face here because we are not alone. A number of people have talked today about the feeling teachers have of being ‘on their own’. It’s much less terrifying to take risks when you know you have this community and it also means you don’t always have to re-invent the wheel; I think we can put pressure on ourselves to always be original and be our own island of inspirational teaching. But it’s not cheating to work together, to collaborate, to use other’s ideas – with suitable credit of course. And that is just another reason why today has been so worthwhile. I lead on Teaching and Learning and after Phil’s session today I do feel a bit like he’s taken a year’s worth of thinking and work off my shoulders. Even in the divisions and differences and arguments that ensue as part of the profession we are truly united by the passion we have to do the right thing by our pupils – to provide them with the best education. Determining what that is demands argument but this can be achieved positively.

In my first ever blog post I demanded that we all face the education world with this unrelenting positivity. I now realise that what I wanted was for us to be positive activists. As the years have gone on, this positive activism has been realised through the grassroots movement from events such as Pedgaoo, ResearchEd, Headteachers Roundtable, TeachMeets, Twitter, blogging and more. We have seen curriculum, assessment, teacher training, behaviour management and even Ofsted be shaped by those within the profession. What is happening here is not only CPD it is this meeting of minds; a collaboration of ideas and an active pursual of change from the profession itself. It is the very best of what we are about.

What I also heard today was a plurality of voices. Even within the education community we can sometimes be self-limiting in terms of who we listen to. This is a problem, which we need to address. And I’m going throw in the F word now – FEMINISM. (Not a swear word but sometimes it feels like one.) 74% of the profession are women – yet think about the biggest voices in education when it comes to blogging, Tweeting and conferences. How many of them are women? How many women here today probably didn’t ask a question or make a comment out of insecurity or ‘imposter syndrome’. If we are taking charge of our profession then we need to take charge as a whole group together. We need to follow the example of Helene and work to allow a multitude of voices to be heard. In that space lies our power.

I recently re-read the book ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ and there is a moment at the end of the book where the protagonist Charlie reflects on his journey over the time he has been writing. He says:

I don’t know if I will have the time to write anymore letters because I might

be too busy trying to participate. So, if this does end up being the last letter I just wanted you to know that I was in bad place before I started high school and you helped me. Even if you didn’t know what I was talking about or know someone who’s gone through it you made me not feel alone, because I know there are people who say all these things don’t happen, and there are people who forget what it’s like to be sixteen when they turn seventeen.

I know these will all be stories some day and our pictures will become old photographs and we will all become someone’s mom and dad.

But right now, these moments aren’t stories this is happening, I am here and I am looking at her, and she is so beautiful…I can see it.

This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story, you are alive.

And you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder, when you were listening to that song, on that drive with the people you love most in this world.

And in the moment, I swear, we are infinite.

In the moment, I swear, we are infinite.

It’s that I feel when I am surrounded by my profession at events such as these; it is standing up and seeing the lights and it is beautiful. And everyone, every teacher, should feel this. So I urge you all to become positive activists for our profession, to contribute to the multitude of voices and to allow our passion to unite us. Together, we are infinite.

Reflections on #PedagooLondon
July 10, 2015
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I am quite shy and meeting new people is something that I find difficult. I was excited about coming to Pedagoo London but as I sat in a nearby park before it started I did have a moment of panic wondering what on earth I was doing. As I browsed twitter I saw a post from @aknill with a picture of his current view – I realised that we were in the same park and tweeted back. Within a few minutes he had found me and we walked to the IOE together – thanks Andy, it made things a lot less scary to not go in on my own.

Thanks also to @hgaldinoshea for organising the event. It was lovely to finally meet @KDWScience and @rondelle10_b – both of whom I’ve shared many ideas with over the last year or so. It was also good to make connections with other people. I am glad that I attended.

Phil Stock @joeybagstock kicked things off by asking if we were ”Mugs, martyrs or fools” to be doing CPD at the weekend. When I’ve told friends and sometimes colleagues about what I was doing at the weekend they have usually responded with ‘why’? For me it isn’t because I think that the CPD I’ve had at school wasn’t right (some of it was very good) but the reason I came to Pedagoo London is because I’m interested in teaching and learning and I wanted to meet some of the people that I connect with regularly via twitter.  A member of my SLT asked me if I’d gone to the event because I was after a new job – it’s not that either!

The first session that I attended was by Dawn Cox @MissDCox looking at life without levels. This is something that is being developed at school at the moment and so it seemed like a sensible choice. Dawn shared the model that she has developed for RE and talked about being aware of what we were trying to assess- are we trying to measure things that can’t be measured? Dawn had identified the key skills that were needed and how these would be developed – something that I have been thinking about for my own subject. I also liked the idea of using no stakes multiple choice questions where one of the options is ‘I don’t know’.

Next I went to Looking for Literacy by @KDWScience. I found myself nodding in agreement as Karen talked about the problems that students have with literacy. One of the important things that I took away from this session is that literacy isn’t just about writing. Sometimes when I am thinking about ways to improve the literacy of my students I think only about writing and how I can support them to do this better. Karen talked about speaking, listening, understanding, reading AND writing – and this is something that I need to think about more when I am planning for my classes.

Karen spoke about targeting ‘Sloppy speech’ and the importance of getting students to not only use the right terminology but to speak in full sentences etc.

”If you can speak it, you can write it. ”

How many times have students said that they know what the question is about, they just don’t know how to write it. By getting students to verbalise their answers, they will be better prepared to write them down. This is definitely something that I could do more of. As an undergraduate student I clearly remember one of my lecturers telling us that he had banned the use of ”woolly words” in our essays (stuff, lots, non specific language) and I do model this with students – asking them (or others) to clarify what they mean using relevant terminology – but perhaps I could do this more often to help students to develop their writing. Definitely something to work on.

The thing that struck me most about ‘A recipe for deep learning’ by @cristahazell and @candidagould  was the passion with which they talked about learning. Listening to someone who clearly loves what they do reminds me of what I love about my job and why I want to do it better. They talked about preparing our students for life beyond our classroom and apart from the sweets (that went down well) we were able to take away some resources too and suggestions for further reading – very helpful. The session was an active one and we were encouraged to discuss factors affecting deep learning with the people that we were sat with and also to reflect on what we do well and what we can do better.

Michael Smyth @tlamjs took us on a whirlwind tour of some simple but effective ideas to improve teaching and learning. I found this session really helpful and came away with loads of ideas that I can use in my classroom. The concept behind the session was about making small changes that can have a big impact. I really liked the ‘Randomness’ – I’ve used a random generator to pick students before but we were shown other examples – keywords, command words, exam questions – possibilities are endless. Another idea I really liked was ‘Patience’ – not just waiting for an answer but also waiting once they have answered as they might elaborate on their answer if  you don’t respond straight away. I look forward to trying out some of the ideas. One thing I have been trying (and failing) to forget about this session was the image of the jaffa cake man!

@mike_gunn started his session with thumb wars! I don’t think I’ve ever done this before but it was great fun. Mike talked about why we should flip learning, the challenges and issues and also shared some resources. Students at my school are not allowed to use their phones in school but I still found the session useful as there were ideas that I could use to help with setting homework. Lots for me to think about and explore.

Summer Turner @ragazza_inglese summed up the day and talked about positive activism – how we have the power to make changes happen in our classroom and in our schools and that we should be brave.

There were also some lovely reflections at the #teacher5aday exhibition set up by @MartynReah. A lovely day, I left feeling inspired to try new ideas and it was lovely to put faces to twitter names and to make new connections.

This was originally posted on my blog keepcalmandweargoggles.wordpress.com

My thoughts and reflections… #PedagooLondon
July 9, 2015
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Saturday was a wonderful non-stop carousel of enthusiasm and inspiration. I had not attended a Pedagoo event, nor even a teachmeet, before and it looks like I will now be making up for lost time! What follows below is a brief chronological summary of my Pedagoo experience.

Pre-Pedagoo

As the eighth floor of the Institute of Education was slowly filling up I found myself agog at the fact that so many of the teachers I follow on Twitter were in the room. One of my happiest moments was spotting the batman socks of a certain well-known tweeter!

Welcome

Phil Stock gave a very welcoming speech and channelled Andy Lewis’ question of whether we were “Mugs, Martyrs of Fools” to be giving up a day to take part in CPD on the weekend. The question he put to us was “what is missing in our schools for this to be the case?” However, his positive summary that we can and are growing CPD from the inside out clearly resonated. Who could question the need to put student learning firmly at the forefront of our training?

Session 1

I am currently part of a working party to look at redesigning the marking and assessment at my school, so it was logical to attend Dawn Cox’s “Assessment without levels.” Indeed this topic is very much en vogue and I have read many recent blogs with great curiosity. During this session I was very interested in the development of Dawn’s assessment system for Religious Education. Two ideas I particularly liked were:

  1. The concept of students working back from a definition of a command word (e.g. explain) to the actual command word itself.
  2. No stakes multiple choice question testing where one option is always “I don’t know” to see exactly what a student doesn’t know.

Two simple yet highly effective strategies to help students engage with the assessment process. I will be interested to hear how it progresses as it is rolled out next year, particularly the no stakes testing.

Session 2

For the same reason as above I chose to attend another session based on assessment, this time Chris Curtis’ “The link between planning, progress and marking.” He started his talk by asking whether books actually tell the story of how a student is taught and of their learning. This again is a key topic in the days of work scrutiny and book checks. His use of the magician mastery and leaping up the ladder analogies were spot on and ones I will be using with staff and students alike. As part of an activity during the session I wrote down two very prosaic sentences on London and then managed to self-mark using a very clever grid of 15 targets to improve my work; unlike the famous Paul Daniels quote I liked this idea a lot!

Session 3

The ever enthusiastic dynamic duo of Crista Hazell and Candida Gould were up next with their “Recipe for Deep Learning.” This was a fun session, but also one that made me question many of my core educational beliefs; although not specifically about this session Hélène Galdin-O’Shea put it brilliantly in her tweet “I guess when you are struggling to agree with some of what you hear, it helps you figure out exactly why you do.” During Crista and Candida’s presentation they had a slide with a scale from the seemingly interchangeable Nicky Morgan / Michael Gove Tory Secretary of State for Education to Sir Ken Robinson. Perhaps my difficulty in digesting the mention of “Shift Happens”, “jobs that don’t exists” and “digital natives” would put me squarely at one particular end of that spectrum? However, that is not the point and I took many fine ideas from this session. Indeed it was a celebration of enthusiasm, hard work and, above all, passion for the job. Whilst listening to both Candida and Crista speak the sheer love they have for student learning come across loud and clear. PS – many thanks for the sweets!

Session 4

This was the session I was delivering, ostentatiously called “The one hundred one percents.” This topic is very close to my heart and was essentially a whistle-stop tour of ideas, gimmicks and thoughts to get the best out of teaching and learning. Since its first outing in March I have tweaked, changed and (I think!) improved the session. It was very enjoyable running the session and I am hugely grateful to Hélène for inviting me to do so and the wonderful people who actually came to listen; I do hope they took away a few ideas and look forward to hearing how they get on.

Session 5

Grassroots Leaders and Research-Focused TLCs was next on my list from Athena Pitsillis and Keven Bartle. I particularly liked the idea of pedagogy leaders as “brokers” between SLT and teachers and this made me think how it felt to be in such a position. My initial thoughts of it being akin to metamorphic rock were allayed as the session progressed. One thing that struck me is the sheer volume of leaders that this approach develops, in some schools such opportunities are few and far between. This reminded me of the Multiplier Effect and echoed the theme that all teachers are leaders. Finally it was also inspiring to hear Keven talk about how they have broken down barriers between teaching and support staff; as a teacher that relies on two excellent technicians I heartily agree that we should be doing more to develop the roles of support staff within schools.

Plenary

The final official part of PedagooLondon was Summer Turner’s summary of the day. This was particularly apposite as she called for more autonomy and empowerment in what we do as well as encouraging debate to help allow opinions to form. Summer also echoed Hélène’s sentiments when she said “how do you know what you really believe until it is challenged?” But I will remember this final talk as embodying the collaborative nature of the event as we look to maintain the positive activism.

Teacher5aday

There was also time to see Martyn Reah’s collection of #teacher5aday ideas in an exhibition on the seventh floor. Not only were there some great thoughts and reflections but this also distilled just how connected we can be and was a lovely way to leave PedagooLondon.

The Marquis of Cornwallis

This led nicely to a nearby pub where I was lucky enough to meet some extraordinary teachers, chatting for hours and reflecting on the day. Certainly I hope to return in a year’s time to PedagooLondon16, but until then I will be keeping in contact and trying to get to as many events as possible.

Thank you to all who were involved in organising such a fantastic day!

Reluctance vs. Positive Wizards
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Every remarkable leader throughout our history had a powerful message behind their choice of words, “We must fight them on the beaches…” ~ Winston Churchill, “I have a dream” ~ Martin Luther King and “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” ~ Steve Jobs

It was those motivational speeches that rallied the troops, empowered the marginalised and inspired a generation…

We use powerful phrases all the time in education to teach our subjects, convey models of behaviour and to ignite the passion for learning. But have you ever heard of rallying your positive wizards to overcome reluctance?

As educators we regularly encounter reluctance in our classrooms or when attempting to launch new initiatives. Often the wave of sighs and rolling eyes dents our own enthusiasm, makes us question the validity of our ideas or shakes our ability to inspire our learners. Reluctance in its most basic stubborn form, “I don’t want to”, requires a framework of skills and a suite of motivational phrases to overcome the negative force which refuses to engage. This is the precise moment that you need to channel all of your energies into identifying the positive wizards among your pupils, teaching staff and leaders. Positive wizards are those people willing to embrace new ideas, have a thirst for learning and who are willing to champion your cause.

Julia Skinner, former Headteacher and now founder of the 100 Word Challenge has used positive wizards to champion the most reluctant of learners and most stubborn of staff. And when the conversation is beyond the magical sway of her positive wizards her cunning plans have enticed and achieved resolution.

On episode 24 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show Julia and I discuss how to overcome reluctance and engage not only learners, but teachers, leaders and governors.

Episode take-aways:

  • Deciphering reluctance to engage
  • Identifying positive wizards and using them to your advantage
  • Building relationships and effective communication

If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share with your community!

INSPIRATION 4 TEACHERS

BRINGING YOU INTERVIEWS WITH INSPIRING PEOPLE WHO ARE CHANGING THE FACE OF EDUCATION!