Category Archives: edubooks

Using stories to support numeracy – Collette Collects – a picture book for number bonds…

It is always good to have a bit of a project for the school holidays. My October holiday project probably should have been having a big tidy-up or finding someone to clean the guttering, but instead I decided to finish writing and illustrating a picture book.

This was quite a significant project as I am not a writer and I have only just started learning to draw but I have been writing this book, through various iterations, over the past 6 months in response to a need I identified while teaching.

As we all know, learning your number bonds is a really helpful stepping stone toward improving your mental maths. If you know what numbers go together to make 10 then you can immediately access a whole load of other number facts.

If you know without a moments hesitation that 7 + 3 = 10 then you can quickly see that 70 + 30 = 100 and

700 + 300 = 100 and

13+7 = 20 and

53 + 7 = 60 and so on…

However, for some kids, retaining these number facts is much harder than it is for others. Having tried to teach these facts every which way I could think of, some kids were still struggling, but I knew that some of those same children could tell me every detail of a story I had told them.

So I decided to try writing these facts into a story.

The book is called Collette Collects and it is about a wee girl who likes to make collections of things. She doesn’t really mind what she collects but she feels that for a collection to really be a collection it should have 10 things.

Last session I started to read (various versions of) this story every week before our regular mental maths activity and after a few weeks some of those children who had always struggled were shouting out the answers to the questions posed on every page and I started to see a slow but steady improvement in their number bond knowledge.

I have now created a complete, illustrated version and I am working with a group of class teachers in different settings and parents of children aged approx. 5 – 7 years to test and measure the impact of the book.

If you would like to use a copy in your school the book is available from both TES Resources and Teachers Pay Teachers. If you would be interested in taking part in the testing process, please contact me via twitter @MrsJTeaches or use the contact form below.

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Shaping our Global Future

Young people worry about the future: including their own personal, family and economic futures. So why don’t we evolve a curriculum that amounts to a structured conversation with them about these futures? If we could do this, we might shape a dialogue that allowed them more ownership of the lives they might lead and the people they might become. We might help yah people to imagine themselves and feel excited about the future and the challenges it presents.

But, we also need to make them more aware of the legacy being created for future generations in the early twenty first century. My book, Shaping our Global Future, A Guide for Young People seeks to inform young people about the world their children and grandchildren will inhabit. So the book focuses on seven global wonders and seven future challenges.

The book is part of the Postcards from Scotland series, commissioned by the Centre for Confridence and Wellbeing. It takes is available from the centre here. All money’s derived from this project go to the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing, a registered charity.

I hope that young people read it and reflect. I hope that teachers read it and use it in classrooms. Mostly, I hope that it helps young people, educators and parents to have a structured conversation about our human future and the world we are building.

Teach Like A Pirate #FabEduBooks

My favourite edubook is Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess. I found this book on Twitter. I’d seen lots of tweets with #TLAP after them, so tapped on #TLAP and there it was – everyone talking about this book called Teach Like A Pirate. I ordered a copy, read it cover to cover and was absolutely inspired!

“Teach Like A Pirate: increase student engagement; boost your creativity; transform your life as an educator.” Dave Burgess splits the book into three parts with the first being all about passion. This put into words a lot of things I’d thought and felt – the fact you can listen to someone who is passionate about their subject for hours, even if the content is something you had no interest at all in to begin with but by the end you want to study it! I would bet that almost every educator reading this has a reason for being the educator that they are, and it’s most likely a teacher they had in school, or someone that supported them that was passionate and enthusiastic about their subject matter and about their students. By demonstrating our passion for what we love and for learning, we pass that on to our students.

“There is nothing more contagious on this planet than enthusiasm. The songs become incidental, what people receive is your joy.” Carlos Santana (Teach Like A Pirate, p65)

The second part of Teach Like A Pirate is all about “crafting engaging lessons”. There are so many ideas, techniques, hints and tips in this section to encourage great classroom practice – I would recommend this section to everyone, and especially anyone looking for help creating engaging learning experiences. It all starts before the students even come into the room…

“If people think something is going to be great they are more likely to experience it as such.” Teach Like A Pirate p122

The third part is all about ‘Building a Better Pirate’. In this part Dave Burgess talks about some personal experiences that have shaped him and gives words of encouragement to those who are finding it a struggle to keep up their passion and enthusiasm.

This book will encourage you, comfort you, inspire you and remind you why you are an educator in the first place!

Go out and Teach Like A Pirate!

#FabEduBooks is supported by Crown House Publishing

Everyone who shares a post on their favourite edubook this September on 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:


The Elephant in the Classroom #FabEduBooks

My favourite edubook is The Elephant in the Classroom by Jo Boaler. In the book Boaler talks about the mathematical progress of thousands of students from the UK and USA whom she followed over a number of years from school into their adult life. She also gives some great suggestions of ways in which maths can be taught better in schools.

I remember being skeptical as I didn’t want to read a book which gave you lots of data about what was working in schools and what wasn’t: I didn’t want to read a textbook. However, The Elephant in the Classroom managed to give you the information needed to understand the theory and ways to put this into practice whilst being captivating and informative. I had the book finished within a few days and I read it again this time annotating parts and taking notes for things I wanted to do in the classroom.

Back in 2010 two chapters stood out for me. In “A vision for a better future” Boaler sets out two different ways we can make maths more engaging and meaningful for pupils: a project based approach and a communicative one. As someone who had just finished a PGDE where the approach was to introduce the topic, explain the rules and have students practice them multiple times, I was intrigued to try out something different.

The other chapter was “Making ‘low ability’ children” which in no uncertain terms told me the system “tell(s) children from a very young age, that they are no good at maths”. I was shocked by the bluntness but after thinking about how we ‘set’ pupils from S1 by ability I couldn’t disagree. This started a love/hate relationship with me around setting – something I still think about.

Having picked up the book again to write this post I rediscovered another chapter which I’m going to re-read: “Paying the price for sugar and spice: how girls and women are kept out of maths and science”. I’ve recently spent a bit of time researching the social constructs of gender and how we use these in schools as ways to control behaviour and sort young people into groups. I’m interested to find out what Boaler said…back soon *opens chapter*

#FabEduBooks is supported by Crown House Publishing

Everyone who shares a post on their favourite edubook this September on 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:


Non-Violent Communication: a Language of Life #FabEduBooks

My favourite edubook is Non-Violent Communication: a Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg

Well to be honest I have at least a dozen favourite edubooks, but this book is the one from which I have learned the most important lesson as a teacher: that all communication is an expression of an unmet need and that life gets better when we respond compassionately to that need rather than judging the communication at face value.

This book is about the way we communicate with each other as humans, not specifically about education at all. It offers simple tools to help us communicate in ways that enhance empathy and make it more likely that our needs will be met. Perhaps a few quotes from its author might give a flavour:

  • Empathy lies in our ability to be present without opinion.”
  • Learning is too precious to be motivated by coercive tactics.”
  • At the root of every tantrum and power struggle are unmet needs.”
  • What others do may be the stimulus of our feelings, but never the cause.”
  • We are never angry because of what others say or do. It is our thinking that makes us angry.”
  • Never hear what somebody thinks about you: you’ll live longer. You’ll enjoy life more. Hear the truth. The truth is that when somebody’s telling you what’s wrong with you, the truth is they have a need that isn’t getting met. Hear that they’re in pain. Don’t hear the analysis.”
  • “Which game do you want to play: Who’s Right or Let’s Make Life More Wonderful?”

This is my favourite edubook because I believe the foundation of our work as teachers must be to communicate with the children and young people in our care in ways that nurture their growth, and that  violence in all its forms stunts healthy growth. This book provides a profound insight into the violence that underlies many of our patterns of communication, and offers a healthier alternative – one that liberates us from spending our days judging and feeling that we are being judged. Doesn’t that sound good?

#FabEduBooks is supported by Crown House Publishing

Everyone who shares a post on their favourite edubook this September on 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:


A Book that Changed my Teacher Journey #FabEduBooks

My favourite book that has ‘disrupted my thinking’ and changed the direction of travel as a teacher is ‘Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher’, Brookfield, (1995).You know when a book arrives through the post and you unpack it and flick through it; well, I had read the first two chapters before I knew it and was excitedly telling my daughter all about it while she rolled her eyes!

For me, Brookfield gave me ‘permission to question’. Chapter 2 “Becoming Critically Reflective: A Process of Learning and Change” discusses how we need to;

“find lenses that reflect back to us stark and differently highlighted picture of who we are and what we do” (p28)

This stopped me in my tracks and took a little bit of thinking, not so much in the validity of the statement but how can I do this? What other lenses are available? Do I create my own? Do I borrow? What other perspectives are valid? Which aren’t as valid but are worthy? What am I missing? Brookfield goes on to discuss four lenses which are autobiographical, students, colleagues and theoretical literature. These lenses helped me to ‘challenge my assumptions’ and to support me as a reflective practitioner, to stop and analyse situations from multiple views before making big or small decisions. Please don’t think that I am so tied up in viewing through multiple lenses that I become incapable of acting but it becomes a’ habit of mind’ to take a wider perspective and very quickly make an informed decision that takes into consideration than more than one point of reference.

In chapter 9 ‘Storming the Citadel – Reading Theory Critically’ Brookfield discusses how you can use educational literature to;

“investigate the hunches, instincts, and tactic knowledge that shape our practice” as this leads to a “understand better what we already do and think” (p185)

This was my validation and permission to pursue what I ‘thought’ was right but had not had the confidence to put out there. There are so many endorsements within this chapter which supported my dispositions in teaching and leading such as (p186)

Theory lets us ‘name ‘our practice

Works wonders for our morale and self confidence

Theory breaks the circle of familiarity

I felt Brookfield was speaking directly to me and supporting me to discuss education from a theoretical point, affirming my instincts as a teacher and leader, to use research to provoke and challenge current practice, both my own and practices within my learning community.

In this chapter Brookfield goes on to discuss how literature can be engaged with, to develop a criticality of mind so that when I read an article I engage by questioning and do not accept the ‘facts’ without interrogation of the purpose, the voice being heard, the validity of the methodology, ethical and moral issues, the bias.

“To be critically reflective teacher means that we regard both our personal and collective experiences and our reading of formal theory, research or philosophy an important elements in our critical journey” (p194)

If you are starting on the journey of engaging with educational literature, I would recommend this book as a great starting point.

#FabEduBooks is supported by Crown House Publishing

Everyone who shares a post on their favourite edubook this September on 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:


Classrooms as Learning Communities – a guide to my professional journey #FabEduBooks

My favourite edubook is Classrooms as Learning Communities: What’s In It For Schools? by Chris Watkins.

Way back in the early days of Curriculum for Excellence, when Building the Curriculum 3 was published in particular, I began working on trying to develop teaching approaches which involved my students to a much greater extent in the learning and teaching process. In the beginning, I was just muddling through and making it up with the help of my class. I loved what I was trying to achieve, but I didn’t have a theoretical underpinning for it – or even a name for it!

Imagine my delight when someone recommended Classrooms as Learning Communities to me. Not only was it perfect for the sort of pedagogy I was trying to develop, it’s amazingly well written. It’s extremely personal in tone and it brilliantly blends theory with practice. It not only gave me a name for what it is I was striving for, it provided me with a vision for where I could take it and how to go about getting there.

For various reasons (primarily being out of the classroom due to secondment and illness) I’ve not yet got as far with turning my classroom into a learning community as I would’ve hoped (although I have made some progress recently), but I will continue to use this marvellous book to help get me there eventually.


Chris, the author of my fav edubook, has just let me know that he has a new website with lots of his resources on there:

You can even download the whole book discussed in my post *FOR FREE* from his site:

#FabEduBooks is supported by Crown House Publishing

Everyone who shares a post on their favourite edubook this September on 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:


The Book Whisperer – Scream it from the Rooftops #FabEduBooks

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 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: