The Reading Offer…What choices are you giving children?

Wild reading

Twitter is great for making you stop and think sometimes. Yesterday Rob Smith (Literacy shed supremo) posted a tweet that really struck a chord with me. Rob tweet

It made me stop and think about reading and what we offer children in our school. Do we offer a gruel or a gourmet reading experience for our pupils. I found myself time-travelling back to my youth and thinking about what made me a reader. A formative part in that for me as a child was non-fiction. Non-fiction was for me where I found my ‘Reading for Pleasure’

I would spend hours poring over the one book that I owned, given to me by my Aunty Pat for Christmas in 1979 or maybe 1980.

mysteries of the unknown.jpg

First question should be “What the hell were you doing Aunty Pat?” It was terrifying. It was also utterly brilliant. I read that book so many times it eventually fell apart. (I did cry)

mysteriesghosts-1

mysteries squid

It was a brilliant non-fiction book (I appreciate now that there is quite a lot of fiction in this book)…endlessly re-readable, loads and loads to learn about. It was also glorious to look at, sumptuous in the detail and fantastically illustrated. It was the total package. I can’t even begin to count the hours I spent lay on my bed reading it, lost in its pages, savouring its detail.

It was only replaced when my Dad came home with a set of battered Encyclopaedia Britannica, they then became my go to books for exploring and finding stuff out.

This made me stop and think about two things really. The first was our school offer for reading.

What reading experiences/ choices are we offering children?

Do we have the books that children can wallow in like a warm bath?

Do we have the books that let children explore and find out stuff driven by their own interests?

(Or is the reading material particularly non-fiction controlled and merely used as an extended comprehension exercise.)

There are absolutely fantastic non-fiction books out there…

The question is do we let children explore non-fiction in their reading choices in the way we do with fiction? I tried to come up with a list of what our offer beyond fiction looks like in the library. I’m sure people could add other ideas and suggestions.

  • Encyclopaedias
  • Short stories
  • Graphic novels
  • True-life stories
  • Comics
  • Newspapers
  • Diaries
  • Biographies
  • Magazines
  • Leaflets
  • Theatre and football programmes
  • Recipe books / cards
  • Posters
  • Travel brochures
  • Maps
  • Timetables
  • Food packaging
  • Catalogues
  • Letters and postcards
  • Advertisements

It also made me think about how we use non-fiction in school.

Is it controlled? Do we only read non-fiction when we want to find out a key thing?

I’ve seen comments that talked about only accessing non-fiction on the web, where children search for what they need to find out. Sadly this denies children experiencing the beauty and wonder that a crafted non-fiction book provides.

My experience of non-fiction is different I know lots of stuff, not because I had to know it but because I found it in a brilliant non-fiction books. Interests were sparked by stumbling on something as I immersed myself in the pages.

This led me to try to think of the main purposes for reading. So far I have these five. If you have any more please add to my list…

Purposes for Reading

  1. Read to learn something new
  2. Read to make us think
  3. Read to be entertained
  4. Read to be inspired
  5. Read to inform
  6. Reading to help us understand others better (from Anne Thompson @ALibraryLady)
  7. reading is to help us understand ourselves (Courtesy of Teresa Cremin)

So finally the big question?

What is your schools Reading offer?

Give the question ten minutes, it’s worth it.

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That way madness lies…(1700 pages of guidance)

madness

I, I can’t get these memories out of my mind
And some kind of madness has started to evolve
I, I tried so hard to let you go
But some kind of madness is swallowing me whole, yeah
Muse, Madness

 

There are decisions which make you breathe a huge sigh of relief. The decision to deny the freedom of information request regarding the marking guidance is one such decision. (A definite Christmas present in disguise)

One can only imagine the madness that would have occurred in Year 6 classrooms had those 1700 pages of guidance been released. The teaching of finicky detail on where to place a semi-bloody-colon. (This to be fair may already be happening)  Lord knows what other nonsense lies within those 1700 pages, thankfully we’ll never know and I’m glad for that.

That the DfE have 1700 pages of guidance for a test for 11-year-olds is another matter entirely

FOI

If it had been released can you just imagine that first day back… That Spring term…The booster class nightmares…

kinopoisk.ru-Kindergarten-Cop-884206

 

 

Don’t get me wrong I think that there is 1700 pages of guidance is an absolute nonsense. That there are hidden rules to passing these tests that we don’t know about is frankly ludicrous. The fact that in some cases last year children were marked wrong when they absolutely knew the answer is just beyond belief. I’m just grateful that we don’t know the extent of this ridiculousness. I’m just glad that my teachers will just get on and teach the children. Equally don’t get me wrong either I love a good test. Wouldn’t it be great if those tests actually impacted on pupils learning and helped them with the next steps in their learning.

Wouldn’t it be great if they were about children not just measuring the schools they come from. Wouldn’t it be great if secondary had any faith in them and used the information to create effective transition.

On the flip side does this give me any faith in what I feel is an assessment system already teetering on the edge. Definitely not. The travesty that this nonsense is tied to a high stakes accountability system where in some cases people lose their jobs beggars belief.

Does it make me fear for the direction of travel that education is heading in…Yes it completely does.

It’s time to stop and assess what it is we’re doing with assessment. I think its time to hit the reset button and start again.

Be grateful I’ve not even mentioned the nonsense that will be writing assessment this year (or the last two years) and the reintroduction of best fit (in principle I agree but know this will increase the variability of judgement even more)

Writing…Honestly, we need honesty.

So small mercies that we will never know the contents of those 1700 pages but if this does not ring alarm bells about what we’re doing with regards to education then nothing will.

YAY!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

 

Listen and Learn. (Leading in stormy weather)

1 kxhalND2sq5AG0Mp_7fd4g
“You gotta learn to listen, listen to learn
You gotta learn to listen, before you get burned
Learn to listen, listen to learn
You gotta learn to listen, before you get burned”
 The Ramones “Learn to Listen”

 

So 2017 draws to a weary conclusion. I haven’t blogged for a while not because there isn’t anything I want to say but just because I havent had the time or the energy to say it. There are points where real life catches up with you and you’ve just got to focus on the important stuff. There are points where you just have to balance it out. This last half-term has definitely been one of those.

I have watched a number of people who work at my school going through some really difficult stuff and still coming into work even though life is beating them with a pretty big stick. Those are the moments when your mettle as a head or a leader is really tested. How you support those people, how you ride the storm is the true test. (Whatever that storm is)

When the going is easy and the weather is good it’s easy to be complacent about what you do. It’s easy to miss the bits that just make it tick along. When the storm blows it can become blatantly obvious that you’ve not got as firm a hand on the rudder as you’d like.  Those are the times you need to put your hands up, say sorry and listen. It is equally as important that you continue to make the right choices for the right reasons even if sometimes that does not make everyone happy.

yJsi8ns

Truth is as a head or a leader you can’t make everybody happy however much you would want to. There are inevitably compromises you have to make, sometimes they frustrate people. They get frustrated for a range of reasons almost all of them are down to communication. They want to know why you’ve made the choices you have.

Why leadership is so tough

What makes this so difficult is that, in every capacity, youre asked , as a leader,  to put yourself last.

It’s a removal of the ego. You can’t just rage out of impatience, or get upset because other people aren’t working the way you want them to work. You can’t show your frustration–even if everyone else is. You can’t sit back and complain when times get tough. You have to be the positive force that changes the tide.

You, as a leader, have to take a step back from your impulsive, emotional reactions, and instead operate from a place of calm understanding. And that’s a skill that isn’t taught in school or afterschool clubs, or on a leadership course.

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It’s learned through watching others closely who embody that trait. Having other leaders to talk with and to challenge your the thinking and sometimes your prejudice is vital. I’m very lucky on that count, working as part a trust has really helped us explore our leadership and challenged us in a positive way.

And it’s learned through diligent self-inquiry, and constantly practicing the art of being flexible in the way you communicate and lead others.

So here are my 7 tips to being a good leader

  1. Be flexible. (adapting the route while keeping an eye on the goal is key)
  2. When everyone else is stressed, you’re calm. (listen and solve)
  3. Be clear. (Communication is key. Most frustrations are due to poor communication)
  4. When everyone else is running on fumes, you inject more fuel. (What have you done to minimise workload? If all else fails…CAKE!)
  5. Lead by example. (Take stock and move forward clearly)
  6. When someone has an issue, you work with and listen to the person on a personal level. Be human!(Listening is the most important aspect of the job)
  7. Celebrate (make sure hard work isn’t rewarded by making more hard work)

This is where most leaders get it wrong, and I’ve seen it happen all the time (I’ve made these mistakes all the time) . The moment someone moves into a position of leadership, the person believes that everyone else should accommodate his or her needs–when actually it’s the opposite. As I’ve said before ‘I know I’m doing my job well when others are able to do theirs well.’

 

That people at the end of the term went out of their way to find me  say “thankyou for the support” tells me I’m getting something right.

‘Just a listening man
Try to understand
Just a listening man
Do the best I can…’
‘Listening Man’ The Bees

Digging Deeper… Reading with Picturebooks

 

Arthur1

I firmly believe that he better we know the  books we are using. The more effectively we will be able to help children explore them.  I recently did a workshop at Reading Rocks. In the session I used the fantastic Arthur and the Golden Rope by Joe Todd Stanton published by the rather wonderful Flying Eye Books.

I’ll admit the session was planned partly as a way of keeping my hand in.

The aims of the session were as follows.

  • To look and explore a picturebook
  • To understand how knowing a book well allows us to dig deeper
  • Look at how talk/drama techniques can help us dig deeper
  • To look at some ways to dig into a text with children.

To be able to do that we need to give our teachers time to explore as well. Knowledgeable teachers knowing about books will make a big difference to how they use them with their class. It will step beyond the surface into allowing them to dig deeper.

KEY QUESTION 1 What knowledge would help the children explore the book better?

This is always an important question to ask. Are there key bits of knowledge or context that would support the children’s understanding of the text. If there is then teach it. In this case knowing about a little about Norse Mythology and the Vikings would be useful.

TELL me

This grid is always great for starting point for discussion. it provides a secure framework for children to look and talk. So give it a go look at the front cover and talk about what you like? What you dislike? What puzzles you? What links and connections you might make.

Arthur10

What is always surprising about using the grid is that different people will all see and think different things. Creating time to talk about books is vital in developing deeper understanding, listening to others points helps drive our thinking. Thing is there often isn’t a right and wrong answer. (regardless of whether a comprehension suggests there is only one answer)

Arthur2

Now look the end-papers. (Joe Todd Stanton does just the best end-papers) and ask yourself the same questions. I guarantee some of your children will bring some links and connections here. (Most of them admittedly will be Marvel related…I did love Thor Ragnarok)

Arthur 11.png

The next picture we get is this one. It’s really important to see the illustrator as an author and therefore to think why they may have placed an image or a clue. At this point we may not have an answer, but we may have lots of questions, when we read any good books they often ask us more questions than give us answers. Giving children the opportunity to explore the questions is vital.

KEY QUESTION 2 Do you give children room to ask questions about what they are reading?

Arthur3

In the book we then discover that the Brownstone’s are family who over centuries have collected lots of weird and wonderful artifacts. This page is fantastic both for exploring and making links and connections.

TAKE A LOOK!

We did this as a game and a race to find ten objects and explain what they were or what they did. It would also be great to come back after exploring the book to use the page as a launch pad for the children writing their own narrative using one of the objects on the page.

 

Arthur4

We then get this piece of text. Discuss with children what a ‘Hero’ is. What they look like? How they behave? Then ask the children to based on that text to describe Arthur our ‘unlikeliest’ of heroes. Then show the children the first picture of Arthur that we get in the book.

 

Ask children to think about what the learn about Arthur from the picture. Using a body outline ask children describe around the outline the external features and inside what we learn about his personality, or the internal Arthur. This could equally be done as a Role on the wall or if your brave enough a Hot seat discussion.

Then in the book it all goes wrong for Arthur. The text alongside the images is  great. This next bit I shamelessly stole from the CLPE as I saw Farrah do this brilliantly with ‘The Island’ by Armin Greder. It is now a favourite technique of mine for getting children to look really closely at the text. It is also fantastic for getting children to understand sentence structures, punctuation and grammar in a real context. Really discussing why an author has structured a text a certain way is hugely powerful both when children write for themselves but also understanding the impact SPAG.  I picked this text extract because it allowed so much drama and variety. When I saw the CLPE unit for the book they had done the same thing with the same bit of text. (I just think it’s great minds or their really good teaching)

SLOW READING or READER’S THEATRE.

Arthur 15

Give children an extract of text. Discuss with them what is happening in the extract. Think about the pace, structure and tone of the extract. Discuss the effect the use of punctuation makes. Children then create a performance of the text extract. emphasising keywords and drawing out the authors intent.

Readers

Here’s one I did earlier.

Reading aloud with fluency and emphasis is a vital skill. It is important that we regularly model this by reading to our class everyday.

KEY QUESTION 3 Do you read to your class everyday?

If you don’t you’re missing a trick. Plus NO PLANNING.

If you hadn’t guessed it all goes wrong for Arthur at this point. Arthur is blamed for the destruction of the village. The story provides us with a perfect moment to use THOUGHT-TRACKING to explore a little deeper with Arthur

Arthur6

Exploring  what Arthur might say and equally what he is thinking is hugely powerful. This picture when we compare it to the first time we meet Arthur also gives us an interesting opportunity to use a SHOW, NOT TELL technique and use this to write about Arthur and by describing him show the reader how he is feeling.

We at this point are left with a character sunk in a dilemma. Unable to sleep Arthur has to make a choice. Using CONSCIENCE ALLEY to explore the dilemma would work well here but I prefer an ANGELS and DEMONS approach. In groups of three, where one child is Arthur and the other two are advising him the children must explore the dilemma and ultimately Arthur must decide what he is going to do next.

Arthur, being the hero, decides to try to save the day and he sets off on an epic heroic quest. The next page is probably my favourite in the whole book as I’m a sucker for a map.

Arthur8

This page as well providing us with an idea of the scale and epicness of the adventure is also a perfect oppotunity for a mini write. Limiting the words and getting children to be really precise is a great way of getting them to think about language choice and sentence structures. MINI-SAGAS are perfect for this (I think along time ago I may have stolen this off Pie Corbett) Write an adventure in fifty words then perform them as a Norse fireside epic. Easy as that.

 

That about sums up my presentation but leaves you on tenterhooks as to where the story is going. Needless to say it is epic with one of the best suspense page flips ever.

I would say it’s a perfect book for Year 3 and 4. @toddstanton1 is a fantastic picturebook author/illustrator. I would thoroughly recommend all his books.

Thanks Flying Eye books for giving me permission to use the images from Arthur and the Golden rope

The CLPE have produced an excellent unit to accompany this book.

 

Link to book on the Flying-Eye website.

 

 

Shouting in the Wind

 

Fiddes, Christopher John Ellis, b.1934; Shouting in the Wind

“This coat my royal gown
A stolen hand-me-down
No need to scrape and bow
We can be heroes now
For more than just one day
Heres how
Look both ways when crossing roads
Dont wear slippers till youre old
Never do what you are told”

Chumbawamba “Never do what you are told”

I’ve been asking myself recently…Why I blog?…Why I tweet? I Think that is an important question to ask ourselves.

I started just over a year and a half ago partly driven by frustration. As a head of a small coastal primary school, the challenges you face are huge yet your voice feels practically non-existent. Finance, budget, recruitment, SEND all massive issues but ones which you feel you have no power.  So that was the motivation to provide a voice for the average school. The school doing their best in challenging circumstances. I have at times been outspoken.(I’m OK with that). I’ve more often been ignored (often when you post something that doesn’t agree with someone elses narrative). That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t shout out. Sometimes people are afraid to shout out. The thing we must realise is that every person’s voice needs to be listened to. Some people seem to wield blocks and mutes on twitter as a way of shutting down debate, clearing their timeline of dissenting voices. Thing is if we only listen to the voices that agree with us we don’t actually get a real picture.

 

“Anything worth shouting about is worth shouting into the wind.

Because if enough people care, often enough, the word spreads, the standards change, the wind dies down. If enough people care, the culture changes.

It’s easy to persuade ourselves that the right time to make change happen is when it’s time. But that’s never true. The right time to make it happen is before it’s time. Because this is what ‘making’ means.

The most devastating thing we can learn about our power is how much of it we have. How much change we could make if we would only speak up first, not last. How much influence we can have if we’re willing to look someone in the eye and say, “yes.” Or, “this is our problem, too.” Or, “this must stop.”

Yes, there’s wind, there’s always been wind. But that doesn’t mean we should stop shouting.”

Seth Godin

 

I’ve been lucky enough to get pieces in the TES to share my voice.

Why Picturebooks are Important…TES article archive #1

The Fight to be an Inclusive School… TES article archive #2

Getting rid of staff isn’t the answer…TES article archive #3

Evidence is important but great teaching is still art…TES article arhive #4

 

So what I’m really saying is don’t be afraid to shout out and keep shouting even if it feels no one is listening. Whether you have 1 follower or 500000 your voice is equally as important.

The thing about books…Let’s TALK about books.

 

Let's+Talk+About+Books

 

“I will say a prayer, just while you are sitting there
I will wrap my hands around you
I know it will be fine
We’ve got a fantasy affair
We didn’t get wet, we didn’t dare
Our aspirations, are wrapped up in books
Our inclinations are hidden in looks”

Wrapped up in books Belle and Sebastian

In primary school books are the most important tools we have at our disposal . What worries me is we seem to have lost the time to explore them…The time to talk about them…the time to make links and connections to our knowledge…the time to draw in the pieces and make our own sense of them.

Question… How much time do you give to children talking about books?

Sadly I see loads of comprehension activities online. Lots of comprehension questions that create one answer. What I rarely see however is people talking  about children talking about books in their classroom.

There is currently an ongoing debate about whole class reading and guided reading…not even going there as actually they do different things and great guided reading is still probably the most powerful tool we have at moving children’s reading forward (please don’t confuse the flippin’ carousel with guided reading)

What I think is being lost however are the  climates in our classroom’s where we can talk about books. The Reading for Pleasure agenda seems to have been sidelined in the need to improve test scores. Reading in our classrooms seems to be driven more by how children answer a question rather than whether they enjoy reading.

Question…Do you let children explore their understanding about books?

TELL me

It is however there in black and white as part of the National Curriculum.

“The national curriculum for English aims to ensure that all pupils: read easily, fluently and with good understanding. develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information. … use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas.”

National curriculum 2014

Like many schools, we identified that under achievement in reading impacts on children’s progress across the curriculum. Whether due to reluctance or an inability to read, it remains a barrier to their learning. We had to stop and ask ourselves some key questions and ask ourselves some hard truths.

What is our goal?
Do we care only about reading test scores, or do we want our students to have a positive attitude toward reading and choose to read on their own?

(Tip personally I think if you get the second right then you get the first)

Ask a secondary colleagues about which kind of reader they would want transitioning to them, pretty sure they’ll tell you it’s a child who is curious about books and enjoys reading.

daniel-pennac

There are some problem inherent in this and the answer isn’t as simple as your heart would suggest. There are some pupils who may never truly be switched on by reading. Teachers need to KNOW about books. If teachers don’t know about books then how can we hope for them to be able to drive those more open conversations about books.

This won’t just happen by chance. If you want teachers to be knowledgeable about books you have to give that the time it needs to happen. Teachers need to talk books and share books as much as the children do. Having an advocate that drives this is key.

Top Tips in creating a Reading for Pleasure and Purpose (thanks Alex) climate

  1. Read to your class everyday (Make it a valuable time not a throwaway time, make it special.)
  2. Make books an integral part of your curriculum. (Encourage exploration)
  3. Guide but don’t limit  (Don’t be snobby, doors can be gateways they often offer way more than we think they do)
  4. Teacher Readers (Knowledgeable staff being a role-model for pupils, make time for this to become a reality)
  5. Escapism (Give children  time to just immerse themselves in a book)
  6. Time for talk (Create opportunities to talk about books, not ask questions but genuinely talk about books)
  7. Books ahoy! (Make your school swim with books)
  8. All aboard (Does your SLT make it important) Primary reading – ten questions (excellent document for SLT from the North Yorkshire Literacy Team)
  9. Involve parents. (Getting parents onboard is ultimately the key)
  10. Think about knowledge that will help children dig into a book more effectively  (knowing stuff around the book their reading helps them explore better)

suess

 

I’ve also included a link to the CLPE reading scale, it’s a fantastic document for helping you think about the needs of individual readers and well worth a look if you haven’t seen it.

CLPE READING SCALE

Finally from Michael Rosen courtesy of @jdurran

a) We should make time for asking questions for which we don’t have an answer.
b) If ever asking questions for which we do have an answer, we must ask ourselves why are we asking?!

Now stop reading this and go and read…your choice.

 


Bonus Post… Parklands Subject Leader Ofsted Prep Questions via @ChrisDysonHT

Prepping your team well is a key ingredient to a successful Ofsted. Here are Chris Dyson’s Subject-Leader questions.  (Download link at the bottom)

Maths and Literacy

Questions all Subject Leaders should be able to answer?

  1. What are the standards of your subject from July 2017?
  2. You will need the key info from Raise and cross reference with H/T and SEF to ensure ‘all singing from the same hymn sheet’. NOVEMBER
  3. Can you make a judgement on these outcomes e.g. ‘attainment’ is RI (below National ) ‘progress’ is Good (Be able to support these 2 answers with evidence)
  4. What are standards (attainment) currently? (if over half way through the year….. ARE % ….GLD estimate…. Y1 Phonics est….. Y6 and Y2 predictions) ALTHOUGH OFSTED DON’T WANT PREDICTIONS – its good to be forearmed
  5. What was the progress judged to be last July/currently? (evidence based)
  6. What is in place to ‘boost’.
  7. What are the main strengths?(all of your responses no matter how dire should be littered with HOWEVERS i.e. strengths/positives/green shoots etc)
  8. What are currently the main areas of concern in your subject? Which YG … may be BvG or PP v Non (Evidence of some triangulation analysis i.e. data/books/planning)
  9. What are you doing about it and have you edited your action plan? (Not War and Peace, simple/manageable/doable)
  10. What impact is your action plan having on provision/standards/progress?

( Are you using the same system as the H/T annotates the SIP?)

  1. What are you currently monitoring in your subject and what does that entail? (E.g. make sure it’s not scatter gun approach but very focused, and a s a result of book trawl/ triangulation/ ch interview)
  2. What about next steps/long term plans(ensure you know the direction of travel of national picture/school and more importantly pupils’ needs… ie 2 years to be hitting 85% ARE – spelling and HW focus to raise eXceeding)

Try brain storming these answers succinctly on an A3 sheet then check the facts where applicable. Now formalise each one of your punchy short answers on A4, rehearse it, and practice the script with SLT. Update when needed.

Recent OFSTED Q (May 2016) asked to Maths Co ordinator

  1. How long have you been in the post?

    2. What year group do you teach in? (being in Y1 or Y6 isn’t an excuse for not knowing about maths in the rest of the school)

    3. How do you rate maths in school? (Be positive – don’t dither – give a definitive answer – plump for ‘good’)

    3. Where is the weakest maths teaching in school? (Ofsted spent an awful lot of time on this!… how do you know… what support have you given…. What would you do next? HT – capabilities if no change after support)

    – why was it weak?

    – how do you know it was weakest?

    – what have you done to improve teaching? (You may want to use lots of evidence for this – so try have a paper trail ready on monitoring you have done… she didn’t want to look at data or books)

    – how do we know maths had improved in this area? (ARE increasing….. gap BvG closing…)

Questions all Subject Leaders should be able to answer (1)

Stop…Ask yourself a question …Reflect …Act.

stopcollablisten_001

This is a micro-blog. Having had an inspiring week thanks to some brilliant challenge from @Enquire1, then finished off by a great day of learning at #LLL17. I thought I’d share a couple of key questions. These are questions for anybody in a school and they are really worth the time to stop and reflect on.

 

What three words would be written in the middle if  you cut your school in half?

Supplementary question from @GazNeedle

Would everyone agree?

Finding those three words that act as a lens on everything you do is an incredibly powerful way of looking and judging the actions you take.  Thanks @GaltVicky for this.

CRM-System-question-2-1

Question 2 inspired by the Carter Report.

If someone comes round your school what will they take away as the things that your school does well?

What are the things that make your school unique?

What are your signature pedagogies?

 

The discussion and thought around the questions is more important than the answers. Enjoy.

Have a great Sunday

 

 

The problem with knowing stuff. (I know lots of stuff, most of it pointless)

or

 

pub

I am just going to put it out there, I know lots of stuff, I am good in a pub quiz (especially if there is a round on music 1970-2000 and Children’s literature.) If you need to know who played the bass on Lovecats by the Cure, or indeed what position it got to in the charts, and in what year… then I’m your man. This can sometimes be entertaining and add to a discussion but sometimes it makes me come across as an annoying, arrogant know-it-all.

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There is currently a lot of talk about knowledge, I see knowledge organisers flying around all over the place. The term ‘knowledge-rich curriculum’ is bandied about with a drive for kids to know facts about stuff. My worry is that people aren’t stopping to think about what they are teaching and why. Knowledge is important, but knowing stuff is a start not an end – is there any purpose to the knowing of stuff? Just knowing stuff is not enough.

Lets take vocabulary, we have to teach challenging vocabulary. The reading test in 2015 made it abundantly clear that our assessment system has an expectation that children have an expansive vocabulary. For many schools this means there is a huge catch-up that needs to happen. This is tackled in some schools by the pressence of word lists ahoy, lots of words out of context…”learn these words”. If you want children to learn words they can use, context is everything. Use great books, find the words in context, discuss the meaning, explore for alternate meanings then use them…in other words teach them.

KEANU-2

We need to make sure our curriculums don’t just teach knowledge but creates a purpose and a reason for having it. The driver for knowledge should be the design of our curriculum.

As I succinctly summarised  after reading  Ben Newmark’s thought-provoking blog (see below)

“Knowledge is only as good as the curriculum it comes from.”

It’s the first time I’ve ever been succinct.

You’ll note I’ve been really careful not to get into the discussion about what that curriculum should be. That’s a whole other debate that I really haven’t the energy to get into at the moment.

Children are revoltin’ – Good behaviour in school is a team game.

revoltingchildren

 

‘Never again will she get the best of me!
Never again will she take away my freedom.
And we won’t forget the day we fought
For the right to be a little bit naughty!’

Revolting Children written by Tim Minchin

 

“We don’t want children to behave”

said no teacher ever.

I’m really proud of the behaviour in our school. Behaviour in our school is really good. It’s really good because we work really hard to make it so. We have effective systems that are rigourously upheld. As a headteacher, part of my job is to back -up the teachers and follow through when behaviour incidents occur. When I came to our school,  behaviour was a problem… a serious problem. I spent quite a lot of time dealing with behaviour. The previous regime had used detentions and exclusions it hadn’t solved the problem. The first thing we did was streamline our behaviour policy and make it really clear for children to understand. We monitored it  and we followed it to the letter. Improvement was rapid. The key was communicating and working with the parents. We very quickly found we’d actually created a policy for a dozen children and the rest of the children didn’t really need it.

Now call me naive if you want, in fact a deputy at another school did just that, but I believe that children want to behave and want to do the right thing. It may be naive but I can honestly say it makes going to school everyday much easier. An important aspect of our school is teaching children the difference between right and wrong. For me the true test of behaviour is what children do when you’re not watching them not what they do when you are. Trust surely has to be the goal of any behaviour policy.

behaviour

That’s not to say we don’t have behaviour incidents…sometimes we do. Children sometimes do the wrong thing, children are sometimes naughty. At the age of ten I got the slipper from the headteacher for kissing Helen Massam in the maths storeroom. I can honestly say that the punishment did not stop me kissing girls – although thinking about it I have always held an disproportional hatred of slippers. But when I wasn’t allowed to be Maths monitor now that was the punishment that had an impact. Understanding how to effectively manage behaviour is an ‘all hands on deck’ task and disruptive behaviour needs thinking about from all angles.

I know that  bad behaviour occasionally comes from inconsistent routines and practices.  I’ll be honest as a teacher sometimes I have had lessons that have gone completely Pete Tong, sometimes the children have become over excited or I wasn’t clear enough on expectations, sometimes my lessons were just duff.   If we’re honest about this  however then we can get it right in our classroom. If we portray ourselves as infallible then we give away the power to change it. Being able to reflect on our lessons and think about how it could work differently is important. Tweaking what we do can have a huge impact, we are not excusing bad behaviour (whatever the circumstance children who misbehave should be responsible for their actions) but actively seeking to address it.

A key ingredient of improving behaviour is working with parents and if necessary supporting parents as well. Parents supporting the school’s actions, especially in a primary context, probably makes the most difference in improving behaviour. I remember my son getting into trouble for scratching his name into a desk. When he got home the first thing we did was march him back to school and made him apologise. We then offered to pay for a new desk. I can say categorically he never did it again. Creating relationships and trust with parents so they support the school in it’s work cannot be underestimated. To do that you have to communicate the good as well as the bad. You have to celebrate pupil’s successes. The more we pay attention to the behaviour we want the more likely we are to get it.

 

Sadly in some schools honesty about behaviour is used as a weapon against a teacher. Teachers need to be able to be open when they are having a problem without fear of it being used against them. We need to create cultures in which we can be honest about problems and issues.  We need SLT’s to listen and act to support teachers. We need effective systems that are  upheld and don’t waver. Being honest about the issues and challenges is actually how you solve them.

…and don’t get me started on “Well they weren’t a problem when I taught them!” probably one of the most damaging phrases ever uttered in a school.

 

‘Bad behaviour
Was my saviour
Making mischief
Used to make my day’

Bad Behaviour Super Furry Animals

 

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