Trust me, you can read

*An update post*

A while ago, I posted about giving students an opportunity to read, actually read, in my lessons. The post is here if you are interested. The particular group of year 7s I am working with admitted to me that they can’t read, hate reading, won’t read.  So I designed a unit of work that would “force” or perhaps I should say encourage them to read.  The unit is downloadable on my free downloads page too.

Here is the end of that mini-unit.


The big “pull” for these kids, a starbucks lesson!  Unbelievably, it was that simple.

The challenge – each student choose a book from the library and during my one lesson, reading club and for homework – they would read it and finish it. The deal was it had to be 150 pages and a chapter book, no graphic novels or the Guinness Book of Records.  If they read more than one. Fantastic.  Some students read 5, most read 2, a handful didn’t finish their first book but did read.

The reward – a starbucks lesson.  This is an easy win for me.  As I regularly do coffee and cake revision, so my room is kind of set up for it.  With the help of a student in my tutor group, we made 21 hot chocolates, with squirty scream and marshmallows.


We then sat around, chugging our drinks and nibbling cupcakes, and discussed the books we had read. Book club style.

7x3 reading 2

The kids wrote their own reviews, made recommendations or not. We discussed why we enjoy some types of books and not others.

I asked when and where it was best and easiest to read.  Some fessed up to not reading at home but enjoying reading in my classroom.

As we were already a mess, we decided that mess should be embraced and celebrated. So we designed a few spontaneous reading quotes, posters, adverts.

7x3 reading

Now, I need to make sure I’m not just being warm and fuzzy about this.  So here is the “progress” as I measured it, across 6 weeks:

  • For the duration of the project, all students read more than they would usually.
  • Some students read a book, independently, for the first time.
  • Many students exceeded expectations by reading more than one book.
  • Some students admitted enjoying what they read.
  • Most students were able to explain the basic plot of their novels.
  • All students were able to outline details about the main character.
  • Some students could explain what they thought the writer’s message was.
  • Many students choose books by new authors or in new genres.

For me, taking one hour a week to do this project and achieving the above is good. Damn good.

My final thought, I would highly recommend snaffling up World Book Day books or Quick Reads as prizes for students.  Each student in this class received a book as a reward for participating in this unit.  I gave them out on Wed  18 Dec. By Fri 20, when we broke up, 4 students had already read their free book.

Well done, 7×3, well done indeed.


When the wind blows – Nurture 1314

13 things I loved in 2013:

1. My beautiful, hilarious, cheeky and completely inspiring girls.
Having three kids can be a handful, having three daughters is a handful and a half.  That half used to be filled with Barbie, glitter and Rainbow Magic books.  2013 has seen these replaced by smartphones, nail varnish and hair straighteners.  My girls are growing up fast and beautiful. Amelia is now in year 7 and doing so well that I grin like a fool just thinking about it.  My girls are amazing.

2. Home Steve.
If you haven’t heard me wax lyrical about my hubby, then you probably haven’t spoken to me.  You are my home, sweetheart. Always.

3. Family.
2013 has been one of the hardest and best years for our family, whilst I can’t air our laundry online. I will say this. Getting to see and hug every member of our family over the last couple of weeks has been very, very special.

4. Colleagues.
I work with some outstanding teachers, and not just in the O-way. Outstandingly compassionate, creative and inspiring.

5. Twitter friends.
2013 was the year I met many of my “twitter friends” – this has made me very happy.

6. Teachmeets.
Hosting and attending teachmeets has been a great and unexpected tag-on this year.  I loved #TMEng and #TLT13.  I loved, loved organising and co-hosting #TMLiteracy.

7. Getting better at teaching.
I am still new to teaching. I get nervy and unsure of myself.  The successes of 2013 went a long way to giving me some teaching backbone.

8. 11×3 – saw the mountain, climbed it, conquered it.
Enough said

9. Reading and encouraging reading.
read away

10. Year 12.
I genuinely don’t know what I would do without my amazing year 12 students, both last year’s gang and my newly minted ones.  I have so much respect for students who will get stuck into Henry James, having only studied R&J and Of Mice and Men.  They have willingly let me try out a bunch of new teaching ideas.

11. Blogging.
I have really enjoyed sharing ideas on my blog this year.  I am not massively opinionated on education stuff, at least, not so as I can articulate online.  But I do love sharing my ideas and then seeing what happens when others magpie and improve them.

12.  Literacy role at school.
Every term I see progress.  I love that I have been given this opportunity and that my school takes literacy seriously.

13. Have I mentioned how much I love my family?

14 Wishes for 2014:

1. Work/life balance – more time with my girls and Home Steve.
2. Sort out my MA – stop pretending to do it and actually just do it!
3. To write. Not blog. But go back to writing.
4. Getting better at marking efficiently.
5. Keep going with DIRT and feedback.
6. Keep aiming to get that illusive outstanding – yes, yes, I know. It’s not about the rating.
7. See this year’s 11×3 out-do last year’s.
8. More TeachMeet madness (maybe even a #TMEng in London).
9. Read more – not just the trash I read to help me sleep.
10. Persuade Home Steve to go abroad on holiday (this is a big ask).
11. Do more cultural stuff in London.
12. Enjoy my classroom time. Help students find joy in learning.
13. Throwaway bits of paper I don’t need .
14. Maybe, maybe think about a role change / promotion.

Hoisting up the main sail

I spent a bit of time this week reflecting.  We love that word in schools don’t we? It’s one of the few things we haven’t picked up from industry (I would have been slapped for suggesting reflection time in my old life).  It’s from politics (which just goes to show).  Anyway, I’ve been ill and eventually had to admit defeat and stay in bed.  This is where the reflection happened.  Being an introverted extrovert I am generally okay at thinking about stuff. However since becoming a teacher the skill has turned into more of a curse.

Let me explain why, on Monday, mid-sleep/illness my thought process was this:
Bad teacher Bad teacher Bad teacher Bad teacher Bad teacher Bad teacher Bad teacher Bad teacher Bad teacher Bad teacher Bad teacher Revision Revision Revision Revision Revision Revision Revision Revision Revision Revision Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic
Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Panic Data Year
12 coursework Year 12 coursework Year 12 coursework Year 12 coursework Year 12 coursework Year 12 coursework Year 12 coursework
Mock preparation  Mock preparation  Mock preparation  Mock preparation  Mock preparation  Mock preparation  Mock preparation
Controlled Assessments Controlled Assessments Controlled Assessments Controlled Assessments Controlled Assessments Controlled Assessments iGCSE stuff iGCSE stuff iGCSE stuff iGCSE stuff iGCSE stuff iGCSE stuff iGCSE stuff iGCSE stuff iGCSE stuff iGCSE
stuff iGCSE stuff iGCSE stuff Planning Planning Planning Planning Planning Planning Planning Planning Planning Planning
Planning Planning Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking
Marking Marking Marking Marking  Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking
Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking Marking

Taking just two days off school has put me behind, significantly. I hold my hands up and admit, I am not the most organised person in the world. A messy perfectionist is how a friend described me recently. So perhaps this partly my fault (after all, I was the one to get sick).  But it’s not just the catching up on emails, admin and marking.  I was panicked about the kids and their work. About how I was going to squeeze those extra hours into the few days left before the holidays.  I felt guilty.  I felt like a bad teacher.  Beautifully timed, my illness coincided with Sir Michael’s fresh starched views on the state of my uniform, I mean teaching. I felt guilty again. I felt like a bad teacher more.

Ridiculous right? I know I’m a good teacher. Kids learn stuff in my lessons. They turn up to exams and write about Of Mice and Men and not one of the other books that they haven’t studied.  Parent’s don’t picket the school gates wanting to run me through. I’m a good teacher. I think.  Am I? I don’t know anymore.

Here lies the rub. So much of a particular type of reflection has caused paranoia (and occasional hysteria). We second guess ourselves too much.

Then my kids brought home their homework for the holidays.  I love it.  They have to reflect after each day in the holiday and write WWW and EBI. I can imagine it now. WWW – I got a Pokemon onesie.  EBI – mum would let me keep the £50 from Gran, instead of slipping into her wallet.

Sometimes we just need to keep it simple.

So here I am – hoisting the main sail again – I am a good teacher but I will continue to get better.  With a little help from my friends WWW and EBI.   I will be posting my Autumn 1 WWWs and EBIs over the holidays.

#TMLiteracy – the best bits

Ok, ok, I am going to fess up from the top, ‘the best bits’ means everything. I loved #TMLiteracy. It was a mission to organise and I was terrified that no one would turn up and that it would be naff.  There is room for improvement, no doubt about it.  But for a stab in the dark, first time outing – I think we did pretty well.

Getting ready to rumble!

Getting ready

Setting the tone – our amazing students entertain guests as they arrive

girls singing 2

First up, we discussed our literacy washing line wishes. What are the biggest literacy challenges in your classroom? (Another post on this later).

literacy washing line

Then our hero, Mr Phil Stock @joeybagstock, got the ball rolling making a compelling argument for working at sentence level across every subject. Arguing that the sentence, not the vocabulary, is what establishes articulacy and demonstrates progress.

“We need to be masters of the sentence.” Go Phil!

Phil stock arguing for the sentence

It seemed that organising and co-hosting wasn’t enough, so I gamely shared two student talk to writing activities.  Nothing new I’m afraid and all readily available here on my blog.

LGE spidey sense spidey sense tmlit

Paul Robins, the first of our primary representatives shared his Helping Hands next.  Explaining how the ‘five fingered’ approach allows teachers and students to set very specific targets for improvement.  The idea being that the teacher sets 3 targets (3 fingers) for example – start a sentence using an adjective and then the student sets their own final 2 targets.   What an amazing idea – #magpie.

Paul Robins helping hands helping hands

Prize winners galore!

prize winners

prizes 2

The Fix Up Team’s own Bola, reminding us You Are Amazing.

Bola from fix up


After a short respite for sarnies and tea, we were back on with Sue Alexander @BuSue championing the use of academic word lists.  Check it out here:

sue alexander

Rebeccah Hurst, a fellow Rdowner, shared her thought showers for Maths (and other subjects) allowing teachers to personalise stretch and challenge questions. Love this!

Rebeccah H thought showers

SwitchZoo from Ellie Byrne next.  Great for vocabulary development and general fun with words.

Ellie Byrne


Monica Patel explained the power of using graphic novels and visual stimuli to encourage students with low literacy levels.

monica patel

More happy prize winners!

prize winner 2 prizes

Like I said, it was all a best bit.