English Teaching


May

11

2022
English. Open book with language hand drawn doodles and lettering on yellow background. Education vector illustration.

What makes a good English lesson?

In reflecting on the design of the curriculum for the English PGDE I will be running from August, it has struck me again how wonderfully complex teaching is. For someone stepping into the classroom for the first time, there is a baffling amount to learn. I’m not sure that there are many other professions that can initially appear to be so intimidating, terrifying and overwhelming....

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Apr

28

2022
What do new English teachers need to know?

What do new English teachers need to know?

I moved to a new role this week: one that doesn’t involve either a school bell, or a classroom full of teenagers. I am tasked instead with planning out the content for new English teacher training year at Napier University here in Edinburgh, which I will be running from August. I hope to use this blog to crystallise some of the thinking I do in...

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Jan

28

2021
Teaching Creative Writing on Teams

Teaching Creative Writing on Teams

  I am a strong believer in the benefits of writing in supporting mental health and wellbeing. I know how much it has helped me, particularly over the last five years. Oliver Sacks captures the immersive power of it poignantly in the final paragraph of his autobiography ‘On The Move’: “The act of writing, when it goes well, gives me a pleasure, a joy, unlike...

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Jan

13

2021
Online English Teaching: Tone in non-fiction texts

Online English Teaching: Tone in non-fiction texts

The motivation for resurrecting this weekly blog this year is very simple: to reflect carefully on how to be a better English teacher. Is that a possible aim in our new online teaching world? Last week, as I sat with a computer wrestling with Teams and becoming more and more enraged, I would have offered a resounding no. Some teachers chuckle and modestly claim to...

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Jan

07

2021
On Teaching Reading.

On Teaching Reading.

  “There will always be another book to read, or guiltily to reread. And that is a joy for all of us.” Stig Abell ‘Things I learned on the 6.28.’ One book. That, dear reader, was the sum total of my Christmas gift stash. One book. My status as a mid-thirties male, however, was firmly entrenched: legions of socks; more ties than I could possibly...

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Jun

14

2019
Improving students’ writing about personal experiences

Improving students’ writing about personal experiences

“I don’t know what to write about.” Ah, how familiar we English teachers are with the above adolescent lament. When it comes to writing about personal experiences, all of a sudden they have never left the darkened shelter of their rooms, never interacted with anyone and pursue absolutely no hobbies whatsoever. Their heads shake and they gaze wistfully off into the distance: “I don’t do...

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Nov

16

2018
Teaching Writing Using Comparisons

Teaching Writing Using Comparisons

“Thought the quest for improvement may be informed by lessons and honed by practice, it must first be kindled by delight in the best works of the masters and a desire to approach their excellence”. Steven Pinker ‘The Sense of Style’ Over half-term I had planned to read ‘Learned Optimism’ by Martin Seligman and Steven Pinker’s ‘The Sense of Style: The Thinking person’s guide to writing...

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Oct

06

2018
‘The Four M’s’ in the English classroom

‘The Four M’s’ in the English classroom

Yesterday, I delivered a workshop to a group of English teachers from Harris Academy, under the title of ‘Sustainable Outstanding Teaching’. In part of the talk I wanted to talk about what I am focussing on developing in my own classroom practice this term.  I have, in a moment of lightning bolt genius, deemed one my pedagogical projects for the year ‘The Four M’s.’ Now...

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Aug

28

2018
Retro Microphone

The TES English Teaching Podcast

For the past two months I have had a social media and, for the most part, educational break. I haven’t read anything on education, I haven’t seen a single Twitter feed and I have, as far as possible, tried to live a mobile phone free existence. I won’t bore you too much with the rationale for this, and fear not – this is not another...

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Jun

15

2018
Summer term experiments: Year 10, ‘Invictus’ and ’12 Years a Slave.’

Summer term experiments: Year 10, ‘Invictus’ and ’12 Years a Slave.’

    “Don’t address their brains, address their hearts.” Nelson Mandela. This mission to develop the reading confidence of my low set Year 10 group continued with earnest this week. Last weekend, I spent a delightful hour rummaging around my book shelf to find some suitable extracts (my long suffering wife seemed to have issues with my retort that I couldn’t possibly complete any housework,...

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