Prompts for writing

I have often found inspiring students to write creatively – to really want to write – particularly Sisyphean. Often, I try to get them to write ‘in the style of’ an author we are studying; some of my current Year 9s are making valiant efforts to recreate Susan Hill’s style.

However, what I have often found can be useful is to use a video or image prompt. Therefore, and in no way indicative of my wish to put off the inevitable assessment marking I *should* be doing, I offer the following prompts. As I mentioned on Twitter (if you follow me), they are all shamelessly pilfered from the internet, and I have not yet properly credited any of the images/videos. Be assured, they all popped up quite easily when I Goog’d such banal phrases as ‘amazing pictures of Earth’, or ‘inspirational drone videos’.

Enjoy – and if you’ve any lovely videos or images you have had great results with, please do share them!

Dropbox link here

 

 

I’ve also had great fun (in the past using it for Controlled Assessment) with this exract from 28 Days Later. Someone somewhere along the line did some tinkering which cut the nudey-rudey bit from the start, making it suitable for all year groups. Hint: watch it first yourself. It’s jumpy!

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Prompts for writing

World Book Day 2015

This post is an outline of what I will be doing on World Book Day within my role as KS3 Co-ordinator. In my usual way, I have run and run with a project (mainly for my own amusement) and decided to make it ‘World Book Week’ – but I must make it very clear from the outset that I have begged, borrowed and stolen almost all of the ideas below from people much cleverer and more creative than me. Particular thanks must go to Jo Facer (@readingthebooks) whose blogs on assemblies I have totally plundered.

Here is the assembly I will be running this week:

Whole school ideas:

I have asked all staff to change their email signatures to reflect what they are currently reading – I have always done this myself but wanted to make it a focus for the week. (If you’re interested – ‘The Shallows (Nicholas Carr) and ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs).)The fab Shorny (@shornymalcolmson) had the idea to go one stage further and put a link to the book on Amazon into this.

We are also running a ‘Who’s Reading’ competition; around the library there are various posters of teachers holding their faces behind their favourite books – cue hilarity today as I overheard some Year 8s discussing who might be who… On World Book Day itself, I have also asked all staff to prepare a slide to replace their ‘think-start’ or ‘final thought’ activity for every lesson in which they talk, briefly, about the book which made them want to teach their chosen subject. The rationale behind this is to foster a discussion on subject-related books – it’s been my experience all-too-regularly that students see reading as a) ‘something we do in English’ or b) ‘just textbooks and stuff’. I am hopeful that this will open students’ eyes to the variety of books they could be reading: Sports stars biographies; Sci-fi fiction; biographies of artists, musicians or fashion designers; historical dramas…

My own slide will be this: tbt

I have also hooked up with the fab @mrstaveley to produce this epic World Book Day quiz, and will be handing out prizes to the winning house…

When I put a message on Twitter a couple of weeks ago asking what people were doing for WBD, @OxfamEducation got in touch to share the fab ‘Message In A Book’ – the link to which is here. All our Year 7 and 8 lessons this week have been given over to researching the work Oxfam do, and writing inspirational and persuasive messages to go into books in our local Oxfam bookshop. We are also collecting books to donate, and I am in the process of organising a ‘handover’ with a small group of students in a week or so.

…..and of course yes, even though I have a particular dislike of fancy dress, I will be wearing an ‘Undesirable Number One’ sweater… (in mitigation, this photo was taken at my 30th birthday party a few weeks ago. I was a little bit excited).

HP

Once again, a huge THANK YOU to the people who have so kindly shared their ideas – apols if I have not name-checked anyone.

I am, of course, keen to magpie others’ ideas – and if you use any of the resources provided here, I would love to know how they went down.

Happy reading!

World Book Day 2015

The Year 9 question – Part One: the changes to KS3

The changes to GCSE English (Lit and Lang) have been looming large in my mind for a while now. I’m feeling fairly on top of things with what I need to do in terms of changes for Years 7 and 8, and have started (slowly) to implement these as part of my role coordinating KS3.

However, the question of what to do with Year 9 has been hanging, sword-of-Damocles-like, over my head. Yes, I am aware that this cohort will be sitting the new, terminal-exam GCSEs. No, I don’t want to commit to anything until I am certain of what this will entail… Happily, I spent Wednesday of last week at a course in London which aimed to address just that question.

The below, and what has quickly mushroomed into what will be a short series of posts, is an attempt to sort out the jumble of notes I took from the day, and a slightly stream-of-consciousness hypothesis of how I might ‘action’ these changes.

What are the changes to the KS3 Program of Study?

I was relieved to note that there was nothing unexpected in this: having completed a detailed analysis of the changes before I joined my new school in September I felt au fait with what was presented to us: I’ve already implemented SOWs on Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe in Year 7, and was passed a fab ‘Inspirational Speeches’ SOW which I’ve slotted into Year 8. If you’re not as geeky as I am (surely not! I hear you cry) the main changes are these:

So far, so good. As it were. This isn’t the time to expound my growing conviction that a knowledge-based curriculum in English is no bad thing, and in any case, in the interests of pragmatism, I’m not going to worry about the whys or wherefores. For now.

The biggest change, however, which I don’t mind admitting I am more concerned about, is the introduction of an equally-weighted fourth strand, focussing on grammar and vocabulary.

4th strand

I’m 29. This means that when I attended secondary school, I wasn’t taught discrete grammar lessons. Since qualifying in 2012 I haven’t had to teach discrete grammar lessons in such depth. This is scary! Again, thanks to my geeky obsession, I wasn’t unprepared for this change. I should interject here that having a best friend who teaches Year 6 is a fab thing, in many ways – I was, prior to my little investigation, completely unaware that the L6 SPAG paper contained such questions as

‘Rewrite a sentence in the passive voice; add a subordinate clause to a sentence; expand a noun into a noun phrase; identify abstract/common/proper/collective nouns; write a sentence using a colon and semi-colon correctly; identify the impersonal version of a sentence; tick boxes to show the type of adverb used – manner/time/place’

L6 example spelling words – recognised, wreckage, correspond, plummet, infinite, rhythmic, phenomenon

Paper 3 example (Level 6 only) – Write an article for your local paper describing something important to you that is available at no cost (eg a museum, park, good memories); write a short report arguing for or against cyberschooling

*edit: Robert Howell has got in touch to say that this indented text is from his curriculum map. Having perused my scrappy handwritten notes it certainly appears his ideas have penetrated all the way to the South Coast! All credit, etc. Further info on the KS2 SPAG tests can also be found here *

Yes, I am aware that not *every* child sits the L6 paper at KS2, but it illustrates my point. My top set Year 10s were, at the start of this year, unable to use a semi colon correctly – whether this is as a result of the dreaded ‘summer dip’ or something else, I cannot comment, as I didn’t teach them.

The issues, as I see them (for MY school) are these:

  1. How do we ‘apply and extend’ the discrete teaching of SPAG from the Primary PoS?
  2. What do I need to do in terms of refreshing/upskilling KS3 teachers (including myself!) to ensure that I am providing enough stretch for all learners in KS3?

Well. Weighty questions indeed. The first question, to my mind, is a case of ‘refresh and extend’. I’ve been in regular contact with Mr Hildrew with regards to a few things recently, and find his refreshingly no-nonsense approach to progress applies here. The fact is that regardless of how we, in secondary, regard our Year 7s’ ability against their reported KS2 level, they were assessed, somehow, as being at that level. There is no point mithering about it: we need to refresh their understanding of SPAG and move forwards. The fact is, students need to be at a certain proficiency by Year 9 to best ready them for the challenges of KS4. This brings to the fore my second question. Many English teachers are Literature graduates. I myself am a Classicist. A quick straw-poll of my department (and again, the point is anecdotal and will of course vary from school to school) revealed that many are not as comfortable as they would like to be in the discrete teaching of grammar. The new KS3 PoS has 27 pages of language terminology! Flicking through it, I remember (vaguely) a lecture during my GTP in which we were taught what a ‘split digraph’ is, from which I dutifully filed the notes into my standards file, and have never looked at since. To my mind, we in secondary have a great deal to learn from our primary colleagues. My first point-of-call, therefore, will be to speak to some primary practitioners and beg, borrow, or steal ideas. Secondly, and once I have a clearer idea of the direction we need to move into, I need to think about the ‘how’. At the conference I attended last week, one teacher explained how they had a ‘grammar’ department. I reacted with surprise: it seemed to be a nonsense – how can grammar *not* be interwoven within our normal teaching? I still firmly think that – as with all ‘literacy’ teaching – it shouldn’t be a bolt-on. However… I am still feeling a little woolly as to how else we can address this: ideas gratefully received!

Planned next post: an overview of the changes to KS4 and what this means for Year 9.

The Year 9 question – Part One: the changes to KS3

The Progress Premiership!

Firstly, let me be honest and admit that I didn’t think of this wonderfully alliterative title myself but instead, shamelessly purloined it from my last school (who used it as a pastoral support report).

However, having stolen the name, I have created what (I hope) will be a very focussed reporting system to help me help my most underachieving PP boys in KS3. This is in response to the rather frazzling (but extremely interesting) analysis of the first data capture of the year. My new school uses a system of MACs – monthly assessment checks – which means that every 4-5 weeks I will have a new data set to look at. This is daunting, I admit – but I am determined to see the positives in looking the progression (or lack thereof) of students this regularly.

Rationale:

PP boys are our biggest underachievers currently. I’m not entirely comfortable detailing the exact ‘gap’ on a public blog.. .but it’s NOT ok!

Introduction:

To address this I firstly need to ensure that ALL SOWs at KS3 are tailored to engaging all learners – but most particularly PP boys to enable them to make expected or better-than-expected progress. The new SOWs I have thus far implemented will be reviewed by all English staff on the new SOW feedback form, post-teaching, to better inform the changes we will make going forward into the next academic year.

However, in addition to this there needs to be a reward system specifically targeted at underachieving boys. Many (although not all) of these will be PP students. My proposal is for a ‘Progress Premiership’ which would allow for the targeted tracking and monitoring of students who have either regressed since joining our school or who are more than 3 sublevels away from their EOY targets.

Methodology:

To engage and inspire students this tracking system needs to be both positive and competitive. The ‘Progress Premiership’ should have, to my thinking, three broad strands: attendance, attainment and attitude. Students will be awarded ‘points’ for each English lesson in which the class teacher considers that they have achieved sufficiently well. Extra points can be awarded for specific attainment – for example full marks on a spelling test, attaining a higher mark in an assessed piece of work or taking part in a literacy-focussed extra-curricular activity.

In addition to this, the selected Progress Premiership students will receive additional support from myself, the HoD and possibly a PE teacher. This will take place once a fortnight and would comprise additional literacy activities, but with an emphasis on it being a ‘boys club’; something positive; not an arduous ‘extra work’ lesson. I feel that positive reinforcement is absolutely key here. It may be possible to implement some work with KS4 mentors too although the logistics of this could prove impossible.

The ‘reward’ element of the Progress Premiership would be ongoing in terms of praise letters and rewards but to my mind there should be an ‘end prize’ at the end of each half term for those who have achieve the most points; a ‘Top 20’ (dependent on the size of the cohort). This would need to be funded through PP money and should be something desirable to foster competition– this should be canvassed but ideas could be: a cinema afternoon with popcorn and drinks/ a hot chocolate morning with our HT/ a trip ice-skating/ a visit to St Mary’s stadium.

To balance this, however, it is important that those who do not ‘buy in’ to the scheme are not allowed to opt out. I propose a ‘red group’, to be on report to myself. These students would be monitored most intensely for attitude to learning. It would of course be possible to move out of this group

…so… I have obviously had a look at what some other schools are doing with regards to PP support and provision but I am more than open to hearing people’s thoughts on my ideas. I would love people to get in touch to tell me what they are doing to close that all-important gap!

The Progress Premiership!

The first half term: musings.

 

A reflection on my first half term.

As I write this, I’m trying to ignore the persistent tickling in my throat and odd muffling of my ears which tells me my yearly October bout of tonsillitis is due.

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks since September: starting a new role in a new school is always a time in which you feel, to some extent, an outsider. But this September saw me leave the school I had done part of my teacher training, and my first few years as a qualified teacher in to join a very different kind of school: less than half the number of students, more rural, and (currently!) in special measures to boot. More: this is my first role with responsibility – leading KS3 in English.

To say it’s been ‘different’ would be an understatement – and as a person who tends to the hyperbolic at any given opportunity I can, with all honesty, say I expected it to be so. Having spent several years in some extremely tough schools up in Birmingham and Wolverhampton before I qualified, I thought I knew what to expect of a school in measures. And yet. I didn’t expect to be welcomed by groups of warm, eager, friendly children – and I was.

Obviously, being on a journey out of measures has its challenges, (and there are many!) but I really am trying to focus my eye on the prize here: my department, my interaction on twitter and the AMAZINGLY inspiring #TLT14 (more later) have helped me remember all the positives.

With that in mind, I want to set out a list of WWW/EBIs for the next half term. Apologies if this seems a little cathartic…

1. Implementing a whole new curriculum for KS3.

WWW:
Well – I won’t actually detail all the thoughts I have had on this….! Suffice to say… I have faith (thankfully backed up by the first data set) that the new SOWs I have implemented allow for engagement and progression for all learners. Students genuinely seem to enjoy English and from my own teaching groups (1x Years 7-9) have embedded their learning.

EBI

Firstly, it was (ahem) ambitious of me to want to sweep in and implement a whole new curriculum for Years 7-9. In reality, this hasn’t happened, and there are many reasons why, but I guess the main thing I have learned is that it’s probably best to make smaller changes (even though it goes against my very nature!) but to make them as effective as possible.
My question (myriad, so I’ll try to keep it brief) is:
Have I been ‘challenging ENOUGH’ in my ideas? Jo Facer’s (@readingthebooks)  incredibly inspiring TLT session on ‘teaching the tough texts’  really made me focus on the whole texts I have prepared SOWs for. In particular, one thing that struck me was this:

‘I don’t just want them to enjoy literature: I want them to be literary critics’.

Quite. In a way, I suppose, I have been guilty of putting ‘engagement’ over what will actually allow them to develop as literary critics. There is a place for The Hunger Games and Twilight – but I don’t think it will NECESSARILY be as a ‘class reader’ for my groups.

2. Trying to be positive EVERY day.

WWW: I’m trying to moan less. Really, I am.

EBI: I could probably be a little kinder to myself here – I know that I, personally, have started to tire of the endless negativity propagated in some blogs and columns *cough Secret Teacher*. I do remember, and am grateful, that I left my last school to come to somewhere I felt I could make a real difference. This was a CHOICE – and one I feel that I ought to remind myself of on some of the tougher days. The lovely Amjad (@ASTSupportAli) has a mantra: Positive Mental Attitude, which has many more positive connotations that my own (Work or Fail) and is one which we could probably all use, I think.

Again, here, the support of the Twitter community – and by extension, TLT – has been an amazing boost to me. If you haven’t, already, go and read this by Chris Hildrew. The chap sums it up better than I could, I think.

3. Dealing with data.

WWW: never having had responsibility for data analysis before, Thursday was a slightly brain-melting shock to my system. Data is interesting, it is useful and, perhaps most pertinently, it’s not going to go away. I spent a portion of the afternoon and evening getting to grips with the first data capture for KS3 – and although it was time-consuming it was fascinating, and extremely valuable.

EBI: We encourage kids to take responsibility for ‘going the extra mile’ in something challenging, so with that in mind I have called upon the support of Pete (@TryAgainToday) who pointed me in the direction of some SIMS videos on youtube and even helped me with some formula which I have already asked to be added at school.

There is absolutely NO point in being totally au fait with data if I don’t DO something with it. With that in mind, and seeing as our PP boys, traditionally, have lagged way behind, I have decided to implement a ‘Progress Premiership’ in the next half term (details to be thrashed out this holiday!) for KS3 lads.

There are SO MANY MORE things I could write about… but think it has to be these three things which I need to focus on before Christmas. Oh, and the plan to do a couple of hours of work each day this week, instead of ignoring a growing sense of dread and then doing ALL OF THE WORK next Sunday. Whilst crying. Which is definitely not my normal modus operandi. Kidding! Maybe.

 

The first half term: musings.