Blog of the Week: 15 January 2021 – Some top tips for making teaching videos

A Chemical Orthodoxy

As a school, we’ve decided to spend time this term making teaching videos. There are two reasons for this:

  1. it will help our students who aren’t in school and generally prepare everyone in the event of a school closer
  2. it’s a great way to improve our modelling

It’s difficult to know what “worst case scenario” means, but if we never need to shut or lockdown or whatever, reason 2 is still incredibly powerful.

Over the last lockdown, I made 44 videos for Oak National Academy and close to 20 for Boxer’s Shorts. I made a lot of mistakes, got some great feedback and also had to work out a whole bunch of things for myself. This is inefficient, so I wrote the list below to help out my colleagues if they were interested. You might be interested too, so hopefully it will help you as well. Please note that I…

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Blog of the Week: 8 January 2020 – Certainties

Teachers don’t do well with uncertainty. There’s something about the reassuring ring of the bell that tells us everything is in its place. The comforting hug of routine keeps us safe and secure. The tidal rhythms of each half-term are calming in their familiarity.

So there’s nothing quite like the ‘unprecedented times’ of global pandemic to whip the rug from our feet and make us feel lost.

I’ve found it particularly hard to shift gears between normality and extraordinary times. From March to July, everything was different. But September lulled us into a false sense of security. Exams were firmly on. The R-Rate where I work was mercifully low. We had established our bubbles and new systems and things were relatively calm. So back to business as usual: reading ages, coaching, culture and feedback. Wonderful, I thought. Back to what I’m good at. Back to what I know. Back to…

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Blog of the Week: 18 December 2020 – A masterful no opt out by Danarius Frazier

Every once in a while, you come across an example of a teacher using a technique in the classroom that captures almost everything you wanted to say about it–Why a teacher would use it. How.

It’s a case study in how to apply a tool to advance learning and it pushes your understanding of the idea even a little more–you see it and think: Yes, that’s what I was trying to describe all along, even if you never quite did.You see it and you say: “Yes. That’s it.”

That’s how I felt last week when I watched this clip of Denarius Frazier using No Opt Out in his Geometry class at Uncommon Collegiate High School so I wanted to …

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Blog of the Week: 11 December 2020 – Pupils can learn more effectively through stories than activities

A randomised controlled trial found that children learn about evolution more effectively when engaged through stories read by the teacher, than through doing tasks to demonstrate the same concept.

The scientists investigated several different methods of teaching evolution in primary schools, to test whether a pupil-centred approach (where pupils took part in an activity) or a teacher-centred approach (where pupils were read a story by the teacher), led to a greater improvement in understanding of the topic.

They also looked at whether using human-based examples of evolution (comparing arm bones in humans with those in animals), or more abstract examples that were harder to emotionally engage with (comparing the patterns of trilobites), produced better…

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Blog of the Week: 4 December 2020 – Zooming In and Out

My wife is a photographer. She really enjoys photographing everything from births to kindergarten graduations to senior pictures. When she began, she had a pretty good camera and stock lens. Over the years she has acquired, among other photography gadgets, different types of lenses. One specializes in wider angles, one allows her to zoom in and photograph tiny newborn fingers and toes, and one is fixed (she calls it her ‘nifty 50’). I have been lucky enough to be privy to her editing of photos. It is quite interesting to see how different lenses provide unique perspectives on the same scene. Zoom in and a family seated on a blanket appear surrounded. Zoom out and you see they are actually in a large field and the focus changes to mountains in the background. An array of lenses allows for the ability to photograph the same information from different perspectives. 

I see knowledge the same way. Knowledge gives us the ability to zoom in and out, to see both…

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Blog of the Week: 27 November 2020 – Making a good impression

Matthew Evans

When I think of my experience of learning French at school, I have particular memories and a general feeling of negativity. I remember one French teacher more than others: her high pitched voice, her tendency to become irritated easily, her inability to look you in the eye. She was one of those people who closes their eyes when they speak – her eyelids fluttering nervously – a habit we would cruelly imitate when her back was turned. I didn’t enjoy the subject. I was a poor student, and to this day I define myself as being ‘bad at languages’.

I have tried to overcome both my inability to learn another language and my poor self-image as a linguist, but to no avail. I suffered the same problem in relation to PE, a subject I truly loathed and avoided at all costs (usually by faking an asthma attack – don’t do…

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Blog of the Week: 20 November 2020 – Connection Cues

Kat Howard

I’ve been thinking about how I use retrieval in the classroom, and how over time, this has become a much more responsive process, with a sense of automaticity that was certainly not there in the earlier years of my teaching practice. I thought it might be useful to share my thinking on how to set about the task of using retrieval in an organic way that pushes beyond substantive recall, and looks to achieve perhaps a little more than that at a conceptual level to aid delivery of the curriculum.

I wanted to explore the core components of the way in which I use retrieval in my explanation and questioning with students, as opposed to an isolated event at the start or close of the lesson. To be able to ascertain the process, I sought to first establish the stumbling blocks of why, whilst retrieval to engage students is effective…

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Blog of the Week: 13 November 2020 – One Sentence at a Time

The Need for Explicit Instruction in Teaching Students to Write Well

By Judith C. Hochman, Natalie Wexler

American Educator Summer 2017

When Monica entered high school, her writing skills were minimal. After repeating first grade and getting more than 100 hours of tutoring in elementary school, she’d managed to learn to read well enough to get by, and she was comfortable with math. But writing seemed beyond her reach.

During her freshman year at New Dorp High School, a historically low-performing school on Staten Island in New York City, Monica’s history teacher asked her to write an essay on Alexander the Great. “I think Alexander the Great was one of the best military leaders,” Monica wrote. Her entire response consisted of six simple sentences, one of …

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Blog of the Week: CLT 2.0 – The Teacher Scaffolding Effects


Cognitive Load Theory is increasingly impacting on teachers. Its latest inclusion being in the Early Career Framework.  Alongside its wider impact on policy, it is featuring in professional development programmes, influencing people’s thinking and hopefully their approach to teaching.  At its heart, it is a theory about instructional (teaching) design. 

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Blog of the Week: 23 October 2020 – Booklets, Rosenshine, Teach Like A Champion, and Knowledge-Rich Curriculum

Booklets are a brilliant tool in delivering an ambitious, knowledge-rich curriculum. While a curriculum can never be reduced to booklets, it can be highly codified in them and in doing so is much more likely to be consistently enacted in lessons. The subject of planning with booklets has often been misunderstood: it is necessary for teachers to plan for lessons delivered with booklets, and planning consists of three strands. For two of these strands, Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction provide a useful structure as a starting point, but caution is advised. Any generic model will eventually fall foul of subject specialism if applied unthinkingly; instead of mandating rigid structures to all teachers of all subjects we should proceed with questions and trust, ultimately, in what the subject tells us is appropriate.

Let us first briefly outline the benefits of booklets. The booklet model can provide:

A minimum guarantee – If your department uses booklets to codify curriculum as far as possible, then you are immediately lifting the minimum guarantee in several key areas. The content itself is no longer left to individual teachers’ interpretations of a section of the spec, what they think will or won’t engage that particular group, or what was free on TES when they were planning on Sunday night. Subject leaders are empowered to really lead their subject and assure excellence in the substance …

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