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15 of the Best Education Blog Posts you Should be Reading Today

We've rounded up our most popular blog posts on Teachwire and put them all in one place, so if you happened to miss any of them make sure to give them a read...

  • 15 of the Best Education Blog Posts you Should be Reading Today

1 | What’s the use of Handwriting?

Jane Medwell, David Wray and the Write Your Future campaign

Handwriting is an important part of writing composition, and a language act, rather than just a motor act used to record writing.

According to a survey of 2,000 people, one in three people had not written anything by hand in the previous six months. This issue, however, is not restricted to adults but is also apparent in our education system.

For example, in the US, education authorities appear to have accepted this decline, with cursive writing being dropped from the Common Core Curriculum Standards, following the evidence that students tend to take notes on their laptops, rather than via handwriting.

Why has the role of handwriting, and by extension, its teaching, become so diminished?

Read the full article here.

2 | Messing About With The Reggio Emilia Approach – It’s Not All Clean And Minimalist

Suzanne Axelsson

What looks like chaos to you might be a source of creativity to young learners, so don’t be so quick to clear things away

Most often when people think of a Reggio Emilia Approach classroom they think of a beautiful room, natural materials and an orderly aesthetic. And yes, there is an element of truth to this, but it is not the whole story. Learning is not orderly or aesthetic, it is organic and that means it can get messy, it can get chaotic, and that is perfectly fine.

For me, being “Reggio inspired” is about ideas, about connecting ideas, expanding ideas, interacting with each others’ ideas, building ideas – and doing this collaboratively. This means we need to get prepared for mess – to explore, to discover, to make mistakes and try again.

Read the full article here.

3 | Turn Pupils Into Mathemagicians With These Creative Ideas For Maths Clubs

Jo Morgan

Getting kids hooked on maths can sometimes be a bit of a task, but with these excellent ideas you’ll always have an ace up your sleeve

The extracurricular offering of most primary and secondary schools typically includes music, languages, art and PE. But some children would like nothing more than to attend a maths club. To quote Count On Us, an initiative that provides free maths-club resources to primary schools:

“A good maths club gives pupils the opportunity to experience maths outside the normal classroom environment, and should make maths engaging and enjoyable. The club should raise the profile of maths in school and support your pupils to: improve their subject knowledge, improve their attitudes to maths and increase self-confidence”.

In this article I will share some of the wonderful maths clubs that schools are running all over the world, and ask that you leave a comment to tell us about the clubs that you run too.

Read the full article here.

4 | Bring Multiplication Tables to Life With Real-World Examples – From Animal Legs to Eggs in a Box

Karen Wilding

Times tables are more important than just memorising sums, they can form the memorable groundwork for children’s greater mathematical understanding…if taught right

With regards to learning mathematics, possibly one of the few things everyone agrees on is the importance of knowing multiplication facts. However, why we need them and how best to learn them remain hot topics debated over the ages.

Having multiplication facts as a key part of our internal ‘mathematical tool box’ is hugely important because we use them constantly in everyday life.

Sadly, for most children (and for generations before them) the reason to learn these ‘times tables’ is not focused upon this meaningful and motivational application, but instead upon learning facts rote style to pass a class test, and often at speed.

Failing to memorise and regurgitate these facts is cited by many adults as evidence that they are failures in mathematics, leading to a mindset that turns them off learning this wonderful subject altogether. So, let’s agree that multiplication facts are vital skills to being a successful mathematician.

Read the full article here.

5 | Combating Toxic Masculinity In Our Schools – Un-Teaching Gender Stereotypes For Boys

Dr Finn Mackay

There’s no biological reason boys should like cars, but there is a biological reason for boys to cry, it’s called human expression and development, says Dr Finn Mackay

Today there are still articles doing the rounds about how to teach boys, or what helps in getting boys to read earlier, or whether boys’ hands really do naturally hurt when holding a pen for too long.

I propose that it is time to take off our superhero capes and lay down our gun-shaped sticks! Boys are not from Mars and girls are not from Venus; our children are human beings, with equal capacity for loving and caring and equal need for loving and caring. Of course there are important pedagogical insights when it comes to teaching boys, as with girls, but this is not because of genetic differences in boys, it is because of what society has done to them.

The expectations and restrictions of gender are learned early on and mean that children scrutinise and police their own behaviour and the behaviour of others – they police their styles, clothes, manner, speech and expression. Young children copy and learn that there are certain, sex-specific ways that they should sit, walk, eat, have their hair and that there are certain, sex-specific clothes, colours, games, toys, books, sports, hobbies which are out of bounds.

Read the full article here.

6 | Boost Reading Comprehension Using Song Lyrics

Matt Dix

Sing your way through SATs with Matt Dix’s guide to using popular music to increase children’s literacy skills

As a Year 6 teacher, I’ve been thinking long and hard about reading, particularly since the SATS tests have become increasingly more difficult, but also because I want to get better at teaching reading itself. Above all, I want my class to read with greater understanding, to use key reading skills and to persevere through tough texts.

There’s been much research of late describing the benefits of mixed-ability teaching, as well as whole-class reading. One thing has always annoyed me when collating reading resources, though, is the dreaded reading comprehension! Much like how an independent writing task doesn’t improve writing, neither does an independent reading comprehension task. This is why more and more practitioners are focusing on key skills in a more organised fashion.

Take @redgierob from The Literacy Shed, who has come up with the memorable mnemonic of VIPERS (Vocabulary, Infer, Predict, Explain, Retrieve and Summarise). Then, there is Twinkl’s new resources linking each comprehension question to a specific skill using picture keys (in their case dogs) or @templarwilson’s DERIC (Decode, Explain, Retrieve, Interpret, Choice).

So, with all of this in mind, where exactly did it all take me? Well, as a teacher with a huge passion for music of all genres and ages, it occurred to me that that the lyrics to many famous songs work as both narratives and poems.

Read the full article here.

7 | The Top 5 Christmas Gifts for Maths Teachers This Year

Jo Morgan

‘Number 1 Teacher’ mugs won’t cut it for maths specialists, they know the statistical unlikelihood of that statement. But fear not, there are loads of great gifts to go get this December

How wonderful to have the opportunity to buy a gift for maths teacher at Christmas. Most maths teachers are very easily pleased – anything vaguely mathematical will make them happy, and nice stationery for school makes a great stocking filler!

Thankfully there are so many awesome mathsy gifts available, you’re spoilt for choice. Here are five of the best gifts for maths teachers this Christmas…

Read the full article here.

8 | A Growing Vocabulary Is The Key To Unshackling Children’s Minds

Nick Hart

“The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

I’ve always been fascinated by the point at which a child with EAL switches from thinking and dreaming in their mother tongue to thinking and dreaming in English.

At that point, they’ll may have a wide enough vocabulary to get by, but take a moment to think of all the situations for which they do not yet have the language.

As teachers, it’s vital that we provide all children with the lexical dexterity to make sense of the world and to communicate their understanding.

In 2016 many schools will have experienced a dip in attainment, as indeed the national average did. The last two KS2 Reading SATs papers certainly were tough, and it was quite apparent, more so than in years gone by, that children with narrow or shallow vocabularies struggled.

Small children’s vocabularies do grow quickly as they hear and experiment with words, and as they get older, books open up a whole world of new words. This may not be enough though, particularly for our most disadvantaged children. So explicitly teaching vocabulary can vastly improve reading comprehension and more importantly, unshackle the mind to comprehend the many wonders of the world.

What follows is some advice on how to teach vocabulary so that it sticks.

Read the full article here.

9 | Eight Mistakes Schools Make Teaching the Bar Model Method In Maths (and How to Avoid Them)

Mohi Uddin Ahmed

From choosing the right model for each question to using the CPA approach, make sure your Singapore Maths teaching is picture perfect

So, you are thinking of introducing bar models to your school? It’s an exciting feeling. We know as we’ve spoken to and supported many schools in implementing a whole-school bar modelling approach all over England.

But while it is an exciting time, there are a few things to consider before implementing the approach, and a few more points to cover while your teachers are formally introducing bar models to pupils in your school.

As we visit more and more schools trying to introduce the bar modelling approach in their settings, we can see that many are making a number of mistakes, so after the initial excitement and eagerness to reveal a fantastic strategy to their staff and children, it can quickly feel like an uphill task.

So, what are these mistakes, and how do you get past them?

Read the full article here.

10 | “Dear NQTs” – A Welcome Letter From Your Friendly, Slightly-Controlling And Data-Driven Head

Fake Headteacher

Ready to face your first class with enthusiastic ideas and a creative curriculum? The Fake Headteacher has something to say about that

Dear Newly Qualified Teachers, congratulations on your new job!

You won’t be that boring teacher you remember at school. You’ll be different. Your methods will be hip and trendy. You’ll think outside the box and spend hours creating innovative and engaging lessons.

Perhaps the TV adverts attracted you to the role. After all, they promise inflated salaries, and suggested that the five children in your class will be impeccably behaved. They showed that lessons are fun and the rapport between the teacher and pupils excellent. Perhaps they motivated you to want to plan original and interesting lessons for your new class.

You probably already have lots of great ideas for your display boards that will enthuse learning, and are looking forward to marking work in a way you feel will motivate pupils to feel good about their efforts. You probably have exciting, fresh new topics that you want to introduce too.

You must be so, so excited, because after all of your training and hard work you’ll soon be allowed to independently plan, teach and nurture your very own class. The feeling is almost overwhelming, but the responsibility of choosing what and how to teach is what makes the job so rewarding.

Maybe that’s how you came to be an NQT.

Now for a reality check.

Read the full article here.

11 | Teacher Workload – It’s Time to Stand Up and Just Say No

Sarah Bedwell

Schools, heads and students are all under pressure and teachers are jammed into the middle of all that, so it’s inevitable that workload is an ever-increasing issue. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s 9pm on a Saturday. It’s cold outside, the fire is lit, and it’d be an ideal time to be kicking back reading a great piece of fiction or watching a movie.

Alas, what’s in front of me isn’t a book or a bowl of popcorn; there are piles of books, folders and exam papers. It’s our subject review next week, I’m being observed on Monday and there are learning walks on Tuesday. As a result, my weekend is decidedly less leisurely than normal.

As a teacher, I know that high workload is crippling teachers across the country. Endless marking (books, mock exams, assessments, single marking, triple marking, upside-down-standing-on-your-head marking…), changes to specifications, SATs preparation, Ofsted preparation, appraisal, reviews, learning walks and scrutiny of every aspect of teaching often mean that the actual teaching portion of the job is the smallest focal point of any day.

Schools are under pressure, heads are under pressure, students are under pressure and teachers are jammed into the middle of all that. It’s inevitable that workload is an ever-increasing issue.

But it really doesn’t have to be that way. The vast majority of teachers are employed under School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions, which caps directed time to 1,265 hours per year, plus a reasonable number of hours in order to complete duties including planning and assessment.

Read the full article here.

12 | Truths, Myths and Misconceptions About Maths Mastery

Tony Staneff

Tony Staneff lifts the lid on five of the most common misconceptions around this much-discussed approach to maths…

Does mastery have to be East Asian? How do we cover the whole curriculum if we are teaching topics in greater depth? How can we afford to change our approach to maths? These are just some of the questions I hear time and time again in relation to the teaching of maths mastery in England.

In my work with schools across the country, I know that when taught well, the mastery approach to maths can empower pupils to work hard and succeed by tackling the same concepts at the same time, leading to deeper learning and understanding for every child in the classroom.

That said, there is still varying levels of understanding as to what the approach actually entails.

Here I address five of the most frequently asked questions on maths mastery, so that you can make your own decision on whether it’s the approach you would like to embed across your school.

Read the full article here.

13 | Helicopter Stories Can Boost Speaking And Listening Skills In Your Early Years Setting

Trisha Lee

Under 5s are the real experts in the Early Years classroom, says Trisha Lee

“Once upon a time there was a little girl who was gone all over the place, gone to China. And a monster came to China and he was stamping around all over the world. And the big monster did jump all the way to Antarctica and he was freezing cold. And he jumped into Indonesia, and he jumped all the way to Canada.”
– Alex, aged 3

Alex’s story was told to my colleague, Isla, on a normal Helicopter Stories day in a private, voluntary and independent setting (PVI) in Havering.

The three-year-old was delighted to be dictating his story and looked in different directions as he spoke, as if tracking the monster’s journey in his mind.

The adults in the room were surprised. Somehow Alex had acquired the names of countries he had never visited, and information on each, such as the fact that Antarctica is freezing.

Even his mother wasn’t sure where the information came from, but perhaps through something he’d watched or something he’d heard, Alex had made the connections and demonstrated that in his story.

Through scribing and leading the class in acting Alex’s story out, the practitioners in Havering learned something new about this three-year-old: they discovered his expertise.

Read the full article here.

14 | Why it’s Time for Maths Teachers to Bin BODMAS

Owen Elton

Virtually every secondary school student in the UK has encountered the order of operations acronym, but there’s a problem; it doesn’t always work

I began my teaching career at Highgate School. Youthful, untrained, and not yet balding, I was thrust into the steepest learning curve of my life.

Weekly meetings with my head of department were vital for discussing pedagogy and I clung faithfully to his instructions: “Never abbreviate Cumulative Frequency”, “We always flip coins and get tails, we never toss coins and get heads”, and of uppermost importance, “We never, ever use BODMAS”.

Not using BODMAS was less easy than you might imagine. Students arrived well-versed in its application.

We had to unteach it. We had to persuade rooms full of teenagers that they had to alter the fundamental tenets of their arithmetical belief system. This was difficult because teenagers hate change and they hate adults proselytising. So why on earth would we bother? What had convinced an entire department that so much effort should be expelled on such a seemingly trivial matter?

BODMAS is wrong. That’s what.

Read the full article here.

15 | “No Matter How Ready You Think You Are, The Difference Is Staggering” – How I Survived My First Year As A Middle Leader

Nikki Carlin

“You can read all the leadership books you want, but nothing prepares you for having to have a conversation with a team member about the school dress code”

This summer holiday is more than just a very welcome break for me, it also marks the end of my first year as Head of English.

Results day this August will suddenly hold new meaning; I’m not going to be selfishly scanning SISRA for those kids in my own class. I am no longer just part of a team; I’m leading one. The difference, no matter how much you think you’re ready for it, is quite staggering.

I’ve learnt a great deal about being a leader this year. Never assume that because you’ve got that middle leadership role that you’ve already nailed it, that you’ve got this leadership malarkey sorted. Oh no. All that successful interview means is that someone believes you have lots of potential to be a great leader – now you have to prove it.

And trust me, you can read all the leadership books you want but nothing prepares you for having to have a conversation with a team member about the school dress code or those times when you really need to mark your books but you’re being pulled in 100 different directions by pupils, teachers, the admin team, and SLT.

Despite all the hurdles you will have to clear as a new Head of Department, you must remember that the school chose you for a reason. Everyone finds their own way through it but here are some of the ways I coped this year:

Read the full article here.

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