A Love Letter To Miss Watson

Miss Watson emailed me recently. Miss Watson! She was my form tutor in year 9 and 10. I hated Miss Watson. And loved her.

What I Learned About Teaching at the Wellington Education Festival

Last weekend I attended the Sunday Times Education Festival at Wellington. It was brilliant. Sunshine, nice grounds, hundreds of people chatting about edu-nerdy things. It's basically my nirvana. Busy enjoying myself I didn't take many notes or feel particularly moved to write a blog about it all. HOWEVER, one event stayed with me all week … Continue reading What I Learned About Teaching at the Wellington Education Festival

What Happened at the TouchPaper Problem Party?

Saturday was the scene of the first ever TouchPaper Problem Party, and it was amazing. It was, quite literally, a super fun nerdy education party! The story of its genesis is remarkably simple. A few months after I gave a talk at the ResearchEd conference in which I laid out 7 questions that I thought … Continue reading What Happened at the TouchPaper Problem Party?

TouchPaper Problem #7 – Memorising information (for up to 6 months)

This is the seventh blogpost expanding on the TouchPaper Problems first discussed at #Researched2013 and due to be tackled at the first TouchPaper Problem Party. Question #7 - What is the optimal number of times for a student to (a) read, (b) hear, or (c) say information aloud if they are to retain for 1, 3, & 6 month intervals? … Continue reading TouchPaper Problem #7 – Memorising information (for up to 6 months)

TouchPaper Problem #6 – Teacher Perceptions of Behaviour

This is the sixth blogpost expanding on the TouchPaper Problems first discussed at #Researched2013 and due to be tackled at the first TouchPaper Problem Party. Question #6 - What rule best predicts teacher ‘behaviour’ ratings of pupils? Teachers are often asked to describe student behaviour: to their parents, on report cards, even to students themselves. But is it the child's … Continue reading TouchPaper Problem #6 – Teacher Perceptions of Behaviour

TouchPaper Problem #5 – Getting Classes To Enter Rooms Effectively

This is the fifth blogpost expanding on the TouchPaper Problems first discussed at #Researched2013 and due to be tackled at the first TouchPaper Problem Party. Question #5 - What are the necessary and sufficient conditions under which students will enter a classroom and most speedily engage in productive problem-solving? Education is a zero sum game. We have a finite … Continue reading TouchPaper Problem #5 – Getting Classes To Enter Rooms Effectively

TouchPaper Problem #4 – What determines the complexity of a concept?

This is the fourth blogpost expanding on the TouchPaper Problems first discussed at #Researched2013 and due to be tackled at the first TouchPaper Problem Party. Question #4 - What determines the complexity of a concept? In my estimation, this is the hardest of all the problems, but it's also really important. As a teacher I was constantly trying to … Continue reading TouchPaper Problem #4 – What determines the complexity of a concept?

TouchPaper Problem #3 – Effective Homeworks for Memorizing Things

This is the third blogpost expanding on the TouchPaper Problems first discussed at #Researched2013 and due to be tackled at the first TouchPaper Problem Party. Question #3 - If a child needs to remember 20 chunks of knowledge from one lesson to the next, what is the most effective homework to set? One of the most frustrating moments as … Continue reading TouchPaper Problem #3 – Effective Homeworks for Memorizing Things

Announcing: The 1st TouchPaper Problem Solving Party

Back in September, the ResearchEd conference hosted a vast range of speakers suggesting how research might be more effectively used in education. My own contribution was a presentation of 7 problems which, if answered, would help teachers understand important things about their job. (See the full talk here) The list was called the "TouchPaper Problems" - … Continue reading Announcing: The 1st TouchPaper Problem Solving Party

Should teachers publish the test scores of their classes?

I am currently being forced to read shedloads of papers about “Total Quality Management” – both in engineering and in education. Much of it is soporific management speak. But every now and then something catches my eye. Here’s today's: Having charts showing defect rates posted on the shop significantly predicted company improvement Among a bunch … Continue reading Should teachers publish the test scores of their classes?

The Quick, The Weird, and The Thorough: How I Mark Student Work

Bit late on this month's blogsync but better than never, right?... Topic (last) month was: Marking With Impact. Having taught several subjects across KS3 - 5, my marking techniques have varied. Here are just three which I think had impact even if they're not faultless. The Quick In my first year I taught 580 students per week. … Continue reading The Quick, The Weird, and The Thorough: How I Mark Student Work

TouchPaper Problem #2 – Productive Emotions

This is the second blogpost expanding on the TouchPaper Problems first discussed at #Researched2013.  2. How can one invoke in a class the emotional state most productive for: (a) prosocial behaviour, (b) evaluative thinking, (c) memorization, (d) creation? One of the things we do as teachers is plan activities. We figure out what students should be  know or … Continue reading TouchPaper Problem #2 – Productive Emotions

TouchPaper Problem #1 – The Spelling of a 1000 Words

This is the first blogpost expanding on the TouchPaper Problems first discussed at #Researched2013.  What is the shortest period of a time in which a person with dyslexia can be taught to spell the 1000 most common words in English? This question is fraught with perils, I know, but let me explain.... In teaching we often … Continue reading TouchPaper Problem #1 – The Spelling of a 1000 Words

Homework Excuse Notes

With no #blogsync over the summer, I've not written anything 'classroom-y' for a while. So I thought I'd share this tip while awaiting the September blogync topic. One of the problems of my first year in teaching was getting students to do homework. More specifically, I struggled keeping tabs on students who didn't do the … Continue reading Homework Excuse Notes

June #blogsync – My Best Classroom Explanations

This month's #blogsync asked education bloggers to describe "an example of a great classroom explanation". The theme is inspired by an Alex Quigley blog on "Top Tips for Explanation", itself inspired by Joe Kirby's "What Makes Great Teaching?" It's an important issue because all teachers know that the way we explain things matters for how … Continue reading June #blogsync – My Best Classroom Explanations

Why Sex Education Matters to “Nervous” Young People

With schools taking a vacation from the National Curriculum and a renewed focus on traditional 'academic' subjects, many schools have already laughed subjects like Sex Education off their teaching roster. "Teaching about condoms?" they say, "Ha! How quaint. These days we teach about real things like romantic poetry and royal history".Except, however quaint it might seem, sex … Continue reading Why Sex Education Matters to “Nervous” Young People

#Blogsync: How would I improve the status of the teaching profession?

Teachers don't need their status raised in the eyes of the public. Telling people that you're a teacher, especially one who works in a secondary school, generally garners immediate respect. People will tell you that you're brave, and how they couldn't do it, and how important the job is, and that they take their hat … Continue reading #Blogsync: How would I improve the status of the teaching profession?

The @redorgreenpen Problem

If you haven't been reading @redorgreenpen's penetrating "7 kids in 7 days" blog, then you've missed out. By describing in searching detail the behaviours of seven students, anonymous blogger redorgreenpen gives the most authentic descriptions of challenging students' lives I have read in some time. Possibly ever.The story of Arianne on the sixth day made me particularly … Continue reading The @redorgreenpen Problem

This Is Water

I recently wrote a piece called "Why I Learn" to inspire pupils at Greenwich Free School. You can find out what they thought of the piece here. Partly the piece was inspired by a commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace. Last week I discovered this excerpt of him reading the speech set to music … Continue reading This Is Water

Progress: How I know it is made

The topic of this month's #blogsync is "Progress in my classroom? How is it made and how I know it?" This post doesn't really tackle the philosophy of progress but I am going to give my best tip for ensuring you and your students know they have learned all the essential facts on a topic. When … Continue reading Progress: How I know it is made

Why Learn?

In a recent email chain with the ever-thoughtful Harry Fletcher-Wood he asked me to write something short, building on a comment I'd made on Twitter, about why I believed in education. First I pointed him to David Foster Wallace's speech about education, as it is similar to my own feeling. But Harry wanted something to share with … Continue reading Why Learn?

My Mum’s Perspective on Card Sorts

Tonight on Twitter, Tessa Matthews, of the incisive blog Tabula Rasa Education wrote: https://twitter.com/TessaLMatthews/status/324630874278727680 Now, given that learning styles have been 'debunked' I sympathise with the viewpoint. There's simply no evidence that students only learn while moving, singing, running, jumping, etc. HOWEVER! I, unlike most teachers, was not raised in a house full of people who loved learning. My mum is … Continue reading My Mum’s Perspective on Card Sorts

How I Survived the First Year of Teaching

“Nobody said it was easy, but no-one ever said it would be this hard” - Coldplay On my fourth day as a teacher I was assaulted by a pupil who came back after school to attack me. A few months later I suffered a rib fracture from a student who tried to punch another kid … Continue reading How I Survived the First Year of Teaching

Getting Zero

I got zero on a maths test this week. Zero. On a maths test. I'm good at maths, and I've never got zero on anything in my life. Afterwards I was shell-shocked for about fifteen minutes. The tests are given at the beginning of a weekly matrix algebra class I'm taking. Being 30 and studying algebra … Continue reading Getting Zero

“Let’s Talk About Love”

Click if you dare Carl Wilson so hates Celine Dion that he begins his book by arguing she is "bland monotony raised to a pitch of obnoxious bombast”. Harsh. Given his burning dislike, when he's subsequently requested to write a retrospective about Dion's 1998 album “Let’s Talk about Love” (the one involving the nauseating My Heart Will … Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Love”

White Free School Meal Pupils do considerably worse at GCSEs than any other ethnic group

In Thursday's Parliamentary Written Questions, information was released about the GCSE results of pupils who attend mainstream state-funded schools, have no special educational needs and are eligible for free schools. In essence: "poor kids". The results were broken down by ethnicity and show the % of students in each ethnic group who did not get a C … Continue reading White Free School Meal Pupils do considerably worse at GCSEs than any other ethnic group