Andrew Old’s top blogs of the week 6 July 2014

Activities: the devil will find work for idle hands to do

By @JamesTheo

An English teacher explains how his department has abandoned its old belief that lessons could be planned by identifying great activities to do, and then working out what could be learned from them. “This is the cult of activity: an unconscious belief that occupying pupils with something is the most important part of lesson or homework planning, over and above deciding what it is that we want pupils to learn.”

Keep it simple, stupid

By @BodilUK

Bodil Isaksen is another teacher unimpressed by fancy activities. Here she argues that simple and consistent routines make for better lessons. Variety can be provided by a spread of subjects in the curriculum, it does not have to be provided by games and gimmicks. This allows students to focus on mastering the subject.

Graded lesson observations: alive and kicking?

By @HuntingEnglish

Alex Quigley, director of learning & research and an English teacher at Huntington School in York, reminds us why graded lesson observations are not a good way to improve teaching. He also expresses his disbelief that so many schools are still using them.

“Only three or four years ago graded lesson observations were the norm in pretty much every school in the nation. Since then, with repeated confirmation from Ofsted, the practice is on the wane. Still, however, many staffrooms will speak of still being subjected to this discredited and discouraging practice.”

Classroom Confessions: the “what ifs” you can’t prepare for

By @MissWhiteMaths

A new teacher reflects on the questions all those starting out might ask. In the process she recalls all the most awkward and challenging situations she, and other teachers she knows, have experienced. They range from rudeness and confrontation to arson, but focus particularly on the embarrassing. Some are scary; others are funny. If you are a teacher, it would be worth asking yourself what you’d do in those situations.

What if some inspectors… are wrong?!

By @MichaelT1979

Far more terrifying than those situations, though, is the prospect of an inspector who is convinced he or she is right. Here, a primary deputy head discusses how little we know about what makes for truly effective marking, and raises the possibility of Ofsted inspectors, who are convinced they do know what works, judging teachers according to those unsupported opinions.

Negative marking is realistic marking

By @AnthonyRadice1

This post is a solid argument against “positive marking” that conceals the deficiencies of the work being marked.

“Picking people up on their mistakes, and ensuring their mistakes have consequences, proves that we really care about what we are teaching, and we really care whether our pupils have understood it. Ignoring or minimising error for the sake of self esteem is patronising and does not benefit our pupils in the long term. After years soaking in the tepid waters of dishonest praise, they are likely to find reality a particularly shocking inundation of icy cold water.”

The hiding of the blue penis – my no. 1 #TeacherBloopers

By @miss_mcinerney

I was going to skip this one. The writer is already heavily featured in this publication, as she its editor. And any description of the post might give away the ending. But I just couldn’t leave it out. All I’ll say is: this is an embarrassing teacher story to top them all.