Review by Andrew Old

19 Nov 2017, 5:00

Andrew Old’s top blogs of the week 13 November 2017

Blog reviewer Andrew Old shares his top picks this week


What can ‘iballisticsquid’ tell us about teaching writing?

Should feedback be specific to the task at hand or general so that it can be used on other work in the future? Heather Fearn takes inspiration from how her son learns to play computer games, from the example of other players he watches on YouTube. Examples are a very good way to learn, and if that’s going to be used in feedback, it will have to be examples that are specific to the task at hand.


The real way to instill a love of learning

According to this primary school teacher, one of the things many primary schools attempt to do is instil a love of learning in their students. She challenges the idea that there is any reason to think that this is working. Her claim is that students come to love things like learning only by being successful at them, and that this should be the aim of their teachers.


How not to prepare for reading tests

Can students actually be prepared for reading tests? According to this English teacher, there is only very a limited amount that can be done. As long as students can decode text, and have become familiar with the style of questioning, then the most important aspect of reading will be having the knowledge and vocabulary to understand the text, and this means that the knowledge students learn in school will be far more important than test drills.


In defence of depth

A former history teacher discusses why he always wanted to teach the Arab-Israeli conflict as part of the iGCSE course, and why others rejected the idea. A new topic area creates work for teachers but he discusses why he thinks students would have gained from learning about such a complex subject, which in his view allowed for more controversy and debate than many of the other topics studied in history.


A little rant on, you guessed it, behaviour

This blogpost on behaviour by a new teacher shares the insight that what we should be discussing is whether we should accept that poor behaviour is inevitable for new teachers. “Am I being set up to fail now, all so that at the end of the year, someone can come and observe me to say that I’ve finally mastered the fine art of behaviour management, when really it was just a matter of spending the year building up my reputation and relationships with the students?” She suggests that Ofsted make an effort to visit new teachers when they inspect.


How to manage “0-60” in our behaviour system

Another post about behaviour, this one discusses how to use a system of sanctions, without simply escalating quickly from one sanction to another. She suggests ways of avoiding arguments and reminding students why the discipline system exists.


The tyranny of command verbs

Here, a history teacher discusses essay questions. He points out that boards setting exams for schools “specify what command verbs they are going to include, and then set out in the mark scheme what a response to that particular command verb looks like”. He contrasts this with the much greater variety used in exam questions used by universities.


The best-laid plans: 101 reasons why lessons go wrong

This is remarkably entertaining for a list. It is a fairly comprehensive summary of the things that can disrupt a lesson, from wasps to visitors from Denmark. The ingenuity of the list, and the way one item leads into the next, provides much of the amusement, but more than anything this is a reminder for experienced teachers of things that will have happened to every one of us at some point (except, perhaps, for the visitors from Denmark).

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