Review by Andrew Old

14 Jan 2018, 5:00

Andrew Old’s top blogs of the week 8 January 2018

Reviewer Andrew Old shares his top picks from the edu-blogosphere this week


Drama in decline

I’m quite used to hearing from teachers of subjects such as drama why their subject is important.

This post makes that case, but spends most of the time explaining why it’s not for the reasons you might think. The author argues that drama is not a means to some utilitarian end, it’s something worthwhile in its own right.


Markopalypse now

A short post from a very experienced teacher pointing out that “I have never marked as much or as often as I am now”.

This is because he has to, due to school policy, not because he would choose to if it was left to his own professional judgement.

He points out that the type of marking teachers are often doing is neither required by Ofsted (despite popular myth) nor a helpful way to feedback to students.


Plenary vs pedagogy

This post might seem a little out of date; perhaps people don’t use three-part lessons any more. However, my experience suggests that a lot of teachers still think a lesson needs to end with a plenary.

The author suggests that there are better ways to check what a class has learned: “I use low-stakes quizzes and tests the next lesson and in future lessons. I also make sure that links between lessons are explicit and check learning of previous lessons by asking questions about it in the lessons that follow.”


Grannies are the solution

The author suggests this is a light-hearted post, but other than their use of the word “grannies” where “retired people” might have worked better, it seems like a serious suggestion.

The author argues that young children learn a lot from conversation with adults and that the average nursery does not have enough adults to ensure that every child has quality one-to-one conversations. The suggestion is that there are enough “grannies” out there who would be willing to volunteer to help with young children in nurseries.


Staff wellbeing matters, part 2

This is an unusual post in that while the issues it discusses are absolutely critical in the lives of teachers, it is actually aimed at governors.

It consists of a list of questions that governors can ask school leaders to address whether school culture is good for teacher wellbeing and whether workload and work-life balance are reasonable. Questions include “do you ask what is being dropped to accommodate new initiatives?” and “how do you/your school leaders deal with requests to go part time?”


SATs are not fit for purpose

This post is a real eye-opener to those of us not familiar with how SATs exams are conducted.

It argues that despite the high-stakes nature of the tests, the exams in year 6 are administered in a way that must make cheating very tempting for schools. Various ways in which scrutiny is lacking are described and also some surprising procedures are mentioned.


If you are nice to them, then they will behave

An Australian primary teacher reflects on how the behaviour management advice he was given when training did not work at all. “No amount of kindness could’ve stopped me getting kicked in the shins, sworn at or having paper aeroplanes thrown at me when I was not looking.”

It turns out that children actually need clear boundaries and consequences for stepping over them, rather than relentless positivity.


Things I was led to believe in my early years of teaching that I have come to question

Like the last post, this one takes aim at bad advice given during teacher training. A number of classic misconceptions about learning are mentioned, like “pupils learn best through discussion in small groups” or “it is better for pupils to be guided to discover something for themselves than to be explicitly taught it”.

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