Headteacher, St Matthew's C of E teaching and research school

23 Jan 2021, 5:00


Sonia Thompson’s blogs of the week, 18 January 2021

The power of short stories, books for social and emotional learning, improving online resources and home-learning engagement are this week’s top picks of the education topics


Time is short – time for short stories: enriching reading & writing with perfectly formed tales


Herts for English are consistent in their high-quality blogging about English. This one is no different, as the wonderful Martin Galway tunes us into short stories as a time-saving reading solution. It’s a joyous journey through short, medium and longer reads and the more Galway effuses, the more his extensive knowledge of these texts radiates, deftly taking us through a profusion of stories and authors to tantalise even the most seasoned book lover. As well as some newer titles, he shares a who’s who of classics with storytelling, discussion, thoughtfulness and priceless images acting as enticements.

Galway also proposes the types of encounters with these short texts and writers that we can and should offer children. As he states, “Done well, short stories are a highly effective form, just like poetry. They have a major, sometimes underdeveloped, part to play.” He concludes with a timely reminder about the interconnectedness of writing, reading and oracy and a promise that this is only the first of a series of such literary journeys he will take us on. My ticket is already booked for the next one!


Four books for teaching social and emotional learning


Whenever anyone writes about quality texts, it always piques my interest. As a huge advocate and supporter of EmpathyLab, I was eager to read how Shotton Hall Research School was harnessing the power of books to teach Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). In the first of a three-part blog, they unpick some salient elements of the EEF Guidance Report and espouse a process that can be a powerful tool to teach SEL.

The blog begins by cautioning us not to rely on children’s ​‘crisis moments’. Instead, we can exploit crisis points raised in our texts to develop children’s ability to solve problems, make decisions, evaluate relationships and be more socially aware. Stella Jones then goes on to discuss four texts that offer opportunities for the same. The blog is simple in its mission and powerful in its conclusion. If ever it was needed, it most certainly is now.


An approach to remote learning resources


This is an impressive and very personal debut blog from secondary English teacher Daniel Blackburn, which leaves you in no doubt that he is a shining example of a reflective practitioner. He takes us through how he has had to come to terms with remote teaching and learning with honesty, and how he has begun to make it successful for his students.

In setting out the problems, he locates them firmly at his own door, not the students’ or resources’. He then details how he overcomes them with a transferable template and student-empowering process of his own design. As he states, “remote learning is stressful enough for both students and staff. The simpler we can make resources for students to use, the more likely they are to complete the work to a good standard”.

What I appreciate in this blog is its tentative confidence. Blackburn positively embraces the fact that it took many iterations to find the sweet spot. I am definetly here for that and I eagerly await blog number two. What a start.


The Golden Ratio: getting our students cognitively active


With students on mute and cameras off, we find ourselves transported from bustling classrooms to the depressing silence of Google Meet/Teams/Zoom. As we all search for the ‘thing’ that will get our children to actively participate in our remote lessons, Thahmina Begum offers us eight strategies she is using, refining and finding success with. Interleaving her strategies with examples and tweets from fellow teachers, she skilfully poses questions to practitioners and offers excellent insights about how to check for understanding with links to video demonstrations.

It is another personal account of how teachers are navigating this new and demanding situation. You may disagree with her pedagogy, but Begum is one of the stealthiest teachers on the ground and this is yet another testament to our profession’s amazing collaborative approach at this uniquely challenging time.



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