Creative Teacher Support

Creative, practical support and discussion for classroom teachers everywhere

Back to the Future

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You know when you love a sitcom? When you can say the lines before the actors say them on the re-runs? They always have episodes which are vehicles for repeats of highlights of previous episodes, the ones where one of the characters says, “you remember when…?”. And, as an avid fan, you are equally as disappointed as you are pleased and reassured by the best moments cut and presented to you in a manageable format.

This preamble may seem convoluted, mostly because it is. It’s a ruse for the laziest post I have ever written. A lazy post but a post that is intended to get me back on a track that is closely related to the reason I started to write a blog in the first place: my love of teaching and learning and the enrichment that follows from the creation of a community through sharing. More recently, I have focused on reflections from my step into a leadership post. Where it has benefitted me greatly taking the time to reflect on the difficulties and the opportunities, it hasn’t been a smooth or comfortable topic for me to broach and I want to move back towards posts that stay close to the tiny area that I know most about.

Therefore, what follows here are links to the posts that I am most proud of or that really demonstrate the core of what I wanted my blog to really be “about”.

Baby Bird

Up until very recently, this post was my most visited in one day. It describes in detail a lesson I taught which took a different, and what turned out to be very successful, approach to exploring why Curley’s wife in “Of Mice and Men” is never named. Using an approach from Stanislavski around “emotion memory”, I effectively “kill” an origami bird in front of my class, just after we name it. Given the exit from GCSE lit for “Of Mice and Men”, I’ll have to think of where else it can be used. This post appears again (lazy?) as my entry for #blogsync as a great example of a classroom explanation.

Catch Your Teacher Reading

This post was a simple write up of a strategy that the librarian at my, then, school used once a year as part of a suite of approaches to raise the profile of literacy and reading across the school. As you’ll see, it gathered momentum from inclusion in an #SLTChat and a retweet from @TeacherToolkit. It’s a testament to the fact that often the simplest approaches are the best and the ones that capture imaginations.

Outstanding English Lessons?

As is the case for many of my posts, this one was taken almost in its entirety from an inset I delivered to a group of English teachers from four local schools. The most important aspect is the question mark in the title. I offer two lessons that I have taught and which have been judged as outstanding. I still can’t offer these as definitively outstanding, that’s down to the reader. What I do know is that this blog allowed me my first contact from David Didau @LearningSpy who literally wrote the book on outstanding English lessons. Interestingly, my most recent reflections on an outstanding lesson obs judgement are far less detailed.

#Pedagoo London: How Twitter Taught My Students to Write

This post is a write up of the session I took at #Pedagoo London which synthesises an earlier post of mine. My first foray, thanks to Twitter, into Saturday or weekend inset and I got to speak at The Institute of Education! A brilliant day, meeting so many of the faces I had only seen previously as tiny avatars and gave me the opportunity to see people like Tait Coles and David Didau as well as hear the first sharing of Kev Bartle’s ideas of the “Trojan Mouse” approach to CPD and teacher learning.

Let’s Go For A Learning Walk

This post is still regularly read, probably thanks to the google friendly inclusion of the phrase, “learning walk”. This was an outline of an approach to learning walks that was integrated with a whole school push to embed AfL. It focused on a qualitative approach that highlighted the importance of feedback to the teacher. Despite pressures from Unions and staff, I still maintain this is one of the best ways to carry out learning walks.

Notes from an HMI

One of the most powerful things I’ve discovered about teacher blogging is the opportunity to get beyond the confines of your own school or classroom without actually leaving. This post outlines a joint observation that I carried out with an HMI who visited us to review NQTs we had received from one particular HEI. I picked his brains as much as I could in the time he was with us and, to be fair, he was a huge help and offered further help beyond. I still rely on some of his tips when observing now.

The Myth of Independent Learning

This post came about through a combination of preparing an inset on “creating independent learners” and the learning I was going through by expanding my personal learning through blogs and Twitter. I quickly came to the conclusion that we may not actually be creating independent learners through the kind of pedagogy we were working with and that direct instruction played a bigger part than I had previously thought.

The Great Knowledge vs Skills (Non)Debate?

In a similar veign, this post was inspired by the constant debates that attempt to polarise teachers into two camps: “progressives” and “traditionalists”. It occurred to me that, particularly in the teaching of Literature, the teaching of context and background knowledge had been integral for a lot longer than was often suggested in arguments I observed. Look out for the useful comments from Alex Quigley that conceptualises the argument in terms of neuroscience far more helpfully than I could.

Whimsical Fantasist Nonsense

A bit cheeky this one but all part of a learning curve. An early indication that any foray away from the topic you love often results in circular debate. I had contended some time before in a #blogsync that the best strategy for encouraging progress in the classroom was building relationships. You can imagine the debates that followed around expectations of childrens’ behaviour. It was suggested to me that my opinions were “whimsical fantasist nonsense”. This is my response.

But What Does it Mean Sir?

The most enjoyable aspect of blogging is sharing what feels like a simple approach and finding that it’s been useful to a lot of people. I still don’t know where this one originates but I do know that it’s useful. Read to discover what the SCAA triangle is and how it supports students’ analysis of language.

Assessment for Learning

There’s a number of posts on AfL that I’m proud of here but none quite as much as “A Defence of AfL“. Proof that Twitter can result in informed debate and engagement that enhances all of our practice. My time as an AST meant that I was working on AfL primarily as a way of enhancing classroom practice. There’s posts about feedback with useful resources like “Where’s the F in A?” And there’s more long winded explanations of how to design a programme of study around a principle of formative assessment in “Formatively Speaking“. #TLT13 at Southampton University resulted in “Feedback Loops (Noun & Verb)” which conceptualises some of my developing ideas around the power of feedback within a dialogue.

And there it is. Not so much the “Now” Album or compilation that I might have hoped for but certainly a walk through of some of the work that I am most pleased with from the blog and that has afforded me opportunities to do some things and meet some people that I otherwise just wouldn’t have. Thanks to them. And here’s to getting focused.

Cheers.

 

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Author: Gordon Baillie

I am an Advanced Skills teacher in a large comprehensive school in the North West of the UK. Trained in Scotland, I have worked in a number of different settings in my almost fifteen years of teaching. I have been working with both my own and other local schools and their teachers to both enhance and improve learning and teaching for a number of years now. I am an experienced trainer of both trainee and experienced teachers and have contributed to both local and national conferences around learning and teaching, particularly around Assessment for Learning as well as being asked to contribute to keynote addresses around other, more generic areas of teaching. I believe that teaching and particularly learning are deeply creative pursuits and that the only way to continue to enhance them and the practice of teachers is to collaborate.

2 thoughts on “Back to the Future

  1. Let the haters hate. Long may this blog continue – the messages are too pervasive to ignore.

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