Skip to main content

#1bigidea that shaped my practice

I enjoy reading the various hastags that go on in staffrm.  It's a great way of getting a range of perspectives around one theme. So when Peps asked me to think about one, I thought I'd do the opposite of the brilliant #1smallthing series by going from the micro to the macro.  Now, I've been writing all day, so excuse me if this makes no sense at all. I'm also distracted by the sun setting.
Hopefully it'll also give an extra post idea to those taking part in the #28daysofwriting challenge too.

What big idea has had the most influence on your practice?

When I started teaching I had been influenced by the 'silo' approach to my subject - I saw geography as a stand alone topic.  It wasn't until I realised the importance of every subject in delivering whole school literacy that the penny dropped.  This realisation (together with another big idea of whole school maths) influences my practice every day.

Where/when/how did you learn about it?

A combination of things really, but it was during the second year of teaching in 2004/5 that I realised how important good literacy was to achieving good GCSE results. The reading age of most papers was at the 14-16 years old mark. It also became obvious to me that a lack of understanding that students had around the definitions of words (command words and verbs / nouns as well as subject specific words) held them back.  I started the Banned Word board and gradually took it from there.  It was an instinctive move really.  
It also struck me that my own use of the English language was (and still is) poorly developed.  I hated English lessons and didn't see the links myself as a student.  During University I had to catch up on the simple things like 'its' and 'it's' and other basic stuff - I still struggle.  This is despite devouring books ever since I can remember - I still do.
Later, especially in the last 3-4 years there has been a big focus on literacy across the curriculum and rightly so. I totally subscribe to the maxim that it's reading and a focus on cross curricular literacy that can help young people.  This doesn't mean writing poetry in Geography (I couldn't tell you the difference between a Sonnet and a Couplet), but an insistence on using full, formal English.  This goes to speaking as well as writing.

What are the signs that it's had such a big impact?

GCSE results improved, and when I was in Geography they improved when other areas of the school declined.  It's a complex picture, but a relentless drive on literacy was a big part.

Is it possible for people to misinterpret the idea?

Oh yes.  The main barrier I come up against is the 'I'm not a teacher of English or Maths.' Muppets.  The results of English and Maths are the responsibility of all departments. Also getting confused between using good English that's appropriate to your subject, and being an English teacher.

Where would people go to find out more?

There are loads of blogs and books out there, but Manglish is a great one. Also have a read of The Elephant in the Classroom for a maths perspective.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

#GAConf22: A paradigm shift for anti-racist, decolonised teaching and inclusion

 " You can't start a fire,  You can't start a fire without a spark" Bruce Springsteen.  Well, it's been a fair while since I felt the motivation or the need to blog. Whilst not a story for now, over the past five years I've danced along the knife edge and, often, the call of the abyss has been both tempting and compelling. Certainly, my failing in both my personal and professional life have been numerous. But. This is not about me, but the people that have (re)ignited the spark to the fire in my soul. I realise that this is from the perspective of a privileged, white, middle class male view. I even have a beard. I am scared of getting it wrong on this topic. Teach me if I am wrong, it is from the position of a learner. I was looking forward to the GA Conference this year, the first face to face since 2019. I have to say that Alan , as president, and the Geographical Association's team did a fantastic job at being inclusive. The hybrid format allowed peopl

What makes a learning experience profound? Personal reflections and possible implications for classroom practice.

I have recently begun a Leadership Pathways journey.  As part of the first core day, we were asked to reflect on a profound learning experience. This got me thinking about how many profound learning experiences I have both been involved in, and how many I have been able to give to others.  Our group came up with a huge long list, but these are my five. Emotional Connected Demanding Reflective Collaborative As always, these are personal thoughts and quite mixed up.  I put them here so that I can look back on them (plus they’d get lost inside my world-cup-free brain) 1. Emotional I can’t think of a time where deep learning hasn’t engaged my emotions.  From being awe inspired to that tingle feeling when a student gets a light bulb moment.  From this-is-the-happiest-day-ever, to I-think-I’m-about-to die.  How often do we engage the emotions of those we teach?  Here, I would argue that having a safe learning environment is not always conducive to profound

The interview adventure: Lesson idea

Closing time Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. This is the first in a short series of posts around my successful appointment as an Assistant Headteacher at Patcham High School .  The job starts in September.  This post shares a lesson idea that would be worth a polish and revisit for any context.  I’m sharing these things here mainly for me to reflect upon and revisit at a later date, but also as others may benefit from the experience. The brief was to create a 25 minute lesson around the word ‘INSPIRE’ which forms the school’s mission statement.  The interpretation was open and I wanted to avoid being explicitly geography  linked.  Now, it’s impossible to develop a fully formed lesson in that time with a class that I haven’t met. It’s also not possible to teach an Outstanding lesson to such a group of young people, not least because I hadn’t marked their books.  With this in mind, I wanted to take a risk and show the type of creative stuff I lik