Sorry for starting this article straight into a brag (I am more humble by nature, I promise), but when I was a teacher and ICT coordinator, my school won a number of awards for our use of technology embedded throughout the curriculum. As a larger-than-average Primary school in South East London – a typical inner-city set up – people were surprised by how much we achieved on a very tight budget. I am frugal by nature, and that fed through into my teaching and tech acquisition too.
Remember when you were in school and you were given weekly lists of words, with little or no relevance to your lessons or your life, and made to commit them to memory? How about those little primers that focus on mundane activities with a set of vocabulary words artificially embedded into the storyline? Well, chances are those same wordlists and primers are still being handed out today. Nothing has changed for decades.
Every teacher surely thinks of Robin Williams’ character, John Keating, in Dead Poets’ Society, who said, “There’s a time for daring, and a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for”, who then dreams of standing up on the desk and generally being truly inspirational in an effortless, lesson-plan-thrown-out-the-window kind of way (or is it just me?). That sort of maverick behaviour is perhaps possible when it’s the last few weeks of the summer term, or when the government inspection has just finished and nobody is looking to observe anything beyond the speed limit on the driveway out of school. But surely the rest of the time is ‘a time for caution’, right?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that teachers are under pressure to produce value-added results, follow an ever-changing curriculum and teach to inspection standards with limited amounts of planning and preparation time. With multiple lessons planned for the week, short-term, mid-term and long-term it is easy to fall into the same pattern of activities: the worksheets, the interactive whiteboard presentation that isn’t always interactive, and the card sort that is creased from its annual usage at the same stage in the trusty scheme of work. And let’s not mention the marking. The 10 mugs of coffee a day is a habit that’s hard to kick.
Celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2017, Jolly Learning continues to build confident and fluent readers and writers, both across the UK and globally. As a leading player in the fight against illiteracy, we’ve been developing a wide range of tools and resources. Our flagship Jolly Phonics & Grammar programme doesn’t simply produce results consistently - it does so on the basis of a creative, engaging and multi-sensory method. It combines visual, auditory and kinaesthetic resources to ensure children enjoy learning to read and write in a variety of ways.
Two weeks ago we shared five key dates, from September to January, that schools can use to deliver lessons that offer something different. Here, we cover February to July.
We have been using Word Aware as a structured whole-school approach to promote the vocabulary development of all our children. It is primarily focussed on whole-class learning and we have found it is of particular value for those who start at a disadvantage – including children with Developmental Language Disorder, Special Educational Needs and those who speak English as an additional language. It has had such a major impact on word recognition and understanding within English, we decided to extend it to French and Spanish as an approach for learning new, contextualised vocabulary.
Here’s the thing about teachers. I think we all secretly want to be Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie Dangerous Minds (or maybe not even in the movie!). Our job is the hardest, most grueling job out there. And yes, it is rewarding – but often our influence is noted, absorbed and internalized within a student but we don’t ever get the satisfaction of being told by a student what actually made a difference (although I’m pretty sure my jokes have).
A couple of weeks back, I went to the first meeting of a new book group. I’d been thinking for ages that I wanted to join one and then, while my little lad Arthur and I sat waiting for our Saturday morning haircuts in the barber’s, one just sort of presented itself to me in a poster stuck to the antique dresser they use as a reception desk. It was for men only, it was to be held in a pub and the first book was a cracker, ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy, a shatteringly bleak post-apocalyptic vision I’d taught to some dream Year 9s about 4 years previously – how could I not go?
While today’s young people (Millennials and Generation Z) are very much just like the ones that preceded them - rebellious, searching for meaning, keen to understand the world and their place in it - they are at the same time completely different than any generation before them. The near limitless ability to consume information, organise with others, and communicate one’s thoughts makes this group very particular, to say the least.