For the new year, I wanted to share some simple techniques for getting to know your new students (and maybe some old ones a little better!) by establishing and continuing to build lasting positive relationships which will reap cumulative dividends in the classroom.

Every year, teachers attend professional growth events. We go, learn lots of theories and techniques and then often leave wondering if what was fed to us was really what we needed. Wouldn't it be nice to have a professional growth where you create the learning experience based on your individual needs? Edcamps are exactly this.

A year after writing an article for our magazine, Sue Dixon of P4C and Thinking Child returns with a piece on how best to teach the art of listening to pupils. After all, a lot of fun can be had...

When I was little and chattered too much, my mum used to say “Susan Ellen! (She always used my ‘Sunday name’ when I was in trouble) You know it’s no accident that you have two ears and only one mouth. Do shush and listen for a moment.”

And then, by no surprise, I became a teacher: traditionally a role perceived as more about talking than listening. Listening isn’t something that is overtly taught in teacher training college, but I believe it should be.

Letting an essay assignment get to the head is common with students, so teachers are always looking at methods to reduce this problem. Innovate My School newcomer James Harlan discusses the suggestions he gives to students..

Writing your essay could be a task that hangs over your head like a dark cloud. Like a forthcoming rain, the deadline approaches so fast while you are being paralysed by the doom and the gloom. This is one hurdle you need to know how to overcome. It is often the first step that is the hardest to take but when you do so, you will see that the other things you need to do will follow like dominoes going down.


Stop worrying and start working. To do so, know what you need to do and break it down to steps you can take. That is planning. It is having an aim and plotting out what you will do to achieve it. Make your planning phase a short one. It is only the first step and there are many others after it that you will need to do. One best way to do this is with the use of a monthly planner. This way, you will be able to see how the remaining days before the deadline look like.

There are many different schools and theories on how to hone one’s writing technique. To discuss this further, Innovate My School regular Shaun Allison discusses a method developed by his peer Gav McCusker.

[English teacher Gav McCusker] has been developing a writing technique with his students that he refers to as ‘layered writing’. The inspiration for this was from great painters. In order to come up with an excellent piece of art as an end product, they build the painting up in layers. This slowly increases the complexity and depth of the painting with each layer. The following video clip demonstrates this nicely:

So how does the technique work?

Firstly, a discussion with the students about every artist needing a palette, in order to create a painting.


During this discussion, stress the point that the artist, like any craftsman/craftswoman, works carefully and slowly to do this – with concentration, patience and perseverance.

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