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Moving Beyond Reading Comprehension Sheets

Reblogged this on Team English. Thanks!



On Saturday, I was lucky enough to present my ideas about Whole Class Reading to a lovely, enthusiastic bunch of teachers and leaders at Reading Rocks. I have blogged before here about my move to Whole Class Reading and why I am such an advocate of this approach over the traditional carousel model.

When I discuss this approach, quite often, I get asked these two questions:

  • How do you support lower ability readers?
  • What sorts of activities do you do in your whole class sessions without it just being comprehension sheets?

I set out my thoughts on the first question here.

In response to the second question, I always ensure I try to have a range of activities which really embed our DERIC skills, sometimes comprehension questions but quite often a range of other activities.

When we give children comprehension questions, we group them into categories of questions to…

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Why I love… Engaging Revision or ‘The Final Push’


I’m not going to lie: Y11 have been absolute troopers. We are still teaching content at what feels like the 11th hour, but then it always feels close to the wire every year. We have three more poems to cover and three more lessons till the Easter holidays. I absolutely 100% appreciate that I have hurtled like a runaway train at breakneck speed through the final 9 poems of The Anthology and for the most part 11B/En4 have been amazing. They’ve focused, they’ve listened and they’ve annotated their way through the Anthology both with me and independently. This got me to thinking; what can I do when we come back from Easter that will be interesting, engaging and really valuable?

I’ve come up with a plan. I have 11 lessons with them between now and a walking talking mock practice. I hope that the structure works and that they…

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Twinkl Twinkl, Little Stars!

Here at Team English our main job is to share excellent resources and connect you all to each other so as to save you time and energy when planning. As such, I was excited recently when Twinkl got in touch to ask what we thought of their Secondary English resources… I had to admit I didn’t know that they did Secondary English materials. I have used Twinkl resources in the past but always for KS3 classes (usually SEN or EAL groups) as I always assumed they only did Primary materials.

How wrong I was!

Having browsed Twinkl this half term I have found a treasure trove of resources for our new Y7 Much Ado About Nothing scheme, our Y8 Gothic Horror unit and – Holy Grail – their very own AQA sample papers! Anyone who has tried to make their own exam paper knows how utterly time consuming this task can be, especially if you decide that a detailed mark scheme with indicative answers is needed. They even have exam packs for The Sign Of Four!! Those exclamations are entirely necessary because if you’ve tried to teach that particular Sherlock story this year you’ll know that barely any resources exist. One well known resource site told me they didn’t bother making Sign Of Four schemes of work because “our research showed that no one was teaching that text.” One-Nil to Twinkl.

Of particular interest to me were their resources on that awful structure question on AQA Language Paper 1. A difficult question for which to prepare even the brightest pupils, yet the Twinkle Q3 resource pack breaks the skills down into manageable chunks. All of the AQA packs that I have so far downloaded look ready made for my EAL pupils but also touch upon the higher level skills needed for the most able in my mixed ability classes. The packs include attractive visuals for which Twinkl are well known but also lesson plans, word mats and mini exam papers.

The only downside? You do need a subscription to access these resources which is a luxury some can’t afford or simply may not want to pay. That is entirely up to you but do have a look at their growing bank of materials and see what you think. I reckon you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

By Nikki


Dear AQA, It’s time to talk about ‘Tissue’…

Mark Roberts Teach

Dear AQA,

We’ve been together for a long time. For over a decade now, you’ve been a part of my life: reliable and reasonable, dependable and decent,  occasionally formidable but consistently fair. As in most relationships, there have been periods where my affection for you has waned. There have, I must admit, been times when I’ve considered leaving you. Periods when I’ve gazed with yearning at WJEC’s saucy little grade boundaries. Times when I’ve had dalliances with Cambridge and her wantonly appealing iGCSE. Days when I’ve thought I might have to get to know OCR and find out what she’s all about.  Welsh board put me off with her indifference to my advances; she went two whole weeks once without returning my calls. I left message after message. Maybe she sniffed my desperation for an answer. Cambridge, if I can speak frankly, turned out to be a big mistake. Finding out what…

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Allusion: Teach It.

All Ears

I recently awarded an A grade to a piece of descriptive writing that opened with the following phrase:

Last week, in a galaxy not too far, far away from junction 7 of the A3…

This student shunned the drab opening sentences, replete with the terminology of the question, adopted by most of his peers and decided to kick-off with an allusion. A Star Wars allusion.

Now, this allusion to Star Wars tells me a lot about this kid:

  • This kid cares about his audience. He knew that I, as an adult marker, would understand the cultural reference he was making and in making it, he allowed me access to an exclusive club that ‘gets it.’ And that made me feel good. This kid cares for his reader.
  • This kid is intelligent; he has an awareness of culture that stretches beyond the world of what is taught in the classroom, which…

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On writing essays people actually want to read…

The Learning Profession


This week I collected in some homework essays from my delightful top set year 11 class. The question asked them to explore how Shakespeare presents the witches in Macbeth at the beginning of Act 1 Scene 3 and in the play as a whole (AQA Lit Paper 1 Section A). The class has made real progress with writing well-planned, well-structured, well-focused essays and are improving with their analysis. However, although competent, lots of the essays used formulaic topic sentences and the introductions were dry. I read time and time again that, ‘In Shakespeare’s Macbeth the witches are presented as….’. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with this, I want to push my students to work on developing a voice and writing in a way which makes their essays interesting to read. I promise this is not an entirely selfish pursuit (though I am the person that has to read them all).

In the past…

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Why I love…Twitter Revision


Why I love… Twitter Revision

I’m sure that we are not the first English department to use Twitter to promote English Revision, but I haven’t heard about it yet, so I thought I’d share our newly launched #revisechurchilleng.

Last term we discussed and debated how to make better use of our Twitter page and how to make it a more valuable tool for information on English and to make Twitter work for revision. Myself, @DaveG5478 & @ MrKingscote spoke about this on several occasions and what we came up with was the idea that we would somehow tweet resources, questions and quotes regularly in order to promote the interleaving of revision. We will also extend this and start tweeting models and examples, but are taking it one step at a time.

That was how the idea for  #revisechurchilleng was created. However, I still wasn’t sure how to implement it, as I wanted…

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