Posted in Projects, Teaching Ideas

#TMBrad – Teachmeet reflection..

I am always amazed by the dedication and sheer geekery of some teachers. At 10am on Saturday 11th July (the FINAL weekend of the school term), teachers from around Leeds and Bradford (plus, you know, Bahrain, just because…) descended on Appleton Academy for a day of inspiration and all round teacher banter.

The day was part of our project called ‘Writing for Bradford’ which you can see details about here.


The focus of our teachmeet was ‘getting kids to write’ and we had some really fantastic presenters and ideas throughout the day. Below I have written up my notes from the presentations, and included all the powerpoints, links and resources which the speakers have very kindly agreed to share.

Here is the ‘Storify’ document of the main tweets from the day: Storify

1. Keynote Presentation: Adam Henze (@henzebo)


Here is Adam’s blurb from the program:

Adam D. Henze is a third year PhD student in the Literacy, Culture, and Language Education department at Indiana University. Adam fell in love with the spoken and written word when he accidentally stumbled into the speech and debate office at his high school. He attended Western Kentucky University on a full speech scholarship, helping the squad win four national championships at the collegiate level. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Communication Studies and English Writing, Adam attended his first poetry slam and immediately felt embraced by the spoken word community. In the past decade Adam has lectured and performed at over 40 universities, dozens of secondary and elementary schools, prisons, juvenile detention centers and other places of learning. Adam has performed in almost every state, Canada, Ireland, and is excited to return to England. He has a Masters degree in teaching, is an instructor in the English Department at Indiana University and is the director of a summer camp for fledgling high-school-aged poets at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota.

Today Adam’s presentation is about “writing like a fan.” Fan culture has embraced the multimodal literacies inherent in mediums such as spoken word, hip hop, video games, comic books, music and film, and his session hopes to marry academic literary practices with the kinds of “reading” students value at home. The presentation will explore the evolving literacy practices in a globalized digital society by giving educators theory and practical lessons that they can apply to their classroom.

‘Literacy Beyone Literature’ – Prezi link here.

2. Mehwash Kauser (@meshishk) – ‘Chaucer to Tupac’


Mehwash is at the end of her second year of teaching, and is the KS3 curriculum coordinator at Appleton Academy. Her presentation centred around a SOW which she developed this year which aimed to engage students in canonical poetry by first hooking students in with rap and other elements of modern youth culture. The SOW was incredibly successful, and is being used by the National Literacy Trust as a national model of excellence; Mehwash will be presenting her work to colleagues around the country in order to support their own engaging planning for teenagers and classic literature.

You can find Mehwash’s powerpoint here.

3. Richie Dunk (@richie_dunk) – Letter Writing in Science

Richie is a physicist and Lead Practitioner at Appleton Academy. His presentation began with the problem that most students see scientists as being stereotypically brusque and lacking personality (his words, not mine!). Consider someone like Sheldon from the ‘Big Bang Theory’, and you understand why, when asked to write a letter in Science, some of Richie’s students were struggling to write with real personality and flair, even though they do it instinctively in English and History.


Richie talked about using photographs, and the personal letters of famous scientists in order to make them feel more immediate and relevant to students of today. These letters show people who had deep emotion, loving relationships and real life connections to politics and the wider world; by showing these to students, they can begin to see writing in Science as just as human and close to their own lives as everything else.

You can fin Richie’s powerpoint here.

4. Laura Hirst (@MissLHirst) – Using Post-it Notes to Motivate Students

Laura is just 3 weeks in to her NQT year in the English Department at Appleton Academy. She presented some strategies she has used with a challenging group of Y10 students, using post it notes to support, motivate and reward them.


You can find Laura’s powerpoint here.

5. Charlotte Wright (@commahound) – Writing a Class Novel

Charlotte taught in Bradford for 8 years, and is now KS5 leader in the English Department at Brigshaw High School. She presented the powerful work she has done in order to create class novels, where every child becomes a novelist, and every child feels celebrated. Charlotte uses multi-linear narratives (where the reader gets to choose which route to take through a story) to ensure that every child can write their own part of the text, while still being part of the whole.


You can find Charlotte’s powerpoint here.

6. Jennifer Webb (@funkypedagogy) – Engaging with Abstract Concepts

You can find a blog post about my presentation here, and my powerpoint here.


7. Curtis Wilson (@andrellcurtis) – Big Writing

Curtis is the owner of Andrell Education, and proponent of ‘Big Writing’ (his mum is the wonderful Ros Wilson, so there’s no surprise there!). Curtis spoke about the rationale behind the ‘Big Writing’ initiative, and shared some ways in which schools can get involved.


You can find out more about ‘Big Writing’ here, and look at Curtis’ powerpoint here.

8. Cheryl Boote (@CherylBoote) – Working Wall

Cheryl is only 3 weeks in to her NQT year in the English Department at Appleton Academy. She shared some of the work she has been doing on displays in her first ever classroom – the mantra being, they should be interactive, and celerate the work of students.


You can find Cheryl’s powerpoint here.

9. Annie Black (@AnnieBlack01) – Slow Writing


Annie is an English teacher and shared some work she has been doing on Slow Writing in her school, following a Research-Ed conference where she saw David Didau (@learningspy) speak. She talked about how Slow (or ‘focused’) Writing was helping her students to be more creative, and allowing them to explore new techniques.


You can find Annie’s powerpoint here.

10. Mark Miller (@goldfishbowlMM) – Revision Decisions

Mark is an English teacher at Dixons Kings Academy. Having done a great deal of work on using sentence structures with students, he shared a new idea to help them to break sentences down in order to explore the many structural and syntactical possibilities we have as writers.


You can see his own blog post about his talk here, and the powerpoint here.

11. Kat Lang (@kat_stubbs) – Literacy Ladders

Kat is an Assistant Director in charge of individual learning needs, AND the Head of English at Appleton Academy. Her presentation focused on literacy ladders as a way to get high quality, developed writing out of SEN students. Sudents use the ladders to rank writing techniques in order of difficulty, then attach ideas, vocabulary and sentence structures to tladderhe ladder in order to plan and scaffold their writing.

You can find Kat’s powerpoint here.

12. Leah Ellerbruch (@LEllerbruch) – Success Criteria

Leah is an English teacher and leads the Media GCSE at Appleton Academy. She presented how she developed and uses success criteria in order to support students’ writing, and give them ownership of their content and mark schemes.

You can find Leah’s powerpoint here.

13. Keynote Presentation: Leslie Rowland

Here is Leslie’s blurb from the program:

Leslie Rowland is currently a PhD student in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education at Indiana University. She grew up in Kentucky (you might hear a bit of a twang), but has lived all over the United States. She graduated magna cum laude from Murray State University with a degree in English Education (focus on literature). Her primary doctoral research focuses on teens, chronic illness narratives, and depictions of chronic illnesses in young adult literature. She also studies drama pedagogy, disability studies, and social justice issues. Before graduate studies, she was a high school English and theatre teacher, and a writer and editor for educational publishing companies. Her 48 writing, grammar, and vocabulary titles are used in PK-8th grade classrooms all over the world. A sincere Anglophile (as you will witness), she’s thrilled to be back in England.

Her presentation today is on remix writing in the digital age (i.e., a digital composition using at least three different modes of communication [i.e., combining words, sounds, and images into one creation on the computer]). She’ll show examples, present a little research, connect it to “academic” writing, and give suggestions on how to incorporate this fun “new” way of composing in your class—no matter the age of the student (or teacher). You’ll receive a handout with detailed lesson plans, resources, examples, and differentiation tips for using remix digital writing to motivate even your less-than-stellar students.


‘Digial Writing REMIX’ – Prezi link here.

Presentation handout here.

Posted in Projects

A New Project – Writing for Bradford

This summer, my school (Appleton Academy) will be hosting an exciting project to promote writing in Bradford schools. It will involve working collaboratively with professional writers, spoken word artists, academics, university students and teachers. The project is open to any interested schools in the Bradford/West Yorkshire area. Please see the information in this document: Writing Bradford leaflet

If you are interested in being involved, or would like more information, please contact me on my work email: or on Twitter @funkypedagogy

Posted in Projects, Teaching Ideas

Vocabulary Project: Part 2 – technical terminology for high ability learners

When we were initially trained on vocabulary teaching by Jane Dallas, she separated words out into three classes.

1. Everyday words you need to communicate simple things (mum, dad, tree…)
2. More complex words used to add meaning or nuance (disgusting, harrowing, protective…)
3. Technical vocabulary linked to specific subjects (onomatopoeia, synthesis, semiquaver…)

Jane’s training, mainly centred around primary students, focused on developing students’ use of class 2 words. While the class 2 words are very important, it became very clear to my colleagues, particularly those in maths and science, that for secondary teaching, most of our key vocabulary is made up of words from class 3. I have, therefore, been working over the last half term, on a range of strategies for teaching class 3 words. My y11 top set group have been preparing for their Spoken Language controlled assessment. Any English teachers out there will acknowledge that this is about as close to anything scientific we ever come! It is basically a linguistic study, involving students being able to identify and describe features of spoken language. There is a plethora of complex technical terminology to go with this study, most of which are completely alien to students.

Some of the terms I needed my students to know this term have been:

Paralinguistic features
Non-fluency features
Phatic talk
Prosodic features

Here are some of the strategies I’ve used with a very able group of Y11 students over the past 5 weeks…

1. Word origins
It often surprises me how fascinated students are by the meaning and provenance of words. I start with the meaning of students’ names (very easy to find online), and we talk about countries of origin and how names have changed, e.g. ‘Robert’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon Hreodbeort (hreod: fame, beort: bright).

Talking about names can lead into a discussion about how words change, and how roots (smaller chunks which make up words) can be traced across other words. When I introduced some of have new key words for this unit, I broke them down in order to show the meaning of the roots…

Paralinguistic: Para – beside or next to, lingua – language
So paralinguistics, related to anything which is non-verbal language, is beside, or related to language and communication.

This discussion can then be enhanced by…

2. Metacognition

Once students understand that words are made up of roots, and they are linked to other words (transport, transplant, transpose…), we can use metacognition to ensure that they continue to apply this understanding when they encounter new words. I used the metacognitive sentence starters below to get students to plan to apply their skills next time.


One student wrote: “Next time I encounter a new, unfamiliar word, I will break it down into chunks and see if I recognise the roots from any other words. This way I might be able to guess the meaning. I could use this skill in other subjects, such as science, where there are a lot of related words, such as ‘condensate, condensing and condensation.’

3. Word Webs

Get students to explore the roots of words and how words are connected to each other, by creating their own word webs around key words.


This could easily be enhanced with further annotations with the meanings of different roots, and some sentences putting the words into context.

4. Repetition, emphasis and modelling

I have consistently used these words whenever speaking to the students, and rewarded them for using them, both in conversation, and in their writing. Every time they use a piece of key terminology in their writing, I highlight it in green, and this forms a key part of the success criteria.

When students peer assess, they are looking for key vocabulary (among other things), and their targets for one another must always include something related to terminology.

We also begin all our annotation with identifying elements of terminology, so that students are always linking evidence with key vocabulary.

In all of my modelling for students, I use terminology, and highlight it in green – students copy this into their books, and highlight or label vocabulary too.

This may all seem a little over the top, and every now and then, one of my students says, “but I know it, I don’t need to highlight it anymore”. My answer is always the same – the more explicitly we use the terminology, the more it will be embedded into our every day language use.

The results so far…

When students sat a practise essay, based on a different transcript to the one for their CA, they scored very highly – this was partly due to their focus and hard work, but also because of the wide range of features they felt able to discuss. It was quite obvious that they were comfortable with the terminology, and this meant that their writing was succinct and sophisticated. They covered a lot of spoken language features, and wrote with confidence and clarity. I am convinced that the work we did on vocabulary made the difference.

Next steps…

I want to try the same strategies with a different type of group. I am going to train a low ability Y10 class in using analytical vocabulary to support their literature CA. It will be interesting to see how I need to adapt these strategies for this group of students.

I would love to hear your thoughts or suggestions! @funkypedagogy

Posted in Projects

Vocabulary Project: Part 1- Rationale and Launch #appletonacademy

To an English teacher, words are everything. Put in the right order, they have immense power to move us, fascinate us, make us laugh and teach us. Words excite and entertain me, but as someone who has always loved to read and felt able to express myself with an ever expanding vocabulary, sometimes I am at risk of forgetting how words (or lack thereof) can create barriers and instil fear in some of my students. Revered journalist, William Raspberry said, “Good English, well spoken and well written, will open more doors than a college degree… Bad English will slam doors you never even knew existed.” While there are many things which contribute to overall “good English”, vocabulary is arguably one of the most vital components in your arsenal. A wide vocabulary can enable a speaker to be succinct, precise and sophisticated, while a narrow vocabulary can lead to vague expression, waffle and frustration.

I want my students to have vocabulary which enables them to:

  1. Express their emotions
  2. Articulate their ideas, including those which are abstract and philosophical
  3. Persuade, inform and advise with clarity
  4. Judge and use appropriate formality and tone for a range of different situations
  5. Disagree with someone whilst remaining reasonable, logical and intelligent
  6. Describe things which they can imagine, creating imagery, settings, atmosphere and characters
  7. Handle technical terminology needed to access my subject
  8. Access higher bands on GCSE and A Level mark schemes
  9. Understand questions they are asked, and academic presentations they hear
  10. Explain what they have learned, reflect on their progress, and plan for future learning

This sounds like a great deal, and shows very clearly how important a good vocabulary is; it is like a toolbox – students need to be able to find exactly the right sized spanner for the job at hand, otherwise it will be a botched job!

book thief

One key issue we must contend with in education is the huge vocabulary gulf between students when they arrive at primary school which, in general, continues to widen as they move through the key stages. Students who come to school with a large vocabulary develop faster, rapidly expanding their vocabulary, while students with a narrow range of words progress more slowly. By the end of their school careers, students who were ‘word poor’ on entering primary school are even further behind their more articulate peers, and therefore less likely to achieve their potential in examinations and later life.

The quality and focus on vocabulary teaching varies greatly around the country, and the best examples I have seen are where there are strategies which identify key vocabulary in all subject areas, and explicitly teach these words in a regular, methodical way. My current school is embarking on a project this year with the aim of embedding the explicit teaching of vocabulary across the entire school. We are an all through academy, teaching students from age 3-18. I am excited about the prospect of developing systems which will eventually be consistent throughout a child’s school career; imagine what we could do with a ‘word poor’ child if we had regular, methodical teaching of key vocabulary from age 3 all the way through to Post-16!

the book thief words are life_thumb[3]

Step 1:

The ‘Dream Team’, made up of primary phase leaders and secondary reps from a range of subjects, had a day of training with vocabulary expert, Jane Dallas. Jane’s incredibly effective system is accessible and relevant throughout all key stages. For copyright reasons I cannot repeat the system here, but please contact Jane if you are interested. The key principles, however, are based around repetition and placing vocabulary in context for students.

Step 2: All primary staff were trained by Jane on the system to be used this term in all primary classrooms. Secondary team met to agree on adaptations for a range of subjects, and strategies to test for the next few weeks.

Future plans: Once strategies are embedded in test classrooms, secondary team will ‘buddy up’ and spread the practice across school. Whole staff training will be led by the ‘Dream Team’ in the Summer term 2015, and we will continue to monitor and support the teaching of vocabulary into the following year, school wide.

If you are interested, stay tuned for developments! – I will be treating this as a piece of action research and posting results and examples of student work as things progress…