Posted in Teaching Ideas

27 English reading and analysis resources which work!

The creativity and generosity of the online teaching community never ceases to amaze me. I have spent a couple of weeks collating resources for my department from my Twitter back catalogue, and was blown away by how long the list was. Years of communication with fellow educators has given me a huge collection of ideas and resources, some of which I use regularly, and some which I had forgotten about entirely. In an attempt to bring some order to the chaos, I have started with some reading and analysis resources. All of these resources were created by teachers, and shared online – you can see the creators’ details below in case you want to follow anything up with these very talented people.

Though I’ve collected them here for English resources, most can be very easily adapted to other subjects and disciplines.

For ease of use, I’ve organised the post into four groups:

  • Analysis templates and techniques
  • Understanding or revising texts
  • Explaining and exploring structure
  • Expression

Analysis templates and techniques:

The first few of these are based around using hexagons to scaffold writing, planning and ideas. There are tons of hexagon-based resources out there – these are a few which I know work really well…

  1. Concentric Hexagons from @JamieClark85.

These can be used to revise or explore characters, themes etc in a text. I ask students to write their topic (character, theme, idea) in the middle hexagon, then the next level out is for quotations, leading to a level of anlaysis, and a level of wider exploration (context/wider reading/critical viewpoints/alternative interpretations etc.). This has the potential to work for all age groups and for a lot of disciplines. My Y13 Literature students love it – I break each hexagon into a different assessment objective.

Original Tweet by @JamieClark85

concentric hexagons

2. Visual Hexagons from @misscs_teach

Using images to prompt students to explore or revise a topic without simply looking at a text – this example is from History, but could work brilliantly as a range of images from a poem or novel…

Original Tweet from @misscs_teach

3. Linking Hexagons by @LessonToolbox and @Jivespin – shared by @OLewis_coaching

This is a fab key word linking activity which would work in ANY subject. Students write key words in the hexagons (could also work with quotations for English), then in the boxes at the bottom they explain how each hexagon links to the others.

linking hexagons

Original Tweet from @OLewis_coaching

4. Quotation Explosion

There have been dozens of these resources flying around Twitter for a couple of years, ranging from the functional to the very beautiful. At it’s core, though, the quotation explosion is about detailed exploration of language, encouraging students to literally take a statement or image apart.

The version we have been using in our department is here: Explode a Quotation

A great example I saw recently from @cazzwebbo can be found on her excellent blog, here.


5. 7 deadly sins from @LPuds

MORE hexagons! This is a great way to link abstract ideas to a text. Works brilliantly with An Inspector Calls, but could work with a huge range of literature texts…


Original Tweet from @LPuds

6. Character Outlines

man outline

There are tons of variations on this resource, too. It is basically a nice, visual way to work on characterisation. Give students a blank body outline and get them to make notes inside and outside the shape. I get my students to put character traits inside, and quotations to support it outside, but this has tons of other possibilities.

One really great variation of this idea is one I saw recently from @HeadofEnglish

Original Tweet from @HeadofEnglish

There are tons of other brilliant ideas on Caroline’s blog, here.

7. Linking Extracts from @missfordenglish

A fab group activity where students annotate and make links between extended passages and extracts from texts.


Original Tweet from @missfordenglish

8. Paragraphs exploration map

This is one of my resources from a while ago and, while it uses the dreaded PEEEE(ad infinitum) structure which appears to have gone out of vogue, it is a useful way of looking at paragraphing and textual analysis through the metaphor of exploration and zooming in and out… the resource for the mat is here (front and back pages).

Analysis front

analysis back

9. Peephole Analyser

I designed this resource as a way of scaffolding planning and writing to include all of the required elements in the AOs for A Level, but can also act as a way to read, interrogate or peer assess a document. The example here is an ‘analyser’ for the AQA Literature A legacy spec Victorian paper:


You make the resource by leaving an A4 sized hole in the middle of an A3 piece of paper, and framing the hole with hints, tips, key words, reminders etc for whatever the intended piece of writing is. This works well as a frame for peer and self-assessment because students can look at what the requirements are and produce very detailed feedback. It could also work well as a generic resource for looking for literary elements in extracts or unseen poetry. The document above can be found here. Feel free to use/edit/discard!

AS Context Analyser

10. Dynamite Paragraphs – original idea from @Murphieface, visual designed by @JamieClark85

Blog from @Murphieface here.

Here is the gorgeous adaptation of the idea from @JamieClark85:


11. Character Heads from @siancarter1

This is a totally wacky but brilliant idea! @siancarter1 managed to source some mannequin heads, and did this lovely thing for The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde revision…


Works brilliantly for the internal struggle and duality in this novel, but could be adapted for many other texts and characters.

Original Tweet from @siancarter1

12. Connotation Circles from @MissJLud


Magic Circles (or connotation circles) were designed to encourage students to write analytical answers and think of multiple layers of meaning and to help improve their analysis of sentences or keywords. They can be used by all year groups and in a variety of ways. They are a scaffolding tool which can be removed once students know how to add multiple layers of meaning to their analysis.

Firstly, you  must ensure students know what question they are being asked. They must think about the answer to that question (their point) and write it in the top box. From here, students identify the key quotation they would like to analyse to answer the question. To encouraging students to keep the quotation short, the box is quite small! The middle of the circle says ‘keyword’ but more often than not I tell students to put the whole quotation in. This is important especially with difficult quotations (where it’s hard to find a keyword) for example a quotation from Shakespeare or Chaucer as they also need to remember to explain what they mean before analysing.

Once they have filled in the point and evidence sections, they can begin to think of words to use in their analysis. With a keyword, this is quite simple and students can think of a connotation that is relevant to the question (usually you need to stress this point!). From then on, each box is filled in with a further connotation of the previous word. To make sure they are relevant and developed multiple layers of meaning (rather than just synonyms) it is important that the connotation is of the previous word and not just of the key word in the middle. Hence why the arrows flow as they do! For a difficult quotation, it may be necessary to look at it as a whole and students can then move on from that point.

For the last step, students must think of a link between the final connotation and their overall point. This ensures they are answering the question.

Once the whole circle is complete, students can use a range of linking sentences to fit in their ideas. You can use a range of active verbs to encourage students to analyse in detail. It is very useful to model this to students first of all. There are a range of examples below from Year 7 and Year 10 students where you can see how they have used the connotation circles in a few different ways.

Common issues:

– Students don’t know what connotation means and this needs explaining.

– Students pick connotations that are not relevant to the question. e.g. (Red – Man United!)

– Making the link to the point can be hard/impossible depending on the quotation and question – you and the student can decide whether or not to leave this out.

– Students don’t know how to write up their paragraph without modelling.

Link to Publisher and PPT documents from @MissJLud

Understanding and Revising Texts:

13. Mapping the plot from @MrMoonUnity

This resource enables students to make notes on narrative events, ideas, characters etc, using images from the text. The best part is that, by so explicitly placing their work in the text’s setting, students are forced to consider place, character journeys, and perhaps notice structural elements of the text they might not have seen before.


@MrMoonUnity has very kindly shared the original document – feel free to make of this version.


Original Tweet from @MrMoonUnity

14. 5 A Day Starters from @TLPMsF

This idea is explained brilliantly on Rebecca’s excellent blog, here. She has also very kindly shared a link to the resources in her GoogleDrive!


Original Tweet from @TLPMsF

15. Visual Timelines from @sarahcnokes

A lovely, simple idea, which could be adapted to tons of subjects. Students use both images and text to explain processes or plot lines. This is an example from Geography, but could easily be adapted to explore events in plots, character journeys and arcs in literature. The use of images could be literal or figurative and allow students to map out how imagery is used throughout a text.


Original Tweet from @sarahcnokes

16. Images

Using pictures as stimuli for discussion, promoting recall, making abstract links or just for talking literally about imagery, is part of our English teaching bread and butter. All the same, the simplest ideas are often the best.

This is a nice example I saw in a tweet from @kathydarlison85:


Original Tweet from @kathydarlison85

I used to have a tissue box which I’d covered in pictures (angels, clouds, a monkey, a woman’s face, a bridge and a tree). Students would throw the box around and have to link the text or a quotation to whichever picture was face-up.

17. Mood Boards

A way of creatively exploring a text, mood boards allow students to bring their own ideas and interpretations to a piece of work in a truly multi-sensory way. I’ve had students produce boards with pieces of jewellery, broken glass, fabrics, evocative scents and even sound effects! You can find a post on mood boards with some good examples on my blog here.

This is a very recent example of a beautiful hand drawn board from one of our A Level Literature students, based on Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire…


18. Revision Clock from @teachgeogblog

This is possibly my department’s favourite resource this year. We have used and adapted it across the age range, and students have loved it! The basis premise is that you use the clock in the centre to represent an hour of lesson time, and then you chunk up the hour into segments of the page for separate revision topics (or focuses within a topic).


I’ve used it very successfully with both HA and LA groups, and found that students are liberated by the limitation of 10 minute or 6 minute blocks to complete something. My Y11 top set recently did this as a competition to see who could get the most information down in a hour without any notes or revision material in sight – they had to write down as many facts and quotations as they could remember about the characters in Of Mice and Men. They were really shocked by how much they actually knew!

Original Tweet from @teachgeogblog

Check out @teachgeogblog’s other resources here.

Exploring Structure:

Structure can be a nightmare to teach, particularly at GCSE where a lot of the really technical A Level stuff is a bit unnecessary. Here are a couple of resources to tackle this…

19. Approaching Structure from @DAP206

Great blog post from Danielle Perkins: What is Structure, Miss?

This post talks about using abstract concepts and images to teach structure.

20. Structure Questions from @atharby

A really excellent list of questions which can help us to unveil and dig deeper into the illusive world of structure.


Original Tweet from @atharby


This can be a difficult thing to teach because we are all keen to give students sentence structures, vocabulary and writing structures without producing a load of PEE-ing robots who don’t have individual analytical writing styles! I believe the trick is to give them some sound principles, as many models as you can get your hands on, and lots and lots of options for new vocab, phrases and structures as you can.

21. Academic Expression from @TheSickScholar

This is a fabulous seminar written by my good friend, Leslie Rowland. Find the link to her ppt and handout here.

22. Advanced Vocabulary from @RealGeoffBarton

I’ve used this list with students for ages, and it always serves to boost confidence and creativity in their writing. The post from Geoff Barton is here.

23. Solar System essay planning

This is one of mine. You can find a write up here. I’ve used it primarily with A Level groups, but it has been adapted by other teachers for use across the whole range.


24. Discuss, Define, Refine

Something I stumbled across online (can’t remember where), when I was a PGCE student, this system is brilliant for structuring introductions. I’ve used it for GCSE and A Level. Blog here.


25. Words to describe writers’ choices – shared by @kathydarlison85

There are lots of these lists floating around Twitter, and they can be really useful for giving students the language they need to express the most interesting and nuanced ideas. This is a nice one:


Original Tweet from @kathydarlison85

26. Writing to Show a Viewpoint from @HeadofEnglish

A fab range of phrases and sentence starters for students to help them to express an opinion…


Original Tweet from @HeadofEnglish

27. Analytical Vocabulary Mat

This is one of my resources which we have in our classrooms at Appleton. It has analytical vocabulary grouped for purpose, with a glossary and exemplar on the back. Feel free to use/adapt as you like!

Analytical Vocabulary


Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list! I would like to keep it relevant by adding more to this post as more things come up. Please let me know if you have something you use regularly for reading and analysis which you think I should include up here and I’ll happily edit the post and credit you.

Posted in Personal Reflection, Teaching Ideas

The Dyslexic English Teacher

dyslexic_fun_bigIt was only after I had got through GCSEs, A Levels, an English Degree and my PGCE year that I discovered I am dyslexic. My particular brand of dyslexia manifests itself in letter, number and colour recognition. In other words, I misread words, struggle to recognise spelling errors (including my own), read more slowly than average, and have struggled for years with my handwriting. The fact that I am an English teacher just adds to the fun.

Now, I am not a SENCO, and apart from my own experiences and observations, I have no formal training or expertise in dyslexia. However, I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on how my dyslexia has impacted on my teaching, and the many things I’ve learned from working with dyslexic students. Dyslexia is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ problem: it manifests itself in many ways, and something that works for one person may not work for another. It’s also important to recognise that dyslexia is a sliding scale; some people are only very mildly dyslexic, and this may not really impact on their everyday lives, whereas some people with very severe dyslexia need to make adjustments to almost everything they do, particularly in an educational environment. There is a multitude of dyslexics in between these two extremes, and they are all unique.

This post will not be revolutionary – nothing is new, and there are far more informative sources out there about the condition, the science, and best practice. I hope that what is here might simply provide some insight into what life is like for ONE dyslexic, and some strategies which work for me in a real classroom setting.

  1. Good days and bad days


I am worse when I’m tired, so I try to work when I’m fresh (early morning or late at night after a nap…). Every day is different – sometimes I am really efficient and ‘with it,’ but others I work very slowly and get frustrated. On days like this, I put my marking aside, and try to do something less text or paper based.


Dyslexic students have good and bad days too (though this is true for most teenagers to some extent!). I have regular conversations with the dyslexic students I teach, and we talk about being able to identify those times when we are not feeling at our best. If a student is having a difficult time on a day I teach them, I try to find alternative ways for them to work. A student I taught a few years ago, we’ll call her Anna, used to find it easier to do ‘free note taking’ on those days, where you record the lesson in ways other than writing extended passages (i.e. illustrations, mind-mapping, short notes etc.) She would then take her work home and complete it at a time when she was feeling more lucid. I’ve had other students who record sections of the lesson on a dictaphone (or more recently, their mobile phone) so that they can write up what I’ve said later.

I have found that helping students to recognise their own patterns and the things which work best for them is a really effective way to prevent anxiety and issues with engagement.



I use a rose pink overlay (IRLENS) when reading, and a notebook with pink paper – I’ve timed myself reading and this increases my speed by about 20%, and definitely improves my endurance!


A number of my students are diagnosed as needing IRLENS, but all of them benefit from paper and whiteboard backgrounds which are not stark white. I try to use a range of paper colours to colour code activities and provide a softer background to support reading extended passages. Experimenting with different fonts, sizes and line spacing can also be an important way to help students engage with texts. I use Comic Sans on my powerpoints, and when I print texts for students I make sure they are at least 1.5 spaced, size 12-14. Anything we can do to make reading more accessible has to be worthwhile!

3. Handwriting


My handwriting is abysmal, so much so that two Summers ago I tried to completely relearn cursive script. I’ve had some success with this, but it’s still pretty wobbly, and when I’m in a rush (when are teachers not?!), I revert to my illiterate teenage scrawl. This is a major issue with marking books and essays, but my students know that I’m trying my best, and it’s OK to tell me they can’t read my writing!

During lessons, I very rarely write on the board; I even tend to put dates and titles onto a powerpoint rather than subject the kids to my scrawl!


In many ways, I think that being so honest about my issues with handwriting has helped some of my students who also have poor handwriting. In teenagers, this often leads to a real lack of confidence, so I think it’s important for teachers to acknowledge how difficult handwriting can be, and that poor handwriting does not make WHAT you write any less valid or interesting. The rule in my classroom is, if it’s legible and you have tried your best, it is good enough.

4. Reading and performing under pressure


I struggle, especially when I am tired, to read out loud fluently. If I need to read extended passages out loud to or with the class, I practice beforehand so that I don’t trip up and ruin the flow: this especially applies to poetry and novel extracts. I tell the students that I’ve prepared it, because I think it’s important for them to recognise that performance, even if it’s just reading out a few paragraphs of Dickens, is an art in itself and deserves some real thought!


I always give my dyslexic students prior warning if I’m going to ask them to read something to the group. I might approach them before the lesson and give them something to look at overnight, or give them 5 minutes in a lesson just to go over it to themselves before sharing with the class. This can be an effective approach for all students, but it’s particularly important that dyslexics are given the time and space to feel comfortable when faced with a page full of words!

5. Spellings


This is the thing which most frequently affects my teaching day. All of my classes are trained to tell me if they think I’ve spelled something wrong, and they know I won’t be offended. On a good day, I can spell anything they like off the top of my head. On a bad day, I have to write it down a few different ways in my notebook and then look it up, just to be certain!

All my life I’ve struggled with spellings, and I try to teach myself mnemonics, songs and other strategies to overcome my issues. I now use these with my students wherever possible – I once had an A Level class who liked them so much that they wrote a song which incorporated all of their key sophisticated Literature vocabulary!


Spellings are one of the biggest barriers for students who are lacking confidence in their writing, and this generally leads to disengagement with the task and the subject. Being honest with students about our own barriers to learning is really important. My students are trained to do a number of things:

  • When proof reading work, circle any words you are not certain you have spelled correctly (or used correctly), so I will know you were unsure when I mark your book.
  • When writing, if you have used a dictionary to check a spelling, underline the word and write ‘checked’ in the margin, so that you know it’s right and can look back in your book next time you need to use it.
  • They are NEVER too old to do a spelling test, or use ‘look, cover, write, check’!
  • Remember that poor spelling does NOT make you a bad English student, it just means you have to be more aware of what you are doing. I would far rather see you use advanced vocabulary spelled wrong, than read something boring because you were too scared to use it!


Other useful strategies:

  • Help students to access texts easier:

Breaking up or ‘chunking’ the text – do you need to give them the whole thing at once? Could you edit their copy to take out some of the superfluous bits? Could you give it to them in a few smaller chunks so that it’s easier to digest?

Highlighting (not underlining…) key sections, words or phrases before giving the student a passage. This will help them to focus on what’s really important.

Give students a list of key words or phrases to look for in a passage so that they have something to anchor them while reading.

  • Help students to plan writing

Provide planning proformas for paragraphing or essay writing, which you can gradually take away or make simpler as they become more confident.

Explicitly teach sentence starters and key phrases which can start a piece, link sections and end pieces. Students can then repeat these to themselves so that they are embedded. and they can write more confidently.

  • General skills

Handwriting practice books are very cheap, and your SENCO might be able to provide them for you. Getting students to do 15 minutes a night as homework can be really powerful, especially if you give them something to copy out which is related to their academic work!

Help them to organise their time/revision/homework etc by showing them how to prioritise their time. Making a ‘to do’ list and highligting the items which they know will take them longer (extended writing etc.) so that they can plan their time better

I hope this is somewhat useful, and that some other teachers out there can make use of the strategies above (or just have reconfirmed something they already do!).

I’d love to hear your own strategies: @funkypedagogy

Posted in Teaching Ideas

Walking-Talking Mock Exams

Many of you will know how these work and, whether you love them or hate them, they are an invaluable tool in the journey to exams for students across the spectrum.

We used them last year in the run up to exam prep in English, and students reported an increased confidence level and, in some exams, performed very highly because they were used to the format and had been “drilled” in the process.

For anyone who doesn’t know how these work, they generally follow these rules:

  • Students sit in the same exam room where they will do their exam, preferably in the same seats
  • Students are given an exam paper which is as close to being like the real thing as possible (i.e. exam writing booklet if relevant)
  • Students are literally walked through every question on the paper – the person leading the session talks them through the smallest steps, such as underlining key words, how to plan, things to remember etc.
  • Students then write their responses in timed conditions

Really effective elements to include are:

  1. Visual stimuli such as memorable images and colour coding (we use the same images in all of our WT mocks and this, in theory, helps students to recall information more easily)
  2. Audio stimuli such as theme tunes and sound effects for different questions or parts of the paper
  3. Posters and reminders in specific locations around the exam hall so that, even when they are not there in the real exam, students can look at the room itself to remind them of what was there before (e.g. they might remember in the REAL exam, that last week there was a red poster to the left of the exam clock which reminded them to check spellings of key words)

This is a very brief overview, and there are many very excellent write ups out there about the theory behind WT mocks and memory training. One good example is here.

I’ve just completed one to use TODAY with our Y11 cohort who are sitting the iGCSE English Extended paper 2 on 3rd May. Please feel free to use/abuse/adapt/discard if it’s useful!

Walking Talking Mock

Posted in A Level Teaching, Teaching Ideas

A Level Teaching Ideas – #5 Academic Voice

ALL credit for this goes to the talented Leslie Rowland, a PHD student and Associate Tutor in English at Indiana University. She ran a really fantastic workshop with some A Level Literature students in West Yorkshire this week, and the work she did was so great that I thought other teachers of essay subjects would benefit from it.

The powerpoint and handout below are all aimed at getting students to write in a more formal and appropriate academic tone, avoiding colloquialism and ensuring that they have the right amount of distance, while still making a personal response to a text.

You can contact Leslie at:

Powerpoint: Academic Expression

Handout: Academic Expression Handout

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 A Level Teaching, Teaching Ideas

A Level Literature Ideas #4: Engaging with abstract statements, questions and concepts…


Confused? This is what my students see when I ask them to think outside the box…

As I write this, I am sitting in a classroom with no windows. The air-con is broken. The kids are melting, their brains hurt, and I am trying to get them to engage with this question: “Is love just a lie?” (in relation to Romeo and Juliet) As you would expect, I am facing some pretty stiff opposition – they are not in the mood to tax themselves with abstract, multi-faceted questions. I think the weather will win today and we might do some colouring in instead.

On a normal day though, these abstract tasks are still difficult to approach with students. A couple of my own students have had this to say about my lessons:

“Miss, sometimes, I listen to you talk, and it’s just like a….a….I don’t know what it is…that’s the problem.” – Leonie, Y12

“When you ask me questions, all I see is a bunch of weird little guys in hats running around…messed up.” Ezra – Y11

My obviously erratic and perplexing teaching style aside, I think that Ezra’s ‘weird little guys’ are a metaphor for the sea of ideas and possibilities which abstract questions create for our students. They need a way to filter through these possibilities, and to engage with higher order tasks and concepts without getting lost at sea. There is a risk in any such resource or strategy, in providing too much scaffolding or guidance – this is not an essay structure – it is a key to unlock an idea and to begin to look at its various layers.

This approach has worked for me when doing the following types of task:

  • Thunks
  • Critical Viewpoints
  • Key Questions
  • Political Statements
  • Controversial Opinions
  • Debate Topics

My students all have a copy of this card:


I’ve trialled this with A Level Literature students, Y11 and Y9, though in its current state it is perhaps best suited to high ability learners.

The ‘Statement Card’ takes students through 5 stages to support their initial approach to an abstract statement, viewpoint or question… The exemplar statement is: “Literature is just a pale shadow of real life, and is therefore unable to tell us anything new.”


Define the key terms in the statement. What do they mean? What else could they mean? How are you defining them?

e.g. How do you define “literature”? Is it just the classic works of the canon, or does this include EVERYTHING which is written? What do we mean by “new”? “New” to WHO?! Does literature actually have to offer “new” things?


Does placing the statement in different contexts change the nature of the statement? What is the natural context? What are other possible contexts?


Context 1: reading for pleasure – do you have to learn something new if it’s just for fun? Or does literature just have to be entertaining?

Context 2: academic study – does a text need to have some deeper meaning or message to make it worth studying? Do we rely on literature to give us an original insight into human life?


What is the range of the impact of this statement? Think HUMAN to GLOBAL. Does it have impact on different levels?


Human impact – do we rely on literature to tell us things about ourselves?

Society – can literature have an impact on a larger group? Does literature echo the realities of groups/movements/events, or highlight patterns in human behaviour?


What are the extreme applications of the statement? Does it become ridiculous at the extremes? Do the extremes illuminate key issues?


Do we simply discard something because we can see nothing “new”? Who can really judge the level to which something is new or relevant? Can we really dismiss ALL art?!


Is there a solution to the problem/question? How could you CHANGE the statement to make it better?


Literature shouldn’t have to tell us something new, and it certainly doesn’t have to be an exact mirror image of real life. A better statement could be: “Literature should reflect, distorts, magnify and illuminate elements of the human existence.”

This is not an exhaustive list of approaches to these types of task, but it’s a start.

Here’s an example of one Y9 student’s work – the statement in question was “Dr Frankenstien is pure evil. Discuss.”

example 1

(RANGE) “The statement is only about one person, yet it does have a global range of impact. This is because it makes us think about what it means to be evil. Some may also wonder what it means to be human. The reason for this is because Dr. Frankenstein creates a ‘monster’ from all ‘human’ parts, and perhaps it is evil to corrupt the natural state of humanity.”

Example 2 (SOLUTION) “Dr Frankenstein is not evil, he is committing socially unacceptable acts in the name of science. At worst, he is an outcast.”

Here is a copy of the card and the exemplar: Statement Card , Statement Card Exemplar

If you would like an editable Word Doc version, drop me an email – happy to share! (

If you use this and it works, or make an alternative version, I would love to hear about it!

Posted in A Level Teaching, Teaching Ideas

A Level Literature Ideas – #3: Mood Boards

Literature at A Level has traditionally been a very essay driven course; there are very few specifications which allow any element of creative writing, and even these are optional swap-ins for a potential second essay. This is a shame because students need to be able to appreciate the craft of the writer and have a deeply ingrained sense that someone sat down and wrote something for a reason. The specification I am teaching allows students to create a piece of original transformational writing. The idea is that they study one of their set texts, then write a ‘missing’ scene, chapter, monologue etc. Obviously this allows students to get under the skin of a particular character or idea, and to better appreciate the author’s style and craft because they are no longer just passively observing, they are actively creating.

This term, I asked my Y12 class to write a missing monologue for the character of the nanny in A Doll’s House. This is a woman we learn very little about, but who has a singular perspective on events and an intriguing history. She gave up her own children as a young woman, and has been witness to the oppressive family home of the Helmers. Their first drafts were two dimensional, and said all of the obvious things about having a ‘hard life’ as a woman, and being ‘nervous’ around the master. We all knew this wasn’t going to work without spicing things up and digging deeper. They all went away that week and created a mood board. I gave very vague instructions, told them to bring together a sort of collage of all the things which this character might come into contact with, love, fear and experience. I was expecting a couple of good ideas to come forward, but the response of my class was stunning.

The work they did has significantly deepened their level of understanding and sophistication in relation to this character, and the text itself. It occurs to me that a mood board would also be useful for analytical writing as a way to collect together images and ideas from the text for a more tactile exploration of the literature.

An alternative to making a physical mood board which is, I’ll admit, a little cut-and-stick heavy, would be making a digital version using something like Prezi. They could challenge themselves by making something like an auditory mood board, recording sounds, music, speech etc, related to the character.

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This student used Victorian wallpaper samples to back her board, and then found contemporary news articles about women who had been forced to abandon their children. She also focused on birds (a key theme in the play), and the image of a phoenix rising from the ashes is an original idea which will play a key part in her monologue.

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This student created an actual doll’s house with opening sides. He collected fabrics which the character would have used and worn; the nanny would have spent a lot of time making clothes for the children. He is going to use the sensory description of fabrics very heavily in his monologue.

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This student was very influenced by the text itself, taking a large number of lines, structures and images from the play which he will re-work.

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This student did a great deal of historical research into the life of a nanny, and looked at accounts of actual nannies from the period.

037This student collected images and examples of objects from the nanny’s life – there are 15 fabric swatches here, and picture of buttons, fastenings and other objects you would find in a nursery.

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