I was in WH Smiths London Heathrow waiting for my flight to Abu Dhabi when I discovered a book entitled The Secret Teacher. It really is a secret because the author is unknown, despite people online trying to solve who the mystery author is! You might be familiar with The Guardian – Secret Teacher articles where teachers use anonymity to write about something connected to education that is bothering or frustrating them or something they simply could not express and publish for fear of losing their job! The Secret Teacher book isn’t a collection of secret teacher articles from The Guardian archives. Instead, it tells the story of a struggling Newly Qualified Teacher in an inner-city state school and his journey through the early years of his teaching career. It is clearly written by a teacher – with so much insight into teaching today in the UK. I’m not sure how much of the story is fiction or fact but there will be stories, scenarios and people that all teachers can relate to in this book!
I was actually reading The Secret of Literacy by David Didau when I decided to purchase Don’t Call it Literacy! by Geoff Barton. Didau often praises Barton and credits him as being the inspiration to write his own book about literacy. I was really enjoying The Secret of Literacy, so I felt compelled to read this book by Geoff Barton, after the references made by Didau. I only recently became aware of Geoff Barton when he was involved in a very public campaign to become the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) – and he was successful. Barton received a huge amount of support online, illustrating how he is highly respected across the educational community. Barton was previously Headteacher and Teacher of English, of course. Barton really does have a very impressive CV!
Adding captions, speech and thought bubbles can be done digitally with ease and simplicity. Although this can be achieved by Word, Power point, Keynote etc the quickest method in my opinion is using the app Balloon Stickies Plus. This great app is also FREE! The app allows the user to insert speech and thought bubbles and captions onto images very quickly (there is another free app called Bubble but most of the features are locked unless you are willing to pay). Balloon Stickies Plus app also allows the user to convert spoken word through recording into text – this has a lot of potential in the classroom for SEND and/or EAL pupils. Here I share some examples of how I have used the app with my pupils.
You could be forgiven for being confused about the title and the sherbet lemons! As well as Nina’s self-confessed personal fondness for the sweet it also refers to the fizz, fun and excitement that comes with teaching. At times all teachers, myself included, can feel that fizz has fizzled out and this book aims to bring back the fizz and sparkle into our teaching as well as providing lots of words of wisdom along the way.
QR (quick response) codes are not new and certainly not just for the classroom but they have so much potential for teaching and learning – I think they are great! There are a wide range of websites and apps to create and read/scan QR codes, I would recommend the app QR Reader. If you haven’t created QR codes before they are very easy to do so, I was surprised by how straightforward and quick it was! If you haven’t tried QR codes in your classroom then it is worth trying, because again its very simple yet effective so here is another blog with some advice to get you started.
Learning grids are a fantastic resource that can be used across different subjects and with different year groups/key stages. If you are not familiar with this resource it is simple; it is a grid consisting of 36 boxes ( 6 vertical and 6 horizontal). Dice are required – dice can be bought cheaply online or at stores such as Poundland or Tiger. Pupils will roll the dice twice – to give them a number they can use for the horizontal and vertical line (for example 2 across and 4 down). I have used learning grids in a variety of ways; to re-cap previous learning, support literacy, as a plenary and much more! The idea of a linking learning grid is more complex and challenging.
My iPad has become an essential part of my teaching toolkit; for various reasons. I am an advocate for using technology in the classroom. I always keen to learn about new technologies and share apps that can be used in the classroom to support and enhance learning.It is important to add that I believe in using technology purposefully and effectively, not for the sake of using technology or as a “gimmick”. I have undertaken research and further reading focusing on how best to use technology in the classroom to support and engage learners. I would recommend reading Perfect ICT Every Lesson by Mark Anderson, to build confidence, discover different strategies and find out about the SAMR model. You can read my review of his book here.
The Confident Teacher : Developing successful habits of mind, body and pedagogy by Alex Quigley really surprised me – as the book covered much more than I expected it to. I have never met Alex Quigley, yet I follow his educational profile online via his Twitter account @HuntingEnglish and I am a regular reader of his blog, also titled The Confident Teacher. I thoroughly enjoy reading his blogs and they have been great resource to me as a teacher, so I was very keen to read his book. Alex is a Teacher of English, that is evident as I think he has a wonderful style and use of language as well as many literature references made throughout his book. He is also Director of Huntington Research School, this book is heavily research informed and influenced which also supports many of his arguments and points. The Confident Teacher is obviously not some sort of quick fix self help guide to give teachers a transformation with confidence overnight, but it does focus on a wide range of strategies to develop confidence for both teachers and pupils. This book is filled with many stories from his career as well as anecdotes about various well known individuals from Pablo Picasso to Michael Jordan and Albert Bandura along the way!
In August 2016 I relocated to teach in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Before my move I had already made some online connections with teachers based in the UAE via Twitter and I have since been fortunate to meet many of them. I’ve also been able to stay in touch with the online educational community in the UK, keeping up to date with the latest developments and news via Twitter. If you are using Twitter you will know it is a fantastic resource for professional development with networking, sharing, collaborating and much more! I have blogged in more depth about how social media can be used for teachers’ professional development here.
In 2015 I joined Twitter with the aim of having a specific account dedicated to my professional development. I remember some of the first teachers I followed were Ross Morrison McGill, Amjad Ali and Mark Anderson. They were all tweeting about #TMLondon. I had no idea what they were on about?! I did some quick research to find out that #TMLondon was a free CPD event for teachers with a line up of experienced and diverse speakers. Fortunately, it was during my Easter break in Wales so I was able to attend. TMLondon 2015 was such a revelation for me and really did inspire me. The presenters including Mary Myatt, Stephen Lockyer and Jill Berry were all very interesting, engaging and shared something different yet relevant. I learnt so much and felt surrounded by people totally committed and dedicated to teaching.