Author Archives: edubletherjude

An EduBlether with Dr Emma Kell⤴

from @ EduBlether

 

Originally published May 2019

We had a good EduBlether with Dr Emma Kell about her book and teaching in general. The book is a fantastic, warts-and-all look at teaching, told through many stories of real-life practitioners. Despite some horrific stories, the book remains positive and hopeful about our profession.

What is abundantly obvious throughout your book is that you love your job! Can you let us know what it is that you love about teaching and teachers?

To be honest, I’ve been pretty rubbish at anything else I’ve ever tried! Let’s just say bar work wasn’t for someone as clumsy… On a serious note, there is no better feeling in the world than being in mid-flow in a lesson with laughter and the sparks cracking and a genuine feeling of equipping young people for a better future. Teenagers are raw and difficult at times, but I love their in-your-face honesty, their integrity and the fact that most of them wear their true selves with such pride. I pride myself on being known as a ‘nerd’ by my GCSE students, who themselves have caught my love of unusual and funny words.

Few things inspire me with such hope and optimism as meeting new recruits to the profession, with the fire in their bellies and their moral compasses firmly fixed on making a difference. It’s our duty as experienced teachers to guide and mentor them through the tricky early years, nurturing that spark, modelling our own humanity and fallibility and mopping up the inevitable tears when things don’t go quite right. To see new teachers I’ve worked with go on to happy and fulfilling careers, making differences to thousands of children, is such a great feeling.

I love the feeling of pride of being part of a vibrant and special school community – of walking the corridors and admiring the colourful displays and stopping for minor-crisis management and chats about politics, crisp flavours and identity theory.

You spoke with over 3,700 teachers as part of your research. What was the best story you heard?

I think it has to be Helena Marsh’s story. Helena is an inspirational leader who shows that there ABSOLUTELY can be ‘another way’ from the excessive scrutiny and punishing accountability measures that afflict many teachers. She is so often on my shoulder, with her various mantras: consistency of outcome, not of approach; trust teachers unless and until they give you reason not to – then identify and offer the support they need; know your worth. Leaders like Helena help me keep faith in the profession, even during this exceptionally difficult period.

Following on from this, what was the story that shocked you the most?

The one about the women forced to have a miscarriage at work. She’d been in for an extra-curricular event on the Saturday and the Head refused to accept that she was too ill to be in work that week. I must admit that I hesitated over publishing it (though I heard the story first hand and know it is true) – six months later, a teacher who’d been forced to go through the very same thing at a different school got in touch. So not even she was ‘alone’ in her horrific treatment.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for teachers across the UK at the moment? 

There are so many. The realities of the funding crisis biting is going to be the final, toxic straw for many, I fear. But for me, it’s the steady and relentless erosion of trust and professional autonomy. Teachers don’t mind hard work – what they do mind is feeling that their voices aren’t heard; their experiences, values and education not valued.

You offer practical strategies in your book for moving forward with teaching. Can you please give us a brief overview of these, both at a National level and within individual schools? 

In individual schools, it all comes down to school culture or ‘how we do things around here.’ More often than not, it’s the small things. The ‘thanks you’s and the ‘sorry’s and the ‘good mornings’. It’s about leadership which is build upon a foundation of humanity, humility and essential humour.

At national level, I must admit that I’m currently furious. Yes, teachers can pull together and make the difference within their respective school and virtual communities, but this ‘crisis’ is a perfect storm that has been brewing for YEARS, arguably since the advent of the National Curriculum. Ministers have obfuscated and fudged and even now seem unwilling to acknowledge that there’s any problem at all. We need actual practising teachers and leaders to be LISTENED to. I’m usually very ‘Pollyanna’ but I can’t actually see things getting much better at the national level unless something radical changes at government level. Where ‘toxic schools’ and horrific experiences which have lead teachers to ‘implode, explode or walk away’ used to be the exception, they now appear to be more common than not and it makes me feel sick and sad for the profession I love and the children, like my own, who are going through the school system.

Professional Capital in a Virtual School⤴

from @ EduBlether

With schools in Scotland beginning to contemplate how to re-open after a prolonged period of closure, I can’t help but reflect on how the last 10 weeks have gone and if there have been any lessons learned. Much like a yoyo factory, it has been full of its ups and downs. There have been moments of wonderful clarity and presence of mind where I have become almost philosophical. Then there have been days where I have been really sad, with only Salt and Vinegar Pringles and coffee to numb the pain. But one of the main victories for me has been the successes in collaboration with colleagues. In what is challenging times for collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity, I have witnessed first hand some incredible achievements in each of these areas.

In a recent EduBlether podcast (Episode 23- Digital Learning)we discussed the impact of digital technology on Professional Learning (as well as many other issues relating to digital learning). I would like to turn the focus of my attention to staff development and what we can take away from our current situation while moving forward into unknown territory.

The first area I would like to discuss is at first glance trivial, but in reality is transformative. With the ubiquity of video calls, I have joked that it is as if we have discovered a teleport button, where we can be in a meeting department meeting one minute, then 5 minutes later we can be at a professional learning event. Before lockdown, both events would have been punctuated by at least a 45 minute journey in the car, a 15 minute rage-filled search for a parking space, then an entrance to a room full of bad coffee and embarrassment at your lateness. We can now simply click a button and jump between meetings, like a character from a sci-fi film (albeit in this example a very dull and boring Microsoft Office version of the future). Not content with a teleport button, we have also discovered the ability to jump through time as well as space. If we miss any meetings there is the potential to catch up later at a time convenient to you due to meetings being recorded for prosperity. For example, Moray House has been hosting a series of webinars on a range of topics including Self-Evaluation, leadership and more. I have never been able to attend the ‘live’ event (having two young children at home), but I have enjoyed them later at a time of my choosing (after bedtime stories have been read and I feel more human).

These developments with digital literacy and confidence have prompted me to consider their impact through the lens of ‘Professional Capital’, the notion put forward by Hargreaves and Fullan. Professional Capital, they suggest, is made up of human capital, social capital and decisional capital. I’d like to quickly take each concept, in turn, to acknowledge how this new way of working can enhance each area, and ultimately on outcomes for children.

Human capital is roughly translated into the ability or the skills of the people in the school, for instance, a teachers subject knowledge or awareness of a range of pedagogical approaches. The new way of working, which is highly personalised and can be tailored to suit individual needs clearly builds Human Capital in a much more efficient and focussed way than was possible before. Kulvarn Atwal advocates in his book ‘ The Thinking School’ for ‘Dynamic Learning Communities’ where he believes that teachers must have choice and input on the nature and direction of their own learning to feel empowered and motivated. Never have I worked in an environment where there is as much choice in terms of professional learning. So many agencies from universities to private companies have offered appropriate learning for free to the profession.

Decisional Capital refers to the ability to analyse information and make decisions or judgements on how to deal with different situations. Again this is enhanced for me by the supportive online platforms readily available to teachers. From the incredibly supportive and richly experienced world of Twitter to more focussed and targeted online groups using an online collaboration platform like Teams. Teachers can now reach out and ask for advice or further information, in turn, increasing their ability to make sound decisions and judgements.

Social Capital refers to the collegiate culture of trust and respect that exists within a school. I have witnessed an increase in Social capital with the use of digital technologies. I have heard of or seen groups of teachers collaborating online to create videos for children to feel connected to their school and teachers creating team-teach writing lessons online to suit a range of levels. The collaborative functions available in Microsoft Teams or OneNote, for instance, are an excellent way to improve Social Capital in any establishment.

However, these advancements could also play in favour of another model for education. If we view these advancements through the lens of a Business Capital model, it becomes a more worrying and less enriching landscape. The argument could be put forward that these advancements in digital literacy could help reduce the cost of education. Questions from this perspective could be; how can we capitalise on the extra time teachers now have given there is less travel time between meetings? Can we increase class sizes using a blended model of online/in school learning? Can we hold teachers more accountable to decisions they make when everything is online and inherently more visible/open to dissection and criticism? (I heard of one school where they were giving performance reviews based on online lessons!)

In a business capital approach to education, teaching can be reduced to a set of procedures or routines, something easy to learn and master, something anyone can do. Hargreaves and Fallon suggest that this business capital view of teaching also claims that technology could potentially replace teachers. With the focus of professional learning being on gaining confidence with the tools and systems that help teachers ‘deliver’ learning online, we run the risk of subscribing too heavily to a business capital view of education. We need to keep this distinction in our minds when considering the impact of digital technologies on professional learning.

Now I am not trying to paint a picture of a bleak, post-apocalyptic, Black Mirror-style version of the future of teaching. However, it is worth considering the impact of these advancements in digital confidence from multiple perspectives.

It is clear to see that the benefits of digital technology have become a part of everyday life in the world we now live. Almost every teacher across the country will have taken part in an online video call, accessed professional learning online and collaborated with colleagues to solve a range of problems with a range of creative solutions. This has undoubtedly enhanced the Professional Capital of many teachers and educators worldwide. I believe passionately that by investing in professional learning using online/digital technologies we will see an improvement in outcomes for children and young people for reasons laid out above. I believe that digital technologies can help us improve Professional Capital and, while I am still cautious of the overly business centred, cost-saving narrative that could inevitably arise out of our current situation, I am excited to see how professional learning develops in Scotland and beyond.

The Line⤴

from @ EduBlether

On the back of thinking about all the small things that lead to successes in a school, I thought it would be apt to consider the other side of this. One of the seemingly small things that add to a considerable amount of disruption and wasted learning time, in all of the schools I have ever worked in, is the line. I’m going to discuss the various problems I see with this accepted norm, and then I will try to consider some alternatives.

One of the main issues I have with this is the wasted teaching and learning time that could be better spent doing anything else. The time it takes between a bell ringing and children getting into a classroom is huge. Let’s do some quick maths on this. A conservative estimate (based purely on my own experience, with admittedly no scientific rigour applied), would be that it takes at least 5 minutes once the bell has gone to have a class ready to come in at the start of the day, after break and after lunch (at least!). So this is potentially 15 minutes each day, which is about 70 minutes across the week, taking in to account the half-day! That is over 44 hours across the school year.

I don’t want you to think I am ever condoning counting minutes and seconds and making sure every possible part of time is accounted for. This would be dangerous for a large number of reasons. But when there are so many other issues, it begs the question, why are we wasting our time on a bizarre and old fashioned custom that gives nothing back?

Ordinarily, children have been playing in an unstructured and child-led way, then a bell goes (quite abruptly) and they have to stop immediately and form a line, one behind each other. We often scorn them for not being straight enough or for continuing conversations. Quite militaristic when you think about it? But this is quite difficult for a lot of children to do (I think I would struggle to be honest) especially if they have been engaging in high energy play. What are we achieving by standing in line? Efficient management of people cannot be an argument here due to the amount of wasted time. Compliance?

I don’t like the idea of continuing to do something one way just because it is the way we have always done it. I want to know what the alternatives are.

Comment below with any suggestions on alternatives to lining up.

All the small things⤴

from @ EduBlether

I have been thinking a lot recently about all the small things that I do in my job as a Depute headteacher. Now, there are a lot of high-profile strategic things that I do which are of great importance (I’m a very important person do t you k ow?). Things like having an overview of attainment for example, or working through complex pastoral concerns. Yet for me, this is not what my job is really about.

I would argue that the most important part of my job is a collection of small and seemingly insignificant things. The things that go unnoticed and can’t fit nicely on a spreadsheet. I am talking about things like standing on the school gates in the morning and saying hello to as many people as you can. Or the times I play football with the children who just want to tackle a teacher, but then I somehow managed to avoid their lunging feet and score a wonder goal. Or even something as simple as noticing when a child gets a haircut and giving them a compliment. In fact one of the easiest things, yet the thing with such a profound impact is the simple act of smiling. We don’t measure how many smiles we have managed to raise at the end of the school year, or how many times we made a child laugh, but it is exactly these things that are so important to me. I am not for a second saying that I want to start measuring these things, all I am saying is I want to spend time recognizing how important they are.

These things are so important to me because they build relationships. It is these daily interactions that build a culture in a school. It is these small moments in time that collectively add up to so much more. So it is for this very reason that I am going to embrace my misspent youth listening to Blink 182 and spend more time celebrating all the small things that I do in my job. I feel that this will allow me to appreciate the tiny successes that happen every day.

What are the small things that you do that you would like to shout about?

An EduBlether with Vocabulary Ninja⤴

from @ EduBlether

We were lucky enough to catch the Vocabulary Ninja to have a chat about his new book, his app and vocabulary in general. It is hard not to get passionate about vocabulary after reading this, we are sure you will enjoy it as much as we did.

Can you tell us about how you became the vocabulary ninja? Was there a long and gruelling training regime? Let us know about your journey.

Vocabulary Ninja stated quite simply out of a reflection on how one particular year had went, the results the Y6 pupils achieved and how things could be improved. Within this period of refection, I decided that vocabulary would become a driving force of everything that happened within the classroom and around the school.

I decided to introduce a word to my class everyday, and because I was doing it anyway, I thought that I would share it. So, I created a blog and Twitter account and shared the word of the day every day for people to use. That’s it. I’m really proud to see where Vocabulary Ninja has developed in the 2 and a half years it has been running. One of the best things about it, is the people you get to engage with as a result! It’s amazing! Who knows what will happen in the next 2 and a half years.

As someone who is a true advocate for the power of words, what is your favourite word?

Well that is a tough question. In terms of how I have seen a word used in such a skilled way by a pupil, it would have to be translucent. A pupil used it to describe the wings of a dragon, it was a real lightbulb moment for me personally and the pupil, as to the impact this word had on the writing, and the deeper meanings it portrayed. She pupil built a vivid image of this dragon using words such as emaciated and frail. Perfect!

Is your book only relevant to the teaching of English and Literacy, or will the content be useful and transferable across the curriculum? 

It’s a great question. The book is stacked with ideas to support reading and writing, via vocabulary. However, there are over 50 topic word banks based upon the national curriculum, etymology sections that swirl their way through history, geography and science, and most importantly a range of content to your mentality towards teaching vocabulary.This mentality has the same applications across the curriculum, not only thinking about vocabulary, but in everything that you do as a teacher. You’ll see what I mean!

Your book recommends some fantastic ideas, strategies and games for improving vocabulary in your classroom. Which of these is your favourite and why?

I think simple things are the best. My favourite is the word of the day, the original and the best. The beauty of the word of the day is that it has so many applications. The main aim of the word of the day is to widen and deepen a pupils vocabulary. By discussing the associated SPaG, word classes and definitions with pupils, then giving then the opportunity to apply. Then revisit, use orally through the day and week. Slowing helping pupils seethe word in action. It’s a mindset – it’s free. Words are there all around us, as teachers we must make them a priority in our classrooms. If someone was to implement one idea from the book, it would be this.Further to this. The free Vocab Lab App has been a revelation! Nearly 100K downloads and the feedback that I receive is wonderful! If you haven’t downloaded it for your personal or school iPads yet, then you are missing out!

What do you see as the main barriers to children developing a wide ranging vocabulary? How do we, as educators, best work against this? 

Honestly, and I touch on this in the book. You, teachers. And a child’s home life too, but yes teachers can be a big barrier. So, ok, this is a barrier, but let’s not look at it as a negative, but rather an opportunity for change. By making vocabulary a priority of our own and thinking about it as a valuable ally, rather than the enemy, then we can begin to win the war of words! 

You have also developed a Vocabulary Ninja app. Can you tell us a little about how this came about and what the app does? 

I love the apps that I have created so far. The Vocab Lab is amazing really and is due for an expansion upgrade very soon! The Vocab Lab has 100 very common words that pupils often use within their writing, mostly because the have no alternative. As a year 6 teacher, the App for me, was a way to impact on more children at once and to promote independence. The App gives 6 alternative for each word – children (and adults) love using it.Plus – it’s free! I also have a Word of the Day App too, again totally free. This has both Words of the Day, appear in the App every day! Super handy! The App’s are designed to make teachers lives a little easier, reduce workload and improve outcomes for pupils and schools.

Finally, there are so many competing agendas in a school. Why do you think vocabulary is so important and what can it do for our learners? 

I honestly don’t think there is enough time in the school day for vocabulary to become a competing agenda item,  and rightly so. But it must form part of teachers daily routine, part of your mentality and your schools ethos towards learning.Words impact and unlock the curriculum. Quite simply, if pupils understand more words, then they will be able to access more of the learning opportunities put before them in science, english, maths, PE, in conversations and so on.

There won’t be a test, it isn’t measurable, but its impact will be profound.

Website – www.vocabularyninja.co.uk

Blog – vocabularyninja.wordpress.com

Twitter – @VocabularyNinja

 

An EduBlether with Ian Eagleton from The Reading Realm⤴

from @ EduBlether

Ian Eagleton has taught for several years and is an English Co-ordinator. He has a passion and enthusiasm for motivating children to read and write. He is also the man behind the fantastic Reading Realm website full of great interviews, reviews and resources.
His new app ‘The Reading Realm’ has just been released and it is fantastic.

Hello Ian, can you tell us about your passion for developing children’s enthusiasm for literacy? Where does this come from? Why did you decide to focus on this aspect of learning?

 Reading and writing has always been an important part of my life. I have very fond memories of my mum reading to me, every night. I remember Alfie and Annie-Rose and Garth Pig and the Ice-Cream Lady. I remember joining in with the story. I remember my mum drawing pictures for me every night of children’s book characters and leaving them out for me to colour in – I still have the scrap book we filled up together.

However, it wasn’t until Year 6 that I actually began to enjoy reading for myself. Reading up until that point involved practising sight words, which were kept in my Grandad’s old tobacco tin. Reading also meant ploughing my way through a very dreary reading scheme. In short, I really despised independent reading time!

Luckily, in Year 6 I had a wonderful teacher called Mrs Perry. She pointed me in the direction of her well-stocked class library and I found the Supergran books. I was off! I suddenly began to read voraciously, every night, until the early hours of the morning. I whizzed through Supergran and all the Roald Dahl books and then began exploring other books and series. There’s something comforting and familiar about reading a series of books when you first begin your reading journey, especially as a nervous child who thought I wasn’t very good at anything!

Mrs Perry also encouraged lots of creative writing – she wold often give us a starter and then just leave us to write away. Or she might give us some characters and challenge us to weave them into an exciting story. I loved listening to her read very day, on the carpet. I remember vividly giggling away to Rebecca’s World by Terry Nation. I also fondly remember being sat at the Listening Station, headphones on, escaping into the world of The Enchanted Horse. There was also lots of drama, plays, acting and art in her class, which I loved and freedom to create – one day, Mrs Perry allowed me to write a story for the younger children in the school on the new school computer. She applauded my use of repetition and the next day I waited with baited breath as the computer painfully, slowly, gradually coughed my story out, over the course of an entire day. What a feeling!

In my own classroom, I have always dreamed of re-capturing this magic. The magic of creativity and escaping through books into far away worlds, full of adventure, excitement and new friends.

What advice would you give those working with children to encourage a love of reading and writing? How do you develop this with individuals as well as at a whole school level?

Read every day. That’s my main one. Sometimes I’ve heard the excuse, ‘But we don’t have time…’ Reading to your class is arguably the most important, effective means of raising literacy standards and inspiring a life-long love of reading in our children. It creates an amazing community feel – for a brief moment you are swept away together as a class on a journey and everyone is exposed to challenging, exciting vocabulary, complex storylines, jokes and fun, dilemmas and wonder. It has always been my favourite thing to do during the day.

I have also tried to include a wide-range of books when I’ve read aloud to my classes – fiction, poetry, non-fiction, short stories, animations of stories, audio books and so on. The app very much aims to replicate this. I’ve tried to include a range of lots of different genres, from lots of authors and publishers around the world.

I often feel that if we can invite children on this reading journey with us and share a special part of ourselves through the books we choose, that they will see the importance and value of reading for themselves.

The Reading Realm app looks fantastic. Congratulations on creating an app! Can you tell us all about it please? Who is it for? What does it do? Why should we download it? 

Thank you! The Reading Realm app is for children aged 5 to 13. There are extracts and passages from classic and contemporary children’s fiction, non-fiction and poetry. With each passage there is a discussion guide and a range of spelling, grammar and word games. I’ve tried to keep the questions in each discussion guide as open-ended as possible – this is not about answering questions for a test or exam preparation! The discussion guides are there to encourage children to explore their opinions and ideas about a text. The games include lots of interactive fun and all the spelling and grammar is linked to the text – this was very important to me.

There are a number of high-profile authors, poets and publishers involved in the project, who have kindly allowed me to use passages from their books. These include Abi Elphinstone, Sinead O’Hart, Eloise Williams, Kathi Appelt, Neal Zetter, Karl Nova, Guy Bass, Holly Webb, Saviour Pirotta, Jackie Marchant, Flying Eye Books, Maverick, Stripes and Lantana.

The tagline is ‘Journey into a world where stories come to life…’ which may give you a flavour of what the app is trying to achieve.

I think the app will provide teachers, parents and children with lots of engaging stories and expose children to new authors. The app also has a variety of weekly Reading Challenges and suggestions, the key aim being to encourage young people to visit their local library and spend some time poring over its bookshelves.

I hope The Reading Realm offers children something special and, with the click of a button, gives them the opportunity to escape from the comfort of their chair, just for a little while, into a magical word where words shimmer, stories weave their magic, characters come to life and exciting, strange and new adventures wait for them.

I wonder if you could also tell us about the process of designing an app. Where do you even start with something like that?

It’s very long and very complicated and very tiring! I think the last time I slept properly was last October!

The app began when I started teaching whole class reading lessons to my children about four or so years ago. I was struggling to find enough books for the children to all access. I was struggling to find books that would engage everyone in the class and I was getting fed up of all the reading worksheets on offer! Luckily around the same time, I became involved in, and led on, a whole school project to improve Reading and Writing across the school. This eventually led to me completing my NPQSL, which focused on raising whole school standards in English.

I started by reading lots of books about reading, writing and vocabulary: Aiden Chambers, Michael Rosen, Doug Lemov, Donalyn Miller, Daniel Willingham, Margaret Meek, Jane Oakhill, Maryanne Wolf, Mem Fox, Teresa Cremin, Timothy Rasinski, Isabel Beck, Steven Pinker and many other great writers have helped shaped my ideas and views.

I also signed up to the Research-Rich Pedagogies website and began exploring what else was going on in schools and searching for examples of good practice. I found Jon Biddle’s work on Reading Rivers really useful and began reflecting upon my own identity as a reader and exploring where the gaps where in my knowledge – I wanted the app to include as wide a range of stories and poems as possible.

I then set up for a few years a Parent and Child Reading Group, after-school, for children in my class and trialled a lot of the resources, games and ideas I was making for the app, as well as exploring how the resources might work in small groups and in whole class situations.

When I was sure that the resources were of a high-standard, I contacted a brilliant app developer called Doug and began talking to him about my ideas. There were lots of scribbled drawings sent over and we talked about what would work and what wouldn’t be possible – at this stage I had quite a few ridiculous, out-landish ideas!

I then spent an awful lot of time contacting authors and publishers and talking to them about the app and what I was trying to achieve. To my amazement, they were all really impressed and a huge number of them agreed to work with me. From there, it was sorting out copyright and permission agreements, which took around four months! I discovered that the world of children’s publishing is an incredibly friendly, supportive place and that lots of authors believed in what I was trying to achieve.

The initial suggestion that the app would take four weeks, didn’t quite go to plan! There was so much to do and so many more authors and publishers had gone on board that I ever dreamed of, that the app ended up taking about six months to create. During all this time, the app developer (Doug) and I were in weekly, sometimes daily, contact – he has been phenomenal! Patient, hard-working and full of creativity.

My husband, who creates databases and software and is an IT consultant, also helped hugely. We were often up until midnight testing ideas, choosing colours, designing games and arguing! My Dad even came over one weekend to help copy and paste thousands of lines of code into spreadsheets.

The app then went out to trial and lots of teachers, children and educators got the chance to feedback and give their views. Things were amended and changed and eventually the app has been released. It can be downloaded via the Apple Store and sells for a one-off payment of £2.99. There are plans to release a second version of the app next year, which focuses on non-fiction, and also plans to write even more original material for the app, but I think we all need to sleep first!

It’s certainly been a challenging, exhausting journey but I think we have produced something that is very special and I’m incredibly proud of the app.

Can you finish up by giving us your top recommendations for the next books we should read? What books are coming out that are getting you excited? 

There are so many! This really is the ‘golden age’ of children’s fiction. I’ve particularly enjoyed Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan, The Fox and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson, The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell, Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, Emmett and Caleb by Karen Hottois and Delphine Renon, Scavengers by Darren Simpson, The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson, The Star-Spun Web by Sinead O’Hart, The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods by Samuel J.Halpin,  and Kate Wakeling’s beautiful collection of poetry Moon Juice.

Before recommending some new books that are coming out, I think I’d also like to recommend some old favourites! Supergran by Forrest Wilson, The Enchanted Horse by Magdalen Nabb and Rebecca’s World by Terry Nation are all fantastic and should not be over-looked!

I think I’m most looking forward to Abi Elphinstone’s Rumblestar (I was sent a proof-copy and it’s quite something! Funny, exciting, thrilling and moving and I’d say her best yet!), The Scarecrow by The Fan Brothers and Beth Ferry, Tad by Benji Davies (my favourite children’s author/illustrator) and High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson (I love what Knights Of are doing!).

There are so many exciting children’s books coming out and already out! I love hearing people’s recommendations and opinions on them all. Talking about books is possibly my favourite thing to do!

Visit The Reading Real website for some great interviews, reviews resources and more.

Follow Ian on Twitter – @reading_realm

Download the app here

An EduBlether with Joshua Seigal⤴

from @ EduBlether

Joshua Seigal is an award-winning professional poet, performer and educator who uses poetry to develop literacy skills and inspire confidence and creativity in communication. Joshua has worked in hundreds of schools, nurseries, libraries, theatres and festivals around the world, and has books published by Bloomsbury and other major publishers.

Joshua, can you tell us about how you got into poetry and education? Were these two separate paths that eventually met, or have they always been intertwined?

For me they are definitely intertwined, and have become increasingly so as my career has developed. Children are the natural audience for a lot of the stuff I write, and visiting schools is my main way of creating an audience for my work. That being said, I do write and perform for adults too, although with my education work, developing this side of my creative output has taken more of a back seat.

 
You do a lot of work in schools, can you tell us what you think poetry can do for our young people?Joshua, can you tell us about how you got into poetry and education? Were these two separate paths that eventually met, or have they always been intertwined?

Poetry is a wonderful way for young people, or people of any age really, to express themselves. It can be very playful, so it is useful way of exploring language. I don’t think poetry should necessarily be taught as a separate, discrete part of the curriculum; poetry can and should be embedded across the curriculum generally. As a visiting poet, I see first-hand the impact it can have on all kinds of learners, from stretching more academically minded pupils to empowering those who do not necessarily think of school as their kind of place.

 
You are a national poetry day ambassador (pretty great title), can you tell us about how you got into that and what your role entails? 
I have been a National Poetry Day Ambassador since 2016, and if I am being totally honest I cannot remember how that role came about. I do know that I am one of several ambassadors, however, so I cannot take sole credit for it! The role is quite open ended, and involves things like promoting National Poetry Day across social media, and spreading the word about it during my school visits.
 
What tips would you give to teachers and those working with children to help them encourage an interest in poetry?
The first thing I would say is, don’t be scared! Poetry is not just for people with a PhD. In fact, it is not limited to any specific sort of person; anyone can enjoy it. The second thing I would encourage people to keep in mind is that poems definitely do not have to rhyme! Rhyming is simply one of the tools a poet has at their disposal. Other tools include things like metaphors, similes, alliteration and repetition (as I make clear in my poem ‘I Don’t Like Poetry‘). It is important to expose children, and yourself, to a wide range of poetry, from comedy to tragedy and everything in between. This will help make explicit the sheer range of possibilities on offer, and will divest people of the notion that there are such things as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers when it comes to poetry.
 
Out of all the poems you have written, which is your favourite?
The poem I mentioned earlier, which is called ‘I Don’t Like Poetry’, and which also form the title piece for my 2016 poetry collection from Bloomsbury.
 
Do you have a favourite child’s poem that you didn’t write?
I recently edited an anthology of funny poems, in which I included lots of my favourite. A poem I remember from childhood, and which brings back happy memories, is the poem ‘Daddy Fell Into the Pond’ by Alfred Noyes. Brian Moses is also someone who taught me, early in my career, that it is important not simply to focus on getting laughs – I had been primarily a comic poet before that. I think his poem ‘Space Dog’ is lovely.
 
What exciting things are coming up for you next?
I have two books forthcoming with Bloomsbury in 2020 and 2021. I also have a book forthcoming with Troika in 2021, which I am co-writing with my friend and fellow poet Neal Zetter.
Please check out Joshua’s website www.joshuaseigal.co.uk for free samples of poetry, and info about his school visits and other work!

Senior Leadership By John Tait⤴

from @ edublether.wordpress.com

This book, as part of the Bloomsbury CPD library, is a fantastic read and one that all aspiring and experienced leaders of educational establishments should have on their shelves.

The book is split in to useful stages (Stage 1: Are you ready for leadership? All the way through to Stage 5: Enjoying Senior Leadership) These stages make it incredibly easy to navigate and find what is of interest. It is for this reason that I will be coming back to the book again and again. The book is packed full of interesting and useful information for those in Senior management teams in a school. There are practical hints and tips for what to do before even starting your leadership position, then several chapters on worthwhile topics such as difficult conversations or leading improvements.

Each section is neatly summed up with to do lists, reading material (including blog recommendations) and key takeaway messages.

This book addresses the challenges present when making the shift between being a high quality classroom teacher, to managing staff rather than children.

Tait also includes a full set of helpful, ready to use training plans for 20 hours of CPD sessions to use within your school and senior leadership team. All handouts and presentations are available as a free download from the companion website.

It really does offer an awful lot and I would recommend it to anyone who is in a senior leadership post in a school or is considering making the move in to leadership soon. The book is interesting to read and captures the essence of leadership in a school. It felt like having an friendly experienced mentor with me the whole time I was reading it.

Pobble 365⤴

from @ edublether.wordpress.com

We Recommend this fantastic website for helping teaching a range of Literacy outcomes. Pobble 365 offers up a new and interesting picture every day (hence the 365), with accompanying story starter, questions and more. I use this as children are coming in to the class as a nice starter, but it could easily be a whole lesson. You can also go back through the calendar to see previous pictures if you don’t like the photo of the day.

http://www.pobble365.com

X-Ray Goggles by Mozilla⤴

from @ edublether.wordpress.com

This is a great tool for playing about with websites. Designed to be used on desktop, rather than tablet, this tool allows you to remix any websites on the internet. Change pictures, text, headlines etc then publish and see what happens. No coding experience is needed and the tool is very straightforward to use. This is a nice insight into websites though as all the code becomes visible too. You have to ‘install’ it on your bookmark bar but this tool all of 10 seconds, and I had edited the headlines on BBC news after 1 minute. Very straightforward.

https://goggles.mozilla.org