Author Archives: edubletherjude

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

Why I love Teaching⤴

from @ edublether.wordpress.com

Image result for love teaching

It seems at times that there is a lot of negative press about teaching, and a lot of this comes from teachers themselves who have simply had enough. Now I am not for a second saying that our job is not hard, and I too feel the ever-growing pressures to raise attainment, reduce the gap, ensure a high level of Wellbeing for all and put on a Christmas show at the same time. I get it. Honestly I do.

However, the point of this post is to focus solely on the positive. To reflect deeply on what it was that attracted me to the profession and what it is that continues to do so every day.

1. Helping people

Straight off the bat, and no matter how cheesy it seems, the fact that I am working in a job that helps people every day is immensely rewarding. Non-teachers (muggles) hate it when I say this because it sounds very self-righteous and arrogant. I don’t mean it to come across this way. I simply get a joy and pleasure out of helping children make progress in the learning. When I use ‘learning’ here, I include everything from Literacy and Numeracy all the way through to getting along with people and dealing with a difficult situation. My job is to help and I get a lot from that.

2. Creativity

The creative element of teaching is hard to beat. Few other jobs give you so much autonomy to make the job your own. Creative approaches to teaching and learning are the cornerstone of education and it is creativity that will allow us to achieve the high expectations we set for our young people. It may be as simple as creating resources or display boards, but I also use it here to refer to the creativity needed to deescalate a potentially explosive situation with a child who struggles to self-regulate, or the creativity needed to be flexible enough to change your whole lesson plan because it started snowing outside and every child in the class has their nose on the window. It takes many forms but is ever-present. Creativity is the lifeblood of teaching and it is this that sets it apart from others jobs I have worked in.

3. Uncertainty

This may seem a bit masochistic, however I love not knowing what the day is going to throw at me. You can be the most organised, planned and prepared teacher in the word (I’m not for the record), but if one child doesn’t sleep well, or if someone just managed to win a game of fortnite before leaving the house, your whole daily plan can go out the window and you find yourself facing new and unpredicted challenges. I love this. It means that no two days are the same and you never once keep an eye on the clock to count the minutes till home time. In fact when the end of day arrives you often have no idea where the day has gone.

I also put uncertainty here as I like the fact that the future of our young people is unclear. University is no longer the only accepted end goal, jobs don’t exist yet that our children will be employed in and technology is advancing so quickly that it is re-shaping the way we teach. All of this breeds uncertainty but also great levels of excitement for me. It means I have to be flexible, learning all the time and reflective.

4. Learning.

I am passionate about learning. Both the process of how we learn, and how I can implement this understanding in my teaching, but also just learning new things myself. I will never stop in my pursuit for learning and I hope to pass on this attitude to those young people that I teach. Teaching not only encourages this, it is an obligatory part of being a teacher. You must evidence how you are developing and growing as a professional as part of Professional Review. I think this is fantastic. As a result of this there are so many opportunities for teachers to learn and grow professionally. Every year since becoming a teacher I have been fortunate enough to take part in a new and exciting learning opportunity either with the local authority or at University as well as in-house training sessions. This has been incredibly rewarding for me and I know it has had a significant impact on those learners I have taught.

5. Opportunities

Teaching affords us many different opportunities for how you want your career to progress. One of the points surrounding Scottish teacher’s dissatisfaction with Teaching at the moment is the lack of routes for promotion in the profession, and I understand this. Management should not be the only promotion route available for teachers. However, there are still a great number of opportunities available to teachers. Interesting secondments, curriculum development posts, working for a University on teacher training courses etc. You also have a lot of scope for becoming an expert in a specific area by joining council improvement parties focussing on a specific subject, like Maths or Digital Literacy. Opportunities for you to carve and shape your own career are bountiful if you are looking in the right places.

I know that it may not be popular to say it, and I know that there are counter arguments to what I am putting forward here. I think that it is important to be critical and challenge injustices in the profession, but we need to do this without losing sight of all the wonderful and exciting elements of what it means to be a teacher.

I welcome your thoughts and opinions on this, let me know what it is that you love about your job.

When The Adults Change, Everything Changes⤴

from @ edublether.wordpress.com

I am sure this book won’t be new to many teachers. It seems to have captured the attention of all teachers and schools across the country. I was already convinced I was going to love the book before I started as I was a keen listener of the Pivotal Podcast and agree with a lot of what is said here. The book did not disappoint.

The main idea behind the book, and the theme that runs throughout, is that the only thing we have complete control over in a school is our own behaviour and reactions to things. The children we are teaching are still learning how to behave, many of them have experienced trauma and multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences, therefore it is wrong and unfair of us to expect everyone to behave impeccably all the time. We also have to co sided the value of the way we react when things don’t go right, and the book strongly claims that punitive, harsh measures is not the answer (here, here Paul Dix!).

The book is filled with practical advice and tips for alternative behaviours for Adults. Simple things like caring about the children, recognising positive behaviour first and sending positive messages home all make perfect sense. The book is worth it for these practical tips alone. But these really are not anything new or groundbreaking. Essentially it boils down to creating a culture of kindness. A relentless, unwavering, unconditional positive regard. How fantastic!

The book is excellent. Well written, funny and useful. What more could you want? For me the real excitement comes from how popular these ideas are becoming. Hopefully this wave of kindness across the country will eradicate adults making children feel like they are somewhat less of a human being because they are younger. This book and the ideas within celebrate children as people in their own right, and I couldn’t agree with the sentiment more.