Tag Archives: An EduBlether with…

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.

Episode 25 – An EduBlether with Haili Hughes (John Catt Educational Series)⤴


Our first episode in the John Catt Educational Series.

In Part 1 of our John Catt series we interview Haili Hughes on her new book ‘Preserving Positivity’. This is a wide-ranging discussion all about how best to keep experienced educators in the classroom, as well as looking at the reasons why so many teachers leave the profession. We discuss some of the similarities and differences between Scotland and England to identify the similarities and differences. While dealing with complex and challenging aspects of teaching, the book is pragmatic and optimistic, as was this conversation.

This episode is kindly sponsored by
John Catt Educational http://www.johncattbookshop.com

Episode 24 – An EduBlether with Patrice Bain (Powerful Teaching – Unleash the Science of Learning)⤴


In this episode of EduBlether, we welcome Patrice Bain, co-author of the book ‘Powerful Teaching – Unleash the science of learning’. We discuss knowledge, critical thinking, assessment, curriculum and lots more.

It was a fascinating discussion with some great practical ideas for how to begin using these research-informed strategies or ‘power tools’ in your classroom.


Listen: https://soundcloud.com/edublether/edublether-episode-24-an-edublether-with-patrice-bain

Episode 22 – Nurture and Inclusion – An EduBlether with James Kidd⤴


On this Episode of EduBlether we discuss the very large and complex issue of Nurture and Inclusion with James Kidd. James is passionate about Inclusion and Nurture, and his rich and varied experiences across different schools and local authorities make him a perfect person to have a discussion with about the vast themes explored in this episode.

Listen: https://soundcloud.com/edublether/episode-22-nurture-and-inclusion-an-edublether-with-james-kidd

Episode 19 – An EduBlether with Blair Minchin⤴


In this episode of EduBlether, we have an EduBlether with Blair Minchin, a passionate and enthusiastic Primary Teacher in Edinburgh who, amongst a range of other things, creates superb videos sharing his practice on Twitter. Please follow him on for some excellent content @Mr_Minchin We also have our usual features where we recommend the work of Jennifer Gonzalez @cultofpedagogy. Check out edublether.wordpress.com for more great content and if you like the show please rate us on iTunes.

To listen: Listen

EduBlether John Catt Educational Series⤴


John Catt Educational are a leading publisher of professional development books for educators around the world. Check out their titles at JohnCatt.com

We have teamed up with John Catt Educational to bring you a series of EduBlethers with a select group of authors from John Catt Educational.

We are in the middle of securing dates and will publish them below.


An EduBlether with Haili Hughes – Preserving Positivity

Episode 16 – An EduBlether with David Cameron⤴


In this wide ranging interview, David Cameron shares his thoughts, experiences and wisdom. An exhilarating interview.

Listen to Episode 16 – An EduBlether with David Cameron.

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!