Primary Blogging

Collecting blogs about primary education

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On teaching the canon

Clio et cetera

It is a sad fact that there is insufficient time to teach all that we might want to teach. Whether it is periods of history or works of English literature, there is always something else to study, and, inevitably, this means making choices about what is in and what is out. Debates about the curriculum are most frequently about what these choices should be with the recent debates about the history curriculum an example of this. Particularly in English literature, though seen elsewhere as well, the debate revolves around the idea of a ‘canon’. For some, there is a canon of literature, or similarly a body of knowledge, that has a special status that sets it apart from, and in superiority to, other texts or bodies of knowledge. Value is central to the idea, and a canon is supposed to be, in the words of the West London Free School…

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Challenge & Success for all

Class Teaching

challenges ahead The 15 minute forum tonight was led by Steph Holt – looking at how we can ensure high levels of challenge during lessons.  She started the session by reminding us of the fact that it’s unfortunate that often when you read about challenge, it’s often in the context of ‘challenging the most able’.  This is not good. It seems quite bizarre that we seem to have got into thinking that only the most able need/deserve challenging? So some over-arching principles for challenge:
  • It’s not just about the most able.
  • We should have high expectations of all students, all of the time.
  • Make it hard – it’s good for students to find tasks difficult.

On the last point, how many of us have been told (following a lesson observation) that ‘you pitched the lesson wrong, as they were struggling‘ -This is an odd statement, as struggle (within reason obviously) is good as it develops

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Topics, projects or Units of Inquiry?

Internationalising the National

Various UK based primary practitioners have recently been blogging on the benefits, pitfalls and idiosyncrasies of using ‘topic’ based learning in the National Curriculum. I’ve enjoyed reading these, an interesting range of views have been aired and there have also been some nostalgic glances back to ‘topic webs’ etc.

Teachers in UK schools may be interested to know about The International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme’s take on cross-curricular or ‘trans-disciplinary’ learning.

The PYP has at its heart a Programme of Inquiry which is structured around 6 Trans-disciplinary themes, which students return to on an annual basis; these are:

Who we are—an inquiry into the nature of the self; beliefs and values; personal, physical, mental, social and spiritual health; human relationships including families, friends, communities, and cultures; rights and responsibilities; what it means to be human.

Where we are in place and time—an inquiry into orientation in place and…

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DIRT – a short enquiry into impact on children’s learning behaviour and progress.

Reach For The Moon

Some of you, those few who know me, will be aware I am taking part in a leadership course led by my LA, Norfolk, this year. One of our responsibilities as part of the course was to do a small piece of action research. So here is mine. Please comment, critique, but mostly, I hope, enjoy.

‘If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you have arrived?’ – Lewis Carroll


In my new role as Curriculum Leader in September 2013, I found myself wading through the new and continually changing National Curriculum documents. A difficult task made harder with the news that levels will be made redundant. I felt I needed to go back to the grassroots, the children, and work my way through the books, research and government documents.

Assessment for Learning has long been recognised as the most effective way to plan…

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Now That’s Primary Blogging Volume Six


The weekly mix tape of primary and primary-related posts. Please retweet / blog and help to share much of what is current and brilliant in primary education:

1. To Grade or Not to Grade, via @Mishwood1:

2. The need for a coherent narrative in topic planning, via @ethinking:

3. Flipped planning, also courtesy of @ethinking:

4. Curriculum Design, courtesy of @michaelt1979: and hidden feedback:

5. Breaking out of boxes through topic-based learning, via @ChrisChivers2:

6. Teaching the concept of a sentence, courtesy of @MrsPTeach:

7. Some of the problems associated with topic planning, courtesy of @imagineinquiry:

8. More on cross-curricular / topic teaching from @misshorsfall:

9. @nancygedge on not making or accepting excuses:

10. In praise of TAs, courtesy of @diankenny:

11. Spacing, interleaving and retrieval practice in primary maths, from @MrNickHart:

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Outnumbered, Outranked and Outwitted: Pupil Voice.

3D Eye

The wonderful BBC programme on family life – “Outnumbered” – this week gave us a particularly brilliant set of scenes featuring the head teacher of the secondary school that daughter Karen attends, and the young girl herself.


If you’ve missed this most recent episode of Outnumbered then do try to catch it as soon as possible.

For those who don’t know the programme, Karen, superbly portrayed by Ramona Marquez, is the strong-willed youngest child in the family who has recently transferred to a single-sex secondary school, where her slight quirkiness isn’t fully appreciated by either teachers or peers. She’s become a little sullen and withdrawn.

These scenes clearly demonstrate the harsh reality of how pupil voice or participation can be largely ignored by a school’s “adult” leaders and managers. Thankfully, there are many examples of schools where the notion of young people having a say in the decision-making process…

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10 Things I Love About Being Dyslexic

Independent Th!nking

Written by Ian Gilbert’s 19-year-old ‘dyslexic’ daughter to help with the current debate about what it is and whether it is at all:

10 Things I Love About Being Dyslexic

1. As a mature dyslexic, you’ve learnt that asking for help isn’t a bad thing.

2. Dyslexia pushes you to find other ways of expressing the talents you do have.

3. People are more forgiving if you spell something, reasonably simple, wrong.

4. You learn the true value of “Personal Best”.

5. You learn your weaknesses.

6. You become far more eager to push yourself, because it doesn’t come easy.

7. Your schoolwork is always more colorful.

8. You’ll find that you think very differently in comparison to the people around you. This is a good thing.

9. You learn the lesson that desiring to try and be better than other people is a waste of time.

10. Once you’ve…

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Flipping School

The Grinch Manifesto

I’ve been at the Education Festival today and watched a panel discussion which mentioned the concept of Flipped Learning.


To summarise the main points:

A flipped classroom is where you supply kids with films and materials to access learning so that the children can engage in discussion in class.

This is reasonable but essentially reductive. It describes the how, not the why. Applying that recipe will not lead to an effective implementation.

Flipping a classroom requires a change of spirit. It requires the teachers to be willing to shift the locus of control. Flipping puts the locus of control with the learners. It means:

1) learners will drive the agenda in lessons,
2) teachers will really need to know their stuff and be able to answer any question on the learning.
3) the teachers need to plan ahead to supply the learning resources
4) be prepared to follow the learners…

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Authentic narrative in cross-curricular planning – or Selling the Curriculum

The Grinch Manifesto

I’m really taken with this idea.  I have realised that I used to teach themes or topics as bricks in a wall, that they should be sold to children as journeys through a landscape.  Learning isn’t random bricks inserted in a wall of understanding, nor is it confining ladders or spirals.  It is a glorious meandering journey where each event relates to its forerunner.

Story telling is the most ancient tool of the teacher.  Their impact has been charted in many cultures through out history.  There seems to be  particular text that is referred to regularly:

Hardy,B (1977) Narrative as a primary act of mind.  This work is cited by many seeking to assert that narrative is a tool for learning, including Daniels (1996).

I have been conscious of this notion since becoming aware of Pat Sykes & Ken Gale’s work on Narrative approaches to education research. (2006) They begin…

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Blogs on Topic Planning – for and against

Over the weekend there was an interesting Twitter conversation about the pros and cons of topic planning. Several of those involved agreed to write blogs on the subject. This is the list of those that did:

@MissHorsfall – Creative Cross Curricular Contexts
@rpd1972 – Contexts for Learning
@ChrisChivers2 – Topic work; taking the long view
@cherrylkd – Victorians for my special learners
@michaelt1979 – The importance of curriculum design
@imagineinquiry – Some problems with topic planning
@ethinking – Authentic narrative in cross-curricular planning
@ethinking – Flipping school

Please let us know if you would like to add a blog you have written on the subject either recently or in the past – @primaryblogger1