Primary Blogging

Collecting blogs about primary education

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Motivation and emotion

Joe Kirby's blog


What makes kids motivated? And how can teachers and senior leaders get all kids working hard? In a five-post series, I’m exploring a few different ways of thinking about these questions. Last week, I borrowed from game theory and behavioural economics to illuminate motivation deficits and short attention spans. This week, I want to look at expectancy, emotions and trust.

Self-fulfilling prophecies


According to ancient Greek legend, Pygamalion invested so much love and care in sculpting a statue of the most beautiful and inspiring woman he could imagine, that the gods fulfilled his hopes and metamorphosed her into reality.

Teachers’ expectations have an impact on pupils that is hard to overstate. In 1968, Rosenthal & Jacobson ran a landmark experiment. When teachers were told that top sets were actually bottom sets, results declined. When teachers were told bottom sets were actually top set, results improved.

This has been replicated…

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“Please just give me a job!” Part 1: Choosing the right school

Job hunting was a big deal for me; I get extremely anxious and put a lot of pressure on myself. I started looking for jobs for September in January – that may seem early but I wanted to ‘get it out of the way’ (so to speak) so I could concentrate on my university work. (Some of my friends are still finding jobs now, though (May) – remember a school only requires half a term’s notice so jobs could be available for September right up until June!) Being part of a university course of around 40 people also looking for jobs turned into what seemed like a competition – the more “MISS XXX GOT A JOB!” statuses that went up on Facebook, the more pressure I felt to get one myself. However, I knew this wasn’t a process to be rushed – I thought it important to find the right school for me.

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Reading and Not Reading. The books I read. Finally.


20140530-111925.jpg Some of the books in my house. More unread that read. Sadly.

I was going to write a post about the new GCSE syllabus – but I got caught up thinking about my own reading history so, instead, that’s what this is. Having written it, I’d like to read others like it.  You can probably tell a lot about someone from the books they’ve read.

I grew up in a house of readers.  Everyone was always reading and we had a house full of books.  Compared to everyone else I was the non-reader.  My mum used to refer to me as ‘illiterate’ – a vain attempt to cajole me into joining the family gang.  I can’t explain why but I’ve always had a difficult relationship with books.   For one, I need very precise conditions to sustain reading for any length of time – usually holidays when there’s nothing to distract…

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Don’t Blame Boo Radley

Bill Boyd - The Literacy Adviser

To Kill a Mockingbird. Other great books are available. To Kill a Mockingbird. Other great books are available.

To Kill a Mockingbirdis a great book. It is one of many great books, and it happens to be written by an American. It is one of many great books written in the English language, and it happens to be written by an American, and it happens to be written by a woman. You see, great books are written in many languages, by writers male and female, of many nationalities. One of the key roles of teachers is to introduce young people to great books, at the appropriate times, and in accordance with their developing love of reading and awareness of the world. By now, I hope, you are all nodding in agreement.

So when an English Education Secretary says that young people are not reading enough, that they are not reading difficult enough books, and that he wants to…

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An in-school World Cup.


At the time of the 2010 World Cup I was asked whether I would be prepared to organise an in-school football tournament to run concurrently. I replied that while I would not be prepared to organise one, I was more than happy to facilitate it. And so, in the hands of a group of Year Six children who managed the organisation (writing letters to the Friends to persuade them to buy trophies etc.) logistics (fixture list etc.) and maths (league tables; points; goal differences etc.) incredibly, a week-long competition was born, gathered momentum and reached a genuinely tense, dramatic and memorable finale.

The premise for the tournament was very simple for a two-form entry junior school:

1. Eight members of staff were recruited to manage a team each.

2. ‘Squads’ of sixteen players comprised of two boys and two girls from each year group were given to each ‘manager’.


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Out of the Ordinary

The Diary of a Not So Ordinary Boy

I’ve never been a huge fan of testing.  My husband, who is diabetic, has to do it all the time.  Several times a day he pricks holes in his fingers, checking his blood sugar levels.  It’s a way of life.  I’ve had my share of blood tests, but nothing in comparison to him.  There have been few times in my life when I have been ruled by the phlebotomist.

Those times have been most recently characterised by fear and uncertainty, I have to admit; fear of what the results might mean.  The tests never had any significance the first time round.  Back then, when I was expecting baby number one, I submitted my innocent arm without a second thought.  I had no idea what a ‘high risk’ verdict might be, or of how I would feel about the prospect.

After Sam was born, and Down Syndrome was diagnosed, the pair…

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The pen is mightier than the keyboard

Distant Ramblings on the Horizon

..any theory of human intelligence which ignores the interdependence of hand and brain function, the historical origins of that relationship, or the impact of that history on developmental dynamics in modern humans, is grossly misleading and sterile.

Frank Wilson

There has been a recent spate of posts on handwriting, here (from @teachertoolkit), here (from @learningspy) and, the one that originally caught my eye a few months back, here (from @stephenperse).

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This has always been an issue that has intrigued me. My own handwriting is appalling. When I try, it is vaguely readable, but if i am writing quickly it soon descends into chaos. I start writing the next word before I finish the current one, which never works out well. I do the same when typing, but that usually turns out ok. Because autocorrect. Usually. The problem with typing for me has been that I’m not very good at it and for some…

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What’s your top ten?


In my formative years – I’m still quite young but starting a post with ‘in my formative years’ gives it an air of maturity and authority – my hormone riddled peers and I used to play a game called ‘Top Ten’. Like a quaint precursor to online dating, you would saddle up to a member of the opposite sex and muster all of your confidence before requesting the ten people they fancied, in strict order of fanciability.

Perhaps you played it too. You’ll remember the politics, the social intricacies, the unspoken rules. For example, if someone requests your list, you’re duty bound to include them. But not at number one. No. That would be too keen.

Of course by the time you’d finished with puberty, all of this childishness was forgotten. Or at least social hierarchies and cliques were well enough cemented that the exploratory list-inquests were unnecessary. Indeed, the…

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