Sunday, 7 February 2016

Simple oral poetry idea

There's an ad at the moment where we hear 'Big bad wolf' repeated and a bit of percussion in between. This is precisely what I suggest that we can do in poetry workshops with children. We can pick a phrase, repeat it to produce a rhythm and then over the top of that spoken rhythm say lines that occur to you: e.g. 'I'm not afraid' or 'I'm scared of spiders' or 'Go away'...You just slot them in whenever you feel like it. You can do it nicely in a circle, where everyone says the chorus and people throw in their lines as and when they want to...

Nick Gibb boosts reading for pleasure whilst insulting teachers and our intelligence



Reading for pleasure far outweighs the impact of socio-economic background on pupils’ success at school, Nick Gibb has said.

The schools minister wants every primary pupil to read “at least one book a week” and is concerned that secondary English teachers start preparing pupils for GCSE-style questions too soon.

“Reading for pleasure is more important than a family’s socio-economic status in determining a child’s success at school,” Mr Gibb said yesterday.

The minister cited UCL Institute of Education research involving 6,000 children which found that reading for pleasure was more important for a child’s cognitive development, between10-16, than their parents’ level of education.

“Remarkably, the combined effect of reading books often, going to the library regularly and reading newspapers at 16 was four times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree”, he said.

“These findings show that given the gift of reading, a child’s life chances need not be limited by their social or economic background. Deprivation need not be destiny.”

Mr Gibb said research also showed that “even highly educated people use less sophisticated vocabulary when speaking than the words used in a typical children’s book”.

“Which is why it is so important not just to talk to children but to read to them as well,” the minister added.

Mr Gibb made his comments in a speech to mark National Storytelling Week, referencing the storytelling abilities of people from the singer Max Bygraves to Jesus.

He said that after instilling the love of reading, it was important for children to practice it often.

“For this reason, I would like to see every pupil in years 3 to 6 of primary school reading at least one book a week,” the minister told an audience at St Andrew’s Primary School in Soham, Cambridgeshire.

“‘A book a week’ should be the mantra for anyone hoping to eliminate illiteracy in this country.”

Schools, he said, must introduce pupils to the great works of the English literary canon to give pupils “an intellectual hinterland to draw upon for the rest of their lives.”

But he added: “I do question why, when I am on school visits, I see teachers in the first three years of secondary school already using English literature lessons to prepare for GCSE-style questions.

"Instead of GCSE-style analysis of the text, should those lessons not be used to spread the sheer enjoyment of reading, through introducing pupils to a wide and varied diet of English and world literature?

"I am sure this would be far better preparation for their eventual examinations than a premature obsession with exam technique.”

Mr Gibb said the world was “living through something of a golden age of children’s books”, praising the Percy Jackson and Hunger Games novels for their ability to transport young people to another time and place.

His comments come as the primary English curriculum has faced criticism for its focus on grammar – with some commentators claiming it could put children off reading entirely.

Writing on the TES website recently, Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said "an obsession" with describing language took up valuable teaching time and drew attention away from children developing their own language abilities.

Secondary school teacher explains why he has to teach to the test



On a post below about Nick Gibb urging teachers to help their children read for pleasure by taking them to the library (wot library, nick?) and get away from teaching to the test (that's what your test-crazy regime gave birth to, Nick), someone called David Gould wrote this:

"Secondary school teachers do this [David's referring to 'teach to the test'] because since the early 1990s school shave been forced to measure progress on National Curriculum levels which assumed close analytical responses to texts to gain a basic level 5. If you dictate and brainwash a profession to act in one way, then why question it when the process has become institutionalized? And since GCSE is the benchmark we are told to aim for, why would you NOT help students early to cope with what is to come. If Education Ministers (I always think that is an oxymoron) want assessment to reflect real education practice perhaps they had better design exams that allow students to read for pleasure and let them write about their thinking and personal responses to texts that appeal to them. It might mean that the 'correct answers' would not be able to be written on exam mark schemes and we would have to assess insight and understanding. We used to have exams like that and they were excellent at motivating students to read and respond but they were deemed too easy as they had generic questions."

Year 2 teacher talks about teaching to the test

"I'm a year 2 teacher and even we have to teach to the test, more so with every year. For the first time ever, my class will be tested on clauses, word classes including subordinating conjunctions and past and present tense (etc) in their SPaG test this summer. Spelling is 50% of their Mark in one of the tests and as we have many EAL I think they may not do so well on the spelling part, even though they are otherwise bright , hard working and articulate. This at the same time as the maths expectation has risen to the level of what they call 'mastery' ; what this equates to is a lot more focus on maths and English (specifically, grammar) at the expense of everything else on the curriculum. We are already priming them for sats and they spend most days practising for them
In some way. This has led to some very bored children and very frustrated teachers! No such thing as learning for fun any more."

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Jeremy Hunt Book of Wisdom


On January 26 Jeremy Hunt said:

‘We may well need more 111 doctors and nurses. But if you’re worried about a rash your child has, an online alternative – where you look at photographs and say 'my child’s rash looks like this one' – may be a quicker way of getting to the bottom of whether this is serious or not.”

I would like to be Jeremy Hunt’s speech writer and offer him the following suggestions as press releases:

Jeremy Hunt says that people should improve their bandaging skills by watching “The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb.’

Jeremy Hunt says using google for self-diagnosis is good for you, good for the NHS, good for google and what's good for google is good for us all.

Jeremy Hunt say that a heart attack is sometimes best cured by wiggling your fingers.

Jeremy Hunt says that brain tumours are often alleviated by eating prunes.

Jeremy Hunt says that many illnesses can be cured with a nice cup of tea.

Jeremy Hunt says that a fever can often be brought down by having a sympathetic chat with someone.

Jeremy Hunt says that broken bones are often best cured with a good rest. Just put your feet up. If you can, that is.

Jeremy Hunt says that doctors waste too much time trying to find out if people are ill.

Jeremy Hunt says he isn't ill, so why should anyone else be?

Jeremy Hunt says that epidemics are a luxury. People should just sit a bit further away from each other.

Jeremy Hunt says that too much time is taken up in the NHS by people who are ill.

Jeremy Hunt says that eating your own underwear is a proven cure for the plague.

Jeremy Hunt says that careful use of a mirror can enable you to take your own appendix out.

Jeremy Hunt says that a good deal of dietary complaints could be solved by us eating each other.

Jeremy Hunt says that illness is something caused by doctors.

Jeremy Hunt says that we don't need Junior Doctors. We need Senior Doctors.

Jeremy Hunt says that if you cover one eye up and then swap to the other eye, it cures pneumonia.

Jeremy Hunt says that his ambition in life is to have a rash named after him.

Jeremy Hunt says that when a vet sees a sick cow, the cow doesn't write to her MP complaining about the vet service.

Jeremy Hunt says that people should dig their own graves.

Jeremy Hunt says that people can choose not to be ill.

Jeremy Hunt says if you've got a bad leg, when you go to work, leave it at home.

Jeremy Hunt says that doctors’ surgeries are much too full of people who are ill.

Jeremy Hunt says, if the GPs want to resign, let them. ‘I'll do their job.’

Jeremy Hunt says I know all about medicine, I was born in a hospital.

Jeremy Hunt says that when he was at Junior School he wasn't paid, so why should Junior Doctors be.

Jeremy Hunt says no one likes doctors in surgeries, so he's closing surgeries, putting doctors in cabs, and patients will now roam the streets looking for a doctor-cab.

Jeremy Hunt says GPs need to spend more of their time and budgets on marketing themselves. Doctors should think of themselves as coca-cola cans.

Jeremy Hunt says that he knows of a doctor who died. That's why we can't always rely on there being a doctor when we need one.

Jeremy Hunt says Tories laughing at sick people in Corbyn's letters is good. If more people laughed, there'd be less strain on the NHS.

Jeremy Hunt says that if he inserts his head into his anus he finds the view much more interesting than when thinking about the NHS.



Tuesday, 2 February 2016

How exam questions contain assumptions and bias.



'Explain how the writer shows that this is a story from another culture.'

That's a question on a practice SATs paper in a booklet called 'Reading'. The story in question is 'Comfort Herself' by Geraldine Kaye and the paper included an extract from it.

Let's unpack that one, shall we?


'...another culture.' Hmmm 'other' than what? 'Other' than who? Other than the examiner? Other than the reader? Other that some mythical 'us'?

The culture represented in the scene is Ghanaian - which if you're Ghanaian isn't 'other', is it?

But the story itself is not actually Ghanaian. It's about a girl whose mother is white and English and her father is Ghanaian. And Geraldine Kaye is not Ghanaian either. So I'm not sure why or how the story is from 'another culture'.

Then what is going to show this supposed otherness? Well, if you're not Ghanaian, you might be drawn to the fact that people in this passage have Ghanaian names and some of the foods in the market are from Ghana but again, you can buy these foods in the UK and there are people with Ghanaian names in the UK.

There was a subtle point about describing the people in the market by saying 'bottom power, as it's called' so there's a bit of a nod to a readership that won't get this 'other' unless it's explained. Fair enough. There's also an indication (of course) the girl is 'from England' and this is Ghana. Is that what the question meant?

I doubt it.

I assume that ithe cultural assumptions of the question are directed towards the foods and names. What do you think?

Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Kindertransport Argument - hmmmmm



I've been having a slow burn on this one...Over the last few days we've been hearing a good deal of self-congratulatory stuff about 'Kindertransport'. As it's being used as an example of how good 'we' once were, by way of pleading with today's government to take in more refugees/migrants/children etc etc, I've been reluctant to make a big deal out of the self-congratulation surrounding Kindertransport. Finally I can't resist.


1. The whole matter of how the UK behaved towards people wanting to migrate out of Nazi Germany has to be seen in the light of two key things: a) there were strong legal restrictions on migrants coming to Britain. b) the British government was not anti-Nazi, not anti-Hitler, not anti-Third Reich Germany. The official position might be described as 'guarded', whilst knowing full well that Germany was rearming. Then in 1937, there seems to be general agreement that the British government gave Hitler the green light to invade Czechoslovakia. This was done in the usual British way of saying that 'we' wouldn't do anything to oppose them. It should be remembered that Nazi Germany had already suspended the constitution, it was a police state and dictatorship, political parties and press were banned, the leadership of trade unions, socialist and communist parties were in prison - well Dachau concentration camp mostly - and Jews had severe restrictions on what they were allowed to do.


2. The decision to take in 10,000 children from Nazi Germany was not something that 'our government' decided to do. It came about because a joint delegation from Quakers and a Jewish organisation went to the government and put in a request. The government then agreed to it. Of course when or if Jews say, 'Er...it was only the children. The parents weren't allowed to come' - that's thought to be churlish and ungrateful. But if you think it through, the parents were at this point a heavily discriminated against minority and once Kristallnacht had happened, they were more than 'discriminated against' - they were persecuted and under threat - not threat of genocide at this point, but severe persecution including dispossession and murders.


3. So, yes, it's fine for us to say, 'Look, in 1938, 'we' took in 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi Germany', but let's not somehow imagine that this was because this came from government, or that it was madly generous, or that it was part of an impulse that 'opposed Nazism'.