Podcast and Blog

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Let’s Raise Our Voices

We hear so many voices when it comes to literacy instruction, particularly reading. We hear from departments of education, opinion writers in the newspapers, professional bodies, unions, governments, social commentators, ‘think tanks’ and people in universities. Some of these voices speak from a place of understanding about research and the importance of taking decisive action in schools.  Some of these voices complain about decodable texts and, as in the case of one recent interview, suggest th…

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The Finer Points of Instruction in Building Background Knowledge

Many of us are now aware of the importance of background knowledge and vocabulary in comprehension. We have learned that comprehension is not a matter of learning a range of discrete skills that are practised and applied to other texts but of having an understanding of the concepts and vocabulary in texts and applying various cognitive strategies to interact with that text. 

Background knowledge is critical for inference (Stahl, 2014). For example, in the book, ‘Go Go and the Silver shoes’, Go …

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Resourcing Learning For Our Spotlight Children

Within any class, there will be a range of learners. Some of our students will be fast lane learners, picking up everything we have to offer and running with it. Other students need help every step of the way. They may struggle with memory, attention, phonemic awareness or language production. These students usually work at a slower pace than their peers, requiring more repetitions to commit content to long term memory. They benefit from having learning broken down into smaller chunks with frequ…

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Making Syntax Instruction Meaningful

One of the key elements of English teaching is syntax which refers to the arrangement of words and phrases in sentences. While it might feel like the concepts around syntax are confusing and never-ending, there are only a finite number of combinations for us to master. When it comes to instruction, we need to teach these concepts and combinations explicitly in teacher led lessons. However, this doesn’t end at the last slide of the PowerPoint presentation. Once we have introduced a concept and gi…

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Introducing The Resource Room

Over the past couple of months, you may have heard me talking about my new venture, The Resource Room. I am so excited to bring this membership into the world and share it with you. 

What is it? 
The Resource Room is a membership site for primary school teachers accessed through a monthly subscription.  

What’s in it? 
The Resource Room provides you with teaching resources for structured literacy across the whole primary school. For too long, upper primary teachers have been neglected in structu…

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Consolidating Word Level knowledge in Year 3 and 4

In an ideal world, students will arrive in your Year 3 or 4 classrooms having strong phonics and word level knowledge. They’ll be reading and spelling a range of words with the full alphabetic code, have knowledge of the alternate spellings of phonemes and know how multimorphemic words are constructed. However, we rarely teach in an ideal world, and it is common to have many of your middle primary students still requiring consolidation of some (or all) of these concepts. This is a common occurre…

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It’s Time to Rethink the Make-it-from-Scratch Mindset

A quick look on Pinterest could leave you thinking that the most effective teachers create the cutest resources and do everything from scratch. If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you’ll know I don’t subscribe to that viewpoint. I think that the most effective teachers draw on quality, targeted resources that help give their students the most direct path to learning and save them time so that they have the energy to meet students where they are up to. Last week I wrote about text-base…

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Anatomy of an effective English unit of work

We have recently heard much about teacher workload in the media. Teachers being time poor is not news to any of us. It’s just taken a teacher shortage for the rest of the world to figure it out! One of the suggestions that have been made is that teachers be provided with ready-made resources and units of work to ease the planning pressure. I’m a huge fan of this idea. As a teacher, I adore having high quality, premade resources at my fingertips. I value knowledge rich information texts and well-…

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Spaced Practice and Interleaving in the Reading Classroom

It’s likely that you’ve heard of spaced practice and interleaving. These terrific teaching techniques can make a great deal of difference to our students’ learning.   Spaced practice refers to the practice of practising a skill or retrieval of knowledge a little bit at a time, over a period of time. This is far more effective than massed practice or practising all at once. Interleaving involves mixing up the questions you ask from within a subject area rather than grouping the questions together…

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It’s just too loud!

Have you ever tried to teach in a loud, echoey classroom?  I have, and it left me irritable and with a headache.  If you aren’t sensitive to noise, you may not pay much attention to classroom acoustics, but I can guarantee that you have students who do.  I once worked in a school where teachers complained that children were getting up and leaving the room without permission.  At the same time, teachers also commented that they had headaches and that their classrooms were just too loud.  See a co…

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