Resilience, we all have it, trust me…

Okay, so this doesn’t start the greatest but stick with it and I promise, you it gets better. I’ve heard a few of these stories before, the horror stories that you never think will happen to you. But you need to be aware of them during your training. This is a story that one of my friends told me. But it is not exclusive to her; similar things happen all the time. But for this post we are going to focus on my friend, we’ll call her Gertrude. There will be nuggets of advice scattered throughout that will be highlighted in red.

Her first placement was lovely, she told me how supportive they were and them loads of time and attention when it was needed and was always available to talk to her when she needed it. Never underestimate how important enjoying your first placement is and how you will miss it in the hard times. The first placement is probably always the best because it has the least stress. However, you always have to move on to greener pastures. And that is exactly what it happened, or so it seemed for a while.

Placement two is no picnic, the amount you’re teaching increases and with it comes the stress. Unfortunately I don’t have any advice to help you deal with that. My stress manifests differently to Gertrude’s, as yours will too. Persevere and make sure you’ve got a good support network at home, mine was my boyfriend and family. I’ll talk more about them once I’ve finished telling you about Gertrude’s eventful teacher training journey.

Gertrude’s second placement was at an all-girls school, not too far away. This is irrelevant to what happened, it’s just always good to paint a picture it must be the storyteller in me. Everything started fine, she used to tell me how nice her mentor was and how helpful she would be. The only thing was that she didn’t work the full week, but that didn’t seem to bother Gertrude, as she wasn’t having any problems, everything seemed smooth sailing; hind sights 20:20 ey?!

It came to the end of her second placement and things had gone a bit askew; she was no longer getting the regular feedback from lessons, or the mentor meetings. She really didn’t seem to be getting the support she had done at the beginning of the placement. Her AP2 (Assessment Phase 2) evaluation and she told me that almost everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The picture she painted of it made it seemed a little bit of a train wreck. She was put onto Cause for Concern by her university mentor to help her get back on track. It outlined the different areas that needed the most work. She told me about all these plans that her school mentor and PCM had made about all the types of lessons that could be put on to help support her and show her what makes a good teacher. She seemed really reassured by this prospect. If you can get it, ask for it because it does sound like it will help and would give you some good activity ideas that you could adapt/adopt/improve. You want to try and get as many different strategies and activities as you can in your bank of resources.

Gertrude told me that none of it actually happened; if anything things got worse for her. Her mentor meetings stopped and no feedback from lessons was given any more. She told me how alone she felt in the school. Luckily she had friends like me to help her get through it. She had me, I had my family; gotta love the people who help to build you, just remember that they are suffering with you. The stress you feel, they feel, the sadness you feel, they too will feel.

AP3 went pretty much as badly as it started, little support from who she was supposed to be getting it from. That’s not to say that she wasn’t getting any, there were teachers at the school who helped her and gave her ideas; she got ideas from people on the course and from me. If you’ve got a group of friends on the course, use them to bounce ideas off as they may be thinking the same sort of thing. Basically, for Gertrude, communication had broken down in a major way. So when her university mentor came for her AP3 observation, she told me how shocked she was that her mentor had talked to them and not her.

She showed me the observation from the university mentor and it seemed okay, but she said that it wasn’t a good lesson and that she was not pleased with it in herself. In the meeting she told me that they said she had to move schools, you could see how devastated she was. When she was telling me she could hardly speak; you could see she was trying to hold back the flood gates. It cannot be avoided that a good listener is a lifesaver. Having someone that will listen to you unload at the end of a day is a beautiful thing.

So that was a Wednesday. To say the next few days were a whirlwind is an understatement. At the end of Wednesday she had given up. She was so deflated that she was questioning whether or not she wanted to continue. Thursday was a bit turbulent as she found out that the school she thought she was moving to had fallen through and when she thought she was leaving had changed which she did not handle well. We were helping a friend move into their new house on Thursday and she got a call offering her a job, and then had a call from a mutual friend’s friend who was calling to set up a talk to a school’s head teacher for a job. So we sat down and wrote an email to the new school’s head teacher. From that, she got a call on Friday asking her to come in for an interview on Monday. Then in the afternoon she found out that she was moving to a different school to finish her placement on Tuesday. When she told me she was leaving that school she was so happy.

On Monday, Gertrude had her interview and was called later that day to tell her she got the job; then started the new placement the following day. It was the best thing that could have happened to her. A new start, it’s always the best thing to do. In the new school she thrived, flourished and strived for greatness. With the new support she improved at an accelerated rate and ended passing with a good.

My advice to you is to persevere and you WILL succeed! This is not an uncommon story to be told, unfortunately, and it is important to be aware of ti while you are training. You need to have the support at home to help you get through this important year. It will be a hard road and you there will be bumps in the road but that does not mean that the journey is not worth the ride. You need to keep in mind that you are doing this because you genuinely want to and because you enjoy seeing the students’ progress and thrive under your supervision and you will be fine. Finally, be thankful what your experiences because they shape you and help you become a better person and teacher, whether they seem like it or not. Everything that happens is a good learning curve for you so take the opportunities that come around and push it to the fullest.

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Advice on the English Language paper

What do you think of this blog post: This much I know about…a step-by-step guide to the writing question on the AQA English Language GCSE Paper 1? Is it right to tell students not to answer the story question? Is the approach too prescriptive or is JT giving the right advice given the fact that students need to do well in the exam? The post raises all sorts of interesting questions…

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6 top tips to set high expectations!

Do you need to challenge, motivate and inspire your students? Here are 6 top tips to set high expectations!


  1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

You have values, so should your students! Model positive behaviour, DO NOT! I REPEAT… DO NOT TOLERATE BAD BEHAVIOUR! Address it as soon as you can. Students need to be told what is expected and what isn’t. They cannot read your mind. You must show them in your language and your physical appearance. Having routines are key.

Embedding the school policies in your behaviour management is effective.  Be consistent and follow through.  


2. Adopt Positive Psychology to nurture confidence and self esteem

“Always look on the bright side of life *whistle excessively*”…

Check out this link:

Open body language to transmit those positive vibes.


3. Consistently encourage participation (praise contribution, safe atmosphere)… Strategies:

  • Use different ways to choose pupils to feedback to keep them on their toes – names on lollipop sticks, randomiser, choose the quiet students who you’ve spoken to before the class feedback and encourage them to say what they said to you one to one.
  • “Go on give it a go, it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong” OR invite them in by just mentioning their names after the point.                           


4. Be Reflective ☺ They say the best teachers are the ones who reflect on their practice constantly.  What worked, what didn’t and how can you do an activity differently – Do you know your students? Finding out what they are interested in, helps with planning. (Do a creative writing task where they talk about themselves).

5. Support

  • Try to use tasks are that relevant and engaging
  • Knowing your pupils to plan, challenge and support.  Whilst sentence starters are effective to scaffold, to support struggling students, try to encourage independence – Wordbanks or literacy mats are great for this.  For higher achievers, giving them more work to do isn’t stretching them – think about deepening their knowledge and perhaps linking ideas with a bigger picture.
  • If you are fortunate to have a Teaching Assistant in your class, utilise them well.  This doesn’t mean give them the handouts to distribute.  They will know the students well and a great source of insight.


6. Additional responsibilities

  • Knowing the school’s health and safety policy
  • Positive and safe environment
  • Being a positive role model both inside and outside the classroom
  • Collaborative learning and teaching
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Learn the different word classes, or shoot me now.

Image result for grammar confusion

What is a word class? defines word classes as a group of words all belonging to the same class or part of speech. The word class will determine what part a word plays in a sentence.

The most common word classes are:

Nouns: nouns are names of objects, places and a person. For example: table, London and woman.

Verbs: verbs are doing words. For example: run, jump and hide.

Adjectives: adjectives are describing words. For example: beautiful, fascinating and scrupulous.

Adverbs: adverbs describe a verb in relation to time, manner, circumstances, degree or cause. For example: quickly, accidentally and beautifully

More complicated word classes are:

Preposition, determiners, conjunctions and articles.

Prepositions are words that are used before a noun and functions as a modifier. For example: over, through and since

Determiners are words that refers to who a noun belongs to or how many there are. Determiners include articles, demonstrative determiners, possessive determinersquantifiable determiners and numeral determiners. For example: that (demonstrative), your (possessive), fewer (quantifiable) and three (numeral).

Conjunctions are any words that function as connectors between words, phrases or sentences. For example: because, however and as.

Articles are words that identify the noun rather than describing it. There are two types of articles: indefinite articles and definite articles. Definite articles are words that identify the noun it precedes. Indefinite articles are words that are not specific about the amount of something. For example: the (definite article),a and an (indefinite article)

For more about the more complicated word classes in grammar, check out:

How to teach them?

There are a wide range of different strategies for learning different word classes. Some embed them in their lessons through different interactive activities; while others use them as stand-alone lessons and dedicate their time to the teaching of word classes. And the final group use word classes as decorative posters around the room that students may learn through osmosis. Unfortunately, no one is certain which is the most effective method to use and, therefore, is very much done trial and error. Each students learning styles are different and therefore it should be the teachers decision how is best to teach this knowledge to their students.

If students know how to use a dictionary accurately, then their troubles will be blown away (especially if they use an online service) as the dictionaries categorise the words into word classes so that all the students have to do is to absorb the information and retain it.

There is no set way of teaching, why should the learning of grammar be any differently?! But the three ways that you could consider teaching it is: overtly, covertly and through osmosis. If choosing the latter just make sure that it catches the eye, “be big, bold, daring” Lumiere says, and let’s be honest, if you can’t take advice from a talking candlestick, who can you take advice from?

How to find out which is which?

I know that you aren’t supposed to teach rules anymore because they go out of fashion like last year’s colours. But, unfortunately, they do seem to stick. ‘I before E except after C’. ‘Adverbs usually end in LY’. I know there are a vast array of words that contradict the rules, which is why they aren’t taught.

The only easy way to know what a word class is is to have been taught it. I can break down the descriptions even more to:

Nouns are names, verbs are actions, adverbs describe verbs and adjectives describe.

With my greatest sorrow, I have not yet found a way of having students understand which is which without them having been taught it. But fear not, I will continue my search and update you once my search is complete.

What is the effect of using them in writing?

Now, this is an interesting question…

The simple answer is: it all depends on how well it is being used.

Regrettably, word classes are not always used to their fullest potential. Upgrade sentence starter cards are used, thesauruses out and you will be well on your way to having a powerful piece of work for any occasion; whether it be persuasive, descriptive, informative or simply creative. Creative writing is a perfect opportunity for students to explore the way that word class and word choice can change a piece of writing.

When used well, the piece of work can transport you to wherever their imagination has taken you, you can feel what they felt, hear what they heard and see what they saw. And that is the power of word classes.

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Media & English PGCE ‘Teacher Advert’ videos

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3 ways to help students improve their spelling


  1. Word bank

Think of it as collecting ‘money’ that will enrich their vocabulary. A word bank at the back of their exercise books of new words they discover throughout your lessons, is a good way to check up on what they’ve learnt and their spelling.


  1. Mark my words

Marking is the only time that teachers really get to see what their students are capable of and what they have learnt. Be sure to pick up on regularly misspelt words e.g. homophones. Students need to be aware of the mistake in the first place.


  1. Wiser by the week

Weekly spelling tests don’t have to come in the regular format. Tests embedded in lessons through discussions make it less formal and discreet that you’re actually testing them. E.g. if there is a word commonly misspelt in their work (tailored to YOUR students), at the beginning of the next lesson ask them ‘remind me how we spell this word again…’ and correct the error. Or check out fun but effective activities from online such as this one 5th Grade Spelling Test

By Jay Wilson and Lily Carlsen

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Tips for meeting TS3


  • Be passionate and enthusiastic whilst teaching- not every teacher will like/ or feel confident to teach every aspect of the curriculum but we must find ways of making it relevant i.e. Perhaps you don’t like Shakespeare but you like the issues of gender and marriage, sell these aspects of his work and encourage students to research their own individual interests


  • Foster a no-blame environment of discussion- allowing students to personally connect with their work, and learn from their peers
  • Discussions, and presentations are also a good way of checking, and promoting high standards of literacy, and articulacy


  • Use fun activities to make the subject relevant i.e. hot-seating, tableau, carousel, jig-saw
  • Encourage independent reading, and suggest books beyond the curriculum
  • Know your students and their interests. Make connections between their interests and their work.
  • Foster independent research skills by setting homework/ projects that encourages students to develop their knowledge
  • Have competitions that promote creative writing
  • Make use of other sources/ media – visuals, audio, magazines, music, news


  • Use mini-plenaries/plenaries to check knowledge- whiteboards, post-it notes, traffic light cards
  • Allow students to give feedback on their learning- What Went Well/ Even Better If/ What Would I like to know – use their feedback in future lesson planning to ensure their focus is maintained and misunderstandings addressed
  • Check SPAG but encourage self/ peer-assessment- use highlighters
  • Allocate the time for students to respond to feedback


  • Keep abreast of changes in the curriculum by subscribing to websites such as TES (news section), education sections of newspaper such as the Guardian/ Telegraph
  • Remember the aim is not to just pass an exam but to pass on your passion!
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7 things about effective lesson planning:


  1. Always start with what you want them to learn about during the lesson. When creating an effective lesson it is important to keep the lesson objective at the heart of the lesson, informing each strand of the lesson, (see diagram above).
  2. Activating prior knowledge activates your lesson. It is important that when you are creating a lesson that it relates to students existing knowledge of a subject and also relates to the scheme of work.
  3. Starters should be used to settle the students into the lesson. A starter can also be used as a way of accessing prior knowledge and understanding of the topic they are studying. It should be relatively simple and importantly should hook your students into your lesson.
  4. Main tasks are the bedrock of the lesson. The main task is an important area which needs to keep a good pace to ensure that students are engaged in the lesson. It should ultimately work towards producing the lesson outcome.
  5. The outcome of the lesson should correspond to the lesson objective. the students should produce work that proves that they have engaged with the lesson objective, this could take many forms, from mini-presentations to independent writing. It allows you, as the teacher, to formatively assess the students.
  6. Assessment for learning is your essential tool for progress. Your lesson planning must contain different and regular ways of checking that the students are learning and not simply ‘doing’ a task. AfL should also check students understanding and should inform future planning.
  7. Differentiation for different needs. Differentiation is a vital component of creating an effective lesson plan. It should be challenging and stretching the more able students, while also facilitating learning for the less able students in the class. Differentiation is, at its core, about adapting the lesson to students needs and needs to engage all students. There are a variety of different ways to differentiate, specifically through: task, outcome, group and resources.

By Rose and Lynne.

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Be the saviour of bad behaviour

 5 Top Tips for Behaviour Management:

  1. Be a sheep

Follow the school’s behaviour policy and if there isn’t one, make your own! It’s guaranteed that the student’s will be aware of the procedure, so if you’re not, they will not hesitate to use it against you. Remember: the policy has been designed specifically for your school, so USE IT!

  1. Fake it to make it

Try to gain their trust and respect from early on by “befriending them”. In reality, that isn’t your job but if there is mutual respect and the students see you as more than just a policy follower (even though that is exactly what you should do), then your rules may not seem as though they are rules. Maybe not this extreme but here’s an example Secret Handshake

  1. They matter

This may seem obvious but a lot of teachers don’t actually tailor their lessons specifically for a class. Where possible: make resources relatable, be creative and actually get to know your students and who they are beyond the classroom.

  1. Be the timer

The countdown technique isn’t for everyone but we have found that actually students respond really well to it when it is routine. Here’s why: attach specific instructions to the countdown so there is no confusion about what is expected and by when. E.g. “when I get to 1, I expect all eyes on me and silence”

  1. Shout!

Actually, NEVER do this. Students categorically rebuke this action and 9/10 times will do it right back. Shouting usually only escalates the situation because most of the time, there is a story behind every bad behaved student.  There is proven research to validate this from Smart Classroom Management

By Lily Carlsen and Jay Wilson






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Trophies, travelling and targets: why assessment feedback matters.

Based on  Petty’s 1989 Medals, Mission and Goal.

When completing an assessment students need feedback regarding the quality of their work, not just general praise. E.g. ‘you’ve used a wide range of sentence structures appropriately’ NOT: ‘great amount of work written’.


  • Short term goals.
  • Information about what exactly was done well in relation to the target.
  • Marks and grades are not medals as they do not give any information.


  • Information about what the student needs to improve, correct or work on.
  • Essentially a positive EBI.
  • Should be forward looking and positive.
  • One task could be to improve a previous piece of work.
  • Marks and grades are not examples of travelling.


  • Long term goals.
  • The ultimate aim e.g. ‘a 9 in their GCSE’.
  • The trophies and travelling should help the student reach this target.
  • They should be given well in advance, to make them more achievable.
  • They could relate to the AOs, e.g. ‘use paragraphs to show the structure of your writing’.

By Jess Skingsley and Natalie Faulkner




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