Archive for the 'Teaching and Learning' Category

Marking. What works?

teacher marking


Blooms Taxonomy Planning Tool


Behaviour Management


Got a difiicult class? 32 tips on behaviour management in the classroom.

Reading for pleasure – what difference does it make?

This is one of a series of thought pieces from the Literacy and English team at Education Scotland.  In this one, Helen Fairlie discusses some well-known research about reading for pleasure from the National Literacy Trust.

The lead up to Book Week Scotland seems like a good time to consider how we motivate learners to read independently for their own enjoyment.  An equally important question for me, though, is why does the amount that we read for enjoyment make such a big difference to our learning?literacy trust reading for pleasure 2006

This paper was published by the National Literacy Trust in 2006, however the research that it refers to still tells us a lot about the difference that reading for pleasure makes to our progress in literacy, as well as revealing a lot about how motivation to read works.







Learning the language of learning

pedagogy postcard


This post is about the need to give students the basic  vocabulary and linguistic tools to communicate about the concepts  and skills they are dealing with in each subject.  I’ve seen excellent practice in my school where teachers take time to teach the language of learning in the subject, in parallel with teaching the subject itself.  Very often students appear to be struggling with a concept when, actually, they are just struggling to find the right language to express their understanding.  Here are a few examples.

In science, a recurring issue is with describing relationships between variables that are captured on a graph.


A simple question about the relationships shown will often yield the obvious response:  ‘it goes up’.  A better answer might suggest that as one variable increases, the other variable also increases.  But even if students can see that the shapes are different and have an intuitive sense of what that means, it’s not so easy to put into words.  It is important to invest time in giving students the language to use:

the gradient of the graph is shallow at first, rising slowly until a point at which there is a sharp increase in the gradient;  the gradient is constant;  the graph is initially very steep but then  the gradient decreases until there is only a slight change in variable y as variable x increases; the gradient increases but not as rapidly as the previous graph

Associated with this is the language of change and of scale.  Students often find it easy to say things are ‘different’ or ‘change’ without stating something more precise.  Instead of ‘the temperature changes’ or ‘it gets hotter’ they could be saying ‘the temperature increases’.  Instead of ‘it goes faster’, they could be saying ‘there is an increase in velocity’.  Rather than suggesting that ‘the beakers have different sizes’ they could say ‘this first beaker has a much larger volume than the second beaker’.  I find that even very strong students can be reluctant to go for the more formal expressions; they feel inhibited even if they know the terminology.  The use of precise, formal language like this needs to be modelled continually; normalised by the teacher so that students feel comfortable using it and do so spontaneously.   A simple request for students to re-phrase their responses can be very effective – and much better than accepting and praising the more basic responses and moving on.

In Languages lessons at KEGS, the teacher will often use the target language for the entire lesson – or at least 90% of it. This requires students to learn to understand the basic instructions for activities in the target language:

Besprechen Sie die Antworten mit Ihrem Partner und entscheiden, welche wahr und welche falsch sind.. (Discuss the answers with your partner and decide which are true and which are false ..)

Écoutez attentivement le dialogue et répondre aux questions de compréhension. (Listen carefully to the dialogue and then answer the comprehension questions. )

Several teachers at KEGS have introduced these table mats that give students all the phrases they need to engage in the lesson using the target language.  I’ve seen them in action and they have a superb effect:


At a basic level, if students gain confidence with phrases like “comment dit-on” instead of “how do you say” then they can engage even when they’re stuck.  Teaching these practical phrases is a precursor to learning the language of grammar where cases and tenses are altogether more complicated.   A balance is needed.  I tried to learn Russian once but was crushed under the weight of the variants for nominative, dative and accusative cases. It felt as though nothing I said was ever correct.   The problem was that I didn’t really know what those things meant in English, never mind in Russian.  It obviously pays to invest in teaching the vocabulary of grammar for many reasons – not just to get to grips with learning a new language.

In history, I’ve seen a superb lesson recently where Year 7 students were learning about the difference between ‘narrative’ and ‘analysis’ in relation to their writing about historical events.  They’d produced an extended piece of writing about King John and, after swapping work with a partner, were using different coloured pens to highlight the narrative and analytical components.  There were excellent discussions about the different language used in ‘telling the story’ as opposed to explaining cause and effect between events or evaluating the relative significance of different events.   Later in their history curriculum, students talk about narrative and analysis with confidence; they know that the narrative should be kept to a minimum in an analytical essay.    But it doesn’t happen by accident; they are taught to understand the terms explicitly.

In subjects such as Graphics and Art students need to learn a vocabulary that allows them to express intuitive ideas more explicitly. In Art, there is the vocabulary of line, form, tone, composition, texture and so on and this is usually taught throughout the course.  But that’s not always the case. For example, a GCSE Graphics question may ask students to evaluate various logos and to articulate which is the most effective.  I saw a lesson where students were struggling to get beyond ‘this one’s kinda cool but the other one is boring and more serious’.  The teacher realised that they needed to work harder on developing subject-specific vocabulary and they spent some time on the language instead of the actual design work.

In RE students are often asked to compare different perspectives.  In common with debates in general, they are often drawn towards opposing poles, however subtle the issues are!  These people are FOR; they people are AGAINST.   In doing this, it is helpful for them to have a number of different ways to describe different schools of thought appropriate to the issue in hand.  This could be Liberal vs Traditionalist; moderate vs fundamentalist; Protestant vs Catholic; contemporary vs orthodox; official vs personal – and so on.   All too often students get stuck in a pattern, believing that there are two camps in every debate so it helps to give them multiple ways to express alternative perspectives.   It is often safer simply to say ‘some Muslims believe that … acceptable whereas most others believe that it isn’t except in special circumstances’.  The ‘some’ or ‘most’ here are better than ‘all Muslims believe that…’ which is rarely true.

Finally, linking from RE to debates in general, I find that a very common area to develop is giving students the tools to express the nuances of any comparative analysis.  All too often they reduce things to black vs white; on vs off; all vs nothing.  For example in biology they may be talking about food chains:  The rabbits run out of food and die OR the Foxes take over until they’ve eaten all the rabbits  – and so on.  Students need to learn to talk about relative changes in population size and the language needed to convey that idea:  if the rabbits’ food supply reduces due to bad weather, then fewer rabbits will survive and the population will decrease.   This in turn will have an impact by reducing the population of foxes unless they can find alternative sources of food. 

The same is true with something like comparing power stations.  It’s common for students to want heroes and villains:  wind power is a goodie; coal is a baddie.  It requires explicit modelling to get students to recognise that, say, both nuclear and coal have major advantage and major disadvantages:  Although the energy output from nuclear power stations is around a million times greater per kg of fuel, and there are no greenhouse gas emissions, the set-up costs and risks from storing radioactive waste are significant and arguably pose a greater long-term threat than the dangers of running a coal-fired power station.   Here the use of language to convey relative positions will be more difficult than understanding the science for some students.

I sometimes use the football team analogy as I have done in this post about essay writing. We don’t need to say that City is a good team and United is a bad team.  They are both excellent teams.  However, if we need to work out which one is better, we need to find the right language. It might go something like this:   United’s defence has been more consistent whereas City has had some games where they’ve conceded far too many goals; in attack, United have several individual stars who make an impact but City plays better as a team and have ended up scoring more goals.  Overall, City’s superior attack has been more important than their inferior defence, so, on balance, they have been the better team.

To wrap-up, in teaching our subjects, we need to identify areas where teaching students the most appropriate language to use needs to take centre stage. To quote from literacy legend Geoff Barton, we need to ‘make the implicit explicit’. Subject specific literacy is something we’re all responsible for and it’s very often the key to learning the subjects themselves.

Try something different


Try one of the following in a class next week…..

10 silver arrows


Resource Calendar



The events in this calendar are celebrations, awareness days and action weeks all covering topical issues relevant to schools. Each of the events includes details of websites and support materials to help plan activities for learners.

September events include:

  • Harvest Festival
  • Scottish food and drink fortnight
  • International literacy day
  • Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year)
  • International day of democracy
  • Jeans for genes day
  • International day of peace
  • Health and wellbeing international conference
  • Autumn equinox
  • Scottish learning festival
  • Eid-ul-adha
  • Battle of Loos
  • Worlds biggest coffee morning
  • European day of languages
  • International right to know day

Curriculum for Excellence: transformational change or business as usual?

Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is a good example of a new breed of national curriculum; a curricular model that seeks to combine top-down government prescription with bottom-up school-based curriculum development by teaching professionals.
However, in developing a renewed view of teachers as agents of change and relaxing curriculum prescription, CfE has attracted criticism for its vagueness in terms of content and for a mix-and-match approach and seemingly atheoretical design.

This paper engages in a critique of CfE, and proposes a process by which practitioners may make sense of and enact the new curriculum.
‘Curriculum for Excellence is designed to transform education in Scotland, leading to better outcomes for all children and young people.’ (Scottish Government, 2009: 4)
‘Innovation after innovation has been introduced into school after school, but the overwhelming number of them disappear without a fingerprint.’ (Cuban, 1988: 86)

Priestley%2c M CfE 2

Contributed by F. Culbert

teacher journey


The path of a teacher’s journey at the beginning of their career goes through the early phase of Initial Teacher Education and onto a probationary period. The next phase of career-long professional learning can last a career as a teacher continues to advance their knowledge and pedagogical expertise. There is also the leadership and management phase for those in, or aspiring to, formal leadership roles. No matter which phase you are in we have created the following interactive area to assist you as you navigate through a career in teaching.

Highly trained, respected and free: why Finland’s teachers are different

finlandExtensive training is the basis for giving teachers the autonomy to work the way they want. The result is a highly prized profession and an education system always near the top in international rankings.

Read the article at

Contributed by A. Foster.

Report a Glow concern  Cookie policy  Privacy policy

Glow Blogs uses cookies to enhance your experience on our service. By using this service or closing this message you consent to our use of those cookies. Please read our Cookie Policy.