You own my heart and mind
I truly adore you

Prince – Adore – Sign ‘O’ The Times


This is my favourite lesson. To be honest, I get really excited when I know poetry is coming up, and I believe most students enjoy it too; actually it’s a unit we all adore!

I feel oddly naked writing this blog. It is my exact thought process through the lesson and I hope you all like it as much as I do.If you feel you wouldn’t quite do it this way – that’s fine! This is just ‘my’ favourite lesson. Every time. Every year and with any year group. Depending on year group/poem/set this can be one lesson or two.

When I begin the first lesson for poetry I ask students ‘hands up, honestly, who likes poetry?’ Usually I get 4-6 students shoot their hand up. The rest avoid eye contact, or yawn, or do both. They know my next question will be ‘why not?’ Answers range from ‘I don’t get it’ to ‘it’s boring’.  I could pretty much write the script, it is the same in nearly every lesson and year group. The worst part is I am so childish because I know by the end of the lesson when I ask them ‘who enjoyed this lesson, or who feels they may have misjudged poetry?’ I know this time most will raise their hand and only a few will still insist they hate it.

I then ask them how many students like and listen to music – pretty much all shove their hands up in the air. That’s it, I’ve got them! Next, I start my ppt ‘Intro to poetry’. I haven’t included it because it’s a complete rip off from Isabella Wallace How to analyse a poem you have never seen before. All I’ve done is copy the song lyrics onto a slide, but the original version, then a second with key words in red (as Isabella’s youtube clip). These are the songs and why I use them:

  1. Rihanna – Take A Bow -to show how the title of a ‘poem’ can tell you a lot about content
  2. Bruno Mars – Grenade – to show semantic field running through a ‘poem’
  3. Katy Perry – Firework – to show similes/metaphors used for effect/ to make a comparison
  4. Cee lo Green – Forget you- to show that you must read to the end of a ‘poem’ as it could have a different message

I don’t follow Isabella’s youtube clip completely, I use her idea of songs and the points picked up – I use it as a discussion point with the class (you can follow Isabella on twitter @WallaceIsabella).

By using song lyrics I can quickly point out that not only do students enjoy their musical taste but they understand the message/lyrics without having to work out the meaning or what they artist meant in a particular line. As a listener they can usually work it out or interpret it themselves putting their own spin on a song’s meaning. I don’t spend too long on this. I move on to the poem. For KS4 I use Little Red Riding Hood And The Wolf – by Roald Dahl 

I give students a copy of the poem and ask them in pairs to annotate features or meaning. Then I ask them ‘what’s it about?’ I get the replies you’d expect; a wolf, a silly girl, stupid fairy story – couldn’t she see it was a wolf etc. Before we look at the poem in detail, at this point, we go back and look at the original story, because my resources are in a book I couldn’t upload so this may help some of you Little Red Riding Hood moral warnings. I have some images and writing on slides. Once students have recovered from the real meaning they are fascinated and we then start to analyse Dahl’s version which I think is a brilliant modern adaptation.  As a class we look at how Red is presented in modern society. As I said earlier it depends how much time we have but normally for an introduction to poetry I allow one lesson on this which is a shame. I’d love to compare the poetry and different versions of the story over the years; analyse in detail how childhood is represented and has changed over the centuries, however, we simply don’t have time. So we briefly look at representation, ideologies, journey from childhood to womanhood, modern fascination with guns and violence, the importance on material items etc. How in the original story little red needs a man to save her (the woodcutter) but in modern society she is a strong, independent young woman. Finally how sex and sexuality is presented alongside childhood.  Some of this is Q&A, some is paired or group work.

Below is a snapshot of one of my year 10s annotation. You need to take into account firstly, I only had 1 lesson for intro, original meaning, annotation, understanding etc and secondly, I’m more interested (at this point) in students understanding effect of writer’s choices and being able evaluate ideas presented, and finally this poem/lesson was only ever meant to ‘hook’ them. I am anticipating little murmurs along the way …(not much written there/mine annotate loads more) remember this is an intro lesson. Here I want them to re-evaluate their perceptions of poetry: this lesson is a hook!

Little red1

Once we’ve analysed the poem, understood meaning and discussed representation I put a question on the board along the lines ‘explore how childhood is represented’…. and then, depending on time they write independently, an analysis essay until lesson finishes.

The same student not only went on to analyse poems from the anthology to a high standard, but gained an A* in English language and A in literature and the class as a whole performed amazingly on GCSE results day.



During the unit I snapped a copy of her understanding/annotation of ONE stanza from Duffy’s Havisham. The class do feature spot, but I challenge them to annotate techniques used for meaning and effect; look at structure not just vocabulary.


For year 7 and 8, I often use Humpty Dumpty. There’s no real reason why I use this and not Red other than I like to save Red for KS4, and in a student’s time at a school there is a possibility they may have me again. By taking a story they are familiar with (Humpty) we unpick the nursery rhyme and by the end students make some interesting interpretations; was Humpty pushed, was it an accident, was it suicide! Does the break represent an emotional or mental state, a crushed ego or is it simply broken bones? Who was Humpty? Was he a friend of the King or an enemy? Is it a character escaping because they were held against their will and that’s why the King sends his men; are they the criminal or a victim? Again, here all I am trying to do is get students to look at something they are familiar with and see it with fresh eyes. For this I only use 1 lesson. Also at the end I get all students to write up their interpretation into a paragraph answering a question I put on the board.. it would be something along the lines ‘how has XXX used poetry techniques to create meaning’.

For Year 9 I often use Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony by Shel Silverstein. I really like the poem (as a way of introducing students to poetry) and the way you can analyse beyond the words; looking at representation of childhood in modern society. The message/meaning of the poem gets students thinking beyond underlining a rhyme or alliteration they’ve noticed.  Whilst it is important that students can feature spot, unless they can tell me ‘why’ I have to ask myself what am I teaching them? My youngest daughter (year 8 at the time of writing this) could pick out several poetry techniques in primary school. So at this point I am more interested in moving on to effect, meaning, interpretation and evaluation. In my intro to poetry lesson I always use stories they are familiar with and try to get students to see it from a new angle.

When introducing a comparison lesson I often use Carol Ann Duffy. Her War Photographer and In Mrs Tilscher’s class – I often use side by side because; same poet, similar techniques and structure but completely different effect. You can find out more of that here: Poems of Carol Ann Duffy – revision guide:

I like most of the lessons I teach, but my intro to poetry is my favourite.


Here are some documents you may find useful in your teaching:

A2 Key Terms:  AQA Teacher Resource Bank

KS2: Glossary-of-terms

Glossary for the programmes of study for English:  English_Glossary




“Reflection” (part 1)

I forgot to look up at the moon because
I was too busy

Prince – Reflection – Musicology


My KS3 Journey 

Every school knows get it right in KS3 and your KS4 will soar. This blog, or should I say blogs, will actually be a mini-series. Three in total; our starting point (where we are now), sort of half-way through the year (December-ish time) and a year later (this time next year). The three will be a series of thoughts: a reflection.

This academic year (15/16) we started with a full team, by Christmas we were 4 down. The impact this had on our school, or in fact any school, is vast. We suffered dreadfully with cover (see my post on “Resolution”).

That was then!

We have appointed new staff and fingers crossed in September we start again with a full team. Hoorah! So now we have a full team we no longer have any excuses as to why KS3 aren’t making progress.

The first thing we (myself, HOD and KS5 Lead) tackled is our long term plan (#KS3LTP). My fabulous HOD re-wrote her 5 year plan taking into account the new AQA spec for literature and language. She built in our EOU assessment points, marking criteria etc. Then asked me to put together some useful resources for our new department (what else is a girl to do with her gained downtime)! I blogged about that here “Chaos And Disorder”.  My aim was to put as much in place as I/we could in advance so come September, we can deal with issues surrounding learning.

Anyone in education will understand the implications a member of staff down will have on a department, let alone four! So I won’t bore you any further there. What I will talk about is the new KS2 SATs (Gov.UK) testing. These tests in English and maths will reflect the new national curriculum, and are intended to be more rigorous. The results will be used to measure a school’s performance. As a school we need to continue the hard work put in by our primary schools. I have contacted our main feeder schools and am in the middle of setting up visits to each one. I would like to see how they embed the grammar in particular with yr6 so that we can continue that into KS3.  After all we will have to re-test students, we need to keep those skills whilst teaching our own new KS3 units, thank you Laura McInerney ‏@miss_mcinerney for the link  ( key stage 2 SATs resits ).

Our other main area to tackle is the new AQA spec (English Language (8700) and English Literature (8702), fortunately the exam board have produced a KS3 resource about 19th century texts helping schools to develop progression through KS3 into KS4. Which sounds brilliant, but it’s a tough spec. How we deliver this is taking a lot of  consideration and time to get it right.

Then there’s the pastoral side. We had vertical tutoring, in September we are going back to year groups. Our Head has outlined his vision which includes targeted form groups catering to the needs of the students – literacy, numeracy etc. Hopefully in Reflections part 2 I can give you a better idea of the different groups and how exactly this has worked. As with most things in schools this is being worked on at the moment.

One of the ways I would like to move KS3 forward is high standards and regular monitoring of student work from day one. However that’s easier said than done. Where was I to begin? So I took to Ofsted and cut/paste some comments (randomly) from reports – here’s a few from approx 8 schools (Teaching and learning section only) that rang a bell:

  • levels of challenge
  • too many worksheets
  • expectations are not consistent
  • presentation of student books
  • expectations of what pupils can achieve are too low
  • teachers’ feedback are not always helpful
  • teachers do not adjust their teaching and 
  • do not implement the school’s marking policy consistently

I dropped all the cut/paste sections into a ppt (you can download the ppt here if you want it – it’s not very exciting I warn you Dpt) and will be sharing with my department – I hope to inspire them, not depress them! I want everyone to raise the bar and work together as a team to support students. With this in mind my HOD has asked me to update a section in the English Department handbook specifically for KS3.

I will monitor student class and assessment books for standards and consistency in the department. In particular I want to monitor student work, presentation and effort. Rebecca Taylor (@EnglishHOD) sent me a great book monitoring document.


The hope is that we pick students up much quicker, putting intervention strategies in place working alongside our SEND department, getting parents on board and building on our good relationships, continuing one strategy I’ve blogged about already (“Strange Relationship”).

I need to point out that our staff do work really hard, but as the year moves on and issues emerge little things can soon fly out the window as we all focus on bigger fish. I want to support my department, team and KS3 students as much as possible by picking up students that are finding work difficult and try to help them appropriately.

My own goal is to mop up as much as I can so that the teachers can do what they are supposed to: teach!

From my perspective, these are the areas I hope to cover in this mini-series, how as a school we deal with each issue and the impact it has on KS3 (particularly yr7) in no particular order, just as I typed them:

  • Work/effort
  • KS2 new SATs – data
  • SPaG
  • Presentation/handwriting in books/Extended writing
  • End of Unit assessments
  • Behaviour
  • Parent/school communication
  • Book monitoring
  • New KS3 curriculum plan
  • New tutor group structure


What would I see, you constantly astound me?
(Oh baby, you know, you constantly astound me), Saviour

Prince – Saviour – Emancipation

Yes, yes, I hear you – saviour … really? Surely a bit of hyperbole on her part! No, actually it isn’t; it’s exactly how, at times, I have felt. Since coming into teaching, twitter and blogging (which I am still very much a novice) the educators below have all at one time or another been my saviour.

There are many blogs that recommend various educators, mine is firstly, people that have inspired me personally, and secondly all secondary English.  Teachers that over the course of the last few years have inspired me time and time again. They all share their ideas, expertise, resources and time. Their blogs/tweets vary from professional to personal but all discuss current trends, research as well as what works for them in their own teaching. Some have written books which I have bought, some have shared resources I’ve used successfully in my own teaching, some write fantastic blogs, but all are top English teachers!

Finally, I am aware posts like this can feel unfair as there are hundreds of great teachers out there. I just wanted a place for ‘newbies’ to start from. All of the teachers on my list have different timeline/blogs and between them cover a huge range of ideas, topics and thoughts relevant to current teaching of English in the classroom. Nothing more. Also I will continue to add to it. So check in randomly!

Here are some great text specific accounts to follow:

  • GCSE Poetry – @GCSE_poetry ‏
  • GCSE Romeo and Juliet – @GCSE_RandJ ‏
  • GCSE_Jekyll – @GCSE_Jekyll
  • Macbeth_Insights – @GCSE_Macbeth
  • GCSE Merchant of Venice – @venice_tweets
  • Othello – @othelloquotebot
  • CLiC Dickens – @CLiC_Dickens
  • Aninspectorthoughts – @Aninspectortho2

Here are some fantastic great English and curriculum specialists:

If you are an English teacher, new to teaching, twitter or the world of blogging, follow this lot. Just to be fair I sorted into alphabetical order:

  1. Adam Riches – @TeachMrRiches – https://teachmrriches.wordpress.com/
  2. Alex Quigley – @HuntingEnglish –http://www.theconfidentteacher.com/
  3. Alice Visser-Furay – @AVisserFuray
  4. Amy Forrester (NATE) – @amforrester1
  5. Andrea Gadsbey – @a_gadsbey
  6. Andy Sammons – @amsammons – http://englishnthat.weebly.com/
  7. Andy Tharby – @atharby – https://reflectingenglish.wordpress.com/
  8. Amjad Ali – @ASTsupportAAli – http://www.trythisteaching.com/toolkit/
  9. Anne Williams – @agwilliams9
  10. Becky – @shadylady222 –https://justateacherstandinginfrontofaclass
  11. Beth Kemp – @BethKemp – http://www.bethkemp.co.uk/
  12. Carl Hendrick – @C_Hendrick – https://chronotopeblog.com/
  13. Claire – @Bronte_32 – https://goodmorningmidnightblog.wordpress.com/
  14. Claire Hill – @Claire_Hill_ – https://aclassroomofonesownsite.wordpress.com/
  15. Claire Stoneman – @stoneman_claire – birminghamteacher.wordpress.com/
  16. Caroline Spalding – @MrsSpalding –http://mrscspalding.blogspot.co.uk/
  17. CharliePearson @Cornishwelsh- https://missscoffhamenglish.wordpress.com/
  18. Chris Hildrew – @chrishildrew – https://chrishildrew.wordpress.com/
  19. CharliePearson – @Cornishwelsh –
  20. Chris Peirce – @peirce_chris –
  21. dh – @rainman_d81
  22. Dan Clayton – @DanSeanClayton – http://englishlangsfx.blogspot.co.uk/
  23. Dave Grimmett – @daveg5478 – https://tlideasblog.wordpress.com
  24. David Bunker – @Mr_Bunker_edu – https://mrbunkeredu.wordpress.com/
  25. DebsF – @Debsgf – https://debsgf.wordpress.com/
  26. Diane Leedham – @DiLeed – https://flexilingual.wordpress.com/
  27. Douglas Wise – @DoWise – https://douglaswiseblog.wordpress.com/
  28. Dr Vincent Lien – @fratribus – https://fratribus.wordpress.com/
  29. Educated Minds – @MissCRevision – https://www.educatedminds.co.uk/
  30. Englishlulu-@englishlulu – https://literaturedaydreams.wordpress.com/
  31. Emma Tomáz – @eltvasconcelos –
  32. Erin Miller – @Miss_E_Miller – https://mrsmillercoast.wordpress.com/
  33. Gwen (Corwynt) – @Gwenelope – http://takenoheedofher.blogspot.co.uk/
  34. Hanan Imlahi – @h_imlahi
  35. Heather Hale – @MissHHale –
  36. Integrating English – @IntegratingEng – http://www.integratingenglish.com/
  37. Isabella Wallace – @WallaceIsabella – http://www.isabellawallace.com/ 
  38. James Durran – @jdurran – https://jamesdurran.blog/
  39. James Theobald – @JamesTheo – https://othmarstrombone.wordpress.com/
  40. Jamie Thom – @teachgratitude1 – http://www.teachergratitude.co.uk/
  41. Jasmine Lane – @MsJasmineMN – https://jasmineteaches.wordpress.com/
  42. Jeffrey Boakye – @unseenflirt – https://www.influxpress.com/hold-tight
  43. Jenn Ludgate -@MissJLud – https://littlemisslud.wordpress.com/
  44. Jennie Giovanelli – @beautifullyfra1 – http://beautifullyfractured.co.uk/
  45. Jennifer Wilson – @JenJayneWilson –https://jenjaynewilson.wordpress.com/
  46. Jess Mason – @DrofletJess – https://sheffield.academia.edu/JessicaMason
  47. Jo Facer -@jo_facer – https://readingallthebooks.com/
  48. Joe Kirby – @joe_kirby –https://pragmaticreform.wordpress.com/
  49. Jonathan peel – @mrpeel – https://jwpblog.wordpress.com/
  50. Jude Hunton – @judehunton –
  51. Kamil Trzebiatowski – @ktlangspec – http://valuediversity-teacher.co.uk/
  52. Kat Howard – @SaysMiss – https://saysmiss.wordpress.com/
  53. Kate McCabe – @evenbetterif –
  54. Katie Ashford – @katie_s_ashford – https:tabularasaeducation.wordpress
  55. Katie Gibson – @KGibson2605 –
  56. Keith Neville – @EnglishNev – https://audioboom.com/EnglishNev
  57. Kerry Pulleyn – @KerryPulleyn – https://theplenary.wordpress.com/
  58. Laur HD- @lauranteaches – https://www.lauranteaches.co.uk/
  59. Lance Hanson – @LHanson1711 – https://mrhansonsenglish.wordpress.com/
  60. Laura HW – @LauraLolder – https://teachingtoptens.wordpress.com/
  61. Laura May Rowlands – @TillyTeacher –
  62. Lyndsey – @RealGingerella –
  63. Ms Caldwell – @MsCaldwell1 –
  64. Marcello Giovanelli – @mmgiovanelli – https://studyingfiction.com/
  65. Mark Roberts – @mr_englishteach – https://markrobertsteach.wordpress.com/
  66. Mark Miller – @GoldfishBowlMM – http://thegoldfishbowl.edublogs.org/
  67. Matt Lynch – @Mathew_Lynch44
  68. Millie Frost – @MissMFrost
  69. Mr B. West – @MrB_West
  70. Mr Pink – @Positivteacha – https://allearssite.wordpress.com/
  71. Miss Daly- @MissDalyEnglish –
  72. Missfod – @fod3 –https://anewhoffod.wordpress.com/
  73. Miss Reynolds – @tannytwoshoes84 –
  74. Miss Scott – @msscottenglish –
  75. Mrs Hallahan ‏@heymrshallahan –
  76. Mrs Duffy- @MrsDuffyEnglish
  77. NatM – @MasalaNatalie
  78. Neil Bowen – @neilbowen3- http://peripeteia.webs.com/
  79. Nick Shaw – @nrjshaw – http://softlytreading.blogspot.co.uk
  80. Nick Wells – @NSMWells –https://englishremnantworld.wordpress.com/
  81. Nikki – @NooPuddles – https://noopuddles.wordpress.com/
  82. paul moss – @EDmerger – https://paulgmoss.wordpress.com/
  83. Phil Beadle – @PhilBeadle – http://www.philbeadle.com/
  84. Phil Stock – @joeybagstock – https://joeybagstock.wordpress.com/
  85. Rajvi Glasbrook – @RGlasbrook – walesartsreview.org
  86. Rebecca Foster – @TLPMsF – https://thelearningprofession.wordpress.com/
  87. Rebecca Taylor – @EnglishHOD –http://staffrm.io/@englishhod
  88. Remi Ryans – @AnansiRyans
  89. RemusLupin – @RemusLapin
  90. Sana – @MsMaster13
  91. Sarah Barker – @MsSfax – https://thestableoyster.wordpress.com/
  92. S. Pryke – @SPryke2 –
  93. Solomon Kingsnorth – @solomon_teach – https://solomonkingsnorth
  94. Stacey Reay – @_Stacey_English – https://www.youtube.com/channel/
  95. Studyfiction – @studyingfiction – https://studyingfiction.com/
  96. Summer Turner – @ragazza_inglese – https://ragazzainglese.wordpress.com/
  97. Susan Strachan – @SusanSEnglish – https://susansenglish.wordpress.com/
  98. Thomas James – @ebiThomasJ – https://becausememories.com/
  99. X Curtis- @Xris32 – http://learningfrommymistakesenglish.blogspot.co.uk/
  100. Zain Abidean – @zuabidean –

Oh and of course a few others!

  1. Myself – MissR @AlwaysLearnWeb 🙂

There are obviously lots more English teachers than above, and non-English and also other education sectors! So in the event I’ve missed anyone off, I suggest you follow this link to Becky’s blog We get by with a little help from friends and follow the rest of this amazing teacher’s recommendations!

Two other non-English but get a special mention (just because they are two amazing educators):

  • Dawn Cox -@MissDCox
  • Rachel Rossiter – @rachelrossiter

“Chaos And Disorder”

“I get hit by mortars, everywhere I go I’m loitering
Chaos and disorder ruinin’ my world today”

Prince – Chaos and Disorder – Chaos and Disorder

Two things have been on my mind lately, both able to cause new staff a great deal of chaos and disorder.

Firstly, raising the bar at KS3 has featured heavily on my twitter timeline for a while now. I think many of my followers feel the same, schools often shift resources and focus to KS4 (which is understandable, they have exams to get through).  But what happens when the dust settles, the future little year 7s will be quickly be our new year 11s?

Secondly, the new English language and literature specs don’t appear that straightforward; summaries that aren’t really a summary, evaluations that are more like a personal response with evidence, coupled with the fact we have several new staff starting in September ensures interesting times ahead.

I wanted to do something to help the new staff get their head around both of these issues. If you’ve moved school recently, you will know starting at a new school is a frenzied time; new policies, names, room numbers, systems, documents etc. You get so much thrown at you, it’s difficult to see straight after a couple of hours. I remember those first few days, no matter how organised you try and get yourself, by the end of training day(s) you feel as if you’re sinking under a mountain of (for want of a better word) ‘stuff’.

So, as KS3 TLR, I’ve tried to put steps in place to alleviate some of the pressures faced as a new member of staff: a teaching pack for each unit for year 7 and 8. After speaking to my HOD she suggested; comprehension, inference/deduction, analysis (language, character, mood/atmosphere etc) comparison and some type of creative writing task. She felt often students read a piece of text without actually understanding it, they then find it difficult to answer questions appropriately. I have a slightly obsessive personality and at the moment I have booklets coming out my ears; I made one for each year group, covering language and literature. Each booklet is approx 8-12 pages in length, covering my HODs requirements, exam board AOs and hopefully set the bar for year 7 and 8 right from September (although I still need to sit and go through with my HOD and a fine tooth-comb); they may well change before September!

Each set contains:

  • Teacher 7-8 fully annotated extracts with extended questions
  • Student extracts / question pack
  • PPT of lessons to accompany the set/unit

The hope, for me, is if I’ve sourced the extracts, questions and answers, staff can follow as much or as little as they see fit. This could then possibly free up their time to focus on standards, behaviour, marking, supporting, establishing class routines etc. Any students finding the work difficult (or not being challenged enough) can be picked up quicker.

These are my draft versions, you may be able to see they are annotated and need work on them, but will give you an idea of finished product:

You can download a sample of each here – please be kind they are a working progress!

Year 7 Gothic Language SAMPLE

Year 7 Dickens Literature SAMPLE

Year 8 OMAM Literature SAMPLE

Year 8 People Language SAMPLE

Also analysing language can be ‘dry’ so, again, to help new staff I’ve put together a table of tasks ranging from different ways of analysing text, to more creative tasks – here’s a snippet:

Suggested Tasks

The Teacher Assessment Objectives (1 x literature page, 1 x language page) can be found below. The hope here is to help new staff understand AOs, what they are, what they actually mean and how to teach them and/or mark them in student work ‘accurately’. Again, below is only a sample, the actual version contains all literature/language AOs and includes exemplar student work marked, to help new staff in those first few weeks.

Teacher AO booklet SAMPLE

Finally, an ‘at a glance’ set of questions for literature and language used by exam board (style, wording etc) to help staff set appropriate extended writing tasks.

Style of questions

Please leave a comment if you feel I can add or improve these!