“I hate poems”: introducing poetry

Othmar's Trombone

I hate poetry.

Of course that isn’t true.

But it would be equally untrue if I were to say I love poetry.

The reason both these statements are untrue is because they are huge, sweeping statements. Poetry, like music, movies, books, art, theatre, television and chocolates runs the gamut from the great (strawberry creams) to the woeful (coffee creams). I love some poetry. In fact, I love lots of poetry. But there’s some poetry I plain dislike. This is the first thing I discuss when teaching poetry: that it is a matter of taste. People don’t say “I hate music”; they say “I hate Kula Shaker”. They might hate The Voice and Top Gear and Hollyoaks, but that doesn’t mean they hate television. So if a pupil says “I don’t like poetry”, I suggest that what they mean is “I don’t like any of the poetry I’ve read to this point in my life”. And I tell them…

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“The Question of U”

What do I look 4, what shall I do?
Which way do I turn when I’m feeling lost?

Prince – The Question of U – Graffiti Bridge


Lately every time I want to ask something my first ‘go to’ is twitter. To be perfectly honest I say the word ‘twitter’ that much in my department I’m surprised nobody has took a swipe at me!  I believe I say ‘last night on twitter’, ‘on twitter’, ‘XYZ tweeted’ … etc etc at least once a day. I do try not to say it sometimes. Regardless, every time I feel unsure or want to ask a question, it’s the place I turn to when I am feeling lost!

Below are screen shots of lists or collections of information gathered from various ‘edu tweeters’ when I’ve asked for help.

Is this worthy of a blog?

Well, I think so yes. Recently I tweeted two of these lists and between them received approx 500 RT/favs. Great! But what happens when the dust settles, and time moves on? They get forgotten.

So for future reference or new followers, or simply people that missed them the first time around. Here is a collection of some lists I tweeted that many found interesting.

1) Interventions/Strategies

I tweeted out asking for help with different strategies for KS3. This was a collection of all suggestions tweeted to me:


2) Year 11 Revision Bags

I tweeted out asking ‘what would YOU put in a year 11 revision bag? This was a collection of all responses. Several tweeters have trailed these and they appear successful with year 11 students.


3) A concise list to my Blogs

Because I am aware I get new followers all the time, I cut and paste a list of my blogs for easy reference – this was oddly well received and even sparked off an idea to create a list of blogs for English teachers (An English Teachers’ Bibli-blography). I do recommend bloggers do this – or even their most popular blogs. Just tweet out your most popular or informative blogs. Teachers qualify all the time and the information many tweeters blog about is useful, informative and often very up-to-date. Keep those blogs going!


4) “If Carlsberg made…”

I spend my entire time teaching units, which are linked to assessment objectives or end of unit tests. In frustration one day I tweeted out this list; my ideal KS3 curriculum (7 & 8). All of these have ‘real’ end results, none are just a unit students do – every one produces a real letter or task which is sent off or leads somewhere. I will use some of these ideas to run a creative after school club for students from Sept!


5) Ways to Mark (without marking)

This is a total ‘cheat’ as this came from   blog Marking is a hornet but in my defence I did ‘tweet’ this image out, with a link to Joe’s page! All teachers know that they can soon drown under a pile of books: read the blog!


6) Teens in literature

I put together the following list of teens across literature for a SOW, but was annoyed that my list wasn’t particularly very diverse… in any way.ClBkDNGWAAAAmhh

So I called to twitter for help, again! Besides the list and SOW going down a treat with other English teachers – below is a list of all the extra teens I was given. I found extracts and used many of these characters in class – thanks twitter! Below is a cut&paste of the tweets as they rolled in… ignore any SPaG issues!



7) Variations of the well loved/hated PEE structure

My HOD asked me to turn to twitter for ways of developing student analytical writing. PEE paragraphs can help some students structure their work, but it can also hinder other students from confident and sophisticated writing. This was the response from other teachers:


You can download the document here if you want it – some lovely edu-tweeters also suggested some blogs which I’ve added on the end.


8) Beautiful extracts to analyse

Recently Freya @fod3 sent out the following tweet:


Off the back of all the responses I cut/paste into a list for myself and anyone else! These are helpful with the new AQA spec for Paper 1.


9)  List of literacy events / Awareness days


List of literacy Events / Awareness dates

10) World Book Day

Not wanting to do the same old thing, I did a quick #AskTeamEnglish and as always…this is what they came up with:


That’s it for now, but if I make up any more ‘lists’ that are gathered and gleaned from twitter not only will I tweet it…! But I will also upload here.

Thank you to everyone for contributing their ideas.



“Betcha by Golly Wow”

-Full of wonder and surprise and…
Betcha by golly wow! (wow!) (wow!)

Prince – Betcha by Golly, Wow – Emancipation


Whenever anyone shares their work their generosity always amazes me.  Teachers on twitter,in particular, are so kind and helpful. This is because most have one thing in common; they all want children up and down the country to succeed. And it’s their generosity with ideas, knowledge and kindness that always makes me think “wow”!

So, this blog as well as a few other recent ones “Baby I’m a Star (my most requested resources) “Extraordinary” (my best twitter steals) “Gold” (my not such good ideas)  is another little way of me saying thank you. To be fair my folders may not help you at all, maybe just helped me sticking in one place, but I hope it does help.

One thing about planning that can take time is finding articles or extracts, so below are links to some (hopefully) useful folders with a load of articles or extracts in them. Each folder is a working progress so I will continue to add to them.

If you have any documents you want to add please find me on Twitter (@FKRitson) and I can add you to the dropbox account. Also @Xris32 has a collection of 19c texts to use with the new AQA spec – if you have anything to add drop him a line too!

I repeat, these are all working documents, so I am constantly adding, re-naming or plain sorting- I’m aware some are a little untidy! They will get tidier as now they are ‘public’.

1) List of theorists

This is for AS/A-Level English teachers, a table of some theorists.

2) Articles (19c)

Some non fiction articles to help with AQA new spec – I am in process of trying to catalogue by date then brief description of what each is about (big job, going slowly)!

3) Modern articles

Mainly from The Guardian – but lots of articles that you ‘could’ pair up with non-fiction 19c articles. The same as (2) I will slowly sort these with better titles.

4) Extracts for analysis

Extracts for normal classroom analysis from classic and modern literature. I have sorted these in author then book. These may be fiction or non-fiction.  Please help me add to this!

There are over 300 extracts here:


Below you’ll find a link to lots of resources for the new AQA spec language and literature. I need to make it clear that this has been made possible by the kind and very generous Twitter #TeamEnglish staff that have all agreed to allow me to post their resources here in one place. Please help yourself… but what would be even better is to help us by adding to it!

5) AQA Language resources

6) AQA Literature resources

7) AQA Extract booklets (via AQA)

8) AQA Short Stories (old spec……)

If any of you can remember the old AQA Sunlight on the Grass Anthology (spec  4705 I think), they were a collection of short stories for GCSE students. Well, below is a link to each one and resources AQA kindly made up for each one. When you follow this link, there are 12 folders, in each folder is the short story, word and PDF (except Flight – will have to see what’s happening there) and you will find a bunch of teaching resources for the story. Enjoy!

9) Questioning Templates

Andy Tharby (@atharby) an English teacher. Co-writer of Making Every Lesson Count has kindly tweeted the following questioning templates. They will help with AQA structure and evaluation questions:

 10) Glossary of Terms

Various glossaries – GCSE, A-Level and others I’ve acquired!

11) Sentence Starters

Again over time I’ve collected these, some are mine – some aren’t. I will try to credit those that are not mine.

12) Speaking & Listening Resources

Again, from kind generosity of other teachers I have started to collect some S&L resources.

13) Links to other blogs with free resources!

Here are some links to other blogs with kindly donated free English resources (I will add to this as I remember them!:

  • Mrs Legg English– A few revision ideas for the AQA GCSE English Literature and Language legacy spec
  • anewhoffod – lots of freebies – you will have to search blogs! But several very good booklets to be downloaded!
  • Free Stuff For English Teachers – some well-received resources – free!


How to plan a knowledge unit in English

Joe Kirby's blog

Instructional sequences have the capacity to make students smart or not.’

Siegfried Engelmann

In teaching it seems the focus is often on what makes an outstanding lesson. I think we need to spend much more time thinking about what makes an excellent unit.

In this blogpost I want to explain how we might go about designing a unit of learning in English. What if we coherently sequenced knowledge for cultural capital and enduring memory? Much depends on the curriculum sequence, but I just want to focus on unit design for now.

This approach is a little bit like going through Lewis Caroll’s looking glass: once you go through, it’s hard to imagine going back. Such is the analogy used by David Didau to describe the shift from unit planning that starts from overarching skills, to unit planning that starts from underpinning knowledge.

LookingGlass   Wonderland

Why would we design units…

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Spelling and Vocabulary Lists – What’s not to like?


Ok, this is basically a post with some spelling and vocabulary lists that I’m sharing. Scroll to the bottom for them. My logic is explained in a few paragraphs/pics first though if you’re interested!


I visited a local primary school a couple of months ago with a view to identifying what they do at KS2 that we could link in to, and bridge the gap. Lots of things impressed, but one thing I particularly liked were Spelling lists. They were used as daily starters and students took time to write out words from a list, four or five times to help them remember. We don’t do enough spelling practice in KS3  currently in my opinion, and there appears to be a deteriorating picture when it comes to spelling competence in Secondary schools. So the simple idea of a list was pretty addictive and useful for learning I thought, but how…

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