Resource #6: Jazz Up Your Language Display

I am desperately fighting a battle in my classroom – the battle on boring words. I’m sick to the back teeth of writing – whether it be descriptive, travel, creative, for purpose… being full of boring schmoring words! So I came up with this nifty little display… full of words students are unlikely to have heard of with a challenge – look up, use up, word up. Please do feel free to download and use.

jazz up lang display


Resource #5: Change your Words, Change your Mindset Display

A new display I put up last week in an attempt to change the mindset not just in my classroom (where the words “I can’t” result in a break time detention) but in the whole school. I am trying to build a PB (personal best) culture, where students want to beat their targets and motivate themselves and each other. Please do feel free to download the display below. I merely printed it on coloured paper. (and laminated it, I love laminating…)

Change mindset display

Resource #2: Group Roles

I dread group work as a teacher. This is an awful, possibly heretical offence to admit it, however I have to be honest, I really do.

And I can tell you exactly why – I do not find it is an effective way of learning for my students. It turns out, having had my nose in a few good pedagogical books lately, that this is really all my fault. I was keen to solve this issue to not only spice up my lessons, but also to create a collaborative culture as well as respond to a resounding response to my learning survey of “we want more group work!”

Therefore I started thinking, seriously about how to go about it. Previously I had tried, and failed miserably, to use roles such as “Scribe” and “Leader”,  however, it the kids just didn’t seem to get it. Everyone in the teaching world says group work is amazing, it produces fantastic, collaborative, original, student lead work. But I was a bit stuck about how I get that.

De Bono’s little Hats have always worked well for me, so I figured I would magpie his millinery obsession for myself. I created a whole host of roles I thought I would need to have effective group work at different stages throughout the school and also for  different tasks. English is very broad, therefore the same 4 roles just weren’t going to cut it.

I printed out little laminate cards with these roles and with explicit details of what each role was expected to do. Now when we do group work, I explain how big the group is and what roles are needed. Students are learning what each role encompasses. This technique is not perfect, and I know for a fact group work effectiveness across my school is patchy at best. I am training students to work in groups in a  specific way for me, and hopefully, if I start this in September next year, I will have great group work fairly shortly thereafter.

The key is, finding a way that works well for you, and for the students. I really don’t believe there’s any point in doing anything that is not effective learning for the students. So I changed my mindset and found a solution. I just need to be patient, as I said, it does take time to train students.

If you are interested in this resource, please contact me for a PDF file of all the cards.

Resource #4: Unseen Prose Model Answer

SECTION A: 40 marks
Read carefully the passage below. Then answer all the questions which follow it. The novel from which this passage is taken is set in America, on a beach.

She backed up a few steps, then ran at the water. At first her strides were long and graceful, but then a small wave crashed into her knees. She faltered, regained her footing, and flung herself over the next waist-high wave. The water was only up to her hips, so she stood, pushed the hair out of her eyes, and continued walking until the water covered her shoulder. There she began to swim – with the jerky, head-above-water stroke of the untutored.

A hundred yards offshore, the fish sensed a change in the sea’s rhythm. It did not see the woman, nor yet did it smell her. Running with the length of its body were a series of thin canals, filled with mucus and dotted with nerve endings, and these nerves detected vibrations and signalled the brain. The fish turned towards shore.

The woman continued to swim away from the beach, stopping now and then to check her position by the lights shining from the house. The tide was slack, so she had not moved up or down the beach. But she was tiring, so she rested for a moment, treading water, and then started for shore.

The vibrations were stronger now, and the fish recognised prey. The sweeps of its tail quickened, thrusting the giant body forward with speed that agitated the tiny phosphorescent animals in the water and caused them to glow, casting a mantle of sparks over the fish.

The fish closed on the woman and hurtled past a dozen feet to the side and six feet below the surface. The woman felt only a wave of pressure that seemed to lift her up in the water and ease her down again. She stopped swimming and held her breath. Feeling nothing further, she resumed her lurching stroke.

The fish smelled her now, and the vibrations – erratic and sharp – signalled distress. The fish began to circle close to the surface. Its dorsal fin broke water, and its tail, thrashing back and forth, cut the glassy surface with a hiss. A series of tremors shook its body.

For the first time, the woman felt fear, though she did not know why. Adrenalin shot through her trunk and her limbs, generating a tingling heat and urging her to swim faster. She guessed that she was fifty yards from shore. She could see the line of white foam where the waves broke on the beach. She saw the lights in the house, and for a comforting moment she thought she saw someone pass by one of the windows.

The fish was about forty feet away from the woman, off to the side, when it turned suddenly to the left, dropped entirely below the surface, and with two quick thrusts of its tail, was upon her.

At first, the woman thought she had snagged her leg on a rock of piece of floating wood. There was no initial pain, only one violent tug on her right leg. She reached down to touch her foot, treading water with her left leg to keep her head up, feeling in the blackness with her left hand. She could not find her foot. She reached higher on her leg, and then she was overcome by a rush of nausea and dizziness. Her groping fingers had found a nub of bone and tattered flesh. She knew that the warm, pushing flow over her fingers in the chill water was her own blood.

Pain and panic struck together. The woman threw her head back and screamed a guttural cry of terror.

The fish had moved away. It swallowed the woman’s limb without chewing. Bones and meat passed down the massive gullet in a single spasm. Now the fish turned again, homing on the

stream of blood flushing from the woman’s femoral artery, a beacon as clear and true as a lighthouse on a cloud-less night. This time, the fish attacked from below. It hurtled up under the woman, jaws agape. The great conical head struck her like a locomotive, knocking her up out of the water. The jaws snapped shut around her torso, crushing bones and flesh and organs into jelly. The fish, with the woman’s body in its mouth, smashed down on the water with a thunderous splash, spewing foam and blood and phosphorescence in a gaudy shower.

Below the surface, the fish shook its head from side to side, its serrated triangular teeth sawing through what little sinew still resisted. The corpse fell apart.


Read Paragraph 1
A1. List five adjectives that describe the woman and her actions. [5] 

We learn from the use if adjectives that the woman have “long” legs which allow her to make “graceful” strides. Her hair is long enough for it to be needed to be “pushed” out of her eyes. She is confident in water, as she “flung” herself in however she is not a smooth swimmer as her stroke is described as “jerky” and “untutored”.

Read Paragraphs 2-4
A2. How does the writer show the fish is a predator? [5]
You must refer to the language used in the text to support your answer. 

The writer describes the fish in an interesting way, small hints allows the reader to realise that the fish is a predator and he sees the woman as prey. The fish is introduced a an animal who might be a predator as the fish “sensed a changed in the sea’s rhythm.” This could mean that it is finely attuned to it’s surroundings in order to survive, or in order to attack potential prey. The reader soon understands the fish is a predator as the writer explains that the fish is“yet.. [to] smell her.” This adds to the impression that the  the animal is a predator as opposed to s victim. This is reiterated even further when the writer explains “the fish turned towards the shore.” We, as readers, know that the woman is towards the shore and tiring, therefore the decision of the fish to turn towards her indicates that he is predatory, rather than running away, like a victim.

This notion of the fish being a predator is confirmed, “the fish recognised prey.” In response to this recognition the fish “quickened” and it’s body was “thrusting” forward, so much so that it is “agitating” other sea life. This indicates to the reader that the fish is a primal creature, programmed to hunt and this is a natural primal response to sensing prey.

Read Paragraphs 5-8
A3. What impressions do you get of the fish in these lines? You must refer to the text to support your answer. [10] 

These lines add to the impression created of the fish earlier in the text, that of a predator. The writer initially reiterates this with the term “closed on” which generally indicated that someone or something is closing in on prey. The fish had started moving quicker earlier in the text, it has gone from “thrusting” it’s body forwards, to “hurtling” this a predator that is keen is go in for the kill and doesn’t want it’s prey to escape.

The fish then positions itself below and off to the side of the woman, in order to monitor her before attacking, it began to “circle” which is traditionally an act of a attacking animal. The writer also reveals that the fish “smelled her now” which again indicates that he is close enough to attack, but also to be sure that the woman is prey.

The fish is getting quicker through out these paragraphs, as closer to the woman, he is truly “closing in” on his prey. The fish interprets, as a hunter, the woman’s “jerky…untutored” stroke as distress signals. The fish then acts on this information, and is so excited that tremors are running through it’s body as it prepares to attack, it’s tail “thrashing” back and forth. The use of this powerful verb strikes terror in the ready, as there is a slight note of onomatopoeia when reading it in the context of the sea. The fact that this is following by the use of “hiss” could remind the reader of a snake, another creature that can be deadly.

Finally, the fish moves at the fastest yet, going was 40 feet away to upon her in “two quick thrusts” of it’s tail. This not only indicates the pure speed but also the size of the animal in order to travel that far in the that time, with so little effort. The fish was soon “upon her”, which could create the image in the reader’s mind of it literally being on top of her, which creates tension although we know she stands little chance of survival.

Read Paragraphs 9-10
A4. How does the writer make these lines tense and dramatic? [10] You should write about:
what happens to build tension and drama;
the writer’s use of language to create tension and drama;
the effects on the reader.

The writer uses several techniques in a short space to create tension, whilst also building on tension created earlier in the extract. “At first,” this indicates that something else will happen, by using a time stamp which create tension as the reader does not know what, however they are already fairly sure it will not be good, due to the build up and impression created of the shark.

“Snagged” means caught on, like you might with a piece of clothing on wire, the word does not indicate a serious injury. This create tension as the reader then may think that the shark has in fact not attacked. However it soon becomes apparent in the next few sentences that the shark has eaten the woman right leg. “There was no initial pain” indicates that great pain would follow shortly, “only one violent tug” shows us that the shark has ripped her leg of in one bite. Leaving some mystery to the description allows a picture to be built up in the mind of the reader which creates greater tension as they cannot be sure what has happened.

Then follows an extremely vivid and gory description about the woman realising her leg has been eaten off by a predator. The use of the short sentence “she could not find her foot” creates impact upon the reader and forms an unsavoury image in their mind. “Feeling in the blackness” brings to mind associations of evil and darkness, or monsters which creates further tension or it could be argued that it is foreshadowing, letting the reader know something awful will happen.

“She was overcome with a rush of nausea and dizziness” these feeling reflect what the reader may be feeling about the situation, and if they are not at that point they will at the gory description of “nub of bone and tattered flesh”. This powerful imagery will make the reader the feel disgusted and also make then appreciate how powerful the shark is, especially the sharpness of the teeth – so sharp that they leave the flesh “tattered.” This is not only dramatic, but also add to the high level of tension in these lines.

Finally, the uses of words such as “groping” “pain and panic” and “guttural cry” really emphasise the primal hunt that is going on in the scene. The reader does not yet know whether the fish has finished it’s attack.

Read Paragraphs 11-12
A5. “In the last part of the text the writer presents the fish as a majestic beast” [10] To what extent do you agree with this view?
You should write about:
your own impressions of the fish as it is presented here and in the passage as a whole;
how the writer has created these impressions.
You must refer to the text to support your answer. 

The word “majestic” tends to indicate something that is great and regal, as it has links with “majesty” however it can also be used to describe animals such a Lions who are considered King of the animal world but are also deadly predators. Therefore it could be possible to use the word in association with a shark.

I do not think that the writer is presenting the fish as a majestic beast, I believe that throughout the text he uses several techniques to create a monstrous yet natural image of this predator. The use of scientifically accurate description and anatomical names for the fish’s body parts help to create a natural image of the predator.  The use of terms such a “dorsal fin” “mucus” “nerve endings” “gullet” “femoral artery” “conical”. The impact of this scientific terminology allows the reader to see the animal as a natural predator, not just a mythical monster.

The fish is very clearly presented as a predator ready for attack, the description of the fish’s body “a series of long canals” “dotted with nerve endings” show that this animal to built for the hunt. The fact it can move 40 feet in “two sharp thrusts of his tail” and swallow a leg in one bite shows the sheer power and ferocity of this beast.

Furthermore the final stages of the text highlight the real savage nature of this natural beast. “bones and meat passed down the massive gullet in a single spasm” this not only shows that the fish eats humans, but that a leg capable of a “long and graceful side” can be swallowed whole therefore indicating to the reader again the true size of the creature.

The creature is described as clearly knowing how to find and attack prey, from sensing vibrations in the water, to circling 40 feet away. It also sweeps past to eat the woman’s leg and follows this by homing in the on the “stream of blood flushing from the woman’s femoral artery” showing that it is focused and driven to complete the kill. The fish is compared to a locomotive, and several adjectives are used in this section of the text to reiterate the size of this beast – “massive” “great”. It also uses very strong description to describe the end of the attack, the fact that with “jaws agape” the fish can fit the woman’s remaining body in its mouth. These jaws then “snap shut” around the torso, using their “serrated” edges to “saw” through the corpse.

Considering the way the author represents this creature I would argue that it comes across as a beast, however not majestic in the way that a Lion may come across. The reason for this is that it is shown as a cold blooded killer which is the reality of nature, whereas something that maybe be consider as majestic might have been portrayed in a more positive way.

Resource #3: Creative Writing Model Answer

The Assassin

The figure walked confidently towards his destination. The black leather of his outfit squeaking and squelching with the friction of movement. Squelch. The sound resonated in the valleys surrounding him. He has come this far from civilisation for one thing, and he wished to complete his task quickly and quietly, with minimal fuss. That was his way. And he only did things, his way. That was a non-negotiable part of the deal – his clients could whine and moan all they liked, he didn’t listen. As he reached a brow of the hill he started to lay down his baggage. A long, slim camouflaged rifle bag, a steel bow with a matte sheen and several arrows marked with a crude hazardous logo. He settled himself with his back to the cabin in the distance and unpacked a brown paper bag containing a chicken salad sandwich, a apple and chocolate chip cookie. He turned on his iPhone and put in one earphone. He enjoyed listening to Swan Lake when eating lunch.

Wind whipped around his ears, fighting with the unkempt strands of hair around his brow and neck. It didn’t bother him though, having grown up in a myriad of exotic locations, weather had very little effect on his stony exterior. He chewed his sandwich slowly, savouring the bites, like some sort of ritual. His eyes cast back and forth across the barren landscape, up to the grey sky with stormy clouds whizzing overhead. He kept focussing in on the target. A small, but comfortable log cabin, approximately 40 clicks away. A dirt track snaked towards it from a unseen starting point with tufts of grass forcing their way through the centre hump between the dents in the ground made by the tyres that traveled this lonely road.

As he moved on, carefully, to his apple, using an army spec hunting knife to peel the skin on in one long curl, he heard a noise. He froze instinctively. Ear pricked like a dog listening for the rattle of the food bowl. He sat poised, eyes focussed and apple all but forgotten in his left hard. Knife gripped for dear life. Slowly a beat up marigold yellow Jeep came into view. He relaxed. Crunching methodically on his apple. He still had time. Crunch. Crunch.

The Jeep continued to travel slowly up the dirt track scattered with the occasional tuft of green. It was a truly desolate place, the grey skies tinted everything miserable. In the marigold yellow Jeep sat a young man. Attractive, in the geeky way that was now so popular. Chunk black glasses settled on his slightly bigger than average nose. A trace of hair around the edge of his face the kind that men have when they haven’t quite mastered the skill of growing a beard. His fingers tapped in time to the upbeat music on the radio. He pulled up to the front of the cabin and got ready to get out, grabbing his few possession from the passenger seat beside him.

Ring ring. Ring ring.

He paused, looked at the screen and went to answer the phone. Upon the hill 40 clicks away a series of noises happened in quick succession. Ziiip. Snap, Click, click, click. The tripod of the rifle almost sighed in content as its feet touch the soft soil of the ground. The figure clad in black leather carefully look through the sight to establish a hold on his victim. He trained the rifle until he felt sure he could complete the job with success and minimal complications. He also took up the bow and had an arrow at the ready. A radio in his back pocket crackled with static.

“…No, no it’s cool man, I’m alone, no one followed me.” The young man with the chunky black glasses assured the person on the other end of the phone in his car. He hung up and surveyed the contents of a red backpack which was half open on the passenger seat. Sticking out was a basic looking gun with and several clips of ammo. He had an open multipack of power bars and several cans of caffeine filled drinks in cans. The bag crunched as he zipped it up, holding the excuse of a weapon in his left hand. His hand felt for the door handle on the door of Jeep and he check the rear view mirror one last time. With a puff of breath, he opened it, stepped out quickly, cast a furtive glance about and began the short walk to the cabin door.

Several things happen in a short space of time. The leather clad figure fired 3 arrows in quick succession all of which found their targets silently. The three exposed wheels of the Jeep. The air hissed silently as each particle raced to be free from it’s black rubber prison. He dropped the bow and lay down, his hands curled around his semi-automatic weapon. The young man with the larger than average nose was fumbling in his pocket for keys.

The radio crackled again. “Black Panther do you receive? Over.” The hair on the gunman’s neck bristled, and he reached to reply. “This is Black Panther. We are go, repeat, we are go. Target immobilised, attack go head. Over.” He returned to his comfortable position on the ground, eyes trained on his target who was now kneeling searching through his cheap looking red backpack for the right key. The gunman smiled. This was going to feel so good.

Through the sight of the rifle he could see his comrade slowly and silently filtering out of their camouflaged hiding places. There was no way they could lose. There was nowhere for him to run or hide. The poor lamb didn’t stand a chance. There were no keys to the cabin.

“This a GO order, I repeat a GO order. All units fire.”

Splat. Splatsplat. Splashes of red flew around the target, on his clothes, the veranda of the cabin, the log walls. “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” He screamed, very much a like prepubescent girl. The gunman smiled as his teammates cheered. This year, victory had been theirs. He packed up and walked back towards the was he came. Munching merrily on his cookie as he swaggered into the distance. The big black army grade boot caught a flyer that was blowing around. His University ID swinging around his neck as he looked down at the tattered paper. Paintball Contest. Prize: Free drinks at the SU bar for a month. He smiled again, triumphant.

Resource #1: Good, Great, Fantastic…

Tiered outcomes are nothing new, most schools that I have worked in have used it in some form or another. These levelled outcomes usually take the form of either Must/Should/Could or All/Most/Some. They are ideal for differentiating by outcome.

However, there are some fatal flaws in these specific wordings. Lazy students will only ever strive to complete the basic Must/All. Could/Some creates a ceiling for those students with low self esteem, who don’t believe they can reach for the stars.

I was introduced to the Good/Great/Awesome techniques in some TEEP training in November last year. I immediately placed it in my “to-do right away” pile. As an intrinsically positive person, and teacher, who always strives to build students’ self esteem and promote the growth mindset in all who pass through my classroom; I found the idea of offering 3 levels of positivity much more appealing that the previous wording.

I implemented this strategy quickly and personally added in an overarching learning objective, so students could see each stage of G/G/F as building blocks. I coloured coded them, as is common, and occasionally colour coordinate to grades or tasks.

I found these words helps maintain students positive attitudes and embedded this positivity for learning in their lesson. It also helped intrinsically motivate them to strive to do better and reach that “Fantastic”. After all, who doesn’t want to be fantastic?

Review: 100 Things Awesome Teachers Do

10o Things Awesome Teachers Do – William Emeny (@Maths_Master) Blog

“This book is more about getting excellent learning happening in your classroom day in, day out. The book is full of tried-and-tested ideas that teachers have learned both from academic research and The University of Life and Experience.”

 10 usefully titled sections such as “lesson planning, motivation, learning environment…etc” with each containing 10 ideas that are tried and tested by the author.

This book has been written with the best intentions, to provide real, applicable help to busy teachers which they can apply in the classroom the next day. Emeny himself, admits there are two ways of approaching the book, dipping in and out; or reading like a novel. I chose a mixture of both, skimming the book and dog-earing pages of use, which I returned to later. 

This book, according to Emeny, was written for when teachers feel stale and boring. I understand this is a common affliction in our profession – where it is all too easy to use the same bank of activities again and again… He advocates using the book for those occasions, promising that it will provide a new idea to try when your lessons need some jazzing up.

Emeny is clear about using the book to promote a culture of “outstanding teaching” which will remain valid throughout the inevitable changes of Ofsted criteria. His enthusiasm  for the profession is evident, and he clearly aims to be the best he can be as a teacher and wants this for others which is admirable.

In terms of value, this book has some good ideas. However, it is not reinventing the wheel, most of the ideas are ones I certainly heard of before, and I actually took very few of the 100 ideas from the book to my classroom. This is not a criticism as such, merely an observation, that I am keen to seek out new ideas and try them out. If I have come across this book a year ago, I suspect many of the ideas would have been new to me. 

I have included some of the ideas I found particularly inspiring below, with page references. Obviously for copyright reasons I cannot publish all the details below, but you can buy the book here in both paperback and digital versions. 

Idea 36, pp.58-9 – Mark backwards – this is pure genius! I have implemented this straight away.

Idea 65, p.91- Independent Learned Graffiti Wall – I LOVE this idea and have altered it to become a collaborative graffiti wall display where students volunteer a member of their table to contribute to the wall as a plenary or review task.

Idea 91, pp.126-9 – Relearning – The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve – this theory was brand new to me, and really made me think about how I approach teaching and revisiting topics.

These are just a few of the ideas I have started using in my classroom, and I am grateful to Emeny  for providing them in a such a neat little accessible package. However I do wish there were more of the groundbreaking ideas, and less of the same teaching ideas dressed up slightly differently as I suspect I personally won’t come back to book time and time again as the author intended.

Rating: ****