Thinking Time

This is one of the first times when we  have time to think about what education is in the country, the community, our school, and our classroom.

For Education Ministers and policy makers

This is your time now things are really stripped back to understand what the essential aspects of education are. What as a country is our main bread and butter, day to day service so we are clear what our provision must be. What then are the next factors we need to consider. These are things that definitely need funding and funding well. As you reintroduce things after the coronavirus peak this will give you a clearer understanding of what order things are necessary and what is icing on the cake because as a country we can provide it. From their real value policy decisions can be made and planning for the vision for the next five -ten years will be made all the easier.

Headteachers and Senior leaders

As the education policy makers in your school you also have time to think about what the educational setting is all about. You should be clearer at knowing what needs to be a priority and not. Unusual since these tend to happen through normal days with various interruptions and extended over weeks depending on calendars, timetables, illness and general day to day activities which take away good valuable thinking time. As above school 5 year plans and departmental plans can all be re-examined in the wake of this virus. With this different time that we have, you can ensure all planning will take you and the school through the next challenges and changes successfully.

For schools in special measures or serious weaknesses you have an unprecedented time to rethink, take all evidence on board, and come up with a vision, or examine and be ready to re-promote the vision. There is time to put things in place so that on reopening schools everyone from the leader to the final member of teaching and non-teaching staff feels ready to engage and engage well. As the e-learning successes and inevitable failures come to light, it will be even more evidence for you to understand even more so why you believe the vison and the measures will work. It should also support your thinking when making these challenging decisions. At a time when so many parents have realised how important school is to them not necessarily from a learning point of view, but also it allows them to be part of the workforce, have their own space to improve their wellbeing and give their child a chance that maybe they didn’t have, it is easier to encompass all of the schools community into the vision and why the measures put in place will support this.


As all above you also have time to think about how you will fulfil the vision for the school, what role you will play and plan what learning will look like in your classroom. With new resources being opened daily there is so much now to see and also challenges on how to interact with learners in their home environment. Some of these things we are doing now will be successful, but also due to the type of learning experience there will also be things that don’t work out as we would have hoped. This is all good learning and as a reflective practitioner it helps to know why we do the things we do and sometimes why we don’t.

If you have any resources that you would like to share or know that are good resources let me know and I can write about it during the coming weeks

However we use this time #staysafe 



Lessons to be learnt – How much trust should we give EAL TAs? Update

I was about to remove this from a page, as it should have appeared as a blog, and realised that recently whilst teaching maths the same thing occurred (see the emboldened text below). I was using translated worksheets and regularly used comments like Are you OK?, do you want help? and with the pupils use of Google translate, via their tablet, they were not only able to communicate with me, but with peers as well. It certainly helped them to settle in well. What has changed in this time is that the pupils are in main stream classroom without any EAL TA’s, so the teacher, (as I did), has to find a way of assessing quite quickly whether the student understands the topic or not, whether learning is occurring, where their level is, whether they are happy in the group they are with and whether the group they are with are happy with them.

The original post

After spending time looking at EAL support in London schools last week I was suddenly struck at the lack of support for EAL TA’s  (English as a second language Teaching Assistants).  I don’t think schools even recognise that this is happening and believe truly that they are doing their best, so it’s not meant as a criticism, but reflective practice recognising the next areas to support learning in our classrooms.

Clearly we should not give any teacher or TA 100%  trust until we have assured ourselves that they are giving 100% correct instruction. As no teacher is a super teacher i.e.  never needing support, mentoring or guidance then why should we give EAL  TA’s this trust and change policies to suit them?

Don’t  get me wrong I think TA’s and EAL TAs in particular are great, but we should not implicitly trust them to guide our youngsters in the ETHOS of the school, the teaching of academic concepts and language and assessment without having an overview of their ability ourselves as senior managers.
I watched a situation recently where a group of excellent teachers were planning and talking about the use of technology available to teach maths. They were thinking really creatively about how they could teach in their classrooms (as opposed to a withdrawn group) a mathematical concept that the rest of the year were  learning but wanted the EAL children to be part of the learning experience. For me it was brilliant they were marrying their skills with technology to save time for them when planning and delivering, but increasing the children’s learning ability whilst making it interesting.

All went well until the TA that supports them became part of the discussion and within no time suddenly the TA had convinced them they needed to be withdrawn and that it could take time for the children to learn it. What struck me most as an observer was that I had been in that situation many times and the TA on reflection was steering our teaching. Today I saw it much differently and wondered what made these excellent practitioners take another persons word and run with it? Why didn’t they question or try out their theory and review it if it didn’t work? They had built a translation requirement in, their practice was excellent, their topic was interesting, their own personal understanding of the concept was excellent and yet they let someone without the same or better credentials influence them and their decisions.

Something worth pondering on.

Using Blooms Taxonomy in classrooms.

What is Blooms Taxonomy? Just as a reminder this is wikipaedias entry.

Bloom’s taxonomy is a way of distinguishing the fundamental questions within the education system. It is named after Benjamin Bloom, who chaired the committee of educators that devised the taxonomy. He also edited the first volume of the standard text,Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals.Blooms_taxonomy

Bloom’s taxonomy refers to a classification of the different objectives that educators set for students (learning objectives). It divides educational objectives into three “domains”: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor (sometimes loosely described as “knowing/head”, “feeling/heart” and “doing/hands” respectively). Within the domains, learning at the higher levels is dependent on having attained prerequisite knowledge and skills at lower levels. A goal of Bloom’s taxonomy is to motivate educators to focus on all three domains, creating a more holistic form of education.

Bloom’s taxonomy is considered to be a foundational and essential element within the education community.A mythology has grown around the taxonomy, possibly due to many people learning about the taxonomy through second hand information. Bloom himself considered the Handbook “one of the most widely cited yet least read books in American education”.


What does this look like in the classroom?

Teachers can move students towards more complicated work by using questions. These can sometimes be difficult to think of on the spot, but I used to write myself some when working through lesson plans and then use them when appropriate through the lesson. The first questions we think of start usually are usually factual questions e.g. Who? What? Where? and occasionally which one? These just have one type of answer and can often be determined by the way the question is asked, or are obviously right or wrong.

However to develop the students understanding and skills further as teachers we need to use questioning techniques that support and show more in depth understanding.

To support students further, we need to start to think about what we want them to know in order that we can question effectively. so for example if we want them to evaulate more effectively our questioning should move towards  asking them to explain,

  • What does that mean? or
  • what might be happening?
  • what is meant by what was said ?

and then on towards evaluative questioning e.g.

  • Which is the best? Why?
  • What would happen if ….?
  • What do you think are the advantages of x over y ?
  • How do you feel about (changing the voting age to 16)? Why?
  • Compare and contrast (often seen in exam papers)
  • What are the similarities/differences in …

or predictive questioning

  • How might this?
  • How would you test this?

For example in Technology you could say

  • Describe the food, explain how it was made.
  • Compare it with other similar products
  • Develop ways of improving this design

alternatively in Science you could say

  • Describe the experiment
  • Explain the process
  • Compare with another similar experience
  • predict what might happen if we change x or y

This is how it may look when you now look at asking questions. Here are the verbs from Blooms Taxonomy to support you in generating questions.

Cognitive Level

Illustrative Verbs


Knowledge arrange, define, describe, duplicate, identify, label, list, match, memorize, name, order, outline, recognize, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce, select, state remembering previously learned information
Comprehension classify, convert, defend, discuss, distinguish, estimate, explain, express, extend, generalize, give example(s), identify, indicate, infer, locate, paraphrase, predict, recognize, rewrite, report, restate, review, select, summarize, translate grasping the meaning of information
Application apply, change, choose, compute, demonstrate, discover, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, manipulate, modify, operate, practice, predict, prepare, produce, relate schedule, show, sketch, solve, use write applying knowledge to actual situations
Analysis analyze, appraise, breakdown, calculate, categorize, classify, compare, contrast, criticize, derive, diagram, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, identify, illustrate, infer, interpret, model, outline, point out, question, relate, select, separate, subdivide, test breaking down objects or ideas into simpler parts and seeing how the parts relate and are organized
Synthesis arrange, assemble, categorize, collect, combine, comply, compose, construct, create, design, develop, devise, explain, formulate, generate, plan, prepare, propose, rearrange, reconstruct, relate, reorganize, revise, rewrite, set up, summarize, synthesize, tell, write rearranging component ideas into a new whole
Evaluation appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose, compare, conclude, contrast, defend, describe, discriminate, estimate, evaluate, explain, judge, justify, interpret, relate, predict, rate, select, summarize, support, value making judgments based on internal evidence or external criteria

Visual learners

Visual learning style involves the use of seen or observed things, including pictures, diagrams, demonstrations, displays, handouts, films, flip-chart, etc.

If your students prefer the visual style, they prefer using images, pictures, colours, and maps to organize information and communicate with others. They prefer to visualize objects, plans and outcomes in their mind’s eye. They also have a good spatial sense, which makes for a good sense of direction. They can easily find their  way around using maps, and rarely get lost.

The whiteboard is a best friend because they love drawing, scribbling and doodling, especially with colours.

Common pursuits and phrases

Some pursuits that make the most use of the visual style are visual art, architecture, photography, video or film, design, planning (especially strategic), and navigation.

They may tend to use phrases like these:

  • Let’s look at it differently.
  • See how this works for you.
  • I can’t quite picture it.
  • Let’s draw a diagram or map.
  • I’d like to get a different perspective.
  • I never forget a face.

Learning and techniques

If you are or have visual learners in your class visual use images, pictures, colour and other visual media to help the learning process. Incorporate much imagery into visualizations.

They may find that visualization comes easily.

  • Use colour, layout, and spatial organization in associations, and use many ‘visual words’ in assertions. Examples include see, picture, perspective, visual, and map.
  • Use mind maps. Use color and pictures in place of text, wherever possible. If you don’t use the computer, make sure you have at least four different color pens.
  • Systems diagrams can help visualize the links between parts of a system, for example major engine parts or the principle of sailing in equilibrium. Replace words with pictures, and use colour to highlight major and minor links.
  • The visual journey or story technique helps them memorise content that isn’t easy to ‘see.’ The visual story approach for memorising procedures is a good example of this.

Visual learners are good at:

  • Giving presentations
  • Seeing in 3D
  • Designing spaces
  • Seeing the big picture
  • Watching and copying
  • Using maps
  • Estimating distances

Hope this helps!

Student Participation

Encouraging the best from our young people in classroom situations can be daunting for new teachers, but the example below shows the benefit of well planned whole class teaching on full participation of the students.

In years gone by the stereotype for the classroom are groups of children with their hands up. This was usually the result of the teacher making a  statement e.g. We have been looking at structures and then asking for a response i.e. Put up your hands if you can think of any shell structures.

Despite the stereotypical media classrooms view that everyone ahs their hand up in reality;

  • Only a few will volunteer the information by putting their hands up
  • The teacher usually thanks or praises them
  • To check the rest of the class another few people will be asked and praised re. their contribution
  • This leaves a whole band of students who have said nothing and may know the answer but have not received praise.

Now we will look at a different way of answering the same question but achieving a result that means every students has had a voice. As currently snow and ice is the topic of weather conversation due to the Winter Olympics I suggest we call this idea snowballing.

The question is asked again but this time instead of hands up do the following;

  • Ask each class member to use a whiteboard or post it note to write down one idea
  • In pairs students share their ideas and come up with a  third idea ( 2 minutes is maximum time needed)
  • Join with another pair (creating  group of four) or collaborate as a table, exchange the examples and then think of a few more
  • Finally ask each group to feedback – or alternatively ask each member of the class to report back one idea from their group

This should make each child feel that they have participated and been heard and most if not all should receive praise.

There are many influences to the approach any teacher will use depending on a variety of circumstances and the topic, curriculum concept that has to be taught. Here are some examples;

  1. The motivation and behaviour of the students
  2. The complexity of the knowledge needed to be learnt
  3. The ethos developed by the teacher for that classroom i.e. is it more inquiry and thinking led or passive hands up?
  4. Cultural differences
  5. Class size
  6. Academic  and general language skills



As a teacher do you fill a bucket or aim to light a fire?

WB Yeats, “education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire

How many teachers and Education Ministers  do you know that just want to fill up buckets? Where is the creativity and the personalisation that makes the spark or turns the light bulb on to education?

I believe I have blogged before about how a teacher making me look at some paper burning made me fascinated and turned me onto poetry and words. Not the type of thing that can be done in todays classrooms but her ingenuity allowed us as a class to smell, taste, look, listen and then choose words we knew to describe what we saw. That did more for me in primary days than sitting the eleven plus and how many others would say exactly the same thing?

If you are bilingual do you change your language depending on what you want to convey?

Code-shifting is making the news recently which means that the bilingual speaker changes between languages. I wondered if they use it to their advantage i.e. to deliver either a hurtful or loving message in the best way. This led me to wondering if parents used this when nurturing their children. Some languages are known to be romantic and others harsh, so if the bilingual languages are one of each do they deliver the nice compliments and praise etc via the romance language and vice versa? What about teachers do they unknowingly do the same? I knew as a child when I was in the wrong when I was called by my full name in a tone that made it obvious, is the same true of the language used with bilingual children?

I am still wondering but have a better understanding now and it appears my instinctive answer of yes was right according to this news article. To aid your reading I have emboldened the most important points.

Bilingual children learn to switch languages to express emotion

It’s known as ‘code-switching’, and multilingual families do it all the time, apparently. It’s the habit of switching back and forth between languages to suit the emotional situation and what they want to express at any given time.

Now, a new study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science carried out at the University of California is looking at how a multilingual parents’ choice of different languages to express certain emotions affect the way their children understand and regulate their own emotions.

According to ScienceDaily, language plays a key role in emotion because it allows the speaker to articulate, conceal or discuss feelings. Now it seems that bilingual parents choose a specific language to convey emotion because they feel that language is culturally better equipped to express the particular emotion.

For example, a native Finnish speaker may use English to tell her children she loves them because Finnish is not typically an emotional language.

This means that children learn to associate certain emotional states with a particular language and, in turn,  the choice of language then influences how they experience emotion.

For example, children may switch to a less emotional language in order to decrease negative arousal.

The researchers hope the implications of emotion-related language switching can be used to explore marital interactions, therapy and work with immigrant families.

” renewed focus on language skills at school is needed” John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce

Sometimes when engaged purely in Education it is easier to forget the wider world and the wider implications of why were are teaching a particular subject.  I was always aware being a secondary teacher that my students would possibly be working in Design, Programming,Engineering or Architectural type areas, not least because as well as teaching GCSE, A Level there was always NVQ teaching of skills that was part of my teaching role.  However for some they never think beyond the next exam and in primary often thought only about primary tests and not about the whole child and their future prospects.

With that in mind I thought that this information may be of use for those looking outside the box for reasons that languages should be taught and bilingualism and multilingualism should be embraced.

This is current from the Norfolk Chamber of Trade and shares the benefits to businesses about the importance of communicating with exporters in their language. Here is the link to the article:

I am pleased that the Primary Languages Classroom Awards supports language developement to enable or children to be able to function on the world’s stage. Below is the article in full.

A survey of over 8,000 businesses released by the British Chambers of Commerce, shows that exporting activity continues to increase. However, the findings also suggest that providing firms with more training in foreign languages, and increasing their exposure to international companies would encourage more business owners to export. Economic growth relies upon British businesses being able to export more, so the British Chambers of Commerce is calling for more support for firms to help them trade internationally.

Language skills are vital to exporting

Knowledge of other languages is an important skill for exporters. 61% of non-exporters that are likely to consider trading internationally consider a lack of language skills as a barrier to doing so.

However, of those business owners that claim some language knowledge, very few can speak well enough to conduct deals in international markets. French is the most commonly spoken language, with 73% of business owners claiming some knowledge. However, only four percent are able to converse fluently enough in French to conduct business deals. This number drops significantly for those languages spoken in the fastest growing markets. In 2012, the IMF projects that the Chinese economy will grow by 9.5%, but just four percent of business owners claim any knowledge of the language, with less than one percent confident they could converse fluently.

Re-establishing foreign languages as core subjects within the UK national curriculum and in workplace training would mean that the next generation of business owners are ‘born global’ with language skills. The BCC is calling for the National Curriculum to be revised so that studying a foreign language is compulsory until AS level. Businesses could also be helped in training staff in new languages, if the government offered additional financial incentives such as tax credits for small and medium-sized businesses that make a significant investment in language training.

Businesses with stronger international connections are more likely to export

Businesses that do export are more likely to have stronger social connections with overseas markets. When asked what led them to export, the top three reasons cited by current exporters were:  collaboration with overseas partners (71%); a chance enquiry from outside the UK (57%); and previous work experience abroad (52%). Those business owners that have lived abroad are more likely to export. 11% of current exporters have lived aboard for five years or more.

The BCC believes that creating opportunities for employees to work in overseas companies could help expose firms to more international opportunities. For example, an international business exchange programme, perhaps modeled on the well-known academic Erasmus scheme would allow employees to complete placements in companies abroad, and bring back their experience to their employer. A scheme that covered BRIC economies, as well as Europe, would mean that businesses could take advantage of fast growing markets as well as the eurozone.

Commenting on the findings of the report, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Exporting is good for Britain, so it is right that we should encourage current and future business owners to develop the necessary skills to trade overseas. We’re encouraged to see the percentage of firms exporting in our survey has increased from 22% in January 2011 to 32% in January 2012. Exports are equivalent to nearly 30% of UK GDP[1], but more can be done to help businesses take the first step to exporting. Encouraging companies to boost foreign language skills with incentives like tax credits is just one way of making sure we continue to export best of British products and services around the world. A renewed focus on language skills at school, as well as helping companies forge new connections overseas, could help ensure that current and future business owners are pre-disposed to thinking internationally.

“We are already the sixth largest trading nation on earth, and the third largest service exporter, but to really secure our future as a leading exporter we need to help companies take advantage of new markets. Giving businesses the opportunity to forge links with international firms, develop employees’ language skills, and providing compulsory education in languages for young people will transform many of the great businesses we have in the UK into success stories overseas.”


Greater variety in second or third languages would encourage Puerto Rican citizens to look past the United States for opportunities

Sometimes it is good to have a different perspective which this story does. Puerto Rico is currently undergoing  a challenge wondering whether one, two or more languages is more important for a 21st Century curriculum for its children.  There are many different perspectives a few of which can be read about here.  I was interested that there is a  perceived need if they want their youngsters to be able to work in the world market maybe English and Chinese or Thai could be alternatives that need thinking about.

you can read more at:

here are a few snippets

Fortuño’s Plan For English Proficiency In Puerto Rico – Analysis

By Isaiah Marcano

With an electoral season approaching, the islands comprising Puerto Rico have once more become the center of debate and conflict. Recently, the current Governor of Puerto Rico and statehood advocate Luis Fortuño introduced a mandatory bilingual public-education program for all students on the islands. The initiative, called “Generation Bilingual,” emphasizes the importance of English proficiency among the islanders. Ultimately, his ambitious program aims to graduate a 100 percent English-Spanish bilingual class from secondary schools by 2022.(1) Given the economic upheaval and rise in violent crime on the island, Fortuño’s proposition is rather timely. The unemployment rate of roughly 14.2 percent has driven the local population to search for a desperate solution to its lingual and other woes.

Not all Puerto Ricans are convinced of the governor’s concern for their wellbeing, although bilingualism, especially fluency in English, is widely considered an essential asset for success in the globalized world. Though English is an official language of Puerto Rico and roughly 30 percent of the population has a relative command of the language, American culture and language remain alien for much of Puerto Rico’s Spanish-speaking majority.(5) Fortuño’s program of bilingual education has often been described as a step toward the further Americanization of the islands, although it remains in its nascent stages.(6) To this end, Secretary of Education Edward Moreno recently announced that American English will become the language of instruction in 31 of the islands’ public schools. More specifically, all subjects other than Puerto Rican history and Spanish language classes are to be taught in English.(7)

Moreover, the implementation of a mandatory English-Spanish bilingual program would further undermine the islands’ already substandard Spanish language education system. Exposing children to bilingual instruction prior to developing a command of the original mother tongue has definitive risks in the long run. Perhaps the most relevant includes a lack of mastery in Spanish or related subjects. Many argue that the government ought to address these flaws in the quality of education in Spanish prior to enacting any drastic changes. At this point, Fortuño’s plans might aggravate the shortcomings of the Puerto Rican public education system.(9) Additionally, research has shown that a command of the vernacular actually facilitates second-language learning to a great extent.(10)

Fortuño’s justifications revolve around the growing emphasis on English as an international language. These motives are untenable, however, given the growth of many states outside of the Anglo-sphere. Some increasingly useful languages include Mandarin, Hindi, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, and French. Spanish has also seen a definitive rise in relevance as an international language.(11) Greater variety in second or third languages would encourage Puerto Rican citizens to look past the United States for opportunities and expedite the development of crucial ties with the rest of the world.

As the debate over Puerto Rico’s sovereignty hangs in the balance and the election for governor rapidly approaches, the world will watch to see which direction Puerto Ricans decide to take. Fortuño’s experiment is underway and islanders will have to soon determine whether or not a predominantly English language curriculum will address the archipelago’s unsettled woes of disproportionate unemployment rates and violent drug-related crime.

As an old island saying goes, “Lo que no conviene, no viene:” If it doesn’t help, it has to go.



Do you need 700 reasons why you should learn a language?

For anyone who isn’t sure why you should learn a language or want to inform others of its importance the Centre for Languages, Lingustics and Area Studies or LLAS are building a data base with reasons and supporting information e.g. quotes or literary references to support this.

Find it at

Here are a few.

Reason: 61Language learners can acquire the skills of critical analysis of stereotypes and prejudice in texts they read or seeReference:Byram, M., Gribkova, B., Starkey, H. (2002) Developing the Intercultural Dimension in Language Teaching: A Practical Introduction for Teachers (Strasbourg: Council of Europe)Related Keywords:Critical thinking, Values

Reason: 65High level plurilinguals as a group do better than corresponding monolinguals on tests measuring aspects of intelligence, creativity, divergent thinking, cognitive flexibility etc.Reference:Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2002) Why should linguistic diversity be maintained and supported in Europe? Some arguments (Strasbourg: Council of Europe)Related Keywords:Academic skills, Creativity, Critical thinking, Learning, Multilingualism

Reason: 86One in every five British exporters (Statistics from Metra Martech) knows it is losing overseas business through its inability to overcome language and cultural differencesReference:Stevick, L. (2003) BCC Language Survey: The Impact of Foreign Languages on British Business – Part 1: The Qualitative Results (British Chambers of Commerce, November 2003)Related Keywords:Business

Reason: 87
Most businesses agree that their own business dealings are not significantly affected by lack of language skills, but there is widespread acknowledgment that it would certainly be ‘nice’ to be able to speak foreign languages and would likely be seen as a great compliment to their customers
Stevick, L. (2003) BCC Language Survey: The Impact of Foreign Languages on British Business – Part 1: The Qualitative Results (British Chambers of Commerce, November 2003)
Related Keywords:
Business, Values
Reason: 20The ability to speak the language of another community provides an instrument which allows access to their culture; conversely, if other communities can speak your language, they have a powerful tool for accessing your communityReference:Willis, J. (2003) Foreign Language Learning and Technology in England from the 17th to 21st Centuries (a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the examination for PhD in the Department of Education at the University of Surrey)Related Keywords:Culture, Equality (equal opportunities)