All posts by bloomsburypublishing

How to Help Children with their Emotional Response to the Lockdown

Whoa! Where did that come from? When the lockdown first started, I certainly didn’t see the full impact of what was coming, and what it would actually mean in teams of changes to our daily lives. The situation certainly startled me at first, alongside a dollop of disbelief. And then, as I settled into it, I could not deny a background feeling of unsettledness. When I could distract myself by engaging in something absorbing, I’d suddenly be re-startled as I recalled the full oddness of what was going on. Then came the feelings of acceptance, which still had some undertones of bewilderment. I could stay content as long as I didn’t allow myself to become agitated by thoughts of what I would have been doing in the other life. I also noticed that little things became bigger and big things became huge; everything felt more intense than usual.

Many of my books are about emotions and9781472949806 and I am a fan of the idea that emotions need expressing. I think the slight ‘war spirit’ essence of the current situation has made us all a bit stoical. We have metaphorically ‘held our emotional breath’. And yet there is no doubt that this situation will have had an emotional impact. Some of us will have felt this emotional impact at the time, some might have a delayed reaction, and some will have suppressed it, which may cause it to re-emerge in the future. The latter is more likely for those of us who are less familiar with emotional expression.

So, given my interest in emotional expression, I had was just starting to think about how my books could do with a supplement addressing the emotions of lockdown when a seven-year-old named Etta emailed me and shared the pages she thought needed to be added to my book What’s Worrying You? Etta is an emotional genius. I particularly liked her advice to ‘enjoy time off school; it won’t happen again.’ A soothing reminder for many children, I would think.

Picture1

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Brilliant drawings by Etta

Lockdown has many different emotional components. There are the feelings evoked by the actual lockdown and all that it entails, the anxiety about the actual virus, and the uncomfortableness caused by the uncertainty of the future, as we cannot know how this will ultimately unfold and how we will feel about our eventual return to ‘normal’.

Children are bound to be having some kind of emotional response to these circumstances. I believe it is important to help them find ways of expressing these emotions so they can find resourceful ways of dealing with them. It can be simply about asking your child what they are thinking and feeling. It could also involve:

  • Inviting your child to draw life in lockdown, like Etta did. They could give survival tips or show the pros and cons.
  • Chatting while out exercising, considering how life is different and what we like and don’t like about it.
  • Saying how you are feeling, or making a list of emotions which your child could choose from to express how they feel. They might be able to say what has triggered that emotion.
  • Having a conversation about any worries your child might have about their eventual return to school.

I guess this is just another prompt to remember that emotions have a significant impact on us and in a situation like this, we might need a little more help to focus on them and understand them. Ultimately, by acknowledging and processing the emotions of lockdown and its easing, you and your child are more likely to arrive at a place of gentle acceptance and some calm. Emotions that we acknowledge and process are always more manageable. This links to further consoling advice from Etta: ‘When you are in lockdown, just remember it won’t last forever.’

9781472942425My latest book, It’s OK to Cry, seems timely. It is not a book that explores the emotions of lockdown specifically but a book that helps children find the words to express how they feel. It was written with boys in mind as their conditioning can mean that they are less likely to express how they feel verbally. But it is actually helpful for everyone. It certainly could be used to help a child express the emotions associated with lockdown.

Coming soon is a free online booklet I have written for parents, carers and teachers with some creative activities to tackle boredom during lockdown, as well as activities to help children reflect upon recent events. It invites children to explore what has been enjoyable, what has been less so, and how all this has made them feel. It also includes a couple of activities to help you support your child with the emotions surrounding returning to school. This will be available from Bloomsbury.com. Please email bloomsburyeducation@bloomsbury.com if you are interested in receiving a copy to download.
For further ideas for helping your child with their emotions please visit: https://www.mollypotter.com/blog

3) Tips for Parents in a Pandemic: Supporting Teenagers During Lockdown

Check out the first post in the series here and the second post here.


By Janet Goodall9781472976611

Supporting the learning of teenagers is often difficult for parents and families, and some may find it even more of a challenge when all of the learning has to take place at home!

We know that many parents back away from engaging with their children’s learning as their daughters or sons get into secondary school. Parents often tell us, ‘I can’t help anymore – I didn’t do that at school’ or ‘It’s all changed so much and I don’t know how to help!’

In this blog, I’d like to give some ideas about how you can support your child to keep learning during lockdown, but first I’d like to reiterate something I’ve said in other blogs. These are not normal times. There’s no point in trying to recreate a ‘normal’ school day at home. Schools are set up for groups of students who are all the same age, studying the same subjects; that’s unlikely to be the situation in your home. What’s important – now more than ever – is not so much helping with the content of what young people are learning, but supporting their desire to learn. Everyone else in their class – in the country – is ‘missing out’ on schooling at the moment. Think of how many times your child asked you, ‘Why?’ when they were five years old. It’s that curiosity, that desire to learn, that will carry them through.

How to help with work from school

It’s likely that your child will have work set for them by their school, and it’s also likely that at some point, they will come across something that they can’t do or find difficult. In these cases:

  • Ask your child to explain what the problem is. Sometimes, that leads to its own solution.
  • If your child is stuck and you don’t know the answer, the first thing to say is that it’s OK not to know! Try to put a positive spin on it – not ‘Oh, wow, that’s too hard. Let’s do something else’ but rather ‘Oh, that’s interesting. I don’t know either!’ Ask your child to suggest where you (together) might look for an answer. Is there a website? Could someone else in the family help? A friend on Zoom or by phone?
  • Admitting to your child that you don’t know the answer isn’t a failure – it’s showing that you are still learning as well and that you value learning.

The importance of praise

Particularly during a time when most of us are much more anxious than usual, and all our routines have been disrupted, it’s important to find joy where we can. Praise your child for work well done, and in particular, praise your child for continuing to work on something that is hard for them. What you’re trying to do with this is to support their desire to learn, as well as their actual learning of content. Let your child see that learning is important to you.

Supporting learning in different subjects

If you want to support the skills your child is using for different areas, you might try some of the following:

  • For literature and English, suggest your child creates two diaries of the pandemic – the first, a ‘real’ diary, capturing what they are thinking and feeling. The second, an ‘imaginative’ diary. What might be happening? What might be going on in an alternative world?
  • Your child could collect and collate family histories. This would cover English, literature, history and some mathematical skills. They could collect, write down and illustrate childhood stories from different members of the family. They might create an elaborate family tree, again by talking to people and working out dates and timelines. If you have old family photo albums around, this might be a good time to get them out and share stories.
  • Many libraries and museums have made their collections open to the public and online. Why not suggest a ‘day out’ to the British Museum, for example? Make a day of it and involve your child in all aspects. Plan a picnic (think about what needs to be bought and what can be made from what’s on hand). Plan how you would get there if you were actually going (looking up train timetables is good maths practice!). Plan a route to get there (this is geography and map reading). Go to the museum website and decide what rooms you want to look at together. Discuss what you see there and the history behind it. Suggest your child takes notes of anything they find interesting to research ‘when you get home’. Don’t forget the picnic!
  • Keep in contact with your child’s school when and as you can. Use the resources they provide but remember that everyone – including teachers and students – is going through a very difficult time, so be patient – including with yourself!

Going back to school

When the time comes to go back to school, start to ease back into a routine as soon as you can. Getting up early in the morning seems to be particularly difficult for teenagers, so moving back toward a ‘usual’ getting-up time in a series of steps might be useful.

9781472955180Finally, the most important thing you can do for your child during the COVID-19 lockdown doesn’t change, regardless of the age of the child. Let them know that they are loved, and keep them and the family safe, so they can return to school (including the early mornings!) in good time.

Janet Goodall is Associate Professor in Education at Swansea University and is a leading expert in parental engagement. She is the author of 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Engaging Parents and 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Engaging Parents (forthcoming). Follow Janet on Twitter @janetifimust.

2) Tips for Parents in a Pandemic: Supporting Mathematics Learning

Check out the first post in the series here.


By Janet Goodall9781472976611

In the second blog post of this series, I’d like to talk about how families can support their children’s learning in and around mathematics.

Many parents shy away from helping young people with anything more than simple addition and subtraction, often because of their own experiences around maths when they were at school. This feeling even has a label, ‘maths anxiety’; if the thought of helping with maths bothers you, you’re not alone! In this blog post, I want to give you some ideas that might help overcome that, so you can support your child’s learning during the lockdown. This post is about maths, but a lot of it will apply to other subjects.

First, to reiterate something from the previous blog post, your children are not ‘missing out’, in the sense that they will ‘be behind’ others when they go back to school, because no one is able to follow the ‘usual’ curriculum at the moment, and no one has ‘school as normal’. Being safe and secure is more important than anything else.

Secondly, you probably already do a lot more maths around the house than you realise. Researchers Dr Tim Jay and Dr Jo Rose found that parents engaged in a wide range of activities that related to maths, without using that label. There are the obvious things – counting, working out a budget, and measuring and weighing ingredients when cooking. But there are a lot of other things that relate to maths as well. Matching socks when doing the laundry, working out football rankings, deciding how much paint will be needed to redecorate a room, filling holes in a card or stamp collection, discussing shapes… these all relate to mathematical concepts.

Here are some ideas which can help support maths learning:

Counting

  • Count the stairs on the way up to bed and, for slightly older children, count in twos or threes.
  • You can also count the number of steps between different rooms.
  • If you have access to outside places for exercise, count steps there as well! Who can run faster or further?
  • For older children, use those step counts to create a map of the house and perhaps populate it with interesting imaginary creatures. If you have access to outside spaces, they can be mapped as well.

Cooking

  • Many families are finding they are doing more cooking now. Your children can help not only weigh and measure but plan meals – how many onions will be needed for which meals in the week? This could lead to work with fractions as well – half an onion is needed on Monday and we can use half of the remaining half on Tuesday.
  • This could also lead to other ideas, such as working out if it’s cheaper to buy a large bag of something and whether it will all get eaten by the use-by date.

Space

  • Ideas about space are important for a lot of subjects, including maths. Look up places on maps (online or paper) and work out how long it might take to get from one place to another.
  • You could also create maps from places in favourite books and do the same calculations. How long would it take to walk from one place to another? To ride a horse? To drive a car?

Confidence and self-esteem 

  • Try to avoid being very negative about any subject. Don’t let your children hear you say, ‘Oh, it’s too hard. I hated it in school.’ Even if you found maths hard in school, try not to pass that on to your children.
  • Older children will probably have work sent to them from school. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do the work. In fact, you could ask your child to explain it to you, as you were taught differently (which will almost certainly be the case). Explaining what they are doing is a very good way to cement learning and it can increase your child’s self-esteem and belief in themselves as a learner.
  • If you and your child find that there’s something you can’t do or can’t work out, the important thing is to talk about problem-solving. How might you find the answer? How else might you work it out?

9781472955180In maths, as in other subjects, what’s really important at the moment is the learning journey, not its end: keep the conversations about learning going. Share what you’re learning, as well as what your children are doing. Let your children know that you are proud of the work they are doing and what they are learning.

Janet Goodall is Associate Professor in Education at Swansea University and is a leading expert in parental engagement. She is the author of 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Engaging Parents and 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Engaging Parents (forthcoming). Follow Janet on Twitter @janetifimust.

 

10 Tips for Learning from Home with Poetry

  1. Read, read, read. Get as many poetry books as you can find in your house – or order a few, find stuff online, most poets for children will have content on their websites etc. Start finding the poets whose work speaks to you. You’ll start to notice why you like the particular poet – how do they use words? Do they use humour? How do the words feel in your mouth, sound in your ear? What do the poems make you think about? Do they spark any ideas of your own?
     
  2. See if you can find any videos of the poets that you like. Again, lots of them will be posting videos to their Youtube channels and websites. Watch them perform. How do they bring the words to life? Some poets will be much more animated than others. What style do you like?

  3. Find a poem that you love. Practise performing it. Is it a loud, noisy poem that calls for rhythmic percussion, banging pens on mugs and stuff like that? Or is it a quieter, gentle poem – if it is, how can your performance reflect that? Is there anybody in the house that can join in with you? Could you split the poem into different bits? Experiment. Have fun!

  4. Can you have a go at writing a poem a bit like the one you’ve been performing? You could maybe write about a similar subject or pick a word, phrase or line from the poem which you can use as a starter to get yourself going.

  5. Write any ideas down in an ‘ideas’ book. Ideas can come at any time and you need a place to collect them before they’re forgotten. All that reading and performing will definitely be generating words, phrases, whole lines that you want to write down. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar, just smash the ideas down.

  6. Watch my video ‘why is poetry different?’on my YouTube channel – there are some tips which I regularly use as part of my school workshops which demystify poetry and explain why there are no rules – and therefore no reason to worry about getting it wrong. It’s all about ‘having a go.’

  7. When you’ve spent a bit of time jotting ideas down, put them away. It’s really important that you come back to them the next day or the next week with fresh eyes. Then you can start getting it right for YOU. That means you sort through the words and phrases that resonate with you – not for anyone else. You’re trying to please yourself. If it’s supposed to be a funny poem, does it make you laugh? (we all have slightly different senses of humour; my wife, Joanna, for example rarely laughs ay my ‘funny’ poems – yet they make me laugh, and that’s what counts.) If it’s about YOUR life and thoughts and feelings, does it tell your truth, in YOUR voice? How do you want the poem to look on the page? Experiment!

  8. When you think the poem is right for you, have a go at performing it – what works best for the poem? What’s comfortable for you? Are you a loud, energetic poet, or a quiet one? Or can you do it all?

  9. Keep doing it. The more ideas you jot down, the more starting points you’ll be giving yourself to have a go at. Keep reading all sorts of poems by all sorts of different poets as well – they’ll continue to spark ideas. The more poems you write, the more your own individual voice will develop. 

  10. Start collecting the poems you’ve written – you could write them out on paper and illustrate them and then staple them together? Have you got paints? Could you chalk one on the pavement outside your house? The possibilities are endless! Have fun!

Bright Bursts of Colour

Matt Goodfellow is from Manchester. He is a National Poetry Day Ambassador for the Forward Arts Foundation. His most recent collection is Bright Bursts of Colour (Bloomsbury 2020). He spent over ten years working as a primary school teacher but now his fills his week with writing, and visits to schools, libraries and festivals to deliver high-energy, fun-filled poetry performances and workshops. Follow him on Twitter @EarlyTrain.  

During lockdown, Matt has been putting out free videos on his youtube channel to allow children, teachers and parents to access poetry. Find him on YouTube channel at Matt Goodfellow Poet.

1) Tips for Parents in a Pandemic: Reading and Literacy

By Janet Goodall

All over the world, parents and carers are 9781472976611suddenly finding themselves on the very frontlines of their children’s learning; schools are closed or their days greatly reduced and children are at home for most if not all of the time. But learning doesn’t stop because schools are closed (any more than children stop learning during the holidays – it’s just more obvious now!).

In this series of blog posts, I’ll be making suggestions about how to support learning for children and young people at home. But first, there are some very important points to make:

  • Parents who are not professional teachers are not going to become professional teachers overnight and no one should be expected to, and no one should expect to do so! You don’t need to be a professional teacher to support learning.
  • There is no point in attempting to ‘carry on as normal’ – these are not normal times. Your child is not missing out on schooling that other children are getting. Everyone is missing out on classroom-based schooling.
  • Classrooms and homes are not the same thing and can’t be. Classrooms are set up for large groups of children who are all more or less the same age. It’s very unlikely your home has the same sort of group of children. What you can provide for your children is personalised support for their learning. It’s quite likely that school staff are providing help with the content of what needs to be learned; parents need to support that learning, not supplant it.

In this blog post, I would like to focus specifically on reading and literacy. I’m starting with this topic for three reasons. The first is that reading and literacy are the foundations for almost all the rest of learning – once you can read, you’re away! The second is that many parents feel comfortable supporting reading, and the third is that reading with your child (along with a great many other ways of supporting learning) can be fun! So, what can parents be doing to support these skills at home?

  • Children whose parents read, and crucially those who see their parents read, tend to do more reading themselves. It doesn’t seem to matter what parents are reading – it could be books, shopping lists or cereal packets. It’s the act of reading – showing your child you are reading, discussing reading and reading together – that makes the difference.
  • Reading the same book over and over with young children is likely to happen in a lockdown situation and it’s a very good idea! You’ll find that you’re not only reading the book but discussing it – what’s going to happen? What might the characters do next, or instead?
  • Reading and literacy are fundamentally about words, so conversations are vitally important. Talk to your children – even from birth! Teenagers have told us that they value people asking how they are (even if they don’t respond – the act of asking shows you care). Singing nursery rhymes, telling jokes – it’s all words and all useful.
  • If your child is old enough to write, perhaps they could start and keep a diary of what ‘Life in Lockdown’ is like. Or they could dictate it for you to write simple sentences which they could illustrate.
  • If you’re keeping in touch with other family members by phone or electronically, your child could ask someone to tell a story and they could write it down and illustrate it.
  • Very young children need to develop the muscles they’ll need to write – drawing on the walls of the bath with shaving cream at bath time can 9781472955180help with the big muscles, and things like sprinkling decorations on a cake can help with the small muscles.
  • Try ending each day with a round of what everyone has learned that day. Everyone says two things they know now that they didn’t know before (adults included!). This will show your children that you are still learning, that you value learning and that they are still learning, even if they’re not in school.

Janet Goodall is Associate Professor in Education at Swansea University and is a leading expert in parental engagement. She is the author of 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Engaging Parents and 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Engaging Parents (forthcoming). Follow Janet on Twitter @janetifimust.

Top Ten Tips for Teaching History at Home: by Clare Horrie & Rachel Hillman

Clare Horrie and Rachel Hillman are the authors of The National Archives History Toolkit for Primary Schools and 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: History.  In this post they provide their top ten tips for teaching history at home.


Exchanging the classroom for your kitchen doesn’t mean that teaching at home can’t be engaging, inspirational or fun. Teaching history is all about hooking children’s interest in the first place and one way of doing this is by using original historical sources. Teaching history using original sources is crucial to developing children’s critical thinking skills and understanding of what history is all about. With a source-based approach, their learning can be transformed and their historical skills honed through the method of historical enquiry, a key aim of the National Curriculum. This can make history real, captivating and exciting.

Here are our top tips for bringing this approach to life at home:

1. Take a mystery document approach to introduce a historical topic. Find an original source for your topic, e.g. a photograph, government report, painting, cartoon, royal seal, manuscript, or private or official letter, and show it to the children to captivate
interest. See our list of suggested links at the bottom for where you can find historical sources at the bottom of this page. Don’t say anything about the source at first but give the children five minutes to look closely at it. Use the approach below with a written source or adapt it if using a visual source.

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Letter of thanks from Nelson Mandela to Sir John Maud for sending him books via the British Embassy, 14 September, 1962. The National Archives (Catalogue ref: DO 119/1478) 

LOOK at the source as an object. DON’T read it. What do you see?

  • How was it produced? (E.g. typed or handwritten.)
  • How is it set out? (E.g. with dates, in sentences.)
  • What does this reveal about the type of document it could be? (E.g. a letter, diary, calendar, report.)
  • When was it written? Can we see?
  • Any other points to note?

NOW encourage children to read or describe the source image to make inferences based on its content:

  • Can we tell when it was written/drawn/photographed? (Look for clues in the language or scene.)
  • What is the document or image about? (E.g. a historical event or character.)
  • What is the tone or attitude of the source? (E.g. written, visual, propaganda, personal, formal.)
  • Why do you think this source was produced?
  • Who is this source meant to be read or seen by? (Think about the audience.)
  • What other sources could you use to find out more about the content?

FINALLY, ask the children to select their own ‘mystery’ document to present to you. What does it reveal about a particular topic?

2. Your home-school children could be tasked to create their own worksheet lesson on a particular historical topic. You give them the level and the age group and they need to select sources, develop an enquiry question and write some more detailed questions.

3. Gather together any history textbooks, reference books and library books you might have access to at home. Use them to locate a particular history topic studied in school. Use the suggested links to find some original sources on the same topic. Discuss how we can use sources to find out about the past. Do any of the sources say anything different about the topic in the history book? Do any of the textbooks contain original sources? You could also compare how the same topic is described in different books. Can the children explain why these differences exist? The purpose of this kind of activity is to get children to understand that we learn about the past from original sources that historians have interpreted and these interpretations may differ, depending on the sources you use.

4.  Boost historical thinking by getting the children to produce an illustrated timeline for display on a decade, era or single topic.

5. The children could write a biography of a significant individual in history based on a selection of primary and secondary sources. Guidance for writing a biography is available on the web here.

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Plea roll initial detail of Henry VIII towards the end of his reign, 22 April 1541, The National Archives (Catalogue ref: KB 27/1119/2) 

6. Try a spot-the-difference activity. A child of any age can do this. Find two similar sources from different time periods. Can the children compare and contrast them? What seems similar or different? What does this activity reveal about change over time?

7. Use original sources for creative inspiration! Children could paint their own portrait of Elizabeth I in the style of Nicholas Hilliard or write a poem or story based on a photograph. They could make a historical birthday card or their own facsimile document. Primary school children could make their own ‘archive box’ (or kitchen display) containing sources about their lives: a toy, birthday card, photograph, and so on. The possibilities are endless!

Picture3
Photograph by P.H. Emerson (18561936) showing women working in the fields, 1886. The National Archives (Catalogue: COPY 1/375 f21) 

8. Children could hold their own Zoom video broadcast about a history topic and then virtually meet up with their classmates to discuss it.

9. Use film clips alongside document source evidence for 20th-century history topics. Try video footage from The National Archives (click here), or British Pathe (click here) contains a huge selection of newsreel from 1910 onwards. What does film reveal that documents do not and vice versa?

10. Start your lesson by Googling what happened on this day or significant events that happened this month. Find out more about the topic by doing some further internet research.

Suggested Links

About the Authors

Clare Horrie is Education Web Manager for The National Archives’ education website. Together with Rachel Hillman, she has developed, written and produced a wide range of online teaching materials from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 5 for the website. Clare previously worked as a secondary school teacher and head of history in the state sector.

Rachel Hillman is Onsite Education Manager for The National Archives. She has led in the development of The National Archives’ special educational needs and family programmes, as well as a number of large-scale education events for history students. She has also developed creative projects for young people on different historical themes and previously worked as a primary school teacher and history coordinator in the state sector.

About The National Archives History9781472959355 Toolkit for Primary Schools

With instant access to genuine historical sources, accompanied by exciting lesson plans, activities and photocopiable worksheets for both Key Stages 1 and 2, The National Archives History Toolkit for Primary Schools is the essential manual for teaching history in the primary classroom.

Hip Hop and ‘Relevance’: Introducing Kate Tempest’s Wasted to the classroom

Dr. Katie Beswick is a Senior Lecturer in Drama at9781350094925 the University of Exeter. She has edited and written the introduction to the new Methuen Drama Student Edition of Kate Tempest’s Wasted.

Here she explains how the use of hip hop and the term ‘relevance’ are important when thinking about how to bring ideas to life in the classroom. She offers questions for further study that you can download and use with students.


In 2018, the rapper and grime artist Stormzy used his platform at the Brit Awards to highlight the lack of government action after the horrific 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, in which 72 people died as a result of poor building practices. Stormzy’s call to politicians (‘Yo Teresa May, where’s the money for Grenfell?’) powerfully demonstrated the role that popular entertainment forms can play in the political process. As a result of his performance and subsequent Twitter posts, over 100,000 people signed a petition encouraging then-prime minister Teresa May to take action over Grenfell. Similarly, when a number of grime MCs endorsed the Labour party in the 2017 General Election, under the banner ‘Grime 4 Corbyn’, they showed how hip hop and related cultures can bring social and political debates to audiences who might feel alienated from the discussions happening in the media and elsewhere. These examples show how hip hop, as a diffuse cultural form deeply entwined with histories of social and political injustice, can serve as a way to make ideas relevant to those who might not otherwise be interested in them.

The term ‘relevance’ has recently been given renewed cache.

Arts Council England’s latest ten-year strategy, ‘Let’s Create’, published in January of this year, positions ‘relevance’ as a key word — set to drive funding agendas over the next decade. Recognising the importance of creating relevant content in order to open up publically funded cultural venues to a range of audiences is, at least on the surface, a positive step in acknowledging the diversity of the British population, and the way that the canon of ‘high’ culture can exclude individuals and groups who don’t understand the relevance of, for example opera, classical music, or Shakesperian drama, to their lives — or who don’t see themselves represented in the country’s major arts institutions.

Relevance is also an important term when thinking about how to bring ideas to life in the classroom.

Bringing subject matter alive is, as most teachers know, an important means of enabling students to connect with ideas and feel ownership over their learning. In other words, when students feel what they are studying is meaningful to them, they enjoy lessons and learn more.

Hip hop might therefore allow students who are new to or under-confident in dramatic and literary analysis to feel a sense of ownership and connection to material.

In the student edition of Kate Tempest’s Wasted, which I have edited and written the introduction to, I use hip hop as a concept to frame the study of the play — a means of making social, cultural, historical, political and literary ideas ‘relevant’ to students who might engage with the text in school, college or at university. This is not because I believe all students are necessarily hip hop fans, but because the prominence of hip hop in terms of its ubiquity in popular culture, from high profile celebrities, to fashion, music, film and even politics (as Grime 4 Corbyn shows), as well as its on-going association with youth culture, makes it a form that students are likely to have some prior knowledge of. As Darren McGarvey argues in his book Poverty Safari, hip hop’s tradition of using local vernacular and telling stories of everyday experiences can appeal to those who feel alienated from high cultural forms, because it ‘reveals the richness of their own experience.’ Hip hop might therefore allow students who are new to or under-confident in dramatic and literary analysis to feel a sense of ownership and connection to material.

My decision to focus on hip hop is of course driven by the context and content of the play itself, as well as by Kate Tempest’s wider canon of work as a rapper and performer.

In an interview I conducted with Tempest in the preparation of the volume, she spoke about the way that hip hop served as a means of survival and expression during her teenage years, in which she felt alienated from the education system, and the world around her. When studying Wasted, Tempest’s sensibility for hip hop offers a means of thinking about the lineage between contemporary and classical verse forms (such as Greek Chorus and iambic pentameter). In the introduction, I draw attention to the work of Akala, a rapper, poet and political activist who has lectured on the similarities between hip hop and Shakespeare. I also pinpoint the way that hip hop has developed as a cultural form throughout recent history — connecting its evolution to issues such as gentrification and the class struggle, which are themes that run through Tempest’s play.


For those thinking about using Wasted 9781350094925in the classroom, I encourage you to consider how you might use hip hop culture to inspire students and teach recent historical events. I offer a set of questions, which might serve as a stimulus for lessons and activities.

Download the Questions for Further Study here

Learn more and request your inspection copy of Methuen Drama Student Edition of Kate Tempest’s Wasted.

Teach Yourself and Train Others: Designing a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Programme

We all know that when teachers are exposed to high-quality training, their teaching improves and they are able to have a greater impact on student attainment. Continuing professional development (CPD) programmes are therefore essential in all schools to raise the standard of teaching and learning, and to help close the achievement gap. However, with the majority of maintained schools in the UK currently facing extreme budgetary pressures, there is often little cash available to send teachers on courses run by external CPD providers.

Schools are increasingly choosing to cover CPD in-house, with individual teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders organising training sessions for their staff. Aside from saving money, in-house CPD has many benefits, including:

  • Those running the training will be aware of the specific school context and the
    day-to-day issues the school faces, and will be able to tailor the training accordingly.
  • In-house CPD can unify staff behind a common school improvement goal, helping teachers to work together more effectively and to feel less isolated in their own classrooms.
  • Providing individual staff members with the opportunity to run sessions in their chosen specialism can empower them, give them a sense of autonomy over their own practice and help them to develop key leadership skills.

Nevertheless, designing a CPD programme can be daunting. Whether teachers are looking to better their own practice or coach their colleagues, it can be hard to know where to start.

Bloomsbury CPD Library

CDP_Superpage_banner_978x243_V5

The Bloomsbury CPD Library is a series of books written by teachers for teachers with guidance, advice and strategies that are designed to be practical, relevant, adaptable, informed and affordable. It provides primary and secondary teachers with comprehensive and accessible ‘do-it-yourself’ CPD. It is perfect for individual teachers, middle leaders and those looking to introduce whole-school training programmes.

Books in the Bloomsbury CPD Library cover marking and feedback, special educational needs and disabilities, secondary curriculum design and assessment, becoming a middle leader, stretch and challenge, mentoring and coaching, using technology in the classroom and independent learning. And this is just the beginning!

The books are split into two halves: Part 1: Teach yourself and Part 2: Train others. In Part 1: Teach yourself, readers are encouraged to assess, improve, evaluate and excel in their own practice, while Part 2: Train others offers guidance on how to lead successful in-house CPD sessions.

Part 1: Teach yourself

In each book in the Bloomsbury CPD Library, Part 1: Teach yourself takes readers through a four-stage process that will help them to improve their own practice in the specific area covered in the book.

In Bloomsbury CPD Library: Research-Informed Practice, 9781472961532for example, this four-stage process is as follows:

Stage 1: Assess introduces the concept of research in education and what it means to be research informed in education.

Stage 2: Improve moves on to exploring the key sources readers should engage with, enabling them to keep up with new research ideas and findings.

Stage 3: Evaluate focuses on evaluating what steps readers have taken to develop their approach to research-informed practice and identifying further needs and requirements.

Stage 4: Excel looks at how readers can create an action research question that will encourage them to use research-informed knowledge to find solutions to their issues or problems.

At the end of each chapter you will find teaching tips, recommendations for sharing ideas and practice, a reading recommendation or title for discussion at a CPD reading group, a link to useful blog posts, and a ‘to do’ list to help your planning.

Part 2: Train Others

This section of the books in the Bloomsbury CPD Library looks at how teachers can develop practice more widely across their school to benefit both staff and students.

Whether readers would like to start things off with one whole-school session, or would like to run a series of training sessions for a specific group of staff, this section provides the training plans and resources to set up in-house CPD with the minimum of fuss. The section includes:

  • advice on how to run effective CPD
  • training plans for whole-school and small group sessions aimed at different audiences
  • a complete set of PowerPoint presentations to match the training plans, which are ready to use straightaway.

Online Resources

There are a wealth of online resources accompanying the books in the Bloomsbury CPD Library, including templates, questionnaires and PowerPoint presentations. These free electronic resources can be downloaded and adapted for CPD sessions – a big time saver!

Praise for the Bloomsbury CPD Library

On Bloomsbury CPD Library: Research-Informed Practice

‘Like the other titles in this brilliant Bloomsbury CPD Library series, Jennifer Ludgate’s Research-Informed Practice is immensely practical in nature and bursting with advice if your intention is to become more research-informed but you are not sure where to start.’
– Hélène Galdin O-Shea, ResearchED organiser and Research Advocate at Park High School

On Bloomsbury CPD Library: Research-Informed Practice

‘This book is useful for keen teachers and conscientious school leaders seeking research evidence that can helpfully inform their practice in the classroom.’
– Alex Quigley, National Content Manager at the Education Endowment Foundation and former English teacher, @HuntingEnglish

9781472928412On Bloomsbury CPD Library: Stretch and Challenge

‘This is an invaluable and comprehensive book for both classroom teachers and CPD leaders. Debbie Light’s book will definitely be my “go to read” for clarity, innovation and a common sense approach to this topic.’
– Debbie Ferrer, Associate Assistant Head, Bentley Wood High School

On Bloomsbury CPD Library: Middle Leadership

‘The “must have” reflective toolkit for every ambitious teacher on their journey towards middle leadership.’
– Jon Tait, Deputy Headteacher, Acklam Grange School9781472928092

On Bloomsbury CPD Library: Supporting Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities 

‘…a comprehensive guide that will increase your knowledge about children with SEND, support you in improving your classroom practice, and help you train your colleagues as well. This book is simply indispensable.’
– Sue Cowley, Teacher Trainer

Why Devise Theatre? By Tashi Gore and Jess Thorpe

Many theatre productions begin life as a Devising Theatreplay, a story involving characters following a journey that has already been written down by a playwright. In this case it is our job as directors and actors to bring this story to life through the creative ways that we choose to present it to an audience. But what happens if when we start we have no script, no characters and no plot? What happens if we are starting with a blank page?

To devise theatre is to make performance from scratch. This usually (although not always) occurs as a process of collaborative creation where a group of individuals come together to share thinking, experiment with ideas and invent a new piece of work together.

The power of devising is in its infinite possibility and the opportunity it offers theatre-makers to make something unique, something which is entirely their own and expresses their own ideas and experience of the world as they find it. Some of the most exciting new theatre and performance made today stems from this practice. Companies working in this way readily experiment with ideas of content, form, structure, staging and styles of performance in order to create new and exciting theatre.


To Devise:
to plan or invent (a complex procedure, system, or mechanism) by careful thought.
Oxford Dictionary


Devising can be an exciting prospect for a young artist as you begin to apply your developing toolkit to the process of making your own creative decisions and exploring new theatrical possibilities. In many ways, devising is a little like that moment as a child when you are given a blank piece of paper and a box of colours. It is completely up to you to decide how you choose to fill it; whether you will write or draw, recreate an image you have seen before or imagine something completely new. There are so many creative options open to you and it is really not possible to get it ‘wrong’.

One of the things that is most exciting about this type of creative process is that everyone can bring their own individual skills to the mix. You might be a person who finds reading big chunks of text difficult but loves to dance or move on stage. Maybe you express yourself visually and spend hours experimenting with objects and materials or through music and can lose a whole day playing your guitar or harmonica or harp. Devising works on the basis that everyone has something to offer and has their own unique creative potential. The trick is really just to figure out how best to use it.

Another key feature of the devising process is that you do not need to worry about the size of your cast. Whether you have 1, 10 or 100 people it is equally possible to make something brilliant. It also does not matter who is in your group; whatever age, gender, background or ability there is a space for everyone. You can imagine as many roles as there are people to play them.  Devising theatre need not be reliant on the idea of having a ‘main part’ but instead relies on the fundamental idea that everyone involved is equally important and can contribute to the overall creative process in all sorts of ways.

For the young people we have worked with, the most valuable thing about devising performance has always been the opportunity it has offered to them to use their own voice and have a say about the world as they find it. Making shows and sharing them with audiences has provided a platform to share some of their ideas, experiences, perspectives and questions with others. It has allowed them to challenge preconceived notions of who can be an artist and who is qualified to make performance and shift focus away from the ‘professional’ adults. In this way it has enabled them to share the power and creativity inherent in young people and energise the conversation around what theatre and performance can look like.

As we consider the potential of devising performance it is also important to consider what the function of art is in the first place. It is a mistake to imagine that it is not all just about ‘entertainment’. Art has always been the way that human beings make sense of the world that we live in. Right back when the Greeks were making the first shows in Athens (the origins of western theatre) they were using theatre as a tool to communicate what they felt and believed about the society they lived in and to engage with their wider community in the larger questions they had about life and existence. This remains true of art to this day; every song, every painting, every poem, every play that you can think of has been born out of human creativity. They are all the result of our need to share our thoughts and feelings and in doing so encourage others to think and feel too. When we consider it this way, we soon come to realise just how very powerful theatre and performance is and the potential it holds for all of us.

Tashi Gore and Jess Thorpe are Co-Artistic Directors of Glass Performance, an international award-winning theatre company. Their latest book A Beginner’s Guide to Devising Theatre is now available!

A Phonics Q&A with Sally and Sarah Featherstone

How do you integrate phonics practice into your daily teaching and learning routine, making sure children maximise phonics practice in a fun and engaging atmosphere? I.e. not lecture style or monotone.

Sally: It’s important children understand that phonics is relevant so I agree that it is fundamental to integrate it into the day’s learning. Try to put a phonics activity in the provision which, if possible, practises the sounds you’ve learned that week (sound sorting, magnetic letters and phoneme frames etc.) You could choose books for story time which feature the sound you’ve looked at that day. Plan phonics based activities for your teacher led sessions so that you can refer back to the phonics session, and ALWAYS send the children off from phonics or literacy teaching saying: ‘Today we have been learning about xxxx. See if you can find xxx in our classroom today and bring me what you find!’ At the end of the day make time to look at the phonics table as see what they’ve found.

Sarah: “I think this all depends on what kind of teacher you are. Nowhere does it say that children have to sit down for phonics, or write in a phonics lesson!

The Letters and Sounds scheme works by using a daily discrete 25 minute phonics session. This works because it is a little and often. This stops working if the children see it as ‘phonics time’ and don’t carry their learning through to all other areas of learning, so I have mixed feelings about it!

I try wherever possible to teach phonics through games. I teach the children how to play seven different phonics games – the best ones are the games where the rules and what you do remain the same, and the items you use vary according to the sound. This means you can ask children at the end of the phonics lesson ‘What game shall we play tomorrow?’ and they can choose – all you have to do is adapt it to the sound you are teaching the next day. Sometimes you can’t avoid having children write or sit down, but wherever possible I try to plan so that children don’t do either of these.

The fantastic thing about teaching children the games is that you can put the equipment in the provision and they know what to do and can revisit and consolidate. There are lots of great ideas for games in the Bloomsbury Early Years site, and in the range of Little Books.”

How do you ensure parents understand progression in teaching phonics so that they can use similar strategies at home to those used in school?

Sally: I think the best answer is to be open, give them the information, preferably in small amounts, about what exactly you are teaching each week and just one or two ideas of how they can help – perhaps something on the school website, or even on your classroom door?

Sarah: “I agree with Sally. Using the classroom door or notice board is a great way to keep parents informed – or pointing out your letter of the day display so parents can check as they drop children off.

Phonics is tricky for parents because, in order to best help, you need to make sure they are using pure sounds, which is hard! So, over time, I have made the decision to do the following with my parents:

  • I always invite them in once a half term for a phonics morning. I put out activities and games, and I invite them to watch me teach a phonics lesson. After that our phonics lead runs a workshop with parents that want to stay which teaches them how best to help with phonics at home. They can then ask questions they may have or ask for advice.
  • I always find that there is never enough time to practise High Frequency Words so I give parents a sheet at around the autumn half term that gives them fun games to play to help learn sight reading of HFWs (pairs, using the words as passwords on doors around the house, etc.) I then send home the next set of words regularly with children. You can also do this with phoneme grapheme correspondence by sending home letter cards each week (print them on a sheet they can cut out at home) or asking parents to practise letter names and capitals (which they often feel happier about doing).”

What has been your most magical Phonics learning moment?

Sally: Seeing children independently use and apply something you have taught them is why we all teach isn’t it! When I was in the classroom there was much more space in the curriculum for the emergent writing phase to develop. Seeing that writing feature more and more sounds they have learned until there are whole words you can read is magical. I also love the phonetic attempts children make in trying to spell unknown words – often they make more sense than the conventional spelling!

Sarah: “There are too many to mention really – I won’t tell you about the time I asked my Y1 class if they could think of any words that rhyme with anchor…!

It’s so rewarding when they respond to what you have put out for them – when children run up to you with a clipboard full of things they’ve found outside with the letter ‘s’ in for example. I love when the light bulb comes on and children realise they can read! I have a bell in my classroom that we ring when someone has a light bulb moment, and the surprise on their faces when they realise they’ve read a word and heard the word in the sounds they’ve made, then the pleasure on their face when you ring the bell and the whole class stops and cheers them. There’s nothing like it!”

What activities do you use to help children who struggle with blending and segmenting?

Sarah: You don’t say whether this is aural blending or reading that they are finding tricky. These strategies will work with both. Often, we are encouraged to start blending and segmenting with CVC words. If a child is very good at hearing sounds, this might not be a problem for them, but don’t forget the magic of the two letter blend. Teaching a CV or VC word like ‘at’ is a good place to start and this can be done with a whole class, small group, or one to one. Once children have the knack of blending two letter words confidently (it, on, up, in, an, is) then you can introduce a new initial letter and it is easier for the children to blend as they can say c-at, b-at, m-at etc. If the child is ready for reading and this is the blending they are struggling with, then I would use a phoneme frame with the two letter blend in one box as if it were a digraph and the initial sound in the first box. This will encourage the children to recognise the known chunk of the word and this makes it easier for them to blend. A great tool for this is to use magnetic letters. You can then tape or glue gun together the two letter words and encourage the children to choose a letter to be the initial letter, and blend the word they have made. They can be real or nonsense words and this activity, once they are familiar with it, can go in the provision for them to practise.

What things can I observe and notice that will help me to know whether children are learning and engaged with their phonics?

Sally: If they are noticing print in the environment or choosing to look at books, then they are aware of the printed word, and you can then observe to see if they are using any of the strategies you have taught. If they are, then they are learning!

Sarah: You can assess them – that’s the easiest way to tell! You will see the sounds you are teaching appearing in their writing, or when you talk to them or observe them at play.

What do you observe and notice about children who are ready to move on to grapheme phoneme correspondence?

Sarah: Once children are noticing print in the environment and can write their name, understanding the link between the squiggles they are writing and the fact this represents their name, they are ready to start phase 2 of letters and sounds. HOWEVER, teachers often start this before children can confidently aurally blend. This is like giving someone a handful of screws, but no screwdriver! Children should be coming into Reception able to confidently aurally blend. Make sure you communicate with staff from your nursery providers to make sure they understand this expectation. Then if children can’t blend, you can put extra measures in place, but at least most of your class will already have that skill.

Question 7: Have you ever used or seen a really successful provocation that has had strong links to phonics? What made it engaging?

Sally: I have seen ‘phonic baskets’ used effectively. These are baskets of objects which share the same initial sound or digraph. There are lots of ideas for items to include in the Little Book of Phonics.

Sarah: “Ohhh! Lots!

  • A fishing game using magnetic fishing rods and letters with paper clips on. The children fish for a sound and if they can identify it, they get to keep it. The one with most wins.
  • Racing to get to a letter or word.
  • Writing a message to the mermaid – a tray of sand and shells with letters written on. The children wrote words using the letters and left them for the mermaid to read – she left them a message to read the next morning.
  • Cut out paper always works a treat. If your small world is a zoo, then animal shapes to write on and practise writing the animal names, bats to write on in the superhero small world, leaves to write on in the outdoors, etc. Always leave a provocation that gives children a reason to write – e.g. put an alien toy in the zoo and leave the provocation ‘Can you label the animals in the zoo so the alien knows what they are?’”

Have you observed any brilliant moments where children have taken their phonics learning and incorporated it into their Child Initiated learning? What did you use to support that happening?

Sally: I think the key is to have writing opportunities everywhere in the classroom. Clipboards are great for outside and sending children on sound hunts is great. It’s important to make sure that when they feel the will to write, the equipment is there and is inviting! Then the key is to put things in the environment that engage and excite them. Children will often naturally want to write about things they are interested in.

Sarah: I remember being really disappointed when I was told that a child, who was finally making progress, was going on holiday for three weeks in the spring term. I chatted to her about her holiday and what she would be doing and said, ‘You could really help Mum and Dad by writing a list of what you want to take with you…’ thinking to myself that she probably wouldn’t. She spent the whole afternoon writing an A4 page long list of all the things she would take (swimn coshtyum). I asked if I could photocopy it, but she was so proud of it, she didn’t want to let it out of her sight, so she wrote me one I could keep! Without copying! That demonstrates what a difference context, relevance and the child’s interests can make to motivation!

How do you incorporate your phonics into your classroom areas (outdoor and indoor – displays and areas)?

Sally: “Try having a phonics table so that children can display things they can hear that sound in. You can change the sound each day or have the same one for a few days. Make the area attractive and ask children to make a label to go with their object, and at the end of the day, review what’s on there, read labels and reward with stickers (or whatever your reward system is). If children get recognition for their efforts, they will respond and their confidence will grow.

  • Try interactive displays using magnetic letters, matching HF or CVC words, or sounds.
  • Use your listening station for games like identifying animal sounds or read along stories.
  • Display the children’s writing!
  • Leave whatever resources you have used in that day’s phonics lessons in the provision for the children to use.”

Sarah: “My number one tip with writing in the environment is to not undervalue drawing. Children draw what matters to them. Encouraging and valuing their pictures and modelling drawing a story is powerful. As the children realise (especially boys) that drawing a story is as valid as writing one, and that you will scribe the story that goes with their drawings, they get more confident about making marks on paper and themselves having a relevance (agency). From that it is a short step to labelling their drawings, and then a hop to captions. Before you know it, they will write their story and illustrate it rather than the other way round!

My other top tip is to remember how powerful their name is. It is important to them and has relevance. It is the first word they will learn to read and write. Once they can read and write their name, they will know all those sounds without you having tried! They will be motivated to read and write their friend’s names, and then they can use them to write cards, and invitations, to label drawings, to hand out letters etc. Names are hugely powerful and I would have their names on display EVERYWHERE! Blue tack them to walls wherever you have a space, then they will be able to go and get their name (or their friend’s) to help them write on their work, write to others etc. They will then start to spot those letters in other words. It’s like magic!”

How do you differentiate phonics to make them accessible for students of all abilities?

Sarah: “I have taught in schools where phonics is streamed and the children split into smaller groups working on the same phase, and in schools where there is whole class phonics. I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both. I would argue though, that with whichever method you have taught in schools where phonics is streamed and the children split into smaller groups working on the same phase, and in schools where there is whole class phonics. I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both. I would argue though, that with whichever method your school uses, you will still have to differentiate within the group you are teaching. Here are some ideas:

  • Use games, particularly ones where you can ask lots of questions of the children. Then think before-hand about how you can ask questions that challenge the ones that have ‘got it’ and some simpler questions that get the less confident children to have a go, to tell you what they know and to feel successful. You can vary the amount of assistance you give them in answering, and in equipment you might give them to support them.
  • Make sure the lower ability children are nearer to you and feel supported by you.
  • If you are teaching whole class, make sure that independent groups are doing something they know how to do, so that they feel confident.
  • Give more time to less able children to answer, write, read, respond, and extend your more able children by asking supplementary questions.
  • Always ask yourself before any lesson ‘what will I do if they find this too easy, what will I do if they find this too hard’ – Your answers are your differentiation
  • Always support EAL children with visuals, and where possible, real things to support their language. If you are sounding out shell, show them a real shell, not a picture.
  • Try not to use the interactive whiteboard if you can – it allows children to zone out too easily and you will be looking at the board, and not at them.”

How often should you practise phonics for maximum benefit?

Sarah: “Teaching phonics  – I would teach daily, and religiously! Try not to sacrifice it to assemblies, play practise, dress up or charity days – the only exception I would allow is for trips. Even if you squash it into your story time, try to make phonics opportunities every day.

Practising phonics – I would try to grab any opportunity you can to use phonics throughout the day. Here are some ideas:

  • Let them go to get their coats one at a time by sounding out their names.
  • When you are reading anything to them, sound out words in sentences for them to blend or point out high frequency words.
  • When you are shared reading, make sure you make mistakes, or get stuck so that they can help you.
  • When you spot the sound you have learned that day – in a book or in the classroom – stop everyone and point it out – encourage children to bring you any example they find (and reward them! Stop everyone and big them up!)
  • Same as you would with number, shape, anything, use every opportunity to expose them to phonics.”

How would you advise we keep up the phonics momentum in years 3/4?

Sarah: “The screening check is a nightmare really because lots of schools think once it is done, there is no need for further phonics, and this causes so many problems for the children who aren’t fluent readers, or confident in their strategies.

  • I would make an area in your classroom that is devoted to SPAG and phonics. Get the children involved in making it exciting and contributing to it. Have word games in it for children to play (Yes! Play!)
  • Have competitions for any new words you come across in books – how would you spell it? Use post it notes and get them to try. Stick them on the wall and praise their strategies and confidence to have a go.
  • Use segmenting and blending in routines so they are still exposed to hearing harder words segmented. Sound their names out as they line up, go to wash hands, come and fetch their work, etc.
  • Play with words – make up some nonsense words and use them in some nonsense poems. They will enjoy it and their confidence will grow.
  • Make sure you share reading something on the board or in a big book every day – use this as a teaching opportunity and spot challenging phonics or spellings that they are consistently finding difficult.

Most important of all, I would say that any child who has not passed the screening check in year two is probably one of the children for whom synthetic phonics isn’t working. I could read before I started school, but I didn’t learn using phonics – I learned by reading whole words, and by recognising chunks in words – root words. By years three and four, it is appropriate to try some alternative strategies and you can teach these to all children as they will help with unfamiliar words.”

Sally and Sarah Featherstone have worked together on several fantastic books. Discover them all on our website.

The Little Book of Maths Songs & Games The Little Book of Writing The Little Book of Phonics