On the 3rd November Bloomsbury HQ hosted a very successful #TMBloomsbury. The conservatory was img_20161103_181008085packed out with around 45 teachers all there to listen to presentations and exchange ideas around the theme of health and well-being in teaching.

Hosting duties were down to Stephen Lockyer who kept everyone in high spirits wimg_20161103_205449120ith activities such as model something that makes you happy out of play
doh and Twitter competitions (which saw #TMBimg_20161103_205544952loomsbury trending on Twitter at one point!)




We had fantastic presentations from James Hilton, Paul Wright, Paula Nagel, Jo Cotterill, Peter Worley and Kathryn Lovewell on the night, all of which encouraged lots of chat and exchanging of ideas on well-being between attendees.

Our book stall was very successful on the night, stocking lots of our key titles with 30% off and Teach, Reflect Doodle… by Paul Wright was the hit of the night selling 7 copies! A big thank you to all of our speakers and everyone who attended on the night!

If this looks like fun and you’d like to know about future Bloomsbury Education events then follow us on Twitter @BloomsburyEd or email us bloomsburyeducation@bloomsbury.com, we’d love to hear from you!



Celebrating 100 Little Books!


By Phill and Sally Featherstone

How should we say goodbye to Little Books?

Maybe we should start at the beginning. In 2000 the first Early Years Foundation Stage guidance was published, clearly establishing that the Reception year was part of the early years, and not just the first stage of primary education. Previously, practitioners working in Reception classes had no clear guidance about how they should plan the curriculum, or what the entitlement curriculum might look for children between 3 and 5.

The birth of an idea

It was around this time and to meet these new needs that we (Phill and Sally Featherstone) started Featherstone Education. Sally was then working as a consultant and trainer in early years education, trying to help practitioners to get to grips with the new curriculum. She produced almost all the early Featherstone materials, including the first Little Books. Phill managed the day-to-day business, including production and marketing, and edited many of the titlelb_woodlands_16s we produced.

Early in 2001 Sally was on her way back from training in a school in East Anglia. She stopped for a sandwich in a layby, and while she sat looking out over the Lincolnshire fields she thought about the people she had just been working with and what they had been discussing: i.e. how to manage the emerging demands of the new legislation while hanging on to the best of what they were already doing. The germ of an ilb_numbers-aw1dea came to her, an idea for books for practitioners that would show them how they could build on their existing good practice to meet the requirements of the new Early Years Curriculum. These would be small enough to go in a practitioner’s bag, and would be bound so they would sit flat on a table while they worked with the children. They would be little books, but they would promote big ideas. The concept and title for the series were born. So was the strap line – Little Books with BIG Ideas.

An idea becomes a series

Featherstone Education began to produce more titles. Most of the early ones were written by Sally, but an ever-expanding group of other writers later contributed to the series. Many were practitioners, and all were knowledgeable about the early years, able to connect interesting ideas and good practice into new titles. Phill designed the covers, featuring un-posed photos of real children doing real things in real settings, and these became part of the Little Book identity. The demand was great, and so we set ourselves the target of producing a new book every month (ten titles a year – there were no new ones in the summer months). This pace of production, extremely challenging for a small company, continued until 2008, when Featherstone Education was acquired by Bloomsbury.

Illustrations at this stage were also carefully commissioned to reflect the principles of the series, and as every page was illustrated this was a key feature. Some of the early writers illustrated p14their own books, and friends and family were roped in to help before we could afford to employ professional illustrators.

The new era and a final goodbye

Bloomsbury Publishing continued the Little Books series, and 40 more titles have been added. The most recent title, the 100th (The Little Book of Talk), continues the tradition of taking familiar activities, giving them a twist, and linking them to a focus for early years practitioners.

Little Books have been a continuing success and we are proud of them. They are valued by practitioners and their managers and advisers, and have been used in many thousands of settings across the UK and abroad. We are sure they will remain what a practitioner once described as her constant backstop, as she said, ‘Whenever I am stuck for an idea, or wondering what to do on Monday, Little Books are there to help me’.

We wish Bloomsbury Publishing, all the users of Little Books and the chwoodland_generalildren with whom they work the very best for the future.

 Sally Featherstone has a wealth of experience as a teacher, head teacher and a local authority adviser and inspector. In recent years, alongside her activities in publishing, Sally built a national reputation as a trainer and consultant in the Primary and Early Years field. She is currently concentrating on expanding her writing about learning in the early years.

Phill Featherstone has been a teacher, local authority adviser and OFSTED inspector. He now spends his time on conservation work around the pennine farmhouse where he and Sally live, and on writing fiction. His first novel, ‘Paradise Girl’ will be published at the end of January.

To celebrate 100 Little Books, we are offering 35% off when you buy any 4 titles in the series! For more details visit: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/superpage/littlebooks/

Castles in the Air

Using the past as a springboard for young writer by Paul Mason

The idea for the book came while walking the grounds of Walmer Castle in Kent.  What would it be like, my daughter asked, to sneak in and live there?  I spent the afternoon taking in the thick walls, and deep, grassy moat; the Duke of Wellington’s bedroom with its camping cot, the row of cannons pointing out to sea, the pair of Wellington boots—scribbling down notes, possibilities, real detail.

A Gibbon quote comes to mind: “There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.”  I often like to use one to inspire the other. The past can provide young writers with a powerful springboard.

I took a class to visit a scale replica of a steerage deck on an 1840’s immigrant ship. They perched on bunks in the dimly lit deck as it rocked back and forth, listening to the waves crash, the boards creak. They pictured the hard yards of the early settlers, and put down some evocative description.

Here in New Zealand, a trip to a marae can be a source of inspiration. The wharenui or meeting house often symbolises an ancestor–with a beam for the spine, rafters for ribs and the heart represented by a strong post.  Carvings inside usually tell stories of those that have gone before, great leaders and navigators. (Check the local tikanga or rules before visiting.)

Of course, the past can creep into the classroom too.  I once brought in an old travelling chest.  The students could look and touch the worn leather, but weren’t allowed to open the lid.  What hid inside? Who did the trunk belong to? Where were they travelling? What would they themselves pack in the trunk if they were going on a long journey?

An inquiry into family history began with a mini-museum of personal heirlooms. An old hat that belonged to granddad. A medal. A treasured photograph. The young writers made them breathe in poems and stories. Given the chance, castles in the air can begin here on the ground.

Paul Mason is a former primary school teacher. He writes fiction for Bloomsbury Education including the Skate Monkey series which has two new titles, The Cursed Village and Fear Mountain, publishing in January 2017.

Under the Sign of Gobbledygook

Steven Withrow is a poet and co-author of It’s Not My Fault

Astrologers tell me, as an early March baby, I was born under the sign of Pisces. And mythologists tell me the Piscean symbol of two fish is derived from the ichthyocentaurs who aided Aphrodite when she was born from the sea.

While this might be astrologically accurate, I’ve often felt I was born 1under a different and decidedly less classical sign. The sign of Gobbledygook.

Lexicographers tell me the word means language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of abstruse technical terms. In other words, nonsense, gibberish, claptrap, rubbish, balderdash, blather, garbage, mumbo jumbo, drivel, tripe, hogwash, baloney, bilge, bull, bunk, guff, eyewash, piffle, twaddle, poppycock, phooey, and hooey.

If there is a symbol for Gobbledygook, it is likely to be three enjorvincing grelsh interlocked in a skeelered pattern of sympsolathent friggs. Or possibly a beldoor too glarg for opening.

Are you stroffening me?


Then let me ask y2ou a question: What does it mean to make sense?

Wait, I’ll put it another way: How did “reading” get to mean, well, reading…and how did “climbing” come to stand for, um, not-reading?

Let’s attempt an experiment. Next time you’re ascending a ladder or a hill, call that action “reading.” And more immediately, try naming what you’re doing now as “climbing.”

Do this long enough, resolutely enough, and I’ll wager that although it will not shake your linguistic foundations, it will leave you in a slightly more doubtful state of m3ind about words and the roots of words and that whole making sense nonsense.

Because it’s all rather arbitrary, isn’t it?

Isn’t it?

Semioticians tell me about signs, signifiers, and signifieds, and I’m inclined to believe….

Hold on a second.

I’m a poet, not a scientist, so for me a read can be a climb when it feels like it ought to be.

And why am I gloaking prose, anyway?

Here’s a lail m4urs of verse instead:

Never belp a thillkish scard

Unless you twill it first in ohl.

Better still to quam a snole

Than to hind up naking abrigard.

While you’re busy puzzling that out, I’ll be carrolling on the learest wall with Humpty Dumpty.

Please be sure to druze your corspicutrations in the comments below.

Thanks for climbing!

Researching Fact to Fiction

Kathryn White writes for children of all ages and is obsessed with animals. She’s published by Little Tiger and Egmont and regularly visits schools and runs interactive workshops. Her latest title for Bloomsbury Education is Sea Wolf.

Some of my books are triggered by just one word; but the word has to inspire, pull me in and make me search for more.  I gather words like pebbles.  Imagine walking along the shore and amongst the many pebbles that make up the shingle, there are strange shapes, marbled colours, and sparkling stones. As the wave foams back, I see an unusual stone and put it in my pocket. Sometimes I can place that word instantly into a book, or it will become the title of a book: such as The Tupilak.

If not used, then over time I store words away and hope they’ll reappear when needed, but this isn’t always the case.

The structure of my book is rarely
formed from the outset. My story will emerge through fog, the characters’ outline becoming more and more distinct, powerful. And, it is invariably research that determines the fluidity of my writing; I learn, I rewrite, I learn more and rewrite. Facts must dictate fiction – or it doesn’t work.

As with The Tupilak, I tripped over the word and was compelled to find its origin. There, the story began in the magic carving once used by the Inuit to cast powerful, evil spells upon those they deemed deserving.

White bone ― whale, seal, even human bone was carved into macabre shapes, distorted faces filled with maligned intent.  This was to be my story. But in researching the origin of this amazing artefact, I discovered so much more.  At the start of my research, I was a world away from the people of Alaska, from where my character dwelt; the people who started this strange, dark ritual, centuries ago. The deeper I delved into the history of the Inuit, the more tragic and inspiring their story became.  They survived in conditions we could only imagine. Their roots, beliefs and family loyalty were present: stretching out through each village to make it unshakeable, immense.

As with The Tupilak, I tripped over the word and was compelled to find its origin. There, the story began in the magic carving once used by the Inuit to cast powerful, evil spells upon those they deemed deserving.

White bone ― whale, seal, even human bone was carved into macabre shapes, distorted faces filled with malignimg_20160929_095602728ed intent.  This was to be my story. But in researching the origin of this amazing artefact, I discovered so much more.  At the start of my research, I was a world away from the people of Alaska, from where my character dwelt; the people who started this strange, dark ritual, centuries ago. The deeper I delved into the history of the Inuit, the more tragic and inspiring their story became.  They survived in conditions we could only imagine. Their roots, beliefs and family loyalty were present: stretching out through each village to make it unshakeable, immense.

So, what happened when companies drilling from the oil industry in the U.S. discovered such riches under the feet of the Inuit? Communities were destroyed. Inuit children taken from their heritage and shipped to American prefab schools, which had been hastily constructed to ensure the next generation integrated into the new economic structure.  It’s the age-old adage of the developed world, we know better than you, what benefits you. Families became disenfranchised, traditions almost lost, identity diminished and as a result ― alcoholism increased to epidemic proportions.  All this, I discovered from one word, from one image: the Tupilak.  And, a people I grew up knowing so little about, soon became real, challenged and alive.

For Sea Wolf, my latest book, I discovered the Newfie. A beast with immense character that is, to any writer, irresistible. I knew I wanted to write about the wonderful sea beast called the Newfoundland.

Although Sea Wolf only physically emerges in my story at the end, it is the mystery of this immense creature that weaves its dark presence through the book.  The more I researched, the more I was amazed by the facts surrounding this creature. Newfoundlands, Newfs or Newfies have webbed feet and a water-resistant coat.

This animal is made for the sea!  Males normally weigh 65–80 kg and females 55–65 kg, placing them in the “Giant” weight range; but some Newfoundland dogs have been known to weigh over 90 kg, and the largest on record weighed 120 kg and measured over 1.8 m (6 ft) from nose to tail, ranking it among the biggest Molosser. They may grow up to 56–76 cm tall at the shoulder, yet they can manoeuvre as gracefully as a dolphin, mermaid or Sea Beast. Depending on how your story’s panning out.

But the most fascinating part of my research was the rescue stories, the real dramas that set this animal apart from others.

In 1881 in Melbourne, Australia, a Newfoundland named Nelson helped rescue Thomas Brown, a cab driver, swept away by floodwaters in Swanston Street on the night of 15 November. Nelson’s copper dog collar engraved with his name has survived and 130 years after the rescue, acquired by the National Museum of Australia. It is now part of the National Historical Collection.

In the early 20th century, a Newfie saved 92 people who were on the SS Ethie, which was wrecked off of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland during a blizzard. The dog retrieved a rope thrown to it in turbulent waters and brought the rope to people waiting on the beach. A breeches buoy was attached to the rope, and all those aboard the ship were able to get across to safety including an infant in a mailbag.

In 1995, a 10-month-old Newfoundland named Boo saved a hearing-impaired man from drowning in the Yuba River when he fell in whilst dredging for gold. Boo saw the man in distress and instinctively dived in, took the drowning man by the coat arm in his strong jaws and dragged him to safety. The dog had never been rescue trained.

Hatshepsut ― my next word ― was my Pharaoh in my tale, The Gift.

Hatshepsut ruled in popularity for twenty-five years after the death of her husband Thutmose II.

I dug down into her history and uncovered treachery around her son Thutmose III who finally came to rule. I also discovered her devotee and possible lover; Senenmut, the ultimate designer of her tomb. I travelled back through time and learned of a Pharaoh that I ‘d never been taught about in school ― and a female Pharaoh, too.

These are just a few of the words that prompted research and triggered such discoveries and subsequent books.

Other words I enjoy purely for the sound, particularly for picture books and younger fiction, the sort of words children love to hear and use in rhyme. Words such as a ‘flamboyance’, meaning a flock of flamingos, right down to the simple sound of ‘banana’ ― researching this word was quite fruitful.

There is a rather large diversity of banana species, writing in The New YorkerMike Peed had the following to say about this diversity:

There are fuzzy bananas whose skins are bubble-gum pink; green and white striped bananas with pulp the colour of orange sherbet, and bananas that, when cooked , taste like strawberries. The Double Mahoi plant can produce two bunches at once. The Chinese name of the aromatic Go San Heong banana means ‘you can smell it from the next mountain.’ The fingers on one banana plant grow fused; another produces bunches of a thousand fingers, each only an inch long.

And of course, there is the amazing fact that banana plants actually move, their roots taking them across the ground by up to 40 cms in a lifetime, which is why plantation owners leave space for this extraordinary advance.

For me, research is the discovery of so much.

It is the experience of one word that can turn fascinating fact into a wealth of fiction, opening up a whole new world.


Kathryn’s latest title is Sea Wolf  the story of siblings Ethan and Maya and their daring adventure to Black Rock. This title is part of our High/Low fiction ideal for struggling and reluctant readers, those with EAL and those with dyslexia.


Using Sticky Notes as an Important Classroom Resource

Paul Wright qualified as a teacher in one of the first cohorts of teachers in the Graduate Teacher Training Programme at Northumbria University and has subsequently taught in secondary schools in Northumberland, Bedfordshire and Warwickshire. He is currently a Head of Faculty in a busy secondary school. Outside of schools he coordinates and speaks at TeachMeet events and can regularly be found commenting on educational matters via Twitter @pw2tweets and on his blog tips4teaching.co.uk

How many expensive resources have you tried in your class?

Would you believe that there’s really so much you can do to engage your learners with just a set of sticky notes?img_20160922_092613002_hdr

I do, I’ve seen teachers pull out a packet of sticky notes and then engage learners in all manner of amazing and engaging activities.

It’s why they feature over five pages in my new book Teach, Reflect, Doodle… I wanted to give teacher some ideas for using these versatile and inexpensive tools but then give you space to record your own, and even ask others of their ideas and record them. Once you’ve written down all the ideas on the pages I’ve mapped out you could then photocopy the page and share it with your team of colleagues!

You can uimg_20160922_165928129_hdrse sticky notes for all sorts of activities:
·       Think, Pair, Share

·       Colour coded (the sticky notes) feedback

·       Pros and Con lists

·       Starting the lesson with a question

·       You can even print questions or challenges onto them

·       Have learners write down what they know about a topic and ‘stick it’ on your white board as a starter

·       Have learners write down things they don’t know about atopic and anonymously stick them on a wall for you to review later.



I wrote Teach, Reflect, Doodle to act as both an informative book for teachers but as a diary of your own ideas and suggestions. I’ve started the book, you get to finish it and then share it with others – interactive and easy CPD right there!
So grab a pen, turn the page and lets start this year!

Teach, Reflect, Doodle… is available to purchase here

Ten Stress Busting Tips From James Hilton

Welcome back to the start of the school year, we hope that most of you aren’t feeling the stress yet but it is always good to have a few tricks up you sleeve for when the pressure does start to creep up on you. Keep these top ten tips from James Hilton, author of Leading From the Edge, in mind and hopefully you’ll be able to help yourself feel in a better frame of mind.


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James Hilton is a former headteacher working as a conference speaker and author, specialising in leadership, stress management and positive psychology. He applies his experience of human leadership to inspire a wide range of clients including school leaders, the NHS, local government and businesses. James provides fresh insights into the challenges of leadership in the intense environment that is the modern workplace.

Writing for Bloomsbury Education

A great post from Cherryl Drabble about the process of writing her #BloomsCPD title “Supporting Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities”

Cherryl is an assistant headteacher working at an Ofsted graded Outstanding school in Blackpool. She is a CPD leader, assessment leader, ITT and NQT Mentor. She has an MA in inclusion/SEN and has 14 years experience in teaching children with special educational needs and nine years as a Senior Leader responsible for running CPD. She is also a successful blogger on the topics of SEND, Ofsted and many other subjects.


I like writing, I’ve always liked writing. I’m not claiming it is something I excel at but I enjoy it and people read my blog so that’s a good basis for continuing with it.

When I was 8 years old I wrote a children’s story for my primary school and I was very pleased to win a prize for it. There hadn’t been a prize on offer for the best story in school, they created one for me because they were impressed with the content of my story. At the time, it meant absolutely nothing to me. I had won a prize, so what? I hadonly done what the teacher had told me to do and I had done it to the best of my ability. That’s what you do when you’re 8 years old. Maybe that unexpected prize was what started my love affair with writing.

When I was…

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The Great Fire of London 350 year anniversary


Jonathan Eyers is the author of the middle-grade novel The Thieves of Pudding Lane (Bloomsbury) and three books of non-fiction for children and adults. He goes on about books and writing at jonathaneyers.com and @eyersjonathan too.

In the middle of the 17th Century, London was the third largest city in the Western world, with only Paris and Constantinople (now Istanbul) being larger. London had long spilled over its ancient Roman walls, but those stone ramparts (which can still be seen in many places today) had penned in the old city, turning it into an overpopulated warren of narrow, labyrinthine streets and densely crowded wooden townhouses sometimes six or seven floors high.

The Great Plague of 1665 had killed 1 in 5 Londoners and caused the richest to flee the city, but by the middle of 1666 things had begun to return to normal. The long hot summer had left the wooden city bone dry, and the wells low. When a strong gale blew in from the east on the night of Saturday 1st September, it turned a small blaze in the house of the navy’s baker on Pudding Lane into the Great Fire of London – which raged uncontrollably through the old city until the middle of the following Wednesday.

Much of the city as we know it today owes itself to those four days, 350 years ago this week. As rarely happens, one of the world’s capitals was given a clean state to start again. Sir Christopher Wren’s ambitious plans for a completely different city didn’t quite come to pass, but he remains the most famous name in architecture to have emerged from the period, with his rebuilt St Paul’s Cathedral remaining one of the most distinctive buildings in the capital.

However, streets were made wider, regulations were introduced as to the construction and extension of buildings within the city, facilities were provided to ensure any future fires could be better fought, and other conscious decisions were made to avoid many of the factors that contributed to the unprecedented scale of the Great Fire so that it could never happen again.

For this reason, the Great Fire remained a key part of the Key Stage 2 curriculum for a long time. Even though it’s no longer an essential part, many teachers continue to opt to teach it precisely because of its continuing relevance, even centuries later. And, of course, because it’s one of the most exciting few days in all of Britain’s long history.

The Great Fire of London in numbers:

  • 1,500,000,000: the cost, in today’s pounds, of the damage caused by the Fire (£9.9 million in 1666’s money)
  • 300,000: the population of London as of September 1666 (in contrast to the 9,800,000 who live there today – 300,000 is about the same as modern-day Newcastle)
  • 80,000: the number of people left homeless after the Fire
  • 13,200: the number of houses destroyed by the Fire
  • 1,250: the temperate, in degrees Celsius, that the Fire is thought to have reached – this was hot enough to melt iron gates and the lead roof of the old St Paul’s Cathedral (the molten metal from which ran down the hilly streets nearby)
  • 436: the number of acres consumed by the Fire
  • 400: the number of streets and courts completely destroyed by the fire
  • 80: the rough duration, in hours, of the Fire, before the wind died down and the firefighting efforts began to have an effect (though some of the ruins smouldered for weeks, and red hot embers were discovered still burning in a cellar a month later)
  • 56: the length, in miles, of the pall of smoke generated by the Fire, as noted by the writer and diarist John Evelyn
  • 6: the number of verified deaths – despite the scale of the destruction, the Fire moved quite slowly and most people were able to escape (however, there were so many transient workers in London that the actual death toll is suspected to be much higher)

For a gripping historical drama set during the Great Fire of London check out The Thieves of Pudding Lane  




Stephen Lockyer works as a primary teacher in London, and has taught for the past sixteen years. He is passionate about primary teaching, and talks across the country on a variety of related topics. He is prolific on Twitter, and is staggered by the number of followers he has, follow him for even more ideas! @mrlockyer

I’ve always felt that I teach for free, but get paid to plan and mark (don’t tell my Head that). They both seem so time-consuming and arduous, and yet with a little thought and organisation, you can produce marking and planning which is rich and highly beneficial, all in the same amount of time that you would normally spend!

So, here’s the set-up; I find I work best after school, undisturbed and a
t a class desk, but whatever works for you.

You need the results of a a lesson of work from your class, some post-its, your marking equipment and an A4 pad or equivalent. On the A4 pad, draw a line down the middle, and two equidistant from each other across the vertical. You should end up with a 2×3 grid. Draw an arrow from each left to right box, and label the left boxes Red, Amber, Green, or whatever works for you in the way of “no idea/some idea/got it.” The left hand side will be for names, the right for the problems you notice which need tackling (ie your next lesson’s objectives).

On the post-its, write these same three categories, and space them out. With the books, start with one. Mark the work, and decide which category it will go in – red, amber or green. Put your comment at the bottom of the work, and then turn this into an Action Objective for your A4 note section. An action objective is a very clear, clinical objective, leading with a verb, which can be measured. For example:

Expand range of nouns

Increase explanations

Develop counter arguments.

Put this book in the marked pile.

Mark the rest of the books this way. Make a note of repeated objectives to give you an idea of the main areas for improvement – it really makes a difference for your planning. You can add the names to your A4 planner as you go, but I tend to batch do this at the end. Sometimes, if I’m really tired, I spread the piles out in three lines and take a photo of the front covers – I really am *that* lazy/tired!

So, what are we left with at the end of this process? A pile of marked books, with next steps written in. A set of three groups to work with in the next lesson, and a collection of Action Objectives to use in your next lesson. Marking done, and if you add this assessment data to any assessment tracker you use, that’s done too. We’re left with the planning. Look at the overarching need of the groups, and put that into an Action Objective. You’ll end up with three. My theoretical gut teacher says that at the beginning of a topic you’ll have one objective for a new class, and end the topic with many specific ones, but in reality three is manageable (with specific injections for each student).

For each objective, work out the best way to enable them to action it, ie complete it on their own. Remember that one of the most effective ways of doing this uses Direct Instruction: Demonstrate, Practise together, Perfect alone. Decide what measure you would use to ensure that this Objective is achievable – don’t get weighed down with designing something or laminate this or that. Get them to the action as quickly and effectively as possible!

This may seem complex and drawn out, but the more you do this, the fast and more effective your planning will be!

If you want to to know other ways to trim planning and make it more effective, I’m sure there is an excellent book out there just waiting to be used…

For more fantastic ideas from Stephen Lockyer check out his latest book Lesson Planning for Primary School Teachers