A Daily Diet of CPD!
Feedback from teachers with whom I’ve worked on using quality text to quality writing journeys has often included comments on their own learning:
‘I’m reading more ambitious texts myself’
‘My pupils ask unexpected questions which make me think.’
‘I had to delve deeper to understand more about the language.’
‘We had to explore these texts in our teams, not just deliver to set expectations.’
‘My pleasure in reading has hit a new level, but it’s hard thinking!’
The increased challenge of some of the texts they have used has acted as a constant source of enquiry. They are starting to re-define the notion of an effective lesson as one in which the teacher’s knowledge deepens each time as well as the pupil’s. That means the curriculum can be upgraded as the teacher’s confidence grows. This in turn will start to develop the means of building continuity and progression which can permeate the daily diet of lessons, with external training acting as new impetus
Self-reflection has always been vital to continuing professional development but quality texts give so much more scope for this to happen. Internal CPD becomes a fascinating and vigorous exploration with feedback returned to teaching teams impulsively and voluntarily. It’s huge fun!
Even a quick skim of this extract from ‘That Spot’ by Jack London (unit 3 in ‘Opening Doors to Quality Writing, ages 10-13’) can provide us all with many questions:
‘He was a good-looker all right. When he was in condition his muscles stood out in bunches all over him. And he was the strongest looking brute I ever saw in Alaska, also the most intelligent looking…….He could steal and forage to perfection; he had an instinct that was positively gruesome for divining when work was to be done and for making a sneak accordingly, and for getting lost and not staying lost he was nothing short of inspired. But when it came to work, the way that intelligence dribbled out of him and left him a mere clot of wobbling, stupid jelly would make your heart bleed…….maybe, like some men I know, he was too wise to work.’
What does ‘brute’ mean in this context?
Where is Alaska and what is the gold rush which brought the author to the area?
What might ‘making a sneak’ mean?
How can anyone steal to perfection?
Why has Jack London used the ‘jelly’ image?
What might the full story be about?
How similar is this to other works by Jack London eg ‘Call of the Wild’ or ‘White Fang’?
An idea I’ve been encouraging is for pupils to identify themes and links in a passage. Identifying all the mentions of anything linked with the intelligence of ‘Spot’ supports the growth of overall comprehension: working out how specific techniques like the jelly metaphor contribute to the meaning comes later.
We can’t teach inference or give new vocabulary the contexts needed for application without enjoying our own ongoing encounters. I’ve worked with teachers going beyond ‘The Highwayman’ and ‘The Listeners’ (both of which are brilliant I think) and finding a whole range of new literary texts through which deep concepts can be taught and our own learning enhanced every day! I’m now visiting ‘Opening Doors’ schools where concepts like first person narratives are being taught via texts like ‘That Spot’ and appreciation goes deeper each time the text is used. Teachers have reflected so well as a habit and, of course, enjoyed the unusual characterization of a very lazy but clever dog in the wilds of the Klondike Gold Rush! I’ve noticed the same schools becoming more incisive about how picturebooks and children’s fiction are used too in a curriculum where knowledge and skills are learnt progressively.
The key-notes and inset days jump-start, inspire and signpost; but the questions raised later in the classroom will improve, embed and inspire. It’s one critical way of keeping knowledge deepening: our own daily experiences with the resources we use and the pupils’ responses to them.
I found the Joyce and Showers research (2002) very interesting in thinking more deeply about the embedding of learning from the knowledge giver through modelling, practice and coaching.