Great Lessons 2: Rigour

Great Lessons 2: Rigour

Fantastic blog on the importance of challenging in the classroom.


Graduation-day-at-a-unive-001 Aiming High every day through rigour and scholarship

This series of posts is about the habits of teaching; the things we do every day; the strategies and attitudes that define our default mode. These are the characteristics of lessons that feel outstanding as soon as you walk in… no tricks, no gizmos, just embedded routine practice.

The first was about Probing Questions.  This second post is about the general pitch and tone of a lesson. At KEGS ‘Rigour and Scholarship’ is our phrase of the moment, taken from our Zest for Learning jigsaw.  It helps us to define the spirit of what we are trying to achieve and where we need to improve.  The idea of rigour goes to the heart of what I have described as a ‘Total Philosophy of G&T’.   In formal or drop-in observations, it is always true that great lessons are characterised…

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Lyrebird – Cecelia Ahern

Image result for lyrebird cecelia ahern

4 stars

Ahern’s Lyrebird is a charming, moving and insightful novel built on the nature of the Lyrebird. The Lyrebird is a bird which can perfectly mimic the sounds it encounters. Ahern’s main protagonist inhabits this quality, making her a rare and unique human being who captures the heart of documentary producers Bo and Solomon. Little be-known, Solomon is drawn to Laura for many more reasons than that of her vocal talent.

The Lyrebird, Laura Button, is a character who has lived a very sheltered life and has developed the vocal mimicking ability naturally and mostly unintentionally. From being a girl living alone with her Uncle to being the main star on a talent show, Laura’s life transforms quickly and rapidly. We follow her story through her sounds and feelings and we experience how she affects those around her.

Personally, I was happy that my desired ending happened. Ahern perfectly crafts the relationships of her characters through her blissfully lyrical writing which carved the perfect ending and brought happiness to the main protagonists. Through her sounds she is able to make people see their lives mirrored straight back to them without any kind of filter. This creates a contrast of emotions for different characters as some notice deep-rooted feelings and changes which they have refused to acknowledge before Laura entered their lives.

“People’s names can change throughout their lives the same way people do. They believe nicknames provide insight into not just the individual but how other people perceive that person. People become a double prism, instead of a one-way mirror.”

Cecelia Ahern’s novel is a fantastic result of thorough research and exploration of a character from which she was able to mould and construct one of the most interesting stories I have read in a while. She places the characters in the damaging aspects of modern society and forces the reader to consider the consequences which happen and apply them to life away from the page.

I have always loved Cecelia Ahern’s writing from the experience of reading The Year I Met You. She has a unique quality in her writing which brings characters to life and creates real, raw, electric relationships that leaves you thinking of them months after the book has ended.


A Place Called Perfect. Helena Duggan.



5 stars.

After a summer of reading, I can safely say that this one was my favourite.

A Place Called Perfect was sat outside Waterstones and what instantly caught my eye was the beautiful detail on the front cover. I instantly thought that it was a lovely book aimed at young adults, perhaps brought out in time for the summer holidays. Whilst this is partially correct, my perception of the book soon changed when I realized that the image of the flowers were actually eyes. This then correlated with the phrase ‘they’ve got their eyes on you’. After reading the blurb and a quick flick through, I was clutching it all the way to the till.

2 days later I finished it. It was fantastic. I told nearly everyone about it and the interesting plot. It follows the story of young Violet Brown who moves to ‘Perfect’ with her family alongside her Dad’s new job. On arrival, Violet already has suspicions as all the residents in the town are blind, therefore they all wear rose-tinted glasses. Anyone who is aware of the metaphor linked to rose-tinted glasses would find the story even more brilliant. Violet’s family are welcomed by the ‘Archer twins’, their descriptions showing just a snippet of the creative descriptions in the book:

‘George Archer was so tall he couldn’t stand straight in the low-ceilinged room. His head bent to one side almost touching his shoulder. Everything about him was long, from his snake-like arms and wormy fingers to his pencil-thin nose that almost divided his face in two. His head was completely bald and creamy white like a freshly laid egg.’

‘Again she had to stop herself laughing. Violet wasn’t even the tallest in her class, but she was the same height as Mr Edward Archer.What he lacked in height he made up for in width. He was square, like a loaf of bread. His head was attached straight to his shoulders as if he had forgotten to grow a neck and his eyes stuck out a little as thought they were trying to escape from his face.’

I mean, this really made me laugh and it’s only page 16. Violet is the central character and we follow the story in a third person narrative, focalized through her thoughts. Through moments of fear and humour, Violet is a very likeable character. A particular favourite moment is her reaction to her brand new teacher telling her that she is ‘on thin ice’ for not following the ludicrous, robotic school rules that tells children they cannot have fun:

‘Violet sat in shock for a while before returning to the questions. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Perfect? Angrily she drew a dog poo. She had to get out of this town.’

Violet befriends a young boy named ‘Boy’ who has no family and who is also unaffected by the ‘blindness’. We follow their journey to rescue Violet’s family from the under the evil spell created by the Archer twins, as well as the rest of ‘Perfect’.

Embedded with beautiful language, imaginative characters and plot twists, the story shines with the theme of determination, family, love, courage and bravery. I would definitely recommend it, especially to young adults due to the fantastic creative writing and imagination that the book holds.


The penultimate night

Tomorrow is Sunday 3rd September, the day before I embark on my very first INSET day at my first SCITT placement. I will most likely spend tomorrow with a big, twisted knot in my stomach. The knot will be tightened with every feeling of excitement, anxiety and anticipation for what the next 12 months will bring.

I have been waiting and studying for approximately 9 years to get to this stage. Armed with my BA (Hons) degree in English Language and a whole toolbox of knowledge, I finally get the chance to learn how to share it with those younger, impressionable people. I anticipate tears, laughter, stress, determination and cries for help from those who have been here before. Most of all, I know that I love my subject. Andy Tharby in his recent publication ‘Making Every English Lesson Count’ said it perfectly:

‘…great English teachers must live and breathe their subject. If we teach every moment, every lesson and every topic as if it is the most fascinating thing in the world, then out students are more likely to come to believe this too.’.

One of the top tips I’ve been given in preparation of making an impression on those students is to constantly be reading, talking about reading and talking to students about reading. This, I am sure I will not have an issue with because that’s pretty much all I do anyway. So much so, that I have no shame in sporting my ‘Book Nerd’ bag purchased from Waterstones.

When I graduated in the summer I felt a certain sadness that the three years of learning and exploring the wonderful subject of English, and having the opportunity to pick the brains of the lecturers who taught me was over. Many graduates throw their hats in the air with true, pure happiness and relief. Of course, I was over the moon to celebrate my achievement; but that feeling of loss soon set in.


But then I realized that actually, I will still be in education. I will still be learning and growing in the wonderful world that is education. I just get to direct it at young students who are yet to realize their true potential and just how far their determination and hard work can get them. This is what I look forward to the most.

‘In sum, there is no better way of modelling your love and passion for English than through the way you read out loud.’  (A.Tharby)

So I will enjoy my final Sunday before the madness begins. I’d love to say accompanied with a glass of wine – but I need to be awake and out of the door by 7.30am and long story short, I love to sleep.

Here’s to the next 12 months. I might even try and blog more on it. Otherwise it will be all over my Twitter in conversation with the fantastic eduTwitter community, especially @TeamEnglish1.



‘Boy’ – Roald Dahl

“When writing about oneself, one must strive to be truthful. Truth is more important than modesty.”


5 stars.

Recently, I have been reading many books which have lost my interest halfway through and I feel like I have genuinely wasted my time reading them. But it only took me less than a day, when I combine the hours, to read a brilliant story by the fantastic Roald Dahl called ‘Boy’.

It is a novel I have read in preparation for my teacher training in two weeks time, one which I approached hesitantly as the last time I read a novel of such a genre I was in year 7. But I am utterly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

It is essentially an autobiography of Dahl, but his writing ifollows and focuses on the life of a young boy so we soon forget that it is actually about him. I completely forgot until he mentioned how testing Cadburys chocolates at boarding school inspired him to write the pioneering Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

“We all have our moments of brilliance and glory, and this was mine.”

I found a lot of the book hard to read, particularly the moments where the young boys were caned and abused by their Masters at school. It seemed so shocking that I wished that I could leap into the scene and stop the awful mistreatment myself – but then I remembered that the behaviour was completely normal in the 1920’s. I loved reading about Dahl’s journey and his strength and dedication to his growth and education. I enjoyed the laugh-out-loud anecdote-based moments, and felt the most incredible sympathy when reading about the painful homesickness and school beatings.

Dahl’s books may seem like they are aimed at children, but reading one for the first time with a matured, adult mind, I am utterly grateful for the new perspective I have towards his writing, and the different ways in which I can interpret and envisage his stories. This is a wonderful story about childhood, maturity, innocence and braveness in the face of cruelty.

I completely recommend this book, and I will definitely read more of Dahl’s writing.

“It is almost worth going away because it’s so lovely coming back.”

Into The Water. Paula Hawkins

3.5/4 stars.


I’m going to start by saying that I am a huge fan of Hawkins’ writing and her explicit detail to character and plot. Indeed, this is what made TGOTT so great.

But, I will admit to the very complex plot and characters in this novel and because of this I recommend that you read it in a short space of time with full concentration so that you don’t forget who people are, thus making it harder to follow the plot.

It definitely had a ‘Broadchurch’ essence to it in that everyone, at some point, is a suspect and even at the end it is obvious that in some way, the large breadth of characters have all contribute to the main issue at hand. Moving on from the twisting, weaving plot there is an overwhelming theme of love and protection in different ways. From the parents wanting to protect their children, to children wanting to  protect their parents from their dark secrets being revealed, arguably showing that no matter what a person does, if you love that person enough then you will go to the ends of the earth to protect them.

I believe that the different backstories of the women who were damned to the water were very interesting, offering many different insights and perspectives allowing readers to experience the raw pain that these women felt. The water was a very engaging, central element which makes you want to know even more about the water and about the town it flows through to understand its almost hypnotizing ability.

“No one liked to think about the fact that the water in that river was infected with the blood and bile of persecuted women, unhappy women; they drank it every day.”

I agree with previous reviews that the characters are very unlikable, but I find that this is an occurrence in Hawkins’ novels so if you can accept that there is a reason why these characters are so awful and dark then you will begin to understand the true intentions of the novel. Though, on the other hand, I did feel a great amount of sympathy when reading about Jules’ backstory regarding her teenage years.

I’d say definitely give it a go. A hell of a lot of detail has been worked on here and I believe that Hawkins certainly knows how to write a good thriller.

“There are all kinds of ways for a relationship to be tested, even broken, some, irrevocably; it’s the endings we’re unprepared for.”


Talking it Over. Julian Barnes

3.5 stars


This will only be a quick, shorter review as I have the sequel lined up so perhaps I’ll do a more in-depth review of the two as a pair at that time.

But for Talking it Over… It’s my first experience of a Barnes book and he certainly has an exquisite talent for writing fiction. Whilst the novel isn’t necessarily jam packed with plot twists and deep themes, the substance is definitely found in the three characters. Each character made me laugh and frown at different stages of the book, making them perfectly human all the same. I think I will give the sequel a go and see how things materialise for the trio; Stuart, Gillian and Oliver.

“But I don’t remember. I won’t remember. Memory is an act of will, and so is forgetting.”

It’s basically a story about friendship, love and how sometimes being in love with your best friends wife just can’t be ignored; certainly not for Oliver. I’d definitely recommend this novel as it’s an easy plot to get to grips with and it is purely enjoyed for how well the characters are constructed even if some are rather annoying. There’s a lot of external characters that give their opinion on the events too which was pretty amusing – particularly the lady in the flower shop commenting on her opinion of Oliver.

Hopefully the sequel will stir things up a little in terms of the plot, but I’m definitely looking forward to more of the brilliant and entertaining character-narration.

“There is violence in this supposedly tender heart of mine.”