A recipe for successful writing

A few weeks ago I went to Nottingham , a city I once lived in . I was really pleased to find that a favourite cafe of mine was still tucked away ,up an alleyway, near the now deserted shop I used to work in .

Whilst there I ate a delicious sandwich- granary bread with tofu, artichoke hearts and pesto, served up with a lovely carroty , cabbagy salad .
What does this have to do with writing? you ask yourself .
Well when I got home I decided that I wanted to eat that sandwich again. So I decided to try to replicate the flavours and ingredients I had tasted . It reminded me of the taste challenge on Masterchef ,where the contestants have to eat a meal that has been cooked by the experts and try to identify the different ingredients, herbs and spices that make up the recipe .

In the classroom we ask children to read texts and try to identify the elements that make it a particular genre . “What are the features? ” we ask our children. The contestants on Masterchef have to work out how the dish was made , was it fried, boiled , sautéed or baked. This takes skill, it does not come naturally to most.The more dishes one has tried , the more likely they are to recognise the texture or the taste of a dish cooked in this way . in the same way the child who has been exposed to wide range of reading material , who has been able to make decisions about which genres they like to read , is more likely to recognise those features easily. Reading is key to building a bank of knowledge about what writing is and what it does.

So the ingredients , the words if you like . The contestants on Masterchef need to taste the dishes carefully and mistakes are often made . Is it pork or lamb ? Prawns or scallops . Subtle differences can result in a dish that is very similar , or a compete disaster.
Our children can be given the words to use in their writing . A word wall could be transformed into steak , or horsemeat burgers depending on the skill of the writer. Lack of knowledge could result in boiled sirloin steak , or sautéed lettuce ( not entirely appealing )

If we feed our children a diet of grammar, worksheets and boring texts, then the end result won’t be anything special . Yes we have to start with the basics , just as a cook needs to learn how to mix flour and eggs , or slice vegetables , a child needs to know what a sentence is and how the words fit together. A chef can follow a recipe step by step , but this isn’t what makes a tasty meal. The more times that dish is created and tasted , the more that the chef begins to deviate from the recipe ,adding their own twist perhaps a new seasoning or a different vegetable . The chef learns to combine tastes and flavours , through experimenting and often making mistakes learns which spices complement certain meats and vegetables.






Thoughts during a short run about teaching in the long run

Every Saturday, after a long week at work, I face the mental challenge of whether to drag myself out of my lovely cozy bed to run around the park . I take part in event called parkrun , which is an organised 5k run that anyone can do .

As I  was running last week , I started to think about teaching and particularly  how children might experience lessons . I was thinking a lot about maths lessons for various reasons .

So here is what went though my mind:

I start off the run full of enthusiasm and manage to keep up a pace with most of the other runners. This last for about 40 metres. As I  realise  I need to slow down , the rest of them seem to effortlessly  continue on .

A child in a lesson could feel like that I suppose .Recently , I was communicating with a parent about her child and she was worried he was losing his enthusiasm for maths  . He was used to being top of the class, but now there were others  who were quicker and more mentally agile.I thought about that child as I ran because  as I slipped back  from the leaders it didn’t bother me .

Why ? well I had never been at the top , I am fairly new to this running lark and I only do it once a week , whereas others are pro runners who “live running”. The challenges and the  mental argument I have whilst attempting the course is with myself – not the others .I want to improve my pb  and the only way I can do that is by practising . I am in control of whether or not I get better .

But what of that child who must surely be disappointed  to have lost his position at the top of the rankings? I need to help that child realise that he has great potential and that  with hard work , he can  progress. He needs to  be able to  see that progress in a lesson or over a longer period of time .I need to  teach him how to do that  . If he gives up he will be out of the race.

Running around the park, I observe that  there are a number of fantastic volunteers  who keep us on the right course, clap or cheer encouragement ( very important especially after the agonising hilly part-which you do twice!) . They don’t run the race for me . They don’t  take the hills away . They don’t even hand out water  or oranges.  But that smile and acknowledgement  , that knowing look and “well done” or “keep it up” as I stagger past them  makes me think of my role in the classroom .

I want my children to feel the challenge  in a lesson .But  I recognise that a kind word of encouragement and an acknowledgement of the effort they are putting in , can really boost that child’s  stamina during a lesson . The encouragement doesn’t just have to come from me . The other parkrunners  cheer on  each other . Many stay and clap as the final competitor makes it through the funnel. As I make my way up the final stretch , runners who managed the course in half the time are walking back to their cars and they  still have time for a “nearly there” or a ” keep going” . Having a bunch of people who are all doing the same thing , whatever their level  is really great to be part of . I want my children to learn to encourage each other in much the same way . A shared  responsibility to not just pack up and leave  before the final runner has made it . We are all in this together so lets help each other out .

A few hours after I have finished the race  I get a text and it tells me the time I have achieved this week . I get really excited to receive it and it comes with a “well done!” and if I have  beaten my PB  it tells me so . I can go into a chart that tells me all my past times and how well I am doing compared to others . That feedback is pretty quick and seeing my name  go up the rankings or just seeing a new pb next to my name , puts a smile on my face . If I don’t make it , guess what? I make it my aim to beat it next time.

Well if you are a teacher reading this , I don’t need to spell out that one . Feedback works .

So those were my thoughts that went through my head as I ran last week . I did get a pb !

This morning I got up and did it all over again.


It’s that time of year again . I put it off as long as I could, but now I am sitting here with butterflies in my stomach .

Aah the begining of a new term. You can tell it’s nearly upon us , or in the case of my Leicestershire colleagues  already started ( Well they did finish the week before us  in July! ). Twitter is now ablaze with before and after images  of shiny new classrooms , BevEvans wonderful site is being hit thousands of times a minute, laminator sales are hitting the roof  and  thousands of us teachers and wondering how on earth we are going to get up  at stupid o’clock next week .

So why the butterflies ?

Well I am a very  infrequent blogger (shame on me . I will try to do better) . I have had a very challenging year for a number of reasons  and I haven’t really felt like sharing any of it online( Close friends know the ins and outs)

The reason I have butterflies is because I am nervous. I am starting a new job and this is the perfect opportunity to become the teacher I know I can be . Everyone is rooting for me .

The difficulty with a new job is that you cannot know everything straight away . It is a learning curve . There are different procedures, ways of teaching, planning etc . I know that I will take everything in my stride and I won’t let the children down ( they are the most important people as far as I am concerned) . I want to be the best that I can and that is one reason that i was determined to have a proper break , which I have done .

So I have cocooned myself away and not thought about work for a long time . I have wrapped myself in the silks of friendships , family and good books.

I am not an ugly caterpillar any more.

I am ready to hatch and fly off  into a whole new bright and positive frame of mind

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