No fact is an island

Last term, in a haze of gained time glory, I signed up for my first ever ResearchEd, conveniently ignoring the practicalities of spending part of a stormy November weekend tracking up to Swindon. This conference has a particular English and Literacy focus, set up by and featuring a number of blogger-tweeter-writers I respect and a number I’ll be respecting in future.

There were several prevailing threads including the value of knowledge (contextual, expressive, literary) , concepts (threshold), research (grass roots, evidence-based) but for me the theme I came for was that downtrodden Bloomsian concept of recall. I’m with Jo Facer on this one: I used to turn my nose up at rote learning when I started out but rapidly had a change of heart. The joy and pride in memorising a stanza of Tennyson with y7 or Shakespeare soliloquy with y9 or a bit of Spike Milligan doggerel for my own amusement unlocks understanding of diction in students of all abilities. Giving them success at well-crafted quizzes engenders confidence that supports the risk-taking we’re looking for. Giving them a curated list of contextual details makes them experts at the start of a unit.

I am no spoon-feeder. I demand individual engagement and academic thinking in every lesson but my students need very careful exposure to the ‘desirable difficulties’ being discussed today.  I am interested in how we create momentum through success in performance but embed some trouble too. In contemplating all this, it’s tempting to focus on the difficulties rather than emphasising the skill required to unpick what is most to be desired.

What I most value about today’s event was that it was both high and low stakes. I can feel my philosophy shifting, my horizons opening up*. I also had lunch with a colleague I’ve only ever talked to via Twitter and  ended up sitting a row behind a colleague working a mile from my school whom I would never otherwise have met. Now that we are Twitter followers of one another, the conversation can begin in earnest.

The slide below was from Jo Facer’s session on memory. It was the answer to a question about the battle of Hastings but it illustrates where lots of us ended today: with the tools and desire to join stuff together.

*and my tenses getting muddled. I am in need of a KS3 student mentor.