Hell on Earth? – Teaching in the UK

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An article by Richard James Rogers

Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati

I still remember the day I walked into Rhyl High School as a PGCE student. The hustle and bustle of excited students, the long corridors of a traditional school and staffroom banter. My first experience of professional teaching was really challenging for me, not least because I was inexperienced and I found it hard to deal with many excited students asking questions all at once. Rhyl was a brilliant school and was my baptism, and I’ve loved teaching ever since.

I stayed in the UK until the end of the 2008 academic year before moving to Thailand to teach at an international school. I was initially reluctant to go, as I was unsure of what to expect in the Land of Smiles (and I didn’t even know it was called that until I landed and saw a big sign at the airport).

I loved teaching in the UK, but Thailand was so much better from day one. Why? That was simple: Students who were all willing to learn (no behaviour management problems at all) and much less paperwork and ‘red tape’ to contend with. One has to remember though – I was teaching in fee-paying, international schools in Bangkok. In the UK I was working in maintained state schools, where the abilities and agendas of the student populace can vary enormously.

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Some would say that this kind of classroom scene is more common in the UK than in schools overseas. Would you agree? I’ve never experienced large-scale student disruption or distraction in Thailand. Have you taught overseas? How does your experience relate to this?

That may sound condescending to educators currently in the UK, but my experience is not unique.

Take, for example, this quote from a damning article by the Guardian newspaper last year:

The chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has claimed that the UK faces a “teacher brain drain” as newly qualified educators move abroad to find work. But actually it’s not just the warmer climate of places such as the Middle East that’s so appealing to the UK’s best teachers all of a sudden – it’s the warmer professional climate that the international schools offer that’s really alluring.

There was certainly a warm, professional climate in all of the schools I worked at in Thailand, but I also found that in the UK too. In fact, because a number of teachers were working together to deal with issues ranging from individual student behavior management to improving coursework collection and completion, I found the professional climate to be a little warmer (at times),  but a little colder when you were asked to justify things, such as putting students on detention to catch up with missed work.

Then there’s this alarming fact, which I also made reference to in my book:

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A mass exodus of teachers from the UK. Something must be luring them away.  

In fact, the UK has been facing teacher shortages for well over a decade. But what are the reasons behind this? The Huffington Post ran an article last year that listed five causes of teacher shortages in the UK:

1) Numbers of pupils are increasing

Whilst the British government makes the claim that more and more teachers are entering the profession each year, the Huffington post article makes it clear that this is not enough to compensate for the increasing number of pupils that are going through the system. In fact, the British government itself has made projections for the current decade up to 2020 predicting that school numbers could rise by 800,000 – 900,000 pupils nationally. If class sizes are to remain capped at 30, then this increase is unsustainable and the classroom management expectations of teachers are only going to increase.

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2) Graduates are finding jobs elsewhere

I can tell you from my experience that UK graduates are among the most valued globally in the teaching profession. Our world-class universities, along with our country’s reputation as a beacon of etiquette and good morality make us very marketable to parents of international students. The implications are that UK graduates, and especially those with some UK teaching experience, can find a job overseas relatively easily (although, of course, there is still competition for places). This, coupled with the fact that international schools tend to offer very attractive salaries and benefits packages, with some even offering free accommodation, makes the UK seem like a bit of silly choice for any talented, aspiring teacher. 

Also, by ‘elsewhere’, I don’t just mean outside of the UK. Many graduates are now choosing alternative careers to teaching as a starting profession, especially since NQT pay has not kept up with the increases seen in the past five years in other job sectors. Graduates are simply choosing other careers paths that pay more, and require less training. 

3) Routes into teaching have fundamentally changed

I graduated back in 2005 thinking that taking a  PGCE was the only way to become a secondary school teacher. I was wrong, of course, and now there are even more options than ever before. During his time as Education Secretary, Michael Gove made some of the most radical reforms to teacher training ever seen in the history of the profession. Traditional routes into teaching could be bypassed by the new School Direct approach, which basically placed pressure on schools, rather than universities, to fully train new teachers. 

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One might think that this would help increase teacher numbers, but the opposite seems to have happened. Estelle Morris, the British Labour Party MP, famously criticised the School Direct approach in 2013 by making the following points:

  • Since the TDA’s removal by the government coalition, schools have not been obligated to recruit enough teachers to fill the places they’ve been allocated. Training new teachers is burdensome and time-consuming, and there are no penalties for schools that under-recruit. For many schools, it’s easier to allocate more classes to their experienced teachers rather than hire and fully train new staff.
  • School Direct places are not evenly allocated around the country, and some schools don’t even have access to this recruitment channel!
  • The approach has destabilized University-based teacher training provision, with some universities, such as Bath, proposing to scrap their PGCE courses.

4) The burden on teachers is greater than ever before

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Teachers in the UK tend to find themselves ‘bogged down’ with lots of paperwork. And it’s not just marking the many assignments from large classes that contributes to this, it’s lots of other things too. Should teachers really be taking on the role of ‘office clerk’ at the same time as being an educator?

Teachers are more accountable now than they have ever been. Couple this with the fact that technology has increased along with paperwork, and it’s easy to understand why teachers are finding themselves overworked, particulary in the UK. Many recent surveys have shown that British teachers are working longer and longer hours. Just think of all of these things a modern British teacher is expected to do:

  • Mark and assess a variety of student work thoroughly and record grades and scores accurately, often on shared mark books where other teachers can see your students’ marks
  • Adapt to almost constant changes in curricula, syllabi and the National Curriculum
  • Find novel ways of assessment in which the criteria are often blurry, including assessment without levels
  • Constantly learn and develop new ways of using technology and ICT in the classroom
  • Prepare detailed termly plans, weekly plans and Schemes of Work
  • Deal with parents and their concerns, particularly if you have a pastoral role (such as being a form tutor)
  • Be ready for a snap Ofsted inspection at any time
  • Deal with a variety of targets, particularly if you’re working in an academy school (and, over the past 5 years, 1100 UK schools have converted to academies)
  • Photocopying and preparation of resources, which can be particularly time-consuming if you are trying to differentiate to a variety of learning-styles or special educational needs.
  • Mentoring of trainees (especially if your school is involved in School Direct)
  • Can you think of more to add to this list?
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Have you ever had a telling-off from your line-manager? From lack of ‘effective’ planning to not performing well in snap Ofsted inspection, there are more reasons than ever before for school managers to reprimand their staff.

5) Education budgets are seeing real-terms cuts for the first time in decades

The Comprehensive Spending Review published last November announced a £600 million cut in schools’ Education Services Grant and a six per cent real-terms cut. The impact of this on the recruitment crisis is huge. Schools are facing the risk of bankruptcy, and are having to make wide-ranging savings. This means fewer support assistants, tighter budgets for essential resources and considerably less for ICT, and less money to spend on furniture at a time when research demonstrates its impact on attainment.

But it’s not all rosy overseas either

In my book, I listed some major reasons why teaching overseas can have its drawbacks too:

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Conclusion

Every school is different. It is wrong to say that teaching overseas is better or worse than teaching in the UK. Every school has their own individual merits and downfalls, and it is important to research carefully before applying for, or accepting, a teaching position at any school in the world.

Make sure you consider the country profile of a particular location before moving there, and you may even be able to read reviews of your chosen schools before making a final decision. 

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Fresher Freshman: Your First Year at Uni

Are you a final year high school student? Do you know someone who’s thinking about going to university? If so, then read on!

Taking those first crucial steps into higher education can be daunting! Everything is new: teachers, friends, courses and the city or country you’ll be studying in!

This ground-breaking new book is filled with great advice from 100 graduates from all over the world! Students who’ve been there an done that in America, the UK, Europe and Asia. This is the must-read book for anyone who wants to make their first year successful, enjoyable and hassle-free.

Beautifully illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati, and compiled by Richard James Rogers (High School Teacher and Author), this book will be released globally on Amazon on Feb 20th.

Watch this space for updates!

Behaviour Management Part 3: Outcomes and Affinity

An article by Richard James Rogers

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Behaviour management is a fine art: It takes years to master, but the basic principles are always there. At its foundation lies good lesson preparation (so that students are fully engaged) and a good student-teacher rapport. However, even with the best of intentions, the most through plans and even time spent getting to know your students well, there can still be occasions when students feel the need to be challenging. The root causes of poor student behaviour are numerous, but good teacher behaviours are always the cure (even if the problem needs to be referred on to someone else, as sometimes it does).  

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So far we have seen the tremendous effect that the following teacher behaviours have on student engagement:

  1. Taking a genuine interest in your students, using praise and taking time to discover special skills and talents (e.g. artistic abilities). This not only provides students with a sense of validation, but also provides information that you can capitalise  on lessons.

  2. Modelling the behaviour of your colleagues, without fear of ridicule or embarrassment. This requires a school ethos of non-judgmental collaboration to work properly. Try observing teachers who teach the same classes as you. Find ‘positive deviants’ and ask them to observe you. Maybe these people can ‘diagnose’ what’s going wrong. 

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In this next article we will focus on the impact imparted by two key primers:

  1. Focussing on the work output, not the poor behaviour
  2. Learning to actually like your students (especially the challenging ones)

The following extracts come from my book, The Quick Guide to Classroom Management. I offer a short summary at the end.

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So, to summarise:

  1. Keep students focused on their work by drawing their attention to it. Encourage them with praise, commenting on how well they have done so far and what they need to do to finish.
  2. Learn to like your students. Find out about about their hobbies and interests and try to make reference to them in lessons if possible. Be approachable and trustworthy – this always works better than being scary and authoritative. 

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We welcome you to join the Richard Rogers online community. Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for daily updates.

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Behaviour Management Part 2: Model Your Colleagues

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If you are having problems dealing with whole-class disruption, or even engaging with some students on an individual basis, then one of the most sensible things you can do is seek help.

But what does ‘seek help’ actually mean? 

A casual chat with a colleague who works well with your problem students can be a great way to get some good tips. For example, when I was a young NQT, my colleague advised me to always focus on the work being done, not the negative behaviour patterns being expressed. I changed my reciprocations from “Steve, pay attention and stop talking”, to “Steve, how’s that work coming along? Nearly finished?”.

This worked wonders, and totally transformed my behaviour management skills.

However, sometimes a casual chat just isn’t enough, especially when you’re having problems with many students and many classes. 

I’ve developed a 5-step strategy that, if implemented in it’s entirety, is guaranteed to turn any situation of this type around for the better. 

The following extracts come from my debut book, The Quick Guide to Classroom Management’. I hope the advice is useful – I’ve seen this method work with hundreds of stressed out teachers over the years and I know it will work for you too!

 

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By Richard James Rogers

 

 

 

 

Behaviour Management Part 1: Human Sense of Validation

Chapter 5 - drones and hacking 

An article by Richard James Rogers

Images by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

The events in this article are based on actual occurrences. The names and, in some instances, the genders of individuals have been changed to protect the individuals’ privacy.

It happened a long time ago, but it seems like it was only last year. Time certainly deceives us: we think we’re stationary and planted firmly, but we whistle past the chimney tops as we rush along the railway line of our destiny.

In 2007 I had an experience that transformed me on a deep, emotional level. I’ll never forget what happened. 

His name was Jonathan: A student I had been gravely warned about. I’d just started a new Science Teacher job in the North of England, and the previous teacher had left some handover notes: “Avoid confrontation with this student at all costs. Do not set him off”.

Reading that as a shy 24 year-old was quite a shock, if I’m totally honest. My Head of Department even reinforced it verbally: “Richard, whatever happens, never argue with this student”.

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Bear in mind I had yet to meet this kid yet!

Well, the dreaded time I had been warned about came: I was going to meet this young boy for the first time. 

Jonathan walked into the science lab slightly later than the rest of his peers, and I greeted him with a friendly “Welcome in young man, please take a seat”. This caused a giggle amongst the rest of the students, who were naturally expecting the same reaction that Jonathan’s other teachers would have given him – a good telling off! Jonathan sat down as instructed but, being a fiery young teen ready to push the boundaries and test what he could get away with, he pulled out a can of cola and started to drink it at his desk (something that is generally not allowed in a science lab).

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I, knowing what I had been told about Jonathan, decided on a very positive and useful approach: I decided to ignore this misdemeanor at that moment and proceed on with the lesson.

As the lesson proceeded, I set a group work activity and walked around the classroom to see how the students were getting on. As I passed Jonathan, I noticed that he had a very neat and organized set of felt-tip colouring pens on his desk, arranged in a very nice standalone display case. I praised Jonathan  with a “You’re so organised, Jonathan. It’s good to see that you’re prepared for your lessons. I wish that every student was as prepared as you are.”

What do you think Jonathan’s reaction was? – He was absolutely stunned! This was a young kid who was accustomed to being reprimanded, put on detention and confronted on a daily basis. And here was a new teacher who could actually see his worth, aswell as what he could contribute. He lapped up the praise, and responded with an “Umm, err thanks. I always like to be ready for my lessons. I also love art”. This led to a short conversation about Jonathan’s love of drawing tattoo designs. I subtly drew his attention to the artistic graphics on the cola can, and reminded him he couldn’t drink it in the science lab. He smiled. Later that lesson, I assigned him the role of ‘Work Presentation Chief’ for the class. Each lesson, from then on in, I made sure that I praised Jonathan for his work, and allowed him to go around the class and assess the presentation skills of selected students. What was the effect on Jonathan? – He became my best student. He felt empowered, because, like all human beings, he craved a sense of importance and he craved appreciation.

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When Jonathan achieved his grade C in GCSE Science that year (a massive accomplishment considering his turbulent history) he said to me  “It was all because of you, sir”. Even at that moment, I wanted him to feel a sense of value and self-worth. I responded by saying “You did all the hard work, Jonathan”

The following extracts come from my debut book: The Quick Guide to Classroom Management, and remind us that all kids seek validation from their actions, and that we, as teachers, can engineer the circumstances surrounding the child to generate positive sources of such validation. 

 

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Moandiering On! Moody Teachers List of Top Grumbles!

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An article by Richard James Rogers

Illustrations by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongohati

Are you a moody moaner? If you are, then join the club because schools all over the world; no matter what the ethos or demographic, all contain their fair-share of moaners.

But what do teachers moan about and is it justified? Let’s answer the first part of that question.

 

Top 3 grumbles of today’s teachers

In my book, 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know, I outlined dynamic and practical  ways in which every educator can address problems associated with paperwork, parents, students and colleagues. In my research for that book, and my subsequent investigations since, I’ve determined the top 3 teacher grumbles to be:

 

  1. Paperwork: “There’s too much pen-pushing and not enough time to do real teaching”, “How the hell am I supposed to prepare my lessons properly when I have to do all of this ridiculous paperwork” and “All of this red-tape is just an exercise in jumping-through hoops” are expressions I’ve heard time and time again over the past 11 years of my career. It is true that the demands of school inspectors, parents, governing bodies and exam boards have placed an increased demand for accountability squarely on the shoulders of teachers over the past decade, and this accountability is usually expressed as more forms for both teachers and senior management to fill in, as well as more documentation to prepare. However, doesn’t this documentation revolve around things that help the students? Planning documents, for example, are great for letting you see the long-term goals of the course being taught, and keep you on track on a weekly basis. 

  2. Students: “He just doesn’t listen” or the infantile, pathetic “They just can’t…..” are phrases I have heard on an almost constant basis since I started teaching. The expectation to differentiate content to a variety of abilities, culture-backgrounds, motivations and maturities has also increased in the teaching profession over the past decade. This places more work in the hands of the teacher in the form of extra planning and preparation time needed to deliver effective content. This issue still, unfortunately, causes lots of resentment and frustration among educators. Let me tell you very bluntly – teacher’s who say “He/she/they can’t” are almost always wrong. I’ve had the fortunate experience of turning around kids who were simply ‘written off’ by other teachers, just by using the rapport-building strategies outlined in my book.

  3. Parents: I’ve heard them all in my time as a teacher. From the “She’s just mad” to “People like him shouldn’t be allowed to have kids”. Staffroom banter on this subject can be unnecessarily cruel and biased towards the teacher who has the issues with the parent, and many teachers often reciprocate in this fashion out of plain sympathy for their colleagues. This can lead to a dangerous climate of negativity around the issue, which is often disproportionate. In my book, I explain how you should see every parent as a valuable customer, who you can work with productively to make things work for your students. 

 

Why we should stop complaining – always and forever!

 

#1: Complaining about anything acts like a “crap magnet” in your life

 

I was recently very fortunate to receive a signed copy of T. Harv Eker’s Secrets of The Millionaire Mind (ISBN 978006133645-4). In that book, the author very eloquently and directly outlines the devastating effects that complaining has in our lives on daily basis. The following extract really woke me up, and I hope it will do the same for you! 

 

Complaining is the absolute worst possible thing you could do for your health or your wealth. The worst! Why?

I’m a big believer in the universal law that states “What you focus on expands.” When you are complaining, what are you focusing on, what’s right with your life or what’s wrong with it? You are obviously focusing on what’s wrong with it, and since what you focus on expands, you’ll keep getting more of what’s wrong.

Many teachers in the personal development field talk about the Law of Attraction. It states that “like attracts like,” meaning that when you are complaining, you are actually attracting “crap” into your life.

Wealth principle: When you are complaining, you become a living, breathing “crap magnet.”

Have you ever noticed that complainers usually have a tough life? It seems that everything that could go wrong does go wrong for them. They say “Of course I complain – look how crappy my life is.” And now you know better, you can explain to them, “No, it’s because you complain that your life is so crappy. Shut up…and don’t stand near me!”

Which brings us to another point. You have to make darn sure not to put yourself in the proximity of complainers. If you absolutely have to be nearby, make sure you bring a steel umbrella or the crap meant for them will get to you too!

#2 Complaining goes hand-in-hand with gossip. Gossip will kill your job and your career. 

Here are some extracts from my book which make it clear why gossip is destroying so many teacher’s careers, all over the world: 

 

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Summary

Remove complaining and gossiping from your life, and watch the success and happiness flow in! 

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Half – Term Blues: From Stressed to Best! 

 
An article by Richard James Rogers

10th October 2016
A new academic year begins and you’ve been on full-throttle since day one! New students, new systems, new courses; maybe even a new school! Wherever you’re teaching, I hope that you’ve settled in well to yet another school year. 

How has it gone so far? 

Millions of teachers around the world begin this first semester with oodles of confidence and exitement: vowing to do more marking, be more inspirational, get more grade A’s and be more organized than they were last year. Alternatively, If this is your first year in teaching, then you might be hoping to cope well with the demands of the profession and survive this initiation period. 

My viewpoint has always been that ‘less is more’. Instead of doing more of this, or being more of that, I believe we should focus on the simple things we can cut down on to increase our effectiveness and efficiency. This includes:

  • Being less tired in the morning: a good breakfast, an early start and a morning workout with a relaxing morning routine, maybe involving reading and prayer, are great ways to solve this issue 
  • Wasting less time doing pointless things: assigning every Saturday morning to lesson planning, for instance, reduces time-wasted the following week making day-by-day decisions on what to prepare and when. Assigning a personal schedule for the collection and setting of homework for each class; searching for and modifying online resources to suit your needs (instead of building from scratch); using peer and self-assessment (to save marking time) and creating a step-by-step action plan that runs on an hour-by-hour basis are all great ways to make your time more productive. 
  • Being less autocratic and dictatorial in class and incorporating a wider variety of activities for our learners. The builds rapport, improves behaviour management and puts the hard work in the hands of the students – after all, they are the ones who should be working hard, not you! 

So if you’re halfway through and feeling exhausted, then seek to cut out the unnecessary actions that are wasting your time and causing stress in your working life. 

My book, ’45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know’ (which had just been rated 9.5 out of 10 by UKEdChat), goes into great detail about all of the above points, with lots of practical ideas and case studies to help you be the best you can be. 

Till next time: happy time-trimming! 
    
 

A Great #Book Review by #UKEdChat @Chilledu

I’m very pleased and honoured to have received such a great review by UKEdChat last month.  The Quick Guide to Classroom Management was rated 9.5/10 overall, and was described as follows:

This is a great book for people who are struggling to get to grips with grappling their busy teaching schedule with building positive, professional and supportive relationships with students, and would be suitable for experienced teachers or new teachers to help reflect upon their practice or make subtle little changes to improve classroom experiences. 


The full review can read here:

  

  

A Teacher’s Summer: Have a Productive Vacation! #teachforamerica #pgce #NQTchat #ukedchat

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An article by Richard James Rogers

Illustrations by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

It’s finally here! You’ve waited all term, perhaps even counting down the days, and now it’s the summer vacation! If you’re teaching in a British or American school, or at an accredited International School overseas, then you’ve probably got a nice 6-8 week holiday to look forward to! Time to put your feet up!

Or is it?

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Most teachers would agree that we need our vacations. We work so hard during term time and we only really realise the strain this has placed upon us mentally and physically when we do get the chance to have a holiday. It’s important to rest now, but; and many experienced teachers will hate me for this: it’s also time to start preparing for your next semester!

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In my debut book: The Quick Guide to Classroom Management, I include numerous case studies of teachers who got their time-management all messed up, and paid for it massively! For my next book: Marking and Assessment Strategies, I invited twenty educators from all over the world to offer their advice on time-saving marking tips. One common theme that permeates their advice is the productive use of holidays and break-times, along with with great tips such as ‘live-marking’ and using peer-assessment strategies.

What do you plan do during your next school vacation?

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Take a look at this list. Could you find time for some (or all) of these? 

Top Tips for Time-Saving Teachers: Using your holidays

  1. If possible, find out which classes you will teach next semester. Even if you only know some of them, start planning ahead. Draw up a curriculum map of the topics you will teach and the order you will teach them in. This will save tremendous time at the start of the new semester. You’ll be ahead of the game when everyone else is rushing around trying to figure things out!
  2. Plan your marking! I talk about this extensively in my soon-to-be released book. Examine your syllabuses and long-term planning closely, and cross-reference it with your school’s academic calendar. Look for weeks when paperwork could get new doc 27_3heavy (e.g. around the time when reports need to be written, parent consultations take place and when exams and tests need to be taken). Think about the assignments and homework you will set, and plan ahead so that you spread out your marking evenly over the whole year. This will save you many a future headache!
  3. Read ahead! If you’ll be teaching unfamiliar topics then look them up, and make sure you can do the questions that you’ll set for kids. Subject knowledge acts as a great confidence base that improves and enhances your classroom performance. 
  4. Gather your resources together! The last thing you want to be doing is fumbling around finding PowerPoints, Prezi’s, worksheets, assignments and tasks whilst your on the job, teaching a full timetable! Get prepared now, and enjoy a happy work-life balance when you’re back in school!
  5. Go into school the week before you start an get your printing done! Now, I know that many readers might not like the idea of this. However, when you consider the mad rush for the photocopier that will ensue in your first week back, you can see new doc 27_6how it makes sense to get a head-start. 
  6. Get your life back on track! Have you been skipping your gym classes? Too tired to do your morning run? Get your routine back in order and set your body clock to rise early and retire at a reasonable time. Keep up your new routine, and plan ahead so that you can keep doing it when you’re back at school!

 

Can you add any more items to the list? Please fee free to comment in the box below. 

Have a happy (and productive) holiday!

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Check out Richard’s Pedagogical series of books here:

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Active Engagement Part 3: Use your physiology in unusual ways! #pgce #teachstrong #ukedchat

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An article by Richard James Rogers

Illustrations by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Hello and Happy Sunday! Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, we hope that today has been (or will be) happy and productive for you.

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In this final article in our three part Active Engagement series, we’ll be exploring:

  1. How outstanding teachers can often be rather eccentric by using action and movement to make their lessons fun, compelling and effective
  2. Some simple actions you can take to turn mundane questions such as “Is sodium hydroxide an acid or a base?” into an opportunity for action, movement and full sense-perception

new doc 32_5This article is slightly shorter than the previous two and, as it is the final section for this series, you’ll find a very useful summary at the end. As always, please feel free to share this post with anyone you feel would benefit from it, and please do comment with your own ideas in the comments box at the bottom. 

The following extracts and pictures come from my debut book: The Quick Guide to Classroom Management. Enjoy!

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Here we go!

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Try these simple activities to bring movement and action into your lessons!

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Active Engagement Summary: Make sure you read Part 1 and 2 too!

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Thank you! Please share, bookmark and come back soon!

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