Making Every Lesson Count

I was going to illustrate this blog with a photo of my shelf of books on how to teach real good like a proper teacher should, but I couldn’t stand back far enough to get them all in. They are all going in the bin now, anyway, because I have just finished reading the One Book to Rule Them All – Making Every Lesson Count by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby.

making every lesson count

It should be fairly obvious that a teaching book is only going to be really useful if it is based on principles that you can integrate into your practice and because Allison and Tharby have based their work around two of the books that have most profoundly influenced my teaching recently, Ron Berger’s An Ethic of Excellence and Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset, I found Making Every Lesson Count really helped to extend my thinking on how to improve my practice by implementing these ideas in the classroom.

Obviously, there is a lot to be said about Growth Mindset and the various ways in which it is being understood, or misunderstood in schools at the moment, but the most important take away for me was that I should be doing more to explicitly promote the idea of the struggle state as a positive mentality among my pupils in the pursuit of excellence.

The book is organized around what most teachers would recognize as six of the fundamental pillars of classroom practice: Challenge, Explanation, Modelling, Practice, Feedback and Questioning. What Allison and Tharby. Everything is research-evidenced and backed up with practical examples from the author’s own classroom experience and there is a bullet-pointed planning and reflection tool at the end of the book to act as a reminder on the key strategies to implement into your own lesson planning.

In the past, the problem I’ve found with reading an inspiring book is that you rush off half-cocked and try to shoehorn everything you’ve read into your teaching all at once, with the predictable result that you lose sight of the improvements you want to see in pupils’ learning in a welter of ill thought out initiatives. The beauty of this book for me is that first of all it is building on principles I have already built into my classroom practice from Ron Berger and from Andy Tharby’s own brilliant blog Reflecting English and secondly that the authors are very clear on how to put all the pieces of the teaching and learning jigsaw together. So things that I was already doing like live modelling, and deliberate practice are explained in detail and linked to current research in a way that has helped to refine my thinking on how to use them to underpin my planning.

I’ve chosen three takeaways from the book that I am currently integrating into my planning for the year ahead:

  • Using the SUCCES stickability techniques to make my explanations more memorable.
  • Extending my use of modelling by using feedback mirrors to get pupils to reflect on their work
  • Using Fold It In to build pupil practice into my planning in a more structured way

The beauty of this book is that the ideas suggested not activities or gimmicks but carefully thought out strategies that are linked directly to the core principles of teaching and learning. I am excited about going back into the classroom next week and using them to take my practice up to the next level. As the authors point out early on in the book – growth mindset applies to teachers as well as pupils. Whenever I worry that I may not be a born teacher (and I don’t believe any of us haven’t had those days) I can reflect on the value of my struggle to become one and how helpful this is in understanding how to help my pupils.

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