Outwitting the Devil: Napoleon Hill’s Suggestions for Teachers

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

A few days ago I was strolling through Em Quartier’s sprawling Kinokuniya book store in the heart of Bangkok. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular since I was already reading through three books simultaneously. I was just looking for anything that would catch my eye.

And then, something did.

On my way out of the store, I glanced over at the Special Offers shelf. I saw ‘Napolean Hill’ sprawled over the cover of what looked like a very unusually entitled book: ‘Outwitting the Devil’.


I finished the book in two days. It absolutely amazed me.

From the depths of despair

Napolean Hill sets the scene in his book by describing the recent pain, suffering and dread he was going through. He describes being totally broke after making a number of unwise decisions to leave behind businesses he had started. His interview with the Devil starts at his second peak of total despair in his life – totally out of money, sat in front of the Lincoln monument wondering what to do with his life.

Napolean Hill makes it very clear in his book that he really believes that the Devil came to him at his lowest point and answered his questions.

The entire interview was produced in manuscript form in 1938, but the entire Hill family were so concerned about the way it would be received by the churches, the education system and society as a whole, that they decided to keep it locked away.

The final book was published in 2011, and contains some very radical thoughts on education. Here are the three that resonated with me the most:

1. Reverse the present system by giving children the privilege of leading in their school work instead of following orthodox rules designed only to impart abstract knowledge. Let instructors serve as students and let the students serve as instructors.

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In my article on differentiation, I describe a great technique for getting individual students creatively involved. The technique is talked ‘teen teachers’, and involves getting students to teach a sub-topic or topic every now and again to the whole class. Oftentimes this is done as a revision aid, rather than a way to introduce new knowledge to a class. 

Surely we can’t trust students to teach themselves! 

Or can we? 

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“An AMAZING book! A must-read for all teachers!”

Hill’s Devil seems to imply by this quote that students should be involved in the curriculum design and then decide how to teach it, with the teacher being a stimulator of ideas, facilitator and behaviour manager. 

Thankfully, we are seeing a move in this direction in a number of schools, especially with respect to getting students to be more involved in teaching themselves (the use of instructional software and project based learning for the International Baccalaureate come to mind). However, we’ve yet to see massive strides take place in the area of student-led curriculum design. Is this a good idea? 

Certainly, students would learn tremendously important skills such as collaboration, problem-solving, creative design and leadership qualities; all of which are vital in business and management fields. But how would all of this be assessed? Does it need to be assessed? 

2. Ideas are the beginning of all human achievement. Teach
all students how to recognize practical ideas that may be of benefit in helping them acquire whatever they demand of life.

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The Devil makes the point time and again in the interview that successful people always have definiteness of plan combined with definiteness of purpose. 

When one has goals in mind and works towards those goals every day, ideas naturally come along in the process. These ideas should be written down in some fashion and pondered, say on a weekly basis, to determine which ones are valid and reasonable to implement towards the pursuit of those goals. 

How many students leave school actually knowing this stuff? How many kids have no clue what they want to do with their lives at age 18? 

All too often we quickly suggest that a clueless 18-year-old is just young and inexperienced and it’s perfectly normal and fine to not know where you want to go in life at this age. 

Napoleon Hill disagrees.

He argues that people without goals are ‘drifters’ – shaped by the circumstances they find themselves in rather than shaping those circumstances with their thoughts. 

How much goal setting actually takes place in schools these days? I’m not talking about ‘I’d like to get a grade C in maths’ goals, I’m talking about ambitious, long-term, life-shaping goals that are truly inspirational. 

3. Teach the student the basic motives by which all people are influenced and show how to use these motives in acquiring the necessities and the luxuries of life.

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Since a young age, I’ve wondered why human psychology, conflict resolution, and human relations aren’t taught in any great detail in today’s schools. 

Surely these are vital skills, right? 

What’s more important at the end of 15 years of schooling – knowing how to perform Integration by Parts or understanding how to negotiate with people? 

We hear the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” all the time, but how is this ever reinforced in the education system? 

Hill makes a valid point that knowledge of common courtesy, respect (for yourself and others) and good communication skills form the fabric and fiber of every successful person on the planet. 

Surely our students need to know this, right? 

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Personality Traits of Champion Teachers

An article by Richard James Rogers, author of the award-winning book: The Quick Guide to Classroom Management

Updated September 2021

Illustrated by 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.

Accompanying podcast episode (audio version of this blog post, read by Richard):

Was machst du am Wochende auf?’ – That’s German for ‘What do you do on the weekend?’. 

I haven’t studied German for 20 years, but I still remember the overwhelming majority of the words and phrases I was taught for my GCSE. I was lucky to have a brilliant German teacher. She, like all of my teachers at North Wales’ elite St. Richard Gwyn High School, was a Champion Teacher. Champion teachers like her literally have the power to make the wildest dreams of their students come true. They inspire, they care and don’t give up on you.

making plans

Let’s examine the features that all Champion teachers share. You’ll find that everything on this list is believable and achievable. 

Champion teachers are:

  • Good role models
  • Dedicated and committed to their students
  • Provide good feedback
  • Use a dynamic and effective range of teaching methods
  • Are caring
  • Understand that the world is ‘getting smaller’

Whilst this is not exhaustive (please add any more you can think of in the comments below, on my Facebook page or please tweet to me), it does include the core elements that all Champion Teachers share. Let’s look at each one, one at a time.

Good role models

Champion teachers understand that they are always communicating something about themselves. The way they dress, their tone of voice, their posture, their habits, their cleanliness and even their table manners at lunchtime. They understand that students learn the majority of their behavioural and moral features not from what they hear in a typical classroom, but from the subliminal cues they pick up from their environment on a daily basis.

be enthusiastic

Charlotte was a high school chemistry teacher in a comprehensive school in England. She was also responsible for teaching lower school (KS3) Science. She enjoyed her job but didn’t really like teaching about health and fitness in the biology classes she was required to teach. She always found that the kids were disruptive and even make silly giggles whenever she talked about any topics relating to health. Then, one day, she found out why this was happening.

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She found a note on scrap paper left on a student’s desk. The paper shown a drawing of Charlotte smoking a cigarette in the fume cupboard of her prep room. Then she remembered, a kid had walked in there one lunchtime a couple of years back and had caught her smoking. She went ballistic and told the boy off for walking into the prep room without knocking.

This story reminds me of a key phrase an old colleague of mine once said: “There’s no such thing as an off-duty teacher”.

How can a Science teacher lecture kids about the dangers of smoking when she’s smoking in school? How can the P.E. teacher maintain his credibility when he’s seen scoffing jumbo beef burgers downtown, posting pictures of himself binge drinking with his mates on social media and then turning up to school drained and out of shape?

award

Teachers need to be very careful about the images they portray of themselves to students, parents and the community. Watch out for the following:

  • Turning up late: Be organized and be on time. That counts for lessons, meetings and your required start time for the day. How can we expect our students to be on time if we are not?
  • Looking dirty or shabby: Keep your clothes in good order. Schedule your free time to get them all cleaned, dried and ironed. Shoes should be shiny and/or clean too, and try to wear different clothes each day. You don’t need to break the bank for designer labels – neatness and tidiness are the themes to remember here.  
  • Using foul language: Be particularly careful when talking with colleagues on corridors or open spaces. If kids are walking past and you’re swearing, it doesn’t look good and sets the wrong kind of example.
  • Websites: Be careful what you look at on your mobile device or computer whilst in school. Students can suddenly turn up behind you and see what you’re doing. If it’s something that you wouldn’t want a student to see, then don’t view it.
always learn

Dedicated and committed to their students

What’s your aim when you go into school? Is it to just to ‘get through the day’ or is it to inspire your students?

Champion Teachers always start their day the right way. I wrote a blog post about effective morning routines for teachers a while back,  but basically the idea is simple – set yourself up to win each morning. 

My German teacher had lots of energy. She would even give up lunchtimes to help me with my speaking practice. My maths teacher would also give up her free time to help me with my questions and problems. Are you willing to do that?

Keep the success and wellbeing of your students your primary focus at all times and watch success and fulfillment magically come your way. 

Provide good feedback

Feedback is one of the major cornerstones of success in education. In fact, John Hattie, the eminent Professor of Education at the University of Melbourne puts it this way:

The greater the challenge, the higher the probability that one seeks and needs feedback, but the more important it is that there is a teacher to provide feedback and to ensure that the learner is on the right path to successfully meet the challenges.

I wrote a lengthy blog post about the details of effective feedback here. However, the basics really are common sense:

  • Students should always get their work back
  • Students should know how they did, what went wrong, and how to improve their work
  • Students should always be given the opportunity to improve their work
  • A variety of assessment methods should be used (see my blog post here)
  • Progress should be measured
  • Assessment should be used to inform teaching (if students have not understood any content, then you need to plan ways to address that).

Use a dynamic and effective range of teaching methods

This would require a whole book in itself to talk about (and I highly recommend my debut book, The Quick Guide to Classroom Management, if you want a series of great tips and ‘teachniques‘ to enhance your teaching). 

In essence, it all boils down to variety. Are you providing enough variety of tasks, activities, and challenges each lesson to engage your students? 

You don’t need flashy technology or special skills to do this. Try implementing some simple learning games, use a greater variety of worksheets, tasks, and questions and try using model building, experimentation and practical activities in your classes. 

Find out what works for your colleagues. Join online communities such as Facebook groups and get the ideas flowing!

Are caring

I was a very shy and sensitive little boy when I was 11 years old. I was bullied too, and I would always go and see my Head of Year for help when things got too tense. He always had a sympathetic ear and always had time for me.

I cringe when I look back at how childish I was back in Year 7. One snowy day I walked onto the playground and tried to join in the fun of throwing snowballs. Stupidly I went to the bottom of a grass verge and tried to throw snowballs uphill. I bet you know what happened next. 

A flurry of icy cold pellets of snow hit my face and body. A whole army of school kids turned on me and I was covered in snow. It dripped down my back, my face hurt, my ears rang. I started to cry.

I immediately went to my Head of Year’s office and he was very sympathetic. He said ‘Oh Richard, what’s happened?” and he put his hands over my ears to warm them up. He sent me on my way.

Looking back, all I really needed that day was assurance that someone in this world cared about me. The sympathy of my Head of Year was enough to stabilize to my mood and keep me going that day. 

Kids go through all kinds of problems when they are in school. Be sympathetic. Understand what it’s like to be kid vying for attention, popularity and parental approval. Consider that you may not know everything that’s going on in a person’s life, even if he or she is your student. 

instructional software

Understand that the world is ‘getting smaller’

This is one area of danger that teachers can unwittingly walk into.

Call it the Big Brother society if you like, but no one can deny that we are under more surveillance than ever before. I’m not condoning or agreeing with the way that everyone’s lives are open for all and sundry to see, but it is an important consideration that wasn’t a problem a few decades ago. 

John was a high school Geography teacher who loved to play in a band. He had his own YouTube channel and was growing in popularity throughout the underground clubbing scene in Los Angeles. He released a new video.

In this video, there was swearing and scenes of him drinking beer and waking up semi-conscious. Covered in tattoos with spiky hair to match, he looked like the pop-culture rebel many were waiting for.

His principal didn’t think so.

He was called into a meeting after a number of parents had complained, and a number of students had even commented on his video. He was asked to resign, with immediate effect.

The moral of the story – if you’re going to be a teacher, then you must present yourself in a positive way online as well as in person. Jim Rohn, the legendary father of personal development coaching (Tony Robbins’ coach), puts it this way:

Make sure your behaviour is acceptable to the marketplace

Conclusion

Champion Teachers understand that there is no such thing as an ‘off-duty teacher’. They care about their students, no matter who they are, and they behave in ways which are acceptable to the marketplace. They are dedicated, constantly review their methods and are not afraid to keep up to date with effective pedagogy.

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The Top 7 Stategies for Efficient Lesson Planning

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati

It was a warm September Sunday evening back in 2006. I was in my second week of my first teacher-training placement for my PGCE. My mentor wanted all of my lesson plans, as full A4 rubrics filled to the brim with activities, learning outcomes and all manner of wonderful musings. I was in hell right now.                             

Chapter 7 - sending emails
The smile on a trainee teacher’s face as she sends her weekly lesson plans to her mentor

Back then I was required to plan my lessons in a certain way. It was difficult – it took up lots of time, required multiple discussions with many people (including the subject teachers who would observe me) and often involved re-drafting multiple times before a perfect plan was complete. Was it a waste of my time? Looking back, I can honestly say NO! It was worth it. I was completely inexperienced back then. I made many, many blunders. The year of hell that was my PGCE was exactly that  – my baptism by fire. It forged me into a capable teacher, albeit still with much to learn.

Quick advice for PGCE students or trainee teachers

If you’re going through the same hell that I went through, then keep going! There is light at the end of the tunnel (and it’s not an oncoming train). When I passed my PGCE and started teaching for real, I knew what that year of pain was all about – getting me ready. It was so nice to be finally trusted to teach classes on my own, without being observed every single lesson.

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Listen and learn, even if it’s unbearable

Listen to your mentors and tutors. Do what they say. Don’t argue with them. Listen to feedback, however negative, and genuinely ask for help and solutions. Act on the advice you are given. Regardless of how many mistakes you make (and you’ll make many), you’ll be widely admired if you can accept your blunders, seek counsel and try your best to make progress. 

Efficient Lesson Planning for Schools and Teachers

I was honouredto feature in this week’s UKEd Podcast from UKEdChat.com. I appeared alongside a number of guests, and we all vehemently agreed that lesson planning is a vital component of effective teaching. You simply can’t do this job properly if you skip the planning stage. In fact, it’s so important that I even dedicated a whole chapter to planning in my debut book: The Quick Guide to Classroom Management. 

But does it need to take ages and ages? Should it be a chore? Absolutely not!

Strategy #1: Plan in a way that works for you personally

This is a message for schools as much as it is for teachers. When a particular method of planning is forced upon a team of teachers, such as filling in a rubric on paper or online, the whole process can become burdensome and unenjoyable. This is cause for regret.

walking-around-wt-laptop
Lesson planning should be enjoyable. Find a method that works for you personally.

The methods of lesson planning that I use personally have changed and evolved over the course of my career, just as I have changed and evolved too. The methods I use work for me, and that allows me to express myself in the best and most natural way possible.

When teachers do not have the freedom to plan their lessons in their own way, their creativity and self-expression become stifled in the process. Whilst a lesson-planning rubric may be essential for a trainee teacher, schools should not aim to enforce rigorous planning strategies on their entire teaching team. This serves no purpose except to reinforce authority, which can cause resentment.

Quick-Guide

Now, here’s a funny question: Do you enjoy lesson planning? Most teachers would say ‘Are you kidding?’. However, I can honestly say that I do love the process of planning. 

Every Sunday morning I get up nice and early and read over my plans for the week just passed. This allows me to review what worked well and what needs improving, and where to go next. Then, I pen in my plans for the whole week ahead. I personally use this planner from Teacher Created Resources, as it has a nice clear layout and allows me to make special notes for each week (such as house points and homework deadlines). I also like using the TEEP Learning Cycle. There are a number of colourful, teacher-friendly planners available from places like Amazon, which really help to make the lesson planning process fun.

And lesson planning should be fun. If it isn’t fun for you, then something needs tochange.

Strategy Number 2: Always get a quick starter activity ready

You’ll often find that there are many great workbooks full of activities and worksheets published and ready for you to use. A small investment of money in resources like this can save you loads of time that you may have spent making resources from scratch. 

Clay class
Engage your students from the very beginning with a quick starter activity

Strategy #3: Always include a quick plenary

This can be as simple as getting the students to stand at the front of the class and do some quick-fire questioning, playing a learning game or even getting groups of students to verbalise their own summary. 

card games

Strategy #4: Keep your plans and reuse them year after year

There’s no point in reinventing the wheel. Keep your planners safe and organised and use them again and again when you teach the same or similar content. Modify as you go along. 

Surprisingly, very few teachers do this.

Strategy #5: Look online for Schemes of Work, Programmes of Study and lesson plans that other people have created

You’ll be surprised at the wealth of information available. I’ve personally done this many times in the past. A quick search on a search engine can pull up many documents that you can use, modify and change to suit your own lesson planning.

Why do everything from scratch if a lot of stuff has been done for you? It makes no sense to me. 

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Strategy #6: Use published Schemes of Work to assist you

All examination boards produce Course Guides or syllabuses, and some will even provide Schemes of Work. Use the content from these to inform your lesson planning, particularly if you’re filling in an ‘Objectives’ or ‘Learning Outcomes’ section. You’ll often find that those objectives and learning outcomes are published in the Course Guide, syllabus or the exam board Scheme of Work already.

Strategy #7: Take a long-term view

This is so vital! 

If you teach students who will take exams in May, for example, then you should know which exact topics you’ll need to cover each month in order to give you enough time to do revision and get the students ready for their exams on time.

Conclusion

  • Lesson planning is an essential component of effective teaching
  • It shouldn’t be a chore. It should be enjoyable.
  • Use what works for you. Try out some of the lovely planners available on places like Amazon.
  • Start each lesson with a quick starter activity. Build this into your planning every time.
  • Always include a quick plenary for each lesson
  • Look after your planners and plans. Reuse them, modify them and adapt them as each year passes.
  • Look for lesson plans online. You’ll be surprised at what you find!
  • Use the Schemes of Work, Course Guides and syllabuses published by your school’s exam board to help you articulate your personal plans.
  • Take a long-term view. How many topics can you realistically cover in one month? Check your academic calendar for any events that might scupper your plans and interfere with your lessons!

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The Starbucks Protocol: Designing a Nurturing Classroom

An article by Richard James Rogers

Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati

It was a sunny June morning when they paraded us in. Beams of sunlight hit the aged oak of the tabletops, and colours of all varieties jumped out of happy childrens doodles that were covering the walls. Eyes glared at me through glass jars, as rainbows danced on an LED circuit board. I was in heaven.

Too many of us shade our childhood in the greys and gloom of ‘bad experiences’. I know I had my fair share of those, like we all did. But I was lucky, very lucky. I was 11 years old and being shown around the Science labs of my new high school: St. Richard Gwyn High School, Flint. It was magical – that’s the only way to describe it. This was the best school in the history of all schools ever created.

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How many of your students feel enchanted when they enter class? That’s how they should feel – like this is magic. I call it the ‘Starbucks Protocol’, for practical reasons. Let’s examine why.

Ensorcelled 

I am writing this blog post in my favorite place I like to go in my free time. As bland and as staple as some may think, I’m at Starbucks in Chongqing, China. This is the perfect place for me to work and be inspired whilst I work. But why?

Teachers and schools can learn a lot from Starbucks. Despite their beverages being priced slightly towards the higher end of the market, every single branch I’ve been to around the world attracts crowds in their multitudes. People love coming here. The demographics of the local population don’t seem to matter. People flock to their favourite place to relax and enjoy a caramel macchiato, a flat white with low sugar or their preferred speciality beverage. It’s personal to them. They connect with this space. It’s part of their identity. It’s woven into the fabric of their memories.

Starbucks Banan Wanda Plaza
A photo I took of my local Starbucks at Banan Wanda Plaza, Chongqing, China, at opening time on a Sunday morning. A beautiful and inviting workspace, from which teachers and schools can learn so much.

Starbucks offers an enchanting and practical environment for its guests. In my humble opinion, I believe this is due to the following parameters, which can all be applied to an educational setting:

  1. Staff always know your name, remember your preferences and are friendly and happy
  2. The physical space is clean, uncluttered, varied and attractive
  3. Resources are freely and abundantly available (tissue, sugar, milk, stirrers and paper cups in the case of Starbucks)
  4. The opportunity to further your association with the brand is available through merchandise and products such as cups, coffees to take home and even water bottles and tins of tea
  5. The environment is conducive to working as well as being a place to relax. Sockets to plug into are numerous, and wifi and workspace is usually abundant and suitable
  6. Space is bright and well-lit
  7. Promotions and special events happen regularly, allowing guests to gain more for their money – both in terms of products and experiences.
  8. Products are tailor-made to the guests’ preference. If they want no sugar, low sugar, extra whipped cream, a medium-size or even a mixed-blend, it’s no problem
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I believe the secret to amazing educational experiences that magically and profoundly enchant and embrace wonder in our students has been hidden under our noses for a number of decades. I suggest that the Starbucks Protocol is this secret.

1. Staff always know your name, remember your preferences, are friendly and happy 

It’s amazing and staggering the number of teachers who don’t fully know their students. When teachers do not show a genuine interest in the whole life of their students, they are not able to fully engage with them and build trust, which allows for a comfortable learning experience.

At Starbucks, staff are specially trained to remember their customers’ names, and to engage in conversation with them. Staff become your friends, and they always remember your beverage preferences if you’re a regular customer. I believe this to be a major factor in the genius and global success of Starbucks.

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The first chapter in my debut book deals with the issue of student rapport – the professional relationship that is the foundational groundwork of all good teaching. Nothing else works in education without good teacher-student rapport, just like a cup of coffee at Starbucks would be most unpleasant if the baristas were grumpy and aggressive.  I write a guest blog about building student rapport at The Cornerstone for Teachers site here. An important extract is given below:

#1 Take a genuine interest in the ‘whole life’ of your students

Charlene was an experienced and well-liked teacher of secondary science. She got on very well with her students, and parents would often mention that they appreciated her ‘special attention’ to their children. She was liked by her colleagues, and she enjoyed her work. One day, her physics student came to school with a broken arm in a plaster cast. John, a keen gymnast, mentioned that he had fallen very hard in a training session two days ago. Charlene immediately knew that this was golden information for her lesson planning.

In John’s next physics lesson, Charlene was teaching the class about forces and motion. As John entered the class, she presented him with a starter activity revolving around the forces that act upon a gymnast when taking off and landing on a springboard. She also asked John how he was doing (and she was sincere in asking). He said he was healing well, and Ms. Charlene mentioned that, “We can use your experience to help the class today, would that be okay?” John said sure.

After completing and peer assessing the starter worksheet, Ms. Charlene asked John to tell the class what had happened to his arm. He gladly told his story, and Ms. Charlene asked for everyone to clap after he had finished. Using humor and good teaching practice, she said, “So using John’s story to help you, what do you think one of today’s objectives could be?”

One student mentioned a funny comment about how you should always land on your feet and not on your arm like John did, which Ms. Charlene responded to with a smile and a giggle. After this, and with some prompting from their teacher, some students spoke about the importance of gravity in determining the force upon impact, and the speed of free fall. At the end of a very interesting and varied lesson, Charlene allowed her students the opportunity to sign John’s plaster cast, if they hadn’t done so already.

Let’s examine what Charlene did that made this lesson (and her rapport/relationship with students) so special:

  • used the hobby of her student to generate a lesson activity (the starter worksheet)
  • showed a sincere care and concern for her student
  • was genuinely interested in the whole life of her student (as she was with all of her students)
  • used student ‘expertise’ to enhance the lesson content (she asks John to talk to the class about what had happened)
  • was tasteful in her humor, and made sure that John is happy to share his story before she asks him to do so.
  • rewarded the class for their good work by allowing them a few minutes at the end to sign John’s plaster cast; not only did this subtly reveal her caring and ‘human’ nature, but it also bonded the class together as a whole

So follow the Starbucks Protocol and take a genuine interest in your students – their learning preferences, their hobbies, their ambitions and their abilities. You will immediately see an enormous transformation in your professional relationships with them.

2. The physical space is clean, uncluttered, varied and attractive 

Various studies have shown that colorful. attractive and uncluttered learning spaces have an enormous impact on the willingness of children and young adults to engage in the learning process.

What does your classroom look like? Is it a place where kids want to be? How often do you change your displays? Does fresh content go up on your display boards regularly?

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Consider the following upgrades you could make to your classroom:

  1. Put good student work on display for all to see. This motivates the students who did the work, as well as providing a benchmark for others by association. You can often use this work as exemplar material when setting similar projects in other topics too.
  2. Keep all resources (e.g. scissors, pens, coloring pencils) in one part of the room so that they are easily accessible and tidy
  3. Get your students to tidy up their workspace at the end of each lesson, or before each break time. Clutter can be created throughout the day through loose pieces of paper, litter, pencil sharpenings and poorly stored textbooks. This can be a particular problem in the high school.

Starbucks branches are always clean, tidy and fresh. That’s because staff regularly go around to clean up and tidy, and because litter disposal is easy for customers too. Displays are changed regularly (particularly displays of products and promotional material), and many Starbucks branches will even be specially decorated on special events like Christmas and Halloween. Resources are freely and abundantly available (tissue, sugar, milk, stirrers and paper cups in the case of Starbucks).

3. Resources are freely and abundantly available (tissue, sugar, milk, stirrers and paper cups in the case of Starbucks)

Do you want to know the best way to create disruption and bad behavior in a lesson? It’s easy: set your kids a task, and then make it difficult for them to get the basic resources they need to complete the task. Many teachers will blame the poor behaviour on the kids in this scenario, when it was actually lack of planning on the teacher’s part that created it. 

One of my favourite stories I tell is from when I was an NQT in the UK way back in 2008. I was asked to cover a lesson for an absent teacher, and the class I was covering was notorious for bad behaviour.

I booked the computer lab, and the kids worked brilliantly. No problems at all, but one thing concerned me. The students were working on their GCSE Science coursework. Over the previous few weeks, they had completed some written work on paper, which was rather messily kept in a tray in an unorganised way by the previous teacher. I later learned that students would start being disruptive when they were searching for scraps of their work from this tray, and complaining that pieces of paper were missing. No wonder they were playing up – it was difficult for them to find the work they’d been working on.

Later that day I organized their coursework into a folder, with each student’s name on a plastic wallet. The result – teacher’s were telling me in the ensuing weeks that the kids had calmed down a lot because of my simple act of organizing their work so that they could find it easily.

It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? How often do you get frustrated when you can’t find your keys, wallet or phone? I know it drives me mad at times. Think about this when organizing your learning space and resources for your students. Are essential items, such as scissors, paper, pens and pencils organised and ready in the classroom for kids to use?

4. The opportunity to further your association with the brand is available through merchandise and products such as cups, coffees to take home and even water bottles and tins of tea

I love this about Starbucks. They offer so many great products that are really collectible and special. Take this special Chongqing mug, for example:

Chongqing Mug.jpg

So how do we use the Starbucks Protocol to create collectible and special experiences for our students that allow them to further their association with the subject we are teaching? Normally this is achieved through exploration.

Is your classroom set up well for exploration? Can groups of students easily work together on a project, such as model building or poster making? Does the opportunity exist for students to take home their ‘merchandise’ (the things they’ve created in class)?

Don’t be afraid of rearranging your desks and tables to make them more conducive to special activities. Even in a Science lab, I have rearranged the space to allow for drama, movie making, experiments and even relay games and competitions. All of these experiences enrich student learning and allow them to take home a great association with the subject. Consider ways in which your students can take home physical items too, such as models they’ve built, movies they’ve made or even project folders they’ve created. They’ll look back these items regularly and feel more connected with the experience, and the subject – another key to the genius of Starbucks.

5. The environment is conducive to working as well as being a place to relax. Sockets to plug into are numerous, and wifi and workspace is usually abundant and suitable.

Are your students hunched up together with no room to move or do they have plenty of space? Do you book technology in advance, such as tablets and laptops, so that students can effectively engage in the learning process? Are your desks clean and tidy, or covered in graffiti?

Starbucks have mastered the art of creating effective workspace. It’s easy for me to get out my laptop and plug-in, as well as listen to music and charge my phone at the same time. In fact, very few other coffee shop chains can offer such amazing facilities, which is why they are not so popular.

6. Space is bright and well-lit

Have you ever noticed how a rainy day affects your students? You’ll often find they are less engaged on a cloudy afternoon when the pitter-patter of raindrops fall. Poor lighting can even make students lethargic, resulting in lack of focus.

Art class

Every Starbucks branch I’ve been to around the world is well-lit. Light creates happiness, and many branches have very large windows because natural light is the best at creating alertness and happiness in the moment.

Happy students learn better than unhappy ones, and the simple process of letting the sunlight come into your classroom (as long as it’s not too bright) can have an amazing, transformative effect on the mood of your students.

Put all of your classroom lights on on gloomy days, and let the sunlight in where possible. Keep the learning space bright and fresh, and watch your students become more focussed.

7. Promotions and special events happen regularly, allowing guests to gain more for their money – both in terms of products and experiences.

Are you just following the predecessors of your curriculum and going through the motions, or are you being innovative with your space?

Only two weeks ago I was teaching a group of 12-year-olds olds about weathering and erosion. I could have used my classroom space in a traditional way – by showing a PowerPoint or letting the kids do some web research when sat down at laptops. However, I decided to move all of the tables and chairs into the middle of the room, and my students became ‘living rocks’ and moved around the room in different stages, effectively modeling the process with their bodies.

High five

This kind of variety can really serve to lighten things up mentally for the kids. Starbucks understands the power of variety, which is why they often host coffee tasting parties, change their products and services to match different seasons and key events, and even change their furniture around from time to time to create freshness. It works well, as people know that they are always getting a unique experience whenever they go along.

8. Products are tailor-made to the guests’ preference. If they want no sugar, low sugar, extra whipped cream, a medium-size or even a mixed-blend, it’s no problem

How often do you use your class environment to tailor-make the learning resources to meet the needs of your students?

In pedagogy, we call this ‘differentiation’. There are many ways in which we can differentiate our teaching (see my earlier blog post here), but one way in which we can manipulate the classroom environment to do this is through ‘styles tables’ and ‘what’s in the box’ activities. I did a YouTube video about this, which is given below. Extracts from that differentiation blog post that pertain to manipulating the physical environment of the classroom are given below the video.

Learning Style Tables:This is such a great activity for engaging a wide variety of learners. The idea is that you produce the same information or lesson instructions via pictures, audio, in writing or in clues that need to be solved or through some some other style, such as tablet PCs linked to online simulations. Students can go to the table that best suits their learning style or you can direct themto one. This takes some preparation but its well worth it.

What’s in the Box? Have a ‘help box’ at the front of the class or place one on each table. Put tips, pictures, word glossaries or advice inside. Students use the box as and when they feel they need more help.

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The Top Five Accelerated Learning Techniques Every Teacher Needs to Know

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Accelerated Learning refers to a series of simple techniques that any teacher can incorporate into any lesson to ensure that a maximum amount of learning takes place. It works on the premise that time spent in class must be efficiently used, implying that sound lesson planning forms the foundational framework.

Singing class

Let’s take a look at five simple, but highly effective techniques you can use to accelerate learning.

Technique Number 1: Practice and Application

A lecture or talk is usually not enough to make content stick. Students need to know how to use it in order to understand it. 

In short, this means that students need to complete lots of questions or tasks on the content and, crucially, receive feedback on their work.

Art class

Most school textbooks have cottoned-on to this by providing lots of questions within the pages themselves. However, you should look into extra ways to supplement these in-text questions with workbooks, past-paper questions, worksheets, puzzles, and games. On top of creating and keeping my own resources, I personally source extra materials from the following places:

  1. Workbooks: Letts, CGP, and Barron’s provide amazing workbooks which goalongside many American and British school courses.
  2. Past paper questions: Your exam board will be able to provide these for you. At the moment I’m teaching CIE courses and past papers are available on their teacher-support site. I often group these past-paper questions by topic, and many courses like the IBDP even provide easy-to-use question banks. 
  3. Worksheets, puzzles, and games: The TES and UKEdChat are great places to go for these. You can even sell some resources you’ve made on TES too. For games, I like to use my personal choice of seven, which are very effective. 

it integrated

Technique Number 2: Break Content Down into Achievable Goals

It was the famous Anthony Robbins himself who said that “If it’s believable, it’s achievable”. Students need to know where they are going, and how they are going to get there. Break down their progression into a series of simple, believable stages, or targets, that they must achieve. 

self-assessment

Use level ladders, progression charts, and even your own tailor-made tables. These can be stuck into student notebooks so that they constantly have a reference guide. Also, use student self-assessment checklists regularly so they can assess their own progress. An teacher example is given below. You would probably adjust this for students to make it more encouraging:

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Technique Number 3: Use the 80:20 Principle

Have you ever heard of the Pareto principle? It’s a golden rule that says that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your work. It’s used widely in business (80% of sales, for example, coming from 20% of marketing campaigns).

The Pareto principle can be applied to anything.

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In English, 20% of words make up 80% of written scripts. In music, 20% of chord progressions make up 80% of all pop songs. Accelerated learning requires that you focus on the vital 20% and avoid wasting time on the less vital 80% of the task.

Try breaking your subject down into the vital 20% of skills and knowledge students will need, and practice these regularly. To do that, you’ll need to know what the 20% is, to begin with. You’ll need to scour through your syllabuses and Course Guides, use your own knowledge and experience, and experimentation. 

Apply the Pareto principle to all of your teachings, from foreign language vocabulary to cookery, and your students will learn faster than ever.

Technique Number 4: Block Out Distractions

I once gave a stern lecture to the entire final year cohort of a previous school. I had noticed that many of the students were getting distracted by the internet, chat, apps, gaming and smartphones. Some parents were complaining that their children were not getting enough sleep because they were staying up too late chatting through Skype with their friends.

Block building

It’s really important to educate students on the dangers of distractions. Technology can be a transformational tool in the learning process, but it can also be a dramatic procrastination tool. Watch your students closely when they are using technology in the classroom, and constantly create an atmosphere of urgency – that things must be done quickly and on-time. 

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Technique Number 5: Teach Students How to Revise

Too often we assume that students already know how to revise properly for exams, and many receive no formal education on the process of learning itself.

This is cause for regret.

Hold special study skills classes with your students as the terminal exams approach, perhaps through some kind of school mentoring program. Teach your students about mind-mapping, cue-cards, recording audio notes and other revision techniques. This Guardian article offers a great place to start. 

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Encouraging Creativity in the Classroom: Essential Tips for Teachers

An article by Richard James Rogers

Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Fostering creativity in the classroom is more important now than ever before. In fact, Ofsted’s own inspection handbook for schools states, under section 133, that the spiritual development of students is shown by their “use of imagination and creativity in their learning.” I talk about the importance and excitement of encouraging creativity in the classroom, along with some practical tips, in this week’s UKEdChat podcast here.

Clay class
Allowing students to ‘build’ something is a great way to encourage creativity

As service-based and online businesses become more numerous, the need for effective skills in marketing, social media marketing, branding and sales in the workforce will naturally increase too. In addition, the need to solve problems in a new ‘robotic era’ places increased demands on new graduates to be creative thinkers. And that’s one thing robots cannot replace: Human creativity and ingenuity.

Pop: A True Story of Creative Genius

Pop
Pop: The Best Illustrator in the World!

When I reflect on my 12 years of teaching experience, one very obvious example of the benefits of encouraging creativity in school comes to mind.

Back in 2008, Sutthiya Lertyongphati (or ‘Pop’, for short), was my IGCSE Chemistry student at Traill International School. She was always very hard working in Chemistry – considered to be a left-brain, analytical subject; but at the same time, she was also very artistic and creative. She would spend lots and lots of time making beautiful, elaborate drawings in her notes. Take a look at these beautiful Chemistry notes of hers, from way back when she was 16, for example:

2 MARCH

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21 MARCH

When Pop left school after finishing her ‘A’ – Levels, she went on to study Electronic and Computer Engineering at the University of Nottingham. During her third year, back in 2015, I was busy writing my debut book, The Quick Guide to Classroom Management. I needed someone to illustrate my book in a way that would catch the excitement, childish wonder and essence of different parts of the text. Images needed to be attractive and stimulating, so that readers would not only learn from my book but enjoy it too.

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So who do you think was the first person to come to mind? The amazing and wonderful student who created those beautiful chemistry notes all those years ago of course: Pop.

Pop agreed to illustrate my book, along with another very creative former student of mine, and Pop’s friend, Khim Pisessith. Just look at these beautiful images they created, now enjoyed by thousands of readers all over the world:

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Pop and Khim’s beautiful images were well-received by the readers of the book, who described it as “beautifully illustrated” and “Playfully decorated with tactful drawings that really bring the techniques into context”.

I was so honored and thankful for Pop and Khim’s work, and so happy that I could actually show my readers that my 45 secrets to classroom management actually worked. Pop and Khim were both very hard-working students and were a living testament to what effects personal determination, a nurturing school environment (and Traill International School is certainly that!) and good parental guidance can have on the outcomes of students’ lives.

I’ve been teaching long enough to now to be able to see the end result. I’m still in touch with many of my first students I taught back in 2006 in the UK, and I’m proud to say that they are now all mature, professional, inspiring young men and women in their early to mid-twenties. I see the output that results from encouraging students to fully express themselves through their schoolwork by being creative, and the results are always profound and positive, even after decades have passed.

Pop: The Greatest Illustrator in the World

As well as working full time and doing a regular day job, Pop is now my regular illustrator and a key factor in the success of this well-loved blog you’re reading now. Most notably, she drew up the plans for the 7 Starter activities blog, which is my most popular article ever. The beautiful images on creativity that color today’s article were also created by her.

Who else could I assign this role too? Pop has her own unique style of expressing herself through her art, which my readers absolutely love. Additionally, having known her many years, I know that she is determined and trustworthy. Her reputation speaks for itself.

Creating the Pops of this world

So, how do regular teachers create more Pops – students who are successful, creative, confident and turn out well in life. Well, one of the main ways is to encourage exploration, which is really just another word for creativity. Here are my top tips for encouraging creativity in the classroom:

  1. Get the students to decide on the success criteria or output. Once your learning objectives have been made clear to the students, (e.g. Describe the stages of cell division), ask them to decide how they can show you what they have learned. Students are nearly always very creative with this kind of task, and Pop always loved using her creative juices with this kind of work in class.

    Singing class
    Song is just one way through which students can creatively express themselves

    To assist, you can even give them the world-renowned Osborne-Parnes model to work with, which has six stages:

  • Mass-finding: Identify a goal or objective
  • Fact-finding: Gathering data
  • Problem-finding: Clarifying the problem
  • Idea-finding: Generating ideas
  • Solution-finding: Strengthening and evaluating ideas
  • Acceptance-finding: Plan of action for implementing ideas

If you’re doing group work with the kids then you could assign these stages to different students in each group. And that’s another point to remember about creativity: it tends to be fostered brilliantly in groups, especially when a technological output is required. I’ll never forget when I asked my IBDP Biology students to create a summary of DNA replication using technology. One group produced a website, one produced a stop-motion animation, one produced a Prezi and one produced a really funny song about the process. Try using the age-old differentiation technique of heterogeneous grouping: that is to make sure that each group contains a real mix of abilities and skill sets. Doing this, you’ll find yourself rather surprised at the quality and creativity of each group’s output.

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Art is not just for art class. Students can express any concept through art.

Also, try using the technique of Student Teachers. This is one of my all-time favorites. In this activity, you give students responsibility for teaching part of a lesson. You’ll need to give basic instructions regarding the topic, the length of time and essential points to cover. Leave the structure and delivery to them – students are nearly always incredibly creative with this!

Try this list

Allow students to express themselves and the output of a task through:

  • Model building
  • Song
  • Dance
  • Drama
  • Art (e.g. posters, infographics, news reports)
  • Technology (e,g, creating movies, computer games, simulations, Prezi’s)
  • Games such as ‘splat’, ‘mystery word’ and ‘who am I’
  • Puzzle making 
  • Storyboards
  • Journals
  • Nature (e.g. bringing plants or animals to school to act as analogies)
  • Displays (Such as Science fairs and posters)
  • Music
  • Practical experimentation and investigative design 

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Outdoor Learning: Practical Ideas That Every Teacher Must Know

An article by Richard James Rogers

Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati and Khim Pisessith

It was a cold December night at Kinmel Park Training Camp. I was all done up in  camouflage: sticks and twigs even stuck out of my epaulettes. It was pitch black, and my seniors had L.S.W. rifles pointed diligently in the perceived direction of the enemy. A helicopter flew overhead. I really felt like I was a soldier, even though I was only a 13 year old Army Cadet recruit. This was awesome!

Army cadet
One of my first experiences as a teacher: A 14-year old Lance Corporal instructor in the Army Cadets

I was really fortunate to have a childhood that literally depended on the outdoor environment. I grew up in the town of Flint, North Wales: A place that’s surrounded with some of the most amazing countryside in the world. As a kid, I would roll down the old moat like a sausage at Flint Castle and I’d go walking and running in the mountains, forests and on the beaches that literally surround this ancient town. I wasn’t afraid to get dirty either – riding my mountain bike down Cornist Hall hill and tumbling over in the mud, building dams in streams and digging holes to bury toy soldiers. All of this was a normal part of my childhood, and I loved it. It toughened me up and taught me skills that I’d use later in life when I would live in big cities like Bangkok and Chongqing.

Joining the Army Cadets really changed my life, and I don’t think I’d be here writing this blog post as a seasoned educator now if I hadn’t have joined. What did the Army Cadets give me? That’s easy to recall: Confidence in my abilities (tons of it), the best friends in the world, a mentality of pushing through when life gets tough and a sense that being a layabout was never a good, or satisfying, way to live one’s life. I would never have been adventurous enough to leave the comfortable climes of North Wales and work abroad, for example, if it wasn’t for the tenacious spirit that the Army Cadets instilled in me.

I was lucky, and I talk about my childhood experiences with the outdoor environment in this amazing UKEdChat podcast about Outdoor Learning (highly recommended) at 30:06 here:

The modern problem

Continent Investigation

With increasing urbanization happening globally, many schoolchildren these days are not lucky enough to have the intense outdoor immersion that I had as a child. However, there are multiple, daily opportunities for outdoor learning that teachers can work into into their lessons that we will explore now. 

The misconception

In my opinion, Outdoor Learning doesn’t just have to be achieved through a field trip, residential or a visit to a special place. Outdoor learning can happen within the immediate environment of the school, and this can be worked into many curriculum areas. Let’s explore some practical strategies.

#1 Use the school’s plants and foliage

Even in the most built up of environments, schools will have some plants on site. I once worked at a school in Bangkok that had an astro-turf football pitch (so no grass) and the only accessible outdoor plants were some climbers on a back wall.

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“An AMAZING book! Essential reading for all teachers!”

But at least it was something.

A funny thing happened one day at that school. I was teaching my Year 9 students about biodiversity and we all went down to those creeper plants with pooters and sweep nets. I thought we wouldn’t find anything, but to my amazement the students collected loads of crickets! I was befuddled, but rather pleased at the same time! We took them back to class and took a look at them.

I later learned that day that my Science colleague had been using crickets in his lab the lesson before, and had just released them onto those creepers minutes before my kids came down swinging their sweep nets! Poor crickets – they’d been prodded and poked and released and recaptured and prodded and poked some more! We had a good laugh about it that afternoon!

This short story teaches us that there are always benefits to using the school’s plant life, even if it’s skimpy. You never know what might come of it, even if a weird coincidence like the one just mentioned doesn’t happen. In addition, students will learn to appreciate their school environment even more than they did before. 

#2 Make use of the unexpected

You never know what might happen, but when it does happen, use it!

A classic example was at another school I worked at in Bangkok when a snake slithered into the grounds! It was long and green and had a fat part in the middle: as though it had just eaten a rat. What a memorable experience! It’s a shame my school didn’t use this fully. Just think what could have been achieved:

  1. Photos of the snake could have been taken and sent to all teachers
  2. Teachers could show the students the photo and link it to curriculum areas.Attributes
  3. For example – The serpent in the garden that tempted Eve (Religious Education), an analysis of this snake species and it’s global distribution (Biology and Geography), adjectives used to describe this snake, such as ‘slithering’, ‘creeping’, ‘demonic’ and ‘scaly’ (English language). 
  4. After the snake had been captured by the professionals who were sent in, it could have been contained in a glass tank and students could be allowed to visit the snake safely for a few days before it was taken to it’s new home. Great for primary kids!

Where were you when 9/11 happened? I bet you remember –  of course you do (if you were alive and conscious then). Unexpected events etch their engravings deep into the subconscious memory, allowing recall to take place decades after the event has happened. Surely, then, it is foolish not to make the most of the unexpected, if safe and practical to do so. 

#3 – Outdoor Learning is not just for Science teachers

As we’ve already seen, many curriculum areas can be supported in the outdoor school environment. 

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Are you teaching IGCSE German? Take a walk around the school and get your students to identify key items, such as leaves, bricks, walls, grass and trees, in German. Maybe you’re teaching a History lesson about Offa’s Dyke path – why not get your kids to build a mini-dyke on the school field? How about mathematics? – Well geometry and shapes burst to life in both the built and natural environments.

In short, there are always ways to use the school environment in your subject area. Build opportunities into your Schemes of Work and planning documents, book spaces in advance (e.g. the school field) to avoid clashes and be creative!

#4 Your school environment provides space

Many of the learning games I use frequently in class, such as corners and vocabulary musical chairs (shown below), require lots of space. Why not take the kids outside to play these games from time to time? It’ll make the content more memorable and you’ll avoid problems such as trips and falls, which can sometimes happen in a cluttered classroom. 

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Try doing a QR code treasure hunt around your school too! It’s great fun!

#5: Embrace the opportunities offered by field trips and residentials

Sometimes the best way to benefit from the great outdoors is to completely leave the confines of the school premises with your students. If you’re asked to go on a residential or field trip, or are responsible for planning one, see this as a tremendous opportunity to enrich various curriculum areas.

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With this kind of event, individual subject teachers are almost never consulted on what kinds of activities they would like to see happen. This is unfortunate. Try to involve all members of the teaching team in the planning process, so that maximum benefit can be made. Field trips and residentials often provide the perfect environment to get coursework done, for example, and are great for project-based work. 

Conclusion

Outdoor learning does not have be outdoors, in terms of being outside school. Find opportunities to use the school environment to enrich various curriculum areas

Use the unexpected: Caught in a downpour? – go and collect some rainwater and test the pH, or use it as a symbol of cleansing in Religious Education, or talk about precipitation in Geography. The unexpected can often offer opportunities for serious long-term knowledge retention. 

Use the vast space that your school environment provides to play learning games and explore the richness offered within the school grounds. 

Plan field trips and residentials fully, so that key curriculum areas are enriched.

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Amazing SPaG Strategies Every Teacher Needs to Know

Written by Richard James Rogers (Award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Updated: May 2021

As an author for the Times Educational Supplement teacher resources site, I was very excited to receive this month’s Author Newsletter. In it was a breakdown (the first of its kind), of all of the resources that are in the highest demand at different points in the year. For April, SPaG (meaning Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) resources were listed as being bestsellers, indicating that demand for SPaG tips is high at this time of the year. I thought, therefore, it would be helpful to begin May with some great SPaG review tips and tricks.

For those readers who are teaching a non-British curriculum, you may not be aware that SPaG tests are now compulsory in England at the end of Key Stage 1 (Ages 6-7) and Key Stage 2 (Ages 8-11).

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However, as a teacher who’s teaching Science and Mathematics through the medium of English, I vehemently believe that good SPaG teaching is the responsibility of all educators, whether you’re teaching small children, teens or adults. SPaG can be effectively reinforced in any subject area, and I’ve come to the realisation that I’ve actually been doing this for years, without calling it SPaG!

Here are my top tips for teaching and reviewing SPaG, which are all tried and tested and highly effective.

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Play vocabulary games

The following vocabulary games are awesome! I’ve used them for years, and my most popular blog post ever provides 7 of the very best games you can play with your students. Try these for SPaG specific benefits:

Splat

This quick game is so easy: all you need is a whiteboard, whiteboard markers and class of kids. It’s a great game for consolidating key vocabulary, and is perfect for E.A.L. learners.

Splat

Here’s a short video showing a quick clip of me playing ‘Splat’ with my students (I will include some more lengthy clips soon, but this is a good start):

Mystery Word

Another easy game. This time, students randomly pick out written words from a hat (or cup, beaker, container, etc.), and then they have to explain their word to the class (without saying the word). The students who are listening have to guess what the word is.

Mystery word

Who am I?

A very simple game. All you need are post-it notes and a class full of energized students! Great fun. Perfect for reinforcing key vocabulary and concepts. I just played this last week with an AS-Biology class and they loved it!

Who am I

Corners

I love this one! It gets very competitive so be prepared for a noisy lesson!

Corners

Use vocabulary journals

These are very powerful learning tools, but they are so underused in the teaching profession!

Take two weeks ago for example. My AS-Level Biology students had just finished their mock exams and I sat down with one young lady to provide feedback to her. She had great subject knowledge, but had used incorrect adjectives in some of her answers. For example:

Student’s answer: The nuclear membrane disappears‘

Model answer: ‘The nuclear membrane disintegrates

Any AS-Level examiner will tell you that this is a common way in which international students lose marks in exams. So, how can I help this student now?

The solution is simple and effective: she’ll have a special notebook in which she writes down all of the model answers to questions she gets incorrect in the intense past-paper practice we’ll be doing for the next month and a half. She’ll be keeping a ‘vocabulary journal’, and I’ll be checking it and sitting with her to discuss it each week. 

Journals are a great way for students to constantly review their understanding and knowledge of key vocabulary. With students who have very low English proficiency, you may wish to use journals from day one. With others, such as my AS-Biology student who only needs some ‘fine-tuning’, they can be used at specific points in the academic year.

Explaining

Elocution, elocution

Elocution simply means modelling good speech.

Speak your key words and key vocabulary clearly, and get your students to repeat them! I used this technique only three days ago in a KS3 Science class. One of the key words was ‘species’. The dialogue went something like this:

Teacher: “Say spee-shees”

Students: “spay-shees”

Teacher: ‘One more time. Listen carefully: ‘speeeeeeee-shees”

Students: “Speeee-shees”

Teacher: “Perfect, ‘Speee-shees’ Well done.”

Elocution might seem like a silly way to review concepts that will be tested in a written exam paper. However, many studies have shown the remarkable benefits that elocution can have on spelling proficiency, as well as conceptual understanding. 

Differentiate texts

Many school subjects require students to read and analyse paragraphs of text. Whether it’s a description of freeze-thaw action in geography, or a synopsis of the rise of crypto currencies in ICT or economics: blurbs, descriptions and essays confront our students with unique challenges. 

Sometimes our students don’t yet have the reading level to cope with the text. Sometimes they just simply get switched-off or disinterested, and this may or may not be related to their English language proficiency.

Have you ever stopped reading a book, or a short article, because it just didn’t interest you enough? I know I have, many times.

I can read but if I’m not interested, I’ll switch off.

Thankfully, there are a number of methods we can use to make texts more digestible for children and young adults. I’ve written a separate blog post outlining these strategies here.

Follow Me cards

This is a classic technique, which can be applied to many subject areas. Share a large number of cards around your class (e.g. 32). Ask one child to read the definition on their card. The child who has that definition then has to read their word and also the definition on their card. This continues until all 32 words and definitions have been shared. 

If you complete it correctly, the game should end with the person who started it!

More SPaG resources

For tailor-made made SPaG tips and resources, try these links:

Times Educational Supplement SPaG site

Just filled to the brim with superb resources! Check it out!

https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/hub/elements/spag

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AQA Education Teachit English site

Brilliant all-in-one holistic resources, as well as specific items for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Well worth a visit!

https://www.teachitenglish.co.uk/

SPaG sites

Twinkl Literacy site

Some very fun and creative resources. More tailored for younger children, but well-worth a try with older kids too.

http://www.twinkl.co.uk/resources/literacy/grammar-spag/6

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Differentiation: The Magic Tool of Teaching

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati

It was an unusually hot September morning. The year was 2005, and this was the first lecture I would receive at Bangor University’s prestigious School of Education. The topic: Differentiation.

Differentiation, in the context of education, was a totally alien concept to me before I embarked on my PGCE course. My degree was in Molecular Biology, so differentiation to me meant stem cells developing into specialized cells, such as red blood cells and nerve cells. However, this background knowledge wasn’t totally obsolete on this day, as I soon realised that educational differentiation means to specialise your teaching to suit the needs of different students, so that each student learns as much as they possibly can.

Here’s the best official definition of differentiation that I could find:

Differentiation refers to a wide variety of teaching techniques and lesson adaptations that educators use to instruct a diverse group of students, with diverse learning needs, in the same course, classroom, or learning environment. The basic idea is that the primary educational objectives—making sure all students master essential knowledge, concepts, and skills—remain the same for every student, but teachers may use different instructional methods to help students meet those expectations.

 – Courtesy of Great Schools Partnership [Online]. Available at http://edglossary.org/differentiation/ (Accessed 21st April 2017)

I would like to take this opportunity now to explain some of the best “instructional methods” I have used to enable effective differentiation to take place. I also talk about my top three techniques in this UKEdChat podcast here: 

Q & A

Learning Style Tables: This is such a great activity for engaging a wide variety of learners. The idea is that you produce the same information or lesson instructions via pictures, audio, in writing or in clues that need to be solved or through some some other style, such as tablet PCs linked to online simulations. Students can go to the table that best suits their learning style or you can direct them to one. This takes some preparation but its well worth it.

Delegated Responsibility: Allocate different tasks to different groups within a class, based upon ability levels. For example, when analyzing a poem a weaker group might be asked to ‘describe the meaning’, whilst a higher ability group might be asked to ‘suggest the ways in which form and structure emphasize the meaning’.

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“An AMAZING book! Essential reading for all teachers!”

Student Teachers: This is one of my all-time favourites. In this activity, you give students responsibility for teaching part of a lesson. You’ll need to give basic instructions regarding the topic, length of time and essential points to cover. Leave the structure and delivery to them – students are nearly always incredibly creative with this!

Creative Styles: This is really easy to implement, and can be done on an individual basis (so its slightly different to the Learning Styles Tables activity). Offer students a range of ways in which to complete a task. For example, a verbal essay submitted via video; a traditional written essay; picture essay; a newspaper article and so on. 

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Plenary Assessment: Get students to write down on a slip of paper the areas they are still having problems with, or any questions or queries they still have. Collect these in and use the information to plan the groupings and activities for the next lesson.

Peer Enabling. This isn’t very hi-tech but it’s easy to put in place, and it’s very effective. Seat the students in mixed ability groups and get the students to decide a name for their group. Hold a group competition, perhaps using some of the activities like the ‘Poster Game’ here. Peer competition can improve performance and, in a mixed-ability class, weaker students won’t feel intimidated by the more able.

Questions. Give students some control over the lesson by getting them to write any questions they need answering as part of your starter activity. Divide them up and get students to suggest answers in their groups. This works particularly well with Science, Geography, English Literature, History and Poetry, but it can be applied to any task or text.

Economical Students. In groups, give students the opportunity to ‘buy and sell’ information, tips or ideas from you by giving them tokens or vouchers to swap for resources. They can then ‘sell’ the information on to other groups in the class. In a small class, this would also work well on an individual basis.

Glossaries. Prepare different types of word glossaries to support learning in class. This is particularly useful for ESL or bilingual students. If you can produce bilingual glossaries for individual students, then that would be a major token of help. Some can be to explain difficult words, whereas others can offer ‘wow’ words that need to be included in a piece of writing (for more able students).

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Discussion Statements. Provide a series of generalised discussion statements to which students can apply differing levels of knowledge. For example,  ‘If Tesla was alive today, he’d be trying to generate free electricity. Discuss’. For more specific topics, such as a historical account, use the statements to frame the entire lesson, allowing students to change their views as they gain more information.

Stepped Complexity. When writing comprehension questions, make sure you place them in order of complexity, so they become more open-ended and challenging as you go along. You could try structuring these around Bloom’s Taxonomy for extra effect. 

Assigning Roles. This is a very easy and powerful differentiation technique, which I talk about at length in this video here. Allocate tasks for any group work: leader, scribe, ideas people, speaker and so on. This makes sure everyone joins in and you can assign roles according to ability or character. In fact, roles should be assigned during all investigative group work, in order to maximise efficiency. 

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Mixed Starter. Have a PowerPoint or Prezi slide divided into four tasks. One focused on numeracy, another on words, another encouraging deeper thinking skills, one that’s really challenging (for the most able) etc.

In the Frame. Have differentiated writing frames with increasing levels of support available. Highlight the level each writing frame is aiming for – students accept this more readily and are likely to challenge themselves to the level above. Take a look at these Badger Science Assessments for some ideas. 

What’s in the Box? Have a ‘help box’ at the front of the class or place one on each table. Put tips, pictures, word glossaries or advice inside. Students use the box as and when they feel they need more help.

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Traffic Lights. This is a classic. Give students red, green and amber cards. When they are completely happy with a task, they display their green cards; when less certain the amber ones and when they are absolutely stuck, the red ones. This works well if students are encouraged to do this throughout the course of the lesson.

It Belongs to Me!: Get some envelopes and give each student personal instructions about what’s required with individual support that still allows challenge. Of course many will be the same but use their names on envelopes. This engages the students straight away!

Reverse Annotations. Try giving your annotations for a text or piece of work to students. They have to decide where they would place them and why. This provides structure for weaker students, but keeps the more able challenged. This works with diagrams and charts too. 

Class Q and A

Questionnaire: Use a mini-questionnaire to find out more about your class. Students love to tell you about themselves and you can tailor lessons or worksheets to include their hobbies and even favorite football teams. I write about this extensively here, in my guest blog post about building rapport. 

Must, Should and Could: This is an old classic. Phrase lesson goals in terms of: ‘All must complete …’, ‘Most should complete …’, and ‘Some could complete …’. This works well as an aspirational tool, because all students want to be in the elite, ‘some’ category and so tend to try harder.

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Teaching EAL and ESL Students: The Essential Guide

An article by Richard James Rogers

Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati

It was a typical INSET/teacher-training day at my school, or at least it started out that way. 

I was up early at the ring of three alarm clocks, and a few snooze buttons worth of ‘sneaky sleep’ time for each (a habit which I have now, thankfully, changed. Side note: Check out a book called The Miracle Morning if you want your life to change immediately!).

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It was a long summer vacation, and now it was back to the daily momentum of the first semester. 

The morning was fairly standard: new staff introductions, receiving our timetables and talks from the principal and deputies about our school’s focus and aims for this academic year. A complimentary lunch of Pad Thai and iced tea followed. So far, so good.

And then came the afternoon slot. First session on the agenda: Supporting EAL students in mainstream classes. We all eagerly walked in, took our seats and got out our pens and notepads ready to take notes. One of our popular and friendly American colleagues was leading the session, so we were we’re all excited. 

The session began with a ‘Bonjour……, sava?” and that’s all the vocabulary I can remember from then on in. I had no idea that my American friend was a fluent French speaker, and I couldn’t speak even a string of three words in French: I dropped it at age 14. 

card gamesThis went on for about 15 minutes. The spoken language was French, the PowerPoint was in French and the handouts were in French. And then, oh no, the teacher asked me a question!

I did what all of my EAL students habitually do at this point, I turned and asked my friends for help, in my native language (English). Big mistake! My American friend turned into a ruthless foe as she launched a vicious and aggressive verbal attack on me (which I didn’t understand). Even though I knew this was a teacher-training session, and I was ‘supposed’ to make this mistake, I still felt humiliated.

I later learned that she said “Speak in French only”, in French. 

If you’ve never took part in an activity like this before, then try it. It is a very blunt and merciless reminder of the challenges our EAL and ESL students face when they are taught through the medium of English.

Over the past 11 years I have had the privilege of working with thousands of EAL and ESL students. It started when I was in the UK teaching the children of eastern European migrants, and then progressed on to a wide-spectrum of international students in the ensuing 8 years in Thailand, and my current year in China. I’ve learnt that some techniques work really well almost every time, and some can be a bit hit-and-miss (sorry for the colloquialism: that’s something you should avoid, by the way!). lab

Let me share with you the best techniques that will take your EAL and ESL teaching to the next level of excellence. 

Have sympathy and patience

Don’t forget that EAL students need time to process whatever you’ve said, or the task or information they’ve been given, in their native language before they can give you a response in English.

Allow students time to think. Pause a while, let the student discuss their answer with a friend who speaks their language if necessary. Listen carefully to the response you get. Praise the parts that were correct. Model good grammar and execution.

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Pause and allow your students time to process information. Praise them when they provide a good response. Have patience, and watch your students flourish!

Take a look at this short dialogue:

Teacher: “So, James, what does the word ‘Species’ mean?”

James: (Has a short talk with his friend in Chinese. Teacher pauses.) “Species mean when animal are like the same.’ 

Teacher: “Wow! Great answer James. A species can be a group of animals or plants that have similar characteristics. Well done for using the word ‘same’, but I think that ‘similar’ is a better word. Can anyone else tell me something about the word ‘species’?”

Focus on the long-term goals of improving your EAL students’ comprehension gradually. Don’t expect miraculous results overnight, but at the same time don’t limit your beliefs in these students’ abilities. 

Speak slowly and watch your accent

As soon as I landed in Thailand I discovered this important secret: EAL students need to hear a clear speaker when being taught through the medium of English, so that they can model good practice.

Slow your voice down, and speak loudly and clearly (but don’t shout). If you have a thick localised accent, try to make it more classical and concise. 

I come from Flint in North Wales: a small town with its very own unique accent that’s different to anywhere else in the UK! When my wife, who is Thai, comes with me to the UK to meet my family, she often cannot understand what we are all saying when we use the local dialect (including me, her husband!).

My wife has a master’s degree from the UK, so what hope would my high school kids have in understanding me if I tried Q & Aspeaking in ‘Flint’ to them?

I have learned to slow my voice down and speak in a more neutral/classical dialect when I’m teaching. You may have to do the same. Make a video recording of one of your lessons and watch yourself teach. You’ll be surprised at how many slip-ups you make, and there may even be times when you can’t understand yourself!

Elocution, elocution

Elocution simply means modelling good speech.

Speak your key words and key vocabulary clearly, and get your students to repeat them! I used this technique only three days ago in a KS3 Science class. One of the key words was ‘species’. The dialogue went something like this:

Teacher: “Say spee-shees”

Students: “spay-shees”

Teacher: One more time. Listen carefully: ‘speeeeeeee-shees”

Students: “Speeee-shees”

Teacher: “Perfect, ‘Speee-shees’ Well done.”

Class Q and A
Be vocal. Use elocution as a way to reinforce concepts, vocabulary and inflections

Don’t forget that written delineation is not enough to enable students to understand words and contexts. Visual and auditory outputs are essential too, and that’s why we must spend time on correct elocution.

Prompting

This is a classic technique that is very simple to implement. Prompting is when you say the initial sound of the word, allowing space and time for the students to complete it. Take a look at this example:

Teacher: “The force that pulls objects towards the Earth is called grr, grr, grr…….”

Students: “Gravity!”

Teacher: “Yes! Gravity. Well done!”

Use prompting often, even with written language. Point to words on your presentations, and make students say them.

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Do you prompt your students to use key vocabulary?

Use vocabulary journals

These are very powerful learning tools, but they are so underused in the teaching profession!

Take this week for example. My AS-Level Biology students had just finished their mock exams and I sat down with one young lady to provide feedback to her. She had great subject knowledge, but had used incorrect adjectives in some of her answers. For example:

Student’s answer: ‘The nuclear membrane disappears

Model answer: ‘The nuclear membrane disintegrates’

Any AS-Level examiner will tell you that this is a common way in which international students lose marks in exams. So, how can I help this student now?

discussing-homeworkThe solution is simple and effective: she’ll have a special notebook in which she writes down all of the model answers to questions she gets incorrect in the intense past-paper practice we’ll be doing for the next month and a half. She’ll be keeping a ‘vocabulary journal’, and I’ll be checking it and sitting with her to discuss it each week. 

Journals are a great way for students to constantly review their understanding and knowledge of key vocabulary. With students who have very low English proficiency, you may wish to use journals from day one. With others, such as my AS-Biology student who only needs some ‘fine-tuning’, they can be used at specific points in the academic year.

Make full use of dictionaries and translators

Many international students carry electronic or paper-based dictionaries with them to class. Personally, I think that all international schools should make this a requirement for all of their students, even native English speakers.

Why? Because they’re powerful learning tools.

Students can use dictionaries in many ways, but the most common and effective are:

  • Translating key words in their textbooks into their native language, allowing full understanding of terms and permannet record that’s all in one place
  • To support learning journals, where key words and adjectives can be written bilingually and checked regularly. Get parents and language teachers involved in this for extra credibility and scrutinizing
  • Some electronic dictionaries can ‘speak’ the word being researched, allowing good verbal modelling and repetition by the student
  • Creating bilingual displays in class (e.g. posters and infographics)

Use vocabulary games

I write about this extensively in my book, and my blog post here has some very clear instructions and ideas for using vocabulary games in class. My personal favourites are ‘splat’, ‘mystery word’, ‘corners’ and ‘bingo’ which I’ve included below. These are great fun, but they do take time to implement in class. It’s worth it though!

Never demonize the native language of the students

I had the unfortunate experience of working in a school that had an ‘English only’ policy, which was strictly and rather bizarrely enforced. As a British teacher in Thailand, I was expected by the management of my school to tell students not to speak Thai.

I thought we’d left this archaic ideology behind with the abolition of the ‘Welsh Not’ necklaces in 1888. I guess I was wrong.

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Don’t forget: our EAL students will be using their native language to cognitively process facts and information. Try these strategies:

  • Allow students some time to discuss answers with a friend who speaks the same native language as they do
  • Pause, and allow the student to verbalise the answer in their native language before expressing it in English
  • Instead of saying “Don’t speak Thai” or “Don’t use German”, say something like “Try your best to use English please”, or ” I really want you to improve your English, so could you please try to talk in English?”. 
  • Posters and displays around school that promote English can be effective. Choose upbeat, modern graphics that show students why English is important. One school I worked at had a poster in every classroom that said “In this school, we try our best to express our ideas in English, so that we can get good grades in our exams”. 

Use groups strategically

You’ll come across two scenarios when using group work with international students:

  1. Groups where every students speaks the same native language
  2. Groups were some or many students speak different native languages

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Do you assign roles in groups?

Where possible, it’s a good idea to group together those students who do not speak the same native language, This forces them to use English in their group work (though, most probably, you’ll have clusters of two or three students per group who can speak the same native language). 

How you assign groups will depend on the age and emotional maturity of the students too. For example, you don’t want to group together students who you know will just chat aimlessly with each other, and you also don’t want to group together students of completely different nationalities who all have very poor English language proficiency – that would be a very quiet group!

Also, don’t forget to assign roles to each student in a group. Who will be the spokesperson? Who’s drawing the diagram? Who’s doing the research using the iPad? Who’s collecting the data? If you don’t assign roles, then you may find that the group work is slow, unproductive and chaotic. 

Differentiate your resources

This is a classic and vast area of pedagogy which is often made more complicated than it needs to be. 

Basically, make sure your worksheets, tasks and materials are neither too easy or schematictoo difficult for individual students. This website here provides some links to detailed strategies for this, but the most common ones that I’ve used include:

  • Breaking down prose into sentences, bullet points or ‘blanks’ to fill in.
  • Using pictures, lots of them! When student asks “What does ‘tripod’ mean”, are you going to give a lengthy explanation? Show the student! Type the word in on a search engine and show them an image of the object.
  • Writing out step-by-step instructions for any kinaesthetic task, such as doing an experiment or building a model
  • Changing your verbal questions to match the fluency of each student. Do you ask a student to ‘describe the electromagnetic spectrum’, or “Name the parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. For example, gamma rays, radio waves, and……… (prompting again)” 

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Differentiate the resources and tasks in your teaching to meet the needs and abilities of your learners

Conclusion

We all have a duty to help our EAL and ESL students in the best ways that we can. Our efforts need not be time-consuming nor difficult, just a few easy-to-implement strategies like the ones mentioned above are needed. Be consistent, have patience, never lose hope. Previous EAL and ESL students of mine have gone on to study bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UK and American universities and now have flourishing careers. 

Patience always pays dividends, so make sure you are patient with your EAL and ESL learners.

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