Ideas for Teaching Better. All In One Place.

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So many ideas to share!

Most of the blogs I write that get a good response are the ones about teaching.  Thankfully.  I’d write a book but a) it takes too much time b) the money is terrible and c) I’d just be repeating everything I’ve already written here.  It would be called ‘Into the Rainforest of Teaching and Learning’. I like the organic metaphor because it captures something of the mystery, complexity and beauty of teaching well.   This post is my very lazy outline for that book; another way of bringing some ideas together in one place.

Rainforest Thinking 

From Plantation Thinking to Rainforest Thinking:  it's quite a journey
From Plantation Thinking to Rainforest Thinking: it’s quite a journey

I like the idea that learning is ‘lush, diverse, unpredictable, evolving, daunting, exciting’. This is my underlying philosophy for teaching better: rainforest thinking.

Update: In my current context, I increasingly feel that a ‘managed rainforest’ is a more appropriate metaphor and, actually autonomy should not override good collaborative team work where people work from a strong common curriculum and agreed principles. Can we have too much autonomy?  

Great Lessons

great lessons pic

Although I’d change a few things, I’m still very happy with this series as a way to capture the essence of great lessons, especially the focus on habits rather than strategies.

1. Probing  2. Rigour  3.Challenge  4. Differentiation 5. Journeys 6. Explaining  7. Agility 8. Awe  9.Possibilities 10. Joy

You can download a pdf with all the posts compiled together in one easy-to-share document.

Pedagogy Postcards


This collection of 20 posts covers an eclectic set of ideas some of which are quite practical; others more conceptual.  There’s one post here that contains links to them all.   I imagine that only a few people have read them all – but they are here to dip into rather than wade through.

Principles and Basics

I’ve written three posts with lists of some basic principles – all worth a read for a summary of ideas, essentials and pitfalls to avoid:


Principles of Effective Teaching – which links to lots of other lists but includes 12 ideas of my own, including Mode A and Mode B teaching.

10 Teaching Essentials and 10 Teaching Pitfalls.   Published on the same day these were neck and neck in the blog stats – but now Pitfalls has edged ahead.

10 Silver Arrows


If you do just one thing, do this…. That was the idea.  I had an amazing response to the Silver Arrows post helped along by @educatingmiss who made the infographic.  Sometimes, it helps to distil ideas down to something tangible and specific that you can actually do.

Think Pair Share:   It’s true that this is the feedback I give most often after lesson observations – to try more of this.

10 Teaching techniques  to practise – deliberately:  A blog setting out some specific teaching techniques that can be isolated for deliberate practice.  By deciding to focus on one particular strategy and working on it systematically,   I’m suggesting that teachers can significantly improve their practice.

Behaviour:  For completeness, here is the Bill Rogers Top 10 post that gets 100 hits a day via google searches for Behaviour Management.  Bill’s approach is brilliant, especially in the context of a good school system.

Marking: I’ve got two posts on this subject.  Close the Gap – is all about acting on feedback, using the approach used at Saffron Walden High School; it also has a fab sheet of ideas for reducing workload.   The other is about keeping marking in perspective – doing the amount of marking that has impact but no more.

This post suggests a more radical approach – Rethinking Marking and feedback; it’s all about the response.

Planning: I think we should focus less on individual lessons, more on planning a lesson sequence.  I also find that the Learning Arc is a helpful concept – learning takes the time it takes.

Differentiation:  Some people find this idea problematic because it can lead to lowering expectations. That is true.  At the same time, we need to face the fact that different students have differing needs.  In this post I use another organic analogy – gardening.  Day-to-day differentiation is like tending to a garden, paying attention to individual specimens at the right time, doing the best you can.

Research:  Teaching Better requires us to engage with the evidence about learning.  There are lots of people out there doing research and, at a basic level, we need to know what the ideas are and how to interpret the evidence:

Key ideas from different sources.
Key ideas from different sources.

In this post, I’ve linked to lots of videos of key people sharing their ideas: Contemporary Educational Ideas All My Staff Should Know About. 

Here, I’m sharing thoughts about how to engage with different types of research.

This post sums up the research that informs some of the work we do at Highbury Grove: Research Evidence that has shaped what we do

This post is a reading list of blog posts that I have found useful to inform our practice. Focusing our teaching and learning priorities: a reading list 

Ideas in Practice:  In my imagined book, I have lots of examples of the ideas in practice.  Some of these are captured in my recent review of teaching and learning at Highbury Grove – 90 Lessons – in addition to the many KEGS references throughout all the posts above.

Presentation and Redrafting.  It is worth revisiting the Austin’s Butterfly video and use redrafting video to improve the basics of presentation.  I also think that a focus on presentation can be a vehicle for addressing wider learning issues under the guise of simply making it more clear, accurate and precise.

Workload, Careers, Ethos and Culture. I want to round of my book focusing on how to make teaching a great job for life.  I have various things to say here:

12 Steps to a ‘Great Teacher’ reputation – possibly a bit preachy in places but real enough.

Advice for getting a job – interviews and applications.

Managing workload – pressing the reset button from time to time.

And finally, a return to the Rainforest metaphor:  Creating the Conditions for Great Teachers to Thrive.

Very finally, I want to reinforce the importance of seeking to improve continually.  In my most recent post, I’ve reflected on my personal pedagogical to-do list.  It changes every year.  It’s what keeps me going more than anything.

Thanks for reading.  This post is dedicated to every teacher I’ve worked with, observed and borrowed ideas from and everyone who has read and commented on these blog posts.  If anyone wants to volunteer to turn this into a book for me – please let me know!


  1. I’m passing this on to every teacher I know! A great ‘all-in-one’ package of perceptive, experienced & forward thinking educational reflections & designs. I mention you so many times is like we’re married! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Educationsupportuk and commented:
    A great starting point for those already planning for teaching and learning conferences, seminars, department meetings or coaching sessions – there is something for everyone. Thanks Tom


  3. […] When I trained, there was a time of flux in teaching.  We had just embarked upon the era of controlled assessment, the Department for Education was headed up by Gove and OFSTED were very keen on progress in lessons, in books and engagement.  We were taught about the importance of literacy and numeracy, teaching that suited student’s learning styles and differentiation.  We covered behaviour and voice management twice over that year.  We learnt about what Ofsted wanted in terms of engagement.  All students had to be “engaged”, teacher talk had to be minimal, mini-plenaries were regular and objectives had to be clearly stated and revisited to demonstrate that all learners had made progress in that 50 minute lesson.  Most CPD was either going on a course, watching another teacher, or being watched yourself, which carried with it the aforementioned expectations.  Webinars, podcasts and even blogs were in their infancy.  At the time I remember my main sources of internet based CPD being, Classteaching and Tom Sherrington’s blog.  All of these were and are quality blogs and have clearly stood the test of time.  If you are starting out in your career, I would recommend the teachers guide you can find on Frenchteacher (although for an expanded version you can buy Steve’s books on Amazon) and Tom’s Pedagogy Postcards. […]

    Liked by 1 person

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