Make Your Lesson Go With A Bang

A few year ago when I was heading up our school’s learning and teaching policy group, we were trying to capture the basic requirements for effective learning and teaching. Checklists were flavour of the month so naturally our policy was full of checklists. However, I wondered whether an alternative checklist might be more effective in getting the message across. I kept it pretty much to myself at the time, and somehow I don’t think it would have made it into the official policy document, but I just wonder what effect it might have had…………………. Hope you enjoy!





  • Don’t arrive at the class too early. They won’t be expecting you.  Have another cup of coffee and a blether with your colleagues until the corridor is clear.
  •  When you arrive at the class, start shouting, whether they are behaving well or not. It lets them see who’s boss.
  •  Make sure pupils are well wrapped up in jackets and scarves to keep them more comfortable.
  •  Allow pupils to sit wherever they choose. This makes it easier for them to socialise.
  •  Start issuing instructions to the class before they are all listening, or even better, while some are still arriving.
  •  Keep the aim of the lesson to yourself in case anyone in the class gets wind of it.
  •  Don’t remind them of what you did yesterday. If they were paying attention they should remember.
  •  Remember to interrupt the lesson fifteen minutes in to take the register.
  •  Ask the biggest nuisance in the class to take the register slip to the office. Why should the rest of the school have peace and quiet when you don’t.
  •  Always refer to pupils by their surname. They prefer the formality and respect you more for it.
  •  Punishment exercises are a godsend. Make sure you always have a plentiful supply in the room.
  •  Never allow pupils to talk, even when engaged in group discussion.
  •  Make it perfectly clear you don’t want to be there any more than they do.
  •  Send pupils to the toilet and/or the medical room at regular intervals. It gives them regular exercise, keeps support staff in a job, and gives you a break.
  •  Time your lesson carefully so that you are in the middle of a sentence when the bell rings.
  •  Instruct pupils to throw books, jotters etc in a heap at the front of the room and run quickly to their next class.
  •  Don’t forget homework. This should be shouted at pupils’ backs as they leave the room. That way you can catch them out next lesson when they deny that they heard you.

Have a good day!


Film Shorts as Literacy Texts

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the re-definition of “texts” in the context of Curriculum for Excellence, and indeed in the context of the 21st Century! For anyone with responsibility for developing literacy skills in young people it is no longer appropriate to think of texts simply as books, important as books are, but to be employing a whole range of texts, some of which will be multi-modal, to reflect the reality of the world we live in. This is what I would describe as improving literacy through digital media, as opposed to digital media literacy, which is, in my view a different matter.

The short film is an ideal medium for developing the “traditional” literacies of reading, writing, talking and listening, a “short” film being a complete text lasting anything up to 30 minutes, but for our purposes ideally no more than ten or fifteen minutes, which means it can be shown two or three times in the course of a lesson if necessary. This is preferable to using an extract from a feature film as it doesn’t require an understanding of the whole work from which it has been taken, and there is a huge range of texts available, from animation to live action, fiction to documentary.

With a minimal understanding of the language of film, teachers can use short films to introduce and reinforce concepts related to reading and writing printed texts, such as narrative viewpoint, plot, characters and setting, as well as developing a greater understanding of the medium of film itself, the medium with which most of us engage most frequently. It is important to emphasise the similarities between printed and moving image texts, as well as the differences, since ultimately they are both about telling stories, and why we tell stories is arguably the reason for studying any kind of texts at all! This is a subject dear to my heart and one to which I will return in due course.

In the meantime, thanks to Mike Coulter for alerting me to this short animated film. Apart from being a delightful piece of work in its own right, it could provide the literacy teacher with any number of opportunities for developing aspects of literacy. To take one example, imagine leading a discussion around the creation of character in fiction. What kind of character is the central figure in this film and how do we know? Remember, there are no words spoken other than some faint song lyrics which appear briefly towards the end of the film.

If you want to hear the writer and illustrator James Jarvis talking about how he made the film and how he combines his two different worlds of drawing and running click here.