#TMLondon 2015 – Report (1)

On the 1st April, two days ago, I made a journey from Hull to London to Quintin Kynaston Community Academy (QKCA) for the #TMLondon TeachMeet – I delivered a presentation on Critical Literacy at the event. This event was organized by Twitter’s @TeacherToolkit – Ross McGill, who is a deputy head at QKCA, but above all else, is the most Twitter-followed teacher in the UK and has been running his enormously popular blog for quite some time. As such, the TeachMeet has generated huge interest and, on the night, well over 200 teachers turned up – from London, from Hull (me!), the Isle of Man, and some who have actually come from outside the UK!

First of all, hats to the amazing job that all of the #TMLondon’s team of hosts did: Ross, the lovely Mark Anderson @ICTEvangelist, who I first met at Pedagoo’s Christmas Party last year), Martin Burrett @ICTMagic, Dianne Leedham @DiLeed – a strong defender of language and bilingualism in education, Amjad Ali @ASTSupportAAli who is a Director of Inclusion in Oxford and runs the amazing Cheney Agility Toolkit blog with enormous amount of resources, and Andy Lewis @ITeachRE, who is a head of year 10 and RE Leader at a London school. All of them – and many others that must’ve helped, I am certain – made this day unforgettable.

TeachMeets are what is something called an underground movement of teachers – that is, opportunities for teachers freely express why they feel passionate about teaching, and often stand up against the constantly changing and constantly mounting pressures that the government places on schools. They are events which put teachers – the people who actually deliver education – in power. This TeachMeet has certainly achieved this – by having very inspiring talks from teachers ranging from NQTs all the way up to school heads, covering a range of subjects and specialisms. The hosts have also ensured we had a huge amount of fun whilst doing so, too, quite fitting when you think that so many (myself included) have devoted a part of their actual Easter break to come to the event. The Passion of a Teacher was at the centre of this event.

Ample amount of food and networking opportunities were provided before the event even starter – we all got folders with information about the event, including certificate of attendance – you can below how empowering teachers is quite obvious in the very wording of the certificate – we really should, and were here, in control of our CPD.


Twitter and tweeting were certainly a large part of the event – with many teachers instantly sharing online the insights and ideas shared by the presenters. Before I write about what the different presenters shared and what they inspired us with, I want to make one comment about Twitter – if you’re reading this, and you’re not on Twitter, get on it now! The amount of knowledge, ideas and inspiration for improving your teaching, and networking with other teachers, that is available on Twitter is almost mind-boggling. In Britain at least, this is the place to be. EAL teachers, if they truly do want to make a change need to be there, interacting with other mainstream professionals and sharing their knowledge. EAL, language and bilingualism need to be more visible and accessible – not just at your individual schools, but by spreading awareness to others. I was very thankful to the #TMLondon hosts that I was able to reach the wider audience and speak, albeit very shortly, about the topic of Critical Literacy. As this event was a no.1 Twitter trending event in the UK at the time, I am certain what I shared, and what many other presenters shared, reach many – at the event itself, on Twitter and those watching the live feed, too! We need to give EAL more voice – please join me!

RICHARD GERVER @richardgerver – Keynote

The keynote speaker for the event was Richard Gerver. Richard is an internationally renowned speaker, recognized by UNESCO, recipient of the British National Teaching awards, and in the past award winning teacher and school head. He set the tone for the TeachMeet. He heavily criticised the constant educational changes coming down from the governments, and, in fact, suggested, we shouldn’t worry too much about what the next government is going to do or is not going to do. Rather, he said, we should take our own professional development, our own CPD, into our own hands and use social media and IT to empower ourselves (which is what Twitter and, frankly, this blog! is all about!). Schools shouldn’t compete, but collaborate. He warned us against being the kind of teachers who always complain and grumble about what we can’t do, and called us to be the kind of teachers who can do!

This rang some heavy bells for me – in terms of EAL and bilingualism. That is, the position of EAL within the curriculum is not exactly strong these days, and a lot of work needs to be done to address issues such as EAL ITT, mainstream teachers# awareness of how language functions within the curriculum content, how to teach EAL learners, how to teach advanced bilingual learners, how literacy, language and power (critical literacy) are interlinked. Yes, I could keep grumping about here – or I could try and do something . I have no doubt that overwhelming vast majority of teachers want to serve their learners well – all of them. So I could get out there and help them, spread awareness of these issues – in my local area, in England, in the UK, on Twitter. Rather than accept the status quo, work with others with the can do attitude – and we can change the world for the better. And now you know why I went to London to speak to others. I am all about working with mainstream teachers for the benefit of all learners – building bridges and “unseparating” the EAL specialists from mainstream teachers. Have you read about my dedication Partnership Teaching yet?

Richard, referring to the work of Sebastien Foucan, said we should look “for the gaps and spaces between obstacles” – a rather inspiring and motivational quote, don’t you think? Yes, there are spaces and opportunities between the walls of the preset curriculum – let’s use them!



Stephen delivered his short talk on errors – a lighthearted and inspiring talk. He used the sign “WHY!! PAY MORE” as the basis for his talk, focusing on the absurdity of it, and commenting on the importance of grammar. Think about it – is it Why Pay More? or Pay Me More? He provided us several examples with grammar leading to confusion and misunderstanding. Have a look at the image below and see the song marked for grammar – could this possibly be confusing? Stephen provides a powerful reminder that focusing on the content only, at the expense of grammar (which is a part of language for me every time), is harmful, sloppy and is imprecision itself.


Jeremy is an NQT and teaches DT. His presentation was about designing for inclusion. In other words, using design for building empathy into the learning process. Not something I had thought about before! If you look at one of the tweets below, you can see how he approaches this (one of his worksheets). He encourages students to think of a disability, e.g. hearing or visual impairment, then to look at the existing design (e.g. a phone), focus on how such a device might be inappropriate for people with disabilities. What follows is, of course, is getting the students to redesign devices so they become inclusive and appropriate. Really inspiring!


Mary is a Lead Ofsted inspector. She spoke about certain Ofsted myths still operating and being perpetuated by certain schools (have you heard of the Ofsted Clarification for Schools document already?).

Mary said that Ofsted does not actually expect to see (in an observed lesson) progress over the course of one lesson – only over time such as one year! She insisted that teachers absolutely do need work/life balance and urged everyone to “get a life outside of school” (my only question here is: how do we get all headteachers to actually ensure this really happens…?)

She also spoke of the purpose of Ofsted inspections, and said that schools should be run “for the students, not for Ofsted” and insisted that learning should never be interrupted just because someone comes into your lesson.

A lot of it is covered in the Clarification document just published by Ofsted (see link just above). Please read it – it’s a good to have and know of if your school is under false impression of what Ofsted actually wants!


Andy insisted that there are no magic beans in education (this is from me: people who think that commercial phonics programmes dumped on students are going to help solve all literacy problems of struggling learners – are you listening?), and so in order to get students to “remember stuff better”, we can’t just rely on one thing. He went through a number of practices, some of them “hot”, some of them “not hot”, and suggested a number of methods can be used to help students with cognition – such as improving working memory, concentration, concept mapping, and more. You can view his presentation at: tiny.cc/nomagicbeans. These, and many other strategies to improve students’ memory and metacognition, can be found in a booklet he’s produced for KS4/5 revision – available at his blog at: http://tdreboss.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/metacognition-for-ks4-ks5.html

Andy is a lovely and upbeat human being, too!




My own presentation, as mentioned above, was about how to teach critical literacy – across the curriculum – in diverse schools – that is, how to ensure that voices of different diverse groups are heard at schools. Critical Literacy is the ability to read texts in a reflective manner so that we understand power, inequality and injustice, and encourages and teaches students to question and challenge power relations, often normalised, around e.g. race or poverty, in order to improve the society in which we live. Critical literacy approach reminds us that language and specific type of literacy are linked to the social power and power of access that certain groups enjoy over others. Histories and identities of our pupils can determine what they get access to – e.g. how many students from non-white backgrounds attend our universities. Diversity with no access to powerful forms of language segregates students.

I then provided an example of from an English lesson – which you can see in the presentation below – where a connotation of the colour “white”, different in a certain Asian culture, opens an avenue for a completely different interpretation of the poem Havisham – since white is worn in that culture by a wife when she buries her husband, the white wedding dress can be seen in a completely different light! This seems to have gone rather well with some of the TeachMeet attendees – and I got some rather lovely comments via Twitter and personally about this!

I suggested that in order to teach critical literacy, one can devise a set of questions, asking about who is in the story, who isn’t, and who is marginalised (problem posing), or, students can be asked to write an alternative story (switching), e.g. by rewriting a story changing gender (making all men women, for instance) or race (changing all white characters to black, for instance). Using another example, the poem Not My Business, I said that it only takes to change the names of the characters to Polish ones to get students to think of dictatorial practices of the Polish government during the martial law in Poland in the early 80s!

I’d like to express my thanks to Amjad, who has now not only linked to my blog, but also written a post on his blog (http://cheneyagilitytoolkit.blogspot.co.uk/) about Critical Literacy after my presentation! Thank you!




Martin’s enthusiasm was totally infectious! He showed us, rather quickly, so many different websites that can be successfully used in our classrooms. Just have a look below – an impressive collection for lessons across the curriculum!

[prezi url=”http://prezi.com/jdcwheadaqdi/” width=”550″ height=”400″ zoom_freely=”N” ]



Now, here’s an idea you might not have heard of before – Alex suggests that we get our students to write their student reports – making them think about their own learning and giving students their own accountability and developing them into more autonomous learners. During this process, they would actually score themselves. I didn’t quite get all of this noted down, unfortunately, so do let me know if you remember more about the idea or have more and better! notes.

Also, don’t forget to visit HOTskills.me – a ground breaking online tool to assist tracking progress that Alex is involved in!



Now, this was one superb presentation and a powerful reminder that so many ideas, tools and practices used in the secondary are certainly still useful in the secondary. These two ladies, who used to work in the primary sector, are now putting the same ideas into action into their secondary setting and it works! I can relate to a lot of it as so much of the teaching of EAL students comes from the primary setting mindset.

  • give students responsibilities in the classroom – e.g. check if homework has been done, distribute books, tidy up by the end of the lesson, etc. – can’t see how this wouldn’t work anywhere!
  • celebrate students success through having fluid, changing, motivational displays – rewards for good work, show students’ progress visually, and put their work up
  • teamwork and groupings: collaborative learning (VERY important in EAL pedagogy, too!), create group tables, switch between mixed and ability groupings, provide numerous speaking and listening opportunities
  • Thinking Ink Books – this one must’ve been a great sell with so many of us, I think! – provide students with a book where they can write their questions down (see the tweet below). Ever been in a situation when you are in the middle of explaining something to your class and a student wants to ask a question, but you can’t stop for them at that precise moment? I bet you were! Providing an Ink Book validates your students’ questions and you can come back to these questions later on after you finished addressing the class -a fabulous idea! I am using this one next term myself!

Continue to reading part 2

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