Subscribe to this blog!

- Every post will be emailed directly to you, so you will never miss a thing!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

More Guided Reading through Music: Dj Snake- Middle vs James Bay - Let it Go

I love using music in the classroom! I have previously blogged plenty of ideas for using music in the classroom. Some of my favourites have been using songs to develop reading skills. Some of the most popular have been:
This blog post will share some more ideas for using songs and lyrics to develop key higher order reading skills. 

While I would encourage you to use these ideas and lessons, I think it is important to make clear there needs to be a balance between these shorter texts and longer whole stories. 

My work with John Murray has certainly inspired these posts, so please check his website out and also look at the READWRITEPERFORM resources for more of these ideas and strategies to teaching English. 

With this blog, I have chosen two songs that cover the same issue with a different outlook, I will break each song down and finish with some comparative questions.

DJ Snake - Middle 

Here are the lyrics with some questions to consider:

Play the song through once asking the children to listen carefully to the lyrics. Ask the children what do they think the song is about? A relationship that is on the brink of ending.

[Verse 1]
Staring at two different views on your window ledge
Coffee is going cold, it's like time froze
There you go wishing, floating down our wishing well
It's like I'm always causing problems, causing hell
I didn't mean to put you through this, I can tell
We cannot sweep this under the carpet

  • Read the first two lines, what scene do you picture? How many people are there? How do you know? 2 people in a room, looking in different directions not talking.
  • Why has the singer focused on the ledge in the room? What does this symbolise? It symbolises the fact their relationship is on the brink of ending.
  • Why is the coffee going cold? They are both deep in thought about the relationship
  • What does the phrase 'time froze' tell us about how long they have been there? A long time
  • What is a wishing well? Why has the singer used this as a metaphor? A wishing well is where you drop a coin and make a wish in hope it will come true.
  • What do you think the wish is?
  • Why has the singer chosen the word floating?  That this uncertainty hasn't been sudden has been coming for a while.
  • Who is to blame for the problems in the relationship? How does it make both the singer and his partner feel? What words are shown to emphasise this? He is to blame, the word choice 'hell' shows how hard it has been.
  • Does he make mistakes intentionally? How do you know this?
  • What is meant by the last line? Sweeping something under the carpet is to ignore a problem.

I hope that I can turn back the time
To make it all alright, all alright for us
I'll promise to build a new world for us two
With you in the middle
(With you in the middle)
(With you in the middle)

  • What does he hope to do when he says 'turn back the time?' Start the relationship over from scratch.
  • On a scale of 1 - 5, how confident is he that he can do this? Not very due to the word 'hope'
  • Will he try his best? How do you know? He promises
  • What does he mean when he puts his partner in the middle? She will be the focus of everything
  • Why does he repeat this phrase?

[Verse 2]
Lying down beside you, what's going through your head?
The silence in the air felt like my soul froze
Am I just overthinking feelings? I conceal
This gut feeling I'm tryna get off me as well
I hope we find our missing pieces and just chill
We cannot sweep it under the carpet

  • Read the first two lines, what scene do you picture? Lying down in silence with the singer thinking and worrying about his partner and her thoughts.
  • How does he feel? Worried and anxious 'soul froze'
  • Why has the singer used the word 'soul?' His whole being, everything about him is worried.
  • Why did he use the metaphor 'froze?' Linking weather creates the feeling of coldness which the situation has created between the two. 

I hope that I can turn back the time
To make it all alright, all alright for us
I'll promise to build a new world for us two
With you in the middle

(With you in the middle)
(With you in the middle)
(With you)

James Bay - Let it Go

Play the song through once asking the children to listen carefully to the lyrics. Ask the children what do they think the song is about? The singer is trying to end a relationship. 

[Verse 1]
From walking home and talking loads
To seeing shows in evening clothes with you
From nervous touch and getting drunk
To staying up and waking up with you

  • What does the singer explain in the first verse? The progression of the relationship. 
  • What things did they do as a couple? Go to shows, go out drinking
  • Why did the singer describe the touch as a nervous one? It was early in the relationship, he wasn't sure whether she wanted to hold his hand.
  • The last line infers they have spent the night together. You may want to skip past this or it could be inferred that they have travelled or been on holiday together. 

[Pre-Chorus 1]
Now we're sleeping near the edge
Holding something we don't need
Oh, this delusion in our heads is gonna bring us to our knees

  • What does the edge symbolise? Being close to the end - make links to the previous song.
  • Why does he say they are sleeping there? This can show that they have been near the edge for a long time.
  • What are they holding? Why don't they need it? The relationship, it isn't working for both of them.
  • Could you think of a more powerful word to use than holding? Clasping, clutching
  • Why does he describe the belief in the relationship as a delusion? 
  • What does the phrase 'bring us to our knees' mean? It is an idiom to show you're defeated.

So come on, let it go
Just let it be
Why don't you be you, and I'll be me?
Everything that's broke
Leave it to the breeze
Why don't you be you, and I'll be me?
And I'll be me

  • What is he asking her to let go? The relationship
  • Why? Because it is changing them as people, they are not the same as they were at the beginning. 
  • What has broken? Why does he suggest leaving it to the breeze? Problems in the relationship and the breeze will take them away and be forgotten about. 
  • Is this line grammatically correct? Can you correct it?
  • What do we learn about the characters and what the relationship has done to them? 
  • Why does he repeat the phrase "And I'll be me?" To emphasise his belief that he is making the right decision. 

[Verse 2]
From throwing clothes across the floor
To teeth and claws and slamming doors at you
If this is all we're living for
Why are we doing it, doing it, doing it anymore?

  • What is happening in this verse? They are fighting, throwing clothes - sorting belongings.
  • What does the phrase 'teeth and claws' tell you about the fighting? It is aggressive and nasty. 
  • What question is the singer asking? What is the point
  • Why do you think he repeats 'doing it'? It happens a lot and is becoming tiresome. 

[Pre-Chorus 2]
I used to recognize myself
It's funny how reflections change
When we're becoming something else
I think it's time to walk away

  • What has this relationship done to the singer? Made him change, he has become a different person and lost confidence in himself. 
  • Does he like his reflection? No, which is why he wants it to end.
  • Does he think his partner has changed? How do you know? He uses the contraction "We're"

So come on, let it go
Just let it be
Why don't you be you, and I'll be me?
Everything that's broke
Leave it to the breeze
Why don't you be you, and I'll be me?
And I'll be me

Tryna fit your hand inside of mine
When we know it just don't belong
Cause no force on earth could make it feel right, no no
Tryna push this problem up the hill
When it's just too heavy to hold
I think now's the time to let it slide

  • Can you correct the word in the first line?
  • Why do you think her hand doesn't fit? It is a metaphor for their relationship. 
  • What point is he trying to make when he says 'no force on earth'? It will never fit no matter what happens.
  • Why has the singer used a hill as a metaphor? To show how hard this problem is to solve
  • What picture do we imagine of the problem and how it makes the singer feel? Under a lot of pressure
  • Why has the singer used the adverb 'too' when talking about the heavy problem?
  • Why does the singer choose the word slide? How does it contrast with the hill? 

So come on, let it go
Just let it be
Why don't you be you, and I'll be me?
Everything that's broke
Leave it to the breeze
Let the ashes fall
Forget about me

  • Why does the singer use the word ashes? To symbolise the death of their relationship

Come on, let it go
Just let it be
Why don't you be you, and I'll be me?
And I'll be me

After deconstructing both songs, it would be useful to compare and contrast and try to identify the similarities - subject matter, reference to edge etc and the differences - trying to keep the relationship together compared to ending it. You could then discuss why both songs are popular as people can relate to the subjects, why both singers wrote the songs? From personal experience. 

I would love to hear from you if you use these ideas in class and link any writing to it. Please do email, tweet or comment on facebook. Thanks!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Evertoon Fun!

Evertoon has been an app on my radar for a while. I had the opportunity to play with a beta version of the app and I saw straight away the potential in the classroom.

The app allows you to create an animation of two characters interacting. You have the ability to design yourself as a character. Adding a costume and background to your scene.

You are able to use the camera to take a photo of yourself and add it into the scene.

There is also a selection of celebrities you can also choose from.

Once you have designed your characters, you can then create a dialogue. A character's actions can be created by selecting an emoji. Each emoji will make the character act in a certain way. There is the option to then use the microphone to record what the character says.

The app has a 9+ rating and some of the emojis make the character act in a rude way (kissing, passing wind etc) however there is so much potential with the app.

A couple of initial ideas:

  • Visualise how to write direct speech, using the actions to aid reporting clauses.
  • Create interviews with famous people, book characters, famous historical figures.
  • Use in PSHCE to act out how to be friendly, how to treat each other. 
  • Create a stimulus for a story.
  • Act out a debate or discussion about an issue.
  • Persuasive arguments.
Here is a quick example I created playing around with the app.

If you use any of these ideas or use the app in class, please share some examples of what you create and I would be happy to share!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

A Message for the England Football Team!

It is just a week until the Euros and the nation is hoping England will do well after the disappointment in some recent tournaments. After using ideas from the latest ReadWritePerform pack, students in my class wrote and performed their own motivational speech for the team. Using Doink Greenscreen and Videorama the class were incredibly proud of the finished video they created.

We are now on a mission to try and get the England team to see our video before the tournament starts! We NEED your help! We are hoping through the wonderful power of the internet the class reach their goal. Please share, like, tweet, RT, comment, tag and post this video to try and get it seen and hopefully passed on to Roy and the lads!

Thank you in advance!

Video on Facebook:

Video on YouTube:

So far we have had a fantastic response on Facebook and twitter with England legend Ian Wright, Soccer AM and journalist Henry Winter sharing the video:

Today, we had this message from the team:

I can't wait to see the reaction from the children!

Please keep sharing!

Monday, 23 May 2016

Introducting... READ WRITE PERFORM

I am so excited to announce a BRAND NEW approach to English I have developed alongside John Murray (@ReadingExplorer.)

The website is now LIVE. The approach covers every aspect of English - Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.

We have created and released our first teaching pack. Each teaching pack provides teachers with a unit of planning for English lasting 2-3 weeks.

The following image gives an overview of the approach and how each pack works:

We know this approach works, as all the ideas have been tried and tested in the classroom. The quality of writing and performance from the pupils in my class was phenomenal! 

The pack encourages your learners to actively engage with a variety of media and get the most out of the learning experiences you provide. Technology is used as a tool to enhance children's learning and evidence their final creations. We focus on combining all the elements of writing into one meaningful project: reading into writing into performance. 

We not only have exemplar texts but exemplar performances. Within the pack are links to videos where a professional actor has demonstrated the performance element. The actors also provide workshops in schools and you can receive an exclusive discount when purchasing the teaching pack. 

The first pack is available now! The Battle Cry pack involves children writing and then performing their own compositions to try and persuade their fellow villagers to follow them into battle. 

The pack can be downloaded by any teacher worldwide. We have not tailored this approach to just one curriculum or year group. We feel this approach will fit into every curriculum and teachers will be able to adapt the ideas to fit with the stage of learning for their students. We would say most of the material is aimed towards KS2 and KS3, however, a Year 2 class shared some of their fantastic work- - 

You can buy the pack as an individual teacher licence for £10 or purchase a whole school licence for £25 so every teacher within your school can access the material. 

For more about the approach and teaching pack, watch this Facebook Live Video I did with John last night:

We have a whole range of other packs in the pipeline so watch this space...

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

10 things you find in every staffroom

This is my latest vlog sharing different things you find in every staffroom! Feel free to share -

Sunday, 8 May 2016

What can we learn from Tyrion about Teaching?

Like most, I am completely hooked on Game of Thrones! If you haven't seen my other Game of Thrones inspired post, check it out - 12 Game of Thrones Teachers You See in Every School. One of my favourite characters in the series has to be Tyrion. People have such little faith in him. Yet he is constantly proving people wrong and challenging their misconceptions about him.

He is almost the perfect metaphor for teachers as it seems the 'powers that be' have a similar faith in teachers. But we are constantly proving them wrong. This weekend, social media has been flooded with positive messages for teachers and students in preparation for the upcoming SATs that are asking A LOT from children, to say the least! Let these thoughts from Tyrion inspire you to get you through this week and motivate you to keep doing the amazing job you do day in day out. 

"You love your children. It's your one redeeming quality; that and your cheekbones."

Now, I am not saying that this is your only redeeming quality as a teacher, you will have plenty! But the love and care you show your pupils will be up there. I love the way he links her beauty with it;  there is no harm in being a great teacher and looking fabulous at the same time too!

"Everything's better with some wine in the belly."
Again, I am not trying to encourage teachers to turn to the bottle but try to take some time to relax, away from work and enjoy time with friends, family or just chilling out yourself. You will benefit, your pupils will and colleagues will too. If that isn't a possibility, remember with marking it IS always better with some wine in the belly. 

"Well, my brother has his sword, and I have my mind. And a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone. That's why I read so much, Jon Snow."

Knowledge is power! We constantly encourage children to read and read for pleasure so set that example. In this day and age, reading comes in so many different forms. I found I am reading more than ever before because of the internet. Finding new ideas and resources through twitter and facebook and reading other teacher's blog posts has not only made me a better writer (I hope) but also improved my practice massively. 

"I am the gift."

You are a gift. A special gift to the pupils in your class and the staff in your school. You may not realise now but you are the most important tool in your classroom. No textbook, poster, app or device can replace an effective teacher. And you are an effective teacher. 

"A very small man can cast a very large shadow."

I know this quote didn't come from Tyrion however it shows that the impact a teacher can have on their students can last a lifetime. I still remember particular teachers who inspired and opened a whole world to me and I am forever thankful. To have the opportunity to do the same for other young ones is so powerful.

"Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armour, and it can never be used to hurt you."

 Even when things get tough, the pressure of SATs, Ofsted or another worry gets you to question yourself and your ability, remember why you became a teacher. Be proud of that, be proud of what you have done in your life that has taken you down the path of teaching and believe in yourself that you made the right decision.

While we are talking about SATs and Ofsted and that...

"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on its head"

I think that this pretty much says what it needs to. Having people who have never worked in a classroom make decisions about education is the reason why things are the way they are at the minute.
I think this goes beyond Education too!

"I'm not particularly good at violence, but I'm good at convincing other people to do violence for me."

You will be familiar with the phrase: Those who can, do; those who can't, teach. However, how many of those who 'do' are doing it because of a great teacher who believed and inspired them? Don't get me wrong, I am by no means an expert in every area of the curriculum but effective teachers can still raise the expectations of their pupils to a level beyond their own and that is a unique skill in itself.

"I'll lead the attack!"

The moment Tyrion saved Kingslanding from the Baratheon army. Make sure you grow as a teacher, when things go well, share. Look after new members of staff and support them as much as you can. Remember, you were once in that place needing a more experienced teacher to have belief in you. Be prepared to lead and lead with confidence by being there on the frontline!

"Death is so final, yet life is full of possibilities."

Focus on the positives. Set that example. If you come into class with a smile on your face you are more likely to get the same reaction from your pupils. 

And finally, I am sure plenty of teachers can relate to this...

Thanks for reading and good luck with everything over the next couple of weeks.