The advantages of the double page spread teacher

We all know who these teachers are? Are you one? These are teachers that teach by the text book – one double page spread after another. What shall we do next if we have finished Sir? – just turn over and do the next one.

This type of teacher and approach tends to be widely criticised in schools up and down the country.

Here are just a few words we hear thrown at them in a typical school year.

Not changed with the times!

Teachers that criticise this approach I feel often clutter the students with too many resources. I have seen far too often teachers give students just too many resources per tiny topic.

Here are just a few examples.

Cut out, re order and stick in.
Fill out the blanks with a few red herrings thrown in for fun!
Copy from the board.
Let’s play a patronising game.
Let’s check the persons work next to you to see what they don’t understand.
A home work activity that doesn’t extend but gets then to re stylise what has been done in class.
Make a poster on it
Look at this great website.
And finally – look it up in your revision guide!

Students sometimes don’t know whether they are coming are going with so many resources. Some students end up having cravings for the ‘double page’ teacher. They certainly crave a ‘summary sheet’.

Here are just some advantages this type of teacher has over the others.

1. Students know where they are at any given time.
2. The structure of the course is obvious.
3. The can revise easily when it comes to a test.
4. They can get ahead by simply reading more.
5. There are often ways to extend and go deeper into a topic.
6. They textbook they have been given is actually used!
7. They get used to reading and digesting.

I do agree that the copy this, draw that, answer questions at the bottom is now dated but let’s please use these expensive resources to give structure. The specification for exam classes is of course the other essential bit of scaffolding.

The very creative and funny teacher is always popular – sometimes control is poor however. When it comes to exams I often hear “I don’t have a clue what is going on”!

Please agree or disagree with this by commenting.

Thanks for reading.

The Essential Teacher


Develop yourself Professionally in your local bookshop

It may seem boring to many however one of my favourite things is to lose myself in the education section of a large bookshop. Foyles in London is an excellent one and I consider it to be better than any continuing development you can go on in some random hotel function room.

When I was studying for my teacher training at Oxford I remember not finding any of the educational theory that relevant or interesting. I imagine because I hadn’t really taught much and wasn’t familiar with the dynamics of the classroom.

I am now ready to learn and apply new knowledge and theories.

Here are my suggestions

– spend a good hour flicking through the education books at a large department store.
– get on all fours and crawl around looking at the bottom shelves. You can’t do that with a kindle!
– have a coffee with some of the books if they will allow you to do it.
– go to your subject area and see if there any new text books you could invest in to help your own teaching or recommend to your students.
– have a little notebook with you to take down any tips of wisdom.
– buy a book or make a note of the name to download later.

Let me know how you get on in your local bookshop.

The Essential Teacher

The dry cleaners approach to marking

This is a short post

When you go to the dry cleaners to take some shirts to be washed and ironed they give you a little ticket. This ticket tells you when the items will be ready to collect. You know exactly where you stand.

I see teachers drowning in marking. This is nearly always because

Too much work has been set and not really thought out.

They are trying to get the work back to students for the very next lesson.

They feel they have to mark every single word and every single line.

My advice would be to give yourself some space. Plan better and tell your students when the work will be ready to collect/handed back to them – just like the dry cleaners.

I will give some advice in a later post do what pupils can do if they don’t have there exercise books.

With the right systems in place you won’t be drowning every night in marking.

To be honest struggling to cope like this results in poor quality marking and can be next to useless anyway. Give yourself space!

The Essential Teacher

Stop the over reliance on subject specific revision guides forever

There is a growing problem In UK schools and this is the uncontrollable obsession with revision guides.

These are slowly but surely killing off creativity in the classroom, a desire to learn and an urge find things out.

After teaching in the independent sector for many years I see these guides used in many ways and not just by the pupils.

In teaching

Some teachers plan lessons and schemes of work using them – sometimes photocopying pages at a time to be used as students notes. This is quite lazy in my opinion.

By students

Students can’t wait to get their hands on them. Once they have them they see them as replacing the teacher as they ‘contain everything they need to know’. They certainly replace their text book which is often handed back at the end of a two year GCSE course in pristine condition.


The most common question asked by parents at parents evening is what revision guide they can buy. I won’t mention it here but the massively popular one is usually recommended without question – just say out loud see pee gee and you will get my gust! Presumably parents will then toddle off to a local book store and buy the rack of them with workbook. Incidentally these workbooks contain so many questions it would be very difficult to answer all questions and have time to study more than one subject!

So what’s the problem?

Well as I see it all the hard work is already done. For revision to be effective students have to be active in revision. They need to jump in to the work above there waist and start splitting the subjects themselves into smaller topics and sub sections. They need to use several resources including general reading, text books and non revision style websites.

Simply buying a revision guide is not the answer to achieving the highest grade. We have a situation in which soon all subjects taught in the Uk are going to be learnt and taught using these vague and shallow summary booklets.

Attitudes have to change otherwise statistics such as 32% to achieve a C grade in GCSE physics (my subject) will be secured for many years to come. We can’t have such low percentages any more – they shouldn’t be allowed to continue.

Moving away from a reliance from these guides is an important and I regard large step forward.

If you have an opinion on this then please comment freely.

Thanks for reading.

The Essential Teacher

6 ‘less than’ teaching ideas that may help you get more out of your day

Less is often more and here are just six ways that we could do less of to make our day so much more.

Less talking in the classroom

Avoid rambling and talking too much at the students. They are probably not taking as much in as you think they are. Instead give them controlled creative tasks. Allow them to discover things for themselves.

Less talking in the staff room

Teaching is a busy profession and there is always plenty to do. Early on in my teaching Career someone once said to me, “What is worse than marking”. Answer: Talking about marking. This is so true. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard teachers moaning about all the work they have to do – sometimes for a whole break time or even a whole pub session. It’s sometimes best just to get on with it.

Less coffee and biscuits

Teachers seem to be mad about coffee. I need coffee. Give me coffee. I can’t do anything else unless I have had my coffee. I used to be like this and once counted I had racked up a ridiculous twelve cups. This can’t be too beneficial to ones health can it. The biscuit tin is also a problem. It’s impossible to have one biscuit unless you have stronger will power than steel! Place a tin of family choice biscuits on a table in your typical staff room and it can be like feeding time at the zoo. The truth is that all this sugar will give you a huge energy slump shortly afterwards – probably just as the last class of the day arrives at your door. Have a bag of nuts instead or a chicken leg!

Less sit down meetings and debate

One problem I have with sit down meetings is open ended questions. Do you think we should include this on the marking policy? How long should the year 9 exam be? It’s good to have discussion but sometimes the chair of the meeting just needs to instruct. Sitting down makes people to comfortable and allows people to air there views too much. Stand up meetings tend to be much more efficient.

Less time at work

The other day I witnessed a colleague ask the caretaker what time they could stay in the building til. They intended staying working until chuck out time. I agree that work does need to be done but working with this mentality just tires you out in the end. You need to be fresh where it matters most and this is in the classroom. We need to worker smarter than working all hours available. In future posts I will explain how we can do this.

Less marking of students work

Yes marking is important but not every single word, every calculation and every task. Decide what you ate going to mark before you start teaching a unit and tell the pupils exactly what you will be assessing. Then there are no surprises or false expectations. Of course you have to insist on high standards with all work and not just the assessed pieces.

I will post another ‘less than post soon’. If you wish to enrich this post with your own ‘less than ideas as comments’ then please comment freely.

The Essential Teacher