Book of the Week


 Click HERE to find out if this book is still available from the MRC.


Drop in on DEAR 5.1

The current focus of the Authors Page on the DEAR Homepage is…

Jenny Downham and her book: You Against Me!

Available to borrow from the MRC – Click HERE to check

Year 7 Information Literacy Programme: Fact and Opinion

Reading for Bias


Year 7’s often struggle with Reading for Bias so I spend two sessions on this topic  – starting with a basic session looking at Fact and Opinion.


Firstly I hand out two slips of card with the letter “F” and “O” written on them and remind them about the different types of reading and the one that is most often forgotten is Reading for Bias.

So what does the letter “F” and “O” have to do with reading for bias?

Some groups need a little bit more prompting or clues than others with many sounding confident with their initial answer of “For and Against… Oh that’s wrong.”


We then talk about the differences between Facts and Opinions, and about how you can prove or measure facts but opinions are what someone thinks.


The hard bit is when a writer (of a newspaper article or a webpage) uses both together – that’s when you need to read carefully looking for bias.


I put a series of statements onto the screen and the students need to decide if it is a fact (can be proved/measured) or an opinion (what someone thinks), they then hold up their “F” card if they think the statement is a fact, or the “O” card if they think it is an opinion.


The fun begins when statements such as…

Coca-cola tastes better than Pepsi


McDonald’s burgers taste better than Burger Kings


They tend to be better at spotting a fact – but get misled when they agree with the opinion.


The last statement causes the biggest stir…



Why do so many agree with this opinion (no really it is an opinion!) – could they possibly be biased?




They then have a go at writing three facts and opinions – about themselves, their best friend and their home.


The last topic is the one that fools them the most with ‘facts’ such as “my house is big” and I often ask them what the Queen would think if she visited their home!


World Book Night

I was lucky enough to be selected as a World Book Night Giver this year.

My application was to balance all the giveaways we have in place for students in Keystage 3 and 4 – Booked Up (RIP), World Book Day etc. This was my chance to target Post 16 and I wrote…


“We are all aware of the serious drop off in reading that take place during the later teenage years, and anything that counters this is worth doing.  I love Bryson’s writing style which is very approachable.”


So why do I think it is so important to encourage readers in this age group?


It is really easy to fall out of the reading habit during the busy and exciting time during the later teenage years. We can all remember the new opportunities – learning to drive and the freedom of going where you want to with friends, buying your first (legal) drink when you turn 18, the opposite sex, first love and heartbreak.

On top of this heady mix is the pressure of studying, exams, and part time work. When you are struggling with all this, and often more, you can always fall back onto a book for support. From outright escapism (and don’t we all need that from time to time), to walking in someone else’s shoes, who are going through similar experiences or experiencing something completely different!

Books and reading are an important part of the rich tapestry of life, and one that often wanes once you ‘can’ read, and no longer ‘have to read’. It’s difficult to compete with all those distractions – but it is worth diving into a good book once in a while- as they could take you anywhere!


The Book I chose was “Notes from a Small Island” by Bill Bryson – simply because it made me laugh out loud. I could relate to his experiences when he wrote about places I too had visited, and I was interested in reading about places I hadn’t been too yet.





Giving the books turned out to be easier than I thought… I delved into the SixthForm study centre during lunch and went around chatting to students about their reading habits. To those who considered themselves to be a reluctant readers I explained about World Book Night and talked about “Notes from a Small Island”. Only three students refused to accept a book. And many avid readers were a bit miffed that I wouldn’t give them a book! I kept a few books back to reward sixthformers who actively supported our DEAR initiative within their tutor groups but who wasn’t an avid reader themselves- and these were well recieved too.


So I’ve sent my fleglings out into the big bad world – I wonder where they will travel (and who will the books take with them on their journey?)

Carnegie Long List – continuing the challenge to read them all….

I’m setting myself the challenge to read all of the books on the long list before the winner is announced. 52 titles in 6 months. That’s 2 a week….. I’d better get reading!

Since my last post I have read….


The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley

An orphaned boy, picked up and taken to an old large house by a previously unknown/spooky benefactor…… where the story ends with fire and flame…. sounds a bit like another book on this list – Anne Fines The Devil Walks, – which I really liked as the twists in the plot were fresh and different. In The Dead of Winter there is no freshness, cliche after cliche is rolled out – madness, shadows, voices and Micheal remains a 2 dimentional puppet. So – not a graet read then!

Buried Thunder by Tim Bowler

A quick read, with very little explained on the way (or indeed at the end) it is left up to the reader to try and work out waht IS going on alongside Maya. Whilst this is refreshing  and it’s great not to have eveything set out in advance – it does leave some dis-satisfaction. A fairly lightweight book despite its attempts at ‘horror/terror’.

The Memory Cage by Ruth Eastham

Alex’s grandfather is suffereing from altzeimers and so Alex feels it is his responsibility to try and help him to remember and be safe enough to stay in the family home. As he creates a memory book he stirs up the secret history of his grandfather, and his own story (his life in Bosnia). The story pulls all these threads together for a satisfying and liberating ending.


Books I’ve read so far….




Book of the Week


 Click HERE to find out if this book is still available from the MRC.


Creative Writer of the Year 2012

Last term students in Year 8, 9 and 10 were asked to submit a short story to become our first Creative Writer of the Year.

We had 15 entires from Year 8, 11 from Year 9 and 7 from Year 11.

The criteria we judges had to use was….

Does the story have originality and flair?

Does the story have relevant and well-judged level of depth and detail?

Has language been crafted deliberately to create effect?

Is the plot coherent and logical?

Are the characters realistic and three-dimensional?

Are descriptions sensitive and subtle.

I really enjoyed being one of the judges for the year 8 category. and although there were a few of the typical vampire/witches stories, and ones I’m sure I’ve read or seen before – so these scored low on originality.

However there were some gems and at the final event I read an extract from the Year 8 winner.


Alongside all this judging the opening paragraphs were read to Tutor groups who then went on to illustrate this text – with a prize for the best illustration. There was also a ‘People’s Choice’  where the opening paragraph of each story was displayed and students, staff and visitors were able to vote for their favourite.



The final event was well attended by families and the occasion was extremely enjoyable and inspiring for both students, parent/carers and staff. With local Poet Toby Wood presenting the awards.




Congratulations to all the winners and I’m looking forward to next years event now!

Welcome back!

I hope you all had a restful, if slightly damp, Easter Break.

How many of you have still got some chocolate left? I’ve only a little as I like to munch whist I’m reading and I did a fair bit of reading over the break, (more about that later!)

So on the horizon for the Summer semesters are…..

The Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and of course the London Olympics, here in the Academy we have the Carnegie Shadowing group; the Literary Festival with an author visit; and a possible Year 6 /7 workshop day – watch this space!