March 2017

On learning to notice (unseen poetry)


I picked this activity up from the AQA Effective Exam Prep course and thought it was a great way to get students to focus on the key things when tackling an unseen poem… read more.

On how we’re marking PPEs (mocks to you and me)

marking comic for blog

See that teacher? The one with ashen skin, ink smudges on her hands (insert school policy colour of preference) that can barely suppress a yawn? You know, the one with bloodshot eyes and a mug of coffee as large as her face. Yeah her. She teaches English. Be kind to her. Read more.

February 2017

On what Thumper’s father told him


When I was growing up my mum would regularly say to me, ‘What did Thumper’s mum say?’ and I would repeat back to her the maxim that if you can’t say anything nice you shouldn’t say anything at all. Words to live by; not least because being nice doesn’t mean that you can’t give feedback and constructive criticism…read more.


On our new whole-school literacy strategy


When I took up my post as Head of English in September I also took on the responsibility for whole-school literacy. Thankfully my school gave me time to devise a new strategy and sent me on a fantastic course… read more.

On speed-planning essays…


It seems a perennial problem that students don’t seem to know how to revise for English exams. One of the things I’ve been doing with my year 11s is speed-planning essays… read more.

Guest Blog by Linda Evans: On using Google Docs to track reading


I have a confession to make…I am slightly obsessed with Google Docs, thanks in large part to my colleague Charlotte….read more.

On homework that requires NO marking


I love this dreamy painting by Perugini (although I’m yet to master reading a book where it remains open on the bit I actually want to read without holding it…). Perugini captures in oil that delicious feeling of being lost in a book… read more.

On AQA Paper 2 Section A


Back in December I attended AQA’s Effective Exam Preparation course for the new English Language GCSE. It was a really informative day and has been instrumental in helping me to design how we prepare our year 10 students for their English Language exam this Summer… read more.

On AQA Lit Paper 1 Section B (19th Century) Question Stems


AQA have said that they will not print any more sample assessment material for the new Literature GCSE. Although I can understand why, it does present us with the challenge of generating questions for our students… read more.

On AQA Lit Paper 1 Section A (Shakespeare) Question Stems

#WeeklyBlogChallenge17 Post 6


AQA have said that they will not print any more sample assessment material for the new Literature GCSE. Although I can understand why, it does present us with the challenge of generating questions for our students… read more.

On AQA Paper 1 Section A (3 is the magic number)

#WeeklyBlogChallenge17 Post 5


When it comes to Paper 1 Section A, 3 really is the magic number (except when answering question 1 of course…)… read more.

English Magpie Archives: Group Poetry Analysis


From my previous blog (The English Magpie) in 2008 on group poetry analysis…read more.

English Magpie Archives: Fragmented Poems


From my previous blog (The English Magpie) in 2008 on using questions to analysing fragments from poems… read more.

January 2017

On being PiXLated

#WeeklyBlogChallenge17 Post 4


Yesterday I travelled, along with approximately 1599 other English teachers, to the Big Smoke to attend my first PiXL English conference… read more.

On writing essays people actually want to read…

#WeeklyBlogChallenge17 Post 3


This week I collected in some homework essays from my delightful top set year 11 class… read more.

On valuing knowledge AND engagement


I’ve been spending a bit more time on Twitter since having my appendix removed on New Year’s Day… read more.

On appendectomies and being a bad patient

#WeeklyBlogChallenge17 Post 2


On the morning of New Year’s Eve… read more.

On spinning and the importance of modelling

#WeeklyBlogChallenge17 Post 1


This summer I started doing something quite extraordinary (for me): spinning… read more.

November 2016

On grief and kindness


Two weeks ago my dad died. It was very sudden and unexpected: he was only 56… read more.

June 2016

English Magpie Archives: Spot the Difference – Storm on the Island

storm on the island

From my previous blog (The English Magpie) in 2008 on spotting the difference to evaluate the use of enjambment in Heaney’s ‘Storm on the Island’.

English Magpie Archives: Unrolling a Poem


From my previous blog (The English Magpie) in 2008 on unrolling a poem.

May 2016

5-a-Day Starter


I have a small but lively bottom set year 10 group who have found the demands of the new English Literature GCSE, well, demanding… read more.

April 2016

#blogsyncenglish April

sylvia plath

“If a poem is concentrated, a closed fist, then a novel is relaxed and expansive, an open hand: it has roads, detours, destinations; a heart line, a head line; morals and money come into it. Where the fist excludes and stuns, the open hand can touch and encompass a great deal in its travels.”

Sylvia Plath

#PoetryPromise April


#BlogSyncEnglish April ‘Teaching Poetry’ by John Coleman

KS3 Gothic Writing SOW


About 18 months ago I created a fully resourced Gothic Writing SOW for my department. It was a labour of love… read more.

March 2016

#PoetryPromise March


February 2016

#PoetryPromise February


Inspired by Chris Hildrew, my #PoetryPromise for 2016 is to share a favourite poem of mine every month through my blog…

On becoming a Ms


I’ve overheard a few conversations at the entrance to my classroom, upon the door of which sits proud a sign that says ‘Ms Foster’, in which my students try to decipher the meaning behind my title… read more

January 2016



NPG 1898 Robert Browning by Michele Gordigiani oil on canvas, 1858 Credit line: National Portrait Gallery, London

Inspired by Chris Hildrew, my #PoetryPromise for 2016 is to share a favourite poem of mine every month through my blog…

November 2015



I thought I’d create a post with a link to all of the fantastic contributions we’ve had so far to #BlogSyncEnglish…

Starter for Five


My contributions to Starter for Five (crowd-sourced advice for new teachers)… read more

October 2015

A face for radio?


At the invitation of Liam Davis, on Sunday the 11th of October I made the journey across London to be interviewed about teaching on Shoreditch Radio. Having never been interviewed before… read more

August 2015

Reading Challenge Homework


In my last post about displays, I included a picture of a rather bare display board which will be used for completed Reading Challenge Homework. This is a quick post explaining what that will involve… read more



I’m starting full time at a new school in September and I think it’s really important to take ownership of the classroom I’ll be spending a lot of time teaching in… read more

‘Survive or Die’ #ChineseSchool


Last night my twitter feed was awash with tweets about #ChineseSchool. Largely these were dismissive of the attempt to use Chinese teaching methods in a British context but some were… read more

‘Here she is in drag as, famously, Hamlet.’ #EnglishBlogSync


It struck me, whilst reflecting on my most and least favourite texts to teach, that both the texts I have chosen I taught first in my NQT year in 2007/8 to A level students: my favourite, Hamlet, to year 13; my least favourite, Wise Children, to year 12… read more

July 2015

What I learnt from David Didau’s presentation at #TMIslington


The Learning Spy kicked off #TMIslington on Monday with a provocative talk that challenged the things we teachers often accept to be true without question. So, what did I learn? read more

June 2015

Musical Misery: reflections on my own fixed mindset


Having read a lot about growth and fixed mindsets of late, I was given cause to reflect on my own experiences as a learner and came to the realisation that there were some things about which I had a very fixed mindset… read more

What I learnt from my first Teach Meet…


I joined Twitter a couple of months ago and, until then, had never heard of such a gathering. My feed was soon filled up with happy tweets from teachers enjoying Teach Meets and naturally I felt left out… read more

The Inspection Borg: resistance isn’t futile


“We are the Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.”

“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times… don’t provoke the Borg.” read more

What if, like teachers, MPs had performance related pay?

duck house

From the 1st of September 2013, schools have been able to link teachers’ pay to performance – the idea being that this allows them to pay good teachers more… read more

Redesigning the KS3 Curriculum: Stage Two


I have had just four days in my new school (Mondays and Fridays until I start full time in September). After finding my way around the school, meeting some of my new colleagues and having a nosey at what the English team have been up to with regards to KS3, I have largely been holed up in the English store cupboard, with its comforting smell of old books, working on my redesign… read more

How to be a Happy Teacher: Tip #3


Think about your framing

How happy you are as a teacher has a lot to do with how you frame things. Broadly speaking you can frame things positively or negatively; as an opportunity or a threat and as a challenge or a hurdle… read more

May 2015

Redesigning the KS3 Curriculum: Stage One


I will be going into my new school tomorrow for my first full day. I already know that one of the things I’ll be working on this term is redesigning the KS3 curriculum to help ensure that more students make better progress in English… read more

Why I pay to teach…


When I started my teaching career in September 2007, my only ambition was to be the best teacher I could be. I had no plans to progress into leadership and if I were to have been asked where I saw myself in 5 years I’d have imagined… read more

Is it brave to teach teenagers?

Clyde Beatty taming a lion with a chair (Image from Harvard Library)

Am I brave? I wouldn’t say so and I’m not sure I’d describe my colleagues as such – or, if I were to, it wouldn’t be because they taught teenagers. We’re teachers, not lion tamers… read more

What I learnt from building a tower out of newspaper…


Two days ago I attended the first workshop, focused on how to lead a team, of my NPQML course. Amongst other things we were reminded of Bruce Tuckman’s team-development model (Forming Storming Performing Normning) and did some role play *cringe* of difficult conversations… read more

How to be a Happy Teacher: Tip #2


Ring-fence some time

It is a truth universally accepted that the job of a teacher is never done. Trying to get to a stage where there is absolutely nothing more you could do for your students, your department or your school is an exercise in futility… read more

How to be a Happy Teacher: Tip #1



Teaching is an inherently stressful profession. It’s a lot like spinning plates. You’ll have one spinning beautifully but there’s no time to enjoy its mesmerising whirl because you have the others to attend to… read more

An Open Letter to Nicky Morgan


Dear Nicky Morgan,

I should probably start by confessing that I’m not a Conservative voter – not even one of those ‘shy Tories’ I’ve heard a lot about these past few days… read more

Blue Blood Bath


Today I learnt that even the best political commentators can get it spectacularly wrong. I doubt even David Cameron thought he’d today emerge the leader of a majority Conservative Government… read more



In the run up to one of the least predictable general elections of all time*, I have been learning about the education policies in the manifestos of some of the key parties… read more

Every day is a school day…


I regularly find myself saying, ‘Every day is a school day’. Perhaps working my entire adult life with teenagers has encouraged a puerile sense of humour but… read moreMsEng




One thought on “Home

  1. When I first came across your blog, I expected a rather cheesy tacky page filled with inspirational quotes written over sunsets, but it’s actually given me a different perspective on teaching. No, I am not a teacher myself, (very far from it actually) but it’s made me think about different peoples views on it. I assumed teaching teens was non stop stress, before, at and after work, but you’ve widened my viewpoint

    Liked by 1 person

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