English at WAVE

We recently ran a whole staff INSET exploring how we effectively develop students' literacy within Medical AP (with CHES and Sowenna in Cornwall and Torlands in Devon), and the unique challenges and opportunities therein. Equipping all our staff with the knowledge and understanding of the precise next literacy steps for each individual is key. Joining up conversations between English teachers and colleagues is important here as we look to sustain pedagogical change as well as enhance existing good practice in this area. 

One of the tools for developing literacy we explored on the day, with our guest speaker Andy Brumby, is ‘modelling'.

Andy has kindly followed this up with this article here:

Modelling regains its mojo!

Modelling is firmly back where it belongs at the heart of great teaching and learning, says Andy Brumby, who welcomes its long overdue renaissance



Great modelling allows students to see the ‘moves’ an expert makes and allows us to make our expectations clear, distinct and, most importantly, achievable.

Andy Tharby



The Apprentice

One of my earliest memories is of my dad, a joiner by trade, patiently showing me how to hammer a nail into a piece of wood without bending the nail or damaging the wood, the hammer or myself! I remember him talking to me as he performed this skill, gently explaining why he hit the head of the nail softly at first and then harder as its point began to disappear into the timber. This example of apprenticeship from more than 50 years ago - including my novitiate efforts to copy the master – remains vividly fixed in my memory. To be shown how to do something by an expert (and then attempt to emulate it) is a powerful and fundamental learning experience.



All teachers use modelling to some extent. The most effective teachers—like a master craftsman working with their novice apprentice—are aware of their expertise and of how to reveal their skills to learners.

Metacognition and Self-regulation Guidance Report - EEF


The ‘Holy Trinity’

As a teacher and school leader I have always considered modelling, along with effective questioning, and feedback, to be part of the holy trinity of great teaching and learning. Over many years I have been privileged to visit hundreds of classrooms and marvel at the ways in which highly skilled practitioners use these three aspects of pedagogy - on their own and in combination - to such great effect, whether in an Early Years or a Sixth form setting, whether in science, music, geography or P.E.


The Missing Link?

Of the three mighty aspects of pedagogy listed above, it is perhaps modelling, though, that has most often been missing from lessons in recent times. What happened to this pedagogic giant? Did it go out of fashion as teachers were urged to become the ‘guide on the side’ rather the ‘sage on the stage’? Were its purposes misunderstood in ways that led to it being associated with ‘passivity’ and ‘mindless copying’ of the teacher’s examples? Was it that teachers became wary of assuming the mantle of the expert or thinking of their pupils as novices? Perhaps teachers, including me, just had too much to ‘get through’ if they were going to ‘cover everything’ they were supposed to! Whatever the reason(s), modelling seemed - at least, for a while - to have lost something of its position of prominence, its pedagogic mojo.


To move from novice to expert, our pupils need to know how an expert athlete, artist, historian, or scientist habitually thinks and acts. We need to make these largely implicit processes explicit to our novice learners.

Metacognition and Self-regulation Guidance Report - EEF


The EEF’s seven-step model for teaching metacognitive strategies:







The Renaissance

But perhaps all that is about to change. Some interesting and thought-provoking articles from Andy Tharby, along with the publication of the EEF’s Metacognition and self-regulation guidance report (2018), have put modelling firmly back in the spotlight. According to Tharby, modelling is the bit in the middle. It is the teaching stage that ‘comes between the teacher’s explanation of a task or procedure and student practice. It is also the stage that is so often left out or not given enough attention by teachers.’ Without modelling, he goes on to say, many pupils ‘are left rudderless and at sea. They have little conception of what the final product, the goal, should look like, and they do not understand the small steps they need to go through to achieve success. Inevitably, without models their thinking – and subsequent work – becomes patchy and filled with avoidable errors. Ultimately, modelling brings greater clarity.’

 Modelling also features as the third step in the EEF’s seven-step model for teaching metacognitive strategies (see above), coming after activation of prior learning (step 1) and explicit strategy instruction (step 2) and before memorisation of the strategy (step 4) and guided and independent practice (steps 5 and 6). Ultimately, we are reminded, the purpose of modelling is ‘to help novice pupils become more capable of learning independently and thinking metacognitively. The modelling process involves teachers making gradual changes in support. Initially, scaffolding such as direct modelling and support from the teacher, is necessary, but as guided practice moves to independent practice, teacher input will change to monitoring and intervening only when necessary.’

Modelling methods and techniques

As the EEF’s Metacognition guidance report reminds us, modelling takes different forms in different subjects. In mathematics, for example, a teacher might start by sharing a completed worked example of multiplying fractions before going on to look more closely at the steps involved in working out the solution. Following this step-by-step modelling, the teacher gradually removes the scaffold, getting pupils to attempt a partially completed equation.

In PE, while teaching young pupils how to perform a forward roll safely, a teacher might talk through her actions as she demonstrates:


‘I don’t want to hurt my neck and want to do this neatly. So first, to protect my neck, I need to tuck my chin to chest like this. Then when I start to roll, I remember not to roll onto my head. Instead, look how I’m going to roll onto my back and shoulders. This also means my back is round, so I can smoothly roll like this. Now, who can remember what I did first to protect my neck?’

Metacognition and self-regulation guidance report - EEF



I do – We do – You do

One very powerful strategy for modelling which is currently having some traction in schools is the ‘I do - We do - You do’ model. Andy Tharby describes this as ‘a simple apprenticeship model, in which the teacher passes over their expertise to the student in a series of staged, scaffolded steps.’ It fits very well with steps 3 to 6 of the EEF’s model for teaching metacognitive strategies  

  • I do it first.
  • We do it together.
  • You do it on your own.

In the ‘I do’ stage the teacher models the skill without input from pupils, sharing her thoughts out loud as she takes them step-by-step through the relevant skill or procedure. This could be doing a forward roll, writing a paragraph or playing a sequence of chords.

In the ‘We do’ stage the teacher and pupils work collaboratively to construct a modelled example together, this time with questions, input, ideas and suggestions from pupils as well as the teacher. It may be necessary to repeat this stage of the modelling many times (using different examples) before pupils are ready to move onto the next stage.

In the ‘I do’ stage pupils finally begin to work independently with the teacher in the background ready to offer support to individuals who need it. Pupils may still need scaffolding such as sentence starters or visual access to the previous worked examples. The teacher’s role at this stage is to carefully monitor how much scaffolding needs to be kept or removed to enable pupils to progress. Deciding when to remove scaffolding requires artistry, and trainees and new teachers are likely to benefit from seeing this aspect of modelling modelled by expert practitioner.

Modelling is back

Yes, modelling is back. Back where it belongs at the heart of great teaching and learning.

It is back to reveal and make explicit the hidden thinking of experts; to vividly demonstrate and break down step-by-step procedures and skills; and to provide examples of excellence for pupils to emulate.


Andy Brumby is co-Director of Cornwall Associate Research School, part of the EEF Research Schools Network.



Metacognition and self-regulation guidance report (2018) – EEF


Everyday modelling by Andy Tharby


I, We, You - a Simple Approach to Modelling by Andy Tharby


Helping students find the ‘right’ books

If reading is too difficult, students are less likely to do it. Everything research tells us suggests that the gap between those who can read fluently and those who yet cannot when they join secondary school will widen. If you can do it, you will; and, because you are, you’ll keep getting better. If you don’t yet, and explicit attention isn’t given to this, progress in reading will stall. Reading becomes a chore; difficult and compounds a sense of failure when everything around you is saying ‘read more; reading rocks etc etc, you’ll never succeed if you don’t read’ etc etc

And we also know from research that we can make a difference by supporting students to choose texts that they are not only interested in, but that are closely matched to their current reading ability. Just the right level of difficulty in order to support fluency, and to introduce unfamiliar vocabulary at the right pace. If we get this part right, we are in a lot better position to be able to support continuing reading development and engagement.


And we know as English teachers from experience the difference that putting reading/interest ability matched books in front of our students. How ‘finding the right book’ can make all the difference.

As English teachers, we have our eyes and ears to the ground, continuously seeking out books to engage and interest the students we teach. We read widely and have a wealth of knowledge to share with parents and students about books they may enjoy. But also, we can use the following tools to support book choices for individuals. Before any of this: stopping and talking with students on a one to one basis about their perceptions of reading is useful. It is actually always the first steps with reluctant readers who join us. And we really, really listen. We seek to understand first at WAVE, then to be understood. The Five Finger guide below can then help.



We’ll look together at a book we think they might like from what they’ve told us about interests (or because, actually, we think they’ll like it anyway and we want to help them broaden choices depending on where they are with education and ‘reading’) and gently with them, we’ll help get a feel for how many words they are struggling with, and suggest some other books if this is too tricky just now. We can use our reading screen data (if this has been completed) to help make selections too. The ZPD score for each student can be entered into this website, and we can check the readability of a book here too. Students can be given the ZPD score to use themselves too, although this can be limiting, so we are careful here not to be giving the wrong message about what students ‘can’t read’ or ‘label’ students. We are mindful and careful and know that a sensitive approach which empowers, but also supports, choice is what works. We are also aware that no system is perfect and that the AR site can throw up anamolous results in terms of readability. So we use our judgement and common sense.

THE ZPD score is available from the English teacher, who will themselves find it alongside the Star reading test screen. The AR site link is at the end of this article. You enter the name of a book you want to check the readability of, and also, can use the ‘advance search’ function to help with suggestions. Our aim is to help our older students find a book to read independently, that they can read independently. It is only then that reading as an independent activity is pleasurable. And through doing this, we enable students to practise and practise and learn new things; explore new worlds; imbibe new language and see it in context; etc etc etc.

There is no one size fits all magic solution to the issue of stalled reading progress and the widening gap during secondary school years and some students will still need our close support to develop as readers, of course. But helping students find the ‘right books’ is within our power and duty as educators; parents and teachers together.


Every AP within our MAT has an English lead teacher. Here are a few words from each about themselves, and their classrooms across the two counties...





At WAVE MAT, we follow the Read Write Inc phonics programme in Primary and with 'Fresh Start' for some older students in order to support the development of reading and writing. The company have made daily phonics lessons for younger students available for free at this time. You can access them here, along with a number of useful parent guide videos to accompany the scheme and that can help you learn more about how you can support your child on their reading and literacy journey at home.

ReadWriteInc Phonics

To accompany the programme, a range of lovely stories are read aloud here:

Story Time



"The National Theatre Collection makes the best of British Theatre available worldwide to libraries, schools, universities and the wider education sector. Our unique collection presents high quality recordings of 30 world-class productions, giving you the best seats in the house whenever you want." 

Students and staff at WAVE can access the collection for free until the end of July 2020. For our GCSE students who study English Literature, you can watch acclaimed performances of Shakespeare's plays as well as adaptations of Frankenstein and other classics. Please ask your English teacher at WAVE for details of how to log in to the NT site:


small island banner

Teaching cursive handwriting is given time and attention in the primary curriculum in UK schools. Teaching how to type effectively shares less space currently within the national curriculum. And yet, as we know, we are all typists and increasingly so... 

Ever thought about learning to touch type? How many words to you punch into a screen every day? In today's fast moving world of technology and quick messaging, developing this skill could really help you to let your ideas and inner voice flow. During lockdown, it can be a great thing to have a go at learning something new, and it's never too late to learn.

You can do so for free in a course of online lessons here:

Touch typing course

There is a similar programme aimed to develop touch typing skills aimed at our younger primary students here:

BBC KS2 primary Touch Typing course

We know the importance of developing empathy in our young people and society, and we're seeing it in action in these current times as communities look to support each other. So what is empathy? And how can we develop it? Reading and discussing stories and characters is a great way! 

'In reading, you get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals'-Neil Gaiman

You can read more about the work and research underpinning how reading can help develop empathy and the work of EmpathyLab UK here:

EmpathyLabUK-find out more here

On June 9th 2020, it is Empathy Day, and a lot of free family learning resources have been produced to support home learning. There are videos of some great and classic stories; children's laureate Cressida Cowell and author Malorie Blackman leading online activities, as well as games and activities to support empathetic thinking and understanding. You can access these by clicking the link below.

Family Activities-Read for Empathy

EmpathyDay FamilyPackCover Apr2020 400w

Studying English Literature takes us on journeys to other worlds and cultures as well as to that of our own. Through literature, we learn and experience great human truths and dilemmas played out. Through insights into the minds, lives, thoughts and characters of others, we can develop empathy and ask searching questions, as well as learn about history and our place in it. As such, we believe Literature holds a very important space within our curriculum at WAVE and seek every opportunity to explore books with our classes- and for older students, study for the GCSE in English Literature. 

Here are some useful links to study resources for the AQA GCSE depending on which books you may be studying in class.

Writing and Analysing Poetry

Using Quotations and Textual References


An Inspector Calls

A Christmas Carol

At Key Stage 3, AQA have issued this resource booklet for introducing 19th Century Literature:

AQA 19th Century Literature at Key Stage 3 pdf


Reading or listening to audiobooks are both great ways of accessing stories and enjoying the world of books. One is not 'less' or 'more' than the other, and both activities involve engaging parts of the creative brain. In praise of audiobooks, and the value of this way of accessing a world of books is discussed by academics from the University of Texas here in a podcast:


There are lots of free audiobooks available via the BBC sounds app. A few suggestions are below: