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Fourteen years ago (ish) when we were training to teach, the recommended reading list consisted of one book. In fact, come to think of it, there may not have been a reading list at all. Either way, Proctor, Entwistle, Judge and McKenzie-Murdoch’s ‘Learning to teach in the Primary Classroom’ ended up pretty much unread on the shelf at the end of the year (we’re aware that may say more about us than the book!). Looking at it on Amazon now, it apparently had sections on things like classroom organisation, planning, teaching strategies, assessment — not that that registered at the time. We may have dipped into it for an essay quote or two and it was probably a very comprehensive book, but the point is — we never bothered to find out. It seemed dry. Never once in a sticky classroom situation did we think, “I wonder what Proctor, Entwhistle et al have to say about that?”

Learning to teach in the primary classroom’ never moulded the teachers the class of ’99 were to become, put fire in our minds or inspired us to inspire. In those pre-Twitter days, we learned to teach mostly by working alongside people who had been there, done that and were happy to share their advice.


Reading Phil Beadle’s ‘How to teach’ is like having a cuppa in the company of one of these staffroom sages. It covers the same subjects as you’d expect any other book on teaching to do, but the difference is that Phil Beadle speaks with a passion and liveliness that only comes from experience. And like an informal chat over a cup of tea, it’s packed with wit, warmth, a professional irreverance, some controversial opinions and the odd use of choice language. In short, it’s valuable advice from someone who know his onions and in no way could it ever be called dry. This is a book that explains why it’s important to sweat the small stuff, outlines the ‘Can You Tell What It Is Yet?’ paper-cutting approach to lessons, suggests a completely crazy class discussion technique and takes inspiration from Simon Cowell and Terry Venables on praise (and, if the latter idea intrigues you, you might be interested in this, guv).

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that ‘How to teach’ is for trainee teachers and NQTs. It’s not. The ideas, methods and advice Phil Beadle provides will provoke any teacher – whatever their experience — to consider how they do things and, more importantly, how those things can be done better. In fact, it could be argued that it’s more experienced teachers, settled in their ways, that need a Beadle shake-up more than the current open-minded generation of Twittering NQTs who glean ideas wherever they can find them (Ooh — just had an idea for a TV series… The author pops his head out of unsuspecting teachers’ cupboards and prods them out of their stubborn worksheet ways into being more creative. ‘Watch Out, Beadle’s About’, anyone?).

‘How to teach’ is split into five main sections:
   — Management of Students
   — Knowledge and Understanding
   — Methods and Organisation
   — Lesson Planning
   — Assessment

Like any book that attempts to condense such broad subjects into 200-odd pages, it won’t all be relevant to your situation. Even so, you’ll find that this a manual for creative, lively teaching, whatever your subject or key stage.

In ‘How to teach’, Phil Beadle does something that many books that “teach how to teach” don’t do – he passes on gems of advice that aren’t based on dry notions, but the cut and thrust world of classroom reality. For example, in no other how-to-teach manual did we ever read that planning doesn’t have to be full-blown for every lesson (admittedly, we’ve already our displayed our limited knowledge of how-to-teach manuals, but you know what we mean!). It’s also seriously funny.

You may not agree with all of the author’s views (coming from a primary background, we’d say that lesson starters are more useful than he suggests — and don’t get him started on Interactive Whiteboards!), but that’s why ‘How to teach’ is useful for more experienced teachers. We can pick the gems we like. Here are some of our favourite things that Proctor, Entwhistle and Co. never told us:



How brilliant is that last one? Even if you found that sort of sentiment in other texts, we challenge you to find it so exquisitely written. That paragraph should be stuck on the inside of your diary, planning book or whatever, and inform your teaching every day. Ten feet tall children is what it’s all about.

We’re not sure what books are on the reading lists of PGCE and BEd courses — no doubt all sorts of worthy tomes — but if ‘How to teach’ isn’t on them, it’s a shame.

It’s the book we wish we’d read in 1999, but fourteen years on it’s no less relevant to us now.

  

FURTHER LINKS
– Find ‘How to teach’ on Amazon
El Tel and the Art of Pupil Praise is evidence of the directions this book can take you. Be warned!
Dancing About Architecture, by the same author, gives techniques for keeping you creative in the classroom
– The author presents tips from ‘How to teach’ on Youtube
– Phil Beadle’s website

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