Making every English lesson count


Image: @jasonramasami

Two years ago my colleague Shaun Allison and I were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write a book on teaching practice. This became Making every lesson count, a handbook for teachers based on six interlinking pedagogical principles: challenge, explanation, modelling, practice, feedback and questioning. It was our pet project and we had great fun writing it. Since then, we have been thrilled and humbled by the positive response to the book we have received from teachers across the country. In truth, we had not expected this.

Over the past year or so, Shaun and I have been considering one of the weaknesses of the original book: the fact that most of the advice is generic rather than subject-specific. Given the crucial role that pedagogical content knowledge has in the development of teacher expertise, we decided to launch a series of books that examine how the six principles work in different academic subjects, along with a version for primary teachers too.

I have written the book on English teaching, Making every English lesson count: six principles to support great reading and writing. As with the original book, my aim has been to provide precise and gimmick-free advice in an accessible style. It is also illustrated by the ever-brilliant Jason Ramasami. The book is not only informed by research evidence but also the excellent practice of many English teachers from up and down the country. Once again, the book has been written to read from cover to over or to dip in to. I am proud of the final result and I hope that my fellow English teachers will find it useful and inspiring.

If you want to learn more, you can read a sneak preview of the introduction and a few pages of the first chapter here. I hope you enjoy it.

All being well, the book is due out by the end of the month – watch this space. If you order directly from Crown House Publishing you will get the book a few days before Amazon customers.

Making every primary lesson count, by Jo Payne and Mel Scott, can be ordered from here. Making every science lesson count, by Shaun Allison, can be ordered here. I can heartily recommend them both.

Scroll down to read the first reviews of my book:

Jill Berry, leadership consultant and author of Making the Leap:

Andy Tharby is clear from the outset that there are no silver bullets, and no strategies that will work for all English teachers in all classrooms. He stresses the importance of individuality and context, but also recognises that we can learn much from reading and research, from collaborative dialogue with other professionals and from careful reflection on all we learn as a consequence. How can we adapt what others have found to be successful in order to continue to build and strengthen our own practice?

Making Every English Lesson Count is firmly grounded in the principles of challenge, explanation, modelling, practice, questioning and feedback, and considers these elements of effective practice from a subject-specific perspective: offering practical strategies, specific examples and questions to prompt reflection. Tharby encourages the reader to consider how these ideas could be usefully adapted for best effect in their own teaching practice. The book explores, for example, the central place of the text in English teaching; the importance of background knowledge, both in terms of textual content and context and with respect to mastering literary skills; the crucial place of developing our understanding of vocabulary; and the effective use of supporting visual images. Meanwhile, throughout the book, suggestions based on sound underpinning theory about what learning is, and how it happens, are fleshed out with helpful close analysis and annotation of specific literary passages.

Tharby claims, “Great English teachers must live and breathe their subject.” Making Every English Lesson Count is testament to the fact that Tharby himself is definitely among their number.

Hélène Galdin-O’Shea, English and media teacher, research advocate:

This is a fantastic follow-up to Making Every Lesson Count, a book that has proved a solid resource for professional learning at all levels of experience.

Andy offers us a manifesto for great teaching of English, informed by research evidence, experience and pragmatism. His style is thought-provoking and insightful, and altogether a pleasure to read.

Making Every English Lesson Count will no doubt be a staple of all English departments, offering a wealth of advice to support the planning of an ambitious curriculum for our students and allowing colleagues to deliberately practise specific strategies in the classroom, with a focus on explicit teaching based on strong subject knowledge.

An advocate for reading and for expanding our students’ vocabulary, Andy’s enthusiasm is contagious. He has it right when he quotes Ludwig Wittgenstein: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” What a fantastic challenge for all English teachers!

I couldn’t recommend this book more.

David Didau, author of What If Everything You Knew About Education Was Wrong?:

Andy Tharby has written the best book on English teaching that I have read. Not only is it full of practical wisdom, arresting anecdote and a thorough understanding of the implications of cognitive science for English teachers, it’s also couched in elegantly composed prose and is a joy to spend time with. It will bestride the educational world like a colossus.

Chris Curtis, Head of English, Saint John Houghton Catholic Voluntary Academy:

As with his blog, and previous collaboration with Shaun Allison in Making Every Lesson Count, Andy Tharby continues to demonstrate his knack of decluttering and demystifying teaching. This time he effectively, effortlessly and succinctly sets his eyes on the English lesson.

Making Every English Lesson Count cuts right down to the quick of English teaching. Tharby painlessly gets straight to the important issues in the classroom and moves us away from the superficial aspects that distract from quality teaching. Using his friendly and approachable style of writing, he guides us through the principles of what a lesson should have and what a teacher can do to ensure that every lesson counts.

Great teaching is about making the unfamiliar familiar and making the complex simple. This book does just that and it is a welcome addition – I really wish I had had it as an NQT.

A perfect gift for an NQT or established teacher of English.

Carl Hendrick, Head of Learning and Research, Wellington College:

One of the central challenges facing English teachers today is the huge chasm between research and practice. For many, the field of education research is an impenetrable forest that is simply not worth the effort of exploring at a time when workload is already at unmanageable levels. Making Every English Lesson Count is an indispensable guide for English teachers that combines important research from a range of fields with practical advice on how to implement it in the classroom. As a researcher, but more importantly as an English teacher, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Simply put, this is the book I wish I had read in my first year of teaching.

2 thoughts on “Making every English lesson count

  1. Pingback: Educational Reader’s Digest | Friday 9th June – Friday 16th June – Douglas Wise

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