28 February 2020

Reflect, Expect, Check, Explain

Craig Barton’s new book Reflect, Expect, Check, Explain (#RECE…?) was published today. I'm one of the lucky few who got to read it before its release. It was an absolute honour to write the foreword.

It came as no surprise to me that Craig’s second book is just as enjoyable as his immensely popular first book. It is laugh-out-loud funny. And as a maths teacher who is never quite satisfied with her lessons, I can really relate to absolutely everything he writes about.

Having read the first book and seen Craig speak something like a million times, when he told me he was writing a new book I wondered whether I'd learn much from it. Surely by now, with all my experience in the classroom and all the CPD I go to and all the tweets and blogs and books I’ve read, surely there’s not much more to tell me about, right?

But yet, every single page of this book gave me something to think about. There is just so much that I have never even considered - in task design, in the things I say in the classroom, in the way I plan sequences of lessons, and in everything else I do. I feel like I could teach for a thousand years and I still won’t have worked it all out myself.

Craig’s new book, just like his first one, has made me think. It’s what we want students doing, and it’s what we want teachers doing.

Take Craig’s model of a learning episode for example. He explains each stage in intricate detail, leaving the reader in no doubt of how it all fits together and exactly how it can be delivered.

Nothing is assumed to be obvious here - even the introduction stage of the learning episode. Craig carefully explains what it can look like and what purpose it holds. Craig suggests that this introduction stage could feature links to the big picture, stories, hooks and etymology. But we do all of this with caution – we don’t want to overwhelm or confuse students. Craig gives us examples of the words he actually uses in each scenario. This is incredibly useful for teachers. Instead of giving us vague ideas on the kind of things we could include in our lessons, throughout the book Craig is much more direct.

Craig also tells us the point in each element of the introduction stage. I’m a big fan of talking about etymology in lessons, just because I think it’s interesting, but I’ve never thought properly about the part this plays in developing pupils’ understanding of the meaning of words. In his book, Craig explains how it all fits together and what purpose it holds. And this is just part of the introduction stage! Every stage of the learning episode is explained in detail.

Throughout the book we see numerous examples of scripts, to help teachers practise their phrasing. Here’s another snippet, to give you an idea of how this looks:

As well as loads of guidance on delivering lessons, the book also contains a huge number of tasks and resources, along with Craig’s suggestions on how to use them effectively. As ever, everything is explained with an unrivalled clarity.

In this post I've featured just a few examples of parts of the book that I really liked, but there were many more sections I could have chosen because I liked the entire book. I don’t want to spoil it for you by revealing too much though! I highly recommend you buy and digest Craig’s epic book in full. I know that a lot of maths departments set up a CPD book club based around Craig’s last book, where teachers got together in department meetings to discuss each chapter in turn. That’s a bloody brilliant idea, and a sign of a high functioning maths department. This would work equally well with Craig’s new book (and, incidentally, with my book A Compendium of Mathematical Methods...!). Isn’t it fantastic when maths teachers get together to talk about teaching maths? We really should do more of that.

You can buy Craig's book here.

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