Book review: the perfect (OFSTED) English lesson. David Didau

Some of the users of this blog must be teachers. That’s a law of averages thing. Of these, some must be in the UK, and of these some must be as concerned as I am with an apparent OFSTED/actual teaching dichotomy.
Confusion reigns in many ways. At a recent conference ( see earlier post) I was interested that straight after the nice man from OFSTED had stressed the issues around too much detail in planning and the dangers of over hectic lessons, one of the “star turns” from an outstanding school advocated staggeringly complex planning as one of the key strands of her school’s success.
It is obvious that one size does not fit all.
David Didau’s little book seems to go someway to squaring this circle. In 127 pages he examines teaching in the light of current OFSTED requirements and presents not only an absorbing read, but also some very sound advice. You will find something in here to enthuse you, even if you are a tired cynic, reading it on the first day of the summer holidays!
I do not know David, but have tweeted with him over the last few months where he has the name@learningspy. He is a regular contributor to #ukedchat, a forum which I follow on Thursday evenings. I say this in case you imagine I am merely puffing a friend- I am not.

The book itself opens with a brief overview of the 2012 OFSTED report Moving English Forward and focuses quite rightly on the lesson myths outlined within. I wrote on these a little while ago on this blog and here Didau spends some time clarifying these myths, which should be prescribed reading for all trainee teachers and NQTs, as well as members of management teams since this seems an area of confusion. Many will recognise the pressure of good practice demanded from within schools which does not correlate either with our own professional judgement or,apparently, these OFSTED inspectors. It is good to see a pedagogical text making these myths so clear.

That said, Didau must be a TimeLord. His lesson ideas are often excellent, but although he acknowledges potential issues around timing, he seems to be able to undertake activities which would make mere mortals such as me quake in my boots… So, a little and often might be the watchword.
There is too much to discuss at great length, but the highlights for me are:
1. A sensible look at SOLO as a teaching tool but also as a means for setting meaningful differentiated Learning Outcomes. I am dabbling in SOLO, and now I have more ideas, including some nice diagrammes to borrow and adapt- Didau is clear in his introduction how much teachers need to borrow and I feel no shame. He is rooted in pedagogues such as Dylan William and Phil Beadle and I am happy to follow their lead.
2. An approach to target setting that requires awareness of the underlying percentages rather than the target grade.
3. An approach to teaching wholly centred on what the students in the room at the time need, even if that is not fast for the sake of fast or overly fussy lessons.
4. Some genuinely innovative approaches to learning objectives and their use in a lesson.
5. Giving me a genuine sense that I am on the right track and that the students who tell me that they enjoy my classes because they are fun and interesting should not worry me quite so much since without that engagement we will end up teaching nothing at all.

I intend to use this book over the summer to refocus some of my thoughts. I shall be buying it for the PGCE I am mentoring next term and I will become a better teacher because of it. Ultimately I believe there is a way of blending OFSTED requirements with my pedagogical approaches, as outlined in this blog, and I am happy.

perfect OFSTED English lesson at amazon