Five things we learnt at Primary Rocks Live

Hundreds of primary teachers flocked to Manchester today to find out how to make their lessons rock

Helen Ward

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If it’s Saturday, it must be Manchester and Primary Rocks Live!

The Monday evening Twitter educhat came to life today as 220 primary teachers packed into Medlock Primary School in Manchester to meet colleagues, share best practice, learn from educational gurus and eat free ice-cream.

“The event sold out in 100 minutes,” said Sophie Merrill, curriculum leader, Y6 teacher at Medlock and one of the Primary Rocks team. “It has been amazing. The best thing is meeting people in real life that you chat to every day on Twitter. It is a great opportunity to share ideas about teaching. It is a real community.”

Here are some of the things we learnt:

It’s all about the children – yeah, even those children:

  1. “It is not the big ticket, showpiece, observed lesson that counts, it is the hundreds of thousands of little things you do every day, things that give the children those high expectations,” Gaz Needle, co-founder of Primary Rocks gets the conference started. “So I want to say thank you for coming, because you’re amazing. You have given up your Saturday to learn more about the craft, to get better for those little ones who sometimes drive you up the wall.”

To change children’s behaviour, you need to change adults’ behaviour:

  1. Paul Dix, behaviour expert, told a story about a school he’d visited in Brazil where the most troublesome child was pointed out – everything had been tried. He suggested that every adult who came across the child in the next few weeks stopped him and said: “You’ve grown up, you’ve changed.” So they did. Three months’ later Mr Dix went back – the child’s behaviour had improved. “That’s interesting, isn’t it?” said Mr Dix to the staff. “Not really,” the staff replied. “He had grown up, he had changed.”

Children don’t want pencil cases, they want recognition:

  1. In a survey of students, Mr Dix found that what they really valued as rewards for good behaviours were not material objects but a phone call home to their parents, a positive note to take home and praise. Similarly, putting naughty children’s names on the board can backfire by making them ‘famous’. Trying putting up names to reward good behaviour – and if the whole class make it up there, they get a whole class treat.

Feedback needs to be as fast as possible - and ideally with cake 

  1.  Sarah Wright, senior lecturer in education at Edge Hill University, suggests teachers patrol while the class works not just to praise but to give out written “speeding tickets” from the “punctuation police” before the work is handed in. She also points out that there are apps which can be used to replace written feedback to children in Year 1 whose reading may not be very good yet with spoken feedback.
  2. Rhoda Wilson, English leader at Village Primary School in Derby, shared her method to encourage teachers to read children’s books to find great texts for their class. Suggest books on twitter and sift through the answers to get a selection, assign two teachers to each book, give them half a term (and a half-term holiday) to read them. Make it clear this is optional activity. After half term discuss them at the end of a staff meeting – with cake.


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