Getting back to school has ramped up my interest in broadening my understanding of educational theories and research. My first week back it was like I had completely forgotten how to teach. I’m not one of those people who works well on holiday — I’ll start a hundred little creative projects, and everything will take ten times longer than it would have during term time. As such, whilst I had grand plans to read and improve my subject and pedagogical knowledge over the holidays, I did nearly nothing. Conversely, after being back at school teaching for less than two weeks I’ve read two different pedagogical books, and have nearly finished a third!
I thought I’d post some reviews of here: both to share what I have learnt (and my opinions on those books), but also so that I have a record of what those books taught me (especially as I don’t have copies of them all — thank you school CPD library!). I hope you enjoy my reviews — and let me know if you have any good recs of books I should read next!
Dual Coding with Teachers
By Oliver Caviglioli
I loved this book. The ‘dual coding’ in the title refers to using both verbal and visual stimuli to produce resources that are easier for students to handle — and when I say student, I mean anyone who is trying to learn anything, myself included! The book itself is a great example of this, and uses diagrams and other visual imagery to help communicate the different concepts. To practice this myself, I have summarised the book in the form of my first ever sketch note!
The book is split between two foci: first, it endeavours to explain the cognitive science behind using dual coding; and secondly, it provides a practical guide on the main forms of it, and gives clear guidance on going about creating resources. The first chapter — which looks at the science — gives a great introduction to theories such as working memory and cognitive load. I think I’ll probably return to these chapters when I need to recap on these concepts, as it’s done very clearly, and the use of graphic organisers and other imagery helps to make otherwise tricky concepts clear (which is a testament to the truth behind the theory of dual coding itself!). I would recommend this book purely for this chapter if you want a short and sweet introduction to these cognitive science theories.
The secondary focus in the book is what takes up the majority of it — over three-quarters of it. Don’t worry, the science is not forgotten, but the emphasis is now on giving the core examples of resources that can use dual coding (laid out in full in my infographic), and helping you learn to create them — the book, in essence, becomes a bit of a guide to graphic design. As someone who is a huge science geek, but also loves to explore their creative side, I love this. It appeals to the same part of me that loves designing planner layouts — it inspires both the perfectionist side who loves drawing perfect geometric layouts, and the creative side, which wants to make them aesthetically awesome. If that sounds at all like you (you might not be the greatest artist, but you will very slowly and carefully spend time making all of your Christmas gifts as aesthetic as possible) then you will love this book. Even if you don’t love doing this, the book will help you create amazing resources to help your students learn.
All in all, I loved this book, and am glad I decided (on impulse!) to buy it. One of my colleagues did point out that many of the resources and information are available in bits and pieces online, but I think it was worth getting it all condensed into a single book. My only gripe? The shape of the book makes it awkward to hold and read with one hand — which makes it a bit tricky to read on public transport!
I’ll definitely return to Dual Coding for Teachers to help me build dual encoding into my teaching resources — the sections on graphic organisers are particularly helpful, with Caviglioli going into detail about the many different types of graphic organisers, and what types of content they can be useful for. Additionally, it has inspired me as an artist, and instilled me with some confidence — there is a continual emphasis on the fact that you don’t need to be the next Michaelangelo, you just need to be confident (the importance of simplicity and bold strokes comes across multiple times). The section giving examples of dual coding in practice helps with this — there are examples from a people with a range of artistic ability, and you quickly see that it’s the intent, not the artistic skill, which matters.
I would recommend this book to all teachers, no matter their experience or artistic ability. It is a perfect mix of cognitive science, and practical advice, and will be a book you find yourself returning to again and again for advice and guidance.
Thrive: In your first three years of teaching
by Martha Boyne, Emily Clements & Ben Wright
This was the first book I read from my school’s CPD library. It’s a great introduction to anyone who is a novice teacher, and covers pretty much every subject they could come across in their first few years. I would recommend it as a gift to an aspiring trainee teacher — it’s divided into three parts (one per year) and opens with a guide on applying to teacher training courses. As the trainee then goes through their first three years, they’d be able to return to the book for new guidance each year.
However, the books’ strengths are also its weaknesses. As an NQT, it felt a bit like two-thirds of the book didn’t apply to me (and since it was a library book, it’s less reliable that I’ll be able to return to it regularly when needed). Don’t get me wrong, I still read it all, and got lots of useful information, but the section which I loved was the NQT section, and I just wish there had been more of it! That also leads on to the second problem: it’s quite short. The book is great because it’s not a huge heavy tome, but this simultaneously means (given its wide scope) that all topics are only briefly touched on. I feel like I got more out of the Routledge series Learning to Teach…in the Secondary School. That series has much denser, heavier books, but since I have them on Kindle that doesn’t bother me.
Why if I have these problems with the book have I still given it 4 stars? Because whilst these are issues with the book, they’re quite personal ones. The brevity is only really an issue because I’m a ridiculously speedy reader, and consume books at the same rate that I breathe — for someone reading at a slightly slower pace, the brevity of the book would be a boon. I have also read quite a lot, and whenever I can, so I’ve read a few books which cover the same or similar topics to this one, meaning the content was less revelatory to me. However, the layout and the ease of access to the different topics in Thrive is much better than any other similar book I’ve read.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants an introduction to thriving in teaching, and wants a non-threatening reference book they can come back to time and time again. As I said before, I think it would be the perfect gift for any aspiring teacher — get them enthused, interesting, and arm them with the necessary knowledge without overwhelming them!
Where to buy? Amazon.co.uk
So, I hope you found this useful and enjoyed reading this! I would love to hear any recommendations for the next books to read, and I’d also love to read reviews from any of you! The next books on my list to review are How to Teach the Big Ideas in Physics and Making Every Lesson Count. I’m more than halfway through the former and absolutely loving it! I’ll write up the next series of reviews in the next few weeks — follow me on Twitter to get updates.
See you next time!
Summary of the sketch note (content in brackets is an image/sketch):
Dual Coding with Teachers (book with writing and a tree on it). Oliver Caviglioli (eye).
Text often has a hidden schema. We can use visuals to make the hidden visible.
Reduces cognitive load. Increases computational efficiency. Non-verbal + verbal = dual coding.
Graphic organisers, diagrams, walkthrus, sketch notes, infographics, posters, slides, documents, displays, drawing, icons, graphic facilitation.
Always cut, chunk, align, restrain. Less is more!