Talk-Less Teaching by Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkman – a review

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Wallace and Kirkman have followed up their excellent Pimp Your Lesson with this new volume – Talk-Less Teaching. Pimp Your Lesson was an eye-catching volume – when reading it I was criticised by some colleagues who mistook Pimp Your Lesson as an irreverent look at the art of teaching. They were so wrong, the whole idea of Pimp Your Lesson was to grab the attention with a catchy hook then under closer scrutiny challenge your teaching with a series of robust, easy to implement ideas while dismissing those lazy, hoary old fallbacks, such as the word search. All this with persuasive reasoning and a clear rationale. This approach of presenting ideas clearly demonstrated that Wallace and Kirkman are gifted and creative teachers who not only present great ideas but also practice what they preach. Always a winner with me.

This approach is continued with their second volume – Talk-Less Teaching. This book has a more narrow focus that Pimp Your Lesson in that the focus here is a bank of ideas that encourage students to take the central stage in lessons and letting the teacher take a step back without compromising results and student progress. The objective of the book is neatly summarised in its introduction –

To get the Learners working harder than you, thinking harder than you and talking harder than you’

Therefore, the approach is very similar to Jim Smith’s ‘Lazy Teacher’ toolkit, which has been very influential over the last few years and has certainly reformed my teaching work. However, Wallace and Kirkman’s approach builds upon Smith’s Lazy Teacher concept and offers more strategies and approaches – the idea of the Chameleon Teacher in that teachers have to offer a variety of methods to meet the needs of all students is a particularly pertinent one – to add to the armoury of making students more independent.

The strategies on offer are a mix of variations of tried and tested ideas, such as the use of the Verbal Feedback Stamp and the Boarding Card, as well genuinely new ideas, such as the Crocodile Creek and the Walking chocolate Bar (which is a particular favourite). Many of the ideas require minimal preparation yet have the potential to make a significant impact upon progress and engagement in your lessons. Those ideas that require that little extra preparation are equally attractive as once you have created the framework for the resource, they can be easily adapted for a range of lessons.

The book covers a range of classroom issues, such as marking, feedback and group work and for all these aspects food for thought is given and the depth of coverage is significant. Overall, an extremely useful book to have as part of your CPD library and certainly you would want to consult if you wanted to make your students more independent in your lessons as well as tackling the Ofsted criteria of the 80:20 active lesson.

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