I consider myself fortunate to have seen Hywel present on several occasions and as such reading this book, which came highly recommended, reads itself loudly in his Barnsley tones in my head, which is strangely appealing as it the content comes through with the same passionate optimism which Hywel exudes when he speaks.
This book presents the author's manifesto for using whatever means necessary, but mainly drama (there is a suggestion throughout that he quite likes drama), to grab hold of children's imagination and inherent curiosity and enthusiasm to get them learning, quickly and when they least expect it.
The core message for me throughout is his encouragement for Head Teachers, Teachers and Students to set out on a BRAVE new curriculum:
B - Buzzing...
R - Relevant
A - Academic
V - Vocational
E - Evaluative
...and how it works in either Primary or Secondary education settings.
Hywel presents you with a broad collection of ideas, anecdotes (all of which are well chosen and make good points) and a series of entertaining lists (again which have an unerring habit of leading the reader to another very good point). With each scenario, he presents the reader with quick hit of "where is the curriculum in this...", a list of brief ideas for different subject links and proposes the readers continue to add their own.
There is a really healthy dose of the importance of BIG questions and the power of questioning and conversation to take the children on a journey to a curriculum objective. Getting them engaged on a level that makes them care. One of my favourite words that appears on several occasions is 'botheredness' - are you are the teacher bothered? If you aren't there is a problem and if you aren't bothered, then there is no way that those 30 smiling (? Hopefully) faces will have any botheredness either and why would they?
Nothing is laboured or lingered upon for more than is necessary to make the point. This is great as your never find yourself bored and there is always something new coming soon - yet the thread continues throughout.
It is quite challenging to find a way to summarise, or at least I am finding it hard, as there is so much I could mention. I think the best advice I can offer is read it. I gave (blagged from Hywel) a signed copy of this book for a ITT Student who had been in my class, she loved it. I have been teaching 17 years and I loved it. So no matter where you are in your career there is something in this book for you. It might be a case of confirming the things that you believe and already do, or it might be that it adjusts your thinking about something, you SHOULD read this.
This is my third book review and I realise I am running the risk of saying they are all great.
This one truly is. I couldn't put it down and will undoubtedly be returning to it for advice and inspiration, and possibly just to seek out more Jaws references!
There are a lot of parallels between this and "Teach like a Pirate", passion, relationships, enthusiasm are just a few of the shared themes.
Hywel sent me this tweet after I finished reading... my response was simply 3 words: "You can tell."
Playing with Fire - Embracing Risk and Danger in Schools - Mike Fairclough (@westrisejunior)