The Perfect (Ofsted) English Lesson

By: David Didau


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 124mm x 174mm
Pages : 160
ISBN : 9781781350522
Format: Hardback
Published: May 2012

Another from Jackie Beere’s ‘Perfect’ stable, this simple but effective little book is designed to help bring the best out of all English departments during that all-important Ofsted visit. It is written by David Didau, a highly effective and innovative head of English at a school where Independent Thinking is a trustee. He has been instrumental in overseeing an enviable rise in A* to C results over the last few years to 84% in 2011.

Packed full of ideas, strategies and simple yet effective innovations, this book is an essential tool in the toolkit of every English department - and not just for the inspection either! With topics including assessment for learning, progress, the learning environment and planning outstanding lessons, this is the book for every English teacher’s desk drawer.

Picture for author David Didau

David Didau

David Didau is Senior Lead Practitioner for English at Ormiston Academies Trust and a freelance writer, blogger, speaker, trainer and author. He started his award-winning blog, The Learning Spy, in 2011 to express the constraints and irritations of ordinary teachers, detail the successes and failures within his own classroom, and synthesise his years of teaching experience through the lens of educational research and cognitive psychology. Since then he has spoken at various national conferences, has directly influenced Ofsted and has worked with the Department for Education to consider ways in which teachers' workload could be reduced.

Read this article on the 3 reasons why you need to buy The Secret of Literacy.

Read this article on David Didau's journey to becoming an edu-sceptic in Schools Week.

On this episode of the Mr Barton Maths Podcast, Craig Barton speaks to David Didau.

Click here to read David Didau’s blog.


  1. With the increasing emphasis on improving literacy skills at all levels this book is an excellent guide for teachers and lecturers as to what Ofsted and Estyn inspection teams are looking for in terms of “outstanding” practice. Of particular relevance is the chapter on skills to promote independent learning, group work to challenge aspirations, questioning techniques to promote understanding, and techniques to actively involve all learners. This “little book” should be available to all teachers as a must read guide to promote literacy skills and effective teaching and learning to achieve “outstanding” from inspection teams

  2. I have been in education for 26 years as a teacher, Head of Department, Senior Leader and Principal and have read many books regarding the practice of teaching. The very best of them offer practical advice on improving practice within the classroom that will directly impact on the learning of young people. This book does just that.
    David Didau has produced a succinct, well structured and accessible piece of work that will be of use to beginning teachers and those who have taught for many years. Its great advantage is that it does not talk down to the reader, does not assume anything of the reader except one thing; that you are a teacher and therefore committed to improving your practice and to furthering pupil progress.
    This book, although targeted towards English teachers, would also be of enormous use to any teacher. It lays out what an effective lesson looks like. It is deeply rooted in proven practice and Assessment for Learning and takes the reader through the key processes of lesson planning, lesson starters, learning objectives, pupil engagement, effective questioning and why the end of the lesson is as important as any other element. David explains the nature and reasoning behind formative assessment, peer and self assessment and the importance of knowing where the student is in their learning.
    There are no fancy magic tricks in this book, there are no easy soundbites. Teaching is hard, David recognises this, but this book makes it easier to make an effective impact on students. Please don't be fooled by the title, this is no bow to Ofsted nor a clever way to fool them, this book is about teaching and how to do it properly. It is intriguing, engaging and that often overused phrase -˜essential reading'.
    If you are a teacher, not just an English teacher -” you need to read this book.
  3. The debate about the perfect OFSTED lesson rages in schools up and down the country yet the need to rise above the formulaic and embed the quality learning experience for young people has never been greater. This welcome addition to the literature on school improvement, and that is what this book is, gives the reader the opportunity to enter David Didau's mind and classroom, and to see, smell and touch what outstanding learning is like when the competence and confidence of the teacher works in partnership with the curiosity and creativity of the student. The dashboard checklist to please the visitor who sits at the back of the classroom is relevant, but it is not the key to sustaining outstanding learning throughout a child's secondary education. The techniques and strategies that you will read in this book, drawn from the experiences of teachers David has worked with as well as those ideas that are his own, will help teachers of English reflect on what really matters when they teach the subject that has become along with Maths, the pivotal subjects in the curriculum for all school leaders.
  4. David's book arrives at a particularly opportune time. Changes in Ofsted criteria mean that we all have to up our game and focus on what really works in the classroom to promote outstanding progress. After 15 years of teaching and a lot of self-reflecting along the way, I have been looking to other professionals with bright ideas. I have found exactly that in David's book! His book is a treasure trove of teaching nuggets that make sense. He shares some sound teaching principles and some simply brilliant ideas. I have already implemented many changes in my lessons. I particularly like the way he integrates SOLO into his lesson planning and delivery, and the way the taxonomy is shared with and used by students. And it works! Another gem is the idea of learning journeys to spice up old boring LOs!
    I will keep dipping in and out and being thankful for this inspirational book. A strongly recommended book for entrants to the profession and seasoned teachers alike!
    Thanks for sharing, David.
  5. The key to an outstanding English department is a relentless focus on the quality of teaching and learning. In this book David Didau offers a cornucopia of creative, practical and highly effective teaching and learning strategies. As a keen member of the #SOLOarmy, it's great to see a beginners guide to using the SOLO taxonomy, written in a clear, accessible style, with humour. As Head of English, I certainly will be purchasing a copy for each member of my department!
  6. If you can't learn from this book, it's probably because you're just four levels above Outstanding.
  7. Using his own love of teaching as fuel, Didau aims to reignite the enthusiasm of English teachers everywhere; his belief that every English lesson can be outstanding is inspiring. This book is an encouraging reminder that, with hard work, effort and an understanding of the fundamental pedagogies of our classrooms, we too can achieve perfection in our lessons. He provides English teachers with a wealth of ideas, techniques, hints and tips which have all been tried and tested in his own classroom. Being a current Head of English, he is well aware of the pressures which everyday teachers face. In short, this book is not merely wishful thinking but a realistic interpretation of what needs to be done to achieve perfection. Following the typical format of a lesson, the chapters are user friendly and brimming with adaptable ideas. The text is easily accessible and can be either followed directly or used to harvest ideas for upcoming lesson observations. As well as interesting tips for classroom tasks, Didau also offers a range of strategies to encourage deep thinking as well as demonstrating how excellent assessment for learning can lead to perfect English lessons every time.

  8. No one ever told me that being a teacher would be easy. No one ever told me that being a teacher of English would be even harder though. Language is a complex thing -” the English language all the more so -” and in our constant pursuit of academic excellence in the classroom there are times when we fall short.
    Reading David Didau's book, after being a loyal follower of his unmissable Learning Spy blog, I clenched my fist in victorious appreciation on several occasions when that light bulb of possibility flashed above me. Mr Didau breaks down the English Lesson into four perfect parts -” it is called `The Perfect English Lesson` after all -” and with it, clarifies the true nature of what we should be doing in the English classroom.
    Despite being in the classroom for 13 years, I found myself scribbling down an idea on almost every page. David's short book describes the creative and challenging ways we should be engaging our students and advancing their knowledge and skills in English. It glows with enthusiasm and bounds with energy; but, most importantly, it is crammed with wonderful ideas and useable tips which will change your practice tomorrow.
    It did for me. Yesterday, I changed my approach to starter activities and had visual learning journeys on the board as students came in. Increased focus and engagement from the word go. David walks the reader through the practical importance of Carol Dweck, Dylan Wiliam and a host of other educational big hitters but it his own creative approach, coupled with an insistence on high expectations and even higher standards in the learners in his classroom, which shines through in every sentence.
    There are not many books like this around and, while being a small book, fills a very large hole admirably. More importantly it is a book which makes me want to be better.
    For the newly qualified English teacher, this book is perfect. For the experienced English teacher, it is no less so. There's a wealth of experience within these pages, but also love, joy, and compassion from a classroom practitioner on whom we should all model ourselves. Perhaps if we follow his advice we may find ourselves falling short just a little less often.

  9. T.P.O.E.L (or David's book) immediately gets to the heart of the learning. An essential read for all English teachers -” not just to impress Ofsted inspectors! It is just as appealing and useful to dip into, as it is a thought-provoking read.

  10. I've been a keen follower of David's -˜Learning Spy' blog for some time now and so when I heard that he was going to write this book, I was very excited by the prospect, but also a little worried-¦
    Is there such a thing as a -˜perfect' English lesson?
    Well, I needn't have worried. If anyone could describe what makes a -˜perfect' lesson, then it would have to be David. In this little gem of a book, David weaves the magic that will have even the toughest class under your spell whether you're an NQT or a little jaded and on the lookout for some new ideas.
    He does all of this with charm and wit and a clear expectation that those things that are worth achieving need to be worked at -” both by teacher and pupil. Uncovering the Holy Grail of pupil progress through SOLO Taxonomy along the way and giving some very useful and easy to implement practical tips. He also dispels some common myths about observed lessons and demonstrates that the best learning comes through collaboration, something that he is not afraid to do himself, drawing readily on the experience of others.
    I'd recommend this book heartily to every teacher (NOT just English teachers) and encourage them to try out the tips within. They work -¦ I know -¦ I've tried many myself to great effect!
  11. In an age when there's a tendency to clutch after ready-made gimmicks for every lesson, there's something hugely invigorating about David Didau's book. He reminds us that great English lessons are about relationships as well as content, but that they need to demonstrate our students' progress. He provides a range of ideas and approaches which can be customised to our own personalities and style to help us to teach lessons that aren't just outstanding against some Ofsted tick list, but genuinely outstanding. Recommended.

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