World Cup Wall Display – Love Football: Love Reading.

This photo shows a World Cup Wall Display that I knocked up in just 40 minutes at school today:



Eight different English Teachers, upon seeing my finished display, declared it to resemble: a sheep-cow, a pyramid head (don’t know either) or ‘perspectively flawed.’ Charming.

Needless to say I was very pleased to see, upon my return to my classroom at the end of a busy Friday, that two of my colleagues had taken it upon themselves to do me a goal that doesn’t look like a grazing animal. With real netting! Here it is:


My decision to create a World Cup wall display was fully inspired by the amazing World Cup Toolkit released this week by the National Literacy Trust. The link to this wonderful-and free- resource, aimed at encouraging children to read using football, or more specifically, the world cup as a ‘way in’ (sound familiar?), can be found by clicking on the link below. My only regret is that I didn’t think of any of the amazing ideas within it, myself!

Right, so here’s how my World Cup display is going to work:

The Goal Posts: Pupils will be encouraged to give me mini reviews, which they will write onto paper footballs, about a book (doesn’t have to be football related) that they have read. If it’s a good book their ‘review football’ goes in the goal; if it’s a book which inspires neither love nor hate then their ‘review football’ is whacked on the cross bar; finally, if the book is the literary equivalent to Jordan’s love life then that ‘review football’ is flyin’ wide. Well wide. 

World Cup Reading Selfies: In the middle of my display, i’ll be encouraging pupils to read newspaper articles, web articles, comics, books or magazines relating to this year’s World Cup and taking a photo of themselves doing so. They do this, their selfie goes on the wall.

Football Metaphors, Cliches and Similes: On the far right of my board I will be encouraging students (this is where KS4 comes in) to find footballing Metaphors, Cliches or Similes in magazine or newspaper match reports. Students that find the best, get their name and the (offending) metaphor, cliche or simile on the wall. Also, students will also be encouraged to listen out for interesting metaphors or similes during match commentary. Again, the ones I like will go on the wall.

Hope you’re inspired. If you’re not, here’s the link again. Try it



Premier League Reading Stars

Premier League Reading Stars is a reading intervention scheme jointly developed by The National Literacy Trust and the Premier League, aimed at improving reading attainment in ensuring that pupils in Years 5 and 6 meet expected KS2 targets. The scheme can also be used with pupils in Years 7 and 8 that haven’t yet met KS2 targets.

Like LastMinutePen, Premier League Reading Stars aims to foster and develop a love of reading in pupils via the world of football. A teacher pack is available which provides resources for a 10 week course for 32 pupils. The project claims that the following improvements have been found in just 10 weeks of students’ undergoing the project:

  • 3 out of 4 children made at least 6 months’ progress in just 10 weeks. 1 child in 3 made a year’s progress, or more
  • The number of children who enjoy reading ‘very much’ tripled as a result of taking part
  • The number of children who read every day doubled
  • 7 out of 10 say that they are now proud to be readers
  • Nearly half joined their public library
  • 2 out of 3 say that as a result of taking part they now have a favourite author
  • Nearly 9 out of 10 participants said that seeing Premier League footballers read has made them want to read more
  • Those who took part were 10 times more likely to progress in reading than similar children who didn’t  take part 


The teacher’s pack comes at a cost of £150 and I have not yet had the opportunity to test it out. Certainly, the information on the scheme’s website seems as though it is more geared towards a KS2 audience which means I don’t anticipate that I’d be able to use it in my own practice. We’ll see. 

Teacher’s pack aside, the project’s site also contains an ‘Online Challenges’ section in which anybody can access a number of reading challenges, each set by a different Premier League Footballer (meaning student’s can ‘collect’ the challenges as they would football stickers) which aim to improve students’ comprehension skills. These challenges cost nothing. Furthermore, they are also differentiated according to difficulty (you can choose from Professional, Word Class, or Legendary just like you can on the Fifa football games) which means students can opt for the challenge that suits them best and then work their way up to the highest level. 

So what about the challenges? Excellent. Upon reaching the challenge homepage ( students are met with the smiling faces of 20 different players (one from each different premier league club) each of whom has 3 challenges for students to take part in. By clicking on a player you are asked to choose one of the challenges. I clicked on Jan Vertonghen’s  challenge page (because he’s Mighty Spurs of course) and selected the easiest challenge: Professional Level. Upon clicking the challenge I was then shown a video in which a slightly wooden (okay, positively mahogany) Jan read aloud an extract from Andros Townsend’s (another Spurs star) player profile page from the team website. Once I’d listened to Jan’s reading I then had to answer three questions based on the extract. So far, so good. But I haven’t read anything yet right? Correct. However, question 3 can only be answered once you’ve read the extract that Jan was reading, yourself. So, scrolling down to the bottom of the page I found the extract, read it, and answered question 3. Goal! (That means I got it right.)

As you click on through the harder challenges the extracts become increasingly more difficult. And the extracts are not always football based. Jan Vertonghen’s ‘Legendary’ challenge asked me to listen/read an extract from Dareen Shan’s Zom-B. Whoever came up with the texts, know what students want. This is good stuff.

I’m going to email National Literacy Trust and see if they can send me a £150 resource pack for free and I can let you know what it’s like. In the meantime however, do check out the Online Challenge section of the website with some of your struggling pupils. You never know, it may well do exactly what it claims to do on the tin!

Here’s the link again:



The Vital 3 Points

It was suggested to me by a friend that I include a feature for non football fan teachers who want an idea of what to talk about with students on a Monday morning in regard to the weekend’s football.

So, here it is.  3 big talking points from the world of football. Use them as a basis for further research or just simply recite the points at students as you see fit.

  • Liverpool beat Man City which means they could now win the league with 4 games to go. People generally want this to happen as it would be a fine reward for passionate local boy Steven Gerrard who has played for his beloved Liverpool all his life without ever winning a league trophy. (Say, “Well Johnny. What do you think about Liverpool beating City then? Think they can finally do it?”)


  • Jose Mourinho declined the opportunity to talk to the press after his Chelsea side’s 1-0 win against ten man Swansea. Idiot. (Say, “Mourinho’s getting a bit…well, boring don’t you think?”) 


  • Liverpool’s Luis Suarez dived a couple of times in the game against Man City. Having previously been banned for racist comments against rival players and biting a players arm, this diving suggests a return to form. Bigger idiot. (Say, “Can’t believe the ref didn’t give a second yellow card for that dive.”)

SEATING PLANS – Home and Away

An old classic this, which I can take no credit for, but it is tenuously linked to the beautiful game somehow so I thought I’d whack it on. 

Teachers, draw up two seating plans for your classes: one plan based on name/gender/ability as per usual and another in which students are free to sit with whoever they so choose.

Your seating plan is the HOME seating plan and theirs is the AWAY seating plan. Reward your pupils for good behaviour/work with an AWAY day every now and again. 

Hope the Easter hols are treating you well. 



Starter: Word Squads

Get brains working by asking students to work out an 11 man football team where the names of each player must all begin with the same letter. Take my ‘S’ team for example:

Goalkeeper: Szczesny, Wojciech (ARSENAL)

Defender: Shaw, Luke (SOUTHAMPTON)

Defender:Smalling, Chris (MAN UTD)

Defender: Stones, John (EVERTON)

Defender: Sagna, Bacary (ARSENAL)

Mid:Schurrle, Andre (CHELSEA)

Mid:Snodgrass, Rob (NORWICH)

Mid:Sidwell, Steve (FULHAM)

Mid:Silva, David (MAN CITY)

Striker: Suarez, Luis (LIVERPOOL)

Striker: Sturridge, Daniel (LIVERPOOL)


Loads of variations you can use on this: A team full of players with animals in their names (LIONel Messi, Van WOLFSwinkel..) for example? You could test the spelling of words by making  pupils name a player whose name begins with each sequential letter. For example, ONOMATOPOEIA:







O ?


O ?





It’s difficult yes. But there’s a lot to be said for making things difficult. Read this if you don’t believe me:

P.S. Let me know if you get those O’s.



Kick Off

Let’s be clear.

This footballing country is in a dire state. Germany are better than us. France are better than us. Denmark, Finland and Sweden are all better than us. In fact, England rank so poorly that we top only Cyprus, Italy and the United States of America.

Italy was the clue. I’m not talking about footballing prowess here. I’m talking about literacy. In an OECD ranking of basic literacy amongst 16-24 year olds, England placed 19 out of 22.

What is literacy? Google it. If then you can read, digest, and interpret the information that is the fruit of your virtual labour then you are literate; you will know that the primary definition one encounters is ‘the ability to read and write.’ I think that’s a fairly succinct summation of what literacy is. However, as with all things, it lacks perfection. It doesn’t take into account speech for one. And what if I can somehow read War and Peace in a day or two but can’t string a single sentence together with a pen? Am I now illiterate?

For me, literacy is the ability to read, write and communicate in a manner which allows oneself to survive, thrive and ‘get on’ in a world which is, in spite of what certain right wing media outlets will have you believe, becoming increasingly reliant on the written word as a means of communication because of advances in modern technology and not in spite of it.

I am a teacher of English. I am also a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur football club and my students know this. I know they know this because everyday I talk to boys about football. I talk to black boys and white boys; rich boys and poor boys; naughty boys and good boys. About football. A lot. And that’s the key. Football is the way in.

According to the National Literacy Trust:

Boys tend to enjoy reading less, tend to read less often and think less positively about reading than girls.

Big news. What’s more:

Only 28.7% of boys in KS4 say that they enjoy reading either very much or quite a lot. This is nearly half the number of KS4 boys who say that they enjoy reading (56.7%) and nearly half the proportion of girls in KS4 who enjoy reading either very much or quite a lot (43.9%).

Why? Well…

Teenage boys…think less positively about reading compared with younger boys. Only 20.4% of boys in KS4 agree with the statement that “reading is cool” compared with 49.1% of boys in KS2. At the same time, however, KS4 boys are more likely to agree with the statement that “I cannot find anything to read that interests me” compared with KS2 boys (42.8% vs. 28.3%). KS4 boys are also more likely to agree with the statement that they “prefer watching TV to reading”, with 69.9% of KS4 boys agreeing with the statement compared with 57.7% of KS2 boys.

So what’s to be done about all this? Well, a report by the National Literacy Trust states that their research has found that:

Young people who enjoy reading very much are four times as likely to read above the expected level for their age compared with young people who do not enjoy reading at all. Alternatively, young people who do not enjoy reading at all are fifteen times as likely to be reading below the expected level for their age compared with young people who enjoy reading very much.

Quite simply, we need to get the boys reading. ‘Last Minute Pen’ is an attempt to do just that.So what is ‘Last minute Pen’? I’ll tell you what it’s definitely not. It’s not:

  • Balls and Books
  • The Lit Man
  • Football Lit
  • Terry PENables
  • West Gram (mar) Utd
  • Manchester Untitled
  • The Referees Eyes are full of Lit

It’s none of those. It’s ‘Last Minute Pen’, a blog aimed at encouraging a love of reading, writing and general word funnery (Yes, I wrote that) via the world of the (not so) beautiful game. It all started as I was watching Spurs play Man Utd with my brother and my Dad earlier on in the season. Much to their exasperation I took considerable delight and loudly exclaiming, ‘METAPHOR’ every time the commentator said something like, “The ball just fizzed past the net,” or “It’s absolute magic the way he flicked that ball over the wall like that”. Fizzed? Nothing in football fizzes. Magic? Walls? It’s all metaphor! This got me thinking; could I somehow get away with watching a game of football in class based around metaphor and simile? Or cliche? Personification? And why stop there? Football contains a veritable kit bag of literacy material:

  • Football biographies waiting to be read. Let’s compare the way Sir Alex ‘writes’ with the way ‘Arry Redknapp does. Any differences? And what about this secret footballer that writes for the guardian. What can we infer about his character from the language he uses. Might we be able to guess his secret identity?
  • Cockney rhyming slang waiting to be dissected (“He’s hit the beans” anyone?)
  • Difficult-to-pronounce names that we can have a go pronouncing in a footballing discussion (with a covert aim at to improve our confidence in reading names aloud).
  • We can analyse books like Match of the Day analyses games. Let’s have half time (5 page) punditry and analysis of books where students play the roles of Lineker, Hansen and Shearer!
  • Let’s look at the way the Tabloids and the Broadsheets differ in their use of language to report on the game.
  • Let’s have footballing metaphor (‘‘The lads have run their socks into the ground.’‘) of the week!
  • How about Intertextual allusion of the week? (With that goal, [Harry] Kane has finally shown that he is able.”) Okay, I may be getting a wee bit carried away.

As often as I can I’ll be posting lesson activities, discussion and commentary centered around the worlds of Education and Football, all with the overall objective of giving boys a way in. A football way in.