Thursday, 5 September 2013

‘Ello! ‘Ello!

Just a little rather long rant. Back in The Dark Ages, when I was a child at school, we would dip our pens in the inkwell [yes, honestly!] and at the top of the page would write the date and the title. The title would reflect the lesson – “Using correct punctuation” “Long Division” “The Wives of Henry VIII”

Fast forward to recent years, and you could enter classrooms all over the country and find children writing WALT, WILF, or WILMA


WALT means ‘We Are Learning To…” [see picture of my whiteboard at Cornerstones*] WILF is What I’m Looking For. WILMA is What I’m Learning More About.

However I have encountered some problems with this strategy

The first is that many of the children have absolutely no idea what WALT stands for. I was doing a supply lesson, and things had gone swimmingly until the plenary session at the very end, when I asked them what they’d learned. The class gave some coherent answers and I was satisfied I had taught them what they needed to know. Then a little voice said “You never gave us a WALT Miss” I asked what a WALT was “It’s the thing we write first” “But what does it mean?” “Dunno, we just always put down the WALT before we do anything in our books”

The second is that many teachers have absolutely no idea that WALT is meant to be the beginning of a sentence. So I look through books and see that in previous lessons children have written

WALT about punctuation

WALT the wives of Henry VIII

WALT division by chunking

I was ranting to a teaching colleague about this, and she said “Oh we stopped using those ages ago. We have ‘ellos’ now”

LO = Learning Objective

The educational consultant [Shirley Clarke] who started the craze back in the 90s now thinks Walt and Wilf should be scrapped

“Walt and Wilf were wonderful. Teachers were making them into characters - into dogs or cats. Walt you can’t really go wrong with, but Wilf was a bit of a disaster - it meant teachers were giving children the success criteria instead of asking children to generate them. It made children think, ‘This is about doing what the teacher wants us to do.’ Even worse, using animals meant some young children were saying, ‘We’re learning this for the dog.’ So now on all courses and books, I say get rid of them. It has blighted me. There may be teachers still using them, but they ought to be throwing them away. I now talk about learning objectives and success criteria.”

Then I discovered last week that Walt, Wilf, Wilma and Ello are passé. It seems that now the children have to write I WILL at the top of the page

I will use correct punctuation,

I will learn the names of Henry’s Wives**,

I will divide by chunking.

This apparently is meant to show a more positive approach to learning! How many more of these changes am I going to have to take on board before I finally get to retire from the classroom?

Bob – who has an old fashioned blackboard and box of chalk in the garage - is happy just drawing pictures like this***. He has absolutely no idea who this woman is either …


* even on holiday I have a to-do list

** Ang’s very helpful mnemonic here

*** I should explain that the rest of the blackboard is Bob’s to-do list, it is not all pictures of bizarre females


  1. Where's. the pic of Wilma Flinstone? Or Walt Disney?

  2. We have LOs here, but when we had a vacancy and had a couple of applicants in to do lessons for us as part of the interview process, one started on the WILF and WALT stuff and completely confused the poor children as well as me!!

    1. That is the problem - and now we'll have the "I Will" crowd too! I feel so sorry for these interview candidates.

  3. Hi Angela,
    This had reaaly struck a chord with me.I've used them all!
    I like the positive nature of 'I will'.
    I wonder what Mr Gove thinks....

  4. I prefer the clear headings we were taught.
    Jane x

  5. Argh! Challenging Objectives.... Building Learning Power.... What about those coloured hats for different kinds of thinking...
    I'm looking for a padded room!!!!! Jx

  6. Oh Ang, I totally agree. In my last 3 schools I have had to learn a whole range of WALTs, LOs etc when really I long to write the title as it is an then afterwards decide if the child has learnt anything! I have also studied Shirely Clarke (whose ideas I like) and it seems the WALT stuff was a bit of an accident emerging from a CPD session with teachers one twilight session! It was never meant to become so widely adopted!

    1. Sadly many of these ideas get picked up and used in a half-baked, half-understood way, and the last state is worse than the first. And I am never sure how tired teachers are meant to learn anything meaningful in these twilight sessions after a long hard day in the classroom!

  7. I used headings and a date - it made more sense to me and also to the children. Marking and discussing work together gave more insight into the learning process plus I knew what I'd said to each pupil and I would expect the children to put into practice what we had discussed. I hated all these 'new' ways to introduce lessons. All the 'changes' did not help the education process.
    Love from Mum

  8. I have a title and an LO - I tell my kids I don't want them to write the LO, just the title, as it wastes too much time!


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