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The End of Levels: An opportunity or another fine mess?

The DfE has published a 44 page document listing the proposed Performance Descriptors for KS 1&2. Please take a look if you haven’t seen it yet. It is potentially the most explosive hand-grenade thrown into primary education for twenty years. I’ve read it twice now and I’m still struggling to understand how it is supposed to work. […]

Planning a Mantle Together

Tim On October 13th and 14th, 2014 Jane Manzone – @heymisssmith – and I will be teaching in her class using mantle of the expert. During the intervening two weeks we will plan the context together using this webpage to record our work. Theme: Space Students: 30, Year 6 Jane Background My Year 6 class currently have a Connected Curriculum topic […]

Dorothy Heathcote had her critics too

I’ve been digging around in the Heathcote archive for the last few days researching the origins of mantle of the expert for a Chapter in a book. Finding a definitive date for when Dorothy first used the term has been frustrating. The earliest dated document mentioning ‘mantle of the expert’ is an article written by Heathcote […]

KIPP: The difference between teaching, training, and indoctrination

A Teacher who is prepared to have their practice recorded and posted online deserves respect. I’ve done it myself and it’s a risk. I would, therefore, like to make it clear from the beginning this blog is not an attack on the teacher in the film. I’m not going to comment on her style or […]

There is no right way to teach everything

When I was learning to drive I had an instructor. He sat next to me in the car and told me what to do until I knew enough to take the test and go out on my own. This method worked, but it took me two years. I was a very lazy student. I don’t […]

L.S. Vygotsky and Education – Luis C. Moll, 2014

If you have qualified as a teacher in the last ten years there is every chance Lev Vygotsky’s ideas on education played a significant part in your training. Born in Belarus in 1896, Vygotsky’s life was cut short in 1934 when he died from TB. Yet in the few years he worked as an educational […]

Why telling the truth is better for learning

Last July the Daily Mail published a story entitled: Teacher apologises to parents after ‘alien egg’ project leaves children ‘in tears and too scared to go to school’ The by-line ran: Problem solving project centred on a 3ft-high egg found in school grounds Children were told the egg was safe, and asked to help investigate […]

Some planning tips for new teachers in Key Stage 1

1. Don’t panic! The curriculum for KS1 is fundamentally about reading, writing, maths, and lots of speaking and listening. There is a small amount of content in the foundation subjects – science, history, geography etc. – but not too much: so breath easy on coverage. For KS1 the curriculum is all about practicing the basic […]

Silence is golden (sometimes)

If we need any more proof that ideology should play no part in directing pedagogy, it is in the matter of ‘active’ and ‘passive’ learning. What even is ‘passive’ learning anyway? If it means doing nothing, then it’s not learning. If it means not speaking or moving around, then it’s not passive. Listening is active […]

Teaching as Story Telling, Kieran Egan

Visit any primary classroom and you will find a corner of the room dedicated to books and reading These are often lovely comfy spaces, scattered with soft cushions to sit on and displays to capture the children’s imagination. They reflect, despite the growing importance of technology in schools, how books still play a central role […]

Play as a medium for learning

Some of the most astonishing photographs taken during the latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza were those of young children playing among the rubble and carnage left by the bombs. It is almost as though the games they were playing were a shield against the horror and bloodshed that surrounded them. They had no power to […]

Review of Expansive Education by Bill Lucas, Guy Claxton & Ellen Spencer

This review was first published in Teach Primary Magazine and is re-published here with their kind permission. It is tempting to think of the education debate as a battlefield. Two sides locked in mortal combat, fighting a never-ending war of ideas. Both convinced beyond doubt they are on the side of the angels, while their enemies […]

NRocks2014 Presentation: Introducing mantle of the expert

These slides and notes are form my presentation at the Northern Rocks conference: PDF (5MB) – moe Introduction Keynote moe intro web                    

A Review of Mindset – Carol Dweck

This article was first published in Teach Primary Magazine and is republished here with their kind permission.   First published in 2006, Mindset has become one of the most influential books in modern day education. Drawing on her research from Stanford University and including many stories of high-achievers from the fields of art, sport, and education, […]

Using Play as a Medium for Learning

This article was written for the Guardian Teacher Network and will appear there soon in a shorter version. The use of play for developing children’s learning is a well-established feature of most early years settings. Visit a nursery, a reception, or many Year One classrooms and you will find ample opportunities for children to play, either […]

A Nagging Problem with Robert Peal’s Progressively Worse

This blog is not intended as a review of Robert Peal’s book, Progressively Worse:The Burden of Bad Ideas in British Schools, it is merely an observation – a sort of inquiry if you like – of something I noticed while I was reading it last week. I’ve had a number of conversations since, one of […]

A short blog on behaviour, challenge, and expectations

I’ve been working in a classroom recently. A classroom where: the children come in without having to line up… choose who they sit next to and who they work with… decide when they have completed a task… and which one to do next… don’t ask to go to the toilet… or to have a drink […]

A Glossary of Questions

Knowing the right question to ask at the right time, one that generates thinking, compels dialogue, and promotes understanding, is a significant part of the art of great teaching. For this reason there are many books on the subject and many teachers have written excellent blogs sharing their thoughts. My favourite book is ‘Asking Better […]

My Top Ten Books on Education (this week)

After a brief Twitter conversation, Phil Stock @joeybagstock suggested we name our Top Ten favourite books on education. Here are mine. They are not, let me stress, a list I expect everyone to agree with. Neither do they represent a definitive Top Ten, the best books on education ever written, or the most influential, seminal […]

The Divisions of Culture

The ‘Divisions of Culture’ is a planning tool that can help teachers and students to think in divergent ways about a subject or context. It is quite easy to use but can be extremely generative: opening up new paths for exploring and studying a subject, as well as suggesting new activities and opportunities for study. […]

DfE Meeting on the new primary curriculum – 8 April, 2014

This blog is about the meeting at the DfE on April 8th, 2014 to discuss the primary national curriculum and assessment changes for implementation in September. The first part contains my notes from the meeting. The second contains a list of my thoughts on how the curriculum should be represented by the DfE as it […]

Another Blog on Not Making Obedience a Virtue

Last week I wrote a blog about obedience. I think it is fair to say it had a mixed response. However, I did have some very interesting conversations on Twitter and there were some very thoughtful comments under the line, so I’ve decided to write a follow up. I’d like to explore in more detail […]

Obedience is not a virtue

A choice I want you to make a choice. The choice is between tyranny and anarchy. If you chose tyranny the country will be run as a dictatorship, backed up by the armed forces. Laws will be made arbitrarily in the interests of those in power. There will be no checks and balances, no free […]

Using a painting to develop curriculum knowledge and understanding

The context Last Friday I spent the day working in a mobile with a wonderful class of Year 5/6. The topic they are studying is the Roman Invasions, which they are enjoying enormously. Their teacher, ‘Mr D.’ (as the children call him), asked if I would plan a day exploring with his students the events […]

Are you a Progressivist?

You may have noticed there is a narrative argument currently popular among some education commentators that lays the blame for all our educational ills at the door of the progressive movement. This argument makes the claim that the progressive movement is built on a central principle, originating from the French philosopher Rousseau, that children are […]

Getting it wrong from the beginning:
 Our progressivist inheritance from Herbert Spencer, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget

This is not really a blog, just a copy and paste job from Kieran Egan’s website I hope I’m not breaking any etiquette doing this. You can read the original page here: Introduction The text comes for the Introduction to Kieran Egan’s book Getting it wrong from the beginning  I’ve decided to post it here because […]

Some Problems with Topic Planning

This weekend there developed an interesting conversation on Twitter about the merits and drawbacks of planning using Topics. Several of those involved agreed to write blogs outlining and expanding their views on the subject. List: @MissHorsfall – Creative Cross Curricular Contexts @rpd1972 – Contexts for Learning @ChrisChivers2 – Topic work; taking the long view @cherrylkd – […]

Using dramatic imagination to develop writing

I don’t know about you, but I find teaching children creative writing to be one of the most difficult, yet most rewarding, teaching tasks I do. For the first half of my teaching career I have to confess it was, on the whole, a hit and miss process. Mostly miss to begin with, then, gradually, […]

Planning for engaging students in the curriculum

One way to think of the curriculum is as a map of a country only partly explored. There are aspects – the coastline, a mountain range, some major rivers – that are well known to previous explorers, but there are others, too – the dark interior – that represent an unknown land waiting to be […]

Moving on the Knowledge v Skills debate

The great Knowledge v Skills debate rages on with no sign of it running out of energy: Every week there is a new blog redefining or reiterating the arguments from one side or the other. From my own standpoint, when I first started reading education blogs about a year ago, I found the heat of […]

Make-believe is not the same as lying

Why do primary school teachers lie to their students? Some clarification In answer to this question we first have to ask what we mean by a lie. In the Chambers dictionary a lie is defined as: an intentionally false statement: they hint rather than tell outright lies | the whole thing is a pack of […]

Dweck – Mindset in 60 Tweets

These are my TweetNotes for Mindset. I’m planning to write a blog about it next week: Too busy at the moment. #mindset 2.6 “people have to decide what kinds of relationships they want: ones that bolster their egos or ones that challenge them to grow?” #mindset 2.7 “I’ll never forget the first time I heard […]

Role play: from the ridiculous to the sublime

I don’t like the term role-play. I’ve not liked it since I was asked, as part of a group of PGCE students, to ‘fly’ around the hall pretending to be snow-flakes to the sound of Aled Jones singing, Walking in the Air. I felt a right nob. This hatred of role-play intensified later in the […]

Hirsch and the importance of dialogue

In answer to @webofsubstance: The Pedagogy of Serfdom We must remember, in The Knowledge Deficit, Hirsch is talking about primary education. He understands explicit instruction will be of only limited benefit after a short while – he suggested 40 minutes a day – and only for the teaching, learning and practice of specific ‘skills’ – […]

A lesson on marking from Lilly, aged 7

When my daughter, Lilly, was seven, she brought home from school a pencil drawing of the two-faced god, Janus. She didn’t show me or her mum, but put the picture on a table in the front-room where I found it later that night. When I saw it, I asked her why she hadn’t shown it […]

Marking 2: Some principles for effective marking

In this blog, I want to look at some of the principles underpinning effective marking from the schools I’ve visited and the education blogs I’ve read. The following represents my current thinking on the subject. It is not a definitive list, neither would I call myself an expert. However, from what I understand, the principles […]

Marking 1: Marking in a primary school setting

When I studied at University for my PGCE, in the early 1990s, we did not do a single workshop or seminar on marking. It just was not considered important enough, anyone could mark an exercise book, it was a simple task of putting ticks and crosses where appropriate. A process that had remained essentially unchanged […]

Pedagogy for People

It is now six months since @betsysalt made her impassioned plea in  “What I wish teacher bloggers would write about more…” asking for more blogging on the practice of education, in context, with examples from actual practice, with actual children. Her disappointment was that the topics covered by teacher bloggers tended to concentrate on a narrow […]

Links to blogs on marking

About six weeks ago I started work on a blog for the October Blogsync “Marking with Impact”, I thought it would be a quick piece, maybe a few hours work. My focus was on marking for Early Years, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. However, once I got started I soon realised what a […]

Dorothy Heathcote – Four models for teaching & learning

There has been some interest over the past week in the work of Dorothy Heathcote (1926 – 2011).  Heathcote left a great deal of writing stored in the Heathcote Archive at Manchester Met University some of which is available on the mantle of the expert website. Dorothy studied and wrote about drama in education for over sixty […]

Answering some questions on mantle of the expert

On 14th November the anonymous blogger ‘Andrew Old’ made some spurious accusations on Twitter about mantle of the expert being the next Brain Gym and being ‘totally insane’. I tried to answer these allegations but Andrew strategically blocked my account and ignored my repeated offers to discuss his allegations. On Saturday 16th he wrote a […]

Chamber Theatre

Robert Breen coined the term in his unique treatise on the analysis of how writers and author’s manipulate (or facilitate) the reader’s dramatic imagination as the reader begins to construct imaginary images triggered by the text in in use.

Mantle of the expert weekend November 2013 – Notes

Mantle of the expert weekend – Friday

1. Teacher coach
2. This work is about ‘induction’ not instruction
3. About helping children to ‘become’ people
4. This is a pedagogy that is about how we are with children

Creating bridges into the past

Of all the changes in the new National Curriculum the ones made to the programmes of study for history at Key Stage 2 are going to have the most significant effect on the way primary schools organise and plan their provision.

Why learning and having fun are not inimical

Of all the arguments I’ve read, from the plethora of education bloggers over the last year or so, the one I find hardest to get my head round is the supposed dichotomy between enjoyment and learning.

Mantle of the expert weekend – October, 2013

Notes from Saturday morning: Inquiry/enquiry? http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=inquiry The new curriculum: https://curriculum2014.wordpress.com Talking about drama – Inside and outside the fiction – co-constructed, so the children can influence Into the fiction Activity: 1. make up three things about yourself, two a true & one is not. Partner has to work out which is untrue. 2. Take the […]

Mantle of the expert workshop – NATD conference 28th sept 2013

Steps into the imaginary context – Divers

The problem with praise

Two stories from home

We have some film of Finn, our son, when he was a few months old. Claire and I are on our knees on the dinning room floor, taking it in turns filming Finn as he makes his first tentative steps.

Trivium: the answer to the purpose of education?

When thinking about the purpose of education it is easy to see how the wider aspirations of the state can clash with the more human concerns of students and their families…

Imagination in History Teaching

John Fines

This essay is from the late historian and teacher, John Fines (1938 – 1999)
Published posthumously in the International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research, 2002

Some further planning for The Roman Box Unit: Boudicca & the Romans

This planning is an additional sequence of steps for the Unit: The Roman Box

Making learning urgent and important

I had been teaching for four years before I thought to ask my class what they thought was the purpose of school. The answers I got back where fairly predictable, “To get a good job when I’m older”; “To make more money”; “To learn more stuff”. These children were seven.

Planning for The Romans KS2 – Curriculum 2014

This blog is an edited version of an article that first appeared in the magazine, Creative Teaching and Learning in Spring 2013 and is reprinted here with their kind permission. It outlines the first steps into an imaginative-inquiry context that could be used as a topic for a Key Stage 2 class studying the Roman invasions and settlement.

Thirteen things I try to remember at the start of a new year

1. Learn the children’s names as quickly as you can – use mnemonics and include the students in the process. Ask for their help.

Some thoughts on the Canon

This post is in response to @debrakidd [ref] and the very interesting discussion that followed. It was originally intended as a comment, but grew too long and became a blog.

Why we should stop talking about ‘delivering’ the curriculum

For a long while now, delivery has been the accepted analogy for curriculum design and teaching. First appearing in the educational lexicon about the same time as the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit in the early years of the Labour Government, it soon became the go-to metaphor for anyone talking about the teaching and learning process in the late 90s.

ED Hirsch – Really not the bogeyman Part 2

This blog continues not unexpectedly from the previous Blog, “ED Hirsch – Really not the bogeyman Part 1″

ED Hirsch – Really not the bogeyman Part 1

Over the last two or three years E.D. Hirsch, a retired Professor of Education and Humanities from Virginia, USA, and his ideas on why American education doesn’t work, have become a cause célèbre. He is considered, depending on your point of view, either an inspirational guru of great insight or a pantomime villain with dangerously reactionary views.

Why Lev Vygotsky keeps me awake at night

I was up late last night arguing with my arch-enemy Harry Webb aka @webofsubstance. I think it fair to say Harry and I have divergent views on education, nevertheless, we are always careful to be polite and try hard to end our disagreements on a friendly note. The topic of last night’s discussion was a sentence in Harry’s latest blog: [Ref] where he stated, “Social Constructivism is a type of discovery learning.”

Cognitive Psychology – Apply with Extreme Caution

I’ve always thought it interesting how as a profession we find the ideas of cognitive psychologists so beguiling and persuasive.

Some further thoughts on: ‘Why Don’t Students like School?’

The following was compiled by Prof. Brian Edmiston as an extension of the Blog: All it is cracked up to be? Some notes on Daniel Willingham’s ‘Why Don’t Students Like School?’ This post was originally posted at 13:56 on July 29 2013 and was later revised after a conversation between Brian and Daniel (see comments below). […]

All it is cracked up to be? Some notes on Daniel Willingham’s ‘Why Don’t Students Like School?’

Finally I got round to reading Daniel Willingham’s ‘Why Don’t Students Like School?’ It’s been on my desk for quite a while after being recommended to me by a number of friends. It is probably the most frequently referenced book on the education blogosphere and certainly amongst the most contentious.

The following blog represents my notes and thoughts, which I started on Twitter and some people have said they found useful. I have tried as much as possible to write using Willingham’s own words. It is not an interpretation of his argument, rather an outline of the main subjects and some thoughts and opinions of my own. Most, but not all, are complementary.

The road less travelled

This article first appeared in Teach Primary and is re-printed here with their kind permission.

I like to imagine the curriculum as a map of a country only partly explored. There are aspects – the coastline, a mountain range, some major rivers – that are well known to previous explorers, but there are others, too – the dark interior – that represent an unknown land waiting to be discovered. Of course, some parts of the new world we are told we have to visit, these are the mandatory places every traveller goes to, but there are others only we will find; places for us to explore and put on the map.

Curriculum 2014 – Programmes of Study

Teacher Alex Crump – @alfiecrump – has compiled the complete programmes of study for the new Primary Curriculum, due to become law for non-academy primary school in September, 2014

Art and Design – Less content, same objectives

The art and design programmes of study have been noticeably reduced in the new curriculum. However, the aims and purposes remain very much the same.

Design & Technology – As you were

At primary level, both KS1 and KS2 the design and technology curriculum has hardly changed in any meaningful way. There is a small change at KS2 where students are now required to communicate using a specific list of methods, see below.

Who would have believed the new primary history curriculum would have turned out so well?

On Monday the DfE published the latest draft of the new National Curriculum and many working in the primary sector greeted it with a massive sigh of relief. Most of the grand excesses of the February draft had either been softened or gone altogether and nowhere were these revisions more welcome than in the History […]

Geography: Comparing the old and new KS.2

Click here to read this blog as a Word Document Click here to read this blog as a Pdf On analysis it is clear the emphasis in the primary Geography curriculum has shifted noticeably from developing enquiry skills to acquiring geographical knowledge. Although students are still required to develop practical skills in fieldwork, compass reading […]

Geography: Comparing the old and new KS.1

Geographical enquiry skills now termed as Geographical skills and fieldwork
No longer requirement for students to ask geographical questions or express their own views
Introduction of simple compass skills (directions etc)
New requirements:

Science: Comparing the new and the old – Key Stage 2

The new curriculum for KS.2 is divided into three sections. The first two can be analysed alongside the aims and objectives of SC1: Scientific Enquiry in the old curriculum (see Table 1). The third section – Programmes of Study (see Table 2) – can be compared directly with the old PoS.

Science: Comparing the new and the old – Key Stage 1

These changes seem to indicate a slightly reduced curriculum load and more emphasis on the names of things: animals, plants, classifications etc. Most schools should find resourcing the new unit on seasons relatively easy, but don’t throw away the ones for electricity and forces, they’ll probably be back after the next curriculum review.

The new Primary History Curriculum is (whisper it) really good

The history programmes of study have been the most controversial aspect of the curriculum review process. The current draft document, which is likely to become law in August with some minor revisions, is very different from the draft history curriculum published in February. These changes are likely to be welcomed by primary school teachers.

The curriculum: where are we now?

The National Curriculum feels like an experiment that is coming to an end. More an albatross than a carrier pigeon to the governments that nurtured it, it has failed to deliver on its original purpose of bringing enlightenment and world-class standards to our nation’s schools.

Exploring History Through Dramatic Inquiry

Mantle of the expert has always been an enigmatic approach, not least because of its name, which is hardly catchy, but also because it seems to contradict many of the assumptions of how a classroom should work. Some have called it nothing more than a drama convention, others like to label it as a return to progressive, laissez-faire education. The truth is mantle of the expert resists easy analysis and is difficult to pigeon-hole. On the surface it seems quite straight-forward – establish an imaginary context, in which the children work as a team of experts, for a client who commissions the team to complete various tasks, that create opportunities for curriculum teaching and learning – however underlying this simple structure is a sophisticated pedagogic approach that incorporates drama and inquiry to create multilayered narrative threads, complex power relationships and dynamic learning opportunities.

The tolerance of ambiguity

This blog started life as a comment on Debra Kidd’s article for #blogsync – Progress? It’s more complicated than they’d have you believe! however, as it grew I thought it might deserve a place of its own and so have decided to also publish it here and add it to the #bogsync list.

Some questions for the authors of the National Curriculum review

The 16th April deadline for submitting a reply to the DfE’s consultation on the draft National Curriculum is rapidly approaching. There has been a great deal of discussion over the past two months over the form and content of the document, principally in regards to the primary history curriculum. Unfortunately the national debate over the […]

Open letter to all teachers concerned by the draft National Curriculum

This letter was originally published by Debra Kidd  – @debrakidd – on her website Love Learning Debra was the only practicing teacher invited to sign the “100 Academics” letter published in the Independent – 100 academics savage Education Secretary Michael Gove for ‘conveyor-belt curriculum’ for schools Many teachers contacted Debra asking if they could add their voices. This […]

A system where good people, do bad things, for the right reasons

This morning I read a post on the Guardian website from another ‘Secret Teacher’. The article was a heart-felt groan of frustration and professional angst from someone who was doing bad things, for good reasons, and watching children suffer as a consequence. Later in the comments section, a contributor (@jadedjogger) asked: “Yes. It’s an own-goal […]

Draft Curriculum as a word cloud

Just out of interest I put both the draft national curriculum and the current 2000 curriculum into a word cloud generator – a visual representation of the most common occurring words in the two documents – below are the results. Unsurprisingly the word ‘pupil’ appears a great deal in both.What appears to be immediately different is the […]

Responses to the National Curriculum review

Consultation to finish 16 April 2013 On 7 February 2013 the Secretary of State for Education announced a public consultation on the draft National Curriculum which will run until 16 April 2013. A final version of the new National Curriculum will be available in autumn 2013 for first teaching in schools from September 2014. Background […]

Dispatches from Palestine

Luke Abbott has been working in Palestine for the last three years with the Qattan Foundation, training teachers and teaching in schools to develop exciting and meaningful experiences for students using imaginative-inquiry. Working with very limited resources and through a translator involves unique challenges and experiences. In this blog Luke describes one day’s work in […]

Some thoughts on the draft National Curriculum for History in Primary Schools

Key Stage 1 The KS1 Curriculum is divided into three sections: Vocabulary Concepts History studies Vocabulary The section on vocabulary seems a straightforward and reasonable list of words children should know and understand by the end of Year 2 Simple vocabulary relating to the passing of time such as ‘before’, ‘after’, ‘past’, ‘present’, ‘then’ and […]

Children learn best when they use their imagination

As a child I loved games. Playground games, skipping games, card games, board games like Risk and Colditz, obscure data games like Logacta and, most of all, role-play games, where I could imagine being someone else involved in dangerous and exciting adventures.

My love of games continued into adulthood and when I became a teacher I wanted to use them in my lessons to engage and excite my students.

Inequality is a part of the system

It seems like inequality is built into the education system.

I believe all right minded people in education, including Michael Gove, are motivated by a desire to close the achievement gap, but we are all hamstrung by an education system that disadvantages children who do not benefit from a rich learning environment at home.

20 Great books on education

A collection of twenty great books on education. Well , strictly speaking nineteen great books on education and one great book on Social Science. All are definitely worth a read. Some you can but through Amazon, others are out of print but available on the internet, either through the Google Books project or elsewhere as Pdfs. Follow the links…

Let’s imagine

Article for the BlogSync Initiative : “The Universal Panacea? The number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime”
Lets imagine, just for a moment, there really is a universal panacea for all our problems. A shift in thinking so monumentally seismic it will make us think differently about everything – root and branch.

The Mary Seacole debate: a teacher’s view of the primary curriculum

We should be looking not at the content and minute details of the primary national curriculum, but its purpose. My hunch is teachers do not view this argument as educationally important but rather as an empty balloon inflated by politicians and launched by journalists for reasons of politics and circulation.

Free education from political meddling and hand control to teachers

Last week I was chatting to my dad. He’s a retired head teacher who taught for 50 years (starting in 1957), I’m a teacher who started 17 years ago. We were, as teachers do, putting the world to rights. Essentially we are both educational optimists and although we complain about the specifics we have always believed things are generally improving… Until now.

A fresh look at behaviour management in schools

Teachers are judged by how strict they are. Everyone who has been to school thinks they are an expert and many policies are based on half-baked ideas about emotional intelligence and reptile brains.


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