Independent Thinking on Primary Teaching

Practical strategies for working smarter, not harder

By: Mark Creasy


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Size198mm x 126mm
PublishedFebruary 2022

Written by Mark Creasy, Independent Thinking on Primary Teaching: Practical strategies for working smarter, not harder paints a vivid picture of life in a primary school and shares top tips on how to enrich children’s learning at no extra cost to teachers’ time or the school budget.

Foreword by Ian Gilbert.

Primary school teachers are working harder than ever, and have more and more to do in the finite time they have with their pupils, but Mark Creasy believes it doesn’t need to be like this.

With rare experience in both primary and secondary phases and at leadership as well as classroom levels, Mark is ideally placed to comment on what works and what doesn’t – and in this book he urges teachers to recognise that there is another way.

In Independent Thinking on Primary Teaching, Mark encourages teachers to stop and consider the things they do daily in the classroom and presents a series of prompts, nudges and suggestions to help them achieve the same (or even better) results by working smarter, not harder. In so doing he shares a wealth of practical and easily transferable tips for immediate use in the classroom, all designed to streamline teachers’ schedules and lighten their workload while enlivening children’s learning.

These are in no way doctrines, or silver bullets for success, and nothing that Mark advocates requires further investment of either time or money; rather, these ‘working smarter’ tips are geared to win teachers their evenings and weekends back, something that many more teachers need than is healthy for the profession.

Essential reading for primary school teachers.

Independent Thinking on Primary Teaching is one of a number of books in the Independent Thinking On … series from the award-winning Independent Thinking Press.

Picture for author Mark Creasy

Mark Creasy

Mark Creasy is an Independent Thinking Associate and experienced primary school teacher. His contemporary and down-to-earth style of teaching has allowed him to view learning as a tool, not a rule, to ensure that his pupils are given the right to an education that suits their needs and maximises their potential for future success. Mark is also the author of Unhomework, which challenges the orthodoxies about work outside the classroom.

Read Mark's article featured in The Guardian on Tuesday April 1st 2014.

Click here to listen to Mark discussing The Great Homework Debate' on the Pivotal Podcast (from 4.30mins).


  1. Mark Creasy, from his depth of experience, has put together a thought-provoking, creative and practically relevant range of strategies, ideas and tips to help primary school teachers tweak their practice. The focus is on working smarter to promote effective engagement, interest, involvement and self-drive for learners.
    The key features of this well-structured book include clear identification of problem issues, a range of inspirational ideas for contemplation and review within each chapter, and excellent appendices. Readers will also benefit from the author’s emphasis on daily routines, such as getting attention, making the most of PPA time, seating and groups, marking and feedback, and working with other adults.
    Mark highlights that staff at all levels should ‘never mistake being busy for being effective, or treat being tired as evidence that you’re doing the “the right thing”’. A message to reflect on for many department heads and classroom staff.
    I highly recommend this book as a resource for all primary and specialist centres.
  2. It would appear that Mr Creasy is an incredibly real and down-to-earth guy, and that’s exactly what the frantic world of education needs. Frankly, I wish I’d been armed with this book in my induction year – because I’d have been on top of the world on a daily basis! His advice, tips and strategies aren’t fluffed up with a mountain of psychology; they just work. They ‘do what they say on the tin’. And if that makes your life easier, then what’s not to love?

  3. How rare to read a book on primary education quite so packed full of common sense and practical tips. Mark Creasy shines a spotlight not only on the nuts and bolts of learning, but also into the cracks of – or places between – those important aspects of school life that are rarely spoken of, or are swept under the carpet, but can eat up time.

    And this book won’t eat up your time; I read it cover to cover in a sitting (but with copious sticky notes on the pages I wanted to return to). I can see myself recommending it to teachers of all levels of experience. The provocative questions in each chapter will help any teacher or leader to anchor themselves back in the ‘why’ of daily practice, while the ‘working smarter tips’ are brilliant for dipping into, with lots of practical ideas to try.

    Mark shares some inspired ideas about how to make ‘learning breaks’ multipurpose, but equally he is uncompromising in the expectation that teachers should know their children and their curriculum inside out, and tailor it to the needs of every individual.

    This book speaks to me because at its heart is a love of children, and a love of learning. Smart educators will read it!

  4. This book is easy to read and is jam-packed with years and years’ worth of wisdom from an experienced teacher. Mark’s insights will generate thinking, reflection and action in teachers at every stage of their career. Early career teachers will pick up tons of strategies they can implement easily, while more experienced teachers will reflect on their own practice and consider how they can make it even better – and all will smile at Mark’s understanding of how schools, their staff, their pupils and their parents work and behave.

    Reading Independent Thinking on Primary Teaching is akin to having the privilege of being present in Mark’s classroom, in planning meetings with him, reflecting with him in the staffroom after a day’s teaching, and observing his interactions with parents, colleagues and children, with the added benefit of a running commentary about his decision-making at every turn. And throughout the book, Mark’s passion for teaching and love for the children he teaches is writ large.

  5. How I wish Independent Thinking on Primary Teaching had been on my shelf when I first started teaching. It would by now be falling apart due to constant use. Full of wisdom and common sense, this is a book of hope and possibilities in which Mark asks questions designed to help teachers consider the ways we work.

    Each chapter encourages us to reflect positively on what we already know and do, and provokes us to examine this with optimism – enabling us to see there is always another way to look at things, and offering alternative strategies that may just make our lives easier and our environments for learning more effective. Mark is the kind of coach we all need in our classrooms: authentic, values-led and focused on creating the very best environments for learning – enabling us to work smarter, not harder.

    Now is the time to focus on relationships, the golden thread that weaves its magic throughout the book. Mark puts our children and families at the forefront of our thinking and promotes a love of teaching, learning and self. With this book full of playful ideas, warmth and connection, he restores our sense of purpose and clears the way to enable more learning, as well as reintroducing some essential components of the classroom – a rain stick and Elvis!

    This is essential reading for teachers and leaders, and a cracking great read. Get your highlighters ready!

  6. Independent Thinking on Primary Teaching is undoubtably essential reading for all early career teachers, but is equally useful for more experienced teachers who wish to reflect on their habits and discover new ways of working smarter, not harder.

    The book is a really accessible read which is jam-packed with tips, advice and practical ideas in terms of establishing effective systems and routines, building strong relationships and focusing on what really matters in the classroom (and outside). Always keeping the child at the centre, Mark encourages readers to reflect and question why we do things the way we do – and reveals alternatives and suggests small changes to help us see that ‘there is always another way’.

    Each chapter focuses on a key area of primary practice and offers clear, structured and practical advice to support teachers to reflect and make considered changes in order to not only have a greater impact on outcomes for children, but also on their own workload and well-being. Mark’s warmth and humour runs throughout the book, and the strategies and ideas suggested come from a real understanding of the pressures and rewards of teaching in the primary classroom.

    I would highly recommend this book to primary teachers everywhere.

  7. Independent Thinking on Primary Teaching is an early career teacher’s dream come true, and will also be useful for teachers at any stage in their career who may want some practical tips and suggestions to reduce their everyday workload, in a smart way!

    The author’s practical advice builds upon best practices that teachers may already apply in their classrooms, or those that they simply need to refocus upon and adapt what they currently do. It is most definitely a teacher-friendly book that offers concrete strategies to help in everyday practice. It is an easy read that will also serve as a reference point for specific areas, such as marking and feedback, in which teachers may want to make changes.

    As a head teacher, I will be purchasing a copy for all my early career teachers to offer them great organisational tips, which I wish I had implemented early in my teaching career. The suggestions and strategies from Mark, who is still a classroom practitioner, offer tweaks to the day that will make a huge difference for many, many teachers.

    The author is living and breathing the job day in, day out – which gives me faith that the practical and working smarter tips really work!

  8. Independent Thinking on Primary Teaching is the book I wish I had early on in my teaching career. As Mark points out, actions become habits; and if you develop the most effective habits early on in your career, you will be set up for life. This book is full of accessible, practical ideas and neat ‘hacks’ to save time, such as sharing powerful and engaging morning routines and simple ways to hand over more responsibility to the children. A great guide to developing an effective, efficient classroom.

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