Welcome back after another half term and here we are embarking on Spring 2! Lighter mornings, going home when it’s not dark – looking forward to summer. And of course another #MathsRocks round up! Let’s do this!
1. Number Day 2018!
This great idea was brought up by @lea_forest_dht. Friday 2nd February was Number Day driven by the @NSPCC. It seems like a great idea where Maths activities can take centre stage, Maths can get everyone involved and even the odd dressing up event also. Unfortunately the day has passed but it may be worthwhile pencilling in to look this up December-time so the preparations can begin.
2. Gary Hall Resources
Wondering where to begin resourcing lessons for Maths? @leah_moo highlighted a great website where every curriculum objective is linked to a number of potential sources or resources to use for Years 1-6. It’s very much worth bookmarking this on your laptop so that when you are planning you can quickly refer to this. Not only are there unique resources to use but there are the occasional links to other activities such as on nRich and NCETM so it will hopefully challenge all your learners as well! See the link below:
And finally, here at #MathsRocks the majority of things we share are great resource ideas or ways to enhance your mathematics teaching in the classroom. However we occasionally like to give you a challenge to solve yourself and this time we have one from @Mister_Hubbard which (I’ll be honest with you) will take some time and patience for you to solve. He has also provided a solution which I will post at the bottom of this #MathsRocks Round Up…happy number crunching!
Please don’t forget to share any great Maths ideas, resources, displays, lessons, manipulatives, challenges…and so on to #MathsRocks on Twitter. There are more and more items being shared and it’s really appreciated! Please share the @MathsRocks_2 handle as well so more can join the Maths fun!
(PS Here is the solution to @Mister_Hubbard’s problem)
Welcome again to another #MathsRocks Round Up – where you can find useful ideas for teaching Primary Maths! Let’s jump straight in – and guess what, one more week until another break. You can do it!
1. Books to inspire Maths
Recently on #PrimaryRocks there was a wonderful focus on Maths. It was a magical, mathematical evening! One of the questions was a great one – what books do teachers use to inspire and generate discussion on Maths? It was incredible but a little overwhelming to see the replies flowing in. Fortunately @Mister_Hubbard who led the discussion has collected the suggestions and they can be found here on an editable document – link here
2. Visual fraction games
Spring term is a wonderful time of year where Fractions are often on the agenda for a number of year groups. The question is – how do we make fractions engaging, purposeful and give the children a wide variety of models to interact with? @MissSDoherty shared a wonderful, eye-catching activity where children had to sort a variety of 1/2, 1/3 and 1/4 models as a group. This allows them to see how one example of a 1/3 can look different to another but still indicate a 1/3 also!
In a similar vein to this, at our school (@Mroberts90Matt) to round off our Fractions unit in Year 6, we created a fraction game. This game was based on the @nrichmaths activity found here: https://nrich.maths.org/8283
The game requires children to understand different ways of representing fractions and matching equivalent proportions. They were then able to go to various Year 3 and 4 classes to have to explain and teach how to play this game. Not only does this requite a secure grasp of equivalent fractions but also explain it to younger children.
3. Curriculum Mapping Tools (nRich and NCETM)
You may or may not already know about this incredibly useful tool but nonetheless it is absolutely worth a share!
@goulds_mr drew attention to the @nrichmaths one first on #MathsRocks but whilst we mention it we may as well draw attention to the @NCETM version also. @nrichmaths and @NCETM are absolute gifts to any Primary Maths teacher. They take the concepts and provide deeper problem solving challenges which will stretch and challenge all children of any ability. However, the difficulty in using these sites is that it can sometimes be a challenge finding the right activity. These guides that nRich and NCETM provide solve that issue, allowing teachers to pinpoint the activities they need.
The links to the interactive pages can be found here:
Wasn’t the most intelligent idea to try starting a #MathsRocks Round Up routine before Christmas holidays but here we are – the first Monday back for some, a few days in for others – and we have a new round up of Maths ideas and resources for you to peruse. Again, any ideas or resources you have for Primary Maths please use the #MathsRocks thread to share it and it may feature in the next fortnightly(ish) round up!
1. Quick practical activity
First up is a quick activity shared by @MissSDoherty a little while ago which is a great activity for KS2 in particular. It’s especially useful with Year 6 beginning Algebra in the next few weeks if other Y6 teachers are following the new @WhiteRoseMaths scheme of work. Only numbers 0-12 may be used. The rest is up to you/your class to work out!
2. Setting for Maths Issues
This topic has been at the forefront of my mind for the past few months as I have taken on the role of Maths Lead in my school. We currently are setting in year groups for Maths but I am becoming more and more against this practice. @MaryMyatt summaries my concerns brilliantly in this thought-provoking article. A must-read for all those responsible for teaching and learning of Maths in their school and the best way to proceed in considering how to provide access to the Maths curriculum for all children. Follow the link below:
For the final entry this week I went with a resource which hasn’t been necessarily mentioned on #MathsRocks (yet!) but it’s a website which EVERY teacher of Maths should have in their weaponry. Mathsbot is a Maths-specific site where you will find many things from manipulatives, worksheets, question generators, starters and tools. I really could spend a lot of time and I may dedicate a Mathsbot-specific blog post in future but I really just suggest you go NOW to the site Mathsbot and follow @StudyMaths to be given a lot of quick tools and visuals for the teaching of Maths. Dienes blocks, bar models, counters, counting stick, differentiated questions, worksheet generator, number of the day, fraction wall, sieve of Eratosthenes and much, much more! Go now and enhance your practice!
Please keep following and sharing to #MathsRocks for more Primary Maths gems!
2017 has been a great year! It has represented a number of developments for me in many areas and seeing the usual #Nuture posts has caused me to try and reflect over the year. So without further ado – here is 2017:
It’s been quite a routine year for my family. There have been very difficult moments with health scares and other things but we’re all here ready for a New Year. Our two children will become 6 and 4 – with our oldest beginning Year 2 at school! Time is certainly moving very fast and I’m hoping to make the most of it! We have made a tentative plan to travel to Disneyland in 2020 so we’re hopeful to create many exciting memories in the time that we have together. Birthday parties, trip to Chessington, Legoland and other things have made this year one to look back on.
So in terms of school there have been a number of great developments which I’m very pleased about. In the year I ended my 3rd year of teaching I have completed the work for my NPQML and will receive the result in around 13 days! There was something extremely satisfying in creating a whole-school development project, leading the educational change, trying to make it effective, long-lasting change and creating a 20 page pdf about it. Looking at the work that has gone into it, I feel a good sense of pride in the fact I’ve played some part in providing some change hopefully for the better at my school. The project was focused on developing an approach based on mathematical talk and vocabulary across the school and I’m looking forward to seeing how it continues.
This was the year that I was also given a new opportunity within my school. I was previously the PE and Sports Lead and we had great and exciting things happen in the school. It’s ironic actually because when I was originally asked to be the PE Lead I wasn’t sure at first. It was never something I had considered. However, I was asked to move to be the Maths Lead in the school and pass the PE Lead on and I was extremely excited (but a little sad to see the PE go). However, since it’s begun I’ve really enjoyed it. There’s been a lot of opportunities for development from it and I’m excited with a few ideas that we’ve had in place – including using Times Tables Rock Stars and considering how to include a mastery approach to teaching and learning in Maths looking at Shanghai and Singapore models.
NCETM PD Lead:
On top of the Maths Lead, a potential opportunity came up from the local Maths Hubs – to become a Professional Development Lead. It was promoted early November from the NCETM and Maths Hubs and I was really interested but thought I wouldn’t be in the right position to apply. It requires you being sponsored by a Maths Hub and it allows you to be accredited to lead professional development courses. I was encouraged to apply by my Head and my previous KS Lead…and I got it! This was a big highlight in December to find out and I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes!
Assistant Head Interview:
This was a very interesting experience! In our school I applied for an AHT position and didn’t get it. Despite this, I was grateful for it! It was useful for the future and I received great feedback. It has given me a huge confidence boost for future opportunities.
In July I began using the gym…and I still am. Well, I say the gym – my parents have a garage which they’ve converted with a treadmill, exercise bike and weight benchpress (and a TV and portable fridge)! On top of this, they live about a 2 minute drive away! I’m managing to get out twice a week and work at it so I’m feeling very good. I have to say I’ve noticed a difference in my health levels and resistance to illnesses so will hope to keep that going.
So now is the time to look into the New Year – as I have successfully been able to keep at tweeting and blogging for a whole year now I’m hoping that I will now be able to look back at this in 12 months time and see how I’ve managed to achieve things this year in 2018:
This next year with the family I hope to spend even more quality time with my family. The areas to improve on are the days where there isn’t anything particularly happening and the day slips away – I want to get out to the park more and such things like that.
This is a bit of an unknown for me. Originally I wanted to try and be in a Senior Leadership position in September and I do think I still would like that. The ideal scenario is that I will be able to attain a position in my current school but of course that would require other things to happen. However, with my new Maths Lead position and the exciting opportunity of taking on the PD Lead Accreditation I might be happy to continue working on this a little more but then as well – Year 6 or not? I think I would definitely like to step away from Year 6 as it’s the only year I’ve known for 4 years now…I guess I’ll have a clearer picture in April time…
NCETM PD Lead Begins!:
Mentioned this already so won’t go into a lot of detail but I am very interested to see how this will go!
So, I am a little ashamed to say this but since I began teaching in 2014 I think I have read…1 book maybe? Not even sure as I sit here!! I know I will not be the only one but I want to get into reading more. So, 6 books for Christmas and I’m ready to go – I’m determined to start anew. My birthday is in April and (whilst I know only 6 books in 3 and a bit months isn’t necessarily impressive) I’m hoping to get some more then! Already read ‘Who Let the Gods Out?’ so a great start!
Well, the year ended with the epic ‘The Last Jedi’ and a surprisingly very enjoyable ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ and I’m looking forward to 2018’s offering of films. ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, ‘Incredibles 2’, ‘Black Panther’, ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, ”Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’, ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald’, ‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’…even Hotel Transylvania 3! Lots to look forward to!
I have always tried to start a meaningful journal – not necessarily based on school matters but general. The most difficult thing I always found to keep it going was having to write by hand at night and keeping it interesting to read back. I found a brilliant app called ‘365 Journals’ which gives a simple question a day and I can use the ‘Speech-to-Text’ function on my phone to input it in! Easy! 🙂
Very simply – keep this going. And as it’s easily accessible, private and I get occasional treats from my parents on my way through (and a wonderful power shower) – I’m likely to!
A word that seemed to be a buzz word when the new National Curriculum was published was ‘fluency’. The definition of fluent online is ‘smoothly graceful and effortless’. In looking at the aim in the National Curriculum, it seems to refer to bring able to understand why methods work in Maths (not just go through the motion of doing the method) and apply the method to appropriate questions and problems. So how do we develop Mathematical fluency in children? Do we give them a list of calculations? Or is there more required?
Recentlyour Year 6 began that wonderful journey of dividing by two digit numbers. Why doing this with an extra digit is such a great jump I’m not sure – maybe another focus for a future blog…
Anyway, as many Year 6 teachers will know – along with the teachers who introduce any formal methods of calculation, helping the children understand why they use these methods and the maths behind them is much harder than just getting the children to work on the mechanics of the calculation. Thus, scores and scores of children are taught the method without necessarily understanding the maths behind them. Since the introduction of a mastery approach to teaching maths, this has been improving.
This is how we tackled this challenge whilst trying to develop a deeper understanding and mastery of the calculation method.
Naturally in the first session there was already a range of confidence. Some of our Year 6 children were already familiar with and confident with long division whereas some had just about still got a grasp on dividing by a single digit number. Those children were offered the opportunity to either go and attempt a few calculations to make sure there were confident or attempt an estimation challenge involving the long division from nRich: Dicey Operations Game 6
With the rest of the children, initially after a visual representation of the method, a number of demonstrations and a discussion around how the remainders and other aspects of the method worked, the choice was again given to the children where to pitch themselves. Those who felt confident then went to try either of the before mentioned challenges where those that did not stayed in the ‘Long Division Clinic’. The Clinic involves whiteboard work, discussion and targeting from the Teacher and explaining to their peers the process they are working through with careful listening in by the Teacher.
In order to enable the children to practice the calculation and get a real-time assessment on whether they were correct or not whilst I worked with those who still needed to grasp the method we used the website MathsBotwhich creates instant problems and the chn could quickly uncover the answer on the IWB to check they were correct. If not, they were to analyse, with a partner if needed, to uncover the error.
2. Clinic Continues
Because of the nature of the first session being much more introductory, there is more time given now for those who are less confident to continue working in the Clinic and then try independently. By this stage also, by scrutiny of the previous lesson’s learning, some children may have been discovered who were not as confident as previously thought. These can come into the ‘Clinic’ briefly to check where any misconceptions are.
Meanwhile, those who are more confident have choices on how to push themselves further. Try some more challenging problems set by the Teacher, work on showing their remainders as fractions or decimals and finally some reasoning and problem solving problems set by White Rose Maths which develop understanding on how to apply this method to problems.
It is well documented that we learn 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see and so on… But we learn 95% of what we teach others. So the question was for me then ‘How could I get my class to teach others in a way that will include all?’ Of course I could go down the route of whole class presentation… But if I were a10 year old child I would struggle to stand up and teach my peers the basics of long division. Teaching to groups is always fun, less intimidating. The question that method throws up is how could I accurately assess if each individual child had met the LO when different groups are teaching each other at once? To have each group teach other one by one so I could listen to every child would be too time consuming. So what?
I was led to an app called Explain Everything which was perfect. @ICT_MrP was the first to introduce this to me.
The app allows the user to create a video whilst using a drawing tool or a highlighting tool and images. This gave the perfect opportunity for the children to ‘teach’ someone how to use skills in Maths. In doing this, the children themselves become increasingly competent, developing their fluency.
This video not only gives the children an opportunity to engage in a meaningful and purposeful activity, but it can also serve as a future stimulus to remember previous learning. These are some examples:
Not only does this allow the children the opportunity to explain the workings behind the formal method, it encourages them to take it step by step and plan how to break down the calculation for someone that is new to the concept. There is also that extra incentive where they could have their work used for a huge purpose – to have on the school website as part of our calculation policy and teach others who are interested in how to use this formal method.
Considering how to group the children is key in this task. Children should be allowed the opportunity to work independently as some will feel inhibited by not being able to express their explanations with extra discussion. However, some children will not yet be fully confident in their abilities and so mixed-ability pairing is extremely useful here. This is not only enable the children to further internalise the formal method but also make peer coaching another input for all children to get this calculation approach.
4. Take on the Problems!
By this stage – most children should be fairly competent in the method or at least much more closer to grasping it than they were before. This is where the real application, the whole reason why we learn these methods, comes into play. A selection of problems are available of differing levels (strictly no straight calculations) – the children are in mixed ability pairs and take on the challenges they wish to try. This ‘Hot/Spicy/Chilli’ approach means they can start where they feel comfortable and then advance or step back where they feel is necessary. The challenges can be sourced again from the White Rose Maths documents (they have a lot of sessions when teachers are required to teach a new calculation method) and also many other areas. These challenges are completed on large, graffiti paper so that concerns about presentation or neatness can be put to one side and the maths is the main focus:
As the session progresses, the children are expected to discuss their thoughts and their answers. This will again develop children’s ability to talk through the calculation. This would be the equivalent of the ‘Ruler of Reasoning’ session in my ‘TalkMaths Approach’ shared in a recent post. The Teacher’s role is to step back and listen in to discussions. From this observation they can address any final or further misconceptions that can be dealt with as a whole class.
No approach is foolproof. There will still be children who won’t have grasped the concept after this approach – however, this will give children a pace to suit them. Faster and more in-depth if needed, slower and more probing if required. Teaching and learning formal methods of calculation is a necessary facet of maths teaching in KS2 Maths and a lynchpin in any child’s mathematical toolkit. A deeper understanding must be developed – hopefully this will help.
A recent idea shared by @_MissieBee has prompted me to share this. It links very closely to a brilliant idea where the class are given a whole class feedback slide or sheet to stick in their book which highlights good things done and common misconceptions. I shared a very similar idea previously and have updated it over the years. It is different to what was shared as it offers a regular, even daily, model which could fit into most, if not all, subjects which require recording in books.
One of the most frustrating things I (used to) deal with as a teacher was the amount of time marking takes. It really is one of the biggest causes of workload. The most tiresome aspect was writing the same comments in multiple books. Things such as “Don’t forget to line up your place value,” or “Check you use punctuation at the end of your speech,” or even “Name one impact of exercise on the body.” Yes – not only can this approach address misconceptions, but give a follow up challenge without either the teacher writing it 20-odd times or cutting it out and sticking it in multiple times. This Daily Whole Class Marking allows me mark a set of books within 30 minutes complete with personalised comments on misconceptions and challenges. It hones in on each child with the teacher only writing in two or three symbols into their book.
Some examples are here: Cinquain Poem Writing
Another one for Suspense Narrative writing:
Maths this time – with challenge questions:
And finally a Science:
I would start straight away by emphasising that this is not my original idea. I came across the method in a series of excellent summer blog posts by @LearningSpy who referenced it to Joe Kirby’s blog! The idea is so simple – basically instead of writing comments that is expected by a teacher to praise what the child has done and give constructive steps on how to improve – you write down three symbols. Then, in the very next lesson (as this method allows you to mark books for the very next lesson with ease) children are given 5 mins to copy down the relevant feedback to those symbols. Typically I have numerous various comments that are used across a set of 30 books ranging from correcting common misconceptions to a gentle reminder to underline the date and LO. During this specific 5 mins at the start of the next lesson, I am then able take the time to target individual children I have made a note of to give some extra verbal feedback on what they’ve done and try to progress their understanding further. I personally have labelled this time ‘MAD Time’ (Make A Difference) but the concept is that the children write the personalised comments down, rather than the teacher.
Does it MAD?
Well, I have been using this method in my feedback approach for over three years now. There are issues:
1. It may be more challenging for Phase teachers younger in the school (particularly KS1) to adapt this. Possible, but more challenging
2. The first week is always the most ineffective as the children get used to the method of feedback and are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their learning. It does take focus from them and reminders on how to use the time best but each year I have done this, the most challenging learners I have had have seen the advantage of this and taken it on board.
Despite these potential barriers, there has been clear outcomes. These are listed below:
My workload has balanced
Before I would spend up to an hour, maybe more, marking a set of class books. After having written repetitive comments in books the children would then barely give them a second glance, despite my attempts at the start of each lesson to get them to read and initial the words painstakingly etched by me. This would become disheartening after time. Now, I find I am spending 20-30mins or so on the same number of books. This means I have more time to prepare engaging follow on lessons from the learning I’ve just assessed. We all know providing written feedback is a huge drain on time and whilst some schools may be moving away from written feedback reliance, many are still expecting this. This approach allows this still to be met, whilst freeing time for the teacher.
2. The feedback has improved
I am not afraid to admit it – after marking 20-23 books, my enthusiasm would deplete and my comments to the children in their books would become more and more generic and rushed. I suppose this is human nature (and why a wonderful piece of writing from a child might get more rushed toward the end!) Because of this technique, the level of personalised feedback is constant for the whole class, not just the children whose books are nearer the top of the pile! One big loss in the later books in my pile would be follow up questions. I would be less likely to write these in later books. Also, if I planned to stick in follow up challenges, I often forget to print these off and take them home. Once I have the books home, I have forgotten them and therefore no challenge question to push my learners further. This way, there will always be opportunity for follow up challenges.
3. The technique gets the children to take the feedback in
Now that the children are, in essence, writing comments on their own work they seem to take it in more. I have seen direct improvement on a child’s work from comments they have written. Would those improvements have been made if I had written them? Maybe, but it is less likely the child would have read them. This way, the feedback is certain to be acknowledged, even if then the child makes no effort to act on it.
We all know the frustration when we spend all this time writing comments then the children just turn the page without taking it in. This approach means the children have to at least read, write and respond to the feedback (in their purple pen) to indicate any difference to their learning.
4. It shows innovative practice which is centred on one thing – learning
This marking approach has been used under two senior leadership teams. Both of them have stated that they feel this is outstanding practice in feedback. The MAD Time was stated as an extremely good way of helping children make a difference in their learning and straight away set a precedent for that lesson that we were there to learn, and they would have the feedback yesterday to work on. The whole reason I have decided to use this is because it has an impact on the children’s learning. This can be seen in session, in the books and in the data. Learning is the centre of this approach.
5. FInally…the children GET it!
I did NOT expect this outcome! Quite honestly, I thought my class would hate it to begin with. However, now when I display the 8-10 comments they may find in their work, they actually get excited to see what they receive! Some even utter a ‘yesss’ when they know it’s MAD Time before they then find they have a ~) or a +) which they need to work on. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it’s a new idea and it’ll lose it’s freshness after a couple of weeks. Maybe it’s because they feel they are actually engaging in something they feel is new and a good way to improve their learning. They actually care that they understand why they’ve received certain feedback and what they can do to achieve that.
Will you try MAD Time in your teaching and learning? How do you get written and verbal feedback across to your class and are there any other ways that have been effective for you? Are you MAD?
The start of a brand new academic year! I am honestly very excited. After an NQT year, RQT year and then a year developing my leadership with an NPQML qualification, I am ready to take on a new role as Maths Coordinator in our 2/3 form entry primary school. As I have done each year – I hope to begin the year with some resolutions to keep me focused, driven and moving towards objectives which I hope to achieve through the year. As always, I have looked back on the goals I have set in the past, have built on them and added a couple of new ones.
1. Keep my home-work life balanced
This goal first appeared in my NQT Resolutions and it then was recorded as my first RQT resolution also and it may well be the first on my list every year in my career. My family are the most important thing to me. I will certainly not be trading them for a successful career in teaching – I would change jobs before that happened. Obviously it can be done but it will require time management and careful a selection of priorities. I look around at some of the staff in my school who have families of their own and wonder how they can manage to do what they do! Now, at this stage in my career I have an incredible, supportive and interested wife as well as a 5 year old son and 3 year old daughter – so it is busy times in the Roberts household! Our son is moving into Year 1 this year so it is becoming even more busy! Yet, as long as I keep this goal foremost in mind I know it will be fine – it has certainly been becoming easier to spend more time with my family and I intend to continue the trend.
2. Complete my NPQML with an excellent result
Last year I began an NPQML qualification which I was so grateful to have the opportunity to do. I was able to lead a school improvement project which seems to have had a positive impact on the teaching of Maths in school. This really has been, and will continue to be, an excellent learning experience. I have until November to complete the writing up and tidying up of the assignment and as I do, I’m noticing just how much I’ve learnt. So, I want to try and complete this qualification with a great result.
3. Create an impact on times tables learning in the school
As mentioned, I have an exciting new role in my school as the Maths Coordinator in the school. I’ll have the opportunity to work with an incredible team to continue the progress we’ve made in the school. One area that I think will need development as the government begins to implement further assessment is times tables learning. We need to create a new, exciting way for the children in our school to latch onto times table learning. We’ve invested in @TTRockStars which is an engaging programme which can provide regular, consistent practice for all in school with a drive to gain in mastery and speed of the times tables. I’m anxious for this to take hold so this will be a goal for me.
4. Set school up as part of a Maths Hub
One piece of advice we were given as a school maths leadership last year was to join a local Maths Hub. This would provide an opportunity for the school to network further as well as provide a way for the school to demonstrate excellent practice. This may be a straightforward goal but it’s one which I think will develop the school and take it to the next level in it’s Maths progression.
5. Push for more staff sports opportunities
A few events were set up during the year last academic year (Rounders, Dodgeball) and they were great opportunities for staff wellbeing and relationship building. I’m not sure of many other schools that engage in this, and those that do I’m sure are warm, welcoming places to work. I want to try and encourage the staff to take part in one event a half-term. This teaching business can be tough. In the Summer 2 term there was a lot of monitoring and important actions in the school that happened and everyone worked really hard. We planned a Rounders event towards the end and it was a great release for all those involved.
There you have it – some straightforward goals focused on new opportunities that I have. Hoping you have a wonderful new journey this academic year.
Previously I wrote about a whole school initiative I was planning to implement into my school called Talk4Maths, a Maths-focused drive on vocabulary and maths talk drawing on ideas from the well-known Literacy initiative Talk4Writing. The research and thinking behind this Talk4Maths can be found here. After some development with a team I was fortunate to work with in school and implementing it, I have refined this strategy into a model which is now at work across my school and has been for almost 5 months. It seems to be going well – some of the impact will be addressed later in this post.
What is Talk4Maths?
Talk4Maths is an approach to teaching and learning Maths which is based on talk and discussion. It asserts that Maths learning is taken in more when children are given the chance to explain their reasoning and describe different skills and processes. There are opportunities for children to internalise mathematic skills and concepts using oral retelling and actions. They then talk. Talk has been shown to develop mathematical understanding significantly:
As talk is the focus of this initiative, the Talk4Maths strategy then breaks down into three main approaches.
How does Talk4Maths look?
There are three key elements of our Model that we started to implement:
1. Using oral retelling and actions to internalise mathematical terms and skills: This is the part of Talk4Maths which draws from Talk4Writing in a similar way. The children are encouraged to internalise mathematical skills and terms using mnemonics and actions to improve their memory of them. As a school we developed universal actions which all staff could use:
What you see above is the action for ‘multiply’. My Y6 class used this method to memorise terms such as ‘factor’, ‘prime’ and ‘square number’ as well as how to use the four operations on fractions.
2. Creating ‘concept maps’ to show step-by-step understanding: The fluency developed from oral retelling and actions is then built on by children developing concept maps to help them break down skills and concepts and visualise them. They can create the concept maps, talk through them with their peers and even create other types of ‘concept maps’ such as tutorials (an example is when we created Long Division tutorials on Explain Everything on the iPads). An example of a written concept map can be seen below:
What you see is ‘Factors multiply together to create a product’. As mentioned in my previous post I had a child working at a low Year 3 level who went home and taught his parents about what a factor was and gave some examples. This was a great example of how creating concept maps could work.
3. Special ‘Talk4Maths’ sessions which involve problem solving, talk and informal recording on sugar paper.
This is my favourite part (and probably the most important) for what is the purpose of developing fluency in mathematical skills and concepts if this fluency is not developed in reasoning and problem solving challenges. As such, we set staff the challenge to involve AT LEAST once a fortnight a session dedicated to problem solving and talk. Of course they are expected to incorporate this in most sessions, but this session is special. It is out of books on a more informal style of recording, whatever that may be, and provides ALL the opportunity to discuss and tackle problems using the skills they have developed up until that point. Some examples below:
To add extra incentive for the children to engage fully, the teacher circulates the groups and picks out through observation one learner who has stood out for their use of mathematical vocabulary. They are crowned in that week’s celebration assembly as (wait for it…) the Ruler of Reasoning!
And it gets even better – the Ruler of Reasoning from that fortnight receives a personalised RULER OF REASONING (a special ruler with the above logo inside it) which is theirs for the next two weeks until the next winner is crowned. The kids love it!
Already, the soft data from the Talk4Maths initiative has been evident. The language used by the children and the staff in discussing who is the Ruler of Reasoning and why they have won that coveted title shows the focus being given to vocabulary, problem solving, determination, talk and mastery – just some of the key words being used in all communications around this strategy.
Hard data – we are just waiting to receive our school’s end-of-year data but a question-level analysis of the KS2 SATs Maths shows that the problem questions were not the vocabulary-based questions or questions that required explanations (of which there were two this year). As well as the improvement in isolated questions, the overall progress of this year’s cohort was greater than last year’s. Also, about 5 classes trialled the Talk4Maths strategy back in Autumn Term – of all the classes in our 2/3 form entry school the top 3 classes that made the most progress were classes that were trialling this strategy. I’ll hope to update it when we can see the impact across the school once that data comes through.
Any questions – just let me know 🙂 – you heard it here first!
So, just over 4 months ago, I set on a new journey in Guided Reading – Whole Class Guided Reading. I shared my initial thoughts back then on what I considered the pros and cons of this, and other approaches I had experiences that can be seen here. As I have gone along with this approach, I have noticed a few things which have really added to this method:
1. Keep the Groups but Keep them Mixed
At the start, I reflected a lot on what would be best. Should I completely disband Guided Reading groups? If not, do I keep them differentiated to be able to focus certain levels of questions or mix them up? As I continued I decided to keep the previous groups we had for Guided Reading which were differentiated – mainly so that the groups didn’t feel a complete change. In hindsight however I think that was the wrong choice. I think it is important to keep GR groups so that you can focus discussion and questioning in a smaller group setting but making them mixed ability is the way forward. This enables support for the lower attainers by accessing higher levels of questioning and discussion with their peers. Also, those with a greater depth of understanding can develop this through explanation and discussion of their thoughts with their peers as they coach them.
2. Vary the Activities
So when we were presented with the idea of Whole Class Guided Reading, I was given the idea that a lot of the Whole Class model could focus on discussing questions focusing on different strands in Reading (such as prediction, summary and comparison) and children should be able to model answers. As such, this was pretty much all I did. It was great to start with and it definitely had an impact – however, it did become stale after a couple of weeks. So I began to realise that Whole Class Guided Reading should be seen as engaging as any other session (duh – I know right) and whilst a lot of the engagement should come from a stellar text (we used Wonder – the kids LOVED it) you do need to put in some variety of activities. I probably won’t make it every other session – but maybe once a week or so throw in something to make the text come even more alive. Some examples can be found in this document (which I didn’t create) List of Possible Whole Class GR Activities
Some others are below:
In the back of your books, write three open questions you would like to ask any of August’s guides (Charlotte, Julian and Jack) about their first impressions of August.
3. Go with the Flow
I think Whole Class Guided Reading has such a potential to unlock thoughts and imagination across the class. However, as we have gone through discussion and drawn ideas from all the class, a number of answers have been given that have taken things in a different direction. We have gone into in-depth comparisons between August/Summer and Beauty and the Beast, we have also delved into the genetics behind colour-blindness (one of my party tricks) as a result of the discussions going in their flow. One thing that I would take away for Whole Class Guided Reading is be ready for the discussion to take a different direction – I find it exhilarating and the children find it engaging when the discussion is at a high-level but has evolved over questions and thoughts from the children…and because it is ‘Whole-Class’, these ideas can come from anyone about the same text.
Back in February I said I would not change my effective, well-planned carousel – Guided Reading, I had it cracked. However, I am of the opinion that I will not be changing my Whole Class Guided Reading – unless something else comes along that looks better/is forced upon me but hey – that’s teaching!
Recently I read a tweet from someone (I wish I had taken a snapshot or retweeted or something but I didn’t) which posed the question: “As a leader, should you encourage your best teachers to lead more or keep them performing at their absolute best for the school you are in?” I have paraphrased the question but the meaning behind it matches what they asked. I’m sure they were asking to develop discussion.
First of all I guess that this question is dependant on the teacher’s desires to lead. I mean, I’m sure there are many teachers who are brilliant at their job but who want stay in the classroom doing what they do best, teaching. I remember reading another tweet which I found ironic but very true: teaching is one of those few professions where the better you get at the job, the less you do it. When I think of our SLT this certainly is true. They are strong, model practitioners but their responsibility on the SLT requires them to be out of the classroom more than other teaching staff. As such – a responsibility leading standards through the wider school may not be a goal for all.
However, whilst not a non-negotiable as such, subject leadership is expected of most teaching staff. In this role, all teaching staff are given an opportunity to develop skills in leadership. They take responsibility of this subject and how it can develop at the school. Subject leadership can see the curriculum transform at a school, or slip slowly into mediocrity. The question is – how can subject leadership develop the knowledge and skills of the leader themselves?
1. Glimpsing the Bigger Picture
As a member of staff are given the role of playing a wider part in school development, they start to see how vital their subject is to the vibrant life in a school. They also recognise the planning, preparation and impact their direct leadership has on the children in the school through their subject. Subject leaders are required to evidence progress in their subject and as they do, they begin to recognise the importance of information and data from around the school. This understanding will then support an appreciation for effective, necessary educational change later on.
2. Enhancing Own Practice
As a subject leader, there begins to be a recognition of the need to improve own practice. An effective leader recognises the impact of their practice on those around. They need to model excellence in teaching and learning, at least in the subject area they lead. As they do this, they can begin to recognise areas they can develop in other subject areas and as such, use their experience as a leader to improve their own practice. This experience could be likened to the leader being encouraged to raise the bar on their practice so they can influence others to do the same and see an impact in their subject area.
3. Develop Self-Awareness and Confidence
Without experience in leading a subject area, it can be difficult for practitioners to develop skills and expertise in a way that brings their practice into a spotlight. I know that as I was offered the opportunity to lead PE and Sport in my school, I was horrified at the thought. I had never planned and taught a PE lesson independently never mind led the subject across a 2-3 form entry school! However, after research, observations and practice, I have developed in my confidence in delivering this subject in my own practice. Whilst this has improved my PE teaching, it has done much more! I feel much more confident in my ability to take on further challenges in my professional life as I have seen the successes of my leadership. This is the potential power of getting staff to lead – the opportunity to improve self-confidence and the recognition that they have the professional ability to influence positive change in their own practice and those around them.
So, in conclusion, it is vital that teachers are given the chance to lead. Yes it is necessary to ensure excellence in all areas of the curriculum (one cannot do it alone) but there are more, impressive outcomes from empowering staff to lead the curriculum in a school. They become more aware of the bigger picture in the school, they enhance their own practice in general and recognise the power they have as a practitioner.