GCSE Foundation Maths Folders

In September 2015 I inherited a foundation year 11 class.  The class had previously had low achievement levels and included a few pupils (at least 50% if I remember correctly) with SEN. We struggled during the first half term, particularly with getting maths notes and examples written in books.  I was printing out an awful lot of write on worksheets and gluing them into books.  I then read @mathsjem’s post on resourceaholic.com about her foundation group in which she wrote about the folders she used to organise their work and study packs for each lesson.  See her updates on this here and here.  I thought this would be an ideal way of working with my year 11 group, particularly in supporting their note taking, so many thanks to Jo for introducing me to this plan.

The ring binders were such a fab idea, and it just so happened that at the very point I was thinking about this, a friends workplace were closing down and skipping a load of lever arch ringbinders, which she kindly collected for me.  Perfect!

Two years on, and it appeared so successful after the first year, that I repeated it last year with a similar year 11 group.

I’ve added a page with the folder sheets I have used over the last couple of years.  I’ll admit I’m quite anxious about putting them all on as I know I’ve used resources that others have kindly shared.  I’ve gone through and deleted resources that are from subscription or prominent sites. I’ve linked to TES resources I’ve used from there, but I’m still worried I’ve missed something that someone else took their time to create, so please accept apologies in advance and let me know if I need to credit you.

The first benefit of the folders is the organisation of the students work.  We had 5 sections: Classwork, Homework, Assessments, Practice Papers and BBQs (more on those later!). It’s great to sling the assessments and past papers into after the follow up work.

Sheet headingFor the classwork, I prepared a page, usually double sided, for each lesson, with the learning question already written on.  I also decided to number the sheets with unit and lesson number on!

The real bonus of these sheets is that notes can be laid out for better referral back to them, and all the questions are already on there, so no glueing in! They tended to get a pattern of boxes for facts and speech bubbles to annotate examples.

Although it took time to make these sheets, these were the resource for the lesson.  I didn’t make a powerpoint to go with them, as I used the visualiser I was lucky to have in my classroom.  It wasn’t just a “copy these notes down”; as I was filling them in the same time as the students, it was all about the questioning too.

The BBQs are my starters I use.  They stand for bread and butter questions; I first used Just Math’s bread and butter questions here, but then I wanted to use certain questions for my group, so developed my own. At the start of the year, I chose a selection of questions and then for four lessons in a row they would do the same set of questions (different numbers!).  However, once we started doing papers, whether in class or for homework, I would choose mostly fluency questions which most of the class had got wrong, so the first session has more guided questions and then the next 3 would allow for further practice on these areas.  Next job is to upload these!

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I would totally recommend using folders for GCSE work.  I would imagine if I were to do these with a higher foundation group, or a higher group, then I would leave more blank spaces for the students to make their notes, rather than the prescriptive layout I’ve been using with the groups I’ve had.

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For the first time since starting my NQT year in 2008 I’m moving school.  In 4 days I’ll be starting at a new school, with a role in Teaching and Learning across the curriculum.  I know it’s the holidays, but for me I need to be prepared for my new school, so I’ve been spending some of the last couple of weeks getting myself ready (I did make sure to have a good break in the first four weeks of the holidays!!).

Most of my preparation has been about familiarisation.  I’ve popped into my new school a few times for short periods so I am familiar with my surroundings.  I know my way much better along the corridors; essential so I’m not looking like a lost puppy during my first week. When logging onto the email system I was greeted by 120 emails! I had been added in early July, so I did spend some time reading through some of the emails that helped me get a better feel for the school and leadership.

It’s been good to meet some of the people working at the school during the holidays.  I’ve met (and had a quite a bit of help from) the network manager, two of the caretakers and a couple of the student services team.

And of course there’s my classroom.  IMG_0697I was lucky that the notice boards were left with displays on, and that the classroom had been painted over the holidays, but I also wanted to make my own mark on the classroom, and put up displays that would both be useful and interesting.  IMG_0596Ideas and resources have come from Artfulmaths.com (flow chart, squares and cubes, mistakes quotes, faces behind the formula), Missbsresources.com (vertical number line, shape and formula bunting), and solvemymaths.com (Mr Men).  I don’t know where the prime number caterpillar originated as my job share colleague put it up in our old room, and after she retired, I had to bring it with me.  The fractions, decimals and percentages were an idea I saw at my son’s school.

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Pride of place above the whiteboard is my maths clock, a present from my maths department at my old school.

EDIT: Twitter and @MrReddyMaths have linked in where I’ve seen the “Be Kind, Work Hard” mantra before.  It’s from King Solomon’s Academy, “Work Hard, Be Nice”, taken from KIPP schools in the US, who got it from Race Esquith (Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire).

The (almost) final part of my preparation has of course been for the students and their lessons.  Although I know my timetable, I do not yet have any information about the students I’ll be teaching.  This will be a priority during the first couple of days, to get as knowledgeable as I can about these students, both from their previous teachers and from the data that is available for them.  Until we meet as a department, I also do not know the full expectation of the first lesson; whether I’m to go straight into the scheme of learning or can have an introduction lesson.  Ideally I’d like a lesson where I can set an easy access but high ceiling challenge as part of some time to get to know the students and for them to learn about my expectations and routines.

I have viewed as much of the scheme of learning as possible for my classes and started to prepare lessons for the first week.  I always like to prepare for the week ahead, with the flexibility to adapt when necessary as the week goes through.  As well as looking through resources I’ve used to teach these topics before, I’ll be visiting my favourite websites for any inspiring resources that cover the learning objectives: www.resourceaholic.com, don steward.blogspot.co.uk, mathspad.co.uk to name a few.

Summer reading this year has been The Confident Teacher by Alex Quigley.  It was a book used by my new school last year.  I’ve still got a bit of it to go (the first four weeks I took the opportunity to read novels, something I don’t get much time for), but so far there are some great nuggets to take away from it.  I’ve also continued listening to Mr Barton’s podcasts, and have just finished the interview with Robert and Elizabeth Bjork on Memory, Forgetting, Testing and Desirable Difficulties.  Again, fascinating! One of my objectives for this year has to be to put to practical use the research about interleaving and spacing.  I need to reread Damien Benny’s blogpost on this as a starting point.

And finally there was Summaths! Meeting up with twitter maths teachers for a summer social was both a great way to relax and motivate for the upcoming year.  Jo Morgan (@mathsjem) had arranged an excellent day out with Tom Briggs (@teakayb) at Bletchley Park.  Tom ran four different sessions about cryptography, and the two I went to reminded me of the Turing Cryptography challenge we did a couple of years ago for some year 7 and 8 students, which would be great to do again.  IMG_0645My absolute favourite part was finding out more about the Enigma machine, and I actually got to have a go on it too! It fascinates me both how it works and how the codes were broken.  It was great to meet some more maths twitter folk (@arithmaticks, @mrsmathematica, @emmaemma53, @amercertbs and @travellingblue to name a few) as well as catch up with those I’ve met a few times (@rjs2212, @ejmaths, @solvemymaths).  The quiz was, as always, hard but fun and I was kicking myself on the cryptarithm as I was just 2 numbers away from solving it but forgot about 0!!!  My husband and boys met us for the evening meal as they were staying over too ready for a bank holiday day trip to Gullivers!!

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Eeek, I’d been all prepared and printed out resources I had thought to share for speed dating at #mathsconf6, only to leave them on the printer at home. So next best thing I could think of was to get hubbie to take a couple of pics, email them to me and post about them on here. 

What I was thinking of sharing was a resources from another maths teacher that I had found extremely useful, and had shared with my department, for tackling problem solving, and the difficulties students have sometimes in getting started on a problem. 

Back in July I read this post from @mrlyonsmaths on his blog mrlyonsmaths.wordpress.com about problem solving and the lack of resilience in even starting at solving a problem. Mr Lyons suggestion was inspiring and I’ve used his resource as a basis for problem solving with my groups this year. 

  
This is Mr Lyons’ problem solving scaffold, with descriptors of each section. He’s generously made it available to use it/tweak as required on his blog, following link above. 

It’s a fab way of getting students started on a problem as to begin with they are rewriting the key points of the question. Highlighting is good when you recognise where you’re going to go next, but for the less confident pupils, thus actually gets them started on writing something, and then some maths just seems to lead on from there. 

  

These are just three examples of questions I’ve used the format for, for different year groups and abilities of students. 

So a big thank you and shout out to @mrlyonsmaths for giving some of my students an entry way into problem solving. 

We had one of the best, if not The Best department meeting last night. There was one item on the agenda, which lasted for the whole hour: marking for feedback and improvement. And the reason why it was the best was that we spent the hour looking at all sorts of examples of our own practice, identifying the good practice and discussing how we could improve. The collaborative approach meant we could share the difficulties we found, and suggest ways together of overcoming these, so that our feedback became productive for pupils improvement.  The photos shown on here are just mine, but attempt to cover the areas of discussion we had.  I know I haven’t got it right yet, so by the end of the meeting, had an armful of strategies to try.

The school policy is for a comment mark using http://www.ebi.com (what went well, even better if, comment), and in maths the regularity of this is once a fortnight in years 7-9 and once a week in years 10-11.  Assessment feedback is included in the comment marking, and most of our team use home work as a comment mark, with occasional class work being comment marked.  Using home work creates its own issues with pupils not completing it, or handing in late etc, but the focus here is purely on the feedback and improvement.

IMG_5449The biggest thing we noticed was that in a good chunk of the samples, the teacher was working harder than the pupil, or the amount of teacher feedback compared to pupil response.  We were doing our best to give quality feedback, but the resulting effort of the pupil was minimal and meant our feedback wasn’t doing it’s job in helping pupils improve.  So as well as dealing with the pupils’ effort, we went on to discuss methods of giving concise and effective feedback.  We discussed giving target or question codes, and then projecting the questions for each code for the pupils to complete, as suggested by @shaun_allison in his blog classteaching and in his book with @atharby Making Every Lesson Count (great book – I’m really enjoying reading). A second idea was to use @Missbsresources Dirt Bank, and start creating our own to share, where pupils have a guided question, followed by a similar question without scaffold.  Again, these could be projected, or printed out for the pupils. This would also help with the pupils who immediately put up their hand to say they don’t understand, and give some of the responsibility back to them to read through and think about what they are doing.

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The quality of the improvement comment by the pupil was discussed. Clearly saying that they were going revise a topic by a certain method does not mean they actually will, so did we follow up?  And then there were the pupils who didn’t even complete the .com (could this have been because they were absent) and how do we follow up with this? It was discussed about training pupils how to use the ebi.com process, and this must involve both modelling to them and providing examples and good improvement work.

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We talked about our assessment feedback sheets, and who should write the http://www.  Normally, the teacher does, but as we give the pupils the question level analysis, should pupils be scrutinising the objectives and picking out what went well themselves, rather than the teacher repeating writing them out.

 

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For home work marking, an idea from a teach meet was to have a printed out list of the objectives you were assessing, and to tick those that went well, again to save the teaching keep writing them out, thus giving more time to focus on the even better if.

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There was the question of signposting the .com as well. We do use green pens for this, but there were several examples where it wasn’t clear where the .com was, for example when a green pen hadn’t been used and improvement work was on the initial piece and not underneath.

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We looked at examples where improvement work had been highlighted to guide pupils to what they need to improve, with guidance in the ebi. There were also examples where the ebi might just have been a question number, but when you look at that question, further guidance was given at that point, rather than in the official ebi part.

Another part of the discussion we had was when was the best time in the lesson to do the feedback and the .com.  I’ve always done it at the start of the lesson, but it does cause an issue of getting drawn out and having to provide further work for those that complete it, before we’ve even begun the lesson.  The argument for using the start of the lesson is that pupils need the feedback and improvement time before they can move onto the next part of the learning. We have agreed to try the .com at the end of the lesson instead. I’m still getting my head round how this will work with the flow of learning, for example when feeding back on an assessment, I wouldn’t like to start the new topic first, then return to the previous topic to do some improvement work. However, the idea is to improve the focus of the response, and having a limited amount of time should spur pupils on, especially if it is before a break or lunch time!

So we ended up with a list of good practice in an attempt to improve how pupils respond to our feedback. It may seem really obvious to other teachers, but it gives a boundary of consistency across the department:

  • When marking, go back to previous .com to ensure follow-up
  • In ebis, highlight when pupils are being told what to do in their .com e.g. correct Q2 etc.
  • Ensure students signpost in .com when they have done follow-up work elsewhere.
  • Put a selection of questions on board and use a code in pupil’s book so they then complete the correct question in their book.
  • Follow-up questions to complete as part of .com
  • Make sure work is dated (either start of piece of work or in the feedback).
  • Use 10 mins at end of lesson for .coms to increase pace and ensure completion to high enough quality before they pack away.
  • Use mini post-its in books where .coms are not completed so pupils can be kept behind to do so.
  • Give detentions were pupils refuse to complete .coms.

The final #MTBoS blogging challenge is about a lesson taught this week.  I couldn’t decide between two of them, so thought I’d write about both, being two quite contrasting groups.  Firstly,  year 10 (14-15 year olds), who find maths quite challenging and haven’t had much success in their achievement over the years, but are working extremely hard and hopefully becoming more confident, learning about translation and then year 7 (11-12 year olds) learning order of operations, a group full of high achieving pupils.

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Both lessons started in exactly the same way, with the brilliant Numeracy Ninjas by @maths_master William Emeny (greatmathsteachingideas). I do some sort mental arithmetic or skills practice at the start of every lesson, as not only does it set the routine for the pupils, it settles them into thinking right from the start of the lesson, and ensures their numeracy skills are regularly practised to support with the fluency when tackling tougher topics. For the year 10s, they are focussing on the first two sections, mental numeracy and timestables, whereas year 7 whizz through these two sections and focus on the key skills section. We then pick out a question that pupils struggled with to review, before launcing into the topic for the lesson.

Year 10 Translation

I knew when planning this lesson that the year 10 group studied translation last year, so they should know what it is.  However, they wouldn’t have used vectors before, so this was the focus of the lesson.

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We started with a quick reminder of translation, then headed straight into what a vector was. An explanation from me, some note taking and a few vectors for the pupils to think about what they mean.
imageWe then spent a chunk of time identifying the vectors that would move the points, and then  shapes.
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This was whole class questioning, and they weren’t allowed to use the words left, right, up or down, just the two numbers in the vector.  I, of course, threw in a question where there was only movement in one direction, and pupils discussed how they would give the vector for that. Then pupils had their own practice time in their books. As I circulated, I caught a couple of pupils writing their vector as a co-ordinate pair, and we stopped and discussed the different between a co-ordinates being a position and a vector being a movement, and therefore had to be written in the correct notation.

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Once pupils were more secure in their vector writing, they then had a lovely translation activity from @just_maths (as a school we subscribe to Just Maths Online). We discussed the importance of identifying a vertex to complete the translation from, and to check they are completing the translation correctly, they could choose another vertex and repeat the translation.

And that’s it! I don’t really do bells and whistles in my lessons, I just aim to teach the pupils as best I can and give them the time and support to practise and hone their learning. In a few lessons time, we’ll be bringing all the learning on transformation together, where pupils will have to carry out or identify the correct transformation, including combinations.

Year 7 Order of Operations

Before I taught this, I knew that most, if not all, of this group would have been taught  about order of operations at primary school, so this would be a revision and stretch lesson.  I had to ensure they knew and understood the basics, but be ready to give them a bit of a challenge.image

I love foldables as an alternative to note taking, and I have a BIDMAS Foldable I created for this topic. I teach order of operations as BIDMAS, being careful to keep DM and AS on the same level.  The only sticking point was that pupils had been taught BODMAS previously.  We discussed what order and indices mean, and I explained why we use indices at secondary school (in the mathematical vocabularly they are excpected to know).

The skills practise involved 3 levels of questions. Pupils could choose the level to start at, and several went straight for the gold challenge, whereas others wanted a bit of practise on the more straightforward silver questions first.image

The challenge activity was a calculation square from Don Stewards Median website. I really liked this activiy, as it did make the pupils think.  Not only did they have to remember the order of operations, but they had to think about where to start and what each calculation was asking. Pupils who found the gold questions starightforward minutes ago, were feeling quite puzzled about this one.

imageWe finished the lesson with another Don Steward activiy, bracketed, from which I chose 5 equations for the pupils to decide if they were correct, or if they needed brackets in. Although mostly identified correctly, the biggie that came out of this was pupils thinking the 5 x 6 needed brackets in 2 + 5 x 6 = 32.

Unfortunatley I don’t have any photos of these pupil’s work as they have their books for revision!  The powerpoint is attached BIDMAS.

You can probably tell that I have go to places for resources and activities in my lessons. When there is so many quality resources around, thanks to the generosity of so many maths teachers sharing their work, there’s no point reinventing the wheel!  I do plan my lessons thinking of the outcome first, and then looking for activities which will enable this outcome for the pupils.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these lessons.  I’m looking forward to reading and being inspired by others in the #MTBoS challenge who have shared their lessons too.

 

Questioning

With week 3 of the #MTBoS blogging challenge we are thinking about questioning.  And this did get me thinking, as verbally I know how I question pupils, but with written questions, whether it is class work, home learning or assessment, I hadn’t reflected much on the process.  Yet as I got thinking about it, I realise I do have my particular ways, developed through experience and doing my best to read around other teacher’s practice and experience, as well as latest education news.betterquestions

Starting with verbal questioning, it’s fairly staright forward to me. I want to find out what pupils know, facts and processes, and why they know that. When working through a problem whole class, I direct questios to pupils, and different pupils will get different questions from me, depending where they are in the learning process. I might ask one pupil a closed question to see whether they can recall certain aspects, whereas another pupil I might want to elicit further understanding from them.  My favourite question is probably “why?”.

Onto classwork, I begin with the objective of the lesson and what I want students to be able to do by the end with their learning. I don’t often make up my own questions – quick practice questions I will do, but the deeper, thoughtful questions I search around my usual haunts until I find the questions which suit. We have electronic text books, so I may select questions from these, or use websites such as Don Steward’s Median, Resourceaholic, Teachitmaths (subscription) or Mathspad (subscription), and not forgetting TES resources.

I also keep in mind the SOLO taxonomy, so that the questions I give the students can develop from single knowledge questions, bringing in extra skills, through to problem solving questions, which may link to other areas of mathPlotting Graphss. Take area of shapes, for example.  Questions would start with practising using the formula to find the area of the shape, then it might be finding a length, given the area, fidning the area of compound shapes, developing through to a problem solving question, which involves other areas of maths, for example fractions.  I use a bronze, silver, gold, platinum system to identify the level of difficulty in the questions.  Bronze would start with the basics we covered in whole class work, and each new section would involve something extra the pupils would have to think about. I often give a minimum number of questions to answer from each section, depending on whether it is a totally new topic to the group or not.  The Plotting graphs example attached starts with the basic y = mx + c graphs that we worked through as a class, and develops into different forms of the equation, where pupils have to think about what the equation is saying.

Measures HLFor home learning, I section my questions into the three areas of the new curriculum, fluency (I call it skills practice on the home learning), reasoning and problem solving.  There are more questions on the fluency section, as a primary focus, but I think it’s important that students are exposed to the reasoning and problem solving questions. My question choices are by no means perfect, and the reasoning and problem solving do cross over, but it’s a starting point I am developing from.  The example is a home learning for Metric and Imperial Measures.  For reasoning questions, one of @mrbartonmaths diagnostic-questions is good for pupils to explain their choice from the multiple answers on offer. These questions are carefully set by Mr Barton to help reveal misconceptions.

Finally, when it comes to assessments, for KS3 (11-13 yr olds), we have bought into a scheme that provides the assessments. With the quick change over of the curriculum, and no permanent head of department, it seemed best to start from something already written, and tweak as we go along.  And oh how I’ve tweaked.  I’m a devil for looking through assessments and thinking, that’s not what I want! I believe our end of unit assessments (a 20-30 minute assessment every 2 weeks), should be assessing what the pupils have learnt.  At a previous #mathsconf, I attended a session on assessment by @kris_boulton, which was very informative, particularly about defining the domain of what your teaching – the assessment should then cover, as much as possible, this domain.  Although teaching should focus on the domain, it isn’t restricted, so can go further.   Assessment goes in the same categorise as the home learning for me, but not explicitly split into sections. There needs to be some knowledge and skills questions, and there also needs to be the questions that use the skills in more implicit ways.

I think I have changed all my spellings of questioning, as I’m very much inclined to put a double n into the word! Please forgive any I missed!

 

 

My Favourite

Since the title for this weeks #MTBoS blogging challenge arrived by email, I’ve been thinking really hard about what my favourite things are about teaching. I’ve managed to get it down to four things!

My favourtie

  1. I love looking for, and occasionally creating, resources for my students to use that helps their understanding or learning of maths. There’s so many creative activities around on the Internet, that many generous teachers have created and shared, and I must admit it gives me a little buzz when I find something that just seems perfect for what I’m going to be teaching.  My first stop is always resourceaholic, which then often leads me on to the quality resources on Don Steward’s Median and mathspad. I have a particular penchant for foldables for organising knowledge, after being introduced to them through the blogs of mathequalslove and rundesroom.
  2. There’s been a couple of moments this week that reminded me how much I love the positive interactions we have with our students. I do need reminders as its all too easy to get bogged down in the difficult behaviour and negativities, so let me share what happened this week. A lively, chatty year 7 group who I want to keep on track with being focussed on their maths. We have a 3 step sanctions system in the classroom – verbal warning, written warning, detention. I gave one girl a verbal warning (and although verbal, we write it on the board) and my pen didn’t work very well. So she silently got a whiteboard pen out of the box on her desk and passed it to me, so I could write her name on the board. Whilst currently experiencing much challenge from several groups of pupils, this gesture really made me smile! The next day I was teaching my lovely year 10 group, last lesson of the day, and the hour just flew by as we learned and chatted together. I’m so proud of how well they’re doing!
  3. I’m not sure I should admit to this one, but here goes nothing – I actually love marking! Not so much the writing of the comments and all that, but looking through either the pupils work or assessments and seeing what they’ve learnt and been able to put into practice. I have little internal celebrations when a pupil has done something really well, or shown real understanding, or thought of a way to solve something that I hadn’t thought of. I do get the “oh dear” moments as well, but this makes it easy for me to know what to do next with the pupils.
  4. And finally I can’t write about my favourite things without mentioning stationery. I love stationery. Enough said!