Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Mathsconf13

My sixth mathsconf, so it’s about time I blogged about the fab day organised by @Emathsuk and his team at @lasalle.

As often as possible I try to start mathsconf with the Friday night meet up.  It’s a great time to catch up with maths teachers we’ve met along the way and through Twitter, as well as meet new folks.  Despite a mix up with Julia, @Tesmaths, trying to meet in the foyer of the hotel, then realising we were in different ones, I made it up to All Bar One with Jo, @jolocke1.  We’d both started new schools in September, so lots to chat about.  At the bar I was chatting with @rach_2210 who was in Sheffield on her first mathsconf, and through our “where about do you teach” introductions, discovered we lived in the same town a couple of miles apart, and Rachel teaches at the school my 10 year old has put down as his preferred choice!  Small world! It was lovely to catch up with Jo, @mathsjem, and hear of her experience so far as head of maths.

So onto the mathsconf.  After introductions from Mark and Andrew Taylor of AQA, who talked about post 16, it was over to Matt Parker, @standupmaths, who as you can imagine, was an instant hit.  Not only was there lots of laughing out loud, but some neat maths too:

Choose a random 2 digit number, cube it and Matt will tell you the original number.  It’s all to do with expanding a trinomial and the affect on the 10a and b when cubing.  Going to have to explore this one a little more – but isn’t that the point – creating a hook to explore some maths.

Spreadsheet Picture

img_1070.jpgThen Matt introduced us to his favourite spreadsheet.  Just a spreadsheet with cells coloured in red, green or blue, but when you zoom out it’s a picture of Matt!  Here’s mine, created from Matt’s pixel spreadsheet downloader on his excellent website think-maths.co.uk.  Amongst other things there are downloads for building 3d fractals, including a festive fractal Christmas tree, and if you visit megamenger.com, you’ll find details on building the world’s largest menger sponge from business cards, along with all downloads and instructions.

Matt finished off with a round up of websites and events.  I’m particularly hoping we’ll be able to take some year 11s to the mathsinspiration.com event in Birmingham in November.  Fingers crossed!

During speed dating I met Jack from Nottingham Uni Samworth Academy who showed me the spreadsheet they had made to support strategies for rewarding positive behaviour and effort.  It was just the thing to implement with a couple of my groups, as I was looking for ideas of how to record all the positiveness in the classroom.  Pete, @MrMattock showed us BBC Skillswise, the adults learning site, and the resources it had for older children who needed further support on the basics.  Clear resources without the gumpf!  I was also able to have a catch up with Bruno, @MrReddy, and was happy to share that one of my first responsibilities in my new department is to get TTRockstars properly up and running!

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This was my contribution – at the end of school on Friday, a year 8 lad was excitedly telling his form tutor all about the probability tree he created and what each of the parts meant.  He was in the nurture group, and the hook to get him engaged in probability trees was making it! All from my colleague Emily next door.

Onto the sessions, and first it was Sarah, @Schamings28, with Developing Resilient and Confident Mathematicians.  Perfect, as 3 out of my 4 teaching groups are nurture groups, and resilience and confidence are in short measure.  Sarah gave an inspiring workshop, clearly addressing the issues and giving excellent practical advice for taking back into the classroom straight away.  img_1076.jpgShe gave some excellent phrases to use to support confidence and resilience, as well as ideas for resources that get pupils practising resilience in low entry challenges which can then be used as a starting point to praise the process of resilience.  I would highly recommend Sarah’s workshop if she were to do another one.

Next was an overview of Richard Skemp’s work: Relational Understanding and Instrumental Understanding from Gordon, @gordon-brough.  I thought the effects of instrumental and relational teaching and learning was very pertinent. I have downloaded a copy of the paper so I can read through it again.

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Jonny’s, @studymaths session on Primes, Patterns and Purposeful Practice was a whirlwind of ideas to engage students in their maths learning.

img_1112.jpgFrom “tricks” for squaring n+0.5 two digit numbers, based on expanding brackets like earlier, to factor skyscrapers, HCF/LCM pyramids, the Ulan Sprial, Goldbach’s conjecture, happy numbers, Kaprekar’s routine, Sierpinksi triangle and Chaos Game to name a few, Johnny provided us with many ideas, with quite a few being being enable from his excellent mathsbot.com site.  It’s always great when you get an “aha, that’s perfect for when I teach …. next week” moment in a session, as well as a collective “wow” that came with the Chaos Game.  Jonny’s session slides can be found here.

Finally I went to see Amir, @workedgechaos, and was treated to a review of how he would and does implement turning research and “current thinking” into practice with his staff. Amir has been a head of department and is now an assistant vice principal. It is very true that there is so much out there at the moment that it can easily become overwhelming.  img_1123.jpgAmir took his big 3 – Bloom’s Mastery, Englemann’s Direct Instruction and Cognitive Load Theory and looked at the common themes.  He then boiled it down to Question, Model, Check, Praise and Retrieve.  It is, of course, a bit more detailed than that! You can find Amir’s slides and handout here. Amir shared with us an overview of a year’s scheme and how this was delivered each week.  For spacing and retrieval, I loved how a topic was spread over several weeks (but not taught over several weeks):

Week 1: Topic A

Week 2: Mini test on topic A

Week 3: DIRT on topic A

Week 7: Review lesson on content A

But it’s not only the speakers and workshops which give great ideas.  I happened to bump into Naveen and Dani, @Naveenfrizvi and @danicquinn, and got to ask a couple of questions I was intrigued about.  Firstly rolling the timetables and implementing it with a group, and secondly from Dani’s podcast with Craig Barton @Mrbartonmaths, where she said they differentiated by time, so lower groups went slower. I just couldn’t fathom how these groups could have the same expectations if they went slower.  The answer is obvious really – they have more time; more lessons!

I know I can’t do justice to some excellent workshops in such a short summary, but if it means that it interests someone to attend the next mathsconf14 in Kettering, March 10, then that’s great. A huge thank you to Mark and his team for another fantastic day of maths teaching CPD, and all the speakers who gave up their time to prepare and deliver such wonderful sessions.

Next for me is to give back and deliver a workshop myself, but for that I need to know I have something to offer that will be of interest to others and that’s worthwhile for teachers to give up their time for.

TMBrownhillsOh, and I almost forgot, I need to do a bit of shameless plugging of our #TMBrownhills on Saturday 18th November, featuring @teachertoolkit Ross McGill, author of Teaching Backwards @oteacher Mark Burns and many local teachers presenting on classroom practice.

 

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Preparations for starting a new school

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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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!

Nurture1516 Reflections and Hopes

2015 was an interesting year professionally, but as always, it is only possible to grow in and enjoy my school work with the support of family and friends, so that is where I will start.

2015

1) Both my parents have suffered through cancer this year, and have fought positively against it. My dad was lucky to have a tumour whipped out, and a month later you wouldn’t have known anything had been wrong. My mum had treatment for breast cancer over the year, and finished the year having her long waited for hip replacement.  Through all this, they have both supported me and my boys incredibly, readily volunteering to do extra looking after so I can attend meetings, conferences, teachmeets and Christmaths! My husband puts up with me saying I want to go here or there for maths teacher meets, whilst he’s busy working somewhere across the country. I am just as lucky to have parents-in-law and friends I can call upon to help.  That morning when my car wouldn’t start and I had a friend from school come over to pick me up after walking the boys round to a friend’s house to take them to school, all on a moments notice.  For everything I accomplish professionally, I know I have an incredible group of family and friends with me in my life.

2) School life seems to have changed rapidly for me this year, mostly due to the confidence I have developed in what I do. I’ve always questioned myself, and am sure I always will, but 2015 has seen me believe that I can be good at what I do! I mentored an ITT student for the first time, which was fantastic to be able to support someone through their early development towards QTS, and now I am being recommended as someone for NQTs to come in and observe to support them in aspects of their teaching. I love this, as I think it’s so important to share practice with each other, as a classroom can be an isolating place to be. The best part is sitting and chatting through strategies and experiences, and I always take away something to help me too out of these sessions.

3) There has been change in our department during 2015, which can be quite nerve wracking in not knowing what to expect. My job share partner left, but my old head of department, Faye, came back off maternity leave so I was so excited to be able to job share with her. Without Faye I would not have been given then opportunity to start my NQT year 7 years ago (long story!), and she definitely saw me through the lowest moments when I didn’t think I’d make it. She has become a special friend, so I was gutted, but very pleased for her, when she also decided to leave at Christmas.  I haven’t met my new job share partner yet, something to look forward to next week.  We also had a new head of department from September, a change filled with anticipation for a new start for the department, but also the anxiousness in what changes might be brought to a supportive team.  I need not have had any anxiety as our team continues to flourish together under our new leadership, with new life and guidance being injected into our practice.

4) I’ve obviously started dabbling a bit more in the blogging and twitter communities, which has opened a new lease of passion within me for my subject and profession. Having chance to read about other teachers experiences and practices is having a profound affect on my own practice, and the generosity in the sharing of research, and particularly resources (to which I think when on earth do these fellow teachers get the time to prepare all of this), is awesome. With visits to conferences, I have also had the opportunity to meet some of these amazing sharing tweachers (and yes, you are amazing in what you do and share), which only inspires me more to be better at what I do.

2016

1) Starting in the same place, my first hope is to improve my work/life balance.  I want to do more with my maths and teaching, but I need to work smarter. I’m so keen to provide the best learning experiences in the classroom, that I use most of my 2 days off (being  3-day part timer) preparing lessons.  I wouldn’t be able to spend this much time in preparation if I was full time, so I need to do better.  This does not mean I want to change what I give to my teaching, but to work smarter at preparing. The idea of being part time is to keep the weekends free for my family, but so oftern I’m spending a Sunday afternoon, running into the evening, getting lessons and resources finished off and ready to use. In 2016, I hope to keep to the weekend is for the family, and spend some of my 2 days off on revitalising myself!  A toughie for me, but more than worthwhile.

2) This academic year I was enrolled in the Middle Leaders Programme run by our local schools consortium.  I’ve started to find this a little overwhelming, but totally fulfilling and quite am enjoying the new experiences. During 2016, I have my school wide leadership project to complete, hard work in itself, and then present my work and experiences to the leadership team.  This programme has given me the confidence to think of where I may head next in my career, so I am now thinking about looking for lead practitioners roles in the future.  I’ve also not had the opportunity to teach A’Level and do feel at best rusty, but at worse, unworthy, when A’Level maths is discussed.  So this year I hope to brush up on my A’Level knowledge and skills, and particularly take any opportunity with the introduction of mechanics teaching at our school.

3) Change is always just around the corner, and I look forward to the gradual changes being made in our department to make us better teachers, and to help us guide our students into being better learners. But this year, change is huge with the new GCSE, grading and assessment systems. Our department were criticised last term in the lack of levels attached to pupils work in their books, with the point that without the levels we weren’t showing progress. I’m pleased to say that as a department we agreed we stil wouldn’t give pieces of work a level, but without whole school guidance on assessment without levels, we are having to use our own system, taken from the scheme of learning and assessment resources we are using for KS3. I find this lack of whole school thinking difficult, but do hope our leadership team are getting it all sorted in the background ready to surprise us in the New Year. Similarly, the insistence on giving a grade to our year 10s is troubling me.  We have to report working at grades four times a year, but without the knowledge of the grading of the new GCSEs, I can’t help but worry I’m picking a number out of thin air.

4) I do hope to blog and tweet a bit more this year, and contribute more to a community that has provided me with so much inspiration, information and resource. I know that many of my resources I use with my students are taken from the generous folk that share on TES, or their own blogs, and then used as is, or adapted to suit my students. I need to start sharing more, making sure that I’m sharing my resources I’ve created, rather than keeping them on my own hard drive! For resources I’ve used and/or adapted, I’m trying to ensure I save the originator in my file names, so I remember where it came from and can link accordingly to the orginal sites if I blog about how well it worked with the students.

Well, thats my nurture1516 done! The process of writing has been very cathartic and I now have my 2016 hopes in black and white, rather than a swirl of thoughts in my head. Will press publish and look forward to another year of hard work and continued improvement in all I do!