Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category


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.


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.


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!