Posts tagged ‘assessment’


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!




image      imageRAG123 Review updated                      RAG123 Review

I’ve been using RAG123 for a year now, after reading about @Benneypenyrheol’s RAG123 marking experiment.  This then led me to @ListerKev, and his selection of posts introducing, explaining and enthusing about the purposes of RAG123.  I decided to trial it in the last few weeks of 2013/2014, and was so impressed with the effect it had on informing my planning to support pupils learning, that it was a given that I’d be using it with all my classes.

From @ListerKev

From @ListerKev

From @_jopayne

From @_jopayne

A quick search on google found that there were several RAG123 posters already created, so it became a fairly easy job to adapt the wordings of these to suit my students and classroom.  As we’ve previously used RAG for pupils understanding of topics, I kept this the same, and 123 became the effort, which linked in with pupils on our reports too.  After using this for a year now, I’ve updated the wordings to the first person, as these will now be going on the first page of pupils exercise books, alongside presentation for learning and our written assessment and feedback system.



Home Learning

For the past 3 and a half terms I’ve been thinking far more deeply about home learning. Three reasons for this; firstly we have no set structure for home learning in maths at my school, except for it to be set on a periodic basis (differing for KS3 and 4) and it is assumed it will be comment marked. Then, I was receiving very poor quality home learning, if any, from some groups, which I needed to deal with.  Finally, my son started in year 2 last September and was given weekly numeracy and literacy homework, which started many a conversation with fellow parents of year 2, conversations which are still going into year 3.

I have read overviews of Hatties research, particularly from @guruheadteacher here.  It makes sense to me regarding the impact of homework on different age groups, and reinforced my own personal opinion that homework in primary school isn’t necessary.

Last year I experimented with different types of home learning. Not great for consistency for the pupils, but it did give me ideas of what worked well and I could take forward. My own philosophy in home learning is that it must be able to be done independently and I must be able to give a specific reason for setting that home learning.  The difficulty with the assumption that the home learning would be comment marked was that those who didn’t hand it in didn’t get feedback, and so couldn’t make improvements in their understanding and work.

Before I get to what I have ended up with this year, below is a summary of what I tried.

Topic Exercise

This is made up of a question on each area of the topic we had covered since the last home learning. It would include a problem solving question and a literacy question where possible.  I’d put in challenge questions, which weren’t compulsory, and include past exam questions for GCSE groups.

Pros: pupils got practice of a range of of skills learnt in the topic

Cons: with such a range of questions, it’s more difficult to focus on areas where improvement could be made and more pupils would leave sections blank, rather than attempting questions, as they couldn’t remember the mathematics from a few lessons ago

Basic Skills

A set of questions based around the basic skills scheme that we use on a fortnightly basis. Questions would be set from where I’d seen difficulties and were levelled, so each pupil would have the same level as they were working on in class. Types of question would be repeated for 3-4 home learnings to allow pupils to refer to and act on feedback for the next home learning.

Pros: there was clear improvement from pupils week on week as they used feedback to inform them.

Cons: it was disconnected to what we had been learning in lessons

Takeaway Home Learning

Inspired by Ross McGills book and directed to the the takeaway home learning by my supportive Assistant Head, who has responsibility for T&L, I put together my own takeaway home learning. I didn’t want to over complicate the set up as the aim was for pupils to produce a quality piece of home learning.

Pros: more home learning was handed in, and different styles used to consolidate understanding of the skills the pupils had been learning; feedback from SEN department was that it was more accessible for their pupils.

Cons: I had put a questions choice in their, and some pupils were quickly and badly answering that section, rather than create their own takeaway home learning.

Practice questions

These were different to the topic exercises as the questions were based on what the pupils had just been learning in the last 1-2 lessons. There would be repeated questions, gradually getting more complex and the aim was to reinforce the pupils ability and memory for what they had just been learning.

Pros: pupils were using skills that had very recently learned and so the practice was consolidating this. As it was repeated practice on a smaller range of skills, it enabled more effective and focused feedback to pupils.

Cons: if a pupil had struggled with the skill in lessons, then a practice exercise was daunting and occasionally led to a pupil writing that they didn’t understand and not trying anything (although they should have come to see me!!)

Exam Papers

We are provided with past exam papers and practice papers for our Year 11 groups and some of these were to be set as home learning. Strategies such as odd questions only meant that it could be used within the 1 hour weekly home learning slot for KS4.

Pros: pupils were able to get guidance for questions they had struggled on, and use this to improve their answers, and some pupils were independent enough to use maths watch to help revise how to answer certain types of questions.

Cons: using exam papers for home learning meant that I didn’t then have them to use in lesson time, and sporadic completion of the exam papers meant that some pupils were (wilfully) missing out on a valuable resource.

Cheat Sheet

I would set this home learning if I was going to assess pupils on a particular topic the next lesson.  Pupils home learning would be to prepare a cheat sheet on that topic – what information, facts, methods etc. would they write down to take in an exam with them, if they were allowed.

Pros: it allowed pupils to write down information, and choose specifically what they thought would be useful.  They were allowed to use this sheet in their assessment, so they had something to refer if they were getting a bit stuck.  I also had a comment that they didn’t need to use their cheat sheet because they had remembered what they had put on it.

Cons: it was a poorly completed home learning, which then meant several pupils weren’t prepared for the assessment.

Prepare some work

I only used this once, so shouldn’t really make any judgements on it, but I did ask one year 10 class to prepare some work on Pythagoras. They’d covered it before in year 9 and we were about to start Trigonometry, so I thought it would be a useful home learning so they’d refreshed their memories before the lesson.

Pros: pupils came to the lesson prepared for the topic, so more lesson time could be used purposefully rather than revising.

Cons: pupils who didn’t do the preparation would need more lesson time to get them up to speed.

Home Learning for 2014-15

Following this, and in keeping with my philosophy for home learning, I’m setting two main types this year. Earlier on in the topic , I set a practice questions task in an aim to consolidate pupils learning. I have been including useful information on the worksheet to help focus pupils. The second type is a takeaway home learning piece, without the option of completing given questions. The aim of this is for pupils to revise the topic and consolidate their understanding in a style they prefer.  I did like the cheat sheet, and it worked well for pupils who actually did it, so I will be setting that sometimes instead of the takeaway home learning.

For marking, I am comment marking the practice questions with www. ebi .com, in line with our school policy. The takeaway home learning will receive a RAG123 mark (and often a short comment from me), but on these home learning due days, I set an assessed task in lesson, which I will be able to give the www. ebi .com feedback on.

The basic skills I now just do as starters for years 10 and 11, very similar to @just_maths bread and butter questions and @corbettmaths 5 a day.

I have set one part of an exam paper so far for Year 11, but saved three questions to complete in exam conditions at the start of the lesson it was due in. I’m also thinking of starting an exam paper in lesson, then setting home learning as completion of it, in a different colour pen.

So far I have seen an improvement of the quality of home learning that is produced, and that implies to me that it is more effective for the pupils completing it.