This is my first blog post in the ‘For me to improve…’ series in which I explain what I’m doing to be a better maths teacher. This blog explains the thought process behind the series.
I’m always looking to use equipment and images to represent concepts, and I like my maths lessons collaborative and open. This makes my classroom management skills important so lessons teeter on the healthy side of organised chaos. My partner Y1 teacher last year was the maestro in seeing a logistical detail that I’d missed. I learnt a lot from her, and I also came across some interesting ideas reading Visible Learning for Mathematics. So here are my five targets for the new term:
Promote a learning action
In each lesson, identify one key ‘learning action’ to promote. My thought process will be ‘Which learning behaviour will improve the outcomes in this particular lesson?’ It could be as simple as turning your body to face your partner; it may be more complex like asking clarifying questions; it might be a maths-specific thing like finding different ways to answer a question.
Prepare individuals for the social demands of lessons
I’m a big fan of small-group pre-teaching to help all children access the big ideas of a lesson, breaking down barriers and predisposing misconceptions. It’s helped me to facilitate mixed-attainment groupings. However, for some children the barriers may be the social demands of a lesson. Perhaps Harry finds it harder to share resources; maybe Jade dominates group discussions. A quick conversation or organisational change beforehand might make a big difference.
Make discussions active
I liked this idea from VL for Mathematics: during a whole-class discussion, put your thumb up on your chest if you agree with the speaker and want to add something; put your fist against your chest if you have a different viewpoint. This encourages children to actively participate in discussions without being intrusive to the speaker.
I’m going to make a clearer distinction between most questions and tasks, used to generate discussions, and short ‘exit ticket’ tasks that are completed independently and used to give more accurate AfL information. The nature of the marking may also vary depending on the conditions in which the work is completed. I’m hoping that this will help to keep children accountable for their own progress and avoid social loafing in group tasks.
Cognitive load and challenge in calculation
In some lessons, particularly early in a unit, I want the challenge to come from understanding the concept so I will minimise the challenge in the calculation. Consider 14 = 6 + ___ (WR Progress Check, Aut Y1, q4). We can learn the concept ‘= means same as’ using numbers within 5. Once that concept has been secured (a concept which tends to need more than a little reinforcement), the challenge within the calculation can be set at an age-appropriate level.
And as ever this year, I make the same vow to the children in my care:
‘I promise to learn alongside you.’