Saturday, 5 October 2013

Things this Ofsted Inspector liked - plus useful suggestions he made

I was observed by the Lead Inspector (also a Maths specialist) - it was good that on the morning of the first day he introduced himself to the staff, talked a little about his career and then all the other inspectors also introduced themselves and said which areas they would be specialising in.

Somehow, knowing the face of the person who will probably be arriving in your room made it all a little less scary.

He saw approximately 25 min of an 'Ordering decimals' lesson with a Year 9 class.

At the end he gave me a little card with his name on and a time and place to meet for feedback - again, a nice touch I thought.  We spent just over 5 minutes chatting about it - he also wanted to know a little bit about my professional background.

Here are the things that I can remember he said he liked (in no particular order):

#1 The 'engaging hook' was a selection of Simpsons characters on scales where we had to read off their heights eg 1.7 , 1.25 - I'd like to be able to credit the person for the pictures but unfortunately I don't know the original source.

#2   Me: "1.7  whats?   Learner: "I don't know."    Me: "mm? cm?"  One of the learners: "Metres!"  Then asking students to estimate a metre with their arms, digging out a measure and seeing which student was closest.  Weird how there are some cute bits that you could never plan for or predict!

#3 Once we'd decided how tall they were - with a nice bit of discussion going into 2dp -  6 students then came out wearing the characters on their 'Headbandz' (use them for all sorts - taboo, multiplying by 10, 100 etc).  One of the boys wore his for the rest of the lesson :)

#4 They had to put themselves in 'ascending' order - he liked the literacy discussion we then had around that and the word 'descending' - although apparently I went the same way for that!  I blame the pressure - I do know the difference, honestly!

#5 Seating plan with LOTS of colour-coded information on - FSM, G&T, KS2, SEN, Targets.  He wanted to know if I could identify Pupil Premium students.  I made it using lookup tables from SIMs marksheets and will share when I've tidied it up a bit.

#6 Self-selection of which questions they wanted to start with - I then went round and moved them on or checked understanding with them

#7 Quickly-built relationships for the beginning of the school year and students I hadn't known previously - joined the school at Easter.

#8 Self-selection of which questions they wanted to start with on the worksheet - I'd 'graded' them 'Core, Extension, Head-Hurters and Killers'

#9 Humour - we all managed to laugh quite a bit despite our visitor (he smiled a few times too!)

#10 Challenging learning for, as he put it, a 'Lively class of that ability' 

#11 I was helping them to learn through true understanding - not by rote or a technique they could use but didn't understand.

Ideas for improvement - I really like the suggestions he made:

#1 Use a graph drawing package to keep zooming in on the number line to see the number of decimal places increasing and going on for ever

#2 When the learners stood in a line putting a 1m and 2m marker up and asking them to stand where they thought they were relatively.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Meeting my new Year 11 group - choose your envelope to predict your GCSE grade

First lesson:

"Hello!  I'm Mrs Davies.  Welcome back to school - it's good to meet you!  The first thing I'm going to do today is present you with the GCSE Maths Grade you'll be receiving in August next year."

Every student was then given 3 individualised envelopes with 'Minimum', 'Some' or 'Maximum' effort written on them indicating the amount of effort they feel they are prepared to put into their learning in Maths this year.

I gave them a little spiel about me never meeting them before, that on purpose I hadn't spoken to their previous teachers and that from this moment they could be whoever they wanted to be in Maths lessons.  

They were then allowed to pick only one envelope - example below:

They were then given a post it note, asked to commit to the grade they were going to aim for and seal it in a new envelope.  

These were then strung together and hung over the corner of my whiteboard as a visual reminder.

We're going to open them again in December and review.

I'll be putting a copy of this morning's poster up right next to it:

If you'd like a copy of the poster it can be downloaded here from TES - let me know if you'd prefer sending it by email.

They also seemed genuinely pleased that I had made a page just for them on my school blog: 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Interactive display - Let's go fly a Kite

A blank display going up outside my room - I'll make it quite long by deleting the writing, printing more and putting them up side by side.

I'm not going to tell learners to write on it so it'll be interesting to see how long it takes them to add to it ... and what they add!

Will post up pics in a week or so .......

If you'd like one for your room you can download it here from TES

Monday, 12 August 2013

Art with Circles

Some amazing examples of beautiful circles. 

Kaleidoscopic Floor Installations Made of Mirrors, Crystals and Glass by Suzan Drummen

Video showing what happens when you take a completely white living room, thousands of colourful circular stickers and lots of children.  Yayoi Kusama’s legendary installation, Obliteration Room:


Crop circles - fabulous 'art' on a huge scale

File:Crop circles Swirl.jpg

.... some circles in architecture .....

circles 2

....circles in the sand

Kandinsky loved painting circles:

and so did Delaunay (Thanks to @lennyvalentino for letting me know about him):


Jake Beckman sculpture made from cycle wheels:

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Celebrity Salaries

Here's a versatile little resource using 8 famous people and their annual wages.

Firstly there's a slide with pictures and some prompt questions:

Then there's a slide for each celebrity with their name, job, salary and age on it, for example:

The resources can be downloaded here from TES.

Here are some suggested activities to do with them.  I'd be grateful if you could add any other ideas in the comments box below please:

Starter Discussion

Show the first 2 slides. What does the word ‘annual’ mean.  Do we know who all the famous people are?  What are their jobs?  Who earns the most? Least?  How much do you think they earn?


Whole class activity  

Print each slide out onto A4 and cut along the dotted line.  Shuffle and using blu-tac try to match each famous person to their wage.


“I earn …………..  Who am I?”

Use to help learners read, write and say big numbers.

Conversion between time units

Ask learners to calculate each celebrity’s average monthly/weekly/daily/hourly wage.

Using dates

Work out the age of each celebrity.



Ask leaners to round to 2dp, nearest pound/ten/hundred/thousand depending on the activity you are doing.


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Food for thought - and for learning about Maths.

I shouldn't be surprised that I've put on weight since I started teaching.  Food is a great way to help learners understand lots of mathematical concepts.

Pizza for fractions, chocolate bars for fractions, cake for fractions!  Could I teach fractions all the time please?

'Best Buy' - the opportunities are endless!  Crisps, different packs of Caramel bars, in fact anything that catches my eye at the time or is on offer at the Supermarket at the time.

Similar solids with the larger Coke bottles.

Strawberry shoelaces for perimeter and measuring.

Making Vimto and peppermint creams for ratio (think green food colouring and mint flavouring).  Easy recipe for it here.

Dropping toast for probability - does it always land butter side down?

Pizza for volume of a cylinder.

Investigating ice cream cornets for volume and SA of cones,frustums and spheres - that's a resource I have on TES here.

Cake for division using upper and lower bounds.

Students budgeted for, planned and did my family's shopping for a week - but that's a whole other post!

Please share in the comment box below other ways I can find as an excuse to eat during lessons....

Thanks to:

@SueSutcliffeC4S for suggesting using 100 Quality Street chocolates to investigate percentages

@RJS2212 - here's the Chicken McNugget problem for Frobenius numbers discussed by Numberphile.


Friday, 9 August 2013

Using Symbaloo to support parents - Example: GCSE Maths Module 1 Integers Foundation Edexcel

Starting from September I'm going to send a letter out to parents and carers with a link to Symbaloo webmixes for each module we will be covering that half term. 

That way they can see what their children are going to learn and be able to support them through direct, easy access to internet links.

I was thinking that each webmix could contain links to:
  • The whole of the scheme of work and learning objectives for the current module (red tiles)
  • Video clips for each learning outcome (green tiles)
  • Practice sites (pink tiles)
  • Games (orange tiles)
  • Extension suggestions (purple tiles)

I've made a start on Module 1 here:

Is there anything else you can think of that could be included?

Please note that the webmix above is interactive - you can visit any of the webpages by clicking on the tile.  I will also be updating so there may be new tiles on it if you visit it again.

You can save a copy of it if you click on 'View on Symbaloo'

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Outdoor learning - Inclinometer for trigonometry.

My Year 10s loved making this during our trigonometry learning.  We then took it outside to estimate the height of trees, the school building, lamposts etc.

They made their inclinometer from a straw, string, sellotape, a small weight and a card version of this template:

Here's one made-up:

It takes one student to look at the top of the object through the straw and one to read the angle made by the string as demonstrated in the first picture.

The only other piece of equipment Year 10 needed was a tape measure and they were off!

Before making any calculations about the height of the object they made diagrams and included any measurements in it:

Many thanks to for allowing me to include their template in the blog and on the resources- they have a lot of fantastic maths-in-context information on there - well worth a look round. If you follow the link there's also a picture of someone using one of the inclinometers to correctly angle satellites.
A word document with a template and picture of how it should look are available to download here from TES.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Quick, easy way to check learners' confidence or progress.

Just a quick and easy idea of how learners can indicate to you and each other how confident they feel about a current topic or question.

Obviously it's then important to then check understanding. 

"How do you know ....?"  "What do you need us to do to help you improve?"

I have a portable laminated class set of these and then students also have them stuck inside the front of their exercise books too.

The good thing about them is that learners can indicate more than one position at once - where they started the lesson with one finger and where are they now with another as a simple way for them to see that they have made progress.

Copies can be downloaded here from TES.

Monday, 5 August 2013

AfL Show Me Shape Activities

I love mini bulldog clips - perfect to use with these cards!

I've had sets which have been used by everyone from Year 7 to Year 11 many, many times and they last really well.  Copying them onto several different colours of card really helps to sort them out when they occasionally get muddled!

There's a basic set of 24:

and then an extension set to promote discussion:

Plus an A4 laminated front-of-the-class-sized set with the shape's name written on the reverse is handy to have too.

The grid-lines you can see don't print which makes them much less stressful to cut out or guillotine.

Suggested activities which can be led by teachers or learners:

1)    Not all the cards have to be used at once.  Ask learners to put the shapes into groups of triangles, quadrilaterals, regular polygons etc. then concentrate on the properties of one or two particular group at a time.


2)     I use mine blu-tacked onto the board or a wall and play ‘Splat!’ in teams.


3)   I have a laminated A4 size of each shape, hold one up and play ‘Match my shape’


4)    Alternatively they can be tacked up around the room in advance of the lesson and play ‘Silent staring’.  “Stare at a …..”


5)    Make a big deal of picking a shape from a pack.  Then play “I’m thinking of a shape.  It has ……………”   Give a prize/point for the first person/team to hold up their matching shape.


6)    Bingo – students pick 6 of the cards and put them face up on their table, they then put them face down when either their names/properties have been called. I use a spare set shuffled to choose the order.


7)    Then there’s always lots of ways to ask “Show me ….

…. all the triangles/quadrilaterals/prisms

…. a shape where all the angles are equal/right angles/60O/sum to 360O

…. a quadrilateral with no special properties

…. a shape with 1/2/3/4/no lines of symmetry

…. a solid shape with 1/2/more than 2 planes of symmetry

…. a shape with 1 / 2 pairs of parallel sides

…. all the regular polygons

…. a shape with rotational symmetry order 2/3/4
....a shape with 8 vertices show me another ....
Sets of these (including greyscale A4 front-of-the-class-sized copies) plus the suggested activites, are available to download here from TES.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

10 Ways to More Happiness & Less Unhappiness.

A couple of posters I'll be putting up in my classroom - never hurts to remind myself of these!  Seems so obvious when you look at it like this:

Many thanks to @CelestineChua for permission to use her '10 Surefire ways to Achieve Unhappiness'! Please see her inspirational blog and web pages here

Also thanks to @actionhappiness for their amazing posters and attitude to life - love you guys!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Posters for BODMAS / BIDMAS Misconception

It's a great mneumonic, but it can lead to the misconception that division is done before multiplication, when actually they should be done at the same time reading left to right, like a sentence.

The same applies to addition and subtraction.

Today's home-made offerings are posters to remind learners of this.

The first states the theory and the second models an example using the 'Drop it Down' method I use to teach Order of Operations.

They can both be downloaded here from TES.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Collaborative Learning Activity to do After Marking Past Papers - 'Ask An Expert'


Here's a collaborative activity I do with a class after I've marked an assessment or past paper for them.  It's perfect because it can address their different needs, I can only be in one place at a time and peer explanations are fantastic!

If I can we move to a larger space than a classroom so that they have lots of room to spread out - the dining area is one of my favourites.

The explanation below is longer than the activity takes to facilitate, so please bear with me:

1) Students fill in how many marks they achieved for each question on a sheet (see below) - the versions I have at work also have the grade boundaries on them. 

 2) They work out how many more marks they need to move up to the next grade and the one above that - it really motivates and encourages them to see how quickly they can improve.

3)  Each student is then given 3 pieces of post it note - I cut the square ones into 3 vertical strips so that each has a sticky bit on the end.

4) Working from the back of the paper (it does make sense, honest!) they find the last question they achieved full marks on (for example Q 25) and write the number 25 along with their name on one of the post-it strips. 

5) They then continue forwards through the paper until they come to their next 2 full-mark questions (Example Q 22 and Q 19) and again write their name and the number on their remaining 2 post-it strips.

6)  Students then come out and stick their little strips next to the question number on big pieces of paper (see below)

7) The large pieces of paper are displayed and then students are given time to find other members of the class who can help them with the questions they couldn't do - the only rule is that they must be able to explain their new learning to me - that way real understanding is actively encouraged.

8) At the end of the session they can admire their progress and success from the beginning of the lesson.

9) The big sheets of paper can be kept for future reference by the class whenever they need to find a friend who can help on a particular topic.

I'd love to hear of any ways you think this could be modified or how you get on if you try it with your group.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

"Add a zero on the end." Not on my watch you don't!

Punishable by death in my classroom.

Well, OK, perhaps that's a bit extreme.

In fact, the joke is that I will go crazy if

"Add a zero on the end"
is said in my room and I do (but in a good way - lots of shaking of a metre stick, fake hystrionics etc - see example below) and that shared joke is what helps the learners remember that adding a zero on the end is 'bad maths'.

Ask my Year 7 Set 7 from last year.  None of them would do it.

They really enjoyed trying to make other people say it though - visitors to the class, teachers from other subject areas, a poor unsuspecting new teaching assistant who joined half way through the year ........

I'm making the assumption that you know what I'm talking about?

If not, it's that common misconception that multiplying by 10 is achieved through "Adding zero" or "Putting a zero on the end".  Yep, as an algorithm it falls down fairly quickly with easy examples such as decimals.

The serious side of this though, is just how hard it can be to undo misconceptions and that it's doubly difficult if we, as teachers, have inadverdently allowed our learners to have this lack of understanding.

Hence my major play-acting.  Seems to do the trick.

In a lot of cases when learners make a comment it's worth asking

"Is that always, sometimes or never true?"

And don't even get me started on that well-known Rhianna track 'Shine Bright Like a Rhombus'!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Maths Vocabulary activities

Here's a page of Maths vocabulary words and some suggestions of activities they could be used for.  Enlarging to A3 and then laminating will make them more robust.

Suggestions about activities using these cards:

1) Group yourselves
Give each learner a card then ask them to group themselves with other people who have cards which somehow link to theirs.
Can they explain to the class why they think they go together?  Is this the only way they can organise themselves or does anyone think they can move groups?
2) My word's better than your word!

Debates. Students work in small groups and give reasons why their key word is the most important out of the ones in their group! I love a good maths ‘row’!
3) Splat!

Put class into teams and blu-tac some or all of the words to the board. Ask the teams to number each member, example 1 to 5. Player 1 from each team then comes out. Either the teacher or another learner describes the word and the student who ‘splats’ it first with their hand gets a point. You can remove them from the board as you go along or leave them all up. All Player 2s then come out and the game continues ….

4) Group bingo
Put students into equal groups if possible – each student has a card. The teacher reads out a definition. First group to have all their words described correctly shout “BINGO!”

5) Guess my word
In pairs give learners 30 seconds each to describe their word to their partner for them to guess – they can’t say the word or any part of it though!  If they both guess correctly then they swap cards, if not they keep their cards.  Now go find someone else to describe to.

6) Create a Question

Learners are given a card/cards at random. They can then make up a question based on the topic on their card. If you want to make it more difficult for them then you could state certain numbers which must be used in the question or what the answer must be, for example, 3. This can be done individually, in pairs or groups.
7) Sketch my word
Learners draw their word without speaking for others to guess.

The list isn't meant to be exhaustive and you can add extra vocabulary or remove some to differentiate depending on the group or what you're concentrating on at the time.

If you would like a set these cards, suggested activities, along with blanks if you want to add your own, are available to download here from TES.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

3 sets of Foundation 'Need to Know Off By Heart' loop cards

I love a set of loop cards - great for revision, plenaries, starters, entrance activities.  All round winner!

Couple of quick things to mention:

- I print the 3 different sets onto different coloured card or paper

- Only cut around the solid lines.  The dotted lines are the centre of each card which split up the question (on the right) from the answer (on the left of a different card)

- You can start on any card - if learners have matched them correctly each set should make a completed loop.

- Make it into a competition!  Ask students to work in pairs, shuffle their 'pack' well and then give to another pair.  Ready.......... Steady ............ Go!

Above is an example of one of the sets - all 3 can be downloaded as word documents here from TES.

Who doesn't want to maximise impact on achievement? Work smart and check out the research.

With so many new innovative practices around (not to mention all the 'old' tried and tested ones!) it's hard to decide what to concentrate our time and effort on in order to maximise the achievement of our learners.

If you've not come across it yet, John Hattie's research is absolutely invaluable and helps take the guess-work out of it all.

He has evaluated the results of 800 pieces of research looking at what influences achievement and ordered them depending on effectiveness.

To give you a little taste, here's a diagram from ranking the influences in order.

To put it in context 0.4 is 'average'.


They also provide a glossary of terms here

If you'd like to read more there are two books available with generous previews on amazon that you can look through  Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning and the original text detailing the research  Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement available.