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.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Mistakes - the perfect learning tool - simple idea.

Today's little project to help learning - making a place where we can celebrate, discuss and correct mistakes and misconceptions together.

Laminated onto A3 this can be used as posters on the wall or put on desks - I'm thinking velcro on the back should make it suitable for both.

Learners and I can then write on it with whiteboard pens, blu-tac examples on, put post-its on etc.

Any other good ways it could be used?

Download here from TES

Using data to compare teachers' performance - a note of caution!

This really bothers me.  On so many levels. 

Practically though, I think the following is really important to consider whether you're a classroom teacher, HoD or SLT.

In an age of marksheets, spreadsheets and tracking when number crunching is so quick and data is plentiful, it's all too easy to pop in a formula, press and button and compare your teachers. 

But for subjects where students are taught in sets it's just not that simple - and more importantly is it fair? With pay possibly linked to 'performance' I think there may be a real problem with this.

The 'Critchlow-Rogers Effect' research highlights the issues:

I apologise for the reproduction - I only have an old paper copy to hand. Full article can be read at the end of this post.

Is there a fairer way of comparing class teachers' data? 
When comparing the 'performance' of teaching sets I've also looked at a percentage increase.
Here's a really basic example:

A student achieving a level 3 at KS2 who then achieved a Grade D (Approx level 6) would have made 3 levels progress but actually made 100% progress from their starting point.

A student with a level 5 at KS2 who then achieved a Grade B (Approx Level 7) would have also have made 3 levels of progress from KS2 but 60% progress from their starting point.
OK, so it's really simplistic example but it can be tweaked with decimal grades and grade boundaries.
Fairer?  Perhaps.
The important thing for me to remember is that when we download our results in August we should give real consideration to which buttons we press and what we do with the numbers that come out. 

 Full article:

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

What students see versus what the examiner sees

We remind them to only write in the answer spaces.

Instructions in the paper tell them not to write in certain places.

Yet still they go 'off piste'.

Why is it so important that they actually follow this advice?

Showing them these pictures might help them to understand why:

This example is from a fictional student (me!)

Thankfully we don't receive piles of actual papers at home anymore.

Most exam papers are now scanned, cropped and marked online. 

As an examiner (I marked over 16,000 questions this year - ouch!) I can't see the whole of a student's paper.  All I can see is the question, or part-question, that pops up on the screen in front of me.  Just as it looks above.

Sometimes, of course, students do have to use additional space. 

In that case it's very important that they make a quick note stating where that working can be found.  The team can then trace back to find the original question paper.

A one-ended arrow isn't enough - depending on where the question has been cropped it may mean that all the examiner can see on screen is a bit of a line that they don't really notice.

It's a really simple piece of advice but hopefully it will help them gain every single mark they can.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Maths, literacy and YouTube videos - The Circle Song

If you teach Maths and use YouTube you've probably come across The Circle Song. 

You know the one.  That catchy tune which really sticks and actually does help students to remember the formulae for area and circumference of circles - handy as they are expected to know if for their GCSE.

It really does work.  If you look closely you can actually see them singing it through when they need it!

To encourage students to engage with the video and also to improve literacy I've made a task for them to do whilst listening to it.

It's versatile - I've used it as an entrance task and as a plenary and it can be altered for differentiation, for example by removing some of the prompt words.

You can download the worksheet here on TES.
Just in case you've somehow missed this gem, or you need a little top-up in the school holidays because you're having withdrawal symptoms, here it is:

Monday, 22 July 2013

Symbaloo - I love you!

The two Symbaloo webmixes below are interactive.  Click on a tile and it will take you wherever your heart desires (well, at least it will open up the page or video - sorry, got confused there for a moment with The Wizard of Oz!)

The first one is my teaching webmix where I gather together resources I'm going to use - it changes on a frequent basis.

I also have one for each class that they will be able to access from September.  Just started to work on one for Year 11 Foundation Maths and that's the webmix at the bottom.

They are free and super easy to make - have a go at

Suggestions for any other tiles I could include?

"Miss, I don't know what to do!"

Well my reply to that is,

"You mean you don't know what to do .... yet."

Here is today's little home-made visual to give students (and myself sometimes!) a reminder of what to do when you don't know what to do .......yet!

Want a copy? Download it here on TES 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Planning for September - 4 stages of Mastery

First ever blog post!

Finished school on Friday for the holidays and I'm already planning for September.

What ideas and resources can I gather over the next 6 weeks to inspire students next year?

So what have I got in mind so far?  I'm going to start by talking with them about the stages of mastery.

I've just explained them to my 11-year-old son and he's used learning to make a cup of tea as an analogy (he knows he's at the conscious competence stage but we're planning to help him move on to unconcious competence over the holidays ;)

Can feel a poster coming on ........

....and here's the first draft of the poster/activity:

Once I've worked with the students on it I'll post up some pics.

Download the poster/activity here on TES