Sunday, 10 August 2014

Able, Gifted & Talented

It seems that every school lately is offering their staff the opportunity to 'intern' on their leadership team under the guise of an 'Associate Leader' post. I believe we currently have four Associate Leaders in place and my understanding of the application process is that each of these post-holders has submitted a proposal about what they'd like to lead on during their post. To my knowledge, our post-holders are currently leading on Teaching & Learning, Intervention, Student Leadership and Able, Gifted and Talented (which shall be referred to as AGT for the remainder of this post). I'm looking to focus on the AGT strand.

I am currently going in to my 7th year of teaching. I spent my first in a school that was closing, second in a school that had just opened and the previous four in a more established school. In terms of an AGT provision, I can't say I've seen a lot. I recall attending a maths event in my first year delivered by Rob Eastaway, for which we took the children identified as our 'most able' to another local secondary school and watched a lecture on the maths of games. In my second year I don't recall anyone mentioning AGT and this has been the case throughout most of my time in my current post. Myself and another member of the department took some Year 11s to a Maths Inspiration show, but was told in the next year that because it wouldn't have a direct effect in the class room that this wasn't going to be allowed again.

Late last year the Associate Leader for AGT asked us to identify our AGT pupils within mathematics and suggested that we 'highlight the pupils we expect to get an A in our subject'.

I looked at our AGT register recently, and I am shocked at the way that it has gone. My main shock was the dwindling numbers of pupils identified as we progressed through the school. I taught an excellent Year 7 top set this year and in my eyes at least half of them (class of 30, but two set ones in Y7) should be getting an A at GCSE. Only about 12 were identified in Year 8 top set and this number diminished as students got older. I believe that last year our 'A/A* haul' was 13 children. I am hoping that this is increased this year with a decent number from my set 2.

My hope is that if we focus on our top end more at KS3, they'll remain more engaged and develop the thinking skills to succeed at GCSE. Of course, in an ideal world, we'd do this with everyone, but time is a finite resource.

My intention is to run an 'AGT club' at a lunchtime:

Students will take part in the UKMT Mentoring Programme, working with a teacher in week 1, given the opportunity to 'drop in' in week 2 and to submit their solutions in week 3, starting the next set of problems in week 4 and repeating the cycle.
From this, we'll be able to identify a strong team for the UKMT Team Challenge event and entry to the Junior and Intermediate Individual Competitions.

As an aside from this, we'll be offering students the chance to experience a live escape game as a trip (which may take place in week 2 or 3) as these things are popping up all over the country it seems!
This will also be extended to our classes as a rewards trip after we've gone through our AGT cohort.

I'll also be looking into the Alan Turing Cryptography Competition and trying to find some information on the National Cipher Challenge, whilst also looking to get involved with the Science and Technology departments to work through some of the STEM Challenges here.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Plenary Alarms

I'm not sure if your place of work is like mine. All too often kids are late to class and have a ready-made excuse... "Miss let us go late...", "Sir was speaking to me after History...", "Our teacher let us go late!". Truth be told, a lot of time, they're probably telling the truth. That, and it always seems to be the same lesson, week-in, week-out. I'm too nice to suggest to anyone that they need to do something better. That's not my role.

I was a little like that. Not every lesson, but every so often. I'd run out of time for what I wanted to do, or something would kick off and I'd lose track of where I was and have to quickly pack the kids up. Unfortunately, this meant that the books weren't collected, the room was left in a mess and I didn't get a chance to get through a plenary.

Here's my warning: I have been bullied for this. If you do this, you may be bullied for this. But do remember that you'll never forget to deliver a plenary again, and the kids will always leave your lesson on time to get to their next lesson.

Introducing... the plenary alarm.

Our lessons run in the following way: 08:45 - 09:00 (Registration), 09:00 - 10:00 (Period 1), 10:00 - 11:00 (Period 2), 11:20 - 12:20 (Period 3), 12:20 - 13:20 (Period 4), 14:00 - 15:00 (Period 5).

If you'll see the screenshot below (a number of them, joined together), I have alarms set for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for 08:55 (to wrap up my registration time, but not on a Tuesday as that's assembly!), 09:50, 10:50, 12:10, 13:10 and 14:50 (10 minutes before the end of each lesson).

This allows me to start wrapping up my lesson, getting the kids to finish up their work, go through some answers, set a final problem, play a game and so on. I can deal with any behaviour issues and I can remind the kids about homework. It's a very simple idea, and I hope that my sharing will help someone. The kids know what time it is and are prepared for their last problem and a challenge.

Just remember that when you're working with colleagues during free periods and your alarm goes off, you should be prepared for wise-cracking ones to come out with 'So.. what have you learnt in the last hour?' or 'Let's recap our work during this period...'.