Saturday, 18 October 2014

My Favourite Recap Activities

I like a good recap activity and my classes always seem to do well in their assessments. I think it's because of the way that I prepare them during the week or so prior to their end of unit assessment, or in the case of GCSE classes, during the month or so leading up to a mock or the real thing.

'Revision' seems to be a dirty word at our place. 'Boosters' and 'Catch up' are always used, but why are we not 'boosting' and extending during lessons, and why are we needing to 'catch up'? How have they been allowed to fall behind so much that they need a 'catch up' session?

I do revision. It's an opportunity for kids to revisit what we've done in lesson. They'll be told that they're expected to have learnt it, and I won't reteach something after school. I'll give them hints, but that typically sees kids recalling what we'd done in lessons and them carry on individually.

Unfortunately, when left to their own devices, a large proportion of our cohort lack the necessary skills to revise properly, even after sitting through 'Learning to Learn' workshops and 'This is how to revise' (not their actual name) sessions.
I think it's right to make allowances for this, especially at Key Stage 3, and make sure that I've allocated 'learning time' to recap what we've been doing before they are assessed.

I have two 'go-to' activities that the kids seem to enjoy a great deal.

1. The Locked Box
I've blogged this before, but Chris Smith (@aap01302)'s newsletter brought a wonderful activity to my attention. Take some goodies, lock them in a box, and set some questions - around 8 seems to be enough for an hour. Label each question A - H, and set a 9th question based upon the answers from the previous 8. The 9th question gives a code (3-digit for me, as I have 3-digit combination locks) and the kids race to get their first.
Sometimes, nobody will get there. That's when I get the goodies.

A typical lesson would start with a short trailer (a different one for each of the different activities - I currently have two), and giving them a short 'storyline', before setting them to work on the activity. About 15-20 minutes before the end of the lesson, I stop them (even if nobody has the code) and go through the solutions, suggesting that anyone that doesn't understand where they've gone wrong speaks to me about their issues.

My two activities are called 'For British Eyes Only' (a reference to a show called Arrested Development, which is very difficult to explain as a concept to 14 year olds) and 'Race to Treasure Island'. My trailers for each are 'Johnny English' and 'An Adventure with Pirates'.

'For British Eyes Only' looks like this, and the goodies are locked in a silver canister:

These are printed A5, two-sided. The example above was set for my 9 set 2 within the past fortnight.

'Race to Treasure Island' looks like this, and the goodies are locked in a small treasure chest with gold-painted pennies in the bottom for authenticity:

The map is printed A5 and the A - H table is shown on the board. The example above was given to my 7 set 1 at the beginning of last year. I haven't done Race to Treasure Island this year yet. but when I do, I get an inflatable parrot and cutlass out and walk around shouting 'YARGH! How ye doin' there matey?'. My colleagues have concerns about me.

2. Circus Time

Circus time is great for the kids, but your classroom becomes very loud and you have to trust them.

I bought 8 of these photoframes from IKEA:

I have made a Word document where each page is a table made of two cells, the size of standard photographs, where I type in one side 'Carousel Activity 1', the title of that activity and the questions for that title and copy this into the other side when done. I print these 7 activities, cut out and put in the frames.

I rearrange my tables in to 7 groups of 4 seats, give each child a piece of paper and have two timers on the board: one at 4:30 for the task and one at 00:30 for moving. This means the activity takes 35 minutes and gives the opportunity to recap the answers and address any misconceptions prior to the end of the lesson.

Here are the activities I gave my 7 set 3 during period 5 yesterday:

I'm also currently playing with...
3. Pub Quiz

Put your pupils into teams of their choosing and have them compete against each other. There doesn't even need to be a prize. I did this with 10 set 1 regarding their understanding of calculations with decimals. I put in a few silly rounds, like missing letters in band names and which jokes was the best at the Edinburgh Fringe, but it let me know where the kids were and allowed me to plan appropriately for the next lesson (a bit of work on multiplying and dividing decimals and we were away!).
I'm going to create a pub quiz for my classes this week prior to their half-termly assessment.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Complete Maths (and a Maths Teach Meet)

After a long day, in a long week, after 5 hard weeks since September 1 and on the Thursday before a Saturday open day (eurgh) I packed up my things and headed East to Brigshaw High School and Language College for a Maths Teach Meet.It was well attended for a venue out of the way for teachers teaching in Leeds, I thought, and I took a seat by myself (as ever...).

Thank you to @MellowsMaths for organising and hosting the event, giving me a chance to steal people's ideas.

As a warning, the things I post after this sentence may be things that you don't agree with, but those are my thoughts and feelings and I am happy to be talked around.

1. Numicon
I've seen Numicon used in classrooms. We have Numicon at our place and I'm almost certain it has its uses. I have some very weak children in one of my year 7 classes this year and it might have a great effect on their progress. My concern is that I'd rather those children not come to associate numbers with shapes or colours and would prefer them to develop a strong understanding of numbers, rather than to recognise their shapes and relate it this way.
Why would counters not do the job just as well, or better?

2. Key Facts Throwing
Looks fun. Potentially great with my current year 8 class. Potentially chaos with my current year 11s.
The idea is:
Give pupils an A7 piece of paper and display 4 key facts on the whiteboard. Each pupil writes down one, screws their paper up and throws it towards another student. Two of the key facts are removed and each pupil adds another of the facts to the piece of paper they had thrown at them (or picked up, due to bad aim) and repeats the throwing exercise. Each student then adds to final two facts (no help, no scaffolding) to their piece of paper and sticks it in their book.
As a relatively neat student, I'd like my paper to be flat and my key facts to be written in neat handwriting. As a messy student, who enjoys throwing things, I'm sure this is a great, fun plenary. For me, I don't think I'd like to let the kids throw things at each other in my classroom.
That said, I'm happy to get a clean bin/storage box and have students write a question that they think all in the class should be able to answer and throw that in the bin/storage box, using the resultant collection of questions as a starter in the next lesson (Come in, get a question, get started...).

3. Foldables
I have seen. I did it with Year 11 for circle theorems last year. They did it, wrote their theorems, wrote their examples, put it in their folder and... oh, wait, it never came back out.
Foldables, I'm sure, have their place. I'm thinking of doing this again this year and prompting the kids more to get them out during periods of revision. I'm currently searching for the PDF and can't find it. Tweet sent to get it.

4. A+ Click looks like a very good web site to use for starters and plenaries. The site is American, so Grade 6 is year 7, and very much worth a look. In fact, it reminded me that I really need to look at when I have the time.
It was designed for kids to use and might be great as a revision tool for end of year assessments.

5. Nix The Tricks
Ever get that 'Aaaaargh!' moment, where you're working with 5 - 3 + 5 and you give the answer as 7 (obviously) and that kid shouts 'You're wrong, sir! It's -3, because addition comes before subtraction. BIDMAS, innit!'
Cut out the tricks and teach real understanding. Download the free eBook here. Thanks @srcav.
I've already e-mailed this to my department and hope they get on to it. I am sick to the back teeth of re-teaching year 11 about multiplying fractions, negative numbers and the order of operations!

6. Mastery
Spend more time on fewer topics. Get the basics right before attempting area with kids who can't multiply, or perimeter with kids who can't add. Teach topics separately - the confusion with area and perimeter comes with them being taught too closely, I think. They know both, but not which one's which.
I very much enjoy the idea of 'minimally different' or 'not minimally different' to develop understanding of the workings of what you're doing, so that things can be seen to be working with similar numbers and how they change.

7. Complete Maths (I know I've missed some, and I know this is out of the order Stephen spoke, but I wanted to add this at the end).
La Salle Education have a product called 'Complete Mathematics' that they are currently selling. It costs £2,995 for a year for a secondary school and the idea sounds great. Put in the objectives for your classes and find quality resources, assessments, homeworks and more at the click of a button. I signed up for a trial account and have spent a few hours playing with it today since returning from our open day.

I may not be getting the best use out of it, but I'm not totally convinced thus far.
I set up the school timetable and added my classes. Only one kid at the moment, for testing purposes. I've tried to add a scheme of work for my year 11 class, but the choices are very vague and don't entirely fit in with what I need to do with my year 11s this year. That said, I also tried to do it for my year 7s and don't want to teach the objectives in the order that the system is trying to make me.

My year 11s are struggling. They're working at D/E and we want Cs from them, so will sit a higher exam at the end of this year to try and get that. They certainly aren't following a scheme of work and I'm firefighting from one week to the next, dependent on their needs. What I'd really like to do is, from the timetable page, search for (as an example) 'ratio' and select an objective and a level/grade to select as my objective for that lesson - I'd then like to see the resources available to me for that objective and level and select from those. I'd like to do this for each of my lessons and then create a bespoke assessment based on the objectives that we've covered every few weeks.
I think the idea is great and I think the way it has been sold and explained to me is exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately, at the moment, I'm not sure it delivers what I feel the product promises and I'm a little let down. If anyone has any advice for me, I'd love to hear it!