Saturday, 24 October 2015

Why I'm scared for my Year 10s...

As part of MathsConf5 I attended the AQA Maths/Mr Barton session on the new GCSE. I left with a plan - to order CGP revision guides for 9-1, to use the AQA-written quizzes on and to stress how difficult the new exams will be to those in my care.

I'm not sure whether this is tiredness, or a realistic idea of where we actually at, but having assessed my Year 10 set 2 using AQA's topic tests this week, I am scared for next year. I'm scared for our Year 10s and I'm scared for our Year 11s who'll need to resit in 2017.

I teach in a school where over 50% of our students are PP or 'disadvantaged'. With the nature of PP students, they struggle with comprehension more than their non-disadvantaged peers (according the constant training I receive). The new style of GCSE will hit them hard.

When we spoke about their DQs homework, and when they worked in lesson, the kids were flying. But when they did their homework misconceptions were flying and their assessments were poor (10% - 59%). They've since resat these, and I'm yet to mark them, but they were much more positive leaving the room yesterday morning.

I'm mostly concerned that their low reading ages and their ability to replicate but not to think for themselves will spell great difficulties with 2017's GCSEs andplunge our (recently defined) 'failing' department (~53% A*-C last year) into the abyss with little hope of bouncing back for (at least) a few years without major intervention and so much work and scrutiny.

This week I went through the whole assessment, revisited each question and allowed them to work on their issues and re-tested them to try to build a little confidence. Unfortunately, this cannot be a long-term answer to the issue and I need to do something. Unfortunately, with the lack of clarity around new grades, expectations around what constitutes a new 4 or a 5, what a 6 is and what a 7 is, the new papers being 50% A/A* (7, 8, 9) work, I don't see much positivity in maths teaching (particularly in my department, but I'm sure in others too) for quite a few years.

If I'm totally wrong on the topic, and there are answers to my concerns and problems, please let me know.

Friday, 23 October 2015

After... The first term.

It's been a long, long seven weeks. I don't remember a time when I've been under such scrutiny and pressure, and done as much work as I have in the last 50 days.

We've switched to 100 minute lessons this year, which has been quite the learning curve and required me to re-plan the lessons I've delivered over the last few years.

We've, in a search for consistency, rewritten the school's behaviour policy so that students receive four warnings before moving rooms, which they'll be returned from if they don't cause an issue there. (A later request from leadership asked for consistency and students were complaining that they were receiving fewer warnings in some lessons. For me, the complaint is '...but I can misbehave more in ... than ...' Hardly an argument to be listened to!)

As a country, we're delivering the new GCSE. I've a bigger blog about this to follow, but I'm finding that it takes more time to plan these lessons too.

I've worked two Saturdays, with MathsConf5 and our school's open day, taught 3 lunch times a week this term, lost my Year 8 class in favour of taking on a second Year 11 class in an effort to improve our maths results this year, written Year 11 college references. No wonder I'm exhausted.

This post (the 'After...') was intended to be a recap of my experiences of 100 minute lessons, so this will come soon too.

This post, however, will focus on what's to come... Parents evenings (only 3 this year!), mock exams, Christmas decorations, the important HT3 period, wedding in Finland for half term, the important HT4 revision time, honeymooning over Easter, the run-in to June exams, a Year 9 Young Leaders residential, Academic Smackdown and BREATHE.

At the moment, though, I'm just looking forward to a week of not needing to be at work, even though my to do list is as long as my arm. I'd best get this out of the way before Zombie Infection in Sheffield and Foot Golf next weekend!

Happy half term everyone!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

During... The One Hundred Minute Lesson

I woke at 4am on the day of my first 100m lesson. I remember it quite vividly. I had delivered a lesson, completely misjudged the length of it and pitched the material incorrectly too. I was sat in a colleague's classroom, crying, feeling shame at my inability and incompetence to deliver a lesson. Then I woke. I didn't go back to sleep, and it played on my mind a little.

I was apprehensive about teaching 100m lessons, and so were many colleagues, but only 5 weeks in to the year I'm enjoying them. The non-contact periods are great - attached to break/lunch you can get a lot done in two hours. Only having three lessons per day is also pretty good, as it's lunch before you know it.

I've been left with twenty minutes to fill, and I've run out of time, but having 100m to properly tackle simultaneous equations with a quadratic (graphically and algebraically) is extremely helpful. When I plan it right, it's great. When I don't, I cut a bit or I find something to fill the time (having 25GB of resources helps!).

Sometimes, particularly during the afternoon, the kids struggle. This was particularly apparent with a middle-to-lower ability year 8 set, but they've been taken off me to free me up to teach a second Year 11 class. I think the change in sets and the ability that the older students have to maintain their concentration and work ethic for longer is making me feel more positive about the last week.

I've stuck to my rigid lesson structure more often than not and I'm finding that the kids are buying in and largely enjoying being in my room for 100m. 10m starter. 10-15m chat. 25m activity. 5-10m mini plenary. 5m chat. 15m activity. 5m plenary. 10m exam questions. Wrap up and self-assess. The latter parts are typically an opportunity to extend on concepts of deepen understanding, which is great.  Challenging students, and raising the expectation on them, helps to maintain their focus.

In terms of exam questions, we've been giving them at the end of every lesson and I've been using this layout for a SMART Notebook slide:

Each quadrant has a question and the difficulty increases through from easy, to medium, to master to extreme. 'There are 10 marks on the board. You have 5 minutes to get 6 of them' or 'There are 12 marks available. You have 10 minutes to get all of them'.

I've also created this one for the last week of term (build up to Halloween) to indulge my nerdy side:
I ain't afraid of no ghosts!

I've got a large debt of gratitude to pay to Don Steward for his resources shared on Median, Kahoot for breaking up a few long lessons, Craig Barton for his work on Diagnostic Questions and many, many others who share their resources on Twitter and allow me to magpie them. I'm finding it harder to plan and resource 100m lessons than I did 60m lessons, but the shared resources and addition of Kahoot (including personal wifi channel!) has been great for activities during lessons.