I've (fairly) recently written a post about how we came to one hundred minute lessons, and a post about how I was getting on with them partway through the first half term. My intention here is look at the positives and drawbacks of moving to a new timetable, the challenges involved, and ways to go about overcoming those difficulties.
My overbearing thoughts about the last seven weeks are about how tired I am. I believe that it probably took 3 years to get (properly) used to planning lessons and being able to plan a good 60 minute lesson without much issue. During the first few weeks of this year, I no longer felt like the guy going into his 8th year of teaching, but that I was in (maybe) my second or third. I knew what I wanted to do, what I wanted the kids to achieve and how to go about it, but I struggled with the balancing act - what I wanted to do would've filled two lessons at 60m, but didn't fill 100m with one starter, one plenary and the lack of a need to recap the first bit of the lesson. I spent so much more time planning lessons and I struggled a lot.
I've become better at this, but one bit of that last part is still bothering me - only one starter. I expressed my concerns about fewer chances for repetition - and when they do get a chance, the depth of the activity is hindered because of doing so much in the previous lesson and giving them fewer opportunities to recap a greater number of skills, rather than more opportunities to master fewer skills. I'm still concerned about this, and I hope that (long-term) this isn't an big of an issue as I expect it could be.
I'll point out at this stage that my name has cropped up in many student committee meetings as pupils highlighting my lessons as buying in to the 100m, planning them well, trying to break them up to retain concentration and being very organised in my delivery. It's nice to be told, but I'm not overly happy with the way my lessons are and as such I'll continue to try to find some new things to go with.
Having a large bank of resources has helped, and activities that I've borrowed from other teachers who have shared them freely have been put to good use. I can't recommend highly enough, the following (amongst many others, but I favourite things on Twitter like there's no tomorrow and very little are coming back to me at the moment!):
Craig Barton's Diagnostic Questions
Don Steward's MEDIAN
Joanne Morgan's Resourceaholic
Ed Southall's Solve My Maths
100m lessons have, speaking of DiagnosticQuestions, given me much more of a chance to revisit homework without worrying too much about losing 'new learning' time and this has been especially useful with my Year 10 class who I've recently expressed my worries about.
Inspired by Kris Boulton's bit at MathsConf5 I've also tried to get as much storytelling into my teaching as I can. It's an engagement strategy that can really hook in some difficult kids to a lesson as all kids love a good story. I'm still looking for stories, though, and I think that there's a lot more work to be done here.
Another thing that has had some impact this year - I saw a tweet that suggested exam papers are marked twice - once with their actual mark, and the other a mark with silly errors awarded. I did this with my two year 11 classes who recently sat a Unit 1 paper. My top set, who I intentionally did the test with cold, achieved between a D and an A, but 12 had made silly mistakes to prevent them scoring a grade higher. With my new class the method wasn't quite so powerful, as they achieved 12/14 Us and 2 Ds, and including silly errors made no difference. I'll continue to do this, as it wasn't time consuming, but won't expect it to have a great impact with every assessment. Their mocks will be a good barometer.
Back to 100 minute lessons, the structure I have been using hasn't changed at all:
0 - 10/15m is a starter. This is typically a recap of previous learning, a starter from @mathschallenge or completion of their 'Next Steps' from an activity marked according to our school's PINS marking policy. I have the opportunity to get settled, get around the kids and ask about homework, or deal with any issues as students come in to the room.
10/15m - 20m/30m is my bit. The bit where I go through their starter (unless it's a PINS activity, and I do that later) before introducing today's lesson. 'This is what we're going to do, this is how we're going to do it, this is why what we're going to do works, this is how you're going to do it...' (we all know the drill).
30m - 40m might be a mini-whiteboard activity, which I'm trying to do more of this year. I tell the kids that unless I do, I can't be a good teacher, and they wouldn't want that (or this is what I've learnt from too much training, anyway). This will lead in to a 40m - 55m activity in books, or I might just go the whole hog with 30m - 55m in books. MEDIAN is excellent here, and has shortened my planning for some topics greatly.
At this point, the kids have gone a bit. There are the ones who can work for 100m, but your attention is taken up by the ones who are struggling, and as such the next bit of the lesson goes a few ways, dependent on time of day, day of the week, week of the term, whether there might be a fight at lunch or after school, whether two of the kids are now going out, or how close they are to an assessment.
Typically, 55m - 70m, is the time I'll take to draw the kids attention back to me and today's tasks. A recap of what we've done so far, self-marking their work, checking understanding with a few directed questions and bounced around the room. I'll then try to dig down a little further to enrich their understanding, or we'll go forward and extend on what we've already done.
By the time it comes around to 70m - 85m, the kids are working again. This might be another task like the earlier one, or might be a Kahoot quiz, or something I've stolen like Operation Countdown, an angle chase activity, one of the multiple area mazes going around, Don Steward's inequalities mobiles tasks according the topics that we've studied thus far in the lesson, or setting them on a revision worksheet before an upcoming assessment.
85m - 95m is given to exam questions, when appropriate. If not, it'll be a recap of all that we've done and a plenary to summarise. The exam questions have worked rather well - I try to find 10 marks worth of questions on ExamPro so that students work through all of the questions, and if I find more, I tell students that I want a certain number of marks achieved within the next 'x' minutes. The students are quite motivated to do well in exams, and as such work rather well here, despite already having had 1h25m in the same room, with the same mental mathematician in front of them.
95m - 100m is the time I use to go through the answers to their exam questions, self-assess their work for the day using Kev Lister's RAG123, have students collect their books together, their mini whiteboards and other resources we've used, write their homework down and be ready for break, lunch, or home.
A positive of having students before a break/home time are wide-ranging. A positive chat, detention, or catch up on work is rather easy to do when you have some downtime after each lesson!
I'm also getting a lot more out of non-contacts, as 100m running over a break/lunch as well makes it much easier to get a lot of work done, as the 10 minutes you wasted sorting yourself have less of an impact on the next 90 minutes!
The days are flying by. Before I know it, it's going to be Christmas. Then, Finland and my wedding. Every week, I'm surprised when The Walking Dead Day comes by once again. By the time you know it, it's home time after teaching 3 lessons. I'm scared of the impact this might have on our Year 11s, however, as we're currently 23% of the way through their year and too many of them don't yet get it.