Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Y11 Revision Board Display

I went into school today for a couple of things. One was to check the new Desktop PC that was being put into my room synced up to my IWB still (it does) and the other was to put up a new revision display board for the benefit of my Y11s.

I've been putting together a few new posters and some pictures based on the popular 'meme' images that seem to float around the Internet. I tweeted a few of these images out (see below) yesterday as I was creating them and they seemed to go down well. There's a link at the bottom of this post where you can download all of those that I created/found on the web.

In addition to the images, I created a few posters in the style of the USA posters you find on University noticeboards etc where there are tear off slips to take away. I decided to use this style to create a few revision website posters so students can rip them off and take them with them to remind them of the web address/be able to scan a 'takeaway QR Code' to use. I created 3 of these: 1 for my YouTube Channel (mrcollinsmaths), 1 for the school's VLE, where I have a folder of resources for them to use, and 1 for the Pearson revision apps I am trialing (future blog post to follow).
I've also then put on a few quotes that I like and other useful information as to the dates of their examinations, mymaths password/login details etc etc.

Here's how the display looks...

The only thing missing is a 'Y11 Revision Board' title/banner that I forgot to print out (this'll go at the bottom of the display).

Here are the images that I tweeted out yesterday...

 Ace Ventura themed poster
This image appears loads on social media sites - this is one of my favourite posters I created.
 I really like this pie chart I found off the web.

I saw a similar cat picture with this slogan, but it was a bit blurry so I found another (equally funny) cat pic and used the same text.

If you'd like to download these pictures/resources then feel free to click on the below link to my Dropbox folder where you can download to alter/print as you wish...

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/37694946/Revision_Pics.pptx These are the picture images (including the 4 above)

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/37694946/Revision%20Slips_USA%20Style.pptx This file allows you to create your own USA style poster with rip off slips

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/37694946/revision_quotes.docx The few quotes I used.

Feel free to adapt/use the resources above as you wish. Let me know how they go down if you do use them. Tweet me @mrprcollins or comment below.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Y11 - The Final Countdown

It's getting nearer to that point in the year where all the Y11s will be sitting their GCSE examinations and the final push for these will be well under way when we go back after the Easter holidays. Given the very short half term after the Easter holidays (ours is only 4 and a bit weeks), the fact their other GCSE examinations will have started and all that time off over Easter where I have no idea how much/little Mathematics revision they'll be doing I decided, earlier this term, that I needed to do everything I could to make sure they were aware of exactly how little time they have left before their Mathematics examinations.

So, just under 100 days before their 1st GCSE Mathematics examination (we do the Edexcel Linear [1MAO] spec) I put up the following display on the back of my classroom door. Each day, having double checked with my 'DaysUntil' app, I change the number of days left until their 1st Mathematics GCSE examination. This display is all aimed at making them aware of how much (or little) time they have left. In the majority of our lessons it has been referred to and it's strange how much impact it is having on some of my students. For example, I often here a lot of 'Ooo, we've only got 74 days left' or 'te he he, 69 days left' (a popular day)!

My tutor group are very good at reminding me to change the post-its each morning and they themselves (more than some of my Y11 students, perhaps) are aware of how long their older peers have left.

For each of my Y11 classes, in their last lesson before we broke up for Easter, I gave them the 'spiel' about how the number on the back of the door will be greatly depleted by the time we get back after the Easter holidays. I also reminded them that the number included the entire Easter holidays, the May half term and every weekend between now and their 1st examination (highlighting the lack of 'lesson time' we have remaining).

I tried to get them to see that they HAD to be doing some Mathematics revision/work over the Easter holidays so they do not drop down from their current, what I called, 'Mathematical State' and that if they did nothing they'd have to build themselves back up after the Easter holidays just to get back to the level that they left off on.

In order to help them all I have given them each, based on their preferences, a pack of grade targeted revision packs that I got from the brilliant @MathsAlex who has been tweeting these out over the past month or so. To see all of these papers, the front sheet for each grade and the mark schemes for the questions included, click on the following link --> https://t.co/iCpombGR8S.
I have also put all the papers on our school's VLE so the students can download other grades once they have finished with the one I printed and handed out to them.

By giving them these packs I hope they will have no excuses to not to be doing some sort of work/revision over the Easter holidays! They've also got my YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/user/mrcollinsmaths and mymaths etc etc.

I will also, over the next couple of weeks, be putting up a new display in my classroom all targeted towards their revision - useful websites, reminders of revision sessions, key info etc etc.

In addition, when we get back, I intend on showing them the below video by @Actionjackson. I saw this last year and it was shown to all my previous school's Y11s in a mock exam feedback session in the school's hall. This year, when the time is right, I will show it to each of my classes as I feel it is exactly what some of them will need! Thanks @Actionjackson for creating this, and your other videos.

If the video above does not load click on this link --> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMNGzUm0170

So, the clock is well and truly ticking for our Y11s. There are still a few topics I have to teach my top set Y11s, then it'll be straight through to revision, in and around the time they will spend out, in other examinations, which start the 2nd full week back I believe. For my Y11 3rd set, we'll be going through some of the 'easier to pick up marks on' A/A* topics that they haven't seen before. We've covered all of the D/C and majority B grade topics and they have been given individual revision sheets based on their performance in these topics (see my previous blog post on 'alexpett's GCSE topic tracker http://goo.gl/fwa7IP).

It's going to be a busy month or so when we get back!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Jumbo Calculators & IWB Calculators...

Earlier this term I purchased myself a 'jumbo' calculator; an A4 sized calculator. I used to have one of these at one of my previous schools and they're great for being able to show students the buttons to press on the calculator to perform certain calculations. This works especially well with low-ability KS3 classes. The kids love the calculator too and ask to use it on a regular basis!

I got my one from www.amazon.co.uk and it is similar to the one pictured/linked below...


However, the only downside to the large calculator (there is only one) is that it is not a scientific one and I am yet to find a jumbo sized scientific one (answers on a postcard/tweet/comment please)!

So, it was by luck that I found a solution to this problem this term. The solution came in the guise of one of my department's ITT students who had a Casio calculator that could be used on the IWB! How this is wonderfully possible is that the Casio people have created emulator software that allows you to do on screen to a calculator you'd have bought. This was exactly what I was looking for as so many higher tier students need to be shown, properly, how to use their scientific calculators when performing trig calculations, roots, powers etc etc.

So, I got myself one of these and have loved using it ever since. It now has a permanent home on my desktop at school and I can quickly call the calculator up whenever needed to show my students exactly what they'll need to press on their calculators to perform the calculations required. This has really helped my teaching of trigonometry this term to my top set Y11s when revising 'basic trig' (SOHCAHTOA), the sine and cosine rule and the area of any triangle using 1/2absinC.

I have found in the past that students often type in calculations incorrectly on their calculators assuming that the calculator is doing exactly what they need. For example...

 With this question, where you're asked to work out the length of (in this case) the opposite side. Students would need to do sine of the given angle multiplied by the length of the hypotenuse. So, naturally the kids type in sin, 3, 0, x, 1, 0, =. However, as you can see from my emulator calculator this would work out sine of 300, not sine 30, then multiplied by 10. The student needs to close the bracket on the automatically opened bracket.

This then allows me to show the students, and discuss with them, why this is wrong much, much easier than it would be to 'talk' them through it. I can then show on the IWB what they need to type in.

There have been so many good discussions that have come from me using the emulator on my IWB and going through examples with my students. I've had a lot of 'what does that button do, sir?' type questions that allow me to then show them things they can do with their calculators that they didn't previously know, all in an attempt to make it easier for them to pick up marks in their examinations and avoid losing marks through incorrect assumptions on what is being 'done' on their calculators. One of my favourite recent discussions was on the 'sexagesimal to decimal' button, see http://goo.gl/YVtEwy for more info!

You can look into the Casio emulators by clicking on the link below. I'm sure there are others available, but as my students, on the whole, have Casio calculators, I've chosen this one as it's the same as they have in their school bag/hand!


mymaths and magicwhiteboard

Earlier this term, I was revising the different types of transformations with my Y11 set 3 class as this was one of the topics that was flagged up from their mock examinations. After we had done a couple of lessons on the topic we had our fortnightly computer room lesson (each class gets one of these a fortnight). So, as my school predominantly uses www.mymaths.co.uk for these lessons, I went about the normal setting of the tasks and was all ready for their lesson.

However, it soon became apparent that the transformations tasks on mymaths require more than just typing an answer into a box and isn't naturally a great topic to do online; students are used to using tracing paper to perform the different transformations and I had taught them, for example, (for enlargements) to use projection lines to find the centre of enlargement, which they obviously couldn't do on screen.

So, as we were already, at this point, in the ICT room and the whole class were logged on and attempting the tasks, I needed a solution. Some of the students had intuitively started to get the mini whiteboards out and were reproducing the questions on their boards to then work on. However, this seemed like a bit of a waste of time. Cue me remembering my www.magicwhiteboard.co.uk sheets!

I asked my teaching assistant to go and get these out of my 'magic whiteboards' draw so that the students could use them as tracing paper over the computer screens. I asked her to get the A4 magic whiteboards as these would be big enough to go over the screens (we had previously used the 'magic sticky notes' in class when doing rotations, translations etc).
When the teaching assistant returned, I showed a few of the students, who had initially asked how they were going to do the transformations on screen, what to do with the magic whiteboard sheets.

It wasn't long until the whole class had a sheet and whiteboard pen. After a brief demo at the front of the class the rest were working on their tasks. Here's what this looked like...

Using the magic whiteboards allowed my class to get on with the task where they otherwise would not have done so well.

Apart from one of the school's SLT coming in and almost having a heart attack when they seemingly saw my students drawing over the computer screens, the lesson continued as normal and plenty of revising was done.


Sunday, 2 March 2014

'alexpett's' GCSE Maths Topic Log

Just after the New Year I came across one of the best resources I have seen uploaded to the TES website. The resource is 'alexpett's' 'Maths Topic Log' which can be seen and downloaded here...


The resource is an EPIC one that I have been using with my 3rd set Y11 class since we returned to school in the New Year. The reason I have been using this resource with them is that following their mock results, where only a couple of students in the class achieved a C grade or above, I decided I needed to focus on the 'borderline' topics with them in order for them ALL to achieve Cs and above. This, I believe, was better for them than trying to teach them the higher topics where they may be able to pick up a few marks here and there. So, essentially (for now) I am putting the topics that appear at the back of the Higher Tier exam papers (A-A* topics) to one side, and focusing on the 'borderline' topics to ensure students can answer ALL of the questions in the 1st half of the paper...at least. This will allow them to get a C grade, if not a B grade, which would allow all the students in my class to hit their targets as none of them are above a grade B. Then, nearer their examinations, and through after-school revision sessions, I can cover the harder topics.

The resource, a formatted spreadsheet with over 40 topics (with included worksheets (tests) all hyperlinked from it), has therefore become the basis of our lessons since the start of term 2. In each of our lessons we start out by 'mindmapping' the topic we are studying, drawing on prior knowledge and covering misconceptions, or, the class are given a series of questions to attempt on the topic. I then go through the questions with the class and cover anything they hadn't covered before. On some occasions I have had to teach the topic 'fresh' as nothing has been forthcoming in the start of the lesson, in which case we sometimes have then to spread the topic over a series of lessons. After the starter, and input from myself, the class are then given the 'Test A' and 'Test B' for that lesson's topic. They work through the questions, some with support from my teaching assistants and I, and then we go through the answers together on the IWB and the class mark their work. I then take all their work in and update the spreadsheet to track how they are doing. In some of our lessons we only get time to do 'Test A', so 'Test B' is given as homework due in in our next lesson.

Here's how my current spreadsheet looks...

Obviously, I have taken my students' names out. As you can see from the xls each student's score is colour coded depending on how successful they were with each topic's test. There are also averages for each of the 4 areas of Mathematics.
There are a few 'gaps' as some students are out of some of our lessons due to college. Some 'Test Bs' are blank to due to h/w not being completed (sanctions applied accordingly!)

My class, since the start of term 2, have covered all of the 'number' and 'algebra' topics, including 2 or 3 of the 'shape, space and measure' and 'data handling' topics where I thought they fitted in well with the topics we had covered previously. So, with about 8 weeks left of teaching my Y11s we have the majority of the shape, space and measure topics and the data handling topics. Now, as we have had assessments in class since we started going through the topics on the resource, I have taken certain topics out that the class did well on as a whole as we would not have time otherwise to go through each topic on the resource. I also took out those topics we had already covered in the 1st term.

What I aim to do with the data is as follows...

On the other 'tab' at the bottom of the xls there is a worksheet where you can pull out individual student's results on each topic's tests. When the class start their examinations, and therefore do not come to school except when they have examinations, I will give each of them a breakdown of their results, which will help form the basis of their revision for their examinations in June.

Here's what the sheet looks like that I'll be giving each student...

You can see the topics this student has covered, and where there are gaps. These 'gaps' will be the lessons they missed through absence/college and so will need looking up/attempting. I have put all of the 'tests' on the school's VLE so all students can already access them at home (I have had some [a few] come back from students that missed the lesson on that topic, but took the initiative to do them at home to catch up).

I will advise students as to which topics are the ones they should focus on (especially if there are a few 'redish' ones). For this student they'd need to look up their knowledge of indices, FDP and probably standard form too.

What I love about the resource (the spreadsheet and the hyperlinked worksheets) is that my students have really taken to our lessons this term. I was worried that they would get 'bored' with our lessons, but they have liked the consistency and format of them. They know what they are going to be doing in each lesson and more importantly, what is expected of them - they know they will need to copy notes/examples from the board in the initial part of the lesson and that they will have to complete both tests in the lesson (or complete for h/w [something they'll do as much as they can to avoid]).

Here's what the 'tests' look like (these are the 'angles in polygons' sheets I will be covering with my class tomorrow)...


Each 'test' is out of 10 marks and look very similar to the questions the students will be asked to answer in their examinations. This is important as when we go over the answers in class I take the students through where they get each of the marks and what the examiners will be looking for in certain cases. It also allows me to go over the 'examination terminology' with the words like 'explain', 'justify', 'solve', 'simplify' etc and what they actually mean for the students.

I can only speak highly of the resource above and recommend it to anyone that teaches a 'borderline' GCSE group. As 'alexpett' states in the description of his resource, it is a 'work in progress', which must only mean there is even more to come from it.

I recently did an assessment in class with my 3rd set (we gave them a non-calculator, linear, higher past paper). Over half of the class are now on a C grade or above and this must be down, in part at least, to the use of this resource in our lessons since the start of term 2.

So, THANK YOU VERY MUCH 'alexpett'!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Y11 Higher Homework Sheets

Prior to starting at my school in September last year I was asked by my HoD to find/produce some homework sheets aimed at the higher tier students in Y11.
Now, there are plenty of these type of revision sheets available on the TES, but I wanted to set up my own to cover certain topics I feel are important to achieve certain grades and have some sheets that would be both non-calculator and calculator.

So, I initially set up some grade C-B sheets to give to our higher tier Y11 students. The aim here was that they would be given a sheet a week and the sheets alternated between non-calculator homeworks and calculator homeworks. The odd numbered sheets therefore became non-calc and the even numbers calc h/ws. The other aim with these sheets was that they would re-jog the memories of students who may have forgotten certain topics they had learnt last year and would allow them to keep these C/B grade topics fresh in their minds as they learnt the higher graded topics in class.

To access the sheets click this link ---> http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/Y11-Higher-C-B-Grade-Homework-Sheets-6353581/ (where you can download them from my TES resources). All answers included!

The sheets get slightly harder as they progress and I have seen this reflected in the marks my students achieved on the sheets as the weeks progressed. So, it was difficult to see if progression was being made as the questions were getting harder as the sheet numbers increased. However, for the top end students the marks did not fluctuate much.

I gave these sheets to both my top set Y11 class and my 3rd set class (D/C borderline). I found that the 3rd set class struggled with the sheets somewhat and that some of the topics they had not been taught before. So, in order to support them, I started to create videos that I uploaded to my YouTube Channel (mrcollinsmaths). I have now created a 'tutorial' video for each of the topics that appear on the non-calc (odd numbered) sheets. On these videos I go through the topic, briefly, and then give students example questions to attempt before revealing the answers. The hope then being that they'll be able to then complete the questions on the sheet or come and seek further explanation form me in our after-school revision sessions. I will do the same for the calculator topics when I find more time!

You can see all the 20 non-calc tutorial videos by clicking on the below link where a playlist of the 20 topics/vids will start playing...


I am still using these sheets with my set 3 Y11 class, however my top set Y11 are now progressing to a point where I'm hoping they'll all be able to get As/A*s. So, this week, I set up another document with homework sheets for my top set class to be given each week leading up to their GCSEs. These homeworks focus mainly on A and A* topics with a few trickier B grade topics they've struggled with in past papers etc.

The topics covered on these sheets are:
Surds, Bounds, Indices, Direct and Inverse Proportion, Algebraic Fractions, Standard Form, Simultaneous Equations (linear and quadratic/circle), Probability (without replacement), Factorising where the coefficient of the x squared term is greater than 1 and Recurring Decimals.

You can download these sheets from my TES resources by going to:

I haven't got round to doing the answers for these yet, but will upload the answers file to the resource when I have done them.

I hope these sheets are useful to others as they have been to me and my students. Let me know if you use them/have any suggestions for improvements etc.

N.B. I wanted to include other topics but due to needing diagrams or charts etc I decided to keep the majority of topics to number and algebra and so there's not too much shape, space and measure or data handling here.

What's Your Favourite Button on a Calculator?

On Monday, when we return to school after a relaxing half-term, I will be starting a mentoring 'role' with one of the ITTs my school are taking on for the next 10 weeks. Now, this was something I wanted to do at the start of this year, but as I do not yet have the required amount of experience for the ITT provider in our area it is something I had resigned to next school year when I am capable of undergoing the training officially. However, the week before half-term we received a phone call to say that we would be getting 2 ITTs after half-term and not just one as we had previously thought. So, I have been asked to support our department's ITT mentor with the mentoring role to our 2 ITTs. He will be the official mentor to our 2 ITTs, but I will be supporting him by holding meetings, observing lessons, and just being there for advice etc. So, in effect, I am an 'additional mentor', if you like, in an unofficial capacity.

Over the past week I have been getting my classes ready for when the ITTs take them over and so have been getting their class folders all up-to-date, marking their books, sorting out the schemes of work etc so they've got as much information as they could need when teaching the classes. As I have been doing this I got thinking about my own mentor on my GTP and how we held our meetings, how the observations went, what he said to me in feedback sessions and in general what and how he taught me.
Of the MANY, MANY things I was taught that year, my mentor once asked me what my favourite button on the calculator was. Now, this was something I had never thought of before and so I was intrigued as to what his was. My mentor's favourite button on the calculator is this little beauty...

The sexagesimal to decimal button!

As such it has since become my favourite too. The button, for those of you who don't know what it is/how it works, allows you to convert between sexagesimal and decimal values. So, when working with time calculations, or with degrees, you can use the button to convert a decimal to hours, minutes and seconds.

For example, if you were working out the time it took to run 12 miles at 8mph you would get an answer of 1.5 (hours). Then, by pressing the sexagesimal to decimal button, you get an answer of 1hr and 30 minutes. This answer is separated by the open circle, apostrophe and speech marks where 0 is given for the number of seconds.
You can also convert the other way. So if you wanted to know what 1 hour and 48 minutes was as a decimal you would type in 1, press the button above, 4, 8, the button above and then equals to get this displayed in sexagesimal form, then just press the button again to display it as a decimal (1.8 hours).

Prior to writing this post I looked up the online manual for my Casio calculator (others are, of course, available) and have since found lots of other things that can be done with the button, including adding and subtracting times:

For example, if you press...
1, button, 5, 2, button, +, 1, button, 2, 5, button, = ( 1 hour 52 mins + 1 hour 25 mins)
you will get an answer of...
3, open circle, 17, apostrophe, 0, speech mark (3 hours, 17 minutes, 0 seconds)!

There are lots more examples in the manual/appendix below!

These files can be found here...

There is usually a question on the GCSE papers that require students to work with some sort of time calculation. Whether it be a simple speed, distance, time calculation or a trickier question where a question is given in context that they have to work out.
When marking papers I have seen students write answers incorrectly when they do not realise that the decimal answers they get when working out time calculations do not correspond to the time in hours, minutes and seconds. A common misconception I have seen is when students write 1.25 hours as 1 hour and 25 minutes and not, as it should be, 1 hour and 15 minutes.

I know I wasn't taught how to use the sexagesimal to decimal button when I was at school and wonder what difference it would make to students if they were able to use the button correctly. Obviously, there is a need for students to know how to convert between hours, minutes and seconds etc, but if they are given the use of a calculator in an examination then that's what it is there for!

I know that my students need to become a lot more familiar with how to use their calculators, when working with trigonometry, geometry, fractions, powers, roots etc. It frustrates me so much when students can't even convert between a fractional answer and a decimal answer; I often get asked 'Sir, how do I get rid of this fraction' or 'Sir, I'm not getting what you've got on the board' (wrong setting [radians/degrees etc]).

So...I think this half-term I will set them a homework to explore one of the buttons on their calculator in greater detail. Get them to produce a poster about their chosen button with worked examples and diagrams of how they can/could use the button in their examinations.

My question to you then is this...What's your favourite button on a Calculator?!

Tweet me @mrprcollins or comment below...