Saturday, 17 January 2015

Takeaway Homework 2015

If you are unfamiliar with my 'takeaway homework' (twenty seven) then please read these ( & ( posts before reading on. Thanks :)

Last term I decided to leave doing 'takeaway homeworks' with my classes for a few reasons...

My Y11s need to do more exam practice and revision of those topics they've not covered for a while and need refreshing. As for my other classes, well they're all new to me so I felt I needed to get my processes and expectations in place first before setting them off on the takeaway homeworks. A simple worksheet or mymaths task is far easier to explain and to collect in/track etc.

So, now we're in term 2 and all my classes are settled, I have introduced my 'twenty seven' menu to my Year 9s. I'm still keeping my Y11s focused on revision, and my other classes are being taken by the ITTs I'm mentoring!

As I'm using my iPad ('iDoceo' app) to track/plan everything this year it has been even easier for me to take in their homeworks and keep track of the amount of chillies each student is earning. I have a separate sheet for tracking chillies and I can quickly take photos of students' homeworks which then store on my iPad for my future use (especially those that I can't collect in as they're a 'work in progress', or if they're written in their books and I'm not taking in their books that week).

I've had some great pieces of work in this week (first hand in). I said to both my Y9 classes that I will be putting my 'top 5' (at least) on my takeaway homework display (see below) and I will aim to update this each week. Also, each student who gets their work on display will receive reward points and a postcard home (we do these each fortnight in our department).

Here's my takeaway homework display, with examples from last year...

You can see I've left plenty of space to add new pieces of work.

Here are my 'top 5' for this week...

 Here's a set of Top Trump cards, with lots of fractions -> decimal conversions on them. Not only did this student create their own cards, but they also included a set of instructions as to how to play the game and some 'points cards' to give out whilst playing the game for the winner of each round...nice!
This student created a quick 10 questions (all basic numeracy) and included the answers in the folded sheet of paper attached to the question sheet. I like this as it could be given to any other member of their class to do and they could check their answers after completing the questions.
 This student created this 'Year 9 Maths Exam'. They included 10 questions (all based on what we had been doing in class the previous few weeks before the xmas holidays [this is what impressed me most]) and even took the time to bind the paper with some colourful post-it type notes.
 The amount of effort shown here blew me away. This student created over 30 cue cards of key words that they had covered in their mathematics lessons both past and present. Each card had been made by sticking two bits of paper back to back. The key word on one side, its' definition on the other. Brilliant!
This student also exceeded my expectations by producing 2 pieces of homework in the first week. Both pieces were good enough to make my 'top 5' in their own right. The first is an excellent '2 truths and a lie' on probability tree diagrams that we have been covering, all worked out correctly, answer on the back too. The 2nd piece was a lovely '4 pics 1 word', with added 'flaps' to reveal letters to help people guess the word or take letters away from those given to narrow the choice of what letters could be in the word and also, colourful pictures (not just some copied off the Internet from existing words from the app).

In addition to the above, excellent pieces of work, I have some tweets that i will be putting up on my twitter display and a 'hexaflexagon' to add to the others on the display to show other students what they are (I always get asked what that one is). I've again been pleased with the reaction from my students to the concept of the takeaway homeworks and some students have already pre-planned what tasks they are going to do over this half term to ensure they've handed in at least 12 chillies by Feb half-term and at least 1 chilli handed in each week (these are my expectations).

I am doing a training session to staff later this half term on the takeaway homework concept and will be using these examples to show them what great work students can produce when given the option.

I do, though, still feel that I would balance the time when my students get the takeaway homeworks and when they get 'normal' homework tasks. This is because 1) I don't want the takeaway homeworks to lose their impact (students enjoy doing them currently) and 2) there is still a need for students to do the simple worksheets of practice questions and mymaths tasks. A happy balance of the two is needed. So, after half term, we may go back to 'normal' homeworks and then reintroduce the takeaway homeworks in term 3?!

If anyone has any other suggestions/comments on takeaway homeworks then please comment below, or contact me on twitter. I'll take all into consideration when planning my training session.

Thanks once again to @TeacherToolkit for the idea and his book.

New Year...New Displays

Happy New Year everyone! I know, I know...I'm a little late. I keep meaning to blog far more than I find the time for these days, but I will endeavour to increase the amount of posts this year, compared to last. I have a lot of exciting 'mathsy' things coming up this year and so I should have lots to share with everyone. Watch this space (please).

So, it's a new year, which means a new term and along with it...time to change my displays. Now, a favourite display of mine is, of course, the 'Year Problem'. I have used the same resources I used last year (uploaded to the TES by @c0mplexnumber --> Check out her display here (it's way far better than mine)! However, last year I put the display up in the corridor outside my classroom, hoping it'd attract attention from other classes and more students would join in the problem. As much as lots of people (including our Head) commented on it, most of the work was done by my classes. Plus, everytime one of my students got an answer I had to pop my head round the corner to right it on the display. This also meant my classes couldn't see (without going outside the classroom), which numbers had already been completed and which they cold still try and get. Given all the above, I decided to put the display in my classroom this year, and sent the ppt in Clarissa's resources round to all our tutor groups to attempt the puzzle in tutor time, sending solutions to me via their form tutors.
The puzzle has worked far better this year as it's in my classroom. My Y11 set 1 students have particularly been enthused by it, especially when we were working through trig graphs and they could use the inverse trig functions to get sin^-1(1) = 90 and tan^-1 (1) = 45 to get other numbers they had previously not found. Here was the display prior to it being introduced to my classes...

Here it is now (almost complete!)...

We only have the numbers 67 and 68 left to find...maybe they can't be done...?

All of the students that have put forward a solution will be getting reward points (1 for each correct solution).

The other display I put up this term (replacing my 'A Very Mathsy Xmas' display) was one I was inspired by on Twitter. I saw the following tweet over the xmas holidays. How I didn't see it beforehand I don't know! I went on over to Kerry Tait @misstait_85's blog to get more info as to what she put on her display and downloaded lots of the templates she put up on there too. Check it out here.

Here's my 'Finished?' display...

There are 7 tasks my students can choose from:

1) Multiplication - basic multiplication grids to practice their basic times tables
2) 5-a-day - a selection of's 5-a-day resources
3) Tweet Me - tweet templates from Kerry's blog. These have been very useful for my 'takeaway homeworks' too as kids can just get a quick template to use for their homework.
4) Plenary Sticks - one of my new resources, coming to the TES soon! More on this later.
5) Challenges - I took the nrich puzzles from my 'A Very Mathsy Xmas' display and put these in this folder
6) Learning Triangles - from Kerry's blog
7) Gimme 5 - from Kerry's blog

I think the display looks pretty cool, The advantage of it being on the room divider is that I can move it around the room too if needed to put it in more prominent spaces, or into my 'room in the side of my room, room' for students who have finished to have a bit of space to work in away from other students still working.

Finally, I've been shopping on one of my favourite websites again...

I've got myself some new A4 sized blackboards and chalkboard pens. I've started putting up revision posters for my Y11s (set 1 and set 4). Here's one I put together on expressing one number as a percentage of another...

The pens work on the windows too...they can be revising maths whilst in the playground (I'm getting pretty good at writing backwards)!

Friday, 5 December 2014

A Very Mathsy Xmas

Well the countdown to Christmas is here and that calls for a few Christmaths activities in the last few weeks of the term...

The first of these is my 'A Very Mathsy Xmas' display, which is basically a Mathematical advent calendar of the wonderful puzzles (posters) from the nrich website. A link to all these puzzles is below:

I selected a few of these puzzles that were suitable for all of my classes, or were one of these 'low access high challenge' tasks! I printed them out and then got some coloured card to put over the top to hide them before each day is revealed. I plan to catch up on the weekend days on the Monday of each week, and we may do the days we'll miss (20-24) in the last week of term too. I saved the puzzles I chose in a folder so when each day is revealed I can get the puzzle up on the board to discuss as a class.
Each day I choose a student from my 1st class to open the 'window' on the calendar for that day and then my other classes see the puzzle when they come in.
I've been really pleased with the reaction to the calendar and the puzzles, there's been a student each day so far that's asked to open that day's 'window' (some of them have seen it as a privilege to open a day as there's so few of them [compared to the number of students I have]) and the discussions we've had as a class in terms of how to approach each question, and then the solutions, have been really encouraging too.

Here's the display...

I used a nice 'snowy' font I found on the web a while back to do the title for the display.
Here's how it looks from the front of my classroom

In addition to the 'A Very Mathsy Xmas' display I have also, today, sent round this month's numeracy puzzle(s) of the week to all our tutor groups.

If you've read my previous posts on numeracy you'll know I'm a big fan of, and use, Emily Hughes @ilovemathsgames's blog and numeracy puzzles that I send round to our tutor groups. So, using the same format that I use for these, I sent round this month's set. I decided to make a bit more of a competition out of the puzzles this month, being it the run in to xmas. So, I found on Don Steward's amazing 'Median' blog the following puzzles...

I have given our tutor groups the challenge of seeing how many of the 24 puzzles they can answer correctly by the last Weds of term. I like the link to the advent calendar here! The tutor group with the most correct answers will receive a chocolaty Christmaths prize on the last day of term. If there's a tie, I'll be sending a 'tiebreaker' question to the involved tutor groups.

Here's the ppt I've sent round...

Title slide with our Numeracy Across the Curriculum Logo on it and details of the competition.

Don Steward's puzzles (see link above)

No doubt 'The Pirate Game' will also make an appearance at some point in the last week of term and in other news...I'm currently organising a Dodgeball tournament for our Year 10s (I'm a Year 10 tutor) on the last day of term!
I hope everyone who's reading this has a fantastic last few weeks of term...and an even better xmas holiday period! See you in the new year (if not before).

Thursday, 30 October 2014

A Frenzy of Marking: 'Progress Over Time'

The first half term of the school year has seen us embark on a newer emphasis on 'progress over time' and a need for students' exercise books to be glistening with not only marked work, but 'learning dialogues/conversations' including students' responses to our WWW/EBI comments. This, is also (as I found out in an observation the last week of the half term), coupled with students needing to show knowledge of their previous learning when quizzed during the lesson observation by my observers: if they can't answer their on-the-spot questions on what they've previously covered, learning mustn't have been consolidated!

Over the past week I have read many different thoughts on the latest frenzy and none more so than @TeacherToolkit's fantastic 'The Marking Frenzy' post here. Ross' post sums up what I have experienced so I will not repeat it here.

In addition to Ross' post, I also came across @adil_3's post on his marking stickers, see his post here. I am a big fan of stickers and stampers to help my marking and found these a fantastic addition to my marking arsenal. The pre-designed stickers on Adil's blog are great and I plan on using most of them when marking students' books after half-term. I will, like Adil plans to do, make a note of any impact they have, both in terms of speeding up my marking and the students' understanding of them and acting upon them. I have since bought some blank 25mm template stickers from the link on Adil's page and have started to create some more of my own to use as EBI statements when marking students' books. The idea being that these stickers would save me writing the same statements over and over again in students' books. Statements like...

'remember to round your answers to the stated degree of accuracy'
'don't forget the order of operations (BIDMAS)'
'check your workings'
'estimate your answer first to check if your final answer is sensible or not'
'read the question!'
'give your answers in terms of Pi'
'write down all of your workings'
'see me to explain this further'

So, rather than writing these each time, I will replace them with the relevant sticker under the EBI part of my stamper and then refer students to a poster I will make with all possible stickers and their meanings - students can then write the comments in themselves or use the meanings to write their INT ('I Need To') statements, which are the holy grail at present!

Here are some of the stickers I have created...

 This page includes:

Round your answers
Give your answers in terms of Pi (for my higher set Y11 class)
Is your answer sensible - estimate first

 This page includes:

Remember the order of operations (BIDMAS) - thanks to @MrReddyMaths for this image!
Read the question
Show all your workings
This page includes the 'see me' sticker for more help - for those students who seem to have completely misunderstood in class or have done very little work
 This page includes all the stickers I first tried out the template with (including)...

check your times tables
show your workings
show/check the units of your answers
check your angles/angle facts
use a pair of compasses/construct accurately
use my YouTube Channel (mrcollinsmaths)
Come to Maths Club

The template I used to create all of the above (and so that they print *nearly* perfectly onto the sticker sheets) was tweeted out by @LoundDarren and can be found here.

I'm looking forward to seeing how these stickers will work with my students and will hope it compliments the ways I am already trying to improve the feedback I give my students in their exercise books. We have a whole school literacy marking policy and so I'll continue to underline misspelled words and write 'sp' in the margins etc. We also have presentation guidelines we've had to drum into students heads too and so the stickers Adil has created in his post above will help reinforce the title, date, margins, pencils for diagrams etc expectations too.

If anybody thinks of any other common mistakes and comments Mathematics teachers end up writing in books - let me know...

@mrprcollins or comment below! :)

Monday, 25 August 2014

Constructions resources using 'Comic Life'

If you've read my previous blog post on 'Comic Life' you will have seen my 1st attempt at creating a 'comic' using the app. I mentioned in that post that I intended to create some constructions resources using the app and here they are!

It took a while for me to do all the constructions, taking photos at each 'step' in the process. I then used these photos to create the 'comics'. I initially did the perpendicular/angle type constructions and then later created the triangle constructions. Here's what I've created...

Front cover
 Perpendicular Bisector
 Angle Bisector
 Constructing a 60 degree angle
 Triangle Constructions Front Cover
 SSS triangle
 SAS triangle
ASA triangle
So, there they all are. I love them! I tried to make them all similar in their design and layout and just changed the number of photos depending on the number of 'steps' I photographed when completing them. The more I've used the 'Comic Life' app the more I love it too. I'm now adding lots more elements to the comics as I create them and are using a lot more of the features in the app. It's so easy to copy objects from one comic to another and this sped up my creation of the comics.

Now, this is all good and well, but how do I intend to use them I hear you say? Well, here's some ideas I've had so far.

1) As they look so great I thought about printing them out and laminating them to go up on display in my room - students can then look at and read through them, be inspired by them etc.

2) Print and laminate them to be used as a group activity when the topic comes up in the SoW. Each small group could be given one of the constructions/comics and work through them to create their own version of each construction, then rotate round to the next construction/comic.

3) They could be used as extension activities for students that finish topics such as basic angle work, congruence/similarity etc.

4) They could be made into small booklets (comics) for Y11 students to use for their revision - I often find that the constructions are easily forgotten by students.

There are bound to be other ways in which I can use them. They can, of course, just be used as a series of instructions for individual students to reproduce, or to give to those students that need further support after I have taught the class how to do them as a whole group. If anyone has any other ideas let me know via Twitter @mrprcollins or by commenting below.

I plan on creating more of these so watch this space for updates...

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Comic Life

Earlier this month I blogged about the iPad apps I was intending to use in the new school year. One of those apps that I was yet to download was 'Comic Life' - an app that allows you to create your own comics!

Having seen a few people on Twitter tweeting links to their recently produced resources I was reminded that I should really look into getting the app. Check out the official Comic Life Twitter account (@comiclife) for loads of retweets from other teachers using the app. In particular I was inspired by @CreativeNorton and @CreativePhysEd.

Before I downloaded (and bought) the app [currently £2.99], I checked out a few videos on YouTube as to what could be done and just to get a feel of how easy it was to create the comics. These were really useful and confirmed that I needed to get the app!

I also already had a reason to get the app - I wanted to create a poster for my classroom to go on my tutor noticeboard to remind my tutor group of the basic expectations in regards to their uniform, equipment and use of the school's planner.

Once the app had downloaded I read the 'getting started' guide, which was brief and simple enough; it confirmed what I had seen on the YouTube videos. I tried, in this 'comic', to export it to see how I could then use the comics once created. I was extremely pleased at the ease of opening the comic in pretty much any of the other apps I already had downloaded. It opened in Dropbox as a pdf, which was exactly the thing I was hoping it would do, but didn't have this confirmed in the app description on iTunes. It opened in Adobe Reader (obviously, as it's saved as a pdf file). It also opens in 'Skitch' which then allowed me to add the effects in my 1st comic (see below).
There are plenty of other things you can do with the comics too, but for what I intend to use it for, the above is good enough for me.

Being a bit of Marvel/DC comic geek I opted for the 'Retro' template, of which there are about 10 to choose from. I changed the 'template' texts and re-sized/positioned them as I wanted. Adding photos from my photo library was so easy it meant I was able to spend more time getting the layout to look exactly as I wanted. The thing that impressed me most was that the photos, when inserted, fit to the bordered boxes. By this, I mean that if you have part of your photo overlapping the bordered boxes, after having resized your photo accordingly, the app automatically 'trims' the photo so all you see is the part of the photo inside the bordered boxes.
The speech bubbles are great too and there's a wide variety of bubbles to choose from. I, by chance, came across the ability to add an extra 'tail' to the speech bubbles, meaning that more than 1 person could say/think things - I used this in my 1st comic (see below).
It's really easy to change the fonts of texts and there's plenty of comic type fonts and designs to play around with - great for the comic geek within.

There's loads of features within the app that I am yet to use/explore such as the shapes, different layouts and templates you can use etc.

Here's my 1st comic (poster) that I created to put on my tutor noticeboard...

I used my 'Skitch' app to blur out our Head Boy and Head Girl and like the fact that I can open the comic in this app to tweak things where needed.

Yes, that is my gormless face in the bottom-right corner.

The main messages I wanted to get over to the students were to:
1) have their planner on their desk during tutor time (and in their lessons)
2) ensure they're uniform is top notch (as modelled by our HB and HG)
3) ensure they have the correct equipment - prices from our school shop included here for their reference

I'm really pleased with how good the comic (poster) has turned out and am sure this will look great on our noticeboard. It's bound to draw students' attention toward it and therefore they'll actually read it!

I'm now thinking of other things I can use the app for...

I want to create some comics/posters for topics like constructions. I would create step-by-step instructions to performing each different type of construction - perpendicular bisector, perpendicular to a point on a line, perpendicular from a point to a line, angle bisector, constructing SAS, SSS and ASA triangles etc. I think these would work great in the style above as students can read the instructions/follow the images to help them.
This may also work well with the transformations - enlargements, translations, reflections and rotations and transformations of functions for the higher ability students - y = af(x), y = f(ax), y = f(x) + a and y = f(x + a).

It could work for any topic really, but especially with those that lend themselves to being a bit more instructional and having to 'show'/'model' to students how to do/perform them.

I'm really impressed with the app and how straight forward it is to use. I look forward to creating more comics and will, of course, share them in due this space!

Comment below or tweet me @mrprcollins if you're a teacher who is using Comic Life.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

#poundlandpedagogy - ready for the new school year

If you're anything like me, a lot of the Summer holidays are spent seeking out bargains for the new school year. Whenever I'm out and about I can't help but think of what I might need in my classroom next year, or how something could be used. This week has been one of those weeks. We went to Ikea and I really had to stop myself buying items that, although they might look good, wouldn't have much 'educational value'. But, today, I found myself in the local 'Poundland' and 'Wilkinsons' purchasing a few items that I had been inspired to get/found a purposeful use for next year.

In the true spirit of #poundlandpedagogy, here are my bargain buys and how I intend to use them this coming school year...
(check out the hashtag above for other fantastic ideas that other teachers have) [thanks to @WallaceIsabella for creating this phenomenon]

I've been looking for something like this since the back end of last year when I was doing my numeracy puzzle(s) of the week with my tutor group - check out my recent numeracy across the curriculum post here. I was getting fed up of having to find spare bits of scrap paper for them to work on during tutor time and, without the budget to get them their own exercise book, was looking for some small notepads that they could use instead.

I found these note books (a pack of 8 for £1) from 'Poundland' and they are pretty much what I was thinking of. I bought 4 packs of these so each one of my tutor group has their own note pad to use throughout the year.

These will come in handy for weekly discussions, numeracy puzzles, literacy tasks etc etc. I will keep them in our room so that 1) the kids don't lose them 2) I can look at what they've done and 3) I can easily hand them out on a daily basis when needed.

Here's what the note pads look like out of the packets. There are 50 pages per note pad, which should be more than enough. Plus, if I need to kill any time during tutor time in the 1st week back I'll be sorted - personalise your note pad!

The only foreseeable problem...fighting over what colour each person gets!

The next idea I got whilst visiting my fiance's school/classroom yesterday and helping her set up her displays etc (yep, I had nothing better to do).
On a separate note, I'd be interested to know how many teachers are able to go into school (if they want to) over the Summer holidays? My school is closed throughout the whole of August (except results day) and so I'm not able to go in even if I wanted to. Whereas my fiance's school is open throughout the holidays between 9am-3pm. Let me know via Twitter (@mrprcollins) or by commenting below.
When helping set up her classroom I noticed she had a load of bulldog clips on nails that were hammered into the wall. I asked what she used them for and she said that was where students kept their 'works in progress'. Being a DT teacher she often has students that are partway through a project and to keep all their work in one place they clip them onto the bulldog clips and were kept there until next lesson. I believe she used this process with a single class (maybe her GCSE class)? What I liked about this is that all her other classes, and classes of other teachers using her room, would see the work on display and the development of it over time.
I've decided to magpie this idea and tweak it for my #takeawayhomework display. To read more about the takeaway homework I use with my classes click here and here. What I intend to do is, on my display board that I've set aside for the takeaway homework I will put up some of the bulldog clips, with some 'backing paper' ready to hold in place examples of fantastic homework that I receive/have received so far. So I got some bulldog clips and backing paper from 'Poundland' today...

Here's her 'work in progress' display with the bulldog clips and backing paper ready for her students' work... recent purchases from 'Poundland'. I will pin up about 5/6 pieces of homework and then complete the display with my takeaway homework menu and some other examples that can't be clipped up - things like the foldables, tweets, trump cards etc.

Next, an actual purchase from Ikea - my new organiser/whiteboard and some added whiteboard pens from 'Poundland'. The one thing I did buy from Ikea (only £2.25) was a noticeboard that doubles as both a whiteboard and a pin board. The whiteboard section is, conveniently, split into 7 sections (I'm assuming 1 for each day of the week). Now this, for me, is ideal as I have 6 Mathematics classes next year and my tutor group. So for each section I intend on writing up important information for each class on a regular basis. I used to do this using the magicwhiteboard A4 sheets that I stuck up on my windows, but I didn't update them as much as I could have. The whiteboard will be hung up somewhere visible to students and myself and I will aim to put the following under each class' section: homework details/deadlines, important dates (assessments etc) and pupil(s) of the week. Here's the board...

In addition to the board I stocked up on some whiteboard pens from 'Poundland'. They seem to work fine and you get 5 for £1, all different colours too. I'm forever running out of these and our departmental supplies constantly run low. So, in an attempt to avoid constantly bothering our faculty assistant for whiteboard pens, I figured I'd get some spares to keep my students going for a while!

Finally, another great find today came from 'Wilkinsons' in the form of index cards or cue cards (whatever you refer to them as). I got some of these last year to use as a starter/plenary task - 'my favourite no'. Check out this link/video for a full explanation on the task (it's well worth it). This was an idea I found on the web last Summer and the task works fantastically well! The only drawback was that wherever I had looked in the past for index cards they seemed to be £4/£5 a pack, which was far too much!

These index cards (50) from Wilkinsons cost just 75p each and so I got a few packs of these to use with the 'my favourite no' task. I'll get students to do use both sides of the cards and might even cut them in half so I get as much use out of them as I can.

There we have it, my recent haul of stationary to prepare for the new school year. Be sure to tweet your #poundlandpedagogy finds and uses and tweet me @mrprcollins, or comment below, if you think of other productive ways I could use the items I bought today.

Having just linked the hashtag above I've already found another teacher @TheMathsMagpie who has used sponges bought from 'B&Q' to create whiteboard rubbers for her mini whiteboards...

Great for my next trip to the shops!