The start of the new term brought with it the start of a new year and the chance to refocus my attention on certain classes and procedures I have in place. It also saw me finish teaching the Edexcel METHODS in Mathematics Unit 1 content to my Year 10 class.

Monday this past week I had one of my school's NQT sessions. The session was on using data effectively and what to do with the information about your classes you have at your disposal. At lot of the things discussed in this meeting I was either already doing or had done in the past but needed a timely reminder of them.

The 1st week back after the Christmas/New Year break saw my Year 10 class sit a mock Unit 1 paper. Having then marked all of these papers I started to think about what I should now do with the results from this mock and how I would best support my students improve on their results and achieve their target grades. Here's what I've been doing over the past week...

The first thing I did was to, on the front of each students paper, put a sticker (kindly given to me by my Mentor after discussing the assessments) with the students target grade and their grade from the paper itself. This made it very clear to the students how far they were off their target or whether they had achieved their target grade on the paper.

I then, taking the spreadsheet created by my mentor that she sent out to the whole department, typed in each students marks on a question by question breakdown basis. This allowed me to see, as a class, the questions that on the whole were done well and those that needed some further teaching. It also allowed me to put in a VLOOKUP formula to calculate the students' grades based on the grade boundaries for the paper. Then, in a discussion with my mentor following this analysis she recommended I work out a 'value added' column to see how far off/on/above targets the class were.

Having then completed a question breakdown analysis for each student I was able to see which questions I needed to take the class through as a whole and I did this with the class in the lesson that I gave the students their papers back. I gave them their papers with their grades, an AfL sheet which stated each question, the topic covered by that question, marks available and then a column for the students to rate their RAG for the question, write in the marks they got on each question and then a column for 'actions'. The 'actions' column was for them to think about how they are going to improve on the questions they did wrong. In addition to given them these AfL sheets I then went through with them the 2 questions on the paper that stood out as being done poorly as a class - this was the manipulating algebra questions (a lot of factorising). This made me think about how I had taught this topic originally and why the topic hadn't stuck in the students minds - was it because I hadn't taught it well enough? Was it because we covered that topic nearer the start of the school year and they'd just forgotten it?

I then told the students, for homework, to do 1 of two things. The first (following feedback from the NQT session) was to complete a survey I had set up for the class on www.surveymonkey.co.uk to give their honest opinion on our lessons so far this year, their grades, what they felt needed improving, what was going well, what activities they liked best in class etc. The second was to go to my YouTube Channel (mrcollinsmaths) and watch the solution videos I had created from their mock paper for the questions they did not answer correctly.

I will then discuss with them the results of the survey (some of their responses are as useful as they are brutally honest) in our lessons next week.

However, I did not feel this feedback was effective enough and wanted to focus more individually on questions the individuals needed to work on in the class - perhaps the questions they should have got right but didn't for whatever reason. So, I went back to the spreadsheet and filtered out the results by their marks. This then put the top of the class at the top of the sheet and the bottom of the class at the bottom. From this filtering I was then able to group the students by their results.

I then aimed to do a group work lesson whereby I sat students according to their results in the mock paper. The interesting thing about doing this was that when I was grouping the students into groups of 6 (the top 6 students being in group 1, the second 6 students being in group 2 and so on) I was starting to notice patterns in the questions they got incorrect or scored low marks on. Pretty much in each 'groups' case there were one or two questions that these students all got wrong. So I decided that I would differentiate the tasks for each group based on these questions they all got incorrect. This then meant that in the 5 groups I had set up each group had 2 tasks to work on relating to 2 questions they got wrong in the mock paper. There was a clear level of increasing difficulty to the questions as you went from group 5 to 1, with a few overlaps in the groups. For example group 2 and 3 had 1 task that was the same (forming expressions and solving equations) and group 1 and 2 both had a factorisation task. I used tarsia puzzles and pre-prepared worksheets for each group so they could all support each other on the tasks.

Here's the resources I prepared and how I set up my room:

I gave each group a magic whiteboard www.magicwhiteboard.co.uk to work on and whiteboard pens/resources were on each table at the start of the lesson. The groupings were up on the board as the students came in and my number tiles were on the tables to direct them to the appropriate group. I explained at the start of the lesson why I had set the groups up in the way I had and that my intention was that each student was able to answer 1/2 questions from the mock paper at the end of the lesson that they weren't able to in their actual assessment. As the lesson progressed the great thing I found was that the top 2 groups were, for the first part of the lesson took care of themselves and were able to get straight on with the tasks they were given. This allowed me to go straight to groups 3 and 4 initially and give them support at their table so they were able to complete their tasks. Group 5 were busy at this point cutting out their tarsia puzzles and this allowed me the time to get to the other groups. When I finished explaining to groups 2 and 3 and covered any questions they had they were then able to get on with their tasks. I sat with group 5 and checked they knew what they had to do (HCF and LCM) before then going to group 2 and 1 and giving them my input to move them on to the harder of the tasks they were given, this for group 1 meant going through factorising quadratic equations (coefficient of the x^2 term > 1) at the IWB (I purposefully sat them at the front for this reason).

At the end of the lesson I got students to revisit their AfL tracker sheets from the lesson before and fill in whether they felt more confident on their RAG scale and whether they now knew how to do the tasks they were set. I could see progress in the lesson as the groups had either completed their tarsia puzzles or completed their w/sheets, moved on to other tasks given at the IWB etc.

Here's a pic of group 5's completed tarsia on Prime Factor Decomposition (their 2nd task)...

The class worked well throughout the lesson and I feel had I not done this differentiated group work lesson that the students wouldn't have had sufficient feedback from their mock paper and wouldn't have known where they went wrong with at least a few of the questions. This also meant that they would now, if taking the paper again, would pick up more marks than they originally did, therefore improving their score.

The final thing I have thought about doing is, again after discussing the class with my mentor, set up a 'focus group' of those students who are significantly below their target grade. I already have students in a seating plan according to their target grades - in the hope that students on similar targets support each other achieve their similar goals, but also need to focus some more of my attention on 3-5 of the students that need an extra boost to achieve their targets.

I have informed the class of extra support sessions from me after school that are available and will be discussing this week with those students that are in this new 'focus group' about attending these sessions and will also aim to get their parents involved as I know they are supportive and will encourage them to attend the sessions.

I will blog more about this class in the future, after I have fed back the survey results, had a few of the after school sessions and thought more about how I can revisit some of the unit 1 topics whilst teaching the unit 2 content of the METHODS in Mathematics.

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