Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Probability Lesson & NQT Final Assessment

For my official, and final, NQT observation/assessment I was told that I would be observed on May 10th and that my NQT assessor could come into any of my 4 lessons I had on that day. This meant that I spent a fair amount of time the weekend before ensuring that my lessons were planned and I had all my resources ready to go regardless of what lesson my assessor would be popping in.

A quick tip for any NQT/PGCE/ITT starting in September...for any official observation make sure you give your assessor/observing everything they could possibly need for that lesson. This includes lesson plan, seating plan, class list, assessment results or scans of your mark book and copies of all the resources you'd be using that lessons. This way the see that you've clearly prepared for the lesson, have thought about what they need to see and they then should be able to see previous class results and link these to your lesson objectives and context for the lesson being observed. Also, have the class' books handy to show progression over time and marking - this all goes down well too!

On the day, I e-mailed my assessor just to say I looked forward to seeing them at some point that day (a gentle reminder). I then received a reply saying that the plan was for them to come and see me P2 (year 7). P2 came and went and I still hadn't seen my assessor. P3 was when they actually turned up and this lesson was with Year 8. A lesson on probability following their recent assessments. I don't know at this point if the statement of what lesson they'd be coming in was a 'test' of some sort, or whether it was just a matter of circumstance...I'm inclined to believe the latter.

Anyway, the lesson that was observed...I received an 'outstanding' grading for the lesson and so I thought it was worth sharing, and for my own personal teaching reflecting on and remembering for the future.

I knew the lesson I would be doing with this class (set 5 year 8) would be on probability following their recent assessment where the probability questions were not done particularly well - so I wanted to address this area of weakness. Now, even in my short time as a Mathematics teacher, I have used many different ideas/activities when teaching the topic of probability and its one of those topics that Mathematics teachers enjoy teaching in all manner of different ways. In the past I've done the Monty Hall problem, the horse race, watched Derren Brown's television shows, done a 'Maths Vegas' themed lesson and even observed other teachers using 'gambling' as a resource by 'betting' (fake 'money') on 'wacky races'. I decided to keep things a bit simpler this time round as I wanted my students to be comfortable with the vocabulary used in Probability and mainly, how to write a probability.

Here's my 5 Min Mathematics Lesson Plan for the observation (yes, this was perfectly acceptable for my final NQT lesson observation)...

This lesson plan was adapted by @ilovemathsgames from @TeacherToolkit's original 5 Min Lesson Plan. Both can be found on their respective Twitter pages/tweets and on the TES.


Before the lesson started I set out my classroom so that all of my 9 students (yes, I only had 9 students in my set 5 year 8 class) were sat around a single grouped set of tables. I then laid out the cheap paper tablecloths I got as part of my experimentation with #poundlandpedagogy. My aim with this was that the students would write on the table cloths throughout the lesson, rather than in their exercise books. The table (and cloth) were then added to with whiteboard pens and felt tip pens for the kids to use throughout the lesson.

The lesson started with an image of the answer/s to one page of their recent assessment (putting the lesson in context) with the particular question I wanted to address, the probability question, circled.

In addition to the image on the board I then started to introduce the lesson to the students as they got sat down. I showed them a bag, in which there were 11 multilink cubes of various colours and 1 'fruitella' sweet. I asked the students to write down any key words as they were said throughout the 1st task (and lesson on the whole). I then started to ask students to pick at random, from the bag a multilink cube. At this point they had no idea what was in the bag or what colours the cubes were, how many cubes there were etc. The point of this was to see if they could come up with an estimate for how many of each colour there were based on each students' picked item/cube. I went round the table after each student asking questions such as 'what do you think the chance/likelihood/probability is of that colour coming up?', 'is that colour more or less likely than another?', 'do you think the probability of that colour being picked is more than 1 in 2?' why? why not? etc.

After each student had had a go, and none of them had picked the sweet, I revealed to them all the contents of the bag. Throughout the task they had been writing down, on the table cloth/table the results of each student's picks. We then compared, after a brief moment of shock at the fact there was a sweet in the bag, the results with the actual items in the bag. Here I checked their understanding of how we express probabilities by asking what the probability was of each colour coming up. I then checked this further by going through 2 slides on my notebook file I created for the lesson...

 As you can see I checked here whether the class were able to express a probability as a fraction, revealing the convention when a few struggled. We also discussed here that probabilities of as single event occurring add to 1.
 To provide a link into the main activity I then did a similar thing with a dice rather than a bag of marbles to show that regardless of the event the conventions stay the same in terms of how we express probabilities. The dice on this slide is an interactive tool that when clicked 'rolls' the dice to generate a number - really useful. I got this off the TES somewhere but can't remember the particular resource. If it's yours let me know so I can link to it!

After this checking (mini plenary if you like) I set up the main activity by revealing the lesson objectives, showing what we had already covered and what we were going to look at next. I then explained the main task and gave out the dice and counters for the class to use. The main task consisted of each student individually rolling 2 dice. The numbers rolled on each dice would then determine which of 3 counters they would move up a space on the strips of paper they were given. If they rolled two even numbers one of the markers would move, two odd numbers a different counter and if one was odd and one was even they were to move the other (and final) counter. The winner was the one that got to the final 'square' on their strips. Here's the slide and image of the strips they were given to use...

The instructions, which some of the students found tricky to understand 1st time, were left on the board and reinforced to those that needed it. I worked with one student as I didn't have my LSA with me that lesson and they needed a bit of further support to get rolling!
There was an extension on the board too for those that finished quicker than others, which 2 or 3 of them got onto after being reminded what a square number was and what a prime number was. At this point I referred these students to the prime numbers display they had done earlier in the year (posters of the 1st 10 or so prime numbers).

This was the 'strip' of paper the students were given to place and move their markers up and down.

After the activity was done and each student had found a winner, which they wrote down on the table cloth, I went through our class results and then posed the question to the class 'why do you think this happened?'. I took a bunch of responses to the class and then drew up a sample space diagram to illustrate why it had happened.

We discussed the 'liklihood' of each counter being moved and then moved on.

The 2nd main activity involved rolling dice again. This time, I gave each student a sheet with numbers 1-36 written on them in a grid. I gave each student 10 markers to place on any of the numbered squares in the grid and told them not to show their partner. They could put more than 1 marker on a square, but no more than 3 on any one square. This was something that needed explaining a few times. I kept the instructions on the board too whilst the activity went on. I told the class that I would be rolling two dice and then multiplying the numbers that came up. If they had a marker on this number they would then take it off. The person with the most markers left on their sheets at the end would be the winner.

This is what their grids looked like. After the rules had been explained the students started to ask questions based on what they had just learnt about the dice and the probabilities of certain numbers coming up. We had a brief discussion of each question (without spoiling the outcome of the activity) before then starting to roll some numbers. At the end of the task I asked the students to now place their counters a 2nd time based on the squares they thought were best to put markers on (i.e. those that couldn't come up based on the rules of the game). This checked their understanding of the task and of the probability of certain numbers coming up, or not.

Finally, the plenary...

I really like these types of plenaries as they really do highlight who has grasped the lesson and who hasn't. They were each asked to write down, on the table cloth again, an outcome to which the answer was on the board. One by one I then went round the students asking for them to read out their outcome (a bit of literacy here) i.e. 'tomorrow will be a Saturday', 'the probability of rolling a 6 on a dice' and then asked another student to state what the probability was of that student's outcome using the probabilities and key words on the board. This was also differentiated by ability by the probabilities that were chosen. Most chose the worded probabilities like 'impossible' and 'evens', but there were a few at least that used the fractions to express their outcome (and correctly so).

Here's how the table looked at the end of the lesson...

As you can see, lots of key words written over the table. My explanation of '1 out of 12' and how this is written too with the 'out of' being the line between the numerator and denominator of a fraction...what is this line called? Is it called something? I think I have heard it referred as something other than a 'line' before? Answers on a postcard please (comment below).
The feedback I received from my assessor was really positive as my final assessment showed. His only 'concern' was the writing on the tables. One student had to write on the table as the cloth didn't stretch right the way over the grouped tables. I had written on the tables in the past with the class as it rubs off easily (I checked beforehand). My assessor's concern was that students, if allowed to draw on the tables in my lesson, could go to another classroom and do the same, assuming it was ok.
In an ideal world we'd all have whiteboard paint over our desks, on the walls etc to create a truly interactive environment. I have seen 'white rooms' before in libraries and universities where students can literally write on the walls, floor, ceiling, tables, chairs etc. All of which can be rubbed off and reused. Something for the future perhaps.

So, that's that. I got that 'buzz' throughout the lesson that tells me that everything is linking and going as I had envisaged; this doesn't always happen! The class were working fantastically throughout the lesson and were asking questions throughout. This was not the 'norm' with the class by any means and at times they had been difficult to teach/control. This lesson (and plenty of others) however, they were fantastic. I feel they got a lot from the lesson and just hope that they remember it for the future; retention is a key problem with the class.

I will use this 'format' of lesson in the future with small lower ability groups and may even use it with larger class sizes, students in groups with perhaps a different probability task to complete for each group. I may even do it with 'home' and 'expert' groups to get students moving round the room after each task to discuss their findings with other groups who hadn't seen/done certain tasks.

I hope my experience of my assessment will help others, and that ideas can be taken from the lesson I did with my year 8 class. It was one of the most enjoyable lessons I had with the class and one of the lessons that stands out from my NQT year (lucky timing on my behalf here).

1 comment:

  1. A great lesson. I too have an observation on this topic, would love to try something like this out. Have you got a clearer version of your 5 minute lesson plan please?