Saturday, 26 April 2014

Getting the most out of my seating plan...

Being the first week back, it's the time of year when I change around my seating plans for each of my classes. I do this to keep them on their toes or to move certain individuals to more prominent places in the room for me to either provide additional support, or be able to keep an eye on them a bit easier etc.

However, each time I change the seating plan I have the same problem of what to do whilst they're all finding their seats and ensuring the best possible start to the lesson. I also want them to have something to be doing when they come in. Obviously, I can write a few questions on the board or hand them a starter task, but in the past it takes them a while to get settled and there's always a bit of a frenzy as they find out who they're sat next to/complain that they're not sat next to their best friend etc. Plus, for this lesson, I had prepared a starter task that was on my notebook slides that obviously couldn't be shown on the IWB at the same time as the seating plan.

So, in order to ensure my students had something to be doing as soon as they walked through the class door I decided to give them a starter task that enabled them to find their seat, whilst doing some basic Mathematics. Now, I'd done this before when getting students into groups or for randomly seating them, but not for getting them into specific seats.

What I did was this...

I put, on my IWB, a copy of my seating plan, but in place of the students names I put the numbers 1-32.

Then, on the table at the front of the class I had slips of paper with each student's name on and a clue/question whose answer would tell them the number seat they were to sit in for this half term. I differentiated the questions for each of my students based on what we had covered this year and the level they were currently working at.

Here's the questions template:

The answers go from left to right and then down to the next row etc. These are cut out like dominoes with the name and clue on one piece of paper.

The good thing about this task is it got my students doing some basic numeracy as they were trying to find out what seat to sit in, there was a lot of enthusiasm as they pondered who they'd end up sitting next to too. I also found that some students would help others once they knew where they were sitting to find out if their friends would be next to them. Also, those that had initially got the wrong seat would be forced to check their question/clue when another student ventured toward the same seat.

There was then a really quick and easy way for me to 'mark' each of their answers and to check they had got their question right...I put up the actual seating plan with all their names on and said if you're not in the right place you need to check your answer! No-one needed to move (which also gave me an indication that I had pitched their individual questions well enough) I was then able to quickly move on to the proper starter I wanted them to do for that lesson and we were off...

I'll definitely use this again in the future and the questions can easily be adapted for different classes now that I have set up the names/questions template and the numbered seating plan.

Setting the tone for Y11...

So, we've just had the 1st week back and the 'big push' for our Y11s is well underway. I decided that in the 1st lesson back from Easter with each of my Y11 classes, that I'd give them a bit of a 'spiel' about revision and the run in to their GCSE examinations. Here's what I did...

After the classes had arrived and got sat in their new seats (I change my seating plans each half-term) I referred them to the new display board I put up for them to use. See my previous blog post... I also showed them how many days they now have until their 1st Mathematics examination.
I then, on my IWB, put up my slides I created for them. On the 1st slide I had 4 charts of their progress to date. The 1st chart was of their end of Y10 results to show them where they had come from and where I had picked them up from. The next two were of their 2 main 'mock' exams they had had in February and just before Easter. Lastly, I showed them the chart of their target grades. This was all to show them how far they'd come already this year and where we were headed. I then told them all about the effort still needed, the danger of some of them being happy with the grade their on and therefore perhaps having relaxed a bit. I reminded them they were all capable of certain grades and that just because they're on the grade they 'need' or want they are capable of more (in an attempt to get them to aim higher).

Here's what the graphs looked like...

Simple enough - just to show them clearly how their grades have gone up and where we need to get to.

Next, I gave out to each of them an 8 week revision timetable and a useful list of websites to use for their revision. I started to think over the holidays about how much (or little) they were doing revision wise over the holidays and am always nerved by the lack of control we have over the amount they'll be doing! So, I thought as long as I feel that I've given them all the help I can, I have done all I can and the rest is up to them!

The 8 week timetable covers all of the week just gone and the final week in which they have their 2 Mathematics GCSE examinations. On the timetable, for each class, I highlighted our lessons and those exams from other subjects that may get in the way of our lessons. I stressed how little 'teaching time' we have left and that they need to start planning around their other commitments. I said that if they had jobs or clubs they attend that their revision will have to take place around these. I also drew attention, again, to my 'number of days left' display and said that that included all the weekends and the half term week between now and their exams.

Here's how the timetables look:

At this stage, I asked them how much advice they'd been given in terms of 'how' to revise. There was little response. They had been given, earlier in the year, a 'study skills' day with some external presenters, but other than that they shrugged.

I then drew their attention to the list of useful websites that I had stapled to each of their timetables and referred to the revision display I had put up to remind them of other sites/resources they could use to revise.

Here's the list I gave them...

I suggested my YouTube Channel and any other Mathematics based channel they'd found/used before - I also recommended Hegarty Maths (as it's way better than mine)!
Also on the list was's 5-a-day resources (these are great) and then the resources I have put for them on the school's VLE and of course...mymaths (the main site we use at our school)

After this I went through my [general] top tips for revising (any subject), but tried to link it to their Mathematics as much as possible.

*I told them that this is what I did for my revision and what I had been told had worked for past students, I gave some brief success 'stories' of past students too to motivate them/reach out to those students in similar positions this year.*

Here are the top tips I shared with them:

1) Do little, often and not to overdo it in any one 'sitting' of revision

2) get organised - use the timetables I had handed out and to attend after-school revision sessions where possible (I also told them I now have an even more 'open door' than I have had all year and they can turn up whenever they like for help [break, lunch, after-school, before-school] and said that if I was in my room then I was there to help)!

3) Revise when's best for you. I linked this to my recent goal to go swimming once a day having just got a swimming membership at the local leisure centre. I told them that I was a rubbish morning person and although I'd hoped to go swimming in the morning before school it just doesn't work for me (I did the morning of the INSET day, but then couldn't get myself up early enough before school the other days and so have gone after school), so to revise when's best for them.

4) Music. This is a massive thing for me personally as I also DJ in my spare time and love music. I used to listen to the Lord of the Rings Soundtrack everytime I did any coursework/essays for my degree and this helped settle me into the routine of doing work. I get distracted very easily and so told the class that this has helped me focus in the past. I also tried to link some Psychology into my explanations and how music can be used to aide your memory and recall of information. I did say that this wasn't for everybody but to try it. Although, I do believe in them all having a 'motivational song' and playing this in the morning before every exam to get them psyched up! I then shared too much and told them that my 'motivational song' was S Club 7's 'Don't Stop Moving'.
My top set Y11s do now want me to play this at the start of all of our remaining lessons, my other Y11 class weren't so keen!

5) Post it note and poster all round their houses. I spoke to them about prominent places to put up mind maps and revision posters etc. We discussed those places around the house that we perhaps don't always know we look at on a regular basis and where best to place posters in an attempt to take in the information on the revision posters. Examples were, above (to the side of) door handles, light switches, fridge door, bedroom walls, front door, windows/mirrors, behind the TV/Computer screen (but so it's still visible) etc.

This only took up about 20 minutes of each lesson and the classes responded really well to the information I gave them and were in good spirits. We then got on with the topics we left off on last term and the class were focused throughout and I was impressed with their efforts. I'm under no illusions that there will be times in the next 4 weeks when some will need reminding of the urgency and lack of time to 'mess about', but for now they seem 'on the ball' and in the right frame of mind.

The Action Jackson video is waiting for when I sense a dip in their efforts!

Thanks to @hegartymaths, @Corbettmaths, @Actionjackson for their resources and work that they have freely shared that will go towards making my Y11s successful this Summer!

Oh, and remember...'don't stop moving to the funky funky beat'!!

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 trying out.
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.

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...

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... These are the picture images (including the 3 above) This file allows you to create your own USA style poster with rip off slips 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 -->
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 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 -->

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

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 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 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 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 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.