Saturday, 15 December 2012

Exciting Times for Stationary Geeks!

This landed on my desk this week after the Year 8s parent's evening...

That's's my very own teacher's toolkit, complete with all the stationary I could possibly need as a Mathematics teacher.
It was decided in our department that each teacher would get one of these and so the only equipment we'd need to rely on being in the classrooms was the set of mini whiteboards and a set of calculators. In the boxes we have pens, pencils, rulers, protractors, compasses, scissors, glue, paper clips, post-it notes, rubbers, board pens, and mini whiteboard pens! This, for a stationary geek like me, is very exciting and I was proudly showing off my new stationary toolbox on Friday to my students, some of them were as excited, some thought I was a bit 'sad'...fair enough!

Magic Sticky Notes

Regular readers of my blog will know that I'm a big fan of and have used many of their products for private tutoring and for putting up displays in my classroom. This week I found another great use for one of their products...

My Year 10 classes have been looking at transformations over the past week or so and what with it being the penultimate week of term the tracing paper has run out in our department! So, I decided to get out the Magic Sticky Notes that I had in my drawer and see if these would work - they do! Even better is that they can be used over and over as they can be wiped off and drawn back on with a mini whiteboard pen. So, I gave out to each of my students their own Magic Sticky Note and told them to use them in the same way they would a normal piece of tracing paper to do their rotations, reflections and translations.
My lower set Year 10s also used them to work out the rotational symmetry of a shape after looking at line symmetry. Here's a few pictures of them using the Magic Sticky Notes...

I used the 'pink' Magic Sticky notes with this class and they worked fine. As you can see you can clearly see through them allowing you to use them as tracing paper. The students were extremely excited by them and were perhaps more motivated on the task I had set them had they have been given normal tracing paper to use!



My higher Year 10 set also used the Sticky Notes, this time I gave them the green ones to see if these would work equally as well, they did...

 The Magic Sticky Notes are also available in 'clear' so these are even more see through. I've just received a bunch of these and they work great too, almost too well as they're that clear you can lose them on the desk.

The Magic Sticky notes are currently 'buy 2 get 1 free' on the site and are only £4.99 for 50 sheets and a free pen. Definitely worth it in my opinion as each of my students now has one of these in their books (they stay stuck in their books due to their static properties) that they can use again and again when needed/revising.

You can follow them on Twitter @magicwhiteboard

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Getting SMART: Infinite Cloner

Having downloaded a resource from the TES last week on the Area of a Triangle I discovered a new tool on SMART notebook...the Infinite Cloner tool.

This tool allows you to copy selected text/shape an infinite number of times to drag and label diagrams etc.
In the resource I downloaded there was a 'Key Words' box with the words 'base' and 'height'. Both of these words had the infinite cloner tool on them. This allowed me to drag the word (creating a copy each time) to different triangles to label which of the sides was the base, and which was the height.

I really like this tool and can see it being used to label different sides of right-angled triangles when looking at Trigonometry, labelling different parts of circles, using it to quickly copy and paste text to others parts of your presentation (rather than having to press copy, paste each time), and many other ways I haven't even thought of yet!

All you need to do to infinitely clone text, or shapes etc is to right click on them and then select the 'infinite cloner' option. That's it.

Edexcel Mathematics Emporium

This is purely to remind myself of this site, now that I've been able to log in and access the resources!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Angry Birds Christmas Cards!

Last year, whilst on my GTP, I decided to give each of my students a Christmas Card, each with a differentiated question, just before we broke up for the Christmas holidays; I mainly did this just because it was Christmas, but also to thank them for their work that term and give them the slightest bit of revision! :) They went down really well with my classes and I had many of them coming up to me at the end of the lesson and telling me the answers to their questions, or asking me how they worked theirs out. They were also asking each other what questions they got! So I thought it worked really well and created a good basis going into the rest of the year.

So, like all good ideas, they're well worth repeating! This week (Tuesday) I gave my Year 9 class their Christmas Cards (mainly as they were the first ones I got round to writing and I only have them once this week) and once again they seemed to really like them.
This time I centred the cards around the Angry Birds. This almost happened by coincidence as when I was shopping for Christmas Cards it just so happened that the ones that took my fancy were the Angry Birds ones. The clogs then started turning in my head and I remembered the Angry Birds 3D nets that I had used and blogged about last year (all thanks to 'Little Plastic Man' for these [see previous blog post here]). Inevitably I then bought the cards and for each of my year 9s I copied the nets into a document and added some text to get them to work out the volume and surface area for their Angry Bird character, and then they could also create their Angry Bird too. This not only allows them to revise what we had covered earlier in the year on volume and surface area, but also gave them an opportunity to have a bit of fun creating their Angry Bird.
These were also nicely differentiated as the different Angry Birds 3D nets make different 3D shapes, the 'red bird' and 'pig' characters are cuboids, the 'yellow bird' a tetrahedron and the 'white bird' a trapezoid. I therefore gave the students a character that I felt best suited their ability and the cards were done.

Here's how it all looked before the cards were 'enveloped'...

I intend to do the rest of the cards (for my KS3 classes) over the weekend to hand them out next week!
I will, of course, give them different questions (perhaps worded ones based on the angry birds characters/games).

i.e. If the Angry Birds app costs 69p on the App Store and 12 people out of a class of 30 buy the app what percentage of the class bought the app?

Mathematical Advent Calendar Display

Having posted previously about the Mathematical Advent Calendar template I created last weekend (see blog post here) my Year 7 class have now completed their calendars and I have displayed some of them on one of the displays in my room.
The chosen calendars are fantastic (as were a few others, but I didn't have room for all of them) and I'm looking forward to my Year 7s seeing them up on the wall in their next lesson.

The idea seems to have gone down well with others too as my resource (uploaded on the TES) has had a fair amount of downloads in the past week. To download the template just go to this page.

Here's how the display looks...

In class, I initially got the students to cut out the doors and then stick the front template sheet to a plain piece of A4.

Then they were challenged to come up with the Mathematical clues/equations/facts/calculations etc whose answers were the numbers 1-25.

Then they were asked to swap their calendars with their partner to check whether their partner had indeed got all numbers between 1-25 represented. This was, in my opinion, the best part of the activity as they had to work out their partner's clues and therefore were revising a number of mathematical topics (and some footballers' shirt numbers) that we had covered so far this year; I gave the class a list of possible questions they could come up with prior to the task.

Finally, the class were told to fill in each door with a joke, picture, rhyme etc etc - they finished these off for homework and then brought their calenders in for their next lesson.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Getting SMART: vanishing/revealing text!

Sundays = Planning days for most teachers (I assume) and mine has consisted of much the same. In order to prepare my notebook slides for my Year 8s' lessons tomorrow I decided to try out another 'trick' I read from the previously linked to presentation on ways to use SMART software.

This time I have used a coloured box and different coloured text to create an area in which answers can be revealed by dragging questions into it.

As you can see from the print screen below I have created 'Mr Collins' Amazing Perimeter Checkerer' that is just a rectangle shape coloured in purple. I have then got a few questions with lengths all in the same colour. What you can't see on this slide is that there is also the answer to each shape's perimeter in white text within the shape! The magic then happens by dragging the shape (which has all of the text and question number grouped together with it) into the 'Mr Collins' Amazing Perimeter Checkerer' space!

 This is how the slide will look as the students complete the questions.
When I want to reveal the answers all I do is drag each question, in turn, into the purple box. This then reveals the white text (originally hidden on the white slide background), and hides the purple text that was in the original question as it matches that of the background in the box!

I'm looking forward to seeing the class' reaction to this tomorrow when I use the 'trick' in class!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Stem & Leaf Birthday Diagram

Having been tweeted by @209fifashirts (Nick Warrick) about whether or not I used a Stem & Leaf Diagram to display my form group's birthdays I decided to take his suggestion and do one for my set 5 year 8 classes (I have both sides of the year group).

I wasn't planning on teaching this to either groups but thought it'd be nice to give them an insight into what they were and how they worked nonetheless. So, on post it notes I got them to write the day of their birth and had pre-prepared the stem to my diagram on the display board at the back of the class. The class were then asked where their post-it should go. Some of them intuitively realised that the 01, 02, 03, ..., 12 represented the months of the year and so placed their note next to the correct stem.

I then asked them a series of questions when all notes had been stuck next to the relevant month. I asked them what the range of their birthdays was, who's birthday was the median birthday, whether there was a mode birthday (there was for one of the months). I also explained what the 'stem' and 'leaf' parts of the diagrams meant, the fact the the 'leaf' had to be in order so we could tell who's birthday was first etc. When both classes had done an individual stem and leaf diagram I then created a back-to-back stem and leaf in order to compare the two classes with each other. As I am lucky to have only 10 students in each class it was a clear comparison in terms of the numbers of students represented in each. I was also represented in each one and so this also provided a frame of reference for each one.
Again, I asked more questions in terms of which class had more birthdays in certain months, how many people's birthdays came before mine in each class etc.

Here's how the display looks up in class now...

I have used Mr Barton's revision notes to add a more 'realistic' explanation of stem and leaf diagrams for the benefit of my higher sets in KS3 and KS4 to look at.

The green post-it notes are from and stick to the wall without the need for glue or staples etc. The sticky notes are also reusable and can be written on, rubbed off and then written on again many times! I have used a load of their products for my class displays and highly recommend them.

Getting SMART: 'Pull Tabs'

Last week I saw a tweet that linked to the following blog On the blog was a downloadable ppt presentation that shows 38 interesting ways to use your IWB.

I had seen this before but having not really looked into using SMART software on my IWB didn't take too much of it in. However, over the past few weeks I have been using the SMART software a fair bit and am really liking the effect it is having in my lessons and the reaction of my students when I use a new 'trick' or tool on the IWB slides I have prepared - it still amazes them that I can magically make the answers appear by just rubbing the board (deleting the white text I have over the answers).

So, having re-read the ppt presentation on the above blog I decided to take a look at creating a 'pull tab' #17 on the presentation (slide 17 of 58).
Pull tabs allow you to group together a 'tab' (picture/shape) and a set of text. The shape/picture is then placed at the very side of the slide (with the text out of view). The picture/tab can then be dragged into the centre of the slide, with the grouped text to reveal hidden information. I decided to use this with my learning objectives and made a tab and copied this onto each slide of my presentation. I then was able to drag across the learning objectives at various stages of my lesson to refer back to what we should be learning and to do some AfL as to whether we had met certain objectives at stages of the lesson. It worked really well and there was, again, an 'Oooooo' factor from the class when I first dragged the learning objectives across.

To create the pull tab I:
created a semi-circle shape & put some text saying 'learning objectives' over it
typed in the learning objectives (the text to be hidden)
created a rectangle, with line colour set to white and filled this in with white too. I then sent the rectangle behind the text and then grouped the semi-circle, text and white rectangle together.

This then ensured that whenever I dragged the LOs across they entered over the existing info on the slide.

Here's some print screens of my first pull tabs...

 pull tab hidden on the right hand side
 pull tab then dragged across into the centre of the slide, revealing the LOs
on the next few slides, I referred back to the LOs, with the pull tab appearing over the existing slide's info (due to the backed white rectangle)

Mathematical Advent Calendar

December is here, which means it's advent calendar time across the country! So, in order to embrace the Christmassy nature of the month I have decided to get my Year 7 class to create their own 'Mathematical Advent Calender'.

I have created a blank advent calendar template that I will hand out to my class and then I'll get them to cut out the 'doors' on the template that I have pre-cut round some of the edges. They will then stick this template sheet onto a blank piece of A4 paper.
After the setting up of the calendar is done the class will be challenged to come up with as many mathematical problems, equations, calculations, sums etc to which the answers are the numbers between 1-25. The answers to their problems will then decide which door is numbered with which of the numbers between 1-25 and therefore what doors get opened on each day of the month, leading up to Christmas.
After the students have then written mathematical problems for each of the doors they will be given the task of filling in the inside of each door with a joke, fact, picture, cartoon, rhyme, etc  that will be revealed on each day when the doors are opened.

I have created an example to show the class where all the mathematical facts are what we have been covering so far in class this year. I will, throughout the lesson, give the students guidance as to what types of mathematical facts they can use to create the answers (numbers 1-25); we have been studying BIDMAS, sequences, expressions, substitution, area, perimeter.

*in the style of Blue Peter*'s one I prepared earlier...

I have uploaded the template onto my TES resources page, this can be seen here - I printed out the template sheets and then used a scalpel and cutting mat to cut out the horizontal lines of each door. This means all the students will need to do is cut the vertical line between them (right hand of each door) and then stick the sheet to another piece of A4.
Of course I could have got the students to do this but didn't particularly fancy having to borrow the scalpels from DT and allowing the kids to do this themselves!

Let me know what you think! I'm planning on putting these up on the class display after they've been finished off. My year 7s are the only one of my classes that don't currently have a display up in my room!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Mathematical DINGBATS

I'm a big fan of DINGBATS and have used a number of these in class before (especially on Pi day). Here are some of my latest Mathematical DINGBATS...

 These ones are all based around the topic 'Averages'


These ones are all based around the topic of 'Circle Theorems'

That's me in Q3 and Q1 above - one picture I am referred to as 'sir' the other I am referred to as 'me'!

Getting SMART (notebook)

 This week I've finally downloaded my own version of SMART notebook onto my home PC. I have it on my school PC, but find I prefer working from home than at school - have more time to spend on work without getting distracted (which I do rather easily).

So, having installed it on my home PC, and having a fair bit of time to play around with all the features and create some of my very first notebook files here's what I've done and used in class this terms of notebook: [some of these will be pretty basic, others hopefully a bit more advanced?]

Circle Theorems notebook...(Year 10 set 2)

  • inserted text and pictures to create some 'Mathematical DINGBATS' (more on these later - see future posts)
  • used the line tool and circle tool to create a circle theorems' question. I then produced copies of this image and then layered loads of different parts of the questions over the top of the original. The original I locked in place using the 'lock in place' tool and then I was able to drag the various parts of the question out to show the class what angle facts we could use to answer any question posed looking for any missing angle.
  • inserted a link to a web page - so I could show the class various theorems on GeoGebra
  • used the pen tool to colour in angles in different colours to highlight those that were the same, those that added to 180 degree or those that were half/double another
  • I saved my ABCD Plenary slides so that they can easily be copied into future notebook files
  • I used the record function and transparency function to record the GeoGebra activities as we went through them in class so that I could e-mail them to students for future revision
Nth Term notebook...(Year 10 set 5)

  • inserted text, images and shapes - the shapes I used to 'box out' various parts of the slides that I wanted to uncover at various points in the lesson
  • I used the screen shade tool to, again, uncover various parts of the slides as the lesson progressed
  • I used the 'dual display' tool to show up on the IWB 2 slides at a time - this was so that I could differentiate the class' tasks and give them the choice of whether they did the right or left hand side
  • (my personal favourite) I used the pen to draw on white text over the answers to the questions I had written on the board. I then, after the class had completed the questions, revealed the answers using the IWB rubber - I just rubbed off the white text! This created the illusion of me 'magically' revealing the answers just by rubbing the IWB - the year 10s loved this (as did I)!
Averages notebook...(Year 8 set 5s)

  • Apart from the above, I used the table tool to create a simple table to show the definitions of mean, median, mode and range for the class to use as a reminder
  • Printed off slides for the class to use to write down the example as I was doing it on the board - rather than writing out all of the information on the slide themselves
This coming week I have Scatter Graphs and Constructions to teach to different year groups/classes and so will be looking at ways I can use notebook to show these clearly - more to follow on these. I have briefly looked at the 'Mathematics' gallery on the software and hope there will be plenty on here that I can use in future too.

Intro songs!

As you'll be aware if you have read my previous 'reflective journal' blog I'm a big lover of music and a self-confessed 'superstar DJ'. I've created over 20 'Maths DJing' clips to play in class and love to get a bit of music into my lessons, where appropriate.

This week I decided to introduce a bit of music into my Year 7s' lesson on algebraic expressions. At the very start of the lesson, as the class were entering the room I had Labrinth's 'Express Yourself' playing in the background. Whilst the clip was on I had on the IWB a slide that asked the students to 1) think of why the song was playing and what it could have to do with today's lesson and 2) to write a definition for the word 'expression'. During the 4 min + song I also gave the class their exercise books, handed back their marked h/w and briefly chatted to a few of them as I walked around the room, ensuring that they had seen the tasks that they had to do were on the board.
Then, something fantastic the song started to come to a close and fade out the class started to become silent and as the song finally finished (and I was stood, saying nothing, at the front of the class (in my usual 'teacher's spot')) the class were listening intently and were ready to start our lesson.
The best thing about this was that I had used the time in which the class usually come in and get settled to not only get them sat down and all their equipment out, but they were straight onto the task I had set, were engaged into the lesson due to the music that was being played and I was able to do the 'adminy' things I needed to do (hand out h/w etc).

I then took suggestions as to why the class thought the song was being played, and other than the few 'because you like the song', 'because Labrinth's awesome' etc comments I had a few students say that it was due to us looking at some 'expressions' in the lesson and that they were going to 'express themselves'.
We then continued with our lesson looking at algebraic expressions and then at the end of the lesson I referred back to the song I played at the start and said that I now wanted them to write an expression for themselves (using the definition and new knowledge they had acquired during the lesson).

I think this worked really well - to link the beginning and ending of the lesson together and to get the class off to a flying start.

I'm planning on using The Beatles' 'Come Together' next lesson when we look at collecting like terms!
In preparation for this I've now bought an audio lead splitter for my PC/IWB/speakers set up in my room so that I don't have to constantly unplug the lead from the PC hardrive and then plug into my iPhone; my classroom PC and my iPhone are now simutaneously plugged into the class speakers :)


Saturday, 10 November 2012

'Math Magic' Board Game

I found these in our Mathematics department this week - the Math Magic Board Game - very much like a Mathematics version of scrabble where your points come from performing the 4 basic operations +, -, x, and divide!

I played this with my Year 11 class after they had just done their examinations this week - it worked really well although I feel I was more excited about it than they were!
Still, it was a chance to introduce a bit of competition to the class with them playing in teams of 4/5 and then the top 2/3 in each swapping to face the top 2/3 in another group, leader board on the IWB etc!

It was a welcome break for the students having just sat their Mathematics exams and it ensured they were still practising their basic numeracy. Well worth getting for a maths club or for tutor times?!

Group Work with Year 10 - Properties of Quadrilaterals

Set up before lesson...

On Thursday this week I decided to get my Year 10s to do a bit of group work to share their prior knowledge of properties of quadrilaterals. As I was hoping to just refresh the topic and check any misconceptions I decided this would be a great time to introduce group work to the class, complete with a change of layout to my room...again!

I laid out the tables in the above fashion and on each desk had one of my number tiles from 1-7 (for each group). I then, on each desk, had a blank piece of A4 paper ready for the first task. However, before doing this the class needed to be put into groups. When doing group work previously I have always sat down and spent far too much time on considering who to put in what group and who should/shouldn't work with one another etc and so this time I thought I'd use the idea I used with my newly setted year 7 class - do it randomly!
So, at the start of the lesson met each of the students at the door and gave them a question to which the answer was either 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7. I purposefully made it that there were 4 questions to which the answers were one of the 7 numbers except for the answers 5 and 6 (these tables had 5 seats around them and so needed 5 sets of questions to which they were the answer - the reason for this was because there was most space around the tables in order for students to be sat comfortably around the room). I was very pleased with how well my room accommodates this sort of layout as it is massive :).
Once the students got their questions they then started by finding their table and took a seat. I checked as they were sitting down that certain personalities weren't in the same group and then moved a few people to account for absentees.

After the class were all sat down I told them why we were doing group work and then introduced the first task - a collective memory task from Mr Barton! see This task involved groups organising themselves into 'runners' and one 'writer' and then, in turn, the 'runners' coming to the back of the room to look at the poster of quadrilaterals and then relay the information to the 'writer' in their group. This was fantastic as the students had to use their knowledge of quadrilaterals to explain what they had seen on the poster, including all notches, parallel line marks, equal sides, etc etc. After the task I revealed the poster for the benefit of the writers and even managed to get in a 'what percentage of you haven't seen this?' question. I then left the winning group up to a fellow teacher who was observing the lesson.
After this, I gave the class Mr Barton's w/sheet on quadrilaterals and gave them 5 mins to match up the shapes, names and descriptions. Here's Mr. Barton's w/sheet and here's the online timer that I use...
I then went through the answers on the board (using the transparent SMART board button I discovered over half term (see previous post on SMART board training). What I liked about this task was that (as my colleague commentated) due to the fact the groups had worked together previously they were helping each other more than they may have done on the task and sharing knowledge.

After this I gave the class a series of dominoes that I had spent the previous evening cutting up and laminating in order to give 7 sets for each group. The resource can be found here... and are by Not_Just_Sums. This worked well and was something that, even though I had spent all the time producing them, I forgot to put on my lesson plan when writing this up the morning after - I was very happy I managed to squeeze it in! This task again got students working in groups to share their knowledge and check each others' reasons as to why the dominoes were allowed to be laid where they intended.

Finally, we watched a short video about classifying quadrilaterals and then I gave each member of the class my ABCD fans (see previous post) and gave the class 10 quick questions to assess what they had learnt in the lesson - the class kept a tally and the majority of them got 9 or 10 of the questions right.
My colleague gave me her observation notes on the lesson and commented on lots of positive things in the lesson she had seen and would look to use in her lessons, she is a GTP student and so I was glad I could help provide some ideas for her lessons.

New Display - Year 10 work on missing angles

Here's my latest display put up this week in my classroom - replacing the TETRIS display as it was getting a bit 'mangled'.

The display is based around Mike Ollerton's idea in his book 'Getting the buggers to add up'. The lesson idea is to give each student a piece of coloured paper and to get them to make two folds in the piece of paper so that the fold intersect and aren't parallel with either of the sides of the original piece of paper. Then, the class work out how many angles they need to measure in order to then work out all other missing angles on the sheet. The students then were given protractors to measure angles on the sheet before then using these, and their existing knowledge of angle facts, to work out all other missing angles.
The class worked well on this and many of them then moved onto the extension activities:

Some of the class made 3 folds in their piece of paper and then measured an additional angle than previously having made and then worked out all remaining angles.

Some of the class even represented the 2 measured angles as alpha and beta and then wrote all other angles as expressions involving these angles i.e. 180 - alpha etc.

After the class had worked away on their 1st attempt I took suggestions from the class as to what angle facts they had used to work out the missing angles, suggestions included:

angles around a point = 360 degrees
angles on a straight line = 180 degrees
angles in a triangle = 180 degrees
angles in a quadrilateral = 360 degrees
opposite angles are equal
alternate angles are equal
the interior angles of a pentagon sum to 540 degrees (and then proof of this by splitting the pentagon into 3 triangles)
right angles = 90 degrees

In addition this also ensured that the class were able to measure angles accurately using a protractor and to estimate the values of angles to check their workings - what type of angles they were too (obtuse, acute, reflex).

This was great in terms of ensuring the class' previous knowledge was put into an interesting activity that engaged them and used all their prior knowledge and thinking skills to solve. It also allowed me to build in a bit of algebra to the task that we had also covered recently.

Here are some of the finished pieces of work up on my new display (on the right, next to my year 9's Pi-em h/w - see previous post)

Being surprised by my set 5!

It's always fantastic when students surprise me and ask questions that I wouldn't imagine them asking, or when they come up with an idea that takes our lessons in a completely different direction. This was never more evident than when one of my students asked me the following question this week...'would it work with Pi sir?'

Let me set the context, it was one of my set 5 year 8 classes and we were looking at solving simple linear equations. Now, in order to attempt to approach the topic I decided to only look at a 'function machine' approach and leave the balancing method for later on once they had grasped the concept of solving equations, and indeed letters standing for unknown numbers. So, to provide a link into this I asked my class to, on mini-whiteboards, think of a number...and then form a number of steps to which the answer would always come out as 5.
I gave the class plenty of time to work out each step of the process and wrote the instructions on the board. After I had finished writing the instructions, and verbally giving them to the class to work out on their whiteboards, I took the class' answers. Not all of them got the answer 5 and so I started with these students. I put up their starting numbers next to the instructions on the board and asked them for their workings at each stage, correcting where necessary and then getting the intended answer of 5. I did this with each student (only 10 in my set 5 classes) and then that's where the question arrived...'would it work with Pi sir?'

I believe I was visibly taken back by the question as were my 2 TAs, nonetheless I said yes, yes it would! But, before doing so we had a massive discussion about what Pi was, that it was an irrational number (what that meant), it was the ratio between the circumference and diameter of a circle (what both the circumference and diameter of a circle were), showed the class my year 9 top sets' Pi-ems (see previous post), and then wrote the symbol for and first few decimal places of Pi on the board. I then set about proving that the method worked for Pi too and asked the students for the 'expressions' at each stage of the process, and we did indeed arrive at the answer...5!

Here's a pic of the board that I took in class there and then...

So, that's the most surprising thing any of my students have asked me so far this year, what's yours?

Trial & Improvement - ANIMAL ZOO!

During half term I was asked by my HoF if I had any interesting ways to teach trial and improvement. Having not really taught the topic previously, other than for revision purposes, I decided to browse the TES for a suitable resource.

What I found was fantastic - a complete set of resources from TES user Ryan Smailes. This resource can be seen here -->

The resource involves a ppt, a double sided w/sheet to print out for students and best of all 24 animal pictures/names to display on the board as an introduction into the topic.

The idea is to arrange the 24 animals into size order on the board from smallest to biggest. Using the 2nd set of cards (exactly the same as those on the board) you then pick a student (I used my Random Name Generator for this - see my TES resource This student then keeps the card hidden and the rest of the class are asked to guess what card the student has.
The student with the card then responds with either: yes, that is my animal; no, my animal is bigger or no, my animal is smaller. I was then stood at the board providing a visual representation of what the class were doing - i.e. I was shortening the list of possible animals the students could then choose from.
If you look at the picture I took of my board prior to when the class came in you can see how this would work. If the student's card was a pig (my favourite animal - I wrote this on the board to provide some sort of humour/conversation starter right at the beginning of the lesson as the class entered [as if the animal pictures wasn't enough to engage them in the lesson]) and they were asked 'is your animal a cow?' The student would then say 'no, my animal is smaller than a cow'. I would then, on the board, mark a line to the left of the cow to indicate that their animal couldn't be anything to the right of that line. I then repeated this until the correct guess was made. This provided a really clear representation of the method used in trial and improvement to give an answer to a certain degree of accuracy and provided a great 'hook' into the lesson. The class, after 2 or 3 goes realised that it was best to start near the middle of the animals and then at each guess go half way to get to the answer quickest - another useful way of getting students to think of the most efficient method of obtaining an answer.

I then used the example of the ppt provided in the set of resources to go through the method with the class and linked this to the ANIMAL ZOO starter that we had done. As I did this I recorded my explanation on the SMART software as found out during half term (see previous post on SMART board training). I played this on a loop throughout the rest of the lesson as the class worked their way through the double sided w/sheet and as I circulated checking their workings.
At the end of the lesson we looked at our topic trackers for the topic (see previous post on student topic trackers), students filled in their confidence 'after lesson' and then the student comment on the bottom of their sheets.
All in all the lesson went fantastically and this was in no small part to the TES resource found above. So, thank you Mr Smailes!

Getting them in, getting them seated

This week saw the return to school after a week off for half-term. It also meant that the Year 7s were now put into ability groups rather than their previous form groups. As such, I had 31 students, of which the majority were new to me. So, in order to help me get to know the students before I produce a seating plan for them I decided to experiment with where the students sat.

My reasons for doing this are as follows:

It would give me an idea of who does/doesn't work well together.
I could mix up the form groups to get students to meet their new classmates
I could try and learn their names before putting them into an official seating plan and relying on this to tell me who was who.

So, how I sat the students for their 1st 2 lessons this week was as follows...randomly! At the start of each of the 2 lessons I gave each student on entering a question. The 1st lesson's questions were all calculations that the students had to use BIDMAS to answer. The second lesson's questions were all based around square numbers, square roots and basic cube numbers. The answers to the students questions were all the numbers between 1 and 31. These then corresponded to the numbers on the desks around the room (also 1-31). The idea was that the students came in, answered the question to find out where to sit, sit down at that seat, get their equipment out and then answer the questions on their desk. The questions on their desk were the same 31 questions given to students on entering the classroom - so they already knew one of the answers (the one they used to find their seat).

What I liked about this strategy was that it allowed me to meet and greet the students at the door, they had a simple instruction to follow in order to find their seat, there were no complaints about where they were sat as it was all random, some students were able to clarify their answer based on if someone else was already sat in the seat they thought their answer was, my TA could help students with their answers, there was a quick start to the lesson, I was able to get the next part of the lessons ready as they sat down, the w/sheet was already for them to get on with - meaning no time was wasted waiting for me to tell them what to do.

In addition to my instructions I also had a slide on the IWB with a 'welcome' message to the class and the instructions I had given them, just to reiterate what it was they were to do. In both the 2 lessons that I used the strategy the students really engaged in the idea (as did my TA). The only problem that I may have had to deal with is the students not knowing how to answer their questions, luckily I pitched these appropriately for my 2nd set and so there were only a few questions - this also gave me an idea of who to look out for in the lesson!

Here's a picture of my classroom all set up prior to the 1st lesson with the class...
(you can see the numbers on desk, w/sheet on desks, LO on the board and 'welcome' message on the IWB)

This didn't take more than 3-5 mins to set up.

I later tried the same technique to get my Year 10 class into groups for their 1st group work lesson of the year (see upcoming post).

Thursday, 1 November 2012

SMART Board Training!

As anybody will know from having read my 'reflective journal' blog last year, I thoroughly enjoyed my GTP. However, there was one thing missing from the year...SMART Board Training!

Yep, that's right, I've never actually received any SMART board training and as such any knowledge I have of my IWB and the SMART software has come from observing other teachers or by just messing about with it in class and trying things out. So, it's fair to say that my skills are far from perfect with it's usage. This, is something that I've wanted to get sorted.

Luckily, Miss Moore [@kutrahmoore] (the other half of Mr Collins) is currently doing her ITT and has recently had said training session. So, yesterday, as I needed to go into school briefly to use the guillotine, pick up a few books/paperwork I had forgotten to take home with me etc Miss Moore came with me and as I was doing the things I needed to do she showed me a few things she had been taught about the SMART software and the IWB.

Here's a video we created using SMART to showcase the things I was taught about (and now plan to use in my lessons to improve my use of ICT)... (couldn't upload it onto the blog for some reason and so used Plan B...Dropbox!)
Here's what I was taught:
You can record everything you do on screen and then save this as a video file (wmv file). I thought this would be great for saving lessons and then sending to students via e-mail to use as guidance for homework or for revision. [click on the camcorder icon, then record button, minimise, carry on...stop recording, save]
You can use the 'transparent screen' as a 'layer' which allows you to write over any other file/program you have open. This will come in extremely useful as sometimes I have got a w/sheet or exam question that I get off the Internet or from the TES that I just print out and give to students to work through in class. Then, to go through the answers I'd load up the file and try and write over it, this either draws a weird pencil line on the doc (if in Word), doesn't allow you to scroll down to other pages without having to rub off what you have just written on it etc and so this will avoid these problems. [click on transparent screen, where the 'full screen' icon is]
You can take a snapshot of parts of a document/file/page etc by clicking on the camera icon and then the one on the left hand side. Miss Moore was told that was the only one her trainer had used. I took a snapshot of the mangahigh logo, which then automatically gets uploaded into SMART.
Then, you can by writing anything on screen get SMART to recognise what it is you have scrawled on the screen and they put this as a text. [write anywhere, highlight with mouse pointer on screen, right click (press arrow in top-right) and then click 'recognise'] I found this even works with equations, although not always?!
Next was I could do the same thing with shapes so if I draw a wonky line I could get SMART to recognise it as a straight line. Or draw a circle and then get SMART to draw an accurate one similar in size to the one I drew etc. [right click after selecting the shapes like before].
Lastly, I found how I could get a new background to the slides i.e. a squared grid/dotted grid etc.
I then was playing around with the protractor tools and found how you could create an angle from the protractors. just move the green dot round to the required angle then click the green arrow to the side of the protractor and it then places a image of the angle you selected - makes this much easier than I had been doing it (don't ask).
So, many thanks to Miss Moore for this tutorial/mini-training session, in return I helped her with her QTS numeracy test (she passed first time)! What a fun half-term we've had!

ABCD Fans Revisited

Last year, whilst on my GTP, I posted this on my reflective journal blog.
The idea was to improve my AfL having been given feedback from my GTP Tutor. Now, I loved using these fans and they went down fantastically well in subsequent observations from my GTP Tutor and my mentor. More importantly though, my classes got used to using them in class, I was able to see clearly what they understood and what they didn't and this helped inform my planning when thinking about our next lessons together and the next steps.

Sadly, over the Summer, and transition between schools, I lost my ABCD Fans!
I have looked everywhere, and yet could not find them anywhere, which has meant I've been unable to use this resource in my lessons so far this year. However, this week saw the well needed break of half term and it has given me a chance to recreate the ABCD Fans, and make slight improvements of them.

So, here are the new fans...

I used the same template that I did when creating them last year (available to download from my TES resources However, taking on board the feedback I had on the blog post last year I decided to include a 'true/false' fan and to double side the fans to save me a bit of ink/paper! So the A/B fans back on to one another as do the C/D and True/False fans. I will be introducing my classes to these over the next couple of weeks as I've now cut up, laminated and cut up again 32 sets of these (1 for each student in my largest sized class).

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Misconceptions, Mistakes & The Simpsons

In our Mathematics department we have up the 'classic mistakes' posters that you can get here. Now, last weekend when I was on Twitter I saw a tweet from Mr Reddy (@mrreddymaths) linking to his below blog post on classic mistakes and 'The Simpsons'.

I really liked these posters and so decided to print them off, laminate them and stick them up in my room. The best thing about them is that all the posters drew on the common mistakes made with factors and multiples. My Year 10s had done this topic earlier in the year and so they even linked to what I had been covering in class recently.

I must at this point state that I am more of a South Park fan personally, but the posters are engaging and were like a magnet to my Year 7 class when they came in for the first time after I put them up. They're proving quite popular and I would love to create some more of these this space!

Here's how the posters look in my room (they're on the wall right opposite the door to the classroom and so are one of the 1st things students see)...

Year 9 Pi-ems

Here's my finished Year 9 Pi-em display...


The Pi-ems that the class produced are absolutely brilliant! They're also completely bonkers in parts due to the complexity of the task I gave them, but this is what I like about them. For more on how the Pi-em works and what it is then see my previous blog post here.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Over the past 2 weeks our KS3 students have been doing their Commonly Assessed Tasks (CATs). These tasks involve students working through a Mathematical investigation such as the 'T-Totals' investigation.

In order to break down the lessons whilst students work through these tasks I have used the website - a website I saw a tweet about not long ago and felt it provided a useful 'breather' for my students at the end/start of lessons whilst working independently through their investigations. It also provides the minutest of links to their CATs!

Check the site out now - the videos (films) are only around a minute long each and are rather amusing, especially if you have a class full of cat lovers!

'Hooking' them in...

Following my NQT session on 'Structuring Lessons Effectively' and the introduction of 'Meerkat Time' (see previous post) I have attempted to 'hook' my students into their lessons this week!

Here's some of the ways I have done this this week...

Year 7 (angles lesson)

picture on board:


Year 11 (enlargements lesson)
this video by Dan Meyer
Year 10 (factorising and solving quadratics)
I paused my IWB on the 'Wreck's Factor' game on Manga High (the class had previously played this game for h/w after we went through factorising quadratic expressions)
Year 10 (completing the square lesson)

This caused a great amount of hilarity (mainly with the Mathematics department, my Year 10s didn't think I was being serious! Nonetheless, it worked!)

Year 8s and Year 10:
I gave them one of the 'settlers' target boards to work out

Year 10's:

I gave them Dave Gale's QR Code Puzzle task (see

I found that by doing this I immediately had the attention of my classes as they entered the room and got sat down in their usual place. There was a quicker start to my lessons and I was able to still do all the admin like taking the register, checking h/ws etc whilst they were off and running on the tasks they were given or videos/pics they were to write down questions about. I will definitely continue to ensure that I utilise 'Meerkat Time'!

Meerkat Time



Meerkat Time; the time at which students are coming into a room, getting used to their new surroundings and are available to 'hook' into your lesson!

On Monday this week I had one of my school's NQT training sessions. This session was about structuring lessons effectively. At the very start of the session we were told about 'Meerkat Time' and asked whether or not we use it in class and how.

Meerkat Time, as stated above, is that short amount of time at the very start of the lesson where the students are coming into your classroom and you have a short amount of time to 'hook' them into the lesson and engage them. We were told that too often this time is lost due to taking the register, handing out books, students getting settled etc and the chance to provide them with something to excite them about the lesson is lost.

Ways in which we were told we could 'hook' the class in were:

by providing a quick 'settler' activity on students' desks or on the board
showing a short video clip
having a picture up on the screen that links to that lesson's content
having a prop ready etc

I make an effort to do this in all of my lessons but know that this isn't always achieved. Sometimes the 'meerkat time' is lost due to getting students in and settled and I'm then standing at the front of the class about to get their attention and have found that they are just sat there waiting for me to tell them what we're doing, provide them with some sort of stimulus and essentially get them excited about what they're about to do for the hour. It wasn't until I was reminded of this crucial part of the lesson that I really started to reflect on the impact not having this time makes for the rest of the lesson. So, for the rest of the week I have attempted to put pictures on the board, starter activities to be getting on with whilst others come in, activities handed out to students as I meet and greet them at the door etc.

You can see some examples of my 'Meerkat Time' in future posts...

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Here's another little beautie that I've found through doing my TES Maths Panel reviewing of resources...

Each quarter, as part of my role on the TES Maths Panel, I get e-mailed a list of 60-80 odd resources to review. This quarter's resources have been packed full of great ideas and activities to use in the classroom and 2 of the 60 odd resources I had to review this quarter have led me to finding the above website. The resources in question are these 'target board settlers' uploaded by TES user 'Sandra D', one of these can be seen (and downloaded) here.

The settler involves students answering 20 questions to which the answers are laid out in a 5 by 5 grid. Students cross off the answers when they find them in the grid. There are then 5 answers in the grid that are left over, these are then added together to find the 'target' number. This is then the only thing you, as teacher, need to check (mark) and then you are ready to move on. I love this idea and this led me to looking at 'Sandra D's' other resources to look for more. Through this I found a link to the website above.

On the site there are loads and loads of other similar target board starters as well as BINGO resources and another that has taken my fancy...'mathsloops'.

The 'mathsloops' resources aren't free but only cost £34 for a CD full of 120 different sets of these loop cards. I can see this being a worthwhile investment and may even pass it by my HoD on Monday.

However, all the BINGO and 'SETTLER' resources are free and are definitely worth a look. I plan to use the 10% of a number and simplifying expressions settlers in my lessons this week.

NQT Training - Working effectively with your TA

In addition to the school-based NQT training sessions that are put on by my school throughout my NQT year there are a number of external sessions that are run by the area's NQT training programme. Some of these sessions are free to all NQTs in our area, others cost to attend.

This week I attended one of the free sessions titled 'working effectively with your TA'. When we were sent round a list of all the sessions available to us, and put on by the area, this was the 1st one that I felt was really relevant to my teaching this year. I have 4 bottom set classes out of the 7 that I teach and in each of these classes' lessons I have a TA with me, sometimes I have 2. So, I thought that it was essential to go on this session in order to improve on my current practise.

The session was really good and gave me loads of ideas/ways in which I can support my TAs support our lessons more effectively.
I was joined at the session by one of my school's other NQTs (D&T) and by about another 10 NQTs from across the area's Primary Schools. This itself was fantastic because up to this week I had almost missed the weekly training sessions I was having on my GTP this time last year. Meeting other teachers in the same boat as you and being able to empathise with each other's stories and experiences is a key part of developing in my opinion.

The session itself was lead by 2 experienced teachers who had had experience of not only working with TAs, but being TAs themselves.
We started by being asked to write down on post-it notes all the things our TAs were currently doing in our classes. Here's the finished combination of everyone's ideas...

This activity clearly gave us all an idea of just how much our TAs already do for us in our classes.

Next up we discussed the roles of our TAs and the ways in which we must support our TAs in our planning and delivery of the lessons. Something that really hit home was the requirement to ensure our TAs knew at each stage of the lesson:
1)what the students were expected to do
2)what resources the students needed to access the tasks
3)the answers and questions students should be asked when completing the tasks and to check their answers
4)what extension work there was for students that had finished

In order to put this into context we were then asked to complete an activity for a particular lesson (our group chose fractions). We had a large piece of paper split into 4 sections. 1 was what students should be thinking about at the start of the task, 1 was what to do if a student became stuck, 1 was what to do whilst the students were working and the last were plenary activities/questions to pose to the students. All the while we were completing the sheet we had to think about our TAs and what they would need in order to support students through each stage of the lesson.
Here's our finished sheet...

We were then given a sheet of other examples compiled from previous sessions.

We then discussed the challenges faced when working effectively with our TAs and the main thing that came from this was if our TA wasn't a specialist in our subject and how this would then alter our planning. Luckily, all the TAs I work with are more than savvy with Mathematics!

Still, we then had another tasks where we were given a piece of work photocopied from a student's exercise book and we had to highlight areas of the work to be developed and worked on in class. Taking into consideration how our TA would support that student if working with them in their next lesson. This was a really interesting task as it put into context the lesson, marking, planning, lesson cycle. At this point I was slightly shocked at the level of marking the primary school teachers seemed to be doing...i.e. marking each of the students books each day of the week! I think I am pretty good when it comes to keeping on top of my students books and marking and know that I do a lot more than others, but this was far more than what I can reasonably do in a week! Perhaps this is due to having 7 classes rather than just the 1? Perhaps not?

Anyway, here's our completed task...we had a year 7/8's division work...

A major thing I noticed here was that some of the work in the student's book had been wrongly marked correct. So the first thing I would have got my TA to do would be to go through the student in questions 12 x table as these mistakes were made and yet the student would have believed they got them right as they were marked so in their book. Then, when looking at their division work it seemed they were ok when dividing by Integers but when it came to dividing my decimals (the second LO) they struggled. I would at this stage get my TA to check their understanding of division and to see if they could show them a different example to show what they had learnt in the lesson. The TA could then show them a different method of division etc. Of course, these things I would probably be going through with the class anyway at some point but in terms of what my TA could be doing if this was the student they worked with in my lesson then this guidance would give them an idea of how to ensure the student they are working with makes progress in the lesson. We were told that there was a deficit in terms of the students who receive 1:1 TA support and the progress they make in class compared to the progress expected.

Finally we looked at some data and highlighted students that we would target for TA support in our lessons. This was useful too as it allowed us to look at not just student's levels, but previous progress, targets and take into account any SEN etc. Obviously we know our learners a lot better than what a set of data can show us on paper, but it was useful nonetheless to see how just be seeing a few stats it becomes clear which students can be targeted for support.

The whole morning (the session was only a 9:30-12:30 job) was really beneficial and it reminded me of the sessions I had last year on my GTP. Even better was that it was during a time where I didn't miss any of my lessons and was back in school in time for my tutor group (and my P4 and 5 lessons thereafter).

Due to the success of this session I now feel better prepared when thinking about the planning of my lessons where I have TA support and what I need to ensure they know prior to the lesson, whether that be via a brief meeting before the lesson, after the previous lesson or via e-mail. I will now be feeding back what I have taken away from the course to my TAs and to the SEN dept as a whole.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Quality not Quantity #Teachmeet Haywards Heath

On Wednesday evening this week I went to my very first #teachmeet - #teachmeet Haywards Heath. Now, I had been well aware of the teachmeets that had been set up around the country for teachers to share their ideas/resources/thoughts etc, but until now hadn't had one in my area or been able to attend any.

Luckily, I was free Wednesday evening and so signed up to the Haywards Heath #teachmeet, which is less than 30 mins from where I live.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the evening, other than the evening would be more than worth while based on tweets I had seen from other teachers who had attended other #teachmeets. When I arrived I was greeted by Pauline Gaston (@PaulineMGaston) who had arranged the event. I was told at this point that there weren't as many people as was expected but none the less all the original presentations where still taking place.

We all met briefly before the presentations took place and I soon found I was in good company with teachers from across the county, both Primary and Secondary and even lecturers from Sussex Uni.

The first presentation was by Kevin Cunningham (@bt2bn) on 'Storytelling in Maths'. This, of all the presentations was the one that was, on first glance of the evening's schedule, the most relevant to me. Kevin's presentation was fantastic and involved thinking of your Mathematics lessons as a story whereby you 'hook' the learners in, set up the challenges and obstacles to overcome and then resolve them. Kevin spoke highly of, and gave me a needed reminder of, Dan Meyer's blog and the ideas available on here Kevin showed us an example of a video he had used to 'hook' his students into the volume of cylinders. He used this video to get students to think of all possible questions you could ask based on the short clip. There was then the main part of the lesson where the students worked through solving the problems/questions they had posed in the starter and then a final video was shown to review the learning. The videos can be seen here.

Next up was Darren Harte, a teacher in a Primary BESD school. This presentation was fantastic in terms of the 'eye opener' it provided in terms of what goes on in a BESD school. The presentation was titled 'They do what?'. The main thing I took away from this is that practical learning/engagement is key for these learners and that they adopt a thematic approach to their curriculum. Another interesting idea was to grade classes on their behaviour each lesson. Starting each lesson with a '5', the highest level and then seeing where the class ends up at the end of the lesson with '0' being the lowest score for their behaviour. This emphasises the need to start each lesson 'fresh'. The students in that class would then be rewarded with a 'class of the week' trophy based on their scores, they would be given 'golden time' for 20 mins at the end of the day, given small (cheap) rewards at the end of lessons etc.

After Darren, Brian Dickinson, creator of (@takethemoutcouk) presented about the website. The website is a site where teachers can share reviews of places/events they have been to on school trips. This was seen as a great idea for teachers as there is now a place you can go to search for particular venues for particular subjects/key stages/ages etc and all of these will be reviewed by other teachers who have previously attended the places/visits/events.

Pauline then gave her presentation on 'Verbal and Non-Verbal Language Use for Successful Behaviour Management'. This was a great reminder of the key things we need to do as teachers to manage behaviour including pausing, giving time limits for tasks, giving take up time etc etc. The few things I took away from this was the '1 min detention', odd time limits for tasks - i.e. 7 mins, 8mins, 10mins 23 secs and standing to the side of students when talking to them about their behaviour.

Finally, Andy Chadler-Grevatt gave an inspiring presentation about the 'Summative and formative Classroom Culture' and had to be seen to understand the content of the presentation. The presentation was based on research Andy had conducted as part of his doctorate. There were loads of things to think about here and especially for me as a teacher in terms of whether my classroom culture is one of formative, summative or a mix of the two assessments. I found that depending on the set I teach that this changed.

Right at the end of the #teachmeet I was invited to attend an upcoming session at Sussex Uni by Karen Gladwin and this is something that I am already very excited by (more on this to come).

So, as the post title suggests this was a fairly intimate #teachmeet, which, if anything, allowed us to discuss in greater detail the topics presented. We weren't restricted by time and presenters were able to speak in greater depth about their chosen topics. Not having a form of comparison it is difficult to say whether this is better than say a #teachmeet where you have 100+ teachers but I took A LOT away from the evening and am grateful to those that gave up their time to share their ideas. Thank you to all involved!

Premier League - welcome back!

After the usual tedium of the International games  the Premier League is back this weekend. Now, you're probably wondering why on earth I'm commenting on this on my NQT Mathematics blog!? Well, it's because with the premier league games returning so does my weekend 'routine'.

Throughout my GTP year last year my weekend's largely consisted of planning lessons, marking books, creating resources etc all whilst watching whatever game was on that weekend and of course Jeff and the boys on Soccer Saturday. This may not sound like everybody's 'ideal' weekend and I'm sure it's not, but for me it allows me to get everything done that I need to whilst enjoying the things I enjoy at the same time. Having the football on in the background whilst working has been a successful working environment for me and it doesn't get in the way of the things I need to do. Now, compare this with someone who, for example, likes going cycling of a weekend, going shopping, cooking etc I can't see the two things being able to happen simultaneously - and a lot of people would suggest that they shouldn't be. But it works for me and that, I suppose, is my point...with the sheer amount of work that comes with being a teacher (not just an NQT) it is finding what works, for you.

It's not only a working environment that the football allows me either - last year I created this Soccer Saturday ppt display to have up in class at the start of my lessons. The ppt slide contains all the key information students need for the lesson and even includes scrolling text. It is all based around the Sky Sports News info screen/vidiprinter whilst the football results are coming through. As of yet I haven't used this in class this year, but having reminded myself of this, with the return of Jeff and the boys, I am pretty sure it'll be featuring in M6 (my classroom) this week!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

New Seating Layout

On Thursday evening, we had our Open Evening.

It was decided that my classroom was to be used for the evening and I was really pleased about this as it said something to me that my room must be an engaging environment in order for it to have been chosen for the eve.
During the evening we had so many things going on which I will post about later...for now I want to talk about a bi-product of open evening...a new seating layout for my classroom!

In order for the room to be setup for the evening we had to push all the tables and chairs to the sides of the room. We put on them various different tasks and displays for prosepective parents to look at and try out. So, this meant that my class was completely changed for the evening. Now, on coming into school on Friday morning I could have just put the desks back to their original layout, but I figured I may as well use this opportunity to experiment with the layout of the room.

So, remebering an English teacher I used to work with when working as a cover supervisor, I decided to put the furniture in the same layout as his. This teacher was a very, very good teacher in my opinion and so I figured that what worked for him may well work for me too?!

Here's the layout I have now gone to for the foreseeable future:

As you can see it's kind of a backbone with 'ribs' coming off on either side of the room.

I had 3 lessons on Friday, all of which were almost shocked at the change in the layout. I made sure that I informed them all of why I had changed the layout (opportunities arising, experimenting, etc). Now, my fatal error on the day was allowing students to sit where they wanted. It wasn't a massive problem, but certain students that shouldn't really be sat near each other for distraction purposes naturally took a b-line for each other! However, in my smaller Year 8 class I feel the new layout helped the lesson. The reason for this is beacause the tables are much closer together now and more students can be supported at any one time. In my lower classes there has been a tendancy for students to get 'scattered' throughout the classroom. Whereas now, those students that need to be sat apart for behavioural reasons can be, whilst still being close enough for my TAs and I to support them without being 'blind' to the rest of the class.

I will of course continue to see how the layout goes for the remainder of the half-term and WILL seating plan those classes that weren't on Friday!

Pointless Mathematics (Revisited and Revived!)

Back in February, whilst still on my GTP, I thought about and then set about creating my very own version of Pointless...Pointless Mathematics.

I blogged about this here on my previous 'reflective journal' blog.

Well, having just been on the TES doing my weekly look about for resources/ideas for my lessons I have discovered that the up and coming resource of the week is centred around my idea. You can see the resource of the week on the TES Mathematics pages here. Now, the only thing is...this isn't my resource, but a far better revived version of it.

When putting together my version I found there were a few 'snags' with the resource and it didn't work as great as I thought it would in class. Well, now Richard Tock @TickTockMaths has created a much better version where the resource now works much more like my intended version.

The resource takes the data I collected via Twitter (thanks again to everyone who took the surveys) and builds it into a multiple choice resource whereby the students, in teams, have to come up with the most 'pointless' answer. They also have to explain their answer in order to win that round.

I am very much looking forward to trying this resource out nearer the end of term and am glad that my idea has inspired others to use the resource and essentially make it better!

Thanks to Craig for mentioning my original idea in the resource of the week video and to Richard for improving on the idea and making my idea usable in class!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Pi-em (100 word h/w)

Earlier this week I set my Year 9 top set a homework task involving Pi.

The homework was to create a Pi-em; a poem/story where the numbers in each of the words correspond to the first 100 digits of Pi.
We have been looking at area and circumferences of circles in class and so this seemed like an original homework to give them. Not only will it help them in terms of remembering Pi (not necessarily to 100 decimal places), but it will also improve their literacy skills, of which there is a whole school wide push this year.

So, I combined the Pi-em challenge with the 100 word challenge that I am a big fan of and do weekly in tutor times with my year 8 form (see

Their homework isn't due in until Friday but I've already had a few of them handed in, here's one that has already been submitted...

She, a fool? A moron? Sanctuary is surely right for souls fighting, murdering, killing. Perfectly, for it can beautify, home sticks in hearts, like she can remember, and it rotates. Enlighten those he replaces creation with a clockwork machine. A single influence and creations regularly ban person’s lives. I speak external; an alligator battles with inanimate, huge logs. Hives, naturally an ant attacks a lively hive, forget to remember ratios. “Yo!” splutter centipede policemen. Rainbows tickle my Achilles. Ham can’t discover my hares. But joke’s on a-a penguin rapper. Rolling defiantly.
Here's the first 100 digits of Pi

3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078164 062862089986280348253421170679

As you can see from the Pi-em above the 1st word contains 3 letters, the 2nd word contains 1 letter, the 3rd word contains 4 letters, the 4th word contains 1 letter and so on...

I love the randomness of the pieces of writing that I've had in so far. Having provided the class of an example myself I know how difficult it is trying to think of 8 letter words or 6 letter words that somehow fit the story/poem that you are writing. This not only gets the students to look up these length words but also gets them thinking about how they can make their stories/poems make some sort of sense.

Oh, one last thing, with the 0 digits I told the class to either leave them out or to just use 'O' for those digits.

I'm planning on making a Pi-em display in my classroom once I've had them all handed in! More to come...

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Icing Biscuits all in order to teach Ratios

When trying to approach the topic of Ratio with my lower ability Year 8 sets I decided to mix things up a bit.

I had seen on the TES Start of Term resources that there was an idea to decorate biscuits in different ratios and so thought this could be ideal in engaging my year 8s with the topic. So,I got myself some Rich Tea biscuits, Icing Sugar and Smarties.

In the lesson I introduced the topic and asked my LSA to start mixing the icing sugar for me. When this was done I handed out the biscuits to the students (2 each) and told them that they would be given a random selection of smarties and that they'd have to decorate their biscuits with smarties in certain ratios. I gave them the freedom to choose what smarties they put on what biscuits, but they had to tell me the ratio they had used and write this on their kitchen towel they put their iced biscuits on (I didn't want a load of mess in my new room)!

Here are some of the results...


They, of course, also enjoyed devouring the biscuits afterwards!