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...