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).