Sunday, 7 February 2016

Numeracy Ninjas

Massively inspired by this tweet by Jon O'Neil (@jonsmcest)
I have been putting up our very own Numeracy Ninjas Display this week.

If you are not familiar with Numeracy Ninjas then you must check out their website now and have a look at their free resource.
The numeracy intervention is working wonders at our school and we have all of our set 3 and 4 students across KS3 doing the programme. We typically have 3 or 4 classes on each side of our year groups and so we are mainly using with our 'lower-ability' groups.

The kids have taken to the Ninjas really well and after trialing the intervention programme in the first half term of the school year we were all happy to continue with it. I, personally, only have 1 KS3 class doing the 'Ninjas' and it has been a godsend in getting them in and settled and working silently for a sustained period of time. So much so, that I now do this with them every lesson, rather than just once a week like we started doing at the start of the year. The reason for this was that, without the Ninjas, the class just took ages to get settled and were very rarely quiet for sustained periods of time. Now, we have a good 10-15 minutes each lesson of focused numeracy.

After running the ppt for the 5 minute duration each session I go over the answers, the kids find out their scores/belt and then I choose 4-5 of the 'Key Skills' questions to go over as a class - some of these are chosen by the students as they ask how to do certain questions. This time is, in my opinion, the most beneficial as it is the moment where they get feedback from me and are learning more ways to do their basic numeracy. We discuss methods used by those students that answered the questions chosen correctly and I then tell them how I saw the question(s) and how I would approach them.

We have been doing the Ninjas in little A5 booklets in 10-session blocks. Each 10-session booklet has a table on the back where they can record their scores/belts. This makes it really visible as to how well they are doing and the progress can easily be seen.
I have even found other ways of using the class' numeracy Ninja results and building these into my class' learning. When covering unit 3 of our SoW (charts and diagrams), I got students to: draw a pie chart to represent the colour belts they had achieved in that 10 week session; draw a time series graph for their  results and we briefly looked at trend lines and tried to predict what score/belt they would get next session and we looked at averages too.
By linking their numeracy Ninjas intervention into their 'normal' learning it has helped keep them focused and engaged.

Now I have put up the display, inspired by Jon's, the students each have a ninja with their name on it tagged to the display board. Each week I will update the board if a student needs to move up (or down) to a different belt.
We have also bought in some of the rewards from the website. We have pencils and postcards that we have started giving students who have made a significant improvement, or have consistently achieved highly. These have been gratefully received so far.

 Here's the display board...
and again.

I have started to put the word out to staff about the display too, giving out a message in our staff briefings about the ninjas display and to get students to keep looking at the board/asking their teachers to move them up (or down) when appropriate. They're there for all staff to see and so my hope is that staff will see where particular students are, perhaps those that are in their form group or just those they are familiar with, and comment on how they're doing...'Joe, I notice you're on a red belt in your numeracy ninjas'...'Nicki, well done for getting a black belt, there's not many students on that belt is there...', etc! This should help encourage students and keep them engaged with their numeracy and motivate them to do better.

One of my students did say this week - 'oh sir, is this just one of those things that gets updated for the first week or so and then that's it'. No, no it won't be! I will aim to update the board as much as I can, at least after each 10-session booklet where we can take the modal belt for those sessions, or, for the classes that only do the ninjas once every week, their last score.
The only thing I can see 'negative' about the board is that for those students at the bottom it is a bit of a 'wall of fame and shame' - lets hope that instead of this we can encourage those students lower down to get into the green belt section (at least) and take every opportunity to move them up!

I love the Numeracy Ninjas and it has been a massive boost to improving students numeracy and engaging them in their Mathematics lessons in general.
I'm sure there will be future posts on how we are using the Numeracy Ninjas at our school.