Classroom Research

I’m not sure if that is the right title or not. It might be more appropriate to call it lack of classroom research.

I’m trying to work out what I need to do to be more successful with my MaST work this year. The crucial thing seems to be that I need to be more analytical of my classroom practice and that of other people. A comment on my last assignment was that I needed to analyse in greater depth my observations of children. And as this year’s assignment is a whole school project, I assume that means that I will also need to analyse other people’s observations? It all seems horribly woolly at the moment.

I’m not sure how to approach this or where I’m falling down. Partly I think it is that I don’t always know what questions to actually ask the children when I am talking to them but it’s more that I don’t know where to go once I have their responses.

What does their response tell me about their learning? I’m not always sure that it tells me anything other than they understand (or not) at that particular point.

What are the ways forward for this problem?

Reading may be a possibility. To tryand identify how researchers have analysed children’s responses in the books that I already possess. Or maybe look at general publications on carrying out classroom research. I’m sure that I have a link to one already.

We are already nearly a month into this year’s course and I haven’t actually written up any classroom observations because nothing has really seemed to be significant. I think that I need to start recording things whether they seem to be significant or not, just to give me something to work on.

I’m beginning to feel out of my depth. Hopefully I can work my way through.


A Real Teachmeet!

I didn’t sleep well last night and I blame the fact that my head was spinning with so many ideas from yesterday afternoon. This post will include the ones that are most relevant to me as I couldn’t possibly talk about everything so apologies if I don’t mention everybody!

It was a real googlefest with several people talking about how google docs can be used in school and even used as a VLE.

I enjoyed both of Colin Graham’s presentations, one on Cairo tiling patterns and one discussing how tangrams can be used in maths lessons. I will definitely be following up some of the links and doing work on them in my lessons.

Zoe Ross (@ZoeRoss19) did a very hands on presentation about non techy teaching aids. I loved the thinking dice and they link nicely with the ones that Bev has produced at She also made an instant origami book. This is something I have used a lot in the past. I was introduced to them years ago on my PGCE and I think that originally they were the idea of Paul Johnson in his book ‘Books searching for Authors’ which is about 20 years old now. Zoe gave me some new ideas on how to use them.

Jan Webb (@janwebb21) presented on the capabilities of Word 2007 including the bibliography tool and onenote. These are both really powerful tools for anyone doing research and something I need to investigate.

One of my favourite presentations of the afternoon was Nikki Davies on how she used La Sagrada Familia to teach RE. I have been really trying to add interest to my RE lessons this year by using drama and other ways to excite the children and this presentation was really inspiring.

I was amazed by Nicki (kiwiteacheruk) and her account of the fantastic progress that she has made with children’s handwriting. I also loved Ian Harcombe’s year 8 use of Scratch to create animations. The fish and the Whale were brilliant.

I was reminded about the Aviary tools by Kevin (@kvnmcl). I meant to investigate those last year after watching tmbev but it somehow fell off the radar. This year I need to make sure that I look into all the brilliant ideas I have been given.

Emma and Mike deserve a huge vote of thanks for organising and all the presenters for sharing their ideas and expertise. Teachmeets are a brilliant way for teachers ( and non teachers) to come together and the pool of collective knowledge present yesterday was astounding.

It was a brilliant afternoon, not least because I won bottle of wine in the raffle!

Getting Excited!

In about an hour, I will be heading off to Lutterworth for my very first actual Teachmeet. I’m feeling nervous as I’ve only actually met two people who will be there in real life. Others are facebook friends but mainly people that I am connected with through Twitter. I’m charging up my phone but otherwise will be very low tech and taking notes by hand. The post code is entered into the sat nav even though I’m fairly sure that I know where it is. I am amazed by how far people are travelling to get to this event. My journey of about 20 minutes is small fry really.

I have looked at the site stats for and am overwhelmed. There have been 70 views since we posted yesterday and several comments. I’ve also had some lovely feedback via twitter. I guess starting a new blog just before half term was not really a good idea. I really want to share the feedback with the children but shan’t see them for over a week. I hope that I can regenerate their enthusiasm when we return.

I am hoping to get some more ideas this afternoon and maybe some technical help. Looking at other class blogs makes me realise how little technical expertise I have. I would love to be able to incorporate elements such as slide shows and video into our blog but don’t really know where to start.

More on Teachmeet tomorrow after the event!

Class blog finally on line!

After meaning to do this since Christmas, I finally got my proper class blog up and running today. The stimulus came from how brilliant their last set of homework was and wanting to display it more.

We set it up together as a whole class after lunch. The children chose the theme, the title and decided on what information went on the about page.

They were very excited as we created our first post. Decisions about which homework was scanned in were hard but some didn’t display well. There were one or two comments about ‘going to make mine neater next time so it can go on’ which I thought were a good start.

Find our new blog at

The Power of Twitter

This post was inspired by a discussion in the pub last night! Someone asked in a slightly exasperated voice “But what on earth is the point of Twitter?” And that got me thinking.

The best way that I can find to describe my use of Twitter is that it is like an enormous staff room. It’s somewhere that I can comment randomly on the weather, the unreasonableness of having to mark over 100 books in a day etc etc. And exactly as in the real world, people may respond or not. However it’s also an incredible source of ideas and inspiration.

Through Twitter I have been introduced to school web sites, individual and class blogs and an amazing set of people whose collective knowledge seems never ending. There is always someone who knows an answer. I have been inspired to try out new ideas and have a huge backlog of things that I haven’t yet got around to trying yet.

I have also been introduced to Teachmeets. I have managed to follow 2 online and on Saturday I am actually going to my very first one in person.

I am excited about being able to meet some of the people that I follow on Twitter in person and looking forward to gaining a whole new set of ideas.

I only dip my toe into Twitter waters. I follow about 60 people but even that small amount gives me access to so many thoughts and ideas.

As this was designed to be blog mainly about Maths teaching, I thought it would be a good idea to share this link which gives a list of 20 people to follow on Twitter if you are interested in Maths.

I realise that I am probably preaching to the converted but if there is anyone reading this who has not discovered the joys of Twitter yet then maybe you should give it a go.

MaST Assignment 3

I got my second assignment back at last week’s uni session and from the comments it seems that there was nothing actually wrong with it (which is why it passed) but it could have been better!

Then we spent the first hour thinking about the next one! Help!

Assignment 3 is a whole school project that needs to be carried out by the end of the summer term and then written up and submitted during October. We have to submit a proposal to our tutors by the end of March, setting out what we are going to do.

My mind immediately went into overdrive. Should I do this? Or that? Or something else completely?

There are so many different things that I could do and I always find it hard to settle on one thing. I want to look at girl’s underachievement, using resources, improving using and applying and using guided group work as well as other things I can’t think of at the moment.

So what is actually achieveable?

I have an hour of inset to deliver straight after half term which I can use to introduce the area that I settle on.

I think that I am going to do something on using a variety of resources to support children’s understanding at all ages and ability levels. We used cuisenaire rods at the meeting which we don’t have in school at present. I could see lots of ways that they could be used and so have bought some to try.

I think my inset session will be to try and get people to think of how they can use resources in different ways as well as to give them ideas of other resources that they might not be using at the moment. Then I’ll see how that goes and take it from there.

Maths Murder Mystery

I love Teachers TV and I think that it is a real shame that it is no longer being funded by the government (along with so much else). I have got some fantastic inspiration from some of the videos and they really are a fantastic resource.

A brilliant innovation was Lessons on a Plate. There are only a few but you get a complete lesson with all the resources that you need. One of them is the Murder Mystery. It is a maths lesson aimed at year 6 but my average to able year 5’s coped with it without any problems.

You get a short video which has distinct echoes of Midsomer Murders and the children have to work out who did it by creating and analysing line graphs of the suspect’s pulse rates.

We watched the video twice and then discussed likely culprits. The children were all totally engaged and argured really persuasively for or against certain characters. When it came to actually doing some work, they were keen to begin and didn’t seem to see it as work at all. The buzz in the room was fantastic with all the children constantly on task. They were discussing their graphs as they created them and deciding whether the graph supported their previous ideas.

They did not want to finish when it was time to go into assembly which was definitely a rare event.

Mathematical Thinking

7.30 is an ungodly hour of the morning to have to get up on a Saturday! However I managed it and got to Nottingham in time for the first HEI session of Module 2. Half of the session was devoted to Assignment 3 which will form the assessed part of the module. More on that in a different post I think.

The second part followed on from Thursday’s work on algebra and the part that this plays in getting children to think mathematically. My memory of algebra is of having to solve equations and find the unknown value eg y = 3x + 32 etc etc. However in primary schools it does not really have to be about using letters or symbols at all.

We looked at how algebraic thinking is when you look at the structures of the calculations that you do. Algebra is seeing how the operations connect with each other and being able to use this connectivity to solve problems. If you can identify the structure of a calculation then you can do others and can apply that knowledge to any calcualation of the same type which is when symbols begin to be used.

The tutor has an excellent grasp of her subject and we moved through things very quickly. There were several times when I was still thinking through something she had said to find that she had moved on and I was now lost. I wonder how many of my children feel like that?

We discussed again the importance of children finding their own solutions and having a real understanding of how maths works rather than just applying rules or algorithms learned by rote.

So where does this leave me and my previous post? Do I throw up my hands in horror and leave them to their own devices? My initial reaction yesterday was that my decision to get my children to practise things more was probably wrong but having considered things, I don’t think that it is.

Practise makes perfect and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a tap dancing routine, a football skill or a maths algorithm. If children practise something then they will get better at it and gain confidence. The more confident they are in being able to do something, then the more likely they are to use it. I’m not teaching methods in isolation, I will continue to explain different methods and encourage children to use their own as well. I want to give them a choice so that their reaction on seeing a maths problem is to wonder which is the best method to choose rather than panic that they simply can’t do it.

After the session, my head was spinning with all the ideas that I had to try and make sense of and use to improve my own and others teaching.

MaST Meeting One

So after a couple of months of blogging about various issues, this blog should now get back to what it was originally intended to be, a reflection of what I have done on the Primary Maths Specialist course.

Today was the first meeting of Module 2 and lived up to expectations. The overall subject was Mathematical Thinking but it was primarily concerned with the role of algebra in our thinking and teaching. As ever, there were several ideas that I want to take and use in the classroom straight away. The problem of not knowing what to write in my PLL should be solved for at least a while as I work my through the suggested activities.

It was quite ironic having this meeting today after my last post on children not remembering things, particularly methods. I had decided that I needed to do more practice to make the children more familiar with the methods they needed to use but today’s session ( as always) made me think.

There was an extract taken from research carried out in 2009 by Nunes et al:

“Mathematical reasoning, even more than so than children’s knowledge of arithmetic, is important for children’s later achievement in mathematics.”

The research apparently showed that while knowledge of arithmetic was important, it was the ability to reason that had most impact on achievement. So back to the drawing board??????

Our maths consultant also talked about the research into numberlines done in Britain and the Netherlands. Apparently in the Netherlands, the use of number lines is a lot more open and flexible, whereas in lessons here we are more inclined to say “use the number line in this way”. More food for thought.

It’s back to the age old problem of finding a balance. I need my children to be able to do certain tasks by the end of the year, to be able to jump through the year 5 hoops. If they don’t, then I will be judged a less than satisfactory teacher! But for their long term achievement, they need to have time spent on improving their reasoning skills.

So back to juggling the available time and trying to make the best use of it to develop the children’s ability as best I can.

There was much discussion on assignments, both past and future. I think that it was generally agreed that the course would be much more enjoyable without having to do them.

Apparently the pass mark was 50. Somehow I managed to score 50 on both of my assignments so I was correct when I said that I must have  just managed to squeeze through. A heartfelt thanks to my tutor or whoever decided that I should fall the right side of the line. I am so glad that I don’t have to resubmit. I will be very interested to read the feedback though and I really want to try and make a better job of the one this year.

Lots of food for thought from this morning and another session on Saturday so my brain will be buzzing.

MaST restarts!

It seems ages since we had our final meeting last year but we are about to start Module 2. Quite an intensive start with a network meeting tomorrow morning and then a meeting at the university on Saturday morning. I hope they don’t expect too much to be done in between.

I am looking forward to starting again properly. I had all sorts of good intentions about what I was going to do in the intervening couple of months but it didn’t really come to anything. I need the impetus of the meetings to make me actually do something by a certain date. Otherwise it just gets pushed into the background as there is always something more urgent to be done (or just not having the energy/motivation).

I know that I ‘ve got to do the front page of my log with specific examples to illustrate things that I have done and I really must get that done soon.

I have also not really been keeping up with entries in my teaching diary. I did mean to but I always struggle with deciding what is significant enough to be recorded. I don’t seem to have had any experiences that have seemed worth commenting on in the past couple of months. I think that this is something I need to discuss tomorrow and see if other people feel the same or whether I am missing something (always possible).

Then of course there is the big assignment for this module. We have already had the brief for this and there are sessions timetabled in to look at various aspects of it. This is the part that I know I really have to improve on. How I managed to pass the last one is a mystery but the mark indicates that it was a close run thing. I would really like to make a better job of this year’s and not end up being so stressed by it.

So I’m going into module 2 full of hope and good intentions. Let’s see how long I can keep it up!