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!

Why can’t they remember things?

The never ending heartfelt cry of most teachers I suspect. You teach things, in some cases over and over again, and yet the children don’t seem to remember any of what you have told them.

This does seem to be a particular problem in maths. Whether it is worse in maths or whether, because it is such a hierarchical subject that the gaps are more apparent, I don’t know. However both myself and my year group colleague are finding it difficult to move on with a lot of our children as previously taught ideas and concepts have not been retained.

An example of this is being able to multiply and divide by 10 and 100. This is a key concept in year 5 and we have spent a huge amount of time on it. Before Christmas I would happily say that nearly all the children in my maths group of 36 had a good understanding of this concept and could explain it and use it.

However, last week I put up a mixed bag of fairly simple calculations for the children to do during registration. One of these was to find 1/10 of 20. I was greeted by several blank faces when I asked for the answer. I prompted them by asking what they needed to do. The reply was ‘divide by 10’. I felt more positive and was sure that I would get the correct response when I asked how they would do this. One of my brighter children replied confidently that they needed to split 20 into 10 little chunks!

All the work that I had done on moving numbers up and down the number line had not prepared them for a simple question and yet I have ticked off that element on their APP grids. Do I now untick it?

My feeling of despair grew worse after an assessment paper revealed that half the class had forgotten basic methods for the four operations.

In his book “What’s the point of school”, Guy Claxton makes this point:

“The idea that a teacher can see a child do something, and then tick a box to say that they ‘possess’ the relevant skill or ability is simply nonsense. ”

He goes on to say that  a child being able to do something in  one context does not mean that they will be able to do it again at a future date in a different context. From my own experience I would agree with this. But where does that leave our assessment of children?

And the problem remains that there are various hoops that the children need to be able to jump through by the end of each school year. My own performance management target is looking impossible at the moment.

My short term response is to drill the children in the things that they really should be able to do when they leave me. I have done my best to teach for understanding and will continue to do this. I will also carry on trying to find ways of getting them to use the concepts in different contexts. However I am also going to spend more time on practising basic arithmetic methods. Each morning we will go over a method for one of the 4 operations and practise it for 5-10 minutes.

Hopefully this will result in more connections being made and the children being able to retain and use the methods more easily.

What a week!

I feel absolutely exhausted. It’s been one of those weeks where I don’t seem to have stopped. I have piles of marking dotted all over the classroom but refused to bring more than one lot home. Guess what I will be doing in my ppa time next week?

Lots of behaviour issues at the moment as well. It’s a very boy heavy class, 23 out of 35, and generally they don’t get along too badly. This week though, they seem to have really been winding each other up all week and irritating each other. Unusually I have several children who are very untruthful. I have generally found that most children will own up to things but in this class there are several who will deny everything and it makes it impossible to sort things out.

On the plus side, I had a maths observation by the head which went well and he was pleased with.

I also managed to get my class blog about the Ancient Greek Olympics off the ground.

I’ve linked it to twitter to hopefully generate some traffic and the children were thrilled to find that 3 people had commented on their work. They also loved seeing the statistics that showed 50 people had read the blog. So if anyone reading this has a couple of minutes spare, we would love it if you would read about Nikias and his quest for an olympic wreath.

I will get the reading one off the ground in a couple of weeks hopefully.

I passed!!!!!!

The online results for the first year of the Primary Maths Specialist course are now available. I was quite nervous when I logged into the ntu site. I had told myself that it wouldn’t matter if I had to resubmit the assignment and that I would not be bothered by the result. However I was shocked and very pleased to find out that by some miracle, I have actually passed the first year. I think I probably just scraped  through but it still counts. Hooray!

Haven’t had any feedback on assignment yet. I hope that we will get that when we go back to the university next week.

I am looking forward to starting again. I need to get things organised and think about updating my teaching log which I have neglected a bit since last November.

Good Luck to anyone else who has completed this first year of Module 1

My class on the net

I’ve been inspired (or something like it anyway) by ideas for getting my children to publish their work to a wider audience.

My class already have their own wikispace:

I began this as it’s a bit easier to maintain than a blog as I only need to change a bit each week and the archive of previous work is easy to access on new pages. However this is pretty much all my work and just a way of showing other’s some of the things we do. I wanted something that the children could do and have come up with two ideas, both of which were really inspired by other people.

The first idea links to my wish to develop their interest in reading this term. I have been following Bill Lord’s choices of a book a day and have created a blog where the children can post reviews of books that they like. Hopefully the idea of seeing their work in the public domain may inspire them to read a bit more widely and raise the profile of reading generally.

The second idea was really inspired by chrisleach78 on Twitter who did a real time twitter account of the gunpowder plot and and also the death of Edward VI with his pupils. We are writing recounts this week and it will be in the form of a diary of an athlete at the ancient Olympic games. So I have used wordpress again to set up a blog for an athlete called Nikias who will be able to relate all of his exciting adventures.

How much impact either of these will have, I don’t know but hopefully at least some of my pupils will be enthused by them.

Try something new!

I really wanted to go to see Matilda at the RSC after reading the brilliant reviews. Quick search of the website revealed that virtually no seats were left so that was that!

However then my husband announced that he was going away for a week to Dubai! Home alone for a whole week . How could I occupy my long lonely evenings? Another search of the RSC website revealed that although it was nearly sold out, there were still quite a few single seats left. So the question was do I go to Stratford on my own? Well of course is the answer. Not only were there still single seats left but one of them was in the middle of the front row of the circle. Perfect!

To get to Stratford is about an hour’s drive so I needed to leave at about 6 o clock. That’s very early to have eaten an evening meal, even by my standards. I could take sandwiches and sit and eat them in the car park, but not a very appealing option. Or I could eat fish and chips on the banks of the Avon, that’s OK if it’s not raining. Or I could go to a restaurant and eat a proper meal??????

So, Friday night saw me at a corner table in a lovely squashy chair, eating a meal for one. It was quite a strange experience but not unpleasant. I had a book to read (although the candlelight wasn’t ideal) and the staff were fantastic. It did feel very adventurous, sitting there on my own. It was a perfect position for people watching though. I was amused by the man who told his friends to stop talking to him as he had to finish the book before the performance started. Not sure whether he did or not. He seemed to have quite a long way to go.

The show was brilliant! There were amazing performances from all of the children, especially Matilda, and Miss Trunchbull was superb! The show made me laugh, nearly cry and sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation. It was only slightly spoilt by having to evacuate the theatre because of a fire alarm. Everything was very orderly and we were back inside not long afterwards.

So, I did something new this weekend. Next stop is to try and get tickets to see David Tennant in Much Ado (I might take my husband to that one though).

Improving Reading

This is my big aim for this term. My class aren’t really into reading at all. I have about 6 children who enjoy it but most of the rest simply go through the motions.  Quite a large group don’t really at all. They read the words on the page but don’t think about what they are reading. If it doesn’t make sense, then they often don’t notice. If you ask what happened on the previous page, they often have no idea.

Guided reading activities with structured questions for the AFs are a real battle. AF2 is generally OK if the text is quite short but inference or comparing texts is a closed book to a lot of them.

So the question is what to do about it?

There was a thread on PTRC about texts for inference which followed a research paper on getting children to actively read for inference. The paper is really interesting (although not the lightest read at times) and makes some interesting points about when teachers should intervene and ask questions about what they are reading. One suggestion is that a good way to develop the skills in the children is to model them when you read aloud. This means that they aren’t struggling with decoding text but can concentrate on what is being said.

I think that I often do this in literacy lessons but have decided to make more of an effort to model questions while I read a story and involve the children a lot more in actively listening.

As an aid to this I have created a display which can be added to as we progress through the book. Our book this term is ‘A dog called grk’ by Joshua Doder. It is on our recommended list of books for boys but is a good tale and girls enjoy it too. The main character is able to have wild adventures but still remains believable

I also want to put up a reading learning wall with prompt questions to get them to think more actively about their independent reading.

Hopefully all of this will have some impact on improving their attitude to books and reading although I don’t expect any miracles.

If anyone out there has any bright ideas then I would love to hear them.

Fiction and poetry prompts

I haven’t really got anything to blog about in terms of school activity. The children were back in school for 2 days. We devoted the first day to DT in which they designed and made their own fairy tale finger puppets. Sewing with a class of 35 year 5 children is not the most stressfree way to start the year! They enjoyed it though and the puppets are fun to look at.

So this blog is thinking about how to prompt children’s writing.  Inspiring children to write well is one of the things that I feel very strongly about. I love the work that Pie Corbett has done in this area and use a lot of his ideas either from Jumpstart to Literacy or from other articles he has written. This blog entry is thanks to Scott at WordPress yesterday in his ideas for daily blogging. He provided the following link

This seems like a brilliant idea to me and could well provide lots of ideas that could be used in school. The poetry idea on 3rd Jan is one that I could see being used in school very easily. The idea of taking a poem and replacing every other line with one of your own is an idea that children would take on board very easily and I will certainly be trying this very soon with my own class. Maybe I will blog about the results next week.

I look forward to following the future ideas with interest and seeing what inspiration I can gain from them.

What was the most significant thing I did last year?

That’s quite an easy one to answer as it was the reason I started this blog in the first place. The most significant/important thing I did last year in terms of teaching was to begin the MaST course. I ummed and ahhed over whether to apply for ages because I knew that any extra work load would prove difficult. In the end I sent my application in right on the deadline and scraped in by the skin of my teeth (and a glowing reference from my head).

I have enjoyed the course on so many different levels:

My network group of 10 people in the local ish area is fantastic. Our meetings are always lively and fun as well as providing a lot of food for thought. They have been led by two maths consultants from the LA who have been a real source of knowledge and enthusiasm – Thanks Jane and Kerry! Every person in the group is supportive and the group has really gelled together.

Our HEI meetings at NTU have been led by a variety of tutors but they have all been at least interesting and a couple have been really inspiring. There has not been a single meeting where I haven’t taken at least one idea that I could go and use in the classroom straightaway.

Then there was the residential in February! An incredibly demanding weekend that was full of inspiration and food for thought. I am really looking forward to the next one in March.

The course has made me really reflect on my teaching and how and why I do things. I think that I have definitely become a better maths teacher as a direct result of what I have done so far. The challenge now is to make sure that I can disseminate what I have learned to my colleagues.

The down side to all of this was the assignments. I have found them very difficult to write at the level required. The reading has been fascinating and very worthwhile but writing up what I have found out has been taxing in the extreme. I await the return of my second assignment with a huge amount of trepidation.

And so onto 2011 and year 2. I will possbly have to begin by rewriting and resubmitting the second assignment and thenbegin to think about the assignment for this year. I’m looking forward to learning more and implementing what I have learned in my class and school.

It’s easy to post a week when I’m on holiday. Will I keep it up when I’m back at school I wonder?