Ramblings from the Maths Classroom – Week 7

Last weeks blog talked a lot about ‘discipline’ and the different forms this can take in terms of teacher behaviour. Earlier in my career I was obsessive (and still at times) about having the lesson slides perfectly planned and looking as good as they can. They issue with this is I would not give as much attention to thinking about how I am going to deliver the content and what points I am going to emphasise. This summer to support one of my daughters I have become a Level 1 Qualified Coach and one of the key points one of the coaching mentors there kept banging on about was key coaching points. I can here him now in my head asking me whilst the training is going on what are your planned ‘coaching points’ going to be to the girls when the time is right.

Interestingly I have now started thinking about this within my classroom craft/lesson build up. What are the key points I want to emphasise and how can I plan to make these happen in the classroom so I am able to guide them. For example in index laws what knowledge/skills do I want them to leave the classroom with. The key teaching points when starting the laws would be when multiplying and dividing terms with indices and examples of when you can and can’t do this.

Part of this ‘discipline’ is how I show my own teaching on the whiteboard which is to the side of my interactive one. This week I have really focussed on imagining that students have not listened to a single thing I have said and whether my written instruction would be good enough to give them some ideas. Two examples below where typically how my whiteboards looked.

Whilst the maths might have been sound it was not vey easy to see the procedure. The right hand side example is better as the bottom left hand side shows the procedure between the steps but it still doesn’t differentiate very well. As I was producing these boards it took me back to my summer reading from @olicav on dual coding and the use of hierachy and colours when presenting information. So with that in mind I then produced the following.

I got over excited as I started as I put the coordinate points in red, then the reflection work in blue and then may visual prompts that I wanted students to write notes in purple. Then a green background I honestly thought as I was creating it, it was going to be a thing of beauty but when I took the photo I was surprised at how cluttered it was. Reflecting on this I realised that @olicav’s work on 2 colour work and using hierarchy really had power. When I do this again the coordinates will be in black so they fade into the background then i will use one other colour.

After seeing this I decided the relook at my board work and decided now to keep my discipline by only using two colours but being clear what each colour was being used for.

Whilst I wished I had a clearer red pen instead of pink, the work was written in black and then the procedural notes/support were put in pink. These were left on the board as students worked through their own independent work and they would repeatedly use the board to refer to. I want to keep working on this more over the coming weeks by possibly using blocks of colour at the start to differentiate different areas of work. If you want to learn a bit more about this please look at my blog over the summer on Oli Cav’s excellent book and how I developed my use, better still buy the book!

I have always been a tweaker and always looking at improving resources i had used before but was proud of myself this week as I took the transformations work I had done last year and just used them again as they were. That was a significant step for me as I always want to start again or tweak/change something but these resources did the job and we need to remember that we will never teach the perfect lesson and good enough is good enough. The students actually learnt more because I was fresh and reactive to what they were telling or showing me in lesson. The transformations page is here please use any of the resources.

The last thing I want to mention is the use of the spotlight tool available on most interactive whiteboard software. Its really useful when training students to distil a problem down into multiple seperate steps.

The example above was a discussion I had with a group looking at spotting the angles in a straight line on the middle of question 2. Being able to just spotlight just that part allowed students to really focus on that part of the question and see that it required previously learnt content.

May put a blog out next week but might take a couple of weeks off as half term starts next Friday! Have a good week everyone.

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