Stop and breathe…

Completed my NQT year last year – so this is my first beginning of the school year as a fully qualified teacher. I’ve certainly been apprehensive about the workload mainly. I’m an over analyser and thinker by nature so I really need to reel that in this year and become slicker and more efficient in what I do and how I do it – or it simply won’t be sustainable.

I’ve done a lot of reading about teaching a learning (again) this summer – it is what floats my boat – as well as completing a Stanford University online course called “How to learn maths” run by Jo Boaler (of Elephant in the Classroom fame?). It was an interesting experience and I found it fairly useful in reminding me of things I’d come across before, as well as giving me some good practical activities to use in the classroom.

Two days of INSET were excellent in terms of how they were structured and I think I took something away from most sessions – I’m going to try an create a Podcast with year 9 students next week (for example).

Thursday was a day of intro lessons – going through expectations and ended up doing what I felt was a useful activity:

Bloom’s ranked questions activity – students tried to rank questions in terms of level of thinking required. Used this to identify A’s and B’s (pairs) and had B’s getting up and “having an argument” with another A about their answers… (hands to yourself)

If I’m looking to use Bloom’s then the students can be made aware of the ideas – a simple “What is…” question is a matter of knowing or remembering. So I tell them, then they know… Seems like this is a useful conversation to be able to have and links to the idea of “necessary and arbitrary”.

Classroom expectations and importance of feeling safe led me to saying “…because I don’t hate you, you know? Do I look like I hate you? In fact, I care about you. I care about you and think you and your education are so important that I will do my best for you this year. I want to help you learn and to achieve your potential…” This was based on TES behaviour guys “the teacher persona”

Introduced year 7’s to Me, My Friend and an Enemy in terms of setting out convincing working out.
It seems as though I may have got some key characters “on side” and haven’t had any behaviour concerns – Mr Rush’s session on intervention was interesting, in that he didn’t intervene and then had a learning conversation with the student and I found myself doing this, and letting some “off-task behaviour” go in the expectation that students would then engage in the activity… I feel I was able to do this because of greater confidence in my level of control.

In terms of classroom management, everything felt less rushed and more in control. I wasn’t feeling pressured to hurry, less afraid of silence and of making students wait…

Year 12: could’ve/should’ve given them 2 questions to take away and do for next lesson…

The end

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Posted by on September 6, 2013 in Uncategorized


Year 10 lesson with laptops and carousel

Learning carousel AKA learning hot desks

Six tables, two assigned to each of the following topics:
1. Fractional and negative indices
2. Surds
3. Rationalising the denominator

On each table there were three laptops:
1. To play the mathswatchvle clip for the topic
2. To have the associated questions up
3. Spare – used to find other source of explanation.

Ten to fifteen minutes in class was spent covering homework topic for Monday briefly then picked groups and logged into mathswatchvle.

Each group got ten minutes per topic – students recorded their work and their learning in their excercise books.

Extension question offered on mini-whiteboards to individuals. Support offered similar to revision club.

I was recording what was happening as this was first time using this strategy.

Student feedback

Feedback was positive across the board with students acknowledging the opportunity to get out of the classroom for a change, work with people they wouldn’t normally and to focus on a number of different topics in a short space of time.

There was a significant portion of students who felt time was just a bit tight for the maximum gain to be had from the excercise. 10 mins was just enough time to get into the topic and start thinking about before they had to change again.

There were a couple of suggestions as to how time could be saved and a number which referred to the fact that although they were sat in groups, this did not necessarily lead to those groups supporting one another.

My reflection

The time issue is something I felt as the session progressed and I think it ties in with what one student fed back with a lack of support, although I think this can be mitigated against with more emphasis on GROUP work as opposed to sitting in groups – some tables work together better than others and that is something we can work on.  A structure might be: Everyone watch the video (one person take notes?); discuss it as a group, either re-watch a bit or decide (as a group) to move on; do the questions together; discuss and move on…

If we step into this activity from the beginning of the lesson, that would help and not logging netbooks off and back on would ease time pressure… although there are, then, security issues. Perhaps the solution would be to only have two different topics running?

Indeed, there might be a case for each group staying on one topic for the whole session and then we somehow construct the opportunity for students to share the knowledge they have gained…

This probably remains as an occasional revision activity where students can “hit” a variety of different topics in a supportive environment.

Main improvements I would make

  • consider the time element – give more time per topic, start quicker perhaps…
  • structuring and explicating expectations for “group work” better.
  • have extension questions for each topic available for students who find themselves knowing everything – they can come and get them.

Main questions emanating from this experience

How could I demonstrate progress in a lesson like this?

What would OFSTED say?

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Posted by on February 23, 2013 in developing practice, NQT, teaching


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An OFSTED week… NQT style

First day back after half-term and start of first week back after having our first baby, Eben (like Ebeneezer, but cooler(?)).

pic of baby Eben 

I was tired after a week of parenthood and sleepless nights – thankfully I only have three teaching lessons on a Monday so I had time to get my head right and slowly sort things out for the next three or four weeks, during which time I planned to get my NQT file sorted and myself organised with various inititiatives I have decided to engage in in my teaching… it was a fairly relaxed day, until lunch time.

So we got “the phone call” on Monday morning and by the end of lunch time staff were aware that OFSTED would be in the following day, for two days, for a “full section 5 inspection” (not that I had a clue what this meant, but I could tell by the look on peoples faces that it was serious stuff). My period of drastic improvement would have to wait!

All the work that I had done to organise my data and produce my seating plans (they are no ordinary seating plans – more info on them may appear at some stage elsewhere) suddenly didn’t seem quite so much like a case of getting my priorities wrong! I had just started introducing ability groupings within my classes (maths classes are already setted in my school) and I had been talking explicitly about behaviour for learning for a couple of months… it was crunch time.

Summary of my close encounter with OFSTED

  • Inspector came into the classroom at the very beginning of my Year 12 lesson –  surreal experience, tried to stay calm, make eye contact, smile and directed him to a seat I had set in the corner that morning after giving him my data, seating and lesson plan (hand written apart from the context page)
    • I had become a new dad since I last seen the class…  do I/don’t I?  I did…   I showed a picture of my baby boy Eben and told them when he was born and that I was very happy…  teacher-student relationships are very important so I felt fairly safe with it.
    • The starter was on work Miss Gilby had been doing with them so we spent 5 minute on that and then I introduced the learning objective: knowing and being able to apply the Sine Rule.
    • So, we started with a brief look at Pythagoras’ Theorem and then trigonometry.
      • seeing what they knew and using the mini-whiteboards for formative assessment.
      • Plenty of opportunity for discussion and students reminding one another of the techniques involved.
    • As quickly as I could, whilst trying to do justice to the strategies thus far employed, I got to the point where they were to draw any non-right angled triangle. Measure and label side-lengths and angle sizes… did they notice anything.
      • Independent learning
      • Discussion and collaboration
      • Mathematical thinking skills
    • Somebody noticed that the longest side is opposite the bigged angle…
      • “Is the shortest side opposite smallest angle?”
      • “Try finding the ratios between angle and opposite side… and opposite side over angle?”
    • Whilst that was happening I was supporting those identified on my lesson plan as being weaker with trigonometry. One student was teaching another it as well which I encouraged (loudly).
    • After discussion about mathematical thinking and asking the right questions I formalised our findings.
    • At this stage the inspector had walked around speaking to a number of students (I still don’t know what was asked, or what was said!) and he seemed to be making a move towards the door so…
      • “STOP – stop what you are doing, close your books…  now, on your mini-whiteboards write the Sine Rule and draw the diagram along with it. Lets see if you have made progress this lesson, so far.
    • The inspector walked past me on his way out and with a smile made a reassuring remark about the quality of the lesson.
  • The quality of the feedback I received was excellent, concise and to the point as well as being very positive. It was particularly reassuring to hear all those aspects of the lesson mentioned which I was pleased about and it gave me confidence that my teaching philosophy is broadly in line with what OFSTED are after…
    • The only “observation” was the lack of an explicitly differentiated task for the more able. I was invited to comment and was firm in my argument that given the nature of this topic everyone needed to know everything that was developed through the given task. I extended some with questioning and got them to explore different aspects of the problem, whilst supporting others more.
  • I got a Good overall, with one out of three elements being judged outstanding – I think that was behaviour, but unfortunately didn’t pay enough attention to the detail.
  • When prompted to respond to his feedback and say what I thought I responded “Sublime” – he said “not quite sublime”…
  • One interesting thought occurred to me that evening and that is that I was so determined to argue for a good, when it became clear I had got a good I wasn’t prepared for a discussion as to why it wasn’t outstanding…

To come:

  1. reflection on main factors contributing to achieving a good; what I will take away from the experience that will make me a better teacher; and a couple of other mildly related titbits, no doubt.
  2. less stressful than performance management rounds…??
  3. All lessons – focused on the strategies not the content


Would love to hear your comments/views…

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Posted by on February 22, 2013 in NQT, teaching


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Let me breathe…

“They mean that, in East Asia, teachers are high academic performers with a duty to study and research” from

Implying that there is no duty on UK teachers to study and research developments in their subject area?

For what it’s worth I think we should get a day every four weeks to research, create and innovate in school… teachers need a bit of time and space to grow, just as much as students do, surely!?

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Posted by on February 22, 2013 in developing practice, NQT, teaching


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If pupils aren’t doing their homework… there might be a reason!

After reflecting on the issue of homeworks and doing some research I’ve adjusted my stance on homeworks.

To briefly outline my stance in recent weeks: I set hard homeworks and expected students to attempt them properly, independently and robustly. I felt this would develop resilience and promote the independent learning skills which I think are so important to instil in young people. They could try homeworks before we had done them in class, extend themselves beyond class work and then when we did it in class they would be better prepared and more able to take it in.

So I was setting MyMaths homework – which, if you don’t know it, gives students a couple of questions on a topic and gives instant feedback if they are right or wrong. In terms of supporting learning every homework has an associated online lesson which is effectively a powerpoint presentation – some of these are quite helpful whilst others are very much less so.

This is in contrast to MathsWatchVLE which is a compilation of tutorial videos, very much intended for revision, which includes practise worksheets on each topic alongside the video examples. Since it is someone talking students through the process it seems fairly safe to say it is better than MyMaths for learning new maths as opposed to practising and consolidating stuff students already know…

So going forward my intention is to set MyMaths which is easier and more about practising stuff students should already be able to do. As a department we set homeworks each week, but I am going to make my homeworks easier. (I have a strange guilty feeling that I was trying to compensate for a perceived lack of good teaching on my part with making the students do more and more by themselves… don’t know how to balance that tension, but worth bearing in mind!)

Now, the shift in my philosophy on the homework front was inspired by my YEAR 12 non-homework completers (!!! I GOT REALLY ANNOYED – possibly unreasonably so !!!) who got me to thinking…

I will have two levels of homework; Required Homeworks and Opportunity for Marking homeworks. Opportunity for Marking homeworks are non-compulsory but they are literally what it says, an opportunity for students to attempt a directed question and have me give them written feedback. The name is meant to promote the notion that students should value the opportunity to receive teacher feedback, rather than resenting having to do homework. The compulsory homeworks will be easier and more about preparing for the next lesson by watching a mathswatch clip, doing a bit of research or such like – I would also like it to be less taxing.

Comments, thoughts and queries welcome…


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First JING demo video – VLE assignments

So I’ve been developing the VLE – see previous post.

Anyway, main reason for this blog post is to say that I made my first JING demo video!!!

Demonstration of how my year 12 assignment is set up, what the student experience is and what support I have tried to put in place:

2013-02-16_assignment and support demo

Apologies for draft post – I will tidy it up at some stage!!!

Feedback, thoughts and comments welcome – I’m buzzing with #edtech on the brain! 🙂

P.S. if anyone can tell me how to embed a video into a blog post I would be extremely grateful!

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Posted by on February 16, 2013 in technology, VLE


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ICTmagic – Maths – Section 3

Sent from my iPad

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Posted by on February 10, 2013 in teaching, technology


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