Things I Think I Think…3

I aplogise to the Hull City blog Amber Nectar, who I kind of nicked this post format off.

  1. I’m really into ‘fill in the gaps’ activities recently. I love how they develop thinking forward and backwards. I love this worksheet on time calculations which I used recently. I went down really well and sparked great conversations. Love this kinda stuff. (Although for some reason TES won’t let me review the resource and give it 5 stars).
  2. Talking of TES, I’ve updated my resources on Measuring Bearings, Calculating Bearings, Expanding Brackets and the Sine Rule and uploaded them on there. I’ve corrected mistakes, sorted out some formatting and freshened things up.
    I’m still unsure about all this. I don’t think my resources should be on their own website. I understand that we have far too many resource websites to check, but at the same time TES is pretty rubbish. It’s annoying to update a resource if I see an error and track changes, and it’s interface and search isn’t great.
    Plus there’s all this paid junk flooding the listings meaning that stuff never gets seen. The other thing is that I struggle to get feedback there. I don’t know if stuff is not getting downloaded because it’s rubbish or because people don’t see it.
    I’d love to have a platform with some quality control that I could submit resources to, but I realise that’s probably a pipedream considering how much such a thing would cost to run.
    Tweet at me if you want to discuss any of this because I think there’s potential in connecting things.
    I know it’s kinda pathetically attention seeking but I’ve been making resources for 10 years now and I feel a lot of it just gets lost in the mix. Which kinda puts me off doing it.
  3. Talking about bearings… I did my measuring Bearings lessons the other day, and we’d lost a load of half protractors. So I used this template and printed them out on tracing paper. A game changer! It worked brilliantly. Just make sure you change the printer output setting to ‘transparent’ or whatever similar setting you are offered.
  4. I’ve been thinking a lot about books recently. I’ve got some colleagues who are really on it with books and end up with classes that have awesome books. It’s something that I really want to work on next year (I’m sure I’ve said this before). I think it requires quite a lot of follow through and effort, though. Definitely something to think about.
  5. I love this Tweet. Lots to think about in regards to the language that we use.

Things I Think I Think … 2
  1. I love it when a student goes away and voluntarily does extra work because the task is so fun. This week I did a bit of Artful Maths’ Impossible Objects. Wonderful lesson and I got some great results. More than that, I got some really, really enthused students.
  2. I’ve been using my iPad a lot recently. I really like it, but it’s made me think about my board work. I have a few colleagues who make beautiful board notes using colour and shape. I’ve never got there and I really would like to. I really would love to invest my time in this in the future. See the Tweet from Ed Southall at the bottom of this post. It’s gorgeous.
  3. We’ve been using Times Tables Rockstars a bit for our younger learners and it’s really nice. But it also made me think that the issue is not our lack of resources, but the abundance of them. It’s rather like Netflix. All of this content and I spend ages scrolling the menu deciding what I want to watch. It’s why I think Resourceaholic is so good. It’s just good stuff, well curated.
    I was saddened to see Jo is having a tough time at the moment. If you haven’t already, you should buy her book, It’s fascinating and a really good exploration of different methods. I think it’s really worth knowing these, and there’s great discussions to be had with classes as to which methods are better and why. She also has a buy me coffee page.
  4. I was talking to my tutor group about social media the other day. We were talking about the Pavlov’s Dog ping of pleasure if you get a like or something. I’m real susceptible to this. I posted my perimeter lesson, and it got a ton of likes, but my last One Step Equation lessons got not likes or retweets. Got no idea why.
  5. I couldn’t think of 5 things, but I wanted to get into the habit of blogging more regularly.
What I’m doing during distance learning

Hello.

I know this is the first post in a while, but I thought I’d talk about my routines and what I’m doing during this outbreak. Maybe it will help you solidify your thoughts.

I’m going to talk about this through the prism of my year 7s.

I teach them 7 times every two weeks. So I’m advantaged by time.

I’ generally sticking to the scheme of work. For instance last week and this week have been ratio lessons, so we’ve done some work on that.

Most lessons started with a video that looks like this

A simple example-problem pair there, filmed using a visualiser. I have found the videos have worked really well for a few reasons

  • They’re personal. I say hello to the students and the example-problem pairs are perfectly suited to the task that follows (because I’ve created them both. They’re just print outs of the slides I make available on this website)
  • Everyone can watch a video. They give the students a no-excuses thing that they should have written in their book at the start of the lesson

I’ve then been following with a worksheet. These have usually been also taken from my slides (which also contain answers). I’ve found it best to make things as simple as possible. At first I was setting two tasks, now I set one. If it doesn’t take the full lesson time, so be it. This means that we’re going to have less coverage than we would have done if we’d have remained open, but I think you have to accept that things are not going to be perfect. I’d rather the basics be covered well then rushing through things.

I’ve found feedback slightly difficult. They’re uploading their work as pictures on Google Drive, but sorting through it all and marking isn’t ideal. I’m currently highlighting it and writing a little comment. I wish Google Drive had stamps! Maybe I’ll move to whole-school feedback.

I’ve tried to avoid setting too much Dr Frost (as much as I love it!) although I have used the ‘topic tests’ as check out tests to gauge their understanding.

I’ve also been trying to set work that gets them away from the computer once a week. Here’s an example.

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Now this task may be a bit simple, but I think it’s worth doing because it

  • Get’s them off their computer
  • Is investigatoary.

Now, tasks like these are hard to write, but I got some nice feedback from students.

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And it allowed me to pick up on their usage of language

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I think it’s worthwhile setting these tasks. I’m going to set another ‘look around the house and collect stuff’ task.

This is a trying time for everyone, but it’s also a time to learn and to reflect. It’s important that we approach the time with patience and a willingness to learn.

Hope you all stay safe out there

Richard

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Why moving to teach abroad was the best thing I ever did

I was reading this article about teachers moving abroad. It’s a nice little read and I thought I’d add my little two cents, as this is something I’ve been thinking about recently.

In 2016 I was ready to quit teaching.

It’s easy to go through phases in teaching. Loving it, hating it, loving it again. I think a lot depends on your timetable and the structure of your day.

It had been an exhausting few years. Our school had been put into special measures a few years back and not really recovered. We were taken over by an outstanding school and went through 4 head teachers in 4 years as they scrabbled to find something that worked.

It was the behaviour that got to me eventually, though. The low level stuff that never stopped. We had a three strikes system. Three low level disruptions and you’d be removed from the lesson and put in isolation. Pupils were constantly being pulled out of my lessons. Disrupting the flow. Stopping me from actually teaching.

I blamed myself. Maybe my relationships with the children was poor. Until I did a walk around during a free period and found the number of kids being pulled out of lessons was in the double digits. Every period.

I don’t blame the school. It’s really hard to escalate these cases, and staff were trying really hard. The hours and time and commitment put into the kids at the school was miraculous. But behaviour never improved. What do you do if a kid is being removed from every lesson in a week? Exclude them? What if the behaviour continues? What if 20 kids are doing this?

I never really got upset when kids had an outburst. You can usually understand a child who punches a wall or throws a chair. But the constant cycle of low level, petty behaviours. Talking over me, throwing things. The lack of respect was what killed the joy for me.

I would go to mathsconf, or spend some time planning a great lesson, and never really get to deliver it. Then I would look into they eyes of the children who wanted to learn as we waited for SMT to remove a pupil again and just feel awful.

Then there was the UK EDUCATION STUFF.

Handing your books in to be checked. We all agreed that you couldn’t see progress in a book, but we did it anyway. We all agreed the ‘verbal feedback given’ stamp was rubbish. But it’s the done thing, you see. Eventually we got rid of the stamp, and a lot of the rules. Because the school acknowledged that it was a waste of time. But they still collected the books. To collect data. That was never used.

OFSTED came in one time and told us to be more consistent. So the school made sure that we all used the same learning objectives slide. Which was designed in the dark. Graphics stretched in the wrong ratio, a putrid green colour. Ghastly. I’m not sure that’s what OFSTED meant. I don’t think OFSTED know how their words are taken.

The worst thing was, everyone in the school wanted it to be better, and some of my colleagues where phenomenal people. Knowledgeable and committed and fantastic teachers. Dedicated, wonderful people. For some reason, it never quite came together. Which was horrible.

If all this feels like a rant, that’s because it is. I turned into a walking rant machine in my last few years in the UK!

I could have moved schools, obviously, but look on TES. It’s often the same schools in each area advertising constantly.

So I looked abroad.

It took a lot of attempts, but I ended up in a school in Thailand, and it’s been an absolutely wonderful year and a half.

I’m teaching better lessons than I ever have. I’m given the space to develop my practise and trusted. It’s made me love being a teacher again.

Our school is particularly great, to be fair. The department is fantastically organised. But the time makes the difference.

We run clubs and enrichment and we can do it because we’re not there typing up behaviour incidents 24/7.

I can take risks with my teaching. Card sorts work here! All pupils are respectful and kind and polite. I can work on a lesson and deliver it. My teaching has improved significantly because I’m not managing a room full of children, I’m teaching them. It’s great.

It’s no coincidence how much stuff has been added to this website in the last year and a half and how much better quality it is.

Recently I taught trigonometry to year 9 and it was joyous. We started with similar triangles. We went for understanding, not just repeating SOHCAHTOA, and it all worked because I had time to plan a good lesson and pupils who were receptive to what I was delivering.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself.

If you’re me in 2016, think about it. If you’re a bit beaten down, and feel like you could thrive if you just didn’t have to do so much rubbish that didn’t benefit the children, think about it. I would whole-heartedly recommend it.

Weekend Website Updates

Fixed some wrong answers on the Solving quadratics by factorising vary and twist.

I wrote some timed questions on rounding to multiples of ten and rounding to decimal places.

I updated the timed questions page so that you can now change the font. Try it by clicking the font names underneath the yellow carousel. I’ve recorded a brief youtube clip here telling you how to use it.

Robert Low: Why is subtraction so hard?

Really interesting article and worth a read

Subtraction presents various problems to learners of mathematics, not least with the mechanics of hand calculating the result of subtracting one multi-digit number from another. But that’s not the kind of difficulty I’m interested in: I’m more interested here in the difficulties that arise when computations involving several additions and subtractions of integers are involved, or at the slightly more advanced level where algebraic computations involving several additions and subtractions are required. I’m going to take a look at what I think lies underneath the difficulty.

http://robjlow.blogspot.com/2018/06/why-is-subtraction-so-hard.html

MathsConf15: 6 Takeaways

OK, so yesterday it was MathsConf 15. I’ve got loads of takeaways.

  1. The first session I went to was Jo Morgan’s session on indices. It was phenomenal. Jo puts a lot of work and research into her sessions and it really shows. If you ever get to see her do an ‘In Depth’ presentation, do.
    The crux of the presentation was this: Jo used to cover the 3 main indices rules in one lesson. In fact, so did I! I even have a resource on it on TES! What jo, showed, though, is that by doing this we’re denying students the ability to go properly in depth with the topic and gain a proper understanding. For a start, I’ve been getting the language wrong.

    The ENTIRE thing is the power. The little number is the index.
    We also refer to power in so many different ways that it can be confusing for children
    There’s also loads of subtitles in even the multiplication index law. Maybe by going too fast we’re missing talking about a lot of subtleties that could trip pupils up. (Hat tip to Ben Gordon for these pictures, btw)

    There’s also a lot of practice we can do. Just because we don’t want to talk about what negative and fraction indices are yet, doesn’t mean we can’t have fractional and negative indices in our answers. It makes them less scary and special when encountered later. We can also start using this as an excuse to practice negative number work, or fractions work or algebra work. Hey, why not ask questions like this:

    As you can see, there was loads of content in this talk. But there were a few things I will take into my teaching straight away:
    Atomise. Don’t try an do too much at once.
    Instead of moving on, go deeper
    Don’t miss chances to practise negative numbers at every opportunity.
  2. Next I went to Peter Mattock’s measuring session. Measuring seems so simple, but there’s so much in there. My 1/U borderline year 11 this year really struggled with a question where a pylon was 11.5 x the height of a man. They couldn’t see how you could have half a man. The multiplicative reasoning of measures hadn’t been embedded. Once more, we need to think more deeply about what we do.
  3. I then went to a session PRESENTED BY ME! I’ve never done a session before at something like this, and I was really nervous. I even wore a full suit as a kind of ‘suit of armour’ to protect the nerves. I got even more nervous when I got there and MR BARTON WAS IN MY SESSION. Mr Barton is a maths legend. It’s because of his ‘resource of the week’ that I first started sharing my resources. I wanted to be resource of the week. And I was eventually! It was such a buzz. I can’t be the only one that started sharing my resources because of him. Add to that the impact his book has made and his impact in maths teaching in the UK is incalculable.
    My session went OK. It was on GapMinder. But the best thing about it was the amount of people who came up to me afterwards to share ideas or resources and the amount of people who pointed me to great stuff on Twitter. Some people got in contact to disagree, which I loved. I don’t want to be right, I want to have a conversation.
    If you’re in two minds about doing a session at MathsConf, do. You get so much out of it.
    If that wasn’t enough, I was mentioned on the Mr Barton Maths Podcast! This is genuinely the proudest moment of my professional career. I am still beaming.
  4. Fourth was Mr Barton, Jess (I’m sorry I didn’t catch her last name, which makes me feel bad) and Ben Gordon’s session on variation. It was flipping brilliant. They talked about making student’s think more deeply about the structure of what they’re being asked. Anyone who has read this blog recently knows it’s something I’m into at the moment. And they launched a new website variationtheory.com with loads of variation exercises and stuff. It is, obviously, brilliant.
  5. This last takeaway is something I really debated putting down. But as much as I enjoyed the day, I also found it really hard. I am generally a very socially anxious person, especially in crowds. MathsConf was very crowded. I found the ‘networking’ sections really, really difficult. Mingling with strangers. It’s something that I’ve always found hard, although teaching has certainly helped me improve in this area. You always worry that you’re either boring people, or attaching yourself onto people like a limpet. I also repeat myself a lot when I do this. I can also sometimes be a ‘bit much’. If I did this to you, I apologise.
    However, if you’re someone who is socially anxious, I would still recommend going (maybe bring a friend? Having a friend there has helped me). The people at MathsConf have always been very friendly, and put up with me brilliantly. I would like to thank Jo Morgan and Peter Mattock in particular for both always finding time to talk to me and being really friendly. In fact, everyone at mathsconf is always been friendly. I’ve not had one negative encounter. It’s worth the anxiety.
  6. Follow Paul Rodrigo on Twitter. He’s a good egg.