Monday, January 6, 2014

learning grid trig

Don't know if this will work. Based on idea in Outstanding Teaching (Griffith and Burns).

Roll two dice(along and up) choose a question to make and solve (roll again if you get two same e.g. both hypotenuse).

Make three Qs with your partner; share solutions with another pair of students.

I'll let you know!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Managing feedback, learning journals and maybe a bit of technology?

For years, I have asked my 11-16 year old students to do learning journals in Maths. They need a lot of guidance but many say they really value them, especially for revision purposes. It's also an easy homework task (though I wouldn't set only this).

As marking workload becomes more and more of an issue, I think it's important to think of ways that we can ensure students know where they are and how to improve without actually burning ourselves out by October half term!

In the last couple of years I've also made use of online forums on the school's Managed Learning Environment (MLE) and students find this also a handy reference guide to back topics. It is also an ideal opportunity for some cross-curricular links since I can remind them that any websites or books used must be stated to avoid plagiarism.

Anyway, I don't know anything about MOOCs apart from what I've read on the internet but I wonder if that could be a next step. Last year I made mini video films of worked examples that students could use to check their own work. They really liked that, and I've also used audacity software to make short audio podcasts of key ideas and concepts.

This year I've also set up a classroom 'help desk' .... ermm it's just a box with key facts, FAQs, etc. and post it notes that students can come up and use any time during the lesson. In the past, I've allowed the to come and write questions on the board for others to come up and answer, when they are working on individual problem solving activities.

Today I spotted this on Twitter and really liked it:
  PBL group 2: Supporting learners online, looking at feedback > excellent resource!


and a few weeks ago this

@Janetteww This is my blog post with my initial thoughts on maths journals and inspirations http://devoil.wordpress.com


So, putting it all together and sitting by the pond I started to muse about a new way of working in class ....... (new for me I mean) .....

I think I am going to use the idea of keeping the learning journal in a separate notebook and encouraging students to paste in cuttings etc. I'll continue to work on the online forums and have some 'rules' about who can answer whom and how long I'll leave it before I chip in. I've noticed that, more and more, some students are reluctant to do their own checking of work so maybe we will do more on mini whiteboards and less paper based work - keeping that perhaps for individual problem solving and exam style questions. And I'll be thinking about MOOCs.

Any thoughts gratefully received.

Monday, February 20, 2012

never thought of this before

A little idea prompted by #mathchat on Twitter (thanks #mathchatters); I'm not sure it's what any of them meant but it gave me a thought ....

I often start a new topic by asking students to do spider diagram (concept map) of what they already know about it We share these together and add to them and then refer back to them during the topic and often at the 'end', perhaps before an assessment activity.

I wonder if it would be better to start with the diagram but then ask pairs of students to 'assess' each others? We could design criteria such as: number of ideas/facts, 'difficulty' of same, things that could be taken further. Then we could design individual targets such as 'learn more about ...' 'be able to solve problems involving ....'

The key would be to then design activities to prompt such learning and to ensure we definitely revisited at the end.

I am revising with my Year 11 class right now. I wonder if I could try this out?

Has anyone else done this sort of thing?

Monday, November 14, 2011

replacing my road signs with flowers

I started the day in an unusual way (for me) with a train journey to central London. Needless to say no seats available but I managed to read most of the article about the 'no excuses' approach to behaviour in the TES from 14th Nov 2011 by William Stewart (this was despite the fact it was so crowded on the train that I had to hold the paper right up to my face which caused difficulties because most things need to be read at arm's length nowadays ....).


I then went to day one of a two day conference/CPD on leadership challenges in schools (based largely on state maintained UK schools) facilitated by Prof John West-Burnham (JWB) (day 2 in January 2012).

Interesting stuff and I filled a small notebook with ideas from colleagues there from a range of other schools, and with ideas from the Prof himself. I hope that I do not misrepresent anyone (least of all the speaker) so I put in my usual disclaimer that this is just my 'take' on what was said.

One thing I learned was that there is a road in London where they took away all the road signs and reduced traffic jams and other incidents. I wonder how that contrasts (or otherwise) with the 'no excuses' approach? Well, in some ways it's the same thing because it's about what JWB referred to as 'consensual authoritarianism'. In my school we have the Golden Rule of respect for all - when we can be sure that this rule is the modus operandum of all members of the community all the time, and not just in the classroom - then I will know that our flowers are in bloom (SMSC).

I am sort of working backwards through my thoughts during the day. Oh, and also throwing some thoughts I have been having recently (probably mentioned elsewhere on this blog!) about management and leadership. I think I've written recently something I discussed with a colleague when she asked me what is the difference between management and leadership: for me the difference is that leaders are able (albeit with some difficulty at times) to 'let go': to delegate responsibility and not just tasks. The diagram below is just me thinking out loud - is it right, what do you think?


Referring back to a recent post, I was thinking again about parallel leadership as opposed to sequential leadership and School Improvement Processes as opposed to a School Improvement Plan (who can write plans when things around us change so rapidly? - any thoughts?).

Something that exercises a lot of thought amongst school leaders is how we will demonstrate and evidence leadership capacity for Ofsted? How can we ensure that every member of the school community (teachers, other staff, students, parents, governors) contributes to the leadership of learning, and to the school improvement process? Is everyone on the bus? Do we all know the destination? The route? Is it a bus or a tram - i.e. on rails.

Prof West-Burnham said (hope I've got this right), "Government hands over to professionals and then professionals hand over to the community." Is this actually part of social evolution? ("One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it can change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world." Barack Obama)

What are the collective moral leadership responsibilities that we face as educators and education leaders? Please comment :-)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Building capability

I recently went to a workshop on sustainable leadership run by Prof Brent Davies. I hope he will not mind my brief bit of thinking out loud which came out of my personal reflection following that day. I begin with a couple of points made by Prof Davies on the day, the following numbered points are my 'version'. Please remember that I have used his ideas here but have not necessarily repeated verbatim.

“A strategically focused school is one that is educationally effective in the short-term but has a clear framework and processes to translate core moral purpose and vision into excellent educational provision that is challenging and sustainable in the medium- to long-term.”


Rationale: enduring success; 85% of strategic plans fail because things change before you get there; we need to move away from sequential leadership towards parallel leadership. We need to get all members of the school community thinking strategically (note: thinking not necessarily writing-it-down).

Some key ideas for moving from Good to Outstanding …….

1. Identify where intervention is needed then outline clearly why, what, where, with whom and why --- consistency across classrooms, consistency in middle leaders’ approaches. How do we discourage compartmentalised thinking and encourage whole school perspectives?

2. Building capacity … letting go: delegating responsibility not tasks. Sustainability is “the ability of individuals and schools to continue to improve to meet new challenges and complexity in a way that does not damage individuals or the wider community but builds capacity and capability for the benefit of all.”

3. Reflecting on the organisation: should we set reading activities for leaders between meetings  and should all teams be having one meeting per term which is purely reflective/strategic? Consider structure of meetings … model what we want

4. Develop a culture of engagement in strategic discussion/debate. We should be using invitational language when we speak to staff, students, parents, governors, community – ‘join us on the learning journey’
5. School Improvement Process (not necessarily Plan) – this needs to be strongly tied to Performance Management and CPD (Davies' example: ask each team to produce 1 side of A4 ‘where are we now’ and 1 side ‘where should we be in 3 to 5 years time’ – this is a process not an action plan, to get people thinking strategically). If you asked any member of staff, “what are you doing this week and/or next week to contribute to the SIP?” would you get consistent answers?

6. Think carefully about recruitment and development of leaders at all levels. What demonstrates the potential for leadership? Some ideas from Davies included: ability to reflect on yourself, passion, courage – see it = do something about it, confidence and credibility, see the big picture, mastering the basics of their role quickly and look for more, don’t look the other way or walk past incidents, initiative and self-motivation, intellectual curiosity, resilience and empathy.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thinking out loud

As usual, something sparks my day dreaming about education and here we go again.....

This time it was Steve Joyce on Undercover Boss USA  ----

Well I work in an organisation of only about 1000 or so people and everyone knows me so I could not go 'undercover' but I wonder how I would fare as any one of the following (even for an hour let alone a day):

- receptionist
- student services
- exams analysis officer
- PA
- site staff
- finance
- school business manager
- catering
- or even ..... a classroom teacher with a full teaching load!

Makes you think doesn't it? I have got to my job through a teaching route and nowadays I dabble with all of the above through liaising, line management etc. BUT could I do the job?

Of course there are some things here that I just don't have the knowledge or skills for and because there is only one person doing some of them I would slow them down and hinder them so much that even shadowing for a day is not practical.

So how could I pay forward some of the great contributions that they make? Do they know they are valued?

Food for thought again .....

(PS thanks to the colleague who gave me a great card today that reminded me yet again that we are never alone when we work as a real team.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Performance management and all that

I have done a lot of thinking about perfomance reviews in schools over the years. In my last post, I considered some ideas about leadership, tasks and responsibility. Constantly reflecting on conversations with friends and colleagues (and, yes there is an overlap in those groups), I have had three discussions in the last few days:


  • do leaders become anxious when their view of the world is disturbed?
  • does this apply to leaders at all levels?
  • does performance review only take account of objectives related to tasks and outcomes rather than processes, values and aims?
As usual, there are more questions than answers!

I saw this on Twitter today from Prof. Wiliam  Good teachers benefit students years after they stopped teaching them, so value added can't identify good teachers: 

If everything we do in schools is geared to students, I would suggest that we need to ensure that teacher 'performance' is measured not by output/outcomes (or, at least, not solely - we do still operate in a certain culture of course); there must be 'soft' measures - such as how a teacher affects the emotional maturity of the students in her/his care. And how do you measure that? Here is another spot from Twitter today:

from @ Facilitative Leadership - The"Easy Way"    

So, if all teachers are leaders of learning then we need to move towards being facilitative leaders of learning, able to cope with perturbations in our perceptions of the world and to proactively use them to move forward with our students.

A brilliant example at my school's weekly staff briefing this week when a colleague reminded us all about the lollipop idea to avoid hands up in class - that was at morning break, by the end of the day there was a buzz of conversation about it! That reminded me that we mustn't ever rest on 'what we always did' .... because then we might 'get what we always got'.

Comments welcome as always please.