Category Archives: General

333. Resource of the week

Just a quick resource for you today and apologies if you are already using this!

Plickers

Not some new ‘youth slang’, but an amazing online tool. Students have an individual card with each side labelled A, B, C or D. You ask a multiple choice or True/False question, they hold up their card with their answer at the top, you scan the class set of cards.

Image credit: Plickers.com

It really is that simple and here is what to do to get started:

  1. Create a free account at www.plickers.com
  2. Download the app to a portable device with a camera (phone, tablet etc)
  3. Print out the cards
  4. Allocate the cards to your class on the website
  5. Stick the cards in your students’ books
  6. Set a question
  7. Scan the cards

I have a tablet device that I use for school purposes as I keep my phone for personal use. The only problem I had was my android tablet doesn’t have a light source or as high quality camera as my phone, but we sorted that by having students move to a brighter part of the room for scanning. Instant feedback with no handheld devices!

Finally I have to say a huge thank you to Mr L, our trainee teacher, for introducing this to the Department.

332. Movement Maths

I’ve got to share a new YouTube channel with you. It was created by a former colleague who is not only an ace Maths teacher, but also a trained children’s fitness instructor. ‘Movement Maths: How to survive High School Maths’ is all about daily chunks of Maths with a fitness boost.

First – it addresses basic concepts that many students forget or stress over (initially it will be aimed at Foundation students)

Secondly – the videos are engaging and show that you can do Maths and exercise anywhere (my current favourite is the airport in video 13 – how did he find an empty sp?)

Thirdly – there are recaps and summaries built in

Finally – it was reviewed by students, who loved it!

Subscribe to the Channel, get fit and see what your students think

Update: 1st June 2019

It appears all the videos on this channel have been deleted.

331. Personalised student/parent feedback

How did I do in the test?

We get that question all the time. Is that a good result? Is it bad? Where did I come in the class? In general I never answer any of those questions, instead I have a little one to one chat as I’m handing out papers or in subsequent lessons.

But what if you’re not there to have that interaction?

I had that problem this summer. We were due to give our end of year test results back to students on the same day I was on a school trip. I couldn’t give the results out early and I didn’t want to make my class wait. If they were just given their test results or papers back, that would be a feedback opportunity missed. What to do?

I ‘wrote’ a letter to each student.

I use the word ‘wrote’ in the loosest sense. I mail merged their results and targets into Word, using my markbook spreadsheet as the data source. That addressed the facts element. The bigger picture for the class was the interesting part. If you search for ‘DESMOS’ box plot, you will find a sample box plot. If you replace the data with your test results, you will obtain a box plot of your results. I put my box plot into the master document and hit merge:

Each student recieved a personalised letter, in an envelope, in my absence. I could even give results to the students who were on the trip with me.

The letters were a big hit with my class. They liked that I had gone the extra mile for them, even though it took under 20 minutes. In the subsequent lesson we could get on with the test review without lots of questions about numbers and grades.

It got me thinking – could I use this idea in other ways?

I have refined the format (the initial letters served their purpose, but we’re basic) and have since used variations on this for other assessments and at Parents Evening. Parents Evening was particularly useful as I had all the target and assessment data, key exam dates, class summary box plots for the last two tests, suggested GCSE revision resources and a reminder of what the new GCSE grades mean. I didn’t have to keep refering to my mark book as all the relevant information was in front of me and the parents didn’t feel the need to make notes. I had very few questions about set changes as they instantly got a feel for where their child was within the class, but without any rankings. Several said that they wished all subjects would produce information sheets like this.

I could also give the personalised sheets to students whose parents couldn’t attend or email them home. It was a very useful tool for getting identical information to those families who are apart, but are equally supportive of their children. When the Head of Year asked for a brief summary of a student’s progress, as they were meeting with a parent on Parents Evening, it was already done.

Of course, the great thing is that I will only have to do a minor update for the next Parents Evening saving me even more time!

The next time you have to give out and/or discuss data with students or parents, try this. It really improve the experience.

329. Quick acrostic starter

Here is a zero preparation revision or recap starter for you and it might tick a literacy/spelling box too. It’s fiendishly simple, but can be devilishly difficult to complete.

  1. Give students a topic word (eg circles) or use your school name.
  2. Tell them they have to complete an acrostic of maths words related to that topic or general revision words.

That’s it! You can make it more difficult by saying partners must have different words or narrowing the focus of the task.

Interestingly none of my students used the textbook index or Maths dictionaries to help them. The finished product could be used as a wall display, revision prompt or stuck on the front of an exercise book.

A Wise Word of Warning – W Maths words are in short supply.

Here is the example I used in class:

328. Slice of genius

So, I was doing my usual Human Piechart  activity when an interesting point occurred. I had the class split into a group of 20 and a group of 18 (I had a student in charge of each group so that the circles would be factors of 360). I asked the class how we could combine the groups to make a whole class pie chart. One student suggested we add together the angles and divide by two. Several other students agreed that it was a good idea.

There goes my lesson plan.

I put this prediction on the board and asked them to prove it or disprove it using hard facts. I was very impressed by the different techniques they used. Most students started by adding the angles and dividing by two, then:

  • They went to the raw data and calculated the actual answers, disproving the prediction.
  • Some looked at the angles on the ‘combined’ pie chart and worked out the number of degrees per person for each angle. They used the irregularities in angles to disprove the prediction.
  • Looking at how many degrees there were per person and using logical deduction that you cannot add the angles.
  • Others noticed that categories with the same number of people had different sized angles.

All this before they’d answered a single pie chart question! The moral of this story is: don’t ignore the wrong suggestions, embrace them and use student knowledge to dispel the myths.

326. Instant whiteboard

Welcome back to school!

I must say your display boards look lovely …

What’s that? You could do with another whiteboard

Why would you need that? They’re not cheap you know!

To help you actually teach? You’ve never needed the space before…

Oh … you have needed the space … you have raised this before …you’re still waiting …

Why didn’t you say! I’ll put you on the list for when we have some spare funds & time

You know the feeling – you could do with more space, but there just aren’t the funds to do anything about it. I initially needed an extra notice board because two form groups were going to use my room. We have a split lunch and I thought it only fair to give the other tutor some space. The idea of those ‘magic whiteboards’ was nice, but they are flimsy and expensive. They’re also pretty useless when you have a rough breeze block wall. Rummaging around Amazon I found some extra thick sticky back whiteboard roll, which was half the price of the ‘magic’ ones. There are a lot of different makes and sizes of roll depending on your needs. I bought a long narrow roll and cut it in half: it fits splendidly on my double doors. The quality is good too, however I think they’ll need a bit more TLC than a heavy duty whiteboard.

So, I’m feeling rather chuffed by my ingenuity when I discover they’ve changed our form rooming and I’m no longer sharing with another form. Nevermind – one board for form notices and one board for homework reminders!

If you like the look of mine it was by Rabbitgoo on Amazon. They are different sizes and prices so I haven’t put a specific link. The description of the one I bought is: Thick Whiteboard Chalkboard Wall Sticker 44.5cm×200cm Thickness:0.18mm

320. Pre-A level skills boost

This is the time of year when Year 11 begin the last minute frantic revision, complete their exams in a haze of hay fever and late nights and then have a well deserved extended Summer Holiday. Over that long summer, they will mature into sensible young adults who are ready to make those critical decisions which will impact their future career choices.

Hang on … this isn’t some idealised political pamphlet describing the leaders of tomorrow!

In reality, Year 12 stroll into the first A-Level lesson like over-confident Year 11s in their own clothes. Except in Year 11 they knew more Maths. Odds are your fresh faced class haven’t looked at a Maths book in over ten weeks!

Despite what some students may think, we teachers aren’t evil. We know they need that long summer to just be themselves. What can we do to help out our future A-Level students and allow them to relax?

I’ve put together a booklet of Maths related activities for students to dip into over the holiday which will be given to them on their last lesson. I hope your students enjoy it!

Alevel prep for Y11 (editable docx)

Alevel prep for Y11 (pdf)

I printed these four pages as a colour A5 (A4 folded) booklet and also printed them as a poster set on A3.