Classroom Management #1

Often there is a pair of rose-tinted glasses on my blogs about awesome lessons and amazing students. While there are great things going on in my classroom there are also periods, classes, days, weeks etc where I am faced with behaviour issues that impact on learning.

I would like to regularly share stories about difficult situations I have faced in my classroom (or corridor) to paint the realistic view of my teaching life. Some of these stories will have happened as recently as last week or as long ago as I can remember. All the names have been changed. 

So here’s story number 1 – Bread.

A lesson taking place straight after lunch. My class arrive, many hyped up by junk food and fizzy juice from lunch. It’s a large class of 28 but eventually they settle. As I’m explaining an example to the class I notice Danny is eating. I give him a warning and ask him to empty his mouth. A short time later while the class are working I find a small piece of bread on the floor. Then I spot another and another. I don’t worry about it and carry on helping students with their work. Then I hear a loud yell. It is Danny, who jumps out of his chair and starts shouting at another student. He is shouting that someone had just thrown a pencil at him. I send Danny outside to cool down. I ask the class who threw the pencil and Adam admits it was him. Why? Danny had been throwing bread at him. I go over to Danny’s table and see a loaf of bread in his bag. Both boys were sent to the isolation class within the department and referrals are sent. This incident took up quite a bit of my time during the lesson and allowed many other students to stop working and not learning. All the time and effort I’d spent planning for that lesson had been wasted. 

Now I hadn’t seen any of this happen. I didn’t see the bread being thrown or the pencil being thrown. It makes me wonder what else I miss. 

First Day Plans

It’s a funny thing to think about first day plans after the summer holidays as in Scotland we start with our new classes for a few weeks in June before the holidays. So most of my first days with classes have passed. However, I will be meeting my S1 class (11-12 years old) for the first time next week. (Small lie: I did meet them briefly in June when they visited the school for a few days)

So what will be my first day plans for my new S1 class? How do I decide what to do on the very first lesson. I’ve had many first lessons over the years so I began to think back over what i had done previously and here’s what I found:

  • I will start the course officially – hit the ground running – set these expectations for the year ahead
  • I will set problem solving tasks to see how pupils work together and follow instructions
  • I will give a numeracy task to evaluate where pupils skills are

So my thoughts are: is there something I can do to cover all of the above?

Here’s what I have come up with: Continue reading

Goals for this year

I have published 76 posts since the start of 2016. Only 4 of these were published in 2017. What happened?

I’m not sure really. It could be that work became incredibly busy but more likely I didn’t feel I had a lot to share that was new. I had written so much in the first year of my blog and I had run out of things to say.

So I was so excited when I read this on Twitter:

This was exactly what I needed to get me back in my blogging ways. It might be that I don’t manage to blog every week but I am definitely going to try. Continue reading

“Nice Answers”

“It doesn’t work” claimed a pupil to me in class last week. “Of course it does” I replied. “Yeah ok, I suppose it does but it’s not a proper answer” replied the pupil.

This is a discussion about solving equations where the answer was not a whole number. It really made me think. Why is it that pupils don’t accept fractions (or decimals) as a solution to an equation? It’s not that my pupils aren’t familiar with fractions and decimals. 

The problem is the type of questions I ask my pupils. It is fairly typical when first learning to solve equations to have “nice” whole number solutions. Maybe non-whole number solutions should be introduced right from the start.
Then I thought about some other areas of maths. Angles, area, perimeter, volume, Pythagoras, statistics, algebra, … do I focus on “nice” solutions too often in these areas too? 

The positive is that I’ve already started planning to correct this. I’m currently writing a new S1 course in which this will be a focus. I wrote calculating new angles worksheets which contain decimals and algebra as well as whole numbers. Hopefully my pupils in the future won’t be so confused or bothered by answers that are not whole numbers. 

New Homework Plans

I’ve been teaching for quite a while now and homework is an area I still feel I’m not getting right. Whether it be forgetting to set homework, not setting homework that doesn’t impact learning or poor feedback on homework handed in. Recently I read a blog post about 2-4-2 homework. This homework sets 2 questions on the current topic, 4 questions on previously covered topics and 2 extension questions. 

Instantly I was intrigued by this format. So often I complain about my pupils poor retention of previous topics. This 2-4-2 format would provide spaced and interleaved practice giving pupils to revisit and review topics throughout the year.

My aim is to write a collection of these homeworks for National 5 maths that will be ready to use at the start of the next session. Hopefully having a set of homeworks prepared in advance with proper planning put into them will help pupils next session. 

My other consideration for homework is feedback. I have seen a lot around Twitter about Marking Crib Sheets. These are used to provide whole class feedback. Here is an example of one that I’m considering of adapting.

I would love to hear other opinions on setting homework. 

My Favourites

Over the last few months I have been blogging less and less. Partly due to starting a new job and partly due to lack of inspiration.

Then I saw this on twitter:

This got me excited about the new year and a chance to renew my blogging.

Then appeared this: Continue reading

Sharing: 5 Favourites

The power of Twitter still amazes me. On Friday at 4.43pm I tweeted these two tweets about a starter I had used with my S2 class on Friday morning:

Then at 9.21pm, these tweets appeared:

A link that I had shared as part of #mathsrockedtoday had allowed another teacher to find a new resource and use it within a lesson that same day. So cool! Continue reading