A lesson with possibilities

Filed Under (Reflection) by on 23-06-2011 and tagged ,

Today I had a great maths lesson.

It felt good at the time. 30 children all engaged, learning new things, consolidating previously learned concepts and sharing their learning and helping others for an hour – and we then ran over an extra 6 minutes without a fuss! They worked so hard I was proud of them all (and there are some characters – it’s a lower set Year 4 maths class!)

So what made it successful? – on reflection it wasn’t the lesson itself (that wasn’t particularly innovative or exciting) but the realisation that the format gave me a toe-dip into something I had regarded as the holy grail of teaching this year – was!

All year I have been struggling to capture assessment data on my maths class without feeling the need to formally assess them (we do APP* for every child and by assessment I also mean collecting the evidence for this). Don’t get me wrong – I use AFL daily, my marking is logged against objectives, I can look through my mark book and quickly assess who has ‘got’ something and who hasn’t, this marking informs my planning and I’m lucky that I have a small amount of ‘extra’ TA time that I use to either pre-teach or ‘scoop’ up misconceptions in small groups.

But something has constantly bothered me about how my AFL mark book relates to my APP file and whether the former, and even the latter really give a true representation of what children are independently capable of. My colour-coded AFL marks are mostly a result of taught lessons, supported group work and in my view never a pure example of independent understanding. I often do not teach a concept for more than a week before moving on, opportunities for revisiting them in a already crowded timetable – are fewer. So finding the opportunities to secure three examples of independent evidence to ‘highlight’ an AF has felt near on impossible.

So for me, my lesson today gave me a format whereby I was able to work with every child in the class, informally collect evidence relating to 6 different maths concepts/objectives and enable children to enjoy and learn from the experience was somewhat of a eureka moment!

The format. A carousel of 6 different activities. Two adult-led – one teaching a new concept and one adult supporting a more ‘tricky’ activity. Mixed ability groups, with a child ‘maths leader’ in each that would offer help in independent activities if required. 8 minutes on each activity – a mixture of hands-on tasks and basic concepts. All bar one, with a recorded element.

The positives. Engaged children showing responsibility for their own, and others, learning. Children moving on in their learning, but also consolidating concepts they already know. Moving from activity to activity and ‘collecting’ their own evidence kept children focused. The opportunity for me as a teacher (and also my TA – who commented afterwards that they had loved the lesson) to work with every child within a single lesson was brilliant.

How would I adapt? From my collection of recorded sheets (which I haven’t marked and won’t – but have recorded on a single sheet against the objective for each task) I would include a standard format for self-assessment on each. I would continue to include a range of activities pitched at different levels, but ensure I include some practice activities that build confidence. The mixed ability groups work well, as I can see how children helping each other reinforced their own understanding, but I may include the occasional session where the activities may enable those of slightly lower ability to be the math leaders. As we set for maths, my team teacher and I could use the format with our own classes, or to enable children who hover on the borderline of both groups to transfer and try working with the other class. Changing the activities would ensure that whilst children may become familiar with the format they won’t get bored with the lesson itself. I have noted that mental calculation is a real weakness in my class – I could use the format to have a carousel of mental activities with my ‘maths leaders’ sharing these, checking answers would allow their maths skills to be used. The format would also allow me to use more ICT within maths lessons. We used the ipods today, but I can see how working in these small rotating groups would allow me to use our computers or Wii for maths related activities. I can also see how the maths help videos (I made and loaded onto ipods) we have used in lessons this week would also help in the independent tasks. So there is plenty of scope for extension and adaptation.

On reflection of writing this, I understand that as talking and help was allowed in the groups, that it still doesn’t give me a true assessment of independent ability. However I can see how using this format on a regular basis does give children the ability to practice and revisit previously taught concepts so that when true independence is required they may be more able to achieve this. In turn, the format does give me as a teacher the ability to work with every child in my class on the same objective as well as pick up a wider range of misconceptions more regularly.

I can see potential with it, and would be really interested to see whether used on a regular basis it would have a positive impact on children’s maths confidence and skills as well as my ability as a teacher to have a increased understanding of the ability of every child in my class.


*My personal view is that completing APP for every child in it’s current form, is an unwieldly time-consuming waste of time, time that I could be more productively spending elsewhere.


2 Responses to “A lesson with possibilities”

  1.   Oliver Quinlan Says:

    This sounds like it had lots of positives. How was it to prepare and organize all that information at the end? Is this something you could do for every lesson? Would you want to?


    •   kiwiteacheruk Says:

      Thanks for the comment Oliver. I think in this instance I had an idea of what I wanted to assess, so I prepared activities that allowed me to do this. Just by looking through the sheets (rather than detailed marking) I was able to tell whether children had grasped it or needed more help. My overall mark sheet (45mins work to complete – so on a par with marking a full class maths lesson (which I don’t do every day!) ) has kept a good record. A follow-up conversation with my TA was even more enlightening and added to my overall picture. I have not transferred this info to my APP folder but will do this weekend.
      More time-consuming in the future may be preparing each lesson. But I would repeat some activities as consolidation. As much as I would like to do it, say, once a fortnight, I think to be realistic it would be more likely to be once every 3 or 4 weeks. I think like anything, with time and experience things become easier, and my toolkit expands – so I can pull a wider range of suitable activities together more quickly.
      I know a school who does something similar everyday every afternoon for 15mins. So carousels throughout the week. Their results have improved immeasurably!


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