Tag Archives: collaborative learning

Mathematical Mindsets – Jo Boaler.

I am working on (and shall be over the summer holidays) an online MOOC – Mathematical Mindsets, run by Jo Boaler.

If you haven’t come across Jo before, find her on the Twitter, google her or read her books. I love her methods for maths and the way she links them with growth mindsets.

I intend publishing some of my work here.

In my first piece, Jo shared three pieces of research onto brain growth with us and asked us to share our feelings about how this should impact schools.

 

Taxi Driver Evidence.

“You may have seen me show the evidence from London black cab drivers who have to undergo complex spatial training, at the end of which, they have a significantly larger hippocampus in the brain. At the end of being taxi drivers, when they retire, the hippocampus shrinks back down again.”

 

Taxi driver response:

This research shows that a brain that is being used develops and grows and that when the brain is not being used it regresses to its initial state. So in school I guess this means that we need to keep children thinking about their maths. The children who probably end up thinking about their maths are the mid-ability ones upwards who, if we are not careful are fed a diet of ‘more of the same with bigger numbers’. These are the children who are ‘high fliers’ who then plateau in their maths learning.

We need to use real-life challenging problems and investigations and games with all learners to ensure brains keep growing.

 

 

Half-Brain Case-study. “You may also have seen me show the girl who had half her brain removed. The doctors expected her to be paralyzed for many years or even for her whole life, but she shocked them by regrowing the connections she needed in a really

short space of time.”

 

Half-Brain response:

This research shows that the brain is a wonderful thing which scientists are still understanding…slowly in some cases.

In school we need to encourage our children to make connections within their brains to ensure that they keep developing. Brains don’t get full! We need to share this learning about re-wiring of brains with the children so they come to associate hard learning with something like a gym visit or fitness training – a development; and improver.

 

Stanford Case Study: “They brought 7 to 9-year-old children into the labs at Stanford, and half of them had been diagnosed as having mathematics learning disabilities, and half of them hadn’t. And they had these children work on maths under brain scans.

And lo and behold, they found actual brain differences. And the children diagnosed with learning disabilities actually

had more brain activity than the other children, more areas of their brain were lighting up when they worked on maths.”

 

Stanford response: Initially, this research seems to show that pupils who are thought have learning disabilities are working harder to keep up with (and by definition be not as good at maths as) their peers. Their brains are working harder, which means they will feel more tired during a maths lesson, be more stressed and require more breaks. We need to think in schools how we treat these children who are working harder, and it’s certainly not good enough to say X is not good at maths. It also suggests that schools need to find time to work closely with our ‘poorer maths attainers’ to get an understanding of where there learning is and to give them strategies to learn and develop their maths. – In an ideal world this can be done through group work and talk partners also.

Teachmeet Firestarter 2017.

It was cold. Cold like winter. In fact, it was winter, but 15 teachers from across the region started fires, literally and metaphorically.

The first part of the teachmeet involved using steel and flints to spark onto a cotton wool pad which had some vaseline on it. It was huge fun. I think your class would like it.

Once we’d managed a spark and ignited the cotton wool we added the kindle we’d been taught how to split and gradually built our fires. Some were in Kelly Cans and one was in a colander with a trivet on the top. Simple, but huge fun. We boiled the water in the Kelly Cans and mashed ourselves a cup of tea. I know my class would love this, all of them and when they went home that night I reckon they’d tell their folks.

Matt from Grounds for Learning explained how to keep it safe, how to use the equipment and gave examples of the ages of children who’ve done this. You’d be surprised.

Aileen gave out some red strips of paper to add to the fire with our reasons we don’t do more outdoor learning. For me it’s really a bit of laziness. I know when I’ve gone outside with my classes they’ve loved it and they are engaged. Engaging children is something I believe is vital to our children getting the most from school life. I burned my laziness paper, I need to do a bit better.

The more traditional teachmeet section that followed was, as always, interesting. Listening to teachers talk about what they do, why they do it and the impact it has always is. Listening to Aileen talk about children needing recent experiences to talk and write about sparked my thoughts. I need to get my class outdoors a bit more. Teacher after teacher talked about outdoor experiences they had with their classes and each one spoke of the engagement with the traditionally ‘hard to reach’ groups of children.

Our final challenge was to write and then share:

‘What fires are you going to start:

In yourself?

In your class?

In your school?’

 

Well, I am going to take my class out once a week for at least half an hour of learning – I’m thinking this will be maths as this is an area I feel comfortable with and happy to challenge myself with.

In my school, I’m going to tell people how much my class enjoyed going out and offer to share the learning we’ve done and resources we’ve used.

In myself, I’m going to get my outdoor clothing organised so I can go out whatever the weather with my class!

 

Many thanks to Matt and Aileen. Grounds for Learning is know in the rest of the UK as ‘Learning Through Landscapes’.  Their website has lots of resources and ideas.

It really was cold, but it was worth it and I will make sure my children’s learning benefits.

 

TES Resource

“Hello, Just following up on the last message. We would love to hear back from you to see whether you are interested in the £50 reward for uploading…”

 

The TES came a calling. Offering cash incentives.

 

“£50 reward for uploading 3 premium teaching resources to our website. “

 

I had a look.

 

What is a premium resource? It’s a resource on the TES site that you pay for.

 

I have enough problems remembering my login for the TES site.

 

I had a read of this post again. It’s about why i teach. I’ve done it for a while now. I still love it. It’s about the changing, the learning, the everyday being new, the unlocking of potential. It’s not about the money.

 

I am more than happy to share any knowledge, resources I have with anyone. For free. Get in touch and I’ll send you what I can.

 

I feel that the sharing of ideas, resources, skills and knowledge is a key part of teaching. It’s how we are going to improve our education system, our curriculum. It’s how we are going to prepare our young people for the future.

 

It’s also what we ask the children in our care to do when we plan group work.

 

As well as an ethical issue in getting paid for sharing my resources, there’s a further issue.

 

If I make a resource on my council computer, in my council lit, council heated classroom and maybe print out a few test copies on the council maintained printer, is it fully my resource to charge for?

 

If I use the knowledge that I have developed through the inspiring, knowledgeable teachers I have worked with, is it fully my resource to charge for?

 

If I use an idea that I have seen on someone else’s resource, even if I have adapted it, is it fully my resource to charge for?

 

I am lucky.  I work, and have worked, with some wonderfully knowledgeable, inspiring people. I learn loads from them. I see how they do things, I improve my practice, I incorporate their ideas and I steal a copy of their resources from them and use them with my class. Should I offer them money when I do this?

 

Sharing. It’s a fundamental part of education, it’s how we personally improve and it’s how we are going to improve the lives of our young people.

Hopefully I do it.

And it’s useful.

And I do it for free.

 

#Blimage – Seating

Photo - Steve Wheeler.

Photo – Steve Wheeler.

 

When I first saw this particular #blimage it struck a chord with me immediately. Seating arrangements! One of the things in teaching I’ve read up about and tried out lots of to get the best learning out of my class (and in my early years tried to improve behaviour with too).

 

What can seating look like in primary schools?

 

Well those desks suggest the old style of rows to me. The type of thing that was actually being phased out when I went through primary schools in the 1980s. I’m not sure of the benefit of rows. If you were partnered (as our desks were double desks) with the ‘wrong person’ it made school life miserable. (My step-daughter who is a hard-working girl who isn’t easily distracted and tries her best ‘won’ the seat next to the class ‘naughty’ boy who was very talkative. She was sat there for a couple of terms…say it quickly it doesn’t sound a lot does it. Two block of 8 weeks maybe. 80 days then. 6 hours a day. 560 hours of school. With no planned benefits to her, only unhappiness because she’s not sat with the rest of her group). So maybe that seating wasn’t of the 70s and 80s? I’ve seen it used in classes in schools I’ve taught in. I assume (though never asked) to stop off task interactions.

 

A more traditional seating arrangement in primary school is the ‘table’ of around 6 children. Why do we do this? To create group interactions? Because it what primary classrooms look like – (thanks to SMT who’ve shared that gem in the past)? So that we can engineer groupings to ‘settle’ the behaviours of some children? In the early stage of my teaching life I used table groups and changed them regularly, twice a year (or moved ‘individuals’ around as a behaviour measure). I dread to think.

 

In latter years (after working with Shirley Clarke in Gateshead) I used tables of 6 children and changed them every Monday using lollipop sticks. The purpose behind this being to get the children interacting with as many different children in the class as possible. Finding out the skills and positive features that people they had never worked with had, as well as developing their own skills, through sharing their ideas and supporting each other in group work. It worked really well, and some of the feedback from the children about things they found out about each other was amazing. Of course if this happens you can’t have table points, table captains, table winners or table losers, you will need children to be self-motivated and working hard for themselves and not for external reward.

 

For the best part of a year I put all my tables together to form one large table in the classroom and mixed up the children weekly again using lollipop sticks. I did this after reading a book about how Apple and Google create spaces for ‘chance’ interactions. The class enjoyed working in this way and again reported that working with different people made for exciting learning time and exciting school time. (Behaviour, to my observation, was no worse using a ‘random’ approach to tables and seating than having ‘planned’ seating).

 

This coming year I am going for a horseshoe in my classroom with seating positions again changed weekly by random means. As well as the horseshoe, I have a table of 4 in the middle and a table for 8 for group teaching purposes. I will encourage the children to move furniture around for different tasks as they feel it suits their learning.

However, before all of this happens I will spend time in the first couple of weeks setting up the reasons behind our seating arrangements and setting up ground rules as well as discussing growth mindsets and key aspect of formative assessment. You can find loads of reading and resources about developing a growth mindset in the classroom all over the internet, and I have collected a few of the articles I have found useful here.

 

I’d be delighted to hear any of your ideas, arrangements etc in the comments.

 

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Maths Map – Edinburgh

I originally wrote this 3 years ago. In reorganising my website, I have included it as a post rather than a page.

Tom Barrett has come up with a fantastic idea for using google maps to create maths maps. The idea, like many brilliant ones, is simple. You find an area (I did Edinburgh as it’s local, so I know it) and put in place markers in certain areas and attach maths questions to them. Children can then work through them in and out of school and answer the questions.

Because of the way google maps is shared people all over the world can collaborate with these maps (including children as part of their learning). You can use different coloured markers for different levels of questions. I’m really looking forward to trialling it in school during our maths week.

Here is a link to my maths map.

Here is a link to the maths map area of Tom’s blog. http://edte.ch/blog/maths-maps/

And finally here is a link to Tom’s blog, which I think is brilliant. http://edte.ch/blog/

Pedagoo Wonderland.

0530 on a Saturday morning is difficult, cold and after another long night of the ashes, very miserable. However, I was off to a Pedagoo event, packed with exciting speakers, thoughtful teachers, inspiring individuals and I was pretty confident that my chosen Saturday CPD event was going to be brilliant. It was…

 

The first thing that blew me away (after registering with the very welcoming pupils of the school) was the amazing building. It was bright, clean, tidy and very much the type of modern building I come to expect when I go ‘somewhere nice’. Just as our children know when they are being shortchanged as regards use of windows XP on old PC’s, they know it when they walk into a dingy building which is in desperate need of a paint job. Michael Gove said that the building and environment of a school makes no difference. I drive past these buildings at  Fettes and Stewart’s Melville on the way to my school every day. Clearly, environment makes a difference.

 

The other thing about the building I loved was the use of images of Joseph Swan children working, often with ideas about how they work, or slogans/quotations about respect, reading etc behind them. That is something I will try and create in the next couple of weeks if energies allow as it looks so good and inspires.

 

Whilst having my complimentary tea and danish pastry (which would contravene the bring your own tea and biscuits policy of many councils) I set about reading my welcome pack. I loved the Happy Mondays leaflet which contained loads of great, ready to use, ideas for enhancing and reinforcing learning in the classroom. The Happy Mondays reference is because the teachers at Joseph Swan receive and e-mail every Monday, with a new idea or resource in it from their SMT. I love that idea!

 

MY first session of the day was in the Reading Room (and what an amazing space that is…) with David Hodgson. David talked about how we learn and how we can use techniques in the classroom to help children learn and remember how they learned things. As a primary teacher I get asked lots of questions from the children and my most frequent answer to them is good question. I don’t believe in throwing the knowledge confetti about for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m not convinced the children will remember it whilst they walk back to their desks and secondly I (or A.N.Other teacher) will not always be there for them when they have a question or want to learn something. The things we did in his session were all practical examples of an NLP approach, and I was so impressed I bought his book for my Kindle this morning. He used this pupil feelings graphic in his session too which I find a useful tool to have by my desk in the class room. Something David said which rang a bell was that we should ensure our children ‘Have a get out clause for children when they don’t learn’. This is vital, so often our children get way more stressed than we ever do about a wrong answer. We need them to take risks, get it wrong, change it and get it wrong again, smiling all the time! That is a successful learner right there.

The next session was with Rachel Orr who is HT at Holy Trinity Rosehill Her workshop was about developing writing through Primary Learning and specifically using Pie Corbett’s talk for writing work. I had worked on a Pie Corbett workshop for writing day before (January 2007??) and it was amazing. I’ve bought a few of his books and love his approach to writing. There is a lot of material on the internet too to supplement his written work. I also liked the punctuation sounds and actions which children are to use when they are talking and can then reinforce the assessment process in class. Rachel has used Pie’s work in two differing schools now and shared with us examples of the successes her young writers had, and these examples cal be seen on her school blogs. Rachel gave us a disk with loads of fantastic resources on, many her own work (the learning keys are a great idea!).

 

During lunch I met some great folk including @spiceweasel77 who is doing some brilliantly exciting things with his class!

 

After lunch it was on to Hywel Roberts session. Hywel spoke passionately and humourously about creating contexts in the curriculum, allowing the children to view the learning they are given through their own filters and engaging children in their learning. I made loads of notes during Hywel’s session and later tweeted many of them. Here’s the quotations I tweeted:

 

‘It’s our job to get the World thinking.’

 

‘We need to dig learning holes for our children to fall into.’

 

‘we are the people who make sense of the curriculum we are given. ‘

 

‘Have a what’s great 2 mins at the start of staff meetings’

 

‘we need to induct our kids into learning’

 

‘all of these things are just doing the job we’ve been asked to do. That we’re paid for. ‘

 

I’ve got Hywel’s book and it’s a great read. I need to do more of this in my classes. It’s great stuff. I was incredibly impressed with Hywel and the way he works in schools.

Finally, my last session was about using enquiry based learning in maths. Stephanie Thirtle took this session, she is a maths teacher at Joseph Swan. (I’d love The Girl to have her as a maths teacher, lessons would be so interesting!)

We did some enquiry based openers which really got us thinking and she talked about the approach of letting the children work things out for themselves, rather than an I teach then you do model. I love the work things out idea and think the way she’s bringing it to maths in a high school works really well. Much of the rationale for enquiry based learning was on her presentation and clearly showed examples of enquiry based learning which we could use as one-off lessons or develop for a maths topic. Such things investigating square numbers, straight line graphs using algebra, and one which P7 will be seeing soon – 12 Days of Christmas maths.

Her room displays were wonderful and I snapped many of them on my phone and you can see them here. I particularly liked that ways she put maths into context making it real for the children.

That chimed so well with the session from Hywel previously.

 

I came away with my head full of wonderful ideas and a bag full of goodies!

So, what next…well before Christmas I will make some posters of children and their ideas about learning to go up in school and I will also make some musical posters for the music room.

After Christmas I will take loads more of these ideas and run with them. It’ll be different, fun and learning will happen.

Here are my photo’s from the day. They are not brilliant, but the school environment was so good you may find the content useful.

Getting Started with Digital Leaders?

There seems to be quite a few people who are interested in getting Digital Leader groups set up and asking for ideas/help. Hope this helps, please feel free to get in contact, especially if you are based in Scotland, as my digital leaders are desperate to meet other DL-ers.

 

My Journey to the Scottish Digital Leaders Network.

On Wednesday 25th September, I presented at the SLF teachmeet on the topic of the Scottish Digital Leaders Network. Here is that presentation

 

2 years ago I taught ICT across the school as RCCT cover…it nearly killed me. Not the ICT bit, I loved it for enabling children to do fantastic creative work, and powerpoints, the way they could discover things, share things and be enthused and curious about learning. Parts of it were like an advert for the teacher training agency.

What nearly killed me was the day to day problems which got in the way. Flash updates, word templates not working, no access to colour printers, flash updates, using IE 6, aspects of filtering, flash updates, java…you get the picture. It really got in the way of me extending the children’s learning in ICT. As part of my ICT role I spent two days at a NAACE conference in Crewe where I met some amazing people and was introduced to the idea of Digital Leaders.

 

Rather than me try to define a digital leader, I thought I’d share with you a child’s own view of the role, taken from an Edmodo post…on a Sunday afternoon.

Slide2

And then rather than get you to read loads more, made a quick wordle which highlights helping, technology, responsible, and for some reason curtain.

Slide3

Digital leaders are a group of children in school which help with ICT in loads of different ways. They have expertise in ICT, are responsible and are given positions with real influence and real responsibility in your school. They exist in every school.

Last year I decided to turn our ICT group at Uphall into a Digital Leaders group. Something I felt would go beyond an after school group and something where I wanted the children to have more of a leading role.

So, having decided to give digital leaders a go, we asked them to apply online and we interviewed them and selected our first 13 digital leaders.This interview and application process is an important part of the digital leaders ethos in my opinion. It helps create a standard and expectation for the children, parents and staff and it is a process our children took very seriously and were brilliant at. I was fortunate enough to have my headteacher involved in the process which added loads to the process.

 

Over the year they made videos, created a resource website to help replace education city’s maths games,  taught numerous children how to do many things, helped install firefox, used webmaker tools and finally the P7’s wrote the interview questions for this year’s cohort. Much of this work we shared on our blog space.

Slide4

This was great, but what they desperately wanted was to meet other digital leaders, online and in real life for meetups and beyond…and I had some ideas I thought they could develop too!

Slide5Many of these ideas also involve taking digital leaders beyond our school and meeting up with similar groups.

So I thought I would try and set up the Scottish Digital Leaders Network. The network exists currently on Google + and we have an edmodo group. I am happy for the resources and network to reside anywhere where we can easily do the things we want to do, so we’re not tied to any medium. These are the things you’ll find there.

Slide6

One of the really exciting things going on this year is the badges for DL-ers from digital me. Digital me help young people gain skills and confidence through new technology and work alongside groups such as Nesta and Mozilla to develop young people’s skills. The badges look brilliant, and there you can view the prototype designs in the G+ group.

Slide7

What I would like you to do, is, having seen this, consider whether Digital Leaders is something you could start at your school. If it is please drop me an e-mail and I’ll organise you joining the network and hopefully we can support you and share ideas and solutions.

If it’s something you’re already doing under a different name, it would be great if you’d consider joining the network and making connections with people, I really think your children would enjoy the opportunities of working with other people.

Obviously, any questions please get in touch via e-mail, twitter or the comments below.

That was my presentation and slides and I’ve been really pleased with the feedback so far. There are a few hoops to go through to get into a google + group. You need a google account and you need to have activated your G+ account. I went for G+ as it offers webmeet capacity across the UK and beyond, which sadly Glow doesn’t yet and Skype calling seems unavailable in many schools.

The Edmodo group for Scottish Digital Leaders is here. You need to drop me an e-mail or DM for the code.

Guy Claxton – 5 things to try.

I was able to attend a talk by Prof Guy Claxton yesterday. Despite the room being way too warm and forgetting to take my bottle of water, it was a really thought provoking talk and left me with some things I want to try in school on Monday (and beyond) and certainly made me want to find out more about the Building Learning Power programme.

1. Distraction fingers. Probably 1 to use with my younger classes. When a distraction occurs, ask the children to show fingers for how distracted they were. 1 to 5. The idea behind this being to raise the awareness of the effects of distraction across the class. The children then develop their own awareness of the distractions the make and adjust behaviour accordingly.

2. A learning diary needs to be an ongoing tool, almost like an artists sketchbook, by the child’s side every minute, ready to jot down ideas, things they find hard and how they tried to overcome those things. I’m teaching across the school music and RCCT cover currently. If I was in class I’d definitely being using learning diaries more in this way.

3. More open feedback, encouraging the child to find the improvement point more. So, rather than highlighting the words to be improved, the teacher (or peer ideally) would leave a comment such as ‘You could improve a part of this paragraph, can you find out which part, and try to improve it’. That seems a more powerful statement to me as it requires that extra bit of work from the writer.

4. Once again, the important role of questions was spoken about – this is an ongoing theme across many educationalists I hear and read. It’s something I try to work at, 3 question answers, lollipop sticks, the basketball approach, using higher level questioning. Something I would like to create in my room is a display of questions children could ask about pieces of music -published and their own music- to further their understanding about music. I also love the idea of a questions wall with ‘wonder questions’ about anything. Some may be answered, some may not, it’s not the answering that matters it’s the asking of the question.

5. A diving mark scheme. I thought this idea was simple and clever. Children choose their ‘level’ to work at and that ‘level’ has a tarrif which the final score is multiplied by. This encourages children to stretch themselves and moves them away from a ‘safe haven’ whilst offering an encouragement for this. I can see this needs careful observing but it’s something quite close to a techniques I’ve used before in maths lessons. I will have a range of sums for the children to do on addition, subtraction etc. The children choose their start sheet, but are allowed to move in lesson between sheets as they feel. If they are finding it too hard they can go to a sheet with smaller numbers and consolidate and if they’re up for it, they can go straight for the harder challenge. The children are soon able to talk about their choices and any moves they make in lessons.

 

I have made more notes than this so please get in touch for more information or visit Guy’s sites.

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New Skills, New Questions.

I read this article and it got me thinking about school, learning, young people today etc.

The article discusses how skills are learned, how creating neural pathways link and create stronger pathways and how a good way to develop these skills is by not using help guides, asking other people etc but puzzling it out for yourself.

My experience is that children are the masters at that. They use tech, never read an instruction manual, dive in and work it out. Only if they are really stuck do they ever seek help from a youtube video, social media friends or maybe sometimes…their parents.

How does that learning model compare to schools?

How many lessons does the same children sit through where there is an input (or teach) first and then a series of activities ‘designed’ to develop this skills/learning?

How does the waiting for help (if required) compare to the immediacy of youtube or other web based help technologies?

How does the ‘blocking’ of lessons sometimes days apart hold back the development of skills in those areas, when the best way to develop the skills is everyday practice?

Do we connect enough of our learning together? I think primaries do, but there is always talk of splitting back into more subject based learning and less topic/project learning? Why? Where is the evidence for success in this approach?

The role of failure is key to learning in this way, yet if our children do not have enough ‘self-esteem chips’ as Richard Gerver brilliantly calls them our children will not be able to enjoy the freedom to fail. Do schools do enough to balance out the differential between the haves and have-nots of self-esteem? If not, why?

Which countries ARE getting it right and how are they doing it? Our young people are going to develop more and more skills in these ways, are our schools going to support them in that or hold them back?

296747265_eef6c2e32cSkills Drop Off – by Squacco

 

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