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Where to begin?

on March 16, 2012

My task:  to rewrite our Y7 Scheme of Work so that our students get a solid grounding in the basics by the end of the year.

The overall aim:  Students leave Y7 knowing (and I mean really knowing) a method that they can use reliably every time to add/subtract/multiply/divide numbers.  They also get a healthy dose of problem-solving so that they know how to tackle problems, and aren’t afraid to do so.  Those that are capable will have looked at extending these methods to decimals and fractions, and negative numbers etc.

The problem?  Consolidation of the basic skills will involve a LOT of repetition.  How do I keep it interesting all the way through?  

If I had a ginormous budget, I’d get enough tablets (not netbooks – ours are rubbish, and take half the bloomin’ lesson to switch on/log in) for all the students to have access at least once a week to sites like mangahigh and sumdog.

These sites have done an amazing job of making learning and sums fun, offering students the opportunity to earn medals and compete with others in games or challenges that involve them practicing their basic skills.  Our students love it, although some have been put off by the rubbish netbooks that log you out when you are on your highest ever score so that it doesn’t save….

However, I don’t have a ginormous budget.  Also, I’m not the head of department, so what budget we do have isn’t under my control anyway.  

I’m currently thinking that we should use a ‘discover and do’ system.  You spend a lesson ‘discovering’ through investigations how to do something, and then a lesson or seven ‘doing’ this task.    Eg – You’d look at different methods of sharing to come up with some ways of doing division, then spend time practicing those skills.  

Students would have the opportunity to graduate to the next level of difficulty by passing a test specific to what they had been studying in their current level, and what was in the level below.  That way, they wouldn’t have to start multiplying with decimals until they had definitely mastered multiplying with integers.  Logistically this will be tricky, but we will just have to reshuffle the groups regularly based on these tests.  No-one moves down, only up, but only when they’re ready.

By the end of the year, we should have students in the sets we would have ended up with under the current system, but without those tricky gaps in their understanding that sometimes happen if you set them after one generic test.

I will still aim to cover the NC, although some will get further than others by graduating quickly.   Some may not get to algebra or probability by the end of Y7, but if they are incapable of a secure understanding of the basics of number, then I’m not sure there would be any point teaching them that yet anyway.   Year 8 would be a little bit of basics regularly, but lots of algebra, SSM and HD to make up for what we missed in Y7.  Hopefully this will be much easier to grasp when you’re not spending 30 seconds of your 1 minute working-out-time figuring out 6×7, but can actually focus on the question being asked and the process used to answer it.

I also plan to do some videos of how to do the basics, so that students can go home and watch it and practice (Flipped Classroom-style…)  If I do, they will be available via for all to use.  I shall hopefully also be able to make our SoW available to anyone else who wants to try it. 

Thoughts/suggestions/constructive criticism welcomed…..  This is currently just me thinking aloud!


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