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The reflective teacher

As part of our ‘becoming an outstanding teacher’ CPD, we were discussing the STAR lesson observation system we have bought into.  You basically get 2 cameras, one at the back of the room capturing you teaching, and the other at the front, capturing the student’s response.  

I am genuinely quite excited about the prospect of being able to see myself in action, and find out what habits I have as a teacher, both good and bad.  The lesson observation system in schools is a very subjective one, with your feedback being strongly biased towards your observers preferred teaching style (usually).    The opportunity to be able to be your own observer is a really fantastic one.

I feel I’m probably the choir being preached at with this, as I already use this blog, among other tools, to reflect in a structured way on my teaching and general practice.    The surprise for me was the vehemence with which some members of staff argued against this system.    Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that some people are camera phobic, and would rather eat their own arm than have to watch a video of themselves, but there are ways round that!  Simply use only one of the two cameras, pointed at the students – their responses to you (and you’ll be able to hear yourself) will tell you plenty about your lesson, without having to look at yourself once.  

I was having a very enthusiastic conversation with a colleague about the whole system, and the potential for the flipped classroom too, when a voice piped up from behind us with a question.  Our Principal had snuck in while we were deep in conversation (ok, he probably just walked in, but we didn’t notice!) and so we had a wonderful opportunity to have a really long conversation with him about how to implement all these ideas in school.  It was really great to see how enthusiastic he is about innovation in teaching, as I often feel like the odd one out at the moment! 

He likened the STAR system to analyse your teaching to the process by which professional golfers try to improve.  They might be #1, but they will still spend hours analysing videos of their swing, in order to hone it to perfection.   That is what we should be doing as teachers, in some way or another, honing our professional skills to be the best we can be.  

I’ve been the ‘plodder’ in the past, who gets in a little rut, and it’s easy, and comfortable, and you don’t have to spend hours planning etc…  but I love being the innovator SO much more!!  I don’t mind the planning, and the nerves when you try something new – the rush when it works, and students are enthused, positive, and motivated, more than makes up for it.

A discussion I’ve had with another colleague recently was about a trial somewhere to allow students to give feedback on lessons.  They had a website set up where the students could log in at the end of the day, and rate each lesson on 3 criteria [I think they were a) how much I enjoyed the lesson  b) how much I think I learned  c) how much effort I put in]

I’d be nervous, sure!  However, I think it would really make a difference to get the students viewpoint on my lessons, and what really worked for them, and what didn’t.  I may have to trial a paper version….

All in all, this week has really driven home the importance of being a reflective teacher.


In other news, I left my iPad at home by accident today, and I can think of no better way to describe my feelings as ‘separation anxiety’!   I hadn’t realised how much I was using it in my teaching until it wasn’t there.   I found myself wanting to share a students work on the board, and I couldn’t just pop it in front of the camera and plug in my iPad to the projector.    I had to use a whiteboard pen again today!!!!!!!!! 😮


One small step…

Over the last term I have been setting up two projects. The first project involves getting students to think about how much exercise they do each day without realising it. The second project is a parent-child cookery course.

I applied for funding from the local obesity strategy group run by the NHS, and they have generously given me £1200 to set them up.

Last week, I found the perfect pedometers for the first project. The project involves getting students to wear a pedometer for a week, then adding up the cumulative total distance walked. We hope to have a distance of at least 6790 miles, which is the circumference of the moon. Hence the title, One Small Step… 🙂
The pedometers I found are credit card shaped, which means they are not as ‘obvious’ and can be carried in pockets, rather than worn on belts. It also means they don’thave buttons that can be pushed either by accident ( or on purpose by other students!) which would reset the pedometer total.
The other bonus to these pedometers is that they also have a body fat analyser on them. (The downside was that the instructions were in French and German. This made figuring out some of the more complicated functions somewhat tricky!)

I spent £300 in total on 78 pedometers, which means we have a couple of class sets for use within PE or science, as well as in maths lessons in future.
All students in year 7,8 and 9 (along with their tutors) will wear a pedometer for a week. I will collect all the pedometers at the end of each week and enter the totals on a spreadsheet. I have a couple of prizes lined up from the local leisure centre for students who make a particularly good contribution to the total (although I shan’t publicise that, in case it encourages cheating!)

I hope to find several businesses through various community links who will sponsor the school to hit the suggested total. Any money raised will go to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
(Any readers with links to businesses who might be willing to sponsor us, I would love you forever!)

I plan to have a ceremony at the end, complete with giant cheques, where we present the money raised to someone from the charity. I will also ensure there is plenty of publicity involved for companies involved and for the school. 😉

The second project is more of a long term thing, as I am relying on our catering manager to do a lot of the planning and actual running of the event, and due to various things, she can’t do so until September. We have managed to meet with someone from the obesity strategy group to brainstorm lots of fantastic ideas though. I’m very excited about how it’s going to turn out!

Now I just have to start begging companies to sponsor us, and set a date for the project to begin… 😀

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The plan for Yr12/13…


Well, it’s been a bit frantic the last couple of weeks in the run-up to the Core 2 and FP1 exams, but they are now done, and I can start to think properly about the plan for next year.

I have spent countless hours with Yr12 over the last couple of week, as (in a fit of boundless enthusiasm…) I offered to give 50 min long ‘supervisions’ to each of my Core and Further students (18 in total…) on a sign-up basis so they would get some individual attention.  This was in addition to the 2 lunches a week I offer Yr12 Core, and the 2 after-schools for Further in the weeks running up to the FP1 exam.  I’m shattered, but hopefully it will have had a big impact on their grades, so will be worth every minute 🙂

I have spent quite a bit of time reading up on ‘flipping with Kirch‘ and how she has been flipping her classes this year.  I have been particularly inspired by the WSQ part of her method, which involves the students Watching the video she has made on the concept they are learning, and then having to Summarise it through guided questions.  They then have to come up with a Question to bring to class and discuss.    I think I’m going to take a lot of what she has done and try it out with Yr12/13 next year.

The process is currently complicated a little by the fact that I don’t know my teaching groups for next year…

The plan:

I found a link on Twitter this morning from @ICTEvangelist, with this little gem:  The-Little-Book-of-Superb-ICT-to-enhance-Teaching-and-Learning-in-the-C21-classroom

It talked about a web 2.0 tool that I’ve heard mentioned before, but never really seen the point of for my teaching.  I do now.   The tool is called popplet, and it creates mind maps in which you can link content, write, draw, embed youTube videos, and add pictures.    I have been playing today, and I think it’s the ideal tool for keeping my content in one place for when I start flipping my Yr12/13 teaching properly.    Here is a popplet I’ve created for Core 2 – still a work in progress, but you get the idea.

I plan to share this somehow, possibly edmodo, possibly not, with the students so that they have access to the whole module in advance, and can work ahead, or can find extra resources for a topic they struggled on etc.   I will then create a schedule for them with the topic list on, so that they know what topics they are expected to have watched for when.   They can also simply go to my youTube playlist here and find the appropriate topic to watch – the popplet is more for an overview and a place to keep extra resources.  I have put the individual pages of the numpty guides I made in here too, attached to the appropriate topic.

I’m also planning to pinch Crystal Kirch’s idea about making students phone home themselves to explain why they didn’t watch the video on time…

I hope that it will mean that those students who got a little left behind this year, as they were not as quick to pick stuff up, (and were not willing to come and see me for help at lunchtimes,) will be able to take their time learning the concept beforehand at their own pace, so that they can ask all their questions in lesson time, and keep up.

Lots of exciting plans, now I just need to find time to do it all!!

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The ‘Guide for Numpties’ series.

To support my Yr 12 students, I have written several ‘Numpty Guides’, as I have dubbed them.

These cover the key points from the textbooks, some other useful pointers, and in the later ones, worked examples and exam questions.

So far, I have Core 1, Core 2, Decision 1 and Further Pure 1.

I plan to type these up etc at some stage, but for now, here they are in pdf form.  (Be warned, they are quite large files, as I have simply taken pictures of the originals and put them all into a file in order. I tried scanning, but it wasn’t good….)

Core 1 for Numpties

Core 2 for Numpties

Decision 1 for Numpties

Further Pure 1 for Numpties


(if anyone has any problems downloading etc, then please let me know, and I’ll try a different format…)


Literacy in Maths

A conversation on Twitter this morning reminded me that I haven’t yet written about literacy in maths.  I am a firm believer in not doing something for the sake of doing it (ticking the box), although I will concede that sometimes it’s necessary.  I therefore do the following because I find them helpful and because I WANT TO!

1.  Word of the Day.    I choose an arbitrary word (usually dependent on my mood that morning) and write it, along with a definition on the board.  For extra tricky words, I often add an example of usage.  Students then try to use the word appropriately in a sentence at some point in the lesson, and win a sticker or behaviour point.  It is very popular, to the point where Yr 10 in particular will tell me off if I’ve forgotten to change the word!

2.  How-to-guides.   At the end of a topic, I often get students (usually for homework) to write their own how-to guide for that topic.  It should contain top tips, examples, and explanations.  This serves both as a chance for actual writing in maths, but also gives a meaningful homework task that can then be used for revision.

3.  Revision guides.  When I started the revision phase with Yr 12 before their Core 1 exam, I set them a task.  They were each assigned a chapter, and had to write up revision notes for that chapter, in a way that would help everyone.  I then collated and copied their finished notes, and everyone got a revision guide for the whole book.   The first attempt was a little hit-and-miss, so I added my own notes as well.  This is how my ‘Core 1 for Numpties’ guide was born (but more on that in another post, another day…)  It was also quite effective with Yr 10 before their Unit 2 exam.  

(This is by no means a definitive guide to literacy in maths – there are some fantastic resources out there from other people.  This is simply what I’ve found works for me.)

Some previous ‘words of the day’:


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Sharing good practice

As an experiment, I am going to see if I can get my department to share more.

Don’t get me wrong, we are quite good at sharing, but at the moment, it’s mostly just in our own little circles of friends. We stop to chat in the maths office, and talk about things we’ve done that worked, or useful resources we’ve found. What we don’t do is share as a whole department. There simply isn’t time in our busy meetings to discuss everything we want to, and no-one wants to create new meetings to do it!

My thoughts on this are as follows:

– it’s really useful to share. It saves us all reinventing the wheel.

– Everyone has a little time somewhere in their week to jot down a couple of ideas or upload a file, but with any department, there is never a good time for everyone.

– an online space where we can collect all our good ideas etc would help us keep track of it all, and enable everyone to join in at whatever time suits them best.

– if successful, the experiment could then be shared as good practice with other departments, and we could start working more collaboratively as a whole school.

With all this in mind, I set out in search of a suitable site to use. Pinterest looked like a possibility, but it seemed a bit public for now. Perhaps in future we could move over, but there are members of the dept who would not be keen on the idea that anything they say could be seen by anyone. I’m more likely to get them on board if it’s private.
I looked at various reviews etc, and decided to give wikispaces a go.
It is simple to set up, although not the prettiest, and I’ve created pages for each year group very quickly with it.
I’ve sent an invite to my HoD to see what he thinks, and if he likes it, I shall reel in selected members of the dept to get a bit of content on there, so I can show everyone at the next meeting how useful it could prove. I shall also be singing the praises of twitter for CPD and PLN’s!

I’ll keep you posted… 🙂

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