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SOLO resources

First off, you should check out my post on ‘Flying SOLO’ in the main blogs section, especially if you are just getting started with SOLO.

For the record, I have found it very productive (although long-winded) to create a list of work by SOLO level for the topic too.   Students then start at the appropriate place, depending where they feel they are in terms of understanding already.

I plan to keep all my SOLO progression grids (by topic eventually) here, so they are all in one place.


algebraic expressions


Standard Form

trial and improvement


Investigations with lower ability groups

I tried the polyominoes investigation last week with my Y7 bottom set, and they LOVED it.  They normally tolerate investigations, but only just, as they don’t like to work independently.  I had a plan however…

They were given squares of paper (I pinched a memo block from home with small squares of paper in) and I asked them to make as many different shapes as possible with three squares.   We then had a discussion about the rules we needed to add to make it clear:

– all three squares must be used

– they must join edge-to-edge, not corners or part-edges

– they must be 2D, not 3D (as one enterprising lad created a U shape….)

– reflections and rotations don’t count as new shapes

After we’d established this, I explained that we’d be investigating what happens with more squares, and then brought out the LEVEL LADDER (big announcer voice when reading that please).

The ladder was pinched from somewhere online, sorry, I can’t find it now! (EDIT:  It looked like this:


I also added in a checkbox at the end of each statement so that they could tick it off when they felt they’d achieved it.

They really enjoyed knowing exactly what they needed to do to get to the higher levels, and we all know how satisfying it is when you get to tick something off your ‘to-do’ list! 🙂

I asked at the end for them to put up their hands if they were proud of the work they’d done today (in 2 lessons) and all their hands shot up in the air.  It was B-E-A_UUUUTIFUL!!!!!! 😀

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Flying SOLO!

I’ve seen a lot of stuff appearing on Twitter about SOLO, and had a quick look, but no time to try to relate it to maths or give it a go before now.

I finally got round to reading the mentormob playlist here and thought it was about time I stopped procrastinating and started SOLOing!

I sat down to work out how best to explain it to my classes (I had decided to try it with my Y8 top set and my Y10 C/D group) and realised I needed a good way to show what each stage was about.  After much trawling of google, I found these which explained it beautifully, in a way that I knew my groups would understand.

My lesson plan went a bit like this:

1.  Explain that SOLO is a way of describing how well you understand something.

2.  List the stages of SOLO

3.  Explain what each stage means (see link above)

4.  Show this and get them to do the X Factor card sort from Tait Cole’s blog.

5.  Yr 8 then had to try to write their own list in the grid from part 4 on multiplication.  Yr 10 were doing fractions.

The lessons went pretty well, although they really struggled with the concept of extended abstract when creating their own descriptors.  Year 10 were the 2nd ‘guinea-pigs’ so I did it a little differently.  They had to pick one person from each group (mostly 4’s, a couple of 2’s) and that person had to get up and move round one group at a time.  They had to explain to the new group what was on their sheet (SOLO levels for fractions), and then keep moving round every time I dinged my bell.  Every classroom should have a little bell – it’s much nicer than shouting!  This meant that each group got a good overview of what the rest of the class had come up with, and then when the ‘movers’ got back to their group, the rest of the group had to fill them in on what they had learnt.

It was not a bad start to the idea of SOLO, as they all understood the terms, and could manage to apply them to a topic they knew, albeit with a fuzzy understanding of extended abstract….

Y10 are lucky enough to have me twice on a Monday, so we got to do the follow-up lesson as well.  I chose the topic of standard index form, as it’s something we covered at the start of Y10, so most have forgotten it, but they all are at least at a multistructural level of understanding.

I showed them this:


They then had to choose which level they thought they were at for this topic.  I then showed this slide:


and explained that they should find the level they decided they were at, and start at that work. They were welcome to change their minds (and several did, and dropped down a level!) once they’d started, and were encouraged to move to sit with people on the same level so that they could work together. This might need a little more thought next time, as there were a few bad groupings that will not lead to their best work…. Apologies for the ‘death by textbook’, but it was a consolidation lesson to revisit the topic, and they needed plenty of questions 🙂

The instruction was to ask each other and me and to try to get themselves to the next level of understanding.  We discussed methods of moving from one level to the next, in order to show them that it’s up to them to deepen their understanding.  We will continue tomorrow, and the one that might finish the extended abstract work will be tasked with helping explain to others as they progress to that level. 

I gave them this analogy for why it’s useful (coupled with a discussion of why a little bit of revision each week is much more useful to their grades than saving it all up and cramming at the end):

Imagine a librarian at her desk.  You go in and ask for a really obscure book that you’ve heard of once.  She has to look it up on her computer, and then has to check the map of the dusty old shelves at the back to see where it is.  She trundles off, and arrives back in 10 minutes with the book, having found it at the top of a shelf, covered in dust.  You thank her, and later when you return the book, she puts it back on the shelf. The following week, you go back in and ask for the same book.  The librarian remembers where it is from last time, so it only takes her a few minutes to fetch it.  You hand it back in.  The next week you go back.  She takes one look at you, and heads off to find the book, even faster this time.  The following week she looks at you smugly, and produces the book from under the counter.  She knows what you’ll want, and has it ready.  Your brain is your librarian.  Knowledge that you gain is chucked into the messy pile on her desk to start with.  If you’ve not needed it for a week or two, she’ll decide it’s not important and chuck it in the bin.  If you’ve asked for it, she knows it’s useful, so she’ll file it somewhere.  The more you ask your brain for the information, and the more you can relate that information to other things you know, the better she can file it away, cross-referenced with all the other stuff, so that when you need it, it’s easy to find.   

SOLO is your way of telling your brain what knowledge is important.  The deeper your understanding, the more likely you are to remember it.  Revisiting it will also help.  

I’m very excited about joining the #soloarmy, and I’ll keep you posted on my journey!

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Twitter as CPD

The video is designed to explain the joys of twitter for CPD to your colleagues. You are welcome to use it, all I ask is that you let me know how it went! 🙂


Revision Tips the easy way?

Bolt of inspiration this morning!

Bit of background first – I’ve been a bit quiet over the last couple of weeks due to being insanely busy.  In the time since my last post, I’ve been appointed as HoD for a low-attaining school, meaning I’ve got a million ideas for what I want to do there, and not enough information yet as to whether I can….

One of the main plans is to look at the intervention in place for Y11 to try to get results up short-term, (while putting in place plans for Y7,8,9 to bring longer term gains).

My moment of inspiration this morning was very simple.  We need to get students revising sooner.  They need to be working smarter across the whole of Y11, not just waiting till exams are looming.  The way to do this?  Reminders.  Constant ones.  Via Twitter and Facebook (where they spend half their lives anyway).

It seemed a daunting prospect.  Creating revision tips less than 140 characters…?  Writing them all myself??

Better plan #1:  Get other staff at school to collaborate.

Better plan #2:  Get students to write their own tips, as part of a project or otherwise (we are a Media Arts school….)

Best plan:  Some combination of the above, and ALSO get fellow Tweachers (Twitter teachers) to collaborate, so that the idea can be shared across schools.

The final (ish) plan:  Set up a google doc where people can go on and add their own tips for revision/exam success.  They can be short and to the point/long and detailed, regular/one-off, subject-specific/general.

Each school will need at least one person to take charge of the project, and ideally they should set up a blog/VLE page as a basis for keeping all this on, and a school Twitter account and FB PAGE (not profile).  Each week or however often you like, you’d choose a post from the google doc or write your own, and copy it to your school’s page.  Tweet/post a link out (can also be done on an email opt-in basis for those without social networking) and it will appear in students’ lives as if by magic.  There are even instructions on how to schedule the tweets in advance (less hassle, do a load at once then they’ll be sent out one at a time) AND even getting it to update FB for you when you tweet.

The advantages to doing it on an individual school basis are that you can personalise it, and add details of revision workshops etc and exact exam dates.  You can also on most mediums look at the visiting traffic, and see what kind of interest you are getting from students.   Maybe it won’t be all, or even most, but the ones that opt in (they’d have to choose to follow/fan you) would be getting useful suggestions and tips all year.

The link for the google doc is here ( and I look forward to seeing what we come up with!!