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Flying SOLO!

on June 18, 2012

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!


One response to “Flying SOLO!

  1. melissa vollebergh says:

    thanks for this.
    i really liked your example on standard form. it certainly helps to see a few eg’s to get the hang of it. i went to a great conference session by mitchell howard from NZ. check out his ppt on the web. very helpful for beginners.

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