Notes for Future Self

The S3 class mentioned in the last post is a group which I am aiming to lead towards National 5 maths by the end of S4, but this is a wildly ambitious target.  Based on previous cohorts, I could reasonably expect only about half of the class to get there. This is one of those "could go either way" classes.  There are plenty of pupils in the class who are regularly getting into trouble around the school, but there are also many who are conscientious and hard working across the school.  Given that the class is behaving excellently and making good progress, I'm writing this post as a reminder to myself for the future.

Here are the strategies I have consciously employed with the class:

  1. Consistent use of AiFL techniques in class - lollipops, think-pair-share, celebrating wrong answers  etc etc
  2. Explicit discussion about growth vs fixed mindsets (Carol Dweck's work).
  3. Zero tolerance of disruptive behaviour, backed up with generous praise, particularly for those who mend their ways.  I'm talking here about small things: shouting out questions rather than putting a hand up; talking to pupils behind them; anything other than silence when I or anyone else is addressing the class.
  4. Seating plan and swift movement of positions that were not working.
  5. Consistent routines.  Line up, come in, collect show-me-board, sit down and do starter questions in jotters.
  6. Consistent use of the word "yet":  "you haven't mastered this yet", "who thinks you're not ready to do some examples on your own yet?", just saying "yet" when a pupil says "I don't understand" (I do this so much that they usually add it themselves now before I get a chance).
  7. Variety of learning experiences.  Lots of show-me-board work with whole class.  Occasional Tarsias.  Manga High.  Textbooks. Pair textbook work.
  8. Clear learning intentions reviewed at the end of each lesson.
  9. Weekly hand-in homework which I mark and give feedback on, often by recording a wee video for each pupil on my mobile phone as I mark. All homework features a mix of topics. Separate homework jotter
  10. Expectation that homework will be properly corrected.  I don't mark homework if it is handed in without corrections of the previous week's homework.
  11. Explicit discussion about the homework cycle, and why it is so important for their learning for them to attempt corrections. Told them that effective learners treat feedback as information, not judgement, and that I give it to them as information, not judgement.
  12. Constant verbal reinforcement of how delighted I am with the effort and behaviour I am seeing from them.  I started this from day 1, and continued even when one or two were not matching my expectations.  They got a quiet word after the general praise to the class.  I showed them my tweet which said how proud I was of them.
  13. Honest feedback about whether or not they are reaching the required standard.  For those who aren't I contact parents and provide detailed advice about what they could do to close the gap, including coming to weekly support sessions after school and accessing support videos on the department website.  
  14. Being human. I chat to the pupils at the queue outside the class about all sorts of random stuff.  
  15. Listening to them.  I ask for feedback about how the class is going, and try to implement some of their suggestions.  Interestingly, the suggestion from one pupil that we do less textbook work was over-ruled by the majority of the class, who felt that it was an important way to practise solving problems.
My subjective opinion is that the homework routines have made a huge difference.  The message the class seem to have received is that I have very high expectations, will not accept hurried homework and will spend a lot of time providing them with high quality feedback to enable them to improve.  I think they've also received the message that I believe in their capacity to improve. And that I care.

It'll probably all go pear shaped tomorrow!


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