Sunday, 31 August 2014

Contract for my new currently underachieving Year 11 classes

On Tuesday I will be meeting my two new Year 11 classes - the majority of whom I haven't taught before as I am still relatively new to the school.

Out of all these students only 3 are currently on target to achieve 3 levels of progress by the end of KS4, even though 93% of them achieved a Level 4 or 5 at the end of KS2.

The predictions for their actual GCSE Grades based on Year 10 are all Ds and Es.

There is a lot to be done.  It will be hard work, but not impossible, and I thrive on challenge!

What I do need though, is for them to buy into both me and themselves right from the first lesson.

So how am I planning to do it?

I feel very lucky to have had a varied career where I have previously working in an inner-city school in Special Measures, was then a Head of Maths in a very successful faculty for 5 years, delivered specialist intervention teaching of small groups at an Outstanding School and I am currently working as a Lead Practitioner (previously AST) and expert examiner for Edexcel.

I always tell Year 11 all of the above - it's a start towards them having confidence in my ability to teach them.  ....and I also tell them I've been in teaching for longer than they they've been alive!

In addition I also let them know that I have worked with many students in their position at the beginning of Year 11 and that we can definitely turn it around so that they achieve their potential.

Last year for the first time I gave students the opportunity to pick their own GCSE Grade based on the amount of effort they were prepared to put in through opening only one of 3 personalised envelopes.

Full details of this can be read by clicking here.

In addition this year I am going to try something new alongside it in terms of a contract, of sorts, to stick in their books, entitled:

It starts with a moment of reflection on their predicted grade from the beginning of Year 10 to the end of Year 10.  I've included this because many of them dropped grades between the start and end of the year.

I must just make clear at this point that in no way am I attributing any blame for this either now or during the lesson.  Nor will I be allowing the students to do so!

I do however, think that it's important that they reflect on this in light of the quote which I included next  (attributed to Einstein, but whoever said it is a genius!):

What I am really going to concentrate with them upon is the next part.  What are they going to do differently this year?  It's at this point that they will be committing to the amount of effort they are prepared to put in and then choose an envelope and target grade. (As seen in the picture earlier)

Finally they will decide what they are going to do differently this year so that they can expect different results:

 This is how the whole page looks.  I'll let you know how it goes .........

Friday, 11 July 2014

Lies, Damn lies and Statistics!

Click 'generate' to find out what percentage of statistics are made up on the spot:

Getting ready to teach GCSE Statistics again next year! 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Questions which will never go out of fashion

On Friday I had a conversation with a colleague about how 'fads' (for want of a better word) come and go in teaching and that it's all too easy to think that we should try to include all of them every lesson. 

I think these are the important questions that it all boils down to though and for me they'll never go out of fashion: 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Top 25 Higher questions on past exams by total marks

This list is based on past Edexcel exams and show total marks and number of times they have appeared on papers.

Many thanks to S.Jones for compiling this data.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Top 20: Foundation and Higher questions in terms of frequency on Past Papers

Does what it says in the title!

Disclaimer: This is in no way a prediction of what will be tested this year!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Choosing an exam board. Edexcel Vs AQA

We're introducing GCSE Statistics for Year 9.

I've taught AQA many times at previous schools but think it's time to check out the competition!

So what to take into consideration?

- The syllabus?
- Style of past exam papers?
- The controlled assessment?
- Availability of supporting materials such as texts?
- Proportion of previous candidates passing at each grade?

What have I missed?

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Poundland Pedagogy Lucky Dip

Take 30 items from Poundland (Everything's a Pound!), wrap, add a raffle ticket, give out as lucky dips to some adventurous teachers and see how they include them in their T&L in the following week:

 1) Magnetic L & P Plates
 2) Baggage Scale
 3) 10 Children's Hangers
 4) 50 Assorted Dayglo Flashcards
 5) 60 Plastic Spoons

 6) Flying Disc
 7) 36 Pegs
 8) Movement-activated croaking frog
 9) 100 pink and blue cupcake Cases
10) An owl bath mitt

11) A frog shower cap
12) 3 assorted pasta mug shots
13) Buttons in 12 different colours 
14) 60 Doilies
15) A cat toy with a bell in it

16) 2 padlocks
17) 8 snack-size containers
18) 100 assorted plasters 
19) 3 pairs of animal children's socks 
20) Mini basketball hoop

21) Long Reach Grabber 
22) 5 bubble blowing 'kits' 
23) A black glittery cowboy hat
24) Pom Poms 
25) 5 fly swatters

26) 3 Tier cardboard cupcake stand 
27) 3 Disposable ponchos 
28) Dish Diva
29) 6 pull back & go racing cars 
30) A garden Gnome

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Why students shouldn't round in exams - even if the question says they should.

"Don't round off even if the question tells you to" is the advice I give my learners.

In fact, they can round off but ONLY when they've written down every single digit on their calculator first.

This way they're guaranteed to be awarded the marks.  If they incorrectly round on the answer line without the calculator display written down first getting that mark is much more of a gamble.

Here's an example showing how it works:

This question clearly asks candidates to give their answer to 2dp:

But if we look at the mark scheme the A1 is for an answer in the range 13.85 to 13.86, not actually for an answer of 13.85 or 13.86.  It's a subtle but important difference :

If the candidate is a proficient rounder then there is no problem, but how often do they make a mistake, especially when under pressure?  

A simple error such as rounding to 1dp (13.9) will take them out of the answer range and therefore they will not be awarded A1.

Writing down the whole calculator display first stops this being a problem as they will be awarded the A1 for 13.85640646 and a subsequent incorrect attempt at rounding will be ignored.

Other tips to stop your students from losing marks can be found here.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Make your own graded GCSE shape questions

Revision shape activities for my Year 11 Foundation class to remind them what they need to learn and to get them to continue to think about how questions might be asked in their exam.

They can be downloaded here from TES if you would like a copy.

Friday, 14 March 2014

International Pi Day 2014 with Year 8

Firstly we listened to "The Circle Song" and filled in the missing lyrics.

Then we measured the circumference and diameter of items, put them into a spreadsheet and looked at their ratio.

Next we spent 20 minutes on the internet researching Pi.

We followed this up with Pi Plenary Plates.

A bit of Pi Dingbats (Say what you see!) took us nearly to the end of the lesson.

... and finally we ate a lot of Pi -es .....

....and looked forward to next year!

Friday, 7 March 2014

GCSE Maths - Easy Ways to Make Sure You Don't Lose Marks

Thought I'd put together a few examiner hints on how to not lose marks in a GCSE Maths exam!

Good luck to everyone taking it this year!

Click here to see: 'What students see Vs What the examiner sees'

Will put in on TES here.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Kettle Corner

Here are the first couple of 'Kettle Corner' topics.  The pens are stuck there with velcro.

1) 'Need to know' facts for Foundation and Higher

2) 'How can we use photos, videos or props to support students with QWC and real-life questions'

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Bad Maths from Coke Zero!

Just watched the new Coke Zero advert and have finally finished shouting at the TV for long enough to type.

On Friday morning I had to remind a Year 11 that we don't 'Just add Zero' when we multiply by 10!  Yet here is an advert shown at prime time on a Saturday night which promotes this misconception.

#justaddzero?  I don't think so.  More like #justbadmaths

Saturday, 25 January 2014

How do you motivate your Year 11 to revise?

I often show my classes Ebbinghaus's Forgetting Curve to talk about how important it is to structure their revision so that they remember the maximum amount of information by the time they sit their exam in June.

With 6 months to go, how can I motivate them to start revising now and then to sustain it?

Here are the ideas tried so far by our faculty:

1)  Students have access to this symbaloo - I've collected links to useful wesites/videos etc and all they have to do is click on the one they want and it opens in another tab - I also set homework from it:

2)  We are currently offering a weekly draw for a pair of cinema tickets for students who attend after school revision on a Wednesday.  We keep registers, ask students why they haven't attended, phone parents of 'key students' if they don't attend,  put messages out on the tannoy, stand at the doors and turn Year 11s back when they try to leave at the end of the day in the nicest possible way obviously!  We had over 100 Year 11s attend last week so it's definitely working so far!

3)  Parents emails have been collected and they receive well-timed messages about important dates in Maths, past papers, links to resources etc.

4) @suffolkmaths have lots of great resources here

5) @Jeremy_Denton has been using Revision Races to add some competition.  See an example here

6) @DJUdall has a twitter feed dedicated to revision.

7) @jojobee21 has suggested biscuits!  Never underestimate the power of snacks!

8) 3 sets of Foundation 'Need to know' Loop Cards.  Download from TES here

9) @Maths4ukplc reminds them that getting a C is the only way to not be doing it again next year!

Thought it would be great to gather together some ideas to share on the run up to GCSEs so which resources or ideas do you use to motivate your students to revise?  

Add a comment below or tweet @themathsmagpie

Sunday, 12 January 2014

'Mock' Year 11 Results Day

On Friday our Year 11s had a Results Day based on their Mock exams which they took before Christmas.

This involved them going to the hall, lining up and waiting for their envelope just like they will be doing in August.  It was just like the real thing - some waited for friends until they opened their envelope, some cried and some were thrilled.

In their envelopes not only did they have their mock results but they also had a slip which told them whether or not they had got onto their college course.  Powerful stuff.

One of the conversations I had in passing on the corridor really showed how much it meant to some:

"How did you do?" I asked one youngster, who had obviously been crying. "I've got a D." she said, clearly upset, disappointed and really feeling it like it was the 'real thing'.

"But you haven't got a D for real yet."  I said.  "You have a second chance now."  And she brightened up with the realisation that this wasn't a done-deal yet.

Tomorrow I'll be seeing my Year 11s for the first time since they received their mocks - some will be thrilled and some disappointed so this is where I'm going to start with them:

In addition they will all be getting their envelopes back with their personal targets in that they set the very first time I met them in September.  For more information see the post here.

... and we will also be pushing forwards to gain more marks and make progress using their Mock papers by using the 'Ask an Expert' activity.  See here.