Rather than follow the now usual tradition of commenting on popular posts of the year I thought I would simply check on my Resolutions for (Mathematics) Teachers – many popular posts are included there anyway. This was updated at the beginning of the academic year and I am happy to report that I am indeed conscious and act on the resolutions shown in these slides in my planning.
I try and use a good variety of resources including those that students can use at home and use technology (I would not be without Desmos or WolframAlpha!) where it enhances learning but always strive to put the learning first – why this or that resource? How will it help them learn?
A calm and prompt start to a lesson is so important, using some sort of activity for everyone including the older students sets the expectations for the lesson immediately. Something like Corbettmaths 5-a-day for Core 1 for example would get your Sixth Form students busy and provide some useful revision too.
I have used RAG123 regularly for marking and found it particularly successful with Year 7 (age 11-12). I use it very simply – it’s a way for them to let me know if they are not too sure on something (I hope they would ask in a lesson anyway – but it can be useful to note in their books, knowing that I will see their comment).
On the subject of Feedback, I see that the Verbal Feedback stamp idea thought to be wonderful not that long ago seems to be now on the scrap heap of ideas – why does everything have to be good / bad, black or white – isn’t there some middle ground? Exercise books are for students to learn from, what’s wrong with the stamp as a signal to the student that they should record an aspect of the verbal feedback which will be useful to them in future? So long as the emphasis is on usefulness for their learning and not merely to please somebody else I see no problem at all. I expect students to make a note of useful feedback in their books anyway, but now and again perhaps the stamp as a signal to do so could be helpful, particularly for younger students.
In any planning we should consider the very useful What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research. Robert Coe, Cesare Aloisi, Steve Higgins and Lee Elliot Major (October 2014). When I asked students about good teachers, it seemed to me that their comments fitted very well with the categories in the review.
Making things stick is as important as ever and we need to help our students easily recall all the basics if they are to be able to make links between all the material they learn and apply this to more involved tasks. It strikes me that with the greater emphasis now on Problem Solving Simon Singh’s wonderful quote is highly relevant and encouraging students to be great problem solvers is something I want to continue working on this year.
In fact I would say we want all our students to be happy with being baffled (appropriately for each student) and help them find ways to get unstuck. Isn’t that a good resolution for Mathematics educators everywhere?