Sunday, 26 October 2014

Blog Books

Want to blog? Heard about how other schools are succeeding with it and making strides forward with writing progress? But, you can't blog...

Maybe it's the school that's in the way, technology not allowing it, you're not convinced...

Here's an idea I've had: 'Blog Books'.

Ideally, the children would be blogging online, building up an audience and receiving comments / feedback. If that's not possible, you may like to try this:

- Grab a pile of books that are not being used.

- Stick a class list in the front cover of each one.

- Give the class a writing task. 100 Word Challenge or 5 Sentence Challenge would be a good start. Maybe a recount or just as the children to, 'write something'.

- The children write.

- Now, the teacher marks nothing. The children give their book to someone else, who leaves comments and feedback. They also tick their name off on the class list in the front of the book. Each 'Blog Book' session, the feedback and commenting needs to be done by a different peer.

Children will be carrying out many of the skills associated with blogging. After a few weeks or months, there'll be evidence of children 'blogging' and commenting, and maybe, just maybe this may lead onto blogging on an online blog...

Want advice about blogging? We'd suggest contacting David Mitchell.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Deconstructed Maths Problem Solving

In the past, we've used worded problems, extended worded problems and open ended maths investigations. All with various success. Earlier this year, we were introduced to Deconstructed Maths Problem Solving after training from 5ense of Number.

We have an example here. Print these out so that there are enough copies for one of each per group in your class. Put them in piles, of the same sheets, face down, where you will base yourself in the lesson. Number each pile and keep a note for yourself of which information is in each pile.

Here's how it works:

- introduce the problem by stating that this is actually about you and that it is going to happen. Make the children believe it's real. (In the example given here, it's your family, your holiday and you'll actually be going). Do not give away any information that's on the sheets;

- in groups, the children list everything they think they need to know to solve the problem;

- now, one (and only one person) at a time from each group can come and ask for the information they think they need. For example, "How many people are in your family?" And, they'd be handed the sheet that gives them this information.

- the group calculate the parts of the problem they know about as, and when, they get them;

- as time is running out, allow children to come and collect any sheets they have not yet collected;

- finish by running through the answer together.

This has not been about getting the right answer or completing the investigation (although most groups have done both). It has been about group work, discussions, completing numerous calculations and looking at jottings or methods used.

Give it a go. The children complete 'loads of maths' and it's been a fantastic activity the two times we've run this to date. As we make more of these, we'll share them via our Dropbox here.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Padlet Bombing

Collaboration and working online is great, engaging and enjoyable. Last week, Robin Smith shared with the world the Padlet wall his class were going to be working on during their lesson. I clicked his link and up came the Padlet wall. Thought nothing more off it, until...
Image credit:

... the next day. A child asked me a question and we were about to use the internet on my teacher iPad device to access the internet, when up came the last site I looked at. Yep, you guessed it: Robin's Padlet wall. So, what did I do? We passed the iPad device around my classroom, reading his childrens' work (as they wrote) and adding some ideas of our own.

I then Tweeted Robin saying that I hoped he didn't mind my "gatecrashing". He replied, coining the phrase, "Padlet Bombing".

I realised in advance that Robin had been looking for collaboration and wouldn't mind someone joining in. However, anyone sharing an open document online is looking for collaboration, aren't they... 

Monday, 20 October 2014

Time for Feedback

What's had the biggest impact in my classroom so far this year? Providing a timetabelled feedback session, that's what.

Last year, a year group at my school ran 'Feedback Friday' each week and I've now taken that into my own practice. On a Friday, between 11:20 and 11:50, my class have our 'Feedback Friday' sessions. 

Here's what we do:

- all the books are out on the tables;

- children have red pens and coloured pencils (see this blog post for more information on that);

- children review the work from that week that has been marked and act upon the feedback provided to them.

- if all the feedback has been acted upon, children look at their work and independently look for ways in which their work may be improved.

At the time of writing, we have had five of these sessions. It's not been as straight forward as outlined above: the children have needed coaching and guiding through responding to feedback. Each time I have directed children, as a whole or individually, to a particular piece that they should begin with and then allowed them to look at other books or items of work.

Of course, lessons during the week still have elements of looking at previous work and learning from feedback, but having the Friday session means that I know there's a dedicated half an hour slot in the timetable for children to look at the feedback provided and act upon what has been identified. It's also great to see children looking for and finding ways in which they can improve their own work as they revisit it.