I am a Secondary Mathematics teacher in my sixth year of teaching. I teach at a local community college in Sussex where I am Assistant Curriculum Leader for Maths. Welcome to my blog...

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Times Table Rockstars

I am going to try to do, and blog about, one new thing at school each week. This week I have trialled "Times Table Rockstars" with my Year 9 group - an invention created by @MrReddyMaths to make practising times tables fun and recommended by an old ITT student of mine (thanks Sophie!). One of my main focuses this academic year as Numeracy Co-ordinator is to increase basic numeracy skills of our students across the school, and this programme is a fantastic and engaging way of doing this, especially with choosing your own "rockstar" identity. Tori Wynter is mine and I use the avatar on my lesson slides:

I chose my Year 9 group as they are a mid-bottom set who have become disengaged in Maths and lack confidence. There are quite a lot of boys in there who are big characters, and the competitive nature of the Times Table Rockstars has really engaged them, I began by doing the initial baseline quiz in their first lesson, and I was very surprised to see 5 whole minutes of complete silence and total engagement whilst every single student hurriedly tried to complete their grid. I then set them for homework the task of logging on (really good tip by Mr Reddy is to use existing usernames and passwords - I have used their email addresses and MyMaths passwords) and choosing their "rockstar" names. Not only did every single student do this, but two-thirds of the class went on to take part in the challenges with my highest scoring student already at £1135 coins!

As we only have the trial version at the moment, my next step is to get each of the teachers in my department to trial it with one group. I don't think it is going to be useful for every student in the school, but at least 1 or 2 classes per year group I think will really benefit. I am carrying out the paper based challenges twice a week for 4 weeks as a starter task. The students get 3 minutes to answer 60 questions, and what I also like is the sheets include both multiplying and dividing so the students become familiar with the relationships between the numbers in the times table. I put a stopwatch on the board and if they finish before the 3 minutes is up they write down their time and I collect these in as well as their scores. This gives the students a speed of number of seconds per correct answer which is all input into one spreadsheet and averaged out across the weeks.

I have found this is a really positive way to start a lesson. I make a fuss of those students on the leaderboard from the Internet-based challenges (using their rockstar names) and the top three fastest students from the paper-based challenges, and the competitiveness of the timed starter is a good hook to the rest of the lesson.I would definitely recommend investing in this programme!

Next week I am going to attempt to make a bit more out of the wall space in my classroom. We have a new member of the department who is excellent at this - I am in awe of her classroom! This is the third year I have been in my classroom and apart from some standard displays I have done little to really put my own stamp on it. So my challenge for this week is to find an unused space on my walls somewhere and make something of it!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Doing my bit for Literacy

As Numeracy Co-ordinator I work closely with our school's Literacy co-ordinator, and in addition to that my husband has just got promoted at his school to be Literacy co-ordinator so I do feel a little bit of pressure to support the literacy initiatives in my school. Despite that I have a Year 9 tutor group who love to read, and I know there are so many benefits of encouraging this that I wanted to do my bit to promote literacy going into the new year.

Firstly I decided to create a "Book Box" for my classroom as we will be doing one session of silent reading a week during tutor time, and so often some students in my tutor group turn up without books, even if they do enjoy reading. I thought it would be a nice idea to have some to hand which they can choose from and I have enjoyed going around car boot sales and rummaging through charity shops to select some titles which may entice some of the less enthusiastic readers in my tutor group. I have even included some titles I enjoyed from my childhood including "Goosebumps" and have tried to consider what both girls and boys turning 14 would enjoy.

As well as the "Book Box" I have also spent a little bit of time creating bookmarks for each student in my group. It was very cheap to do and didn't take too long, I just bought some coloured card and ribbon offsets from Amazon, then a book of 1000 letter stickers and just stuck their names to a bookmark-sized piece of card. I'm quite proud of the outcome (being someone who is not very creative!) and I will have the bookmarks out on their desks in their new seating plan to try to promote reading from the word go this year. I hope it will also be a nice gift to start off the new term.

I would like to get the students to write book reviews of the books in the box throughout the year and put the reviews in a folder in the box to help other students select a book which might be of interest. I wanted to reward the students for doing this in some way, and may use raffle tickets to do so which could be drawn at the end of each term or the end of the year as a book token for a prize. I did also want to reward the students for reading books in a similar way but am not sure how have a fair system in which students earn raffle tickets without them playing the system and saying they have read a book when they haven't so I may need a little more thought on that one.