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!