Posts Tagged ‘team work’

Effective Group Work

July 5, 2013 1 comment

Last night I attended Teachmeet South Bradford at Appleton Academy and saw some superb presentations. There was one given by Andy Sammons (@amsammons) in which he was discussing independent work. He mentioned that he gives his pupils ten “sammonspounds” per group at the start of a lesson and tells them they can buy ten minutes of his time with it, but that’s all they get. This gives the groups drive to be more independent and to save their time until they are really stuck and have devised good quality questions to ask him. You can read more about the topics Andy spoke about on his blog here) This is a great strategy and got me thinking about the ways I have tried to do group work . It reminded me of one method in particular that I have used a number of times to great success and I wanted to share it with you here.

The first time I used it was with a Y11 class in my NQT year, they all had C’s already in maths and were not very motivated to get B’s. I had taught a topic on Pythagoras and trigonometry and I wanted to do a consolidation/revision lesson on it. I set the room up for grouped tables and assigned them groups on their way into the room. I selected groups so that each of the groups were evenly matched and assigned team captains, envoys, timekeepers and finance managers. It was the captains job to take a deciding vote on any decisions, the envoy was in charge of discussing with other groups, the timekeepers were in charge of ensuring they were not running out of time and the finance manager was in charge of the “money” (in this case counters!). I gave each team a float of 20 counters.
The task itself was an exam paper question based relay, there were some really easy questions, and for each one of those the teams completed they gained 5 counters, they went up in difficulty and there was 10 counter questions, 15 counter questions and 20 counter questions. The teams were told that they could buy my help for 8 counters, or they could buy help from other teams at an agreed fee, but I gave a suggested value of 4 counters. At the end of the lesson the teams cashed up and the winning team received a prize.

This worked well with that first class, they were all shrewd with the questions and only purchased help if they really needed it, it helped with independent thinking. I have now used the set up many times (not always with the same activity) and it does work. It engages them and makes them think for themselves more. And on top of that it is fun for tem and me and some teams get really competitive!

Michael Rosen and the Revolution!

June 19, 2013 5 comments

Last week I was driving home and listening to Simon Mayo on radio two, he had former children’s laureate Michael Rosen on discussing a new book, which was all very interesting. The discussion then moved towards education. He spoke about children needing to be inspired, and wanting to pass on his love of reading to his children. This struck a chord, I want children to be inspired, I want to pass on my love of maths to the next generation (and I also hope to pass on my love of reading to my children). I feel I have started to pass on this love of maths, as I received a card from one of my y13 pupils with this inscription:



It was quite possibly the nicest thing I have ever read, and it made me feel great. It is moments like this that I came into the profession for. And I don’t just mean for the nice ego boost (which was great), but the line: “You have restored my faith in maths”. I feel that my job is not just to teach pupils maths. I need to inspire the next generation of mathematicians.  And I need to help pupils prepare for the real life post school.

The next thing Michael Rosen was asked by Simon Mayo was (and I paraphrase): “If you were the education secretary, what changes would you make?” and his answer really got me thinking. It was: (and again, I am paraphrasing): “The first think I would do would be to hand back my powers to the professionals.” He spoke eloquently and at some length about how education secretary after education secretary have come in and used the position as a political football. How various people in the role have come in to attack teachers, rather than to work with and help them. He spoke about the department of health and how they have major links with doctors when it comes to policy making and how education needs to be more like this. All these points hit home for me, and were very similar to a lot of the things mentioned in the May #blogsync (

There was one final thing though, that got me thinking. He said that the way the culture was becoming, with league tables and performance related pay, that it seemed that the current regime were moving to pit teachers against each other, rather than working together. I think that if you look at education policy, it certainly does seem to be that way. The year before last I went to another school for a few days to complete training they were offering, during the time there I was speaking to the lady who ran the training and she told me she was becoming disillusioned with it all because her school were moving towards being a “teaching school” and that the D of E (that’s the Department of Education, not the Duke of Edinburgh!) has told her that she needed to start charging around 4 times as much as she did now to other schools to take up the training. We spoke about our ideals and both agreed that we should all be out to help each other wherever we can, because we all have a common goal, to improve the outcomes for young people. Rosen’s comments reminded me of this conversation, but also made me think of this picture I saw recently (which i can’t now find!), I had the words “The revolution will not be televised, it will be on the internet” on it. 

The reason it made me think of this is because it seems that we are living in a time where there is an online revolution going on. If you click on TES resources you can find tons of resources for your lessons, shared for free, by tons of teachers across the world. The internet is alive with blogs about great lesson ideas and how to improve your teaching. If you tweet “help, I can’t think what to do for a lesson on {insert topic here}” you instantly get loads of ideas tweeted back at you. On top of this is the teachmeet movement. Teachers, from NQTs to SLT members, are giving up their time, for free, to share their ideas and experiences with others. The common goal has been rediscovered online, against a backdrop of PRP and league tables the teachers are rebelling. We are sharing good practice freely and trying to help our colleague become the best they can be, while we strive to become the best we can be.

Reflections on the spring term

April 3, 2013 2 comments

Well, that just flew by. I can’t believe how fast it went! Christmas seems only a few weeks ago. So what has happened, and what have I learned?

I have completed stage one of a project I was involved in with a PE teacher who is one year on from me in terms of his career. The first stage of the project involved each of us observing the other as if it were a formal observation. It was brilliant CPD for both of us. I got to see a PE lesson that I rated as a good with outstanding features. I got to give feedback and discuss the lesson and the grading process with him, got great feedback on my lesson (also graded good with outstanding features) and again had some great discussions about the lesson and the grading process. I was paid a huge complement as part of my feedback when my collegue said: “you ooze pace, but manage to do it in a calm and relaxed manner.” he also noted, “you can tell this is the standard of lesson their used to, and not a one off lesson for observations sake.” This second comment ties in strongly with my philosophy on teaching. I think we owe it to the pupils to give them the best lessons we can, to enable them to meet their potential and succeed on reaching their goals.

This has been a common theme for me this term. I have had a number of conversations, sometimes heated, on the subject. We took part in a peer review a few weeks ago where SLT from two other schools came in and along with our own SLT observed a lot of staff. Each department was given three lessons where an observer would be circulating the lesson. In the staffroom after they announced the time slots a colleague said, “that’s alright, I only have to plan two good lessons.” This irked me and I questioned this. I outlined my theory that we should all be trying to be at least good all the time. There was a little argument and a couple of others seemed to take their side, claiming it was impossible given the time to plan good lessons every period. I disagree, and think if the time is running out then you need to work smarter, not harder. A well planned and resources lesson can be tweaked and used again with a different class when the topic is next met. Marking can be kept on top of by implementing smarter working systems and doing a bit at a time, etc. Thankfully though, it seems from other discussions I’ve had that most of my colleagues are in fact in my camp on this one.

This term saw my first foray into teaching further maths a-level. Having finished FP1 and most of FP2 I have really renewed my passion for higher level maths. It has encouraged me to start researching higher maths for fun, this has meant though that maths books and education books are both now ahead of novels in my reading priority list. Reading is something that I have lost time for in general as well. This has been due partly to the hours I work, but mainly the fact I have a young baby at home and I spent all my free time playing with her. I do miss reading a little, but the precious moments I have with my daughter are far more important, after-all, the books will always be there. She will grow up and lead her own life. I am hoping to incorporate more reading time once she has gone to bed during next term though!

I have been excited by the blogsync initiative pioneered by Chris Waugh this term. It has given me a chance to express my views on topics and has given me a vast array of blogs and papers to read which have helped me to evaluate and improve practice. (Finding time to read these short entries is much easier than whole books!)

I have had another PGCE student take some of my lessons this term and have again enjoyed the experience and found that observing others is key to improving myself, be it said PGCE student, or the more senior members of staff I’ve observed. The whole process of helping develop students has been great and I have asked to be considered as a possible mentor (for NQTs; ITT students or even both) next year.

All in all, I have enjoyed this term and feel renewed and invigorated by the challenges ahead. The next half term is to be my last with my current classes (We change timetables at spring bank), and the ones I lose next year I will miss. None more than my year elevens, with whom I have built a great relationship. They were the first class I took over at this school, and I will miss them all. I just hope they leave with the best grades they can and go on to achieve all they want in the future!

There are also some changes being made to staffing at school. The vice principal is moving on to a headship and a couple of the department are moving to schools closer to home to cut down on their commutes and give then more time with their families. This means next year will be very different. I will miss those leaving, but wish then the best. I do, however, think that it is good to have some changes, if everything stayed the same we may find ourselves complacent, familiar, taking our foot of the gas. We have come a long way in the last two years, but our work is far from over and I know the staff staying are committed to taking the team on to the next level. I am looking forward to seeing what next year brings, for me; the team and the school as a whole! But first, there is the small matter of the summer term and external exams for us to sink our teeth into.

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