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Guest Post for the Learning Scientists

I was very excited to have written a post for the Learning Scientists last month, whose work is fabulous in spreading the word about effective (and ineffective) strategies throughout the teaching community.

I wrote for them about how I created a mathematics scheme of work trying to embed effective learning strategies from the outset.

You can read the post on their blog.

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Algebra: you use the letter ‘x’ more than you ever have done in your whole life!

I started my first algebra unit with Year 7 on Monday.  It’s the essentials of algebraic manipulation: adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing terms, including those with indices, as well as expanding and factorising single brackets, all pretty standard beginnings in algebra.  In the past I think my first lesson on algebra would consist of a brief introduction then some simple collecting like terms.  From what I’ve seen, that’s generally what comes up first in most schemes of work.  This time, though, I’ve tried to be more deliberate and more pedantic over the details.  Really, really pedantic, because it’s insecurity with the small details that causes so many mistakes for the rest of our students’ experience.  I’m starting out by assuming they have done no algebra.  Many of them have done a little but I’m not prepared to risk that all their different primary experiences were the same, or solid.  (This is a not a criticism of primary teachers, more that I want to take sole responsibility for something so important). Continue reading “Algebra: you use the letter ‘x’ more than you ever have done in your whole life!”

Adventures in Mastery 4: Lesson Sequences

In my maths department we are starting on a journey of building a new curriculum based on the principles of mastery.  To find out what mastery is, read Mark McCourt.  Implementing something different comes with all sorts of challenges but, if it’s a good thing to do, it brings benefits too.  One of the benefits I am finding this year is the liberation from the compulsion to produce a three- (or four- or five-) part lesson with objectives and mini-plenaries and some kind of forced activity to (falsely) demonstrate the “progress” my students have made over the course of an hour.  By having a curriculum with clear aims and (hopefully) coherent thinking underpinning every aspect I feel more confident to teach the way I feel will be most effective rather than making my lessons a conflation of lots of “best practice” techniques in order to satisfy a checklist. Continue reading “Adventures in Mastery 4: Lesson Sequences”

A Plague On Both Your Houses! (Or ‘Why I Don’t Like Observations and Lesson Plans’)

Over the last [insert large number here] years, the lesson observation and associated lesson plan have been the status symbol of the excellent teacher.  Schools living in dread of the next Ofsted inspection elevated them to their position at the top of the individual’s evidence pile.  For any observation, objectives were set out, detailing what ALL must learn, what MOST should learn and what SOME were lucky enough to learn, the minutiae of every activity and its purpose were described, every instance of cross-curricular/social/moral/cultural learning was noted and, in all probability, everything was colour-coded (ok, I made that last bit up, but it wouldn’t surprise me).

The thing is, this doesn’t really help anybody: Continue reading “A Plague On Both Your Houses! (Or ‘Why I Don’t Like Observations and Lesson Plans’)”

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