Saturday, 28 March 2015

Estimation Part II

Previously we looked at one of the ideas we are using topromote the skill of estimating in children including a link to the website set up by a teacher called Andrew Stadel. In this entry, we are going to share some of things we have done to further promote estimating with our children.
The importance of estimation was first raised when we read Jo Boaler’s thought-provoking book ‘The Elephant in the Classroom’. Throughout the book, the author reiterates the importance of estimating as a skill for all mathematicians. Armed with this suggestion, we looked at the children in our maths classes and noticed that many of them found it hard to use estimating to help them check answers, use common sense to identify solutions or to support their problem solving.
In order to develop estimation, we developed two immediate solutions. The first was to set up an estimating display within the class. Similar to the previous post, this was an image next to a whiteboard so that children are able to put their suggestions near the picture.
So far, we have used images of Minecraft buildings, football stadiums and even a picture of a tub full of baked beans. Purposefully we make it clear that there we do not have an accurate answer and instead encourage children to go through a process of estimating the correct answer.
Estimate how many blocks were used to make this castle.

At the same time as developing this display, we also discovered the fabulous website. The author of this incredibly useful website has created an archive of a vast number of images from which children can make estimations. The truly brilliant thing about the website is that many of the images are linked over a range of days so children, as part of a process of estimation, can build on the information they have found over previous days. Coupled with this, each page has a range of questions on such as ‘what would be a low estimate?’ or ‘what would be a high estimate?’. The author also always provides an answer either with a photo or a video.
By making regular use of this website and the questions, we have developed with the children a process of using estimation in their maths:

  •  What is a low estimate? – developed into – What is a low estimate that is close to the correct answer?
  •  What is a high estimate? – developed into – What is a high estimate that is close to the correct answer?
  • Make your estimate.

A photo from the website is often the image that children work from at the start of the lesson as a basis for a quick mathematical discussion to start the lesson. At the start of the year, my favourite section of the website to use starts with toilet paper as it is something children are able to relate to straight away.

How many sheets on the roll of toilet paper?

It is worth noting that many of the measurements are American, but have linked metric measurements as well.

Friday, 27 March 2015

#Comments4Kids Without a Blog

On Twitter, the Hashtag #comments4kids is used to share blog posts written by children so that others may find them and leave the child a comment. The comments give the blog post purpose, the children an audience and help to encourage children's writing.

In our blog post about Blog Books we offered a way for classes who wanted to blog, but for whatever reason were currently unable to, a way to start their blogging journey. This is another step that could be taken.

If children produce work and it's place online, but not in a blog, a Google Form could be set up to allow people who view the work to leave a comment. An example of this can be found here. Through the above link and QR Code, our children received some nice comments that, if needed can be moderated, from 'strangers' who kindly read and commented upon their work.

Again, as we said in that previous post about blogging, if you ant advice about blogging? We'd suggest contacting David Mitchell.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

10 Pieces

We recently have been making use of the brilliant 10 pieces DVD from the BBC. This film consists, not surprisingly, of ten classical pieces of music ranging from Holst’s 'Mars' to Stravinksy’s 'Firebird'.
Each section is introduced by a familiar BBC face who explains some key information about each piece.

Image credit:

In class, we have looked at the first few pieces and used them as a stimulus for a variety of creative activities from writing poetry about Mars to drawing the Mountain King's Hall. A recent lesson made use of Britten’s ‘Storm’. After watching the section through a couple of times, we had a brief discussion in class about the children’s reactions. This was done in small groups leading onto a wider class discussion. The pupils were able to have discussions about both the music and the video and were able to use the discussion as a starting point for their creative work.

After the discussion, the children were given the opportunity to create a piece of art to present their feelings. Different media were offered for use as well as providing different size sheets of paper.
The majority of the children chose to use paint to represent their feelings and created pictures either inspired by the video itself or the discussion within the classroom (the eye of the storm).

We then took photos of the pictures and created a movie of the art using Windows Moviemaker. Initially we found a Creative Commons licensed version of the music to play over the top of the pictures and, after properly attributing it, created a piece that could be shared with all parents. To do this, the movie was embedded with one of the original pictures using Aurasma. Subsequently, we found that the BBC make their music accessible from the 10 Pieces website.

Scan this picture with the Aurasma app after signing up to the 6DA channel

As well as being an excellent introduction to a range of musical pieces and orchestral work, the DVD provides a wonderful stimulus for creativity within the classroom especially for those in need of a short one-off lesson as we near the end of the year. 

A request was made for more detail about how we achieved the presentation of the work. The movie itself was very simply created by importing the photos into Moviemaker, adding a fade to block transition and then placing titles and credits before and after the movie (also easy to achieve in iMovie). To find the music we used a creative commons search engine ( making sure to identify how to attribute the music.

Aurasma is a wonderfully simple app to use, which allows you to link a variety of media to images. We have used it to share work (as above), create a welcome message for the class, share a message in a time capsule and share messages from the teacher. For more information see this blog entry.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Uses For AirServer

We have iPad devices and have chosen to purchase AirServer to display them on interactive projections in our school. What is written below, will also with with other devices and other mirroring software.

1. Mobile visualiser: The teacher, a child or other adult in the classroom can walk around with the tablet device (with its camera turned on) and then use it as a visualiser to display objects, work or demonstrations onto the board for all the class to see. In addition to the camera, this app from Alan Peat is designed for this very purpose.

2. Model an app before children use: If the children are to use an app, the teacher (or indeed a child) can demonstrate an app on the projection for all to see.

3. Run through a presentation while on the move: Present from the tablet device to allow the teacher to not be stuck at the front of the room. Children can then also interact from their seats.

4. Begin your lesson remotely: Going to be late to a lesson? Start the input while you make your way in.

5. Show children's work: As the teacher walks around the room, put the camera on and show good examples of what's going on in the room. Or, even work that needs improvement.

6. Annotate work: As mentioned in idea 2, annotate, as a class, directly onto a child's work.

There are also many more uses. If you want to share any, please comment below. 

Image credits: 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

More Times Table Ideas

On Monday 16th March 2015, our school held an internal TeachMeet as our staff meeting. Here's one of the presentations we made as part of that...

Update 26th March 2015:

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Spoof in Maths

In my younger days, I loved a game of Spoof. I thought I was quite good at it. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to outwit others at a game that involved elements of chance, estimation and prediction.

Earlier this week, I was looking for a new starter for my maths lesson. Spoof came to mind, I grabbed some counters and decided to give it a go. 

I introduced the game (explaining the rules and giving a demonstration) and off the children went. Lots off excitement, success, mathematical thinking and reasoning. 

Anyone unfamiliar with the game, here are the rules:

- each player has three objects that can be held in their hand;

- everyone chooses to put 0, 1, 2 or 3 objects in their hand and holds it out;

- in turn, each player predicts how many objects are in all the hands;

- the winner is the one with the correct answer.

In a game of three players, the total could be between 0 and 9. To give an answer, the player must use times table and counting knowledge, estimation and prediction skills, while knowing what's in their hand and taking into consideration what other players have said.

Note: I did not give the game a name as I'm aware of it being, "typically played as a gambling game, often in bars and pubs".

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Me and My Counting Stick!

Well, how far I've come in a year!

5th March 2014, our staff meeting was to paint a counting stick. I had no idea what to do with it! This document (still open for edits) helped and the stick is now TWO sticks. They have their own place on the wall when not in use. 

Take a look at the crowdsourced document. Take some ideas from it and add some of your own if you have any. For me, it's gone from a painted piece of wood to an invaluable teaching too.