Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Calculators in our classroom

 Back in the vanishing past, the calculator was a staple in the Year Six classroom as it was a required piece of equipment on one of the maths papers.  Now, of course, they are expressly forbidden and, as such, they can be persona non grata in many classrooms. 

However, we still jealously protect our class supply of calculators. For us, even with tests looming, we try hard to keep to our principle that we are merely one step on our children's educational journey, so we endeavour to send our children to secondary with the skill of being able to use a calculator.

The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, the use of a calculator is an important life skill. As we battle our children on developing their understanding of methods such as long division, we hear, echoing at the back of our heads, the message from a secondary colleague, "Nah - we use calculators for that." Therefore, we want the children to be ready for that step as they get into Year Seven. 

What happens when we get the calculators out for the first time? Distraction - pure and simple. To paraphrase an old song, "Those buttons are meant for pressing". The children start trying to find ridiculously hard calculations to 'beat' the calculator at. "Ha, look, I made mine get an E on it". Then one child remembers their older sibling showing them how to spell words on it. It is easy to see how this spreads round the classroom as suddenly the calculators start getting turned upside down:710, 0.7734 (if you are lucky). It is important to give them some time on this as it is only once you get through this phase, that it is time to teach the children how to use them. 

For us, the mantra we teach the children is, "You put rubbish in, you get rubbish out". We teach them the locations of the important buttons and what happens if you press they '=' button more than once. Then how important it is to do calculations more than once to check they get the same answers to identify 'user-error' and then we teach them that we are going to be using these tools for checking our work. 

Because this is what we use them for the majority of the time. When we are working on those fluency lessons in maths, it lets the children do their own live marking. They do a calculation using a written method and then they check the answer using a calculator. By doing this, the child knows immediately whether they need to look back at their work.  This is far more efficient than waiting for an adult or peer to check. It is easy for the teacher to see if they are still doing their written methods as, if it is all done on a calculator, there is no regrouping or other notations. 

We make sure that we model this in our lessons too. There are calculators available in interactive whiteboard software or online. It also lets us identify some of our 'deliberate' mistakes and model checking our work - honest. 

"Calculator" by jakeandlindsay is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Monday, 29 March 2021

Noggle in Class

During the recent spell of 'Remote Learning', we were copied into a Tweet about "Noggle". Now we'd used 'Boggle' many-a-time, but not 'Noggle'. 

So, we looked at the information and gave it a go in one of our Google Meet sessions. We used the same layout as Lydia shared as the grid must be formed in a way that has mathematically correct calculations within it. 

We shared the above example with our class; showing a correct calculation and one that is incorrect. 

Our template can be found here.

Feedback from the children was positive and it lead to some great discussions. Going forward, we'll use it again. We may also get children to form their own grids too.

But, not this... 

We hope that's useful.


Saturday, 20 February 2021

Bitmoji to Personalise Homophones

Yeah, yeah, we know! It's 2021 and Bitmojis for teachers appear to be everywhere! We quite like the little cartoon version of ourself that we can use to add to our lesson resources, particularly at this time of remote learning. We have seen this you're/your use of Bitmoji several times and have made our own. We've also begun looking at which other homophones and near homophones could be explained using a bit of Bitmoji. 

There are some examples below. 

We've placed our editable PowerPoint original here too if it's useful to anyone

Of course, we'd love to hear ideas for adding to our collection. 

If you want to make these your own, download the editable PowerPoint, the relevant Bitmoji images of yourself and edit the PowerPoint. 


Saturday, 16 January 2021

Bridge Behaviours

In September, we used this video with our Year Six class to discuss the behaviours of the characters and relate them to class. How could this have been better resolved? Does any character come out of it well? What can we learn from them?  

Bridge from Ting on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Connect 4 with Multiples

Earlier this year, we came across a blog post by Joe Schwartz entitled, 'I Like This Game Because You Have to Think Hard.'

In his blog post, he gave students a blank 100/120 grid for them to fill in trying to get 4 in a row. We saw the benefits of this activity, but currently working in Upper Key Stage Two, our pupils are pretty proficient with numbers between 0 and 100. So, we adapted the idea to make it about times table facts. 

1. Give the children a blank 12 x 12 grid of squares between two.
2. Ensure each child has a different coloured pen/pencil.
3. Children fill in facts on the grid, taking it in turns and trying to get four in a row horizontally or vertically. 
4. Depending on competence, children could have a times table grid on hand to enable them to check each others facts.


Saturday, 28 November 2020

'How To' Diagrams and Dual Coding

As we've previously written, we are trying to implement some of what we learned when reading about Dual Coding

Here are some of the posters/guides we've made and used in our Year Six classroom as visual guides for our children to use to support/scaffold their learning.

Days in Months of the Year (editable copy)

Long Division (editable copy)

Mixed Number & Improper Fraction Conversions (editable copy)

Co-ordinates (editable copy)

Ascending/Descending (pdf copy)

They've worked for us. They may be useful to you. See links for editable copies. 

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Pupil Stationery Toolkits

At the start of this school year, there was much discussion on social media and forums about methods of providing pupils with their own individual resources (for COVID19 reasons). 

A little later than we hoped to publish this post (we've been a little busy!), but we hope it's useful to someone...

So, here's what we do at our school, how long we've been doing it and why.

Back in 2017, we visited Woodside Primary Academy. As part of our visit, we picked up a number of best practice ideas. One of which was introducing Toolkits. There are a number of reasons we took these on:

- making children accountable for looking after the stationary the school has paid for

- giving them somewhere to store the equipment

- if they move in the classroom or go to work elsewhere, they just pick up the Toolkit and off they go

- we use everything in there quite regularly.

So, what's in there?

- whiteboard & whiteboard pen

- handwriting pen, green biro & HB pencil

- ruler, protractor and scissors

- sky, grass, mud letters and punctuation

- times table grid / 150 'square'

- A B C D voting card

- red, orange, green discs

- spelling cards for high frequency words

- sentence and vocabulary booklet

- grammar knowledge organiser

And, as you may be able to see, each Toolkit and each item in it is numbered according to the child's register number. When found, lost items can be returned to pupils.