- High-Impact Instruction by Jim Knight
- Teach Like a Champion 2.0 by Doug Lemov
- Making Every Lesson Count by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby
- Teaching WalkThrus by Tom Sherrington and Oliver Caviglioli
I have been working on what I call the Aspects of Teaching, which is designed to underpin our Instructional Coaching Programme. The purpose behind this is to give coaches and teachers some broad areas of what we do to talk about, but also split it up a little bit to direct conversations to the most important parts that teachers want to work on.
Below is the Aspects of Teaching. It should start automatically, and takes about a minute to play through the whole animation. There is a static image version here.
Hopefully it is fairly self explanatory, which is why I have produced it in an animation form. But by splitting what we do into the 4 big Aspects, and then focusing on a particular detail within one of these, I am hoping to help create useful conversations.
For each Aspect there will be a set of strategies taken from various sources, including
I have just finished reading A Compendium of Mathematical Methods by Jo Morgan. It is a book directed at Maths teachers and has a simple purpose: sharing different methods that are used to perform some common processes that we teach.
For each of 19 topics, spanning the whole of secondary maths, Jo goes into depth on a variety of methods, always using 2 well chosen examples to show some of the subtleties you might otherwise miss. Accompanying this are some of her own notes, and excerpts from historical textbooks to show how these were approached in the past.
Jo stays neutral throughout the book, never saying one method is the best, but rather presenting them as they are. A few concerns about some methods which rely on following a procedure rather than developing understanding are raised, but not in a judgemental way. The tone throughout is one of trying to start a conversation about mathematical methods.
When we come out of lockdown, I am going to take some of the chapters to my department to discuss. I think it is a great idea to talk about the merits of different methods, and looking at ones we don't use will help teachers develop their own subject knowledge too. I am also a fan of being consistent across the department in the main method we teach. I think this has benefits when students change teachers, and allows for more continuity. As we are a 3-18 all through school, we could even extend this to the primary school to discuss how we teach the foundation skills.
In terms of sharing methods with students, it is also nice to have a few other methods "up your sleeve" for those situations when they do not understand the primary one you use. Or with those who need an extra push, asking them to see if they can understand why different methods are actually the same can push their understanding. Perhaps using a method comparison example like Emma McCrea discusses in Making Every Maths Lesson Count could be used.
One thing that the book has made very clear to me is that we need to move to an area model of multiplication. It is a versatile and easy to understand method for multiplication, that can easily be extended to more complex topics such as algebraic expansion and factorising. I will be taking this to our department soon as I think this is something we should be consistent about.
It is a great read for any Maths teacher. It is not something that you need to read in one go, and perhaps is better read by chapter when you want to look at a particular topic.
And I am with Jo. Let's talk about methods.
I am writing this as we are in the middle of the global Covid-19 pandemic. This has shut schools across the globe, leaving most children to be taught remotely. I have blogged before about how I have used Online Live Teaching in this situation.
But one of the things that seems to be on everybody's mind is how do we get students to engage in this type of teaching. Without having students in the class it is much more difficult to judge engagement, and for some it is even difficult to ensure they are present and doing the work.
This raises the debate over what we actually mean when we talk about engaging students. As a younger teacher, I firmly fell into the camp of believing that lessons should be fun in order to motivate students to be engaged in lessons. I would spend hours designing activities, be it card sorts, bingos or jigsaw activities to keep the students busy and active throughout the lesson. My thinking behind this was that if they were kept busy, then they would be engaged in the lesson.
Well, if I am being honest, I do not really mean "my thinking" in that last sentence. I mean "I was told/led to believe". Not necessarily directly, but certainly through the types of activities we were shown in my teacher training. These were the activities that were modelled to us, and so these were the types of activities that we employed in our teaching. And it was all about that holy grail of education: student engagement.
For those first few years of my career my job was to engage the students in the lesson, usually by making it fun in some way. Perhaps that was through the way I "performed", or through the activities I prepared. But my main concern was that students enjoyed lessons.
But now I see things differently.
I still believe in engagement. We know from plenty of research that it is vital that students are engaged with the learning in order to learn the material (for example, check out MARGE by Shimamura). But there is a subtle but important difference in the language. You may not have noticed it.
At the start of this post I referred to students being engaged in the lesson. Now I am saying that students are engaged with the learning.
And that is the crux of the issue when it comes to discussing engagement. Is our job to create engaging (fun) lessons? Or is it to make the content that students need to learn engaging? These are very different things. You could argue that the former is easier (though the workload was killer!) in that it requires far less thought on everybody's part. But again, that is the problem. As Willingham says, "memory is the residue of thought", and if we want students to remember things, we have to get them to think deeply about those things. And interestingly, this normally piques their interest and gets them engaged in the lesson.
So in this time of remote teaching when we are all concerned about keeping students engaged in their school work, think about this: do you want students to have fun, or do you want them to learn something? If it is the latter, perhaps you would be better off thinking hard about the content you want them to know, and, more importantly, how you can get the students to think really hard about it. Engage them in the learning, and they will be engaged in the lesson.
I am a maths teacher looking to share good ideas for use in the classroom, with a current interest in integrating educational research into my practice.