Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Hare and the Tortoise

In the Year 4 and Year 5 classes all read The Hare and the Tortoise.

After a little work exploring metaphor, I read it to my class. Mentioning that Aesop wrote his fables to be about people as well as animals, as metaphors, I asked what questions might come from the story.

This was really quite hard. The children are usually quite willing to volunteer questions, but this one they found hard. We did, however, come up with:
All good questions. I think we could have had a good discussion with any of them. My one has behind it the idea of fixed mindset vs growth mindset. I'll try not to add questions myself next time - this time they voted to go with mine.

So we got into a circle and passed the egg to someone holding their palm out. I tried not to steer the discussion too much. I want the children of course to articulate their real thoughts not what they're "supposed" to think.

Someone asked what the word "ability" meant - and a few children explained it.

James talked about being good at climbing. I asked why he was good at climbing. Was he always going to be like that because of the way he was born?

We had lots of good answers about this. Someone said James had strong muscles. James said he had lots of trees in his garden and enjoyed climbing them.

Marie said that if practice is important - if you do something lots you get good at it. Samyak said that enjoying something makes you want to do it lots. Rod said that having a hobby is like this. Marie asked what I like doing. Someone else asked what everyone liked doing in their own time, and we finished by going round the circle saying.

It wasn't a particularly "conclusive" discussion, but I'm happy to be establishing the procedure, and as I said, don't want to be having a predetermined answer as a goal. The goal is the thought, articulation, listening, respect, responding, clarification of ideas...

Next time, I'm going to suggest, we might look at Aesop's North Wind and the Sun. Here the metaphor might be a bit clearer. I wonder. I also wonder what questions might come up?

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Squares in Rectangles

As it's half term, I've had a chance to think about some lessons a bit more carefully. Here's one:

Gordon Hamilton's Squaring and Subtracting is a great activity, and just right for 8 and 9 year olds. It gets them subtracting, and adding, but more than that reasoning about number relationships in a geometric context that means minimal explanation is necessary, language or symbols have a very small part.

I know that we want children to articulate their mathematical thinking, but it seems to me that part of building up number sense, or intuition about numbers is also working without symbols or language for a while (obviously the numbers themselves are symbols, but you know what I mean).

Another nice thing about these rectangles is they give their own feedback - a bit like with a jigsaw puzzle, where if you squeeze the wrong piece in, the rest doesn't work.

I used the worksheet PDF last time, which was great for giving different difficulties to different people.

The only problem I found was that it was over a bit too quickly! It felt too much like a race, and I want to slow it down.

So this time I think we should get out the Cuisenaire rods. Make squares that fit together first of all:
They could do this in small groups or pairs. Just keep on growing your squares. Can you limit the sizes?
Then, perhaps, can you make a rectangle out of squares?
Then I think it's time to come together, and look at one example. Say,
Adapted from here.
And it's going to be, "What do you notice?' Think on your own. Tell a partner. Someone tell all of us.
And together we can fill it out, step by step.

Then, in pairs, have a go at solving lots, one of these:
(I think also, that making one of these in Cuisenaire rods would be worthwhile too. Just to be sure everyone has a really solid feel for what's going on.)

Then, I think is the time to use the PDF - with perhaps a choice of how hard you go?

And to finish, coming together for the story of finding squares packed in a square. This one is the smallest possible with all the squares different:

As mathematicians were so pleased with this, it's been made in all sorts of materials:
And here it is in wool:
And here it is as a cupboard!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Practical Pedagogies 2015

We're having a two-day conference at my school, the International School of Toulouse, in October. If you can, come. It will be good.
Click on the image to go to the conference website. You can click through to see the programme. It's really varied - a whole range of approaches to teaching across Primary and Secondary that teachers want to share!

It's being coordinated by Russel Tarr, our impressive history teacher. Russel also runs the brilliant history site and also!

We had a coference like this back in 2012, "Practical Learning Technologies in the Classroom", focused on technology in particular. I ran a session with Estelle on blogging in primary and got my first taste of this kind of thing. The whole event was great!

The conference owes something to the "teachmeet" model - which is where teachers meet and have short 7 minute presentations on something that works well for them and that they want to share.

For instance, at the teachmeet at BETT this year I did a 7-minute micropresentation on getting the students contributing voluntarily to the class blog.
This year I've put down to jointly run three workshops. I'm so pleased to do this jointly, partly because it's with three brilliant colleagues, partly because it means more sharing of and reflecting on good ideas in the run-up to the conference. And because there's ten months to go, there's space for more experimentation, reading, thinking for us before we run the sessions.

Valuing talk in the classroom

I'm doing this one with E. We began to talk about our session and what we're going to explore when we were at BETT, and we still need to talk more about this, but there are some directions I'm wanting to explore.
One is dialogic teaching. Have a look at Ilana Horn's summary of the book Beyond Best Practice to get some idea of this: responsiveness to what children say.
The next is the Thinking Together project. I want to start with their way of getting groups to define the rules for how they work together and move on from there: Are these useful rules for discussion? (pdf)
And then there's Pie Corbett's Talk for writing - giving children spoken models that they can imitate and improvise from.
[Edit: here I must add in a photo from my friend Mick and his EAL group discussing friendship:

So, a lot to be exploring!

Big questions & philosophy with children

This one I'm doing with R. Last year I did regular "Big Question" times with my class. But I need to see what other people are doing in this area - and the main approach is Philosophy for Children (P4C). This will give you an idea of some of the key principles of P4C. But central is a kind of pattern: a stimulus (perhaps a story), children posing questions, knowing how to select the ones that are big, ie  not just specific to the stimulus, and debatable, not just a question of finding information. The children then select a question to discuss, get in a circle and begin. Hold the egg when it's your turn to speak, pass it to someone cupping their hands when you've finished.
For me, I want to make it a bit wider than what is these days considered philosophy, to include psychology, cultural studies, anthropology and the like - matters which in the past were within the ambit of philosophy.
Next week we're going to try reading/telling The Hare and the Tortoise to our classes and see what questions come up from this.

Students’ creativity in maths in Primary and Secondary

With J - great to have a session spanning Primary and Secondary. "Designing tasks that have a divergent component. Everyone can do something different, at some point. Everyone can interpret the task in some way that’s their own. Creating space so that students can show their own approaches to whatever maths is being studied. This can be just the way different strategies are acknowledged for a piece of arithmetic." We'll kick off with a practical activity which allows participants to go off in their own direction - then share our experience. Really want to look at the importance of talk in this too!
The problem with running sessions though is that I'll miss so many other brilliant sessions!