Teaching, planning and learning
The school first opened its doors in 1958 with only 10 teachers who looked after a total of 222 pupils at that time. The new school was created from several all-age schools from around the area of the small agricultural village. In 1976, the school was extended and now has over 800 mixed gender pupils age 11-16, mostly from working class backgrounds. Please refer to Appendix 1 on page 14, for a table that shows the attainment of pupils between 2011 and 2012.
The Head Teacher states that the school will continually seek opportunities to develop personal, social, moral codes and independent thinking and learning skills that the pupils can apply to any given situation.
The Ofsted Inspection Report (October 2012), regards this as a good school and that the recently appointed Head Teacher has given a vision for the future and has implemented considerable change in a short time. This has resulted in rapid, all round improvement within the school.
The teaching group in which I will be discussing and evaluating in this paper is Year 8 – Set 3 at KS3 level, in this class there are 30 pupils and two teaching assistants as well as the teacher. There is a strong gender balance and behaviour is okay overall. Pupils were previously ranging from level 5A to 5C and they were all expected to hit their target grades which tend to increase by 3 sublevels leaving them at a level 6A to 6C respectively by the end of the academic year. In this class, there is one SEN pupil with hearing difficulties and two vulnerable pupils who require extra support from the special support staff.
Over a sequence of four lessons teaching fractions, percentages and decimals, a wide range of methods were used in relation to the particular group of pupils and the learning objectives. The structure of the lessons was taught generally in three parts, which consisted of a through the door starter, a main teaching and learning section and a plenary.
At the beginning of each lesson, I settle the pupils down by telling them a mathematical joke related to the topic I am about to teach or by doing a maths magic trick, which might include mental maths or using a calculator. Please refer to Appendix 2, for an example of a joke/magic trick and why this can be useful. I would then explain how to complete the starter if they had not already started to do so or if it was not self-explanatory.
After the starter, I implement a literacy element into the lesson by selecting a few pupils to read the learning objectives out loud then they also have to write it into their books underlined with the date and level. I also display to them how I expect them to progress throughout the lesson using good, better and excellent as targets but I do not get them to copy this into their books as that has proven be time consuming. Bellamy (1999) supports the idea of learning objectives to be appropriately differentiated.
Teacher praise is one tool that can be a powerful motivator for pupils. Surprisingly, research suggests that praise is underused in both general and special-education classrooms (Brophy, 1981; Hawkins & Heflin, 2011; Kern, 2007), therefore I try to use praise as often as I can to reinforce good behaviour and build strong relationships with the pupils.
I use an interesting method for questioning pupils whereby I have a jar of different coloured lollypop sticks with the pupils’ names on, so when I wish to ask a question it appears to be fair, random and it keeps the pupils engaged because I sometimes place the lollypop sticks back in the jar so the same person may get asked a question more than once. Sometimes, I might ask an open-ended question and aim it at the whole of the class, then ask the pupils to think about it independently or discuss it with the person sitting next to them, these questions usually involve problem solving.
As well as questioning, there are several other methods, which can be incorporated into the planning of progress throughout a lesson for example, the use of mini white boards and traffic light cards, also getting the pupils to write a response in their books about how they feel about a certain topic.
During this sequence of four lessons, there would usually be around 10-15 minutes of me teaching and the pupils listening, whereby the pupils may take notes and copy examples then the pupils would work quietly and independently to illustrate understanding. For those pupils who require a little more explaining, this would be a chance for them to receive some individual teaching from a member of staff in the class. I communicate to the teaching assistants when I would like them to walk around the class or hand out worksheets.
Tracking pupils’ progress over time to inform the planning of teaching and planning teaching that is matched to pupils needs is key. Please refer to Appendix 3, for further guidance from LGfL – Learning Grid for Lancashire (2014) for Assessing Pupils’ Progress (APP) in Mathematics. Whilst the pupils are working independently, I would walk around the class systematically checking for progress making sure the pupils are setting their work out correctly and achieving the correct answers and also checking what speed they are working at, as some pupils work a lot quicker than others in this class. Therefore, I always have an extension worksheet or an additional task available of a slightly more challenging level. Rooney (2008) supports the need to provide extension work for the more able that will engage and challenge them, whereas Kompany (2005) believes pupils should be accelerated to the appropriate level earlier.
I have used self-assessment and peer-assessment in these lessons whereby the pupils mark their own work or they swap books with the person sat next to them. I believe paired work for tasks and games is beneficial as the pupils can learn from each other. According to Ofsted, good assessment practice in mathematics includes: day-to-day assessment, marking and feedback, and the use of assessment to set targets.
BECTA (2004) suggests that, using interactive whiteboards to enrich the teaching of mathematics and assist in managing the learning environment can be achieved by; the display and review of learning objectives and key vocabulary, save screens and move between them, remind pupils of materials covered in previous lessons, set up group work and discussion tasks, use the ‘hide and reveal’ features of the IWB software to work through the steps of
a solution, provide a ‘count down’ for timed activities. I make use of ICT regularly in my lessons, whether it is a basic PowerPoint; one slide with the learning objectives on to save time; and interactive games on the white board.
I always try to include a real life example into every topic I teach and this particular topic definitely has a functionality element to it as fractions, percentages and decimals are used in every day life even at the age of 12, the topic also links to other subjects such as science, food technology and business studies.
As a plenary, I have used several methods, which I have found to be successful with this class for example exit cards or a GCSE exam question from previous papers. I believe that they get a real sense of achievement when they manage to complete a GCSE exam question because they are only in Year 8 and they are able to answer an exam question that they might get asked to complete in Year 11.
I follow the schools marking policy using; WWW – what went well, EBI – even better if and MRI – my response is. This gives the pupils an opportunity to respond to feedback. Please refer to Appendix 4, to view an example of my marking and feedback. Pupils’ are expected to respond in the MRI section demonstrating communication between the teacher and the pupil.
Lessons in this school have sixty-minute duration; therefore I believe the three-part lesson structure to be substantial. Because of the age of the pupils, I found the mathematical jokes and math’s magic tricks highly effective in the sense that it settled the pupils down at the beginning of the lesson, it helped to build a good relationship with the pupils also creating a little bit of fun and something to look forward to within the lesson, which in turn lead to better behavior and attitudes towards mathematics as a subject. It is also useful for practicing mental maths for improving skills like using a calculator. This approach may not be as successful with a Year 11 class. In my experience, I have found it to be more effective to have the starter readily available for the pupils, either on their desks or on the board so that they are engaged as soon as they walk through the door and they are not waiting for pupils that are late. Please refer to Appendix 5, for an example of a starter that is related to the topic in question and I usually display on the smart-board. Of course, starters do not have to be related to the topic all the time but in this case I used my starters to recap what we had covered in the previous lesson.
Getting the pupils to read, listen and write the learning objectives is important for improving literacy which is important across the whole curriculum (old and new) and I do this at the beginning of every lesson for consistency, the pupils know what to expect and they enjoy being aware of what level or sublevel they are working at. I have developed my praising strategy by rationalising how and when I use praise because using praise excessively can lead to negative reactions from pupils not receiving praise even when they had ‘done their best’. Effective teacher praise consists of two elements: a description of noteworthy student academic performance or general behaviour and a signal of teacher approval (Brophy, 1981; Burnett, 2001). I have found the different coloured lollipop sticks method of questioning to be very successful as the pupils think it is a fair system but it isn’t entirely random, as I have actually coded the different sublevels of the pupils to the different colours. For example, if I wanted to ask a hard question I would select a red stick which indicates the pupil is strong and confident but if I wanted to give a weaker pupil a confidence boost then I would select a green stick and ask a relatively easy question.
This demonstrates an element of differentiation. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) believes effective questions are an integral part of a successful mathematics classroom. Some research suggests that as much as 50 percent of classroom time is spent asking questions and eliciting responses. Instruction that includes questions during lessons is more effective in producing achievement gains than instruction carried out without putting questions to students. Please refer to Appendix 6 on page 18, for some reasons as to why we ask questions particularly in mathematics. I have made use of mini white boards, traffic lights cards and pupil feedback within these lessons. I prefer the use of mini white boards compared with the traffic light cards because the cards can be very vague and some pupils tend to follow the trend rather than being entirely truthful, whereas the mini white boards are excellent for AFL because the answers are independent and more detailed so it’s easier to identify errors and areas for improvement. The Guardian (2014) describes how teaching assistants are a vital source of support for teachers and knowing how to manage them can be tricky. I have found that giving the teaching assistants ownership within the classroom has made it easier to get them onboard with my ideas. It is important to communicate with them; show class interaction; share decision-making; building on the TA’s strengths and share feedback with each other.
I have found support staff to be very useful in lessons, as they can provide individual teaching for pupils’ that may be struggling, they support SEN and vulnerable pupils, they are also more than willing to assist in handing out worksheets or collecting homework. The Department for Education states that, all children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) should be able to reach their full potential in school. They should also be supported to make a successful transition into adulthood, whether into employment, further or higher education or training. Please refer to Appendix 7, for further information of how I have deployed support staff within lessons. According to Ofsted, good assessment practice in mathematics includes: day-to-day assessment, marking and feedback, and the use of assessment to set targets. Please refer to Appendix 8, for a summary of how Ofsted outline formative and summative assessment. I have adopted a number of effective methods outlined by Black and William (1998), that have developed approaches to self and peer-assessment with the aim of enabling pupils to: share the learning intentions so that they understand where they are heading; develop confidence and skills in judging their own performance and reflect on their work and that of others to learn how to improve it.
I particularly like some of the additional uses of ICT that BECTA (2004) highlighted above and although I haven’t adopted some of the methods yet, I believe they would be very useful and I will be using them in future. But first, I will have to learn how to use these additional features of an interactive whiteboard and I will develop this during my next placement. Providing real life examples and relating functional skills to mathematics is important for supporting the transfer of meaningful information at key transitional points and facilitating the setting of meaningful curricular targets that can be shared with pupils. The DfE state that functional skills aim to help people read, write, speak English and use mathematics at the level they need to function and progress both at school and elsewhere. Mathematics in everyday life refers to the way humans use math to complete certain tasks throughout the day, an example I used for this topic was: a person may use math when they are out shopping and trying to calculate the total cost of the items they are buying after a 15% decrease in the January sale. I have found the use of exit cards or a GCSE exam question, as a plenary to be highly successful with this group due to their age.
It appears to me that they actually enjoy writing on the little, colourful exit cards then handing them to me at the door as they leave. They are given a choice as to what they can write on the card, for example, they might write what they have learnt in the lesson or how they feel about the topic or they might write a question down for something they wish for me to address. This process allows me to assess for learning and plan how to progress in future lessons. As well as following the schools’ marking policy, I also provide additional oral feedback rather than relying almost exclusively on marking or written feedback in pupils’ books, and I help pupils develop skills in marking and reviewing their own work and that of their peers in order to involve pupils more in marking and feedback so that they can progress further. Overall, I have found most of my teaching methods to be effective and successful. The pupils’ have met their targets and achieved the learning objectives. I have adapted all the methods mentioned above and tried different approaches to establish this. In the future, I aim to satisfy the targets that I have set myself throughout the analysis to improve my teaching methods further.
Review of Assessment Theory
Ofsted (2013) outline, how effective assessment practice in mathematics is associated with systematic arrangements for actively promoting, monitoring and recording pupils’ progress; also that it is used as a teaching tool for judging attainment. Teachers should review pupils’ progress closely as part of daily classroom practice, involving pupils in the assessment of their own strengths and weaknesses and provide feedback. According to Black and William (1998), effective formative assessment is a key factor in motivating learning and raising pupil standards of achievement. Formative assessment, is most effective when it: is embedded in the teaching and learning process; sharing learning objectives with pupils; it helps pupils to know and recognise the standards to aim for; it provides feedback for pupils to identify what they should do to improve; it involves teachers and pupils reviewing their performance and progress and it can involve pupils in self-assessment. For example, pupils’ marking and reviewing their own work.
The provision of effective marking and feedback on work can raise pupil achievement; this use of assessment information is beginning to promote effective practice in mathematics. It is suggested that some teachers feel that they are spending a large amount of time marking but it seemed to have little impact on pupils’ subsequent work and that they would prefer to provide more oral feedback rather than relying on written feedback in pupils’ books. Teachers can overcome this challenge by helping pupils’ to develop skills in marking and reviewing their own work and that of their peers in order to involve pupils more in marking and feedback. (Ofsted reports, 2013)
For pupils to learn effectively, they need to identify any gaps between their actual and optimal performance. Many approaches to self and peer-assessment have the aim of enabling pupils to: share the learning intentions so that they understand where they are heading; to develop confidence and skills in judging their own performance; and reflect on their work and that of others to learn how they can improve. (Hawkins & Heflin, 2011)
Kern, L. & Clemens, N. H. (2007), highlight that due to recent changes to strategies, many good mathematics teachers make effective use of assessment data to set targets for individual pupils. This process is particularly effective when two targets are set with the higher one being more ambitious than the prediction based on the data. The aim is for pupils to have an idea as to where they are in the process and where they are heading and what is possible if they are ambitious.
In mathematics, Bellamy (1999) states that the most effective targets set for pupils are often curriculum-specific. These are: associated with a significant but manageable learning objective (e.g. simplify fractions by cancelling all common factors); discussed with pupils and expressed in a form that they can understand; relatively short-term and subject to regular revision and retained where they are accessible to pupils.
To summarise, formative assessment is that undertaking the assessment constitutes a learning experience in its own right, for example; writing an essay or undertaking a class presentation, can be valuable formative activities as a means of enhancing knowledge as well as for developing research into mathematics, communication, intellectual and organisational skills. Formative assessment is not often included in the formal grading of work, and indeed many believe that it should not be. In contrast, summative assessment is not traditionally regarded as having any intrinsic learning value. It is usually undertaken at the end of a period of learning in order to generate a grade that reflects the student’s performance. The traditional unseen end of module examination is often presented as a typical form of summative assessment. But Black and William (1998) recommend: “Frequent short tests are better than infrequent long ones.” We have highlighted two important points from this differentiation. Firstly, there is no reason why only summative assessment should be included in any formal grading of pupil progress and performance, it is perfectly appropriate to have elements of formative assessment as part of the final grade as well.
The second point is that the distinction between formative and summative assessment may be a false one. Whilst some elements of assessment may generate a greater formative learning experience than others, it can be argued that all forms of assessment have some formative element. For example, students undertaking a degree course where assessment consists of written assignments and end of module examinations will over the period of the course improve their examination technique, this is a formative learning experience. Perhaps instead of becoming overly concerned with whether an assessment is formative or summative in nature it may be better to see various types of assessment as a continuum of the formative learning experience. In conclusion, research indicates that improving learning through assessment depends on five simple factors: the provision of effective feedback to students; the active involvement of students in their own learning; adjusting teaching to take into account results of assessment; a recognition of the profound influence assessment has on the motivation and self esteem of students; and lastly the need for students to be able to self assess themselves and understand how to improve.
But at the same time, there are several other inhibiting factors, these include: the tendency for teachers to assess quantity of work and presentation rather than quality of learning; giving greater attention to marking and grading (much of it tending to lower the self esteem of students rather than provide advice for improvement); some teachers feedback to students often serves social and managerial purposes rather than to help them learn more effectively; and teachers not knowing enough about their students’ learning needs.
The characteristics of assessment that promote learning, are highlighted by Ofsted as follows: it is imbedded in a view of teaching and learning of which it is an essential part; it involves sharing learning goals with students; it helps students know and recognise the standards they are aiming for; it involves students in self-assessment; it provides feedback which helps students recognise their next steps and how to take them; it is underpinned by confidence that every student can improve; and it involves both the teachers and students reviewing and reflecting on assessment data. If a teacher can adopt all or most of these characteristics into their assessment techniques then they are sure to be outstanding.
The ways in which a teacher can achieve this in the classroom, when assessment is being used to help learning is through observation – this includes listening to how students describe their work and their reasoning. Questioning – using open-ended questions, phrased to invite students to explore their ideas and their reasoning. Setting tasks in a way that requires students to use certain skills and apply ideas. Asking students to communicate their learning through drawings, actions, role-play, brainstorming key concepts, as well as writing. Discussing words and how they are used. Please refer to Appendix 3, for guidance from LGfL – Learning Grid for Lancashire (2014) for Assessing Pupils’ Progress (APP) in Mathematics.
Analysis of Summative Assessment Task
According to Glickman et al (2009), summative assessment refers to the assessment of the learning and summarises the development of learners at a particular time. After a period of work, e.g. a unit for two weeks, the learner sits for a test and then the teacher marks the test and assigns a score. The test aims to summarise learning up to that point. The test may also be used for diagnostic assessment to identify any weaknesses and then build on that using formative assessment. Black and William (1998) agree that, frequent short tests are better than infrequent long ones. This is the approach I have adopted for this summative assessment task.
The summative assessment task that I have designed is aimed to check for knowledge, understanding and learning of the topic mentioned in the rationale. The medium term plan I set myself for this topic was to teach fractions, percentages and decimals, over a sequence of four lessons. Year 8 – Set 3 have mathematics on their timetable twice per week, therefore I was able to cover the content in two weeks. I informed them at the end of the fourth lesson that was on a Thursday, that they would be getting tested on Tuesday so they were aware that they were having a test to cover the content from the last four lessons. Hence, giving them a chance to revise over the weekend rather than overwhelming them on Tuesday.
The areas covered in the four lessons and also included in the test are: simple percentages that can be calculated mentally, using a calculator to work out percentages (including percentage increase and decrease), and to be able to convert between fractions and decimals. Please refer to Appendix 9, for a copy of the Summative Assessment and Answers. The instructions given on the day of the task were: use a calculator where appropriate for example, to calculate fractions/percentages of quantities/measurements, calculate percentages and find the outcome of a given percentage increase or decrease and please work silently and independently.
There are 30 pupils in this class including one SEN pupil with hearing difficulties and two pupils’ that have recently been moved up from Set 4. Pupils were previously ranging from level 5A to 5C and they were all expected to hit their target grades which tend to increase by 3 sublevels leaving them at a level 6A to 6C respectively by the end of the academic year. At the end of the task, I was able to mark the test and give them a grade at the end. Please refer to Appendix 10, for a copy of my anonymous class list with the grades awarded included. In these anonymous pupil records, we can see that the SEN pupil is highlighted in yellow because they were absent on the day of the test and the target level is below average; the gifted and talented pupils’ are highlighted in green and by analysing the target grades we can establish that they may not necessarily be gifted and talented in mathematics, but rather in other subjects like Art, Dance and Physical Education. Although, a few of them have met their targets grades which are above average. The majority of the class met their target grades and a lot of them improved upon their target grade as I expected. All the questions in the test relate to real life and the only question that they all made errors on was finding 17.5% and then adding it back on because it was VAT, even though I’d given them a little clue by typing cost in capital letters.
As well as marking and awarding a grade, I also make use of target stickers at the end of any assessment so that pupils’ know and recognise the standards they are aiming for and it provides feedback which helps students recognise their next steps and how to take them. Please refer to Appendix 11, for an example of a target sticker that I might use at KS3 level. I tend to provide oral feedback as well rather than relying exclusively on marking and written feedback.
I found it difficult to decide on the assessment criteria for the marking and feedback on this given piece of work (for example, whether or not presentation is to be judged). So I decided to use the target grades as a guide to developing a mark scheme, which related to the test and the results as a percentage e.g. if they achieved 70% in the test then they would be awarded a grade 6A. It was difficult to determine these boundaries because the test was quite short and partly biased because it was only testing one topic in mathematics and they had all weekend to revise. There was potential for them to score over 90% and this wouldn’t be the case in an end of term test where many topics are combined into a longer test. This is one point that could be amended to improve the quality of this assessment in the future.
Ofsted outline the characteristics of assessment that promote learning, to be imbedded in a view of teaching and learning of which it is an essential part and involves sharing learning objectives and goals with pupils. I have found the task to be successful in helping me determine the level of the pupils’ attainment and progress in mathematics. I believe that frequent short tests will over a period of time improve their examination technique, which is a formative learning experience. Black and William (1998) agree that, constantly assessing demonstrates confidence that every pupil can improve; and it involves both the teachers and pupils’ reviewing and reflecting on the assessment data. Assessing Pupils’ Progress at Key Stage 3 is vital to tracking pupils progress over time to inform the planning of teaching matched to pupils needs and gathering diagnostic information about the strengths and areas of development of individual pupils’ and groups of pupils.
The school are determined to close the achievement gap by ensuring that any pupils at risk of underachieving are identified early and support and intervention is provided for these pupils. In particular those pupils that
are on FSM or classified as LAC. The following table shows the attainment of all pupils in Year 11 including those who were ‘looked after’ or on free school meals. The brackets show the number or percentage of students on free school meals and or who are looked after.
(FSM and or LAC)/ All Pupils
No. of pupils in Year 11 (GCSE)
% gaining 5+ A*-C in both English and Maths
% gaining 5+ A*-C English
% gaining 5+ A*-C Maths
Mathematical jokes relating to the topic:
Who invented fractions? Henry the 1/8th!
I believe five out of four people have trouble with fractions.
There are three kinds of mathematicians — those who can count and those who can’t.
Math Magic / Number fun / Maths Tricks:
Trick 1: 2’s trick
Step1: Think of a number.
Step2: Multiply it by 3.
Step3: Add 6 with the getting result.
Step4: divide it by 3.
Step5: Subtract it from the first number used.
Trick 2: Any Number
Step1: Think of any number.
Step2: Double the number.
Step3: Add 9 with result.
Step4: sub 3 with the result.
Step5: Divide the result by 2.
Step6: Subtract the number with the number with first number started with. Answer: 3
Trick 3: Any three digit Number
Step1: Add 7 to it.
Step2: Multiply the number with 2.
Step3: Subtract 4 with the result.
Step4: Divide the result by 2.
Step5: Subtract it from the number started with.
I found the mathematical jokes and maths magic tricks highly effective in the sense that it settled the pupils down at the beginning of the lesson, it helped to build a good relationship with the pupils, it created a little bit of fun and something to look forward to within the lesson, which in turn lead to better behaviour and attitudes towards maths as a subject. It is also useful for practising mental maths or for improving skills like using a calculator.
Assessing Pupils’ Progress (APP) in Mathematics
Assessing Pupils’ Progress is a structured approach to pupil assessment in Key Stage 3 to support teachers with: making judgements about their pupils attainment, keyed into national standards developing and refining their understanding of progression in science gathering diagnostic information about the strengths and areas of development of individual pupils and groups of pupils tracking pupils progress over time to inform the planning of teaching planning teaching that is matched to pupils needs
supporting the transfer of meaningful information at key transitional points facilitating the setting of meaningful curricular targets that can be shared with pupils and parents
WWW:You understand and can write a percentage/fraction/decimal in either form in order to compare values. You can also calculate a percentage of a quantity and use this to increase or decrease a value.
EBI:When calculating a percentage increase/decrease of a quantity you use the multiplier method.
Your work is excellent/good/satisfactory.
MRI: (response to feedback from the pupil)
Starter related to percentages
Find 10% of the following:
a) £300b) $200
c) 50gd) 30p
e) 45pf) £64
g) $32h) 12g
Why Ask Questions?
The following is a partial list of the questions that teacher Peggy Lynn asked during her two lessons on direct and inverse variation. As you read each question below, think about Peggy’s purpose in asking it. Ask yourself, “Why did she ask that question?” How did you come up with your estimation?
When you say “pattern,” what kind of pattern are you referring to? And what does that “+ 1” on the end mean?
Any questions so far?
Why did you do 100 � 100?
You seem pretty certain of that. Why do you think it’s not [a direct proportion]? So how many gallons would there be in 920,000 barrels?
Could a direct variation have a negative slope?
If you have zero drops, how much area should you have?
What just happened there, when you doubled your volume?
What about if you made the area of the base get smaller and smaller, your diameter got smaller and smaller. What’s going to happen to the height of your water?
Questions in the math classroom serve a variety of purposes, from increasing student comprehension and clarifying student thinking, to aiding in social development. The following list gives many of the reasons teachers ask questions. To involve students in the lesson by letting them share ideas that provide clarification and a deeper analysis of problems Example: You seem pretty certain of that. Why do you think it’s not [a direct proportion]? To provide assessment of what students know to help guide instruction Example: Why did you do 100 100? To enhance retention of important information and to provide increased understanding of the major mathematical skills and concepts. Example: If you have zero drops, how much area should you have? To aid in classroom management by redirecting discussions, making sure that students comprehend directions, and checking for understanding. (Many questions in this category are not prepared in advance – teachers ask them as the need arises.) Example: Any questions so far?
Deploying support staff
Be clear and specific: don’t assume that your TA knows what you want them to do. Think about how you would feel walking into a lesson and trying to decipher what to support the pupils with while listening to the teaching segment. It’s hard to manage all of this at once, especially because you were on break duty and missed the first seven minutes. Not all teachers have dedicated time to share and discuss lessons with their TA. But it’s essential to discuss your lessons plans, expectations, focus children and so on; this will help you build a relationship with your TA and enable them to anticipate what you and the pupils will need throughout the year.
Empowering your TA to be active in lessons not only enables them to raise their profile in the classroom, but also allows you to develop an engaging environment. Involve them in lessons and build a rapport where you can bounce off each other during sessions. The teachers and teaching assistants roles are different but both are important and your TA might have more experience in the school or with children. Be sure to acknowledge this, always speak in a professional way and when there is conflict, clear the air and address the issue.
Allowing your TA to make independent decisions that are in line with your classroom rules and behavioural strategies is very empowering. Facilitating this will help keep the class running smoothly and promotes a team approach to teaching. As well as the benefit of building a good working environment, in the event that you are out of class for NQT time, off sick or on a course, you know that your classroom systems are being sustained, giving your pupils consistency, which is particularly vital in a primary classroom.
Build on your TA’s strengths
Ask your TA about their hobbies, experiences and what they would like to do in the classroom. This will give you a great insight into their strengths, skills and interests. Over time you will find that building on your TA’s skills and strengths will enable you to get the best out of them, to the benefit of you and your pupils. Also be aware that an increasing number of TAs are graduates and have very valuable transferable skills.
Everyone benefits from feedback and your TA is no different. Give them details about what works well, remain positive and give clear requests. Make sure the feedback is constructive and help your TA to see the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve in your setting. If you would like to find out more, Maximising the impact of teaching assistants by Anthony Russell, Rob Webster and Peter Blatchford is well worth a read. Fundamentally, be conscious of planning for your support staff, it will empower them and allow you to have a greater impact on your pupils.
According to Ofsted, good assessment practice in mathematics includes: day-to-day assessment, marking and feedback, and the use of assessment to set targets.
Formative assessment, or ‘assessment for learning’ is most effective when it: is embedded in the teaching and learning process shares learning goals with pupils helps pupils to know and to recognise the standards to aim for provides feedback for pupils to identify what they should do to improve has a commitment that every pupil can improve involves teachers and pupils reviewing pupils’ performance and progress involves pupils in self-assessment.
Five key changes to marking and feedback: decrease the use of extrinsic rewards (house credits) as a number of pupils reported negative reactions to not receiving rewards even when they had ‘done their best’ provide more oral feedback rather than relying almost exclusively on marking and/or written feedback in pupils’ books help pupils develop skills in marking and reviewing their own work and that of their peers in order to involve pupils more in marking and feedback decide on the assessment criteria for the marking and feedback on a given piece of work (for example, whether or not presentation is to be judged) be clear about whether to get pupils to correct their own work based on what purpose it will serve for a given piece of work. The most effective targets set by or for pupils are often curriculum-specific. These are: associated with a significant but manageable learning objective (e.g. simplify fractions by cancelling all common factors) discussed with pupils and expressed in a form that they can understand relatively short-term and subject to regular revision
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