I get so much of a thrill when we introduce a new villain. Then once they have all been introduced we can really watch children's awareness of what is happening to the client correlate to what villain it might be. It is fantastic watching their maths talk grow along with their number sense.
I love teaching this way. Children love it and their maths ability has never been better. It is relaxed and maths anxiety is non-existent. Combine this with our lovely sessions of self-directed play we have a superbly relaxed room where behaviour problems are a very rarely ever an issue.
The problem solving part of agency is often the part that takes the longest to embed into agency. It can be easy to get demoralised...but please persist. Children initially struggle with independence in this process...however once we have given them a few strategies, like fingers, materials, tally marks they seem to really get it. That is when the magic happens, you start to see children sharing strategies you didn't even know they had. Sharing with others their knowledge. It is a wonderful reciprocal bubble of learning.
I am a huge believer in mixed ability groups....and whole class teaching. I would never go back. After being exposed to the work of Jo Boaler and doing a bit of research myself, I love teaching this way. I suggest you do your own reading and research, don't just take it from me.
People often limit the ability of new entrant children "how an earth can they solve those problems?" Well you know what, they don't solve it alone, we solve it together. Within the mixed ability grouping children have the luxury of learning from others, or of extending on their own strategies and exploring multiple ways of solving it. The villain presents the problem, they don't have a copy of the word problem and they are not required to read it. Basically the problems are a script for me:) The problem is part of the drama...it brings an authenticity to the maths and is the absolute key to why children start to become such confident mathematicians. As teachers it is up to us to scaffold and assist as much as we deem to be appropriate. Some problems require a lot of assistance and modelling and others they can complete independently. They strive to solve these problems because they want to defeat the villain and they want to help the client. Just like a lovely story book based on superheroes and villains.
Is this an approach for everyone...no probably not, as I say in my book you have to be willing to be a little bit crazy, you have to be prepared to let your inner child take over and you have to be prepared to use your instincts. This process works incredibly well, but it is energy intensive, it requires a lot of thinking and reflecting and there is no step by step instructions :)
I have been giving a lot of thought to the new villain that will join our cast of characters. As I only teach three days a week I have never really focused on using a strand area to deliver problems. I do from time to time, but prefer to integrate strand into the problems or invitations to play. However I do believe it is necessary for there to be a strand based villain because children need to see maths in lots of different ways.
I was keen to have a villain that represented the fact that Measurement and Geometry and Statistics were 'three' areas of maths....I realise that these integrate beautifully, but wanted a villain that represented this multiple personality :)
After a bit of thought I came up with this character.
She can change colour according to her mood :) Her name is the Dreadful Dragon...unless I can think of a name that goes with the mathematical areas she will challenge us in. This is still up in the air...she won't appear for a little while so I have a bit of time to sort it.
Basically just like the other villains she will set us problems but they will be related to Strand. It is highly likely that these will be visual problems, rather than word problems.
I know there are many agencies opening this term and I am so looking forward to hearing about your adventures. Remember once you've read the book, you can put your own twist on things...just make it work for you and your class. As long as you combine drama, play and problem solving along with a heavy focus on visual strategies and the use of materials I know your children will love it. Prepare to capture that inner child and you will reap the rewards with an engaged and motivated class.
And just to end, I was so stoked to get this feedback on TPT the other day.
Hi Lesley, I am a NZ teacher but I am teaching in Dubai. I needed a fresh start to how I was teaching maths to my wee ones (4-5years) and with the extremely high expectations of the school and british curriculum it was not easy. I was so grateful for finding your resources (I bought nearly everything you had available!)and once I got my head around it, couldn't wait to get started. Being the last term it has been a wonderful way to integrate everything the children have been learning throughout the year. The kids are so excited to being our sessions and I am getting more out of them than ever. It is only the second week (so our first week really of starting the actual agency after building it up over the first week). Im looking forward to getting my parents more involved as well. I used to dread teaching maths in such a structured way to my wee ones but now it's just so much more exciting! Great job and thank you!!
Thank you to this person....It made my day.
I wish everyone the absolute best in kicking off their agency...remember if you are just beginning start with drama...then the hooking in...then building belief....taking time to do this is worth it and makes this approach that much more authentic to children. This is where Mantle of the Expert plays a huge role.
If you have purchased the book and are starting out on agency, please email me with any questions, I am only to happy to help if I can. Have a read through my old posts on here as I have detailed my journey into agency in Term One.