Friday, 15 December 2017

Strategies to ensure everyone can participate

This is my last blog post of the year.  My last day of school is the 20th, so my brain has not quite signed off yet.  Before I take a break for the holidays I wanted to do a blog post that specifically addresses a question I often get....

How do you ensure all children can participate and are learning?

Firstly, let me start by saying that this was my burning question when I started maths PLD.  With the change to mixed ability groups and a problem solving focus I genuinely questioned how this process could be effective for those children that seemingly sit on the fringes and don't seem to be getting involved.

As I had already started using Number Agents, I simply moulded what I was currently doing around this new idea of teaching that I was being presented with.  I can tell you though that I entirely expected to discard these strategies once our PLD was over and go back to how I had always done things.

However as time went by I began to see the benefits, I began to see the progress and slowly come to realise that everyone was engaging at their own level,without me foisting on them knowledge that they were not ready for, just because I thought the should be.

So back to the question, how do I ensure all children can participate and are learning?

1)Mixed ability groups when problem solving.  I teach whole class through agency, or rather the professor does, but when it comes to problem solving, I use mixed ability.  Initially children do find this difficult, and it is important to give this time.  With certain scaffolds they do all begin to engage and share as they are able to.  Firstly when presented with the problem, we talk about it out loud, what is it asking us to do?  Children then have a go at solving this independently, but for those who struggle with this, we teach them two ways of working to start with, drawing the problem, or using materials.  These two ways of working help them to engage at a level appropriate to them.  When they have had a chance individually, they share as a group.  This can be difficult as you will always have your dominant ones, but the idea is to teach them how to explain their thinking through the talk moves.  They learn to challenge each other when they do not agree, and show each other the strategies that they have used.  It sometimes is hard to sit back at this stage, but they truly learn a lot from each other.  We are lucky enough to have two of us, so we do also roam and scaffold at this time.  I like to video certain strategies and use our apple tv to reflect on them.

2)Visual activities, or high ceiling/low floor problems.  I invented the three headed dragon this year to present problems that were a little more hands on and visual.  These problems saw children engage at their own level and they could all participate.  These problems were also a great opportunity to incorporate strand learning.

3) Dot talks and visual images.  These have been incredible for building number sense.  I have noticed an absolute change in understanding since we started concentrating on these regularly.

4) Agent talk moves.  This was an area I had huge doubt about when I started, but it turns out this is an area where I have had the most success.  Basically it is about creating a common language for sharing and questioning.  I teach children to say I think..because .  I agree... I disagree.... I would like to challenge you on that.  I like to video children explaining strategies and these are a great tool for reflection later.

5)Building mathematical language. One of the biggest hurdles for children that struggle is their mathematical language  In the classroom we often do not have a common language and this prevents children from accessing maths.  Establishing a common language through our villains and our secret files really helps.  Taking things slowly and ensuring everyone understands what is being asked of them is key.

6)Grouping and doubling.  These are skills that come later when you are working on numeracy stages, but I have found it very useful to introduce these concepts early on as it gives children a good solid strategy to fall back on.  We focused on doubling and halving...of course clearly ensuring children knew what was going on by using materials etc.  We also focused on dot talks and visual images that helped children to see things in groups, this led them nicely to the need to skip count and understand the purpose for this.  This worked so well I will introduce a grouping villain.

7)Slow down in the beginning.  Really spend time on the problem solving and ensure children understand the process, don't be in a hurry.

8) Repetition, come back to similar scenarios and problems in different ways again and again.  Come back to problems or visual images more than once, let them span several sessions if necessary.  Children will build on their understandings in this way.

9) My discovery this year is that children will develop knowledge as and where it is needed.  We do not need to be explicitly delivering this, the more authentic the problems and activities we are using, the more likely it is that the knowledge will just develop.  This seems simplistic, but I have found this to be very true.

My teachers pay teachers store includes many of the resources I have talked about in my posts this year.

I hope that my blog posts have been helpful this year.  I am no expert, I am certainly not a maths guru, but I have made discoveries that I like to share with others.  My passion is teaching and learning.

I will start posting again next year as I prepare for my new agency, just as I did this year, I will blog as I go, so you can follow my agency journey.  This may be useful to you if you are planning on setting up a new agency.

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