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Monday, 27 January 2014

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

When I was teaching year 3 two years ago I was very fortunate to have a wonderful German language specialist come into my class once a week for the whole year to teach German. As the children were year 3s with little or no previous experience of German they started with the basics, colours, numbers to 10, days of the week and animal names. This suited me as I too was a novice German speaker. The lessons were taught in a fun way using a variety of methods from stories to songs, both the children and I looked forward to the sessions.

The following year I went solo, teaching German myself. Now as at that stage languages was not timetabled it was usually done during register time and I have to be honest was not given the emphasis it was the year before. As a result my confidence levels dropped.

This year I am teaching year 2 and as MFL has, under the new curriculum, got more of a focus in Primary School we had a full inset day on teaching German (mentioned in a previous blog.) What shocked me during this inset day was how little German knowledge I had retained, however, as I warmed up things did start to come back to me and I began to feel more confident. What this really highlights to me is the need for repetition when learning a new skill.

I thought about how often we expect children to retain things from times tables to spellings. In fact we are always shocked at how much they appear to have forgotten over the Summer holidays. In my own class I know the children were taught number bonds to 10 and 20 thoroughly yet in a recent mental maths session it was clear that well over half of them were not confident with them at all. As with all classes there is a breadth of knowledge and levels so of those that new number bonds I thought I would check knowledge of counting in 2s, 5s and 10s. Again a mixed result and whilst they could count in 2s, 5s, 10s they were completely unsure what was meant by 2 times 2 etc.

As a result of our findings we have just given every child in the class a maths probes book. Probes books have been used in our school for as long as I can remember and are quite effective when practised daily both in and out of school and it only takes 5 minutes to complete. which makes this realistic.Each sheet comes with two parts, a question sheet and an answer sheet. The question sheet is glued into the child's book and the answer sheet is placed into an envelope at the back of the book. The child then buddies up with someone and calls out the answers to the questions on the question sheet, the other child has the answer sheet tells their partner if they have got it wrong or gives them an answer if they do not know it.

The reason it works for most but not all children is that it provides an opportunity for repetition, repetition, repetition. The child is only competing with themselves and will be moved onto another probe once they are secure on the one they have.

Perhaps I need to do this for myself with German days of the week, numbers etc!