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Friday, 21 February 2014

The most used tools in my teaching toolkit


All teachers have a toolkit of those tried and tested tools that they use in their classrooms regularly. The toolkit grows constantly as we absorb ideas from our fellow teachers in our own educational setting, on Twitter, Pinterest and if we are lucky from courses we attend. 

Here, sorted under headings, are some of the most used tools in my toolkit:

Behaviour

The Great Behaviour Game - an online game which accumulates points constantly, unless paused. Points can also be added for anything you choose. It is displayed on the whiteboard allowing the pupils to see how they are getting on. My class love it! 

Postcards home - the daily winner of the Great Behaviour a game gets a postcard home. Popular with pupils and parents.

Assessment

Lolly sticks - avoids hands up and keeps all pupils on their toes as they have to listen in case they are chosen to answer the question. I use these in two ways, firstly random picking of the sticks after I have asked a general question or I pick the stick before I ask the question so that the question can be differentiated to match the pupil.

Traffic lights - these are used in a variety of ways but mainly on the whiteboard with the lesson objective above. At the beginning of the lesson pupils put a post it note, with their name on, where they think they are, then at the end of the lesson, they move their post it note to where they think they are now. It provides a very quick, visual means of both teacher and self assessment. 

Pose, Pause Pounce, Bounce - again a good tool for quick assessment of pupils understanding but also as a great pre lesson assessment to gauge understanding of a new topic. I pose a question, pause allowing thinking time, pounce on an individual, pair or group, then bounce it to another individual or pair allowing for either an addition to the answer or a different answer.

Reading

Reading Eggs/Eggspress - used both in school and for homework it really helps improve reading. This is really clear from the comparison between the levels of those using it (all abilities) to the levels of those that don't. The children enjoy using Reading Eggs because of its simple to use format which regularly rewards them with points and eggs which they can spend on items in the shop to buy items of clothing for their avatar or furniture for the house. It is also useful as an assessment tool as the children have to take a quiz each time they complete a map and this is easily tracked by the teacher.

Reading journals - the children in my class have a reading journal to keep track of what they have read, to whom, how much and how they have got on. It also serves as a reading activity book because when they finish a book they have to complete a reading activity based upon the book as homework. They are expected to complete an activity a week. If they have not finished a book they still complete a mid book activity. This book helps us to keep track of reading in our rather large class and provides great assessment evidence. 

Reading Buddies - during silent reading the pupils in my class are allowed to choose a reading buddy (cuddly toy) to keep them company. I have been amazed at how something so simple works so well. The  buddies have really helped my pupils to develop real reading stamina which was something that due to their age they were quite poor at.

Writing

Friday Books - the success of Friday books has been phenomenal.! The original idea came from Pinterest. The idea is that the pupils write a letter home to their adult at home every Friday telling them what they have done in school that week. The adult is then asked to write a letter back to their child which results in dialogue between adult and child. In a recent parents evening at least 95% of the parents said how much they look forward to Friday so that they can read what their child has been up to in school. These books have become, quite unexpectedly, a great way of showing progress in writing. Most of the children began in September writing in simple unlinked sentences but are now writing in paragraphs.

Maths

Mathletics - This is hugely successful as it allows the teacher to assign tasks which are linked to whatever they are or have been teaching. Live Mathletics is a great way of improving mental maths whilst Times Tables Toons helps the children to learn their tables through songs. Points are accumulated and certificates awarded from Bronze through to Gold. These certificates are then awarded in Headteacher Award assembly. Again their is a direct correlation between the progress of those children who use Mathletics regularly and those who don't.

Maths Probes - this is a way of learning anything ranging from number bonds to10 to division facts and times tables. The pupil has a question and answer sheet. The question sheet is stuck into their probes book and the answer sheet is kept in an envelope at the back of the book. They take out their answer sheet and hand it to a partner or their adult at home then they go through the question sheet, which is in the form of a grid, and their partner checks if they have the answer correct. If the answer is not correct their partner tells them the answer so that they can remember it for next time.This is to be completed daily for 5 minutes a day. It is simply another way of helping children to learn facts in a fun, none threatening way and due to the repetitive nature is often successful.

Other

Desks as Whiteboards - the children are given whiteboard pens and rubbers and allowed to solve problems, answer questions, draw shapes etc.directly onto their tables. This is very popular with all of the children in my class because they think it is really naughty. This can be used in so many ways and for a range of subjects. Fun and engaging!

Friday Song - Every Friday we start the day by singing along to our Friday song, The Candy Man by Sammy Davis Junior. The children race into school every Friday and rush to sit on the carpet because they really enjoy the whole Friday feeling it gives. It is a lovely way to end the week.

The list is quite exhaustive but I have tried to stick to the ones I genuinely use all of the time. If you have any you use please comment or tweet to let me know.