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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Top Tips For Parents Evening

Parents Evening is one of those times in the school year that almost all those involved can find difficult. Parents, pupils and teachers all anxious about what the other is going to say. However, this is not how it needs to be. Parents evening is an opportunity for all of those same people to build relationships, to share information and to work together towards one shared goal.

So here are some tips to ensure that your parents evening goes as smoothly as possible:

  • Stand up to greet them, start with good eye contact, a smile and tell them you are pleased to meet them   
  • Use the sandwich technique - Start on a positive and remember that your pupil is someone’s precious child. Open your conversation with parents by acknowledging their child’s strengths before you focus on areas of concern. Then remember to finish on a positive

  • Have up to date data to hand to share - This should include information about their latest assessments, recent progress, attendance, punctuality, mental maths and spelling scores and how they are at handing in homework

  • Discuss sensitively any areas of difficulty their child has along with solutions and ways forward to help them to get back on track. Include ways that they the parents can help too
  • Inform the parents of their child's friendship groups, whether their child listens and answer questions, as these are often things that parents worry about the most
  • Listen - Allow parents to share their concerns and ask questions
  • If a parent asks you a question that floors you, don't be put on the spot. It's fine to let parents know that you need some time to reflect on their question before you respond. Let them know that you'll get back to them in a day or two. This will give you time to explore options and perhaps bounce ideas off of a colleague before you respond to the parents. 
  • Don’t be afraid to end a meeting with parents who become confrontational. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to provide an opportunity for all parties to cool down and reflect on the issues at hand by bringing the meeting to a close. Set a time and date to meet again and ask for a member of your SLT to attend if need be.
  • Don’t let yourself get dragged into disputes between families of children in your class. When parents begin to share information about squabbles, let parents know that you're receptive to their thoughts and ideas about their child, but you must stay out of personal issues between the families. 
  • Try your best to keep to allotted times, other parents waiting will get irritated if they are stood outside your door for hours on end. If it looks like a parent needs more time suggest they make another appointment when you can give them the time they need.
Managing parents can be one of the hardest parts about teaching. It’s easy to dwell on negativity and begin to question your skills as a teacher. Instead of worrying about how those parents perceive you, offer them the opportunity to join you as you help their child have the best year possible. Chances are the vast majority of parents of children in your class are thrilled that you are their child’s teacher! Focus on all that positive energy and have a great rest of the school year!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Teaching Maths the Singapore Way

September 2014 saw the launch of a new National Curriculum with lots of changes. The new maths curriculum was perhaps one of the most controversial:

'New national curriculum to introduce fractions to five-year-olds' The Guardian July 2014

'Is the proposed new national curriculum too much too soon?' The Guardian 1st April 2013

Despite the initial furore teachers all over the country are now getting on with the business of delivering the new curriculum which aims to ensure all pupils žbecome fluent in the fundamentals of mathematics so that they are:
  • efficient in using and selecting the appropriate written algorithms and mental methods, underpinned by mathematical concepts  
  • can solve problems by applying their mathematics to a variety of problems with increasing sophistication, including in unfamiliar contexts and to model real-life scenarios   
  • can reason mathematically by following a line of enquiry and develop and present a justification, argument or proof using mathematical language.
We have to ensure that we are catering for the needs of every child in our class/group. Merely repeating the same instruction ten times does not work for some children. They need to be able to understand the process rather than just rattle off facts. Only then will they have a real grasp of the number system and be able to apply that to a range of problem solving activities. 

The expectation is that the majority of pupils will move through the programmes of study at broadly the same pace. However, decisions about when to progress should always be based on the security of pupils’ understanding and their readiness to progress to the next stage. Pupils who grasp concepts rapidly should be challenged through being offered rich and sophisticated problems before any acceleration through new content. Those who are not sufficiently fluent with earlier material should consolidate their understanding, including through additional practice, before moving on.

But how can this be achieved when there are still pupils who find maths a challenge, they just don't get it! And others find it a chore? How do we raise the bar in terms of competency and engagement?

Findings from Ofsted 2011 provides some clues:
  • Practical, hands-on experiences of using, comparing and calculating with numbers and quantities … are of crucial importance in establishing the best mathematical start …
  • Understanding of place value, fluency in mental methods, and good recall of number facts … are considered by the schools to be essential precursors for learning traditional vertical algorithms (methods)
  • Subtraction is generally introduced alongside its inverse operation, addition, and division alongside its inverse, multiplication
  • High-quality teaching secures pupils 'understanding of structure and relationships in number … 
The Singapore Method may provide some answers. The Singapore method of teaching mathematics develops pupils' mathematical ability and confidence without having to resort to memorising procedures to pass tests - making mathematics more engaging and interesting. It follows and is based upon the CPA (Concrete Pictorial and Abstract model.)

Concrete - Using solid, hands on resources to help with the understanding of maths/
It is important to use practical resources to ensure children understand the process of calculations, such as making a number ten times bigger or increasing a number by 12 means we now have 12 more of something, rather than maths just being an abstract activity that ‘we just do’

Pictorial -  Using diagrams and images to represent numbers and symbols.  Here, children move away from physical, hands on objects and instead use pictures for demonstrations and also recording. 

Abstract - Moving onto the use of numbers and symbols in a conventional written method. 
The CPA model is nothing new to Early years and KS1 however where through the guise of continuous provision it has provided pupils with real life experiences of maths. However, I believe it can improve and enhanve the teaching and learning of maths into KS2 and beyond.
There is a new Maths Curriculum that we are all beginning to implement. So it is a perfect time to try the CPA approach to teaching maths, starting now! Start by using the main principal of providing the children with the concrete and pictorial before the abstract then if that's successful try the Bar Method. But  that's a whole new blog post!