What has been working well for me so far this year

I haven’t written a blogpost since the beginning of the year – most of the time has been spent making videos and sharing these along with tips and ideas on my Facebook and Instagram. But I really enjoy blogging and so I’m hoping to do a bit more over the next few weeks.

For me, I’ve found the beginning of this year very tough. This is due to a combination of different things but mainly the never ending to do list. I feel I can’t get everything I want to get done completed and I’m constantly chasing my tail. I’ve had to be quite inventive with my classroom management and have used a lot of different strategies over the past few weeks. I’ve shared these struggles on Fridays over the past few weeks and I’ve been amazed at the amount of teachers around the country with similar experiences to my own.

Some things that are working well;

Class dojo

I’ve been using class dojo for a number of years and really love it as a classroom management tool. I find the children response really well to it too! At the beginning of the year we focussed on a whole class goal and the top 2 children each week earned a homework pass. When the class goal was reached, the children decided to use it for extra P.E. Now we have moved onto a class shop so the children have different prices for a variety of things (they chose) as rewards.

  • Choose a seat (50)
  • Subject Pass (75)
  • Sit with a friend (100)
  • Choose P.E. Warm Up (125)
  • Homework Pass (150)
  • Teach a lesson (200) (This is just a short lesson 10-15 minutes on a topic/theme that the child is very familiar with)

Quiet monitor

This is the best thing for keeping a class quiet during independent work. It works like this;

  • Children start working
  • Teacher chooses a child who is working well independently.
  • They become the quiet monitor and spend 1-2 minutes walking around the classroom to pick the next quiet monitor (a child who is working quietly and independently)
  • The next quiet monitor then walks around etc.
  • Any child chosen to be the quiet monitor writes their name on the board and at the end is awarded dojo points.

Lollipop sticks

Lollipop sticks are my favourite way to ensure that I hear from every child throughout the day and ask every child a question or hear their opinion throughout the day.

They are also a great way to choose someone to go on a message/ do a job or

I find them really useful for assessment for learning instead of using hands up – instead I give children adequate think time and then choose from the lollipop sticks. (Idea from Dylan Wiliam – Assessment for Learning – Hands Down Approach. I completed a summer course on this with Rahoo #gifted)

Maths lessons

I absolutely love teaching Maths. It is definitely my favourite subject to teach. I think the Maths curriculum in 5th class is extremely full on and there is so much content to cover but I really enjoy it.

We start each lesson with mini whiteboards and usually do something like a multiples challenge mental maths warm up.

The multiples challenge

  • Teacher calls out a number.
  • Timer is set for 30-45 seconds.
  • Children write the multiples of that number (as many as they can within the time given).
  • Once the timer ends, the children then share the highest multiple they got and we check if it is a multiple or they share how many multiples they got and we calculate the final number they wrote down.
  • This is not a competition to see who can write the most multiples but a challenge so every child tries to beat their own best score every time we do it. It’s a great way to practice times tables and easily differentiated to suit all children.

Whiteboard work

Following this, we do whiteboard work. This may involve practice of a concept we covered previously or else I teach the new concept and do 3/4 examples and then the children try some on their whiteboard.

In general I give 3/4 questions (3 normal and 1 challenge which also ensures that I’m differentiating).

After a few minutes, the children move onto their copies where they complete more work. At this stage any child or group of children who are struggling work with the teacher at the back of the room (this is elective – so the children decide for themselves if they need additional support.)

After a few minutes I call children down to me individually with their work and we look over the work that has been completed. If the child is finding the work too easy, then I give them more challenging problems. If the child is struggling or does not have prior knowledge on something and needs further support on this then I give more suitable work for them to build up their knowledge and understanding of the concept before they can progress to this lesson. During this time I also assess the childrens work – I have a notebook where I write down the different steps so for example in multiplication this might include

  • Tables
  • Multiplication by units
  • Multiplication by tens (and why)
  • Addition
  • Place value (do the children line up the numbers properly etc.)
  • I also look at their copy layout (We try to keep copies neat and tidy with one number per box as I find that if the children squish things in then it becomes difficult to follow the steps and if a mistake is made it is often tricky to rub it out without rubbing out everything on the page.)

Mind Maps

I find mind maps are a fantastic way to assess children’s knowledge before an activity or lesson and again afterwards. I’ll do a full blogpost on how I’ve been using mind maps in my classroom.