A little while back, I made a set of ‘Maths Attax’ with the intention of using them as maths starter activities since Match Attax was the craze in school.
All in, I made 48 individual players each with stats individual to the player’s capability (so as to keep them as close to the real thing as possible). I’d promised on Twitter and Facebook to release these as a full set once completed and today was reminded. So, here they are.
I was first introduced to the concept of ‘Big Writes’ on a teaching placement in my third year of university. I know it comes with some pre-set ideas and that you’re usually supposed to follow some sort of regular format, but I’m just not that kind of person. I like to mix and match ideas and do what I think will work for the age range I teach. So, what I call a big write might not actually be what the original concept was. What I tend to think of as a big write is a 45 minute session where the children do nothing but write. Achy fingers at the ready.
For anyone, a solid 45 minutes of writing might be a long time. I know that if I had to sit and write something out by hand for a full 45 minutes I might find myself staring out of the window at the 35 minute mark, if not before. Unless it was something I was super interested in.
And that’s the first thing I’ll look for when planning a big write. Something interesting that the kids will fall in love with. Fingers crossed, if I get this right, they’ll not even notice that they’ve been writing for such a long time. Our first big write session of the year went great. As we’re looking at space this term, ‘La Luna’ is a fab fit. It’s actually something I stumbled upon whilst searching through Now TV over the summer holidays, but the Literacy Shed is usually my go to source for video hooks. My efforts weren’t wasted; a few of the kids commented: “did you choose this because we’re learning about space this term?” Nothing by coincidence.
I’m not someone who sets a heap of homework. In fact, I think over the whole course of last year I might’ve set less than 10 pieces. Or even 5. Truth be told, there’s so much variation in quality that it’s often not worth setting. And sometimes it doesn’t get completed.
That’s my fault though, I’m well aware of that. I haven’t set expectations of homework the same way that I’ve set expectations in the classroom before. I’m quite sure that’s the cause of the variation; the parents at the school where I work are very supportive and would definitely encourage their children to get their homework done.
Every year, around this time, I have to make a ‘final’ decision for year 6 teacher assessments. I assume these are reported out to government somewhere, though they might just go on record and hang about until OFSTED decide to visit and scrutinise everything with their beady eyes. I also say ‘final’ using inverted commas because, whilst this really is the last official piece of assessment I’ll do for the year 6s, there are still 4 weeks left. It’s not truly final… there are 4 weeks left. We don’t just sit and twiddle thumbs in this time – progress can still be made. There are 4 whole weeks left!
This year has been particularly interesting and I find myself scratching my head furiously over this set of assessments, more so than either of the two sets of year 6s I’ve sent off before. Back in September, we had little to no idea how assessment would look at the end of the year. Thankfully, we have a pretty good system in place for their day-to-day assessments, but their final set has to be based off the interim assessments. I link to that not to encourage you to get your head around what a year 6 pupil apparently should know, but out of interest for anyone who wants to see the ridiculousness that is teacher assessment.
Set 1 of Maths Attax is now up for download. It’s totally free, but you do need to share the link in order to see the download link. What’s a little social payment in return, right?
Download by clicking here: Set 1
I’ve included two pages of printable cards, and a back side for each card (incase you wanted to print double sided before laminating for ultimate ‘real’ feel).
I’d also love to know what you think to these. Please get in touch via Twitter, Facebook, or leave a comment on this post. There’ll be another set (or a few) following shortly.
It’s been a while since I’ve made something massive, from scratch, for the kids. I used to make all sorts of things: I once changed a ‘Guess Who’ board to a maths game by swapping out the faces and adding in numbers. You know, to practice things like factors, odd numbers, multiples etc. I also made a card game to help children learn to tell the time. Last year, I created some dinosaur bones and buried them for us to ‘find’ in the school garden. I like to think I can be quite creative.
Recently, though, I’ve found it difficult to come up with new ideas. I’m not sure why. Maybe I spent all my good ideas too quickly early on, or maybe I’ve been that focused on other things (SATs, assessments, riding my bike…) that I’ve not put any time into thinking up new ideas.
That changed last week though, when I was struck by something obvious.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock this week, you’ll have noticed that the SATs for 10 and 11 year-olds across the country has made the news. At least, that is, if you’re an educator. If you’re not, and you’ve stumbled across this innocently clicking my links through Facebook or something, I can only apologise for embroiling you in what is a total shambles of a system (it’s too late to turn back now, you have to read on!).
It is, by the way, a total failure and mockery of our education system. And I say that with utter conviction. Testing children isn’t something I’ve ever been a fan of, but I find myself growing more and more cynical each and every time the subject of standardised assessments (tests) is brought up. With good reason too.
Let’s start with the idea of turning all Local Authority (LA) schools into academies. Without going into the whole host of reasons that I don’t think this to be the right step forwards, the link to SATs is interesting. Failing schools are forced to turn into academies. Schools which perform less-favourably in the year 6 SATs are called into question when OFSTED come knocking – almost like a preconceived idea that, because the data has been ‘bad’, the teaching must be terrible. Everyone knows not all children perform well on tests. I’ve been fortunate enough to teach some of the brightest, hard-working, and enthusiastic children who performed above and beyond when in the comfortable classroom environment… and then absolutely flopped in the test due to worry and stress (and I try as much as I can to not pass that on to the children). Though, the curriculum has been made more tricky, the SATs more so, and doesn’t that set children up to fail? Is this just a ploy to force all the remaining Local Authority schools into academies by almost automatically deeming them unsuitable?
As I’m sure you’ve seen on the news, teaching is a bit of a thankless job at the minute. We’ve got more and more things to do, and nobody is giving us any thanks, right? Well… not quite.
The Christmas build up feels like an ever lasting period of chaos. We’re running around trying to make sure all the kids have something (preferably nice) to take home with them as somewhat of a gift. You know, the usual: calendars, something to hang on the tree, cards… Then we’ve got our traditional visit to the pantomime to organise, the Christmas production, finishing any big projects we’ve started, getting the classroom tidy, then getting the classroom organised for the new year. It’s a busy time.
And then it’s the evening of the Christmas performance. Before you’ve even had time to blink. Every year it seems to come round quicker than the last. This year, as with the previous years, was another great show by the kids, but something else stood out even more… the community. It’s great to feel a part of something that brings people together.
Recently, the head of our federated state schools shared his opinion with a local newspaper about the testing of seven year olds. I have to agree. Testing seven year olds won’t improve standards, but learning will.
What was interesting was a letter sent to the newspaper in response to this article, reading:
I can’t have been the only reader to have been shocked by the arrogant rant of head-teacher Steve Woodhouse at a new Government education policy, coupled with his pernicious attack against Nicky Morgan the Education Secretary (Pocklington Post Thurs 12 Nov.) Mr Woodhouse might remember he is a public servant and not some self-appointed Government Strategist and Education Advisor.
The need for the introduction of simple national tests for children as young as seven stems from a basic failure of our education system, and the desire by the Government to rectify it by the elimination of illiteracy and innumeracy in Britain and thus in later years, restoring this country to near-full employment. In 2012, a shocking 44% of pupils failed to secure a GCSE pass in maths and English by the age of 16, and almost half never studied these subjects again afterwards. This is a disgraceful indictment of our education system as it operates today and justifiable reason for the need to change.
Mr Woodhouse assures us that, ‘teachers regularly assess seven-year olds themselves, without the need for any formal testing’. Yet teachers traditionally bleat about large class sizes and thus the impossibility of 1:1 teaching! He assures us that the current system, ‘works very well’ and this is, ‘probably why Nicky Morgan wants to change it’. A disrespectful and ignorant comment and probably the reason why Nicky Morgan has not yet responded to the pearls of wisdom delivered to her in his emails!
He goes on to assure us, in a list, of the many aspects of primary education that tests can’t measure. However, the most, ,thoughtful, creative, honest, confident, kind, loyal, determined compassionate, and intuitive, child is of little use to an employer if they can’t count or spell. Moreover they subsequently become a burden on both themselves and society. The percentage of illiterate and innumerate inmates in our local and dispersal prisons is shocking.
No-one would wish to stifle a teacher’s natural creativity, but this wonderful skill should be firstly channelled into teaching basic numeracy and literacy skills with a follow-up assessment of how successful this has been.
It is not the Government’s intention to impose strict ‘exam conditions’ on children, as Mr Woodhouse asserts. These are simple benign tests designed to highlight those children needing additional training in, maths, reading, grammar and punctuation.
To accuse the education secretary of ‘putting our children at risk’ by imposing an ‘unnecessary burden’ of ‘mindless policies’ and being ‘devoid of compassion’ is contemptuous of both Nicky Morgan and her predecessor Michael’s Gove’s attempts to bring our country back to full employment and prosperity.
I respectfully suggest that Mr Woodhouse’s time (paid for by the tax-payer I would remind him) would be better spent focusing on the educational brief Nicky Morgan has given him, rather than on composing ill-conceived, self-righteous criticisms of Government policies every week for the Pocklington Post.
A. J. Wilson,
Let’s start the fun and begin to pick apart this strange argument for tests – one of few I’ve seen.
It’s not uncommon to hear reports, or read articles about the state of the teaching profession at the minute. Granted, I haven’t been a teacher long – this is my third year – but even I’ve noticed an increase in the media coverage discussing how much harder teaching is becoming. Even Michael Wilshaw (OFSTED head) says that teaching is becoming more difficult.
Believe it or not, that’s not what I worry about though. It’s inevitable that things are going to get harder on a personal level anyway. What I mean is that, the longer I teach, the more responsibilities I’ll be likely to take on. Eventually, I might have a family of my own to take care of and juggle teaching with that too. So, as time passes, teaching is going to become a more demanding job, regardless of what the government decide to throw at me.
With that said, the bureaucracy of teaching is slowly becoming more and more of a problem to me. The more paperwork I have to fill in and the more marking I have to do, the less time I’ve got to do the things I love – make learning games and think of exciting things to teach. However, it’s not the thing I worry about most.
What I do worry about is the perception of teaching. As teachers, we know it’s getting harder and we moan about it to other teachers. There are plenty of people on Facebook who take to teacher groups and vent their stresses, but we all understand.