Learning is....
Planting a seed in our brain... learning to water, nurture and grow it.... so we can live on the fruit of our learning and plant more seeds.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Maths Tumble

I was introduced to the Reading Tumble first as a way to bring differentiation into my programme and allow students of all abilities to practice literacy activities together.  I then adapted the Reading Tumble for my maths programme.  I run my maths programme differently according to the strand I am doing, but when I am running ability maths groups I use the Maths Tumble to ensure everyone is involved in meaningful work.

So when I am busy with a maths group on the, doing some serious strategy learning, the other groups will be engaged in some serious maths practice and activities.  These are the labels I have up on the Tumble for them:

Obviously Teacher Time is when they are on the mat doing marking and/or strategy learning with me.  I have a modelling book for each group.  The students will bring down to the math their maths books, pencils, glue sticks and scissors.  I will have the modelling book and in a cardboard envelope I have the worksheets, any WALTs that may have to be glued in their books if there is no worksheet, and coloured bits of paper - but I will explain that a bit later, along with what I have in the modelling book.
This is where they go away and do the worksheet to follow up the learning of the strategy on the mat.  The Practise sheet is also in my modelling book for when we do marking, as part of my planning so I know which group is working on what, and so I can keep track of what we have learnt.
I have a variety of games.  Initially I started off with the Numeracy project games... but the internet is a wealth of games and activities for maths now.  Later in this post I will share some links to useful websites.
The NCM text books and many others are still a bonanza of awesome practice for learners and I think they are a fabulous resource.  Even the books from the dark ages of the 80s still have some great stuff to help children practise and learn their maths concepts.
This would usually involve Mathletics or Studyladder or the like.  Try to link the computer work to what you are learning or to maintain past learning.
The i-Pads have lots of numeracy apps for children to practise and explore maths ideas.  I usually specify the apps/games I want students to play at the beginning.  I may write these on the board.

Modelling Books
I have a modelling book for every maths group when I am teaching the Numeracy Project.  I usually choose to use a Kiwi Activity Book as they are big for group work and it is a size that works for me.  I name my maths groups after endangered animals.  Each modelling Book has the name of the group and a picture of the animal on the front.  At the bottom I glue a list of names of who is in the group.  If I change who is in the group, I print out another copy of the names in the group and glue it over the top.  I believe that if I want my students to have a high level of presentation in their books I need to model this in my own books I use with them. 

I plan into my modelling book directly, with the appropriate Numeracy book by my side to refer to, noting at the top of the modelling book page the Numeracy book I am working from, strategy level (because as a group changes so can the strategy level) and page number, name of the activity in the book and any resources I may need (eg. counters, money, blocks).  The WALT is written in larger writing beneath all of that information.  All of this information is always written in the same colour, especially the WALT so the students will recognise the WALT from all the other writing on the page.

Under the WALT I write the questions for the strategies I want to teach to the group.  I have all my questions pre-written unless I am at the point of teaching the group how to write their own stories for the strategy.  I leave room between each question for the student's own answers.

I found it too time consuming to have each child write in the book, so I have a stash of cut up coloured paper for the students to write their strategy out on and then they glue it into the book.  Sometimes I give each student the same colour for each question so I can look at the blue paper and know those were "Bob's" answers.  Sometimes I will write as they talk to speed things up, as in the two photos above.

On the next page I have the worksheet I want them to practise the strategy with glued in.  That way, when we come to marking, I am writing out their strategies on the same worksheet as they discuss the answers.  This is helpful for any absent children.  They can mark their own work when they have caught up directly from the book.
Sadly I am lacking in good photos from my previous modelling books for maths, something I hope to rectify when I'm back in full time teaching in the future.

Don't be afraind to model on your teacher whiteboard or your ActivBoard or Smartboard.  I take a photo afterwards in case I need to rub it off for future reference, or even to print off for the odd individual for their book.

Set high standards for book work.  I really like the A4 sized books with the margins already ruled up.  Not that my students have the date and it is underlined for each new day and each day is ruled off.  Below I was teaching a Year 4-8 class to draw 3-D objects.

Games and Activities Storage
I use these boxes to store my games in:

I get these boxes from The Warehouse.  I put the games I have made in these boxes and it means I can group games for specific groups and themes.  Each game is in a plastic bag (like a glad bag with the press together seal) with the name of the game and what it contains (eg. one game board, two dice, twenty counters) so that the children will put the games (hopefully) away properly.  On the top of the box I sellotape the name I give this group of games.

I have used games from the following websites that I make myself:
  • Basic Facts worksheet generator and you can find heaps more by using a good Google search.
  • A whole lot of maths games from Kentucky USA.
  • nzmaths is always going to be a starter for any Kiwi teacher.
  • A direct link to the Numeracy Project Material Masters for games and teaching resources.
  • The Numeracy Project Assessment page on NZMaths.
  • Top Marks is a British website where you can search through and find some gems.
  • Every School is another British website with a lot to offer.
  • Mathzlinks has links to NZ numeracy resources.
  • Super Teacher Worksheets has a lot of options across the strands.
  • Teacher Tools NZ has a lot of great books to support the Numeracy Project and across the strands.  Hopefully your school has a selection of them for you to use, but here is the website for your interest.
  • Teacher Tools NZ on YouTube can help you with videos of strategies and you could use them to support your teaching or for students to refer to them for help if you are not available.
  • AWS is another really good supplier of maths worksheets across the strands.  Hopefully your school has them for you to use.... so this link is for your knowledge of what they have available.
  • Your school will likely have a variety of the Essential Resources maths resources, so this link is for your knowledge of what is available.
  • Your school will likely have a variety of the User Friendly and RIC maths resources, so this link is for your knowledge of what is available from these companies.
  • Caxed has published three awesome maths text book series over the last twenty odd years that are brilliant, and your school may have these resources, but here is a link for your knowledge.
  • Check out your Scholastic Teacher Bookclub brochure when you get it for cheap maths resources and games.
  • Sparklebox's maths section has a lot of free games and resources.*
  • Classroom Treasures is an inspirational blog for me - that is one talented teacher!
  • Have Fun Teaching has lots of fabulous maths (and literacy) games, but it is now a paid site sadly... but if you want some bright colourful games, it is good.
  • Team Solutions has this very good page focused on basic facts with games and resources and links too.
Note that some of these websites may have a membership component or require payment for resources downloaded.

Tip: if I am going to spend my out of school time making them, I print them on my own paper/card on my own computer, and laminate with my own laminator with my own sheets, and I buy/collect all the extra materials like dice, counters, playing cards.... and then when I move onto another school I still have all these games for my new class.

* Some people have an issue with using Sparklebox resources due to the founder being a paedafile.  Personally, I think the resources are mostly good and will help learning, so I cut off the Sparklebox logo, which also makes it laminate better anyway.

Art as Maths
Be creative with your maths.  I try to bring art in as much as possible.  Symmetry is a great way to do this:

When the students had finished creating their symmetrical patterns, I gave them the labels and they had to match the labels to their patterns and take a photo - one part of my assessment completed!

Last year I was asked to do tessellations with a class while relieving, and this post Tessellations explains how we created these beauties below:

It's also important to bring in a construction element when doing something like geometry.  My class made all the 3D objects we could think of out of straws and paper nets.

I get the students to go around the school looking for specific shapes and photographing them, such as below:

Get the children out doing practical maths for things like measurement.  Get them using rulers, measuring wheels, tape measures, scales, cooking....

I often used cooking in my classroom programme over the years to get the students measuring.


In the photos above we made apple and tamarillo pies.  We were inspired by a bakery in the nearest town winning Pie of the Year for a fruit pie.  The prinicipal's family lived at a house with a tamarillo tree, so we decided to use tamarillos.

For our class camp, the students did all the baking, including a courgette chocolate cake using the courgettes out of the school garden.

At another school we made spring onion soup from the copious spring onions in the school garden.  Don't be afraid to be adventurous and cross your maths over with other aspects of school life.

Imagine having a new building built and having your students map it out as part of a measurement unit....

Do practical statistical investigations.  The projects below involved deciding on a question and who to ask, collecting the data as a tally chart and then converting the data into a bar chart, pie chart and strip graph.  They then had to make three statements summarises the data content.  Each step was explicitly taught prior to them starting their own investigations through the "Smarties Method".  This project was also about using the computer to make titles and effective use of space and presentation through visual language and communication skills through oral language, so very much a multi-curriculum area unit.

Get the students using Excel (or equivilent) to make various statistical displays and sites like Survey Monkey to get a wider group to collect data from.

Basic Facts

I acquired a number of years ago two great resources for basic facts.  One I think may be from the Wellsford Maths system, but it is paper based and I can not share it or a link.... but find a teacher who has been around for at least twenty years and they will have it. 

The other system is from Team Solutions maths advisors.  I can not give an electronic link to it.... but find a teacher who went through the Numeracy Project before the current government killed off the PLD for Numeracy and they will probably have it.  I also have developed my own resources for supporting this within the class and homework programme, but I am unable to make these available currently.

However, I can give you this link to Number Facts Activities from NZ Maths that has lots of really great resources around learning and practising Basic Facts.

Being teachers, you should be somewhat creative, so have a look at various basic facts resources and then make some that work for you in your class programme.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Tips for Relief Teachers

On the NZ Teachers Facebook page I regularly see posts asking about how to get into relieving and then other posts about what to have in your kete as a reliever.  So I've decided to write a post about these things, passing on the tips I have garnered.

I was a reliever in 2007 and 2008 while completing my Graduate Diploma of Information Technology in Education, even having a significant stint at a high school mostly in the ICT department.

I relieved during Terms 1 and 2 in 2015 due to family circumstances and again throughout 2016 while studying my Masters of Education.

I have relieved in a New Entrant classroom one day and even been in a Year 13 Statistics class the next (that's a bit above my maths level unfortunately).  Relieving has given me the opportunity to learn heaps about year levels I have previously avoided.  I have seen some fabulous ideas to steal.... and now phones have cameras I don't have to carry a camera any more!

How to get on the relieving list

Personally I went and visited all of the possible schools I could relieve at, and that is my personal recommendation if you want to be known.  I'm a bit lucky in that I live in the country, and it is 15 minutes to Cambridge, 20 minutes to Te Awamutu and 15 minutes to Hamilton from my house, meaning I had a wide number of schools to relieve at.  Some towns, like Cambridge, have a school that colates the relieving list for the town and surrounding areas, but I still wanted to visit every school as I believe a face to the name and the personal touch makes a difference in the long run.

When I visited each school I took an A5 sheet of paper with the following relevant details to leave for the relieving co-ordinator:
  • full name
  • photo of me
  • contact phone number
  • registration number
  • photo of my practising certificate
  • years of experience
  • availability
  • year levels I will do (and I will do all of them)
  • addresses of my blogs
Some schools will ask you to email in a CV with referees, and I was willing to do so on request.  Some schools will ask you to come back to meet with the relief co-ordinator for an orientation of sorts.  I found that very beneficial.

Some schools ask if you are using Class Cover, an app.  I was on that during 2015 at the suggestion of a school.... but got nothing out of it.  But it seems to be getting more use in 2016 and you need to be fast to secure any day that is offered.  So if schools in your area are using Class Cover, get on to it.  You will need to download the app for your phone... but you will need to sign up on an actual desktop device through the actual website and the app does not do all that. 

What to expect on the day

I find that most teachers will have a programme they want you to follow.  When I have my own class I usually try to keep certain things in the day going and set them up for the reliever, but I always leave a space for them to leave their mark on the day.  So be prepared to follow what the teacher leaves - but don't be afraid to say, "I don't get how to do this" and not do something.  As long as you leave a note it usually is not a problem.

Leave a note at the end of the day explaining what was achieved, students who were helpful, any concerns and the like.  Teachers like the feedback.

As a newby at relieving you may feel more comfortable having a kete of resources to call upon.  But don't go overboard.  Here is what I recommend:
  • have several really good picture books that will cater for a variety of year levels.
  • choose maths activities that are not too complicated - basic facts are good, things that should be maintenance for most students.  With the internet now you can make up worksheets of your own fairly easily.  I often check with the teacher what the theme is and then do an easy activity I have.
  • have a series of story starters you can use or use the picture book as your story starter.
  • some poems that can be used as story and art prompts or which you can develop reading activities from.
  • keep up with simple art ideas from Pinterest.  Don't be afraid to try something new.
  • do you know where your KiwiDEx is?  A great resource as a reliever for fitness activities and mini-games.
  • a whistle can be advantageous.
As an experienced teacher and reliever, I don't carry a big kit of things anymore.  I basically have a group of picture books that I base my day around.  I can use these books to initiate English activities or writing or art... and occasionally maths.  These are the books I have used a lot during the last year and there are links to blogs with reflections on using these books further down:

I got these books from the Warehouse... two books for $10... so you don't have to spend a lot.  I've used these books with New Entrants up to Years 7 and 8.  Another book I love using is Peter Millet's kiwi versions of some classic tales, The Anzac Biscuit Man and other classic kiwi tales.

This book is awesome for language features such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, colloquial language, visual language and more.  A fabulous book and the author tweeted me a few days ago to let me know another is in the pipeworks.  I even got applause from a class when I read them some stories from this book at one school

If you are musical, you could take along your guitar or have songs that you can teach students easily on the day without charts to sing.  I was known at a few schools as "the teacher who does the Moose Song".

If you are PE minded I'm sure the children will love that side of you.

Many teachers will ring or text or email you to negotiate what you will do during the day.  Some will ask you to come in and do your own thing.  The main idea is that you are flexible to either do the whole day from your own ideas or to follow a set programme or do a mixture of both.

Behaviour management

You need to be quiet and firm.  Students will challenge you, so be familiar with the classroom expectations and who will be your support if you have a difficult child during the day.  I always say at the beginning of the day that some things will be different and some things will be the same.  Rewards a teacher normally would do, I don't tend to, especially if I don't understand the system, because I don't want to stuff it up... but if I do understand the system I will milk it. 

You are going to come across names that are really new to you.  I always start the roll by saying that there will be new names to me, and I apologise in advance if I mispronounce it.  I ask the student only whose name it is to say it to me, and I explain if they all call it out my ears won't work properly.  If you are open about being challenged by a new name, the children appreciate the effort and time you take to get it right.  This video below is a classic on how taking a roll can possibly go wrong.
You are not going to remember all their names.  I use 'sunshine', 'mate' and 'sweetheart' a lot when I do not know their names.  Little tricks like checking the name on an exercise book can help you.  Just be honest and ask them to tell you their name again.

You will know certain students' names really well by the end of the day.  You know the ones.

Some blog posts to inspire you

Here are some blog posts I have done about my relieving experiences in 2016 to inspire you:
Final thoughts

Be flexible and be honest.  Often I have turned up on the day to find the room and year level has changed.  Try to go with it.  I've been rung as late as well after 8 o'clock by some schools.  Be honest if you are not going to make it by the first bell.  I've been staying at my brother's to help him out and had to drop off my nephew at school and niece at daycare and then go home and feed kittens and get into school clothes before I could go to school on occasion.

If you are not comfortable with a certain age group or class, be honest with the relief co-ordinator.  They will appreciate it in the long run.

Know when schools will be putting their relieving notes through to Novopay for the next pay day.  I was caught out by a couple of schools not putting them through like other schools and that led to some difficult discussions when I was left short at the next pay day while expecting that day to be paid as it would at another school.  Sometimes a day gets left off by accident, so just ring up the co-ordinator and they will sort it ASAP - but it will be the next pay round before you get it.

Be prepared to end up on duty even if the person you are covering doesn't have a duty.  Often schools use relievers to cover other teachers... and it seems some weeks every school does it and you are on duty every day!

Take a hat.  You never know when you'll be outside practising athletics.... like I was at one school before Labour Weekend and ended up with a fire engine red nose.  And be prepared with protection against the wind and elements on windy and wet days.

Have your phone handy for those early morning calls for the last minute teacher absence due to illness.  The earliest I have had was just before 6:00am.  I've had the odd relief co-ordinator try texting me in the morning.  I'm asleep unless I am booked.  If you want me, ring me.  Texts are ok the night before however.
Take your phone into the class to snap photos of the things in that class that speak to you for when you next have your own class.  But do be aware of the security of your things.  Check with the teacher or relief co-ordinator about access to keys to keep your things safe... or the BYOD the chldren have... or about locking the rooms at break times at some schools.

Don't be afraid to ask questions.  The schools like that rather than you doing the wrong thing or misinforming students.

Tips from other teachers and things I've remembered later

  • do not mess with the teacher's desk and other bits and pieces.  I had a reliever who tidied my desk and messed with my system while I was away on bereavement leave for a family member.  She also put out all my 'rewards' for the students to use randomly.  I was very, very mad.  ~  Melulater
  • the same reliever also did not follow my plan for a unit and the standard of work from the students was extraordinarily poor because the learning had not happened first.  This completely undermined me as the classroom teacher and I refused to have her in the room again.  ~  Melulater
  • be aware of the student who has been identified as being the 'class helper' may actually play up for the reliever and the 'class clown' may work well with you, particularly if you have a different teaching styles to their regular teacher or outside unknown factors.  Judge the kids on their own merits on the day.  ~  Pia
  • you may want to choose to work through a company like Oasis Education.  Look at your options and see what will suit you and any conditions you may encounter.  ~  Melulater
  • there is a group on Facebook called NZ Relief Teacher (Primary) to share experiences, ask questions and gather support and ideas.  ~  Martin
  • if you are taking photos in the classroom, be wary of overstepping the mark, use your professional judgement.  ~  Kylie
  • if you see a great worksheet or resource, ask permission if you know it was teacher generated.  ~  Kylie
  • ensure you leave the room tidy at the end of the day.  A messy room may mean you are not welcome again.  ~  Kylie
  • mark any work you do with the class.  Kylie even suggest having a stamp made for saying "work set and seen by Ms X the reliever".  ~  Kylie
  • do not hang any work or art on the wall without permission.  ~  Caroline
  • be respectful of using resources.  Ask which paper is able to be used if possible for example.  But if asking is not possible, be conservative with what you do use.  ~  Melulater
  • check what work should be done in which books.  I had a reliever that saw my Kiwi Activity books that were the children's Achievement Books where their work samples and progress are celebrated and was going to get them to do some random activity in them!!  Luckily the kids were like "no way man".  He ended up doing this random activity in their Topic Books in the middle of a topic and it had nothing to do with my topic (also annoying the heck out of me).  So sometimes teachers have a special book for relievers.... but just think really carefully before asking the children to do work in a book.  I would have preferred he did it in their Literacy Books as that was a space that covered a wide area of learning across the curriculum.  I requested he didn't come back to my class which was rather awkward when I met him in another setting.  ~  Melulater

If you can think of any other tips, please leave them in the comments and I will amend the blog as things come to mind.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Christmas Lights art activity with Juniors

I know that it is a wee bit after Christmas now, but you can save this in your Christmas Pinterest for next year.

I got this idea from Pinterest and thought it would be an effective activity to do with a junior classroom.  Robyn, whose room I had been in several times, had a wall that was begging for a bit of artwork and was happy to have some children's artwork to fill the gap in the last two weeks of school.

You simply need:
  • black A4 sized cartridge paper for each child
  • a green crayon each
  • a paint tray with yellow, red, blue and green paint
  • children with fingers.
I did this activity with four children at a time.  Other children were completing literacy activities and I called up the children according to where they were on the roll so I did not miss any out.

We started first by drawing a wiggly line using the green crayon across the page.  Then we used a finger to dip in the red paint and tap it along the line at random points.  Then repeat with another finger with the yellow paint, repeat again with a third finger with the green paint and again a fourth finger with the blue paint.

You could try and match up  the lines from page to page if you are fussy enough....

I then finger painted a title to  got with the display using black paper and the same paints.  Below are the finished works of this Year 1/2 class.  I didn't go back to the school to see the wall display, but I'm sure it was awesome.