Archives for posts with tag: maths

Lots of children, my own son included, can become disenfranchised by subjects that feel too much like hard work, with maths and literacy typically falling into this camp. For some maybe they sense failure and therefore feel safer not trying, for others the learning approach, mechanics of writing or lack of perceived relevance to their lives may be the root cause.

Walking back from school last week it was a welcome surprise to hear the words ‘That was the best literacy lesson ever!’ Now that’s a lesson ripe for Ofsted inspection! With descriptive content never the issue for my son, but the mechanics of punctuation, handwriting and staying on task the culprits, the challenge of writing a story using certain punctuation and with a word count of precisely 201 words, achieved the desired effect. With a verdict of ‘That was the best literacy lesson ever!’,  I expect you’re wondering how this was achieved? Working in pairs, story writing was elevated to a challenge and the focus on a precise word count, not 198, 200 or 202, but 201 words, apparently freed him up to write with excitement and drive.

This week his verdict was ‘Literacy is awesome!’ High praise indeed from an 8 year old sceptic! Walking through the school gate home from school he eagerly shared what they had done and later over dinner excitedly told the whole family about his robotic invention for tackling the tiresome chores of Christmas preparation. Like any good robot his naturally came complete with ipad (for online shopping of course), large box (for hiding presents in), extendable arms (for multiple present wrapping) and hover board for beating the Christmas rush! A great teacher is able to tap into the interests and strengths of children and in so doing help support and extend learning. Clearly this activity did just that. An avid inventor already, working in pairs his time and energy saving ideas flowed and literacy came to the fore as he labelled the gadgets and features of their invention.

With two such positive evaluations I was keen to share this great feedback and apparent change in attitude with his teacher. ‘How interesting’ his teacher reflected with evident satisfaction ‘as we scrapped literacy lessons last week and have been focussing on challenges, with a literacy focus instead!’ As the irony of this revelation sank in I couldn’t help smiling at the message written large by an 8 year old. With an ever greater Government focus on school readiness and meeting literacy and numeracy targets I hope Nicky Morgan will be persuaded by this convincing argument.  As for the robot invention, I’ll guess I’ll have to wait until next year!

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Although simplistic, life is divided between those things that we love doing and those that we don’t. For some, their idea of a relaxing time may be cooking, fishing, gardening or a good book, while for others this would be an endurance! Some people love shopping, for others it is a chore, but with a clear goal, say buying things for a special occasion, we can still be galvanised into action. Young children are innately driven to actively explore and do and with skilled support, even so called chores can be made fun and engaging. You only have to look at Montessori practice and early years catalogues packed full of resources designed to emulate the adult world, to see this in practice.

Paralympic champion Danny Crates’ story of trials and triumphs certainly gave lots to inspire in a keynote last weekend. His message was clear, with vision and a huge amount of hard work and determination, you can achieve almost anything. For teenagers and young adults, unsure of what career path they’d like to take and all too aware of the many obstructions in their way, these three ingredients will be essential in reaching their potential. Young children too are not immune to their position in relation to other’s in the classroom and the hidden meaning behind the ‘Foxes, Tigers and Rats’ groups. Adult’s have a vital role to play in keeping children excited, confident and engaged as young learners. Key among this is recognising the many different forms taken by individual’s talents and interests, particularly young boys in predominantly female-dominated school environments. Another factor is ensuring that learning is embedded and real so that whilst number bonds to 10, fractions or times tables may not on their own excite and engage every child, real hands-on objects can add a whole new satisfying dimension to traditional learning. If Maths and other learning are rooted in real life experience then they take on a new relevance and excitement and become child-led. Take my six year olds recent line of questioning on what’s x person’s age plus or take away y’s age; x’s height take away y’s height; or x time plus y time. The learning from discussions like these is concrete, real and far impacting, shaping as it does mathematical knowledge and application, self-esteem and critical thinking.

Having a vision is key to succeeding in adulthood, so early years practitioners and teachers have the task of supporting children in developing the foundations for individual thinking within what Ken Robinson (Changing the Paridigm) describes as the confines of factory-like schools. With youth unemployment rising it is essential that children leave school resilient and feeling positive about their worth and potential. The development of qualities like these will be shaped by practitioners and parents’ own vision for children and plentiful opportunities for creativity and divergent thinking.