Supporting Schools Maths Week activities, I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon with Year 5 – Class SL demonstrating the application of maths in a typical work environment.
I used the opportunity to describe my role as a surveyor in the construction industry, and explained the importance of maths in our day to day activities. Working with the class TA’s, and a student from St Simon Stock School, we set up a range of practical surveying tasks, that enabled the children to challenge their thinking and develop their maths from simple measuring tasks to wider applied maths including division, multiplication, addition and subtracting. We used some real life scenarios to demonstrate the application of surveying skills, which included measuring the perimeter of the playground where a new wall will be constructed, working out how many bricks would be needed to build the wall and then, moving back into the classroom, calculating the cost of building the wall. The class was split into three groups, and each group worked through the tasks in rotation.
Each child was able to use the surveying equipment which really brought the tasks to life, including tape measures, ranging rods, survey theodolite and staff. The experience was further enhanced, as they were able dress up as surveyors with hard hats and hi-viz jackets. The children were really excited at the opportunity to use the survey theodolite and staff, and enjoyed calculating the height of objects on the playground. I was able to explain the importance of accuracy in their calculations, and explained how we estimate, calculate and most importantly check and double check our work in a real surveying environment. I used the whole class to check each other’s work just as we would in a real life scenario.
At the end of the interactive session outside on the playground, we returned to the classroom and held a reflective Q and A session. The children were able to challenge some of their results, enabling them to understand why some of the measurements may have been different between each group, again this session was extremely well managed and each child was engaged in the discussion.
The afternoon concluded in a wider Q and A session where the children were able to ask some further questions about the role of the surveyor, some of the projects I had personally worked on, what went well and not so well in those projects, materials used in the construction industry in terms of cost and suitability.
Each child showed enthusiasm in the tasks, they were keen to both ask and answer questions, and were fully engaged in the lesson. They were all very polite, courteous and asked questions in an orderly manner i.e. allowing me answer the previous question, then putting their hands up for me to choose the next question. There was no sign of misbehaviour, they remained in their groups throughout the session, and respected the equipment they were using, a real credit to the school.
I found the whole afternoon extremely rewarding, and hope that I may have sparked some enthusiasm in a group of budding surveyors for the future.
Governor Visits on 3rd & 12th February 2014
During Term 2 I attended a training session on the new EYFS framework. My purpose for these visits was to see how the provisions of the framework was being taught. I spent both days with the EYFS coordinator who teaches one of the two Reception classes.
I arrived before the children and was able to spend some time looking at the activities which had been prepared, as well as talking with the teacher and the TA.
The arrival of the children was orderly and they were clearly happy to come in to school and looking forward to the day’s work. Set routines were followed, hanging up coats, putting away lunch boxes, before the class gathered on the carpet to start the day together. A prayer was said, I was introduced, and the day’s activities discussed.
There were 22 children in the class, covering a wide range of ability and including several EAL pupils. For Reading, Writing and Maths they sat at tables coloured Blue, Green, Red and Yellow, the ability level following the alphabetical order.
Over the two days I saw a wide range of learning activities, including phonics, maths, and ICT, where the pupils spent an hour in the computer room, initially working on number sequencing, and later given free choice. I joined a small group of lower ability pupils working on their numbers with the TA. This was a purposeful and enjoyable activity.
A high point was the PE lesson, and the logistical miracle of getting the class changed into and out of PE kit. Hardly a sock was lost. Mornings were mostly spent on the core learning objectives, with afternoons more play-based activities.
I was also highly impressed by the tidying up operation at the end of the free play session. Ten minutes from the end, we were ankle deep in pencils, felt-tips, toys, all sorts of bits and pieces. But when the order was given, everybody joined in putting things away, and in no time perfect order was restored – lots of lessons being learned here, I thought.
Each day ended with the class coming together on the carpet, talking over the events of the day, singing a song or two, saying a prayer, and saying proper polite goodbyes to the teacher, the TA and the visitor. When the bell went, there was an orderly dismissal following a familiar routine.
Various features of the work of the class struck me. Bearing in mind the age of the pupils, for whom doing up buttons can problematic, it was impressive to see how everyday activities became educational, and educational targets were dealt with in an everyday context. While this balance will change as pupils get older, I am sure that the principle of relating learning to learners’ interests, needs and capacities remains sound at all levels, and that teachers of older children could learn much from the approach used in Reception.
It was also clear that while for quite a lot of the time the pupils were engaged in ‘play’, the teacher and her TA were constantly evaluating the abilities of the pupils. There is much talk in the press of robbing children of their childhood by premature assessment, but if we want children to learn skills and flourish, we need to know what they can do now, so that they can be given the opportunity to move on to the next step. It is not so much whether, as how, and this teacher certainly has a comprehensive grasp of the abilities of the class.
The atmosphere in the class was invariably friendly and purposeful. There were no behaviour issues, the worst crime I observed being one girl, soon followed by another, who decided to listen to the story lying on her tummy rather than sitting cross-legged: one horrified look was all it took. I saw no tears, nobody looking unhappy, and only one or two minor squabbles that were promptly dealt with. While there was no need for any telling off, there were clear expectations of good behaviour, and both the teacher and the TA would not have hesitated to intervene firmly should the need arise.
The children are clearly happy with the balance of structure and informality. They do not really distinguish between work and play: everything they do is helping them learn. The skill of the teacher is to provide a range of activities which helps each individual flourish. The class teacher pointed out that in some schools pupils in Reception are free throughout the day to choose their activity, but the mixed economy I saw seemed to produce excellent results.
I would like to thank the EYFS coordinator for welcoming me into her class, for allowing me to join in their activities, and for giving up her precious free time to show me things and explain things to me.