What happens when you put a group of Year 10s in a hall with a group of Year 6s

I started at a new school this year.  I could write pages about this experience, but that’s not what this blog is for, I want to share things that are genuinely useful to other Maths teachers!

My new school is much nearer to my home, and one of its feeder primary schools is where my own children go.  I was Treasurer of the PTFA there some years ago so have lots of connections with the primary school.  I got talking to one of the awesome teachers there and we discussed bringing a group of my Year 10s to help with tutoring some their Year 6 pupils.

Today was our first 30 minute session.  I knew I wouldn’t have much preparation time with my Year 10s, so I took the approach of being fairly prescriptive putting together a sheet of tasks for them.

It went well; very quickly, in fact.  I gathered my group together at the end and told them how impressed I was with their coaching.  I had a fairly mixed group of 13 students, some capable mathematicians amongst them but also some students that don’t show the best focus in their own maths lessons whom I was quite concerned about.  But as soon as the Year 6s entered the hall, they suddenly took their job very seriously and made great efforts to engage the pupils.

Many of the Year 10s found that the Year 6s already had a good understanding of place value and they reported that they found the task quite easy.  As teachers, we know how to use questioning to really probe depth of understanding, but maybe this is too much to expect of a 14 year old.  What intrigued me was the variety of ways my students responded to this challenge with some of them going completely off-piste and explaining pi!  But I want to encourage this.  It’s a luxury to have no specific learning objectives to fulfil or curriculum to follow.  We are doing it 3.00-3.30 on a Friday afternoon, which I’m pretty sure means the Year 6 pupils are not missing critical learning time!

Looking forward, I want my Year 10s to take a gradually greater responsibly for planning activities.  We have agreed, that we are going to have some element of “game” in every session and we started looking at some of the huge range of Nrich activities.  I’ve put together a Google doc for next week to allow the Year 10s to collaborate and contribute ideas.  I not expecting them all to contribute, but I think a few will.

I’m also really enjoying discovering some resources and games that I’m sure will be useful in my own teaching practice.  I’m relishing not having to follow a scheme of work.  My only objective is to keep everyone engaged and learning and to “make maths fun”. If we achieve this, it’s going to make me think long and hard about how we teach maths at secondary!

If anyone has the opportunity to do this sort of partnership, or in fact is already doing it, then please get in touch by leaving a comment below.  It would be fascinating to share ideas. Also, if you have any good ideas of resources, then let me know.  I have many weeks ahead to fill!

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