Part 1 is here.
I have somewhat mixed feelings about “making your own stuff”. On the one hand I feel that there are thousands of teachers across the world spending time making resources for things that have been taught for decades, so why are we wasting time reinventing the wheel? But on the other hand there is something to be said for using something in our teaching that we know to be exactly the way we want it, that we know inside out because we wrote it ourselves. And when that something isn’t just written by the individual teacher but by a team collaborating on a project it becomes that much better in quality and hopefully the team feel that much more confident in using it.
So has been my experience of creating our first batch of knowledge organisers in Maths. I started the process thinking that there must be loads out there and it is surely just a question of picking the one we most like the look of. Although I have magpied bits, mostly from Andy Coleman’s comprehensive collection posted here, our particular version has been the result of around 2 hours of department time where we have discussed the specific nuances of how we model solving linear equations, the use of specific terms in our teaching (e.g. a heated debate on indices vs. powers), and written the words live on screen as a real collaboration between the 5 of us. Admittedly a small team helps here and more people would likely have made the process take longer. I am always super conscious of taking up teachers time in meetings but everyone seemed to be enjoying it and getting value from it. It is something I hope we can spend some more time doing in our department next year with our new staff members.
So I am sharing our work with a bit of hesitation. Firstly they are far from perfect and definitely far from finished. We haven’t actually used them with real live pupils yet, they have been created in a vacuum. By this time next year, I expect them to look very different. But more importantly I wouldn’t want departments to miss out on the experience of collaborating to create something they own as a team.
During our discussions on the maths pedagogy, we had to keep reminding ourselves of the principles of what we were trying to achieve with the knowledge organisers:
- They are not trying to achieve everything, just the key “facts” that need to be learned. The absolute base knowledge that learners at all levels need to access the curriculum.
- As soon as we found we were trying to write teaching points we would stop. It’s not a text book or a revision guide. It is not aiming to explain how to do things, but be a concise list of key information.
- The definitions don’t need to be perfectly mathematically rigourous. They should be durable, in the sense that they are not contradicted by future learning. But of paramount importance is that they make sense to our learners and are written in language they can access. Often in maths examples speak louder than definitions.
- Low-stake tests and pupil self-quizzing. This is the next part of the journey but something we need to be mindful of now. How do we expect our pupils to engage with this? What will our low-stakes tests look like? Current thoughts are that we give them a key fact, they fill in the definition and an example of their own, ideally different from the one given to them.
So, for what it’s worth, here they are. By all means copy individual definitions if you like them and they work for you. Just don’t take the document and print out 30 copies to give to your class as that is unlikely to get anyone very far.
Part 2 is here.