Some principles on classroom routines in the new year

Before getting into the nitty gritty of planning some actual maths lessons for the new school year, my mind has been swirling around some principles for how I manage my classes next year.  Routines don’t come naturally to me, I used to actively avoid them in my previous life before teaching.  After the last few years, I feel I have learnt the hard way and have now come to truly appreciate the power of a good routine established with a class.

Many of these routines are whole-school and I intend to embrace these as much as I can next year, having previously maybe been a bit sneery of such things.  For example, the lesson-entry routine in our school is great.  All pupils stand behind chairs on entering. They can get their equipment books out, etc.  They can have a look at the activity that will be on the board. But they don’t sit down until we have a chorus of “Good morning, Mr Horley”.  They do this in every lesson (up to and including Year 11) and it is well-established school-wide. It gives a nice, clean positive start to the lesson and encourages oracy right from the start.

However there is only so far whole-school approaches can define routines, individual teachers need to fill in the gaps with the minutiae of the detail in the routines of their own classrooms that build upon the whole-school principles.

At some point I will attempt to write the details of my routines for each class.  At this stage, here are my principles:

  1. Say it simply.   I want my pupils (and my!) mental energy to be devoted to doing maths not remembering routines.  Whatever I do has to be easy to explain to the most overloaded Year 7.  I need to do it in small chunks.  It’s important to get routines established early but let’s aim for the first week rather than everything in the first lesson.
  2. Say why.  I have a mantra for next year: as far as possible every “rule” will come with “and this is why we do it this way”.  Hopefully they will agree it’s a good idea, be more likely to remember it and be more likely to follow it!
  3. Reiterate, constantly.  If they don’t get it all in the first week, not a problem because I will be reiterating consistently throughout the year.  I need to avoid veering “off message” to try to liven things up, which I am prone to doing.  A bit of boring repetition is not actually all that boring for kids if it is done with positivity and becomes “the thing we do”.
  4. Do it collaboratively with the department.  Back to my initial paragraph, my classroom does not exist as an island in my pupils’ lives.  As a team we need to constantly discuss what we do consistently across the department, and what we have autonomy on.  Even where we have autonomy, we should aim to share ideas, especially with the new members of the team. It’s difficult to find time to meet formally so it is more likely to be the informal chats in the office where this gets done.

Next is to get into the detail for each class…




Knowledge Organisers in Maths – The Journey Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

As our final versions of the Knowledge Organisers are being printed over the summer holidays, I have been preparing some of the resources for how we test our pupils on the knowledge contained therein.  As I wrote before, the real value in actually creating these resources is in the discussion that it prompts amongst the teachers in the department.  So it’s not ideal that I am doing this on my own in the holidays. I hope to carve out some INSET time at the beginning of term to run through this with the department, especially important for our new trainees.

Towards the end of summer term we did manage to have a quick discussion and agree on a couple of principles for testing.  As a school, across all subjects, we have decided to make the Knowledge Organiser tests high-stakes.  They are high-stakes in that pupils will get a detention if they fail to achieve 80%.  Also, most departments are doing Multiple Choice tests, mainly to keep the marking burden light.  An implication of making the tests high-stakes is that they have to be marked by teachers.  We need to ensure that pupils can achieve high success on their tests by learning purely what is in the Knowledge Organiser.  We are not testing application of knowledge, just the knowledge itself.  In Maths, this means we are not doing a standard maths test where the pupil would be working out answers, but we are testing that they have learned the definitions and examples as given.  We will do this using multiple choice questions where there may be more than one correct answer, maybe we will call these Multi-Multi Choice Questions (MMCQs).  Below are some examples showing the extract from the Knowledge Organiser and the associated MMCQ.

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This all feels very different from anything I have ever done or seen done in Maths before so it makes me pretty nervous about how it will work.  But I am also excited because if our pupils can start lessons with a firm knowledge of these basic facts and definitions, maybe they will make more progress in doing the maths that uses them.

Please do let me know if you have any thoughts or comments based on your experience.  I am not publishing the whole set of MMCQs yet as we will be working on them next term, but do get in touch either via comments below or on Twitter if you’d like me to e-mail what I have got so far to you.