Thursday, March 29, 2012

Term 1 Take-Aways

Well, it's all over. The first term, the "big test" referred to in my previous post... reports have been handed out and what's done is done. What sticks out most: my marks were 'much too high' and the learners now all love  Maths and almost all of them feel confident or very confident. Are these first steps to success or disaster?????

I'll jot down some quick notes on how the final test went, and then write about my own 'big questions' for next term.

Test and final results - confidence building, standards, and challenge

In the end I took some of my own advice and scheduled an extra lesson before the test, AND made a colourful foldable summary of everything we've learnt about fractions. I'm sure it's better if learners make this kind of thing themselves,  but there wasn't time, and my trifold pamphlet-style summary was useful during a revision lesson.

I made the test too easy (by any normal standard), scared of damaging the learners' fragile and (for many) newfound confidence.

In the end my maths term marks were over-the-top high. This was a result of the non-challenging final test, and because the rest of the mark consisted of skill-by-skill assessments. I also allowed learners to re-take the smaller tests and so improve their marks. This seems all very well but in South Africa a grade average of 78%  means you're doing something wrong.  (Pass is 40%, grade average usually around 60 or 65.)

My HOD first asked if there was any way we could weight marks differently, so as to reduce them. In the end I managed to convince her and the principal to keep the marks. I sent a letter out with the reports, explaining that the first term's focus had been on foundation skills and confidence building, and that the pace and level of challenge will now be picking up. I'm happy with this.

Questions for next term

1. Can I sustainably use the JUMP Math methodology without the workbooks? The Teacher's Guide is pretty explicit but I found the way activities are laid out in the Introduction Unit Using Fractions really helpful to learners - and I'm not sure I can replicate this.

2. We've been given some excellent, full-colour workbooks provided by the goverment to all state schools (see further note on these, below). However, I'm worried about integrating these additional activities without
 shifting too far from a JUMP Math methodology. 

3. Providing enough challenge for the high-performing learners. Some of them simply zoom through any extension activities I include in the daily work, so I'm thinking of compiling a booklet they may work on, and providing some answer sheets they can access by themselves.

4. Limiting the time spent on marking homework (will try again to get overhead projector working - beamer is a distant dream); finding time for 'mental and oral' work on which we are supposed to spend 30-60 minutes per week.

5. Getting through the curriculum! I'm already behind my own plan...Perhaps the truth is that I'll need to identify some topics where we work more superficially. My preference would be to build really strong skills in the most important areas... once I've identified those :)

6. Finding a new balance between confidence building, meeting standards and providing challenge - hopefully without losing the confidence and enthusiasm I've just invested so much in.

Government issue Math workbooks
This is a MAJOR good deed by our government - imagine children in distant villages and shack settlements receiving these. They are supplied for Mathematics and Home Language. There's plenty  of use of colour graphics, and even cut-out manipulatives  in the back, suggestions for games, etc. What makes them a bit tricky to work with is that their approach is to go through almost all the topics in our curriculum every term (4 terms per year), increasing the level each time. I'm not used to this 'bitty' approach and feel insecure about using it. Nevertheless, now that we have them, one option I have is to abandon JUMP Maths and simply follow the workbook.

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