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As I was considering the right focus for the next meeting of the Coventry, North Warwickshire and Solihull Teacher Network, I kept coming back to wanting it to mainly be an opportunity to reconnect with teachers in the area, especially after a year of me off on maternity leave.

On Tuesday 22 June 2021, we held a virtual meeting with one of the main focuses being to hear from the teachers about their experiences in the past year. What were the challenges they faced and how did they overcome these? Have they learnt anything new or picked up some new skills that they will take forward in their practice, even with students back in schools now?

Two of the people that we spoke to were Emma Penn, Hub Lead for Origin Maths Hub, and Bob Finch, Post 16 Lead for Origin Maths Hub. If you’d like to find out more about the local and/or national Hub offer, please email [email protected].

Here’s what some teachers had to say…

Adam Newell from The Polesworth School

Lockdown learning was a big challenge at our school, but was also a challenge that we took in our stride and learned many different approaches that have made our teaching more effective. We decided to start co-planning lessons that we would deliver and then sharing what we had planned with others in the department. This meant that we were planning fewer lessons, but in more detail. It gave us the time to really think about the details that make a lesson work. We had more time to think about rich activities that deepen the learning of the students at our school. Also the feedback that was given from other members of staff has been extremely valuable. This practice is continuing now we are back in school and we are adding and developing the resources that we create.

Thomas Spillane from The Kingsley School

During the lockdown period, I was keen to give students the best experience possible. I had been using Microsoft Whiteboard and a graphics tablet (that I had randomly invested in years ago after a workshop with Douglas Bulter) to teach and it was working reasonably well. However, saving and categorising resources was tricky. As a follower of maths edutwitter, I am always picking up new tips and ideas as well as learning about things to avoid. After reading a few tweets from @karenshancock, I decided to try Microsoft OneNote and found, if set up well, I could use the platform as my new digital workbook for my classes. It’s accessible through Microsoft Teams, which our school was using, and could be used on multiple devices. Since returning back to reality, I have tried to keep using it to help learners who need to self-isolate and there is definitely more potential for it to be used across the curriculum. Having digital copies of work was useful for evidence collecting and pages for students to add to revision lists made planning easier. There is scope to work collaboratively on it as well as setting assignments and giving individualised feedback but I have not got round to master it yet- just need to find the time!

Bob Finch (Post 16 Lead for Origin Maths Hub) from King Edward VI College

Before the pandemic we had developed a system of five-a-day questions to give our students regular practice of work they are currently doing and to revise work that has been done since the start of the course. As the name suggests, students were issued with a sheet of twenty-five questions each week, with the aim of completing five questions every day. They completed them in an exercise book which was handed in to be marked once a week. The system worked well for most students but had three barriers to success to students for whom organisation was an issue.

Firstly, they could forget to bring their exercise book in on the day it was due and thus it would not be marked. Secondly, they could lose their sheet and then they would not have the questions and so not be able to complete all of them as a result. Finally, they would leave all the questions to the night before it was due in. Thus ‘five a day’ became ‘25-in-one-night’ and many students found this too much and thus were not able to complete the questions properly.

As remote learning became a reality, we decided to move the whole system onto Microsoft Forms and issue the questions daily as assignments through Teams. This has proved successful, both in terms of completion rate [students cannot ‘forget’ to bring their exercise book in or ‘lose’ the sheet] and monitoring. Microsoft Forms also allows us to stop accepting answers at a given point, so we allow the students a 48-hour window to complete each set of five-a-day questions. The students have no choice but to do the questions each day. Once they get into this habit it becomes a very positive learning experience for them.

For the coming year we have developed a spreadsheet which tracks their progress through the weeks and reports back a student’s average score, their trend and automatically issues the students with a summative comment based on their most recent week’s performance.

Student feedback has been very positive and students recognise the benefit to them of this kind of regular practice.

Emma Penn (Hub Lead for Origin Maths Hub) from Tudor Grange Academy

The challenge of teaching during the pandemic has resulted in teachers becoming more confident in using online technologies to collaborate. As an example of this – in our department, teachers have created lesson materials on Desmos Classroom and shared these with each other, often leading to online discussions and debates on the content, resulting in further development and improvements, before trialling in the ‘virtual classroom’ with students! This has been great in terms of keeping professional development and discussions alive whilst colleagues have been physically distanced, as well as ensuring students have the best possible experience of learning mathematics online. Desmos Classroom (and other online teaching tools) have allowed students to interact with representations and other key features of teaching maths for mastery whilst learning online, just like they would have done in the classroom. The interactivity has meant that teachers could still see responses from all students and respond to, discuss, and explore these.

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