Category Archives: numeracy

‘Manglish’ – or putting the Maths & English in

This was written as part of the Staffrm #28daysofwriting and since I’ve been spending time writing posts on there every day it seems to make sense to add over them here! So here it is.

BeBo getting his reading on
BeBo getting his reading on

I remember at a previous school a few years ago when summer GCSE results dropped to floor level…and all eyes turned to the poor Maths department. Suddenly it was ‘them vs us’, they were the ones who had ‘let the school down’. Spotlight scrutiny was placed on them whilst others wandered round feeling slightly smug or perhaps a little self-righteous that ‘it wasn’t me’. My best friends were in that department, and I knew just how hard they were slogging to get kids to make progress. There were many contributing factors but largely they simply didn’t have the support needed: they needed the rest of the school to be a team. The following year results went up, but now others moaned about losing their curriculum time in order to increase Maths lessons. Then the next year it was English’s turn to have a drop. Different circumstances in some ways, but similar responses. The general vibe was still ‘how could they let this happen’ – as if the rest of us could have done better.

Schools still act in silos. Islands of separate identities with internalised strengths and weaknesses that keep themselves worlds apart. It’s all well and good having whole school numeracy and literacy policies, but until it becomes the everyday language of every teacher and until every one of us accepts responsibility for English and Maths results then really we are still just paying lip service. I say this as someone who has a love of literacy, and who is Numeracy coordinator (don’t ask how that happened, I have no idea). Teachers in my current school do have a good team ethos, and at last INSET we chose various training sessions to develop our own literacy or numeracy as it is important to keep ourselves up to speed not just in our own subject areas. But the key thing is consistency. Consistently using the right language (ideally same as in ‘official’ Maths and English classes), consistently making explicit to learners that ‘now we’re developing your literacy skills’, consistently using the same techniques (as a geographer it’s frustrating finding that Maths and Science use different methods for the same graph!), and consistently embedding Maths and English exercises within our curriculum – whatever subject.

I bought Lisa Jane Ashes ‘Manglish’ book today (admittedly when I first saw the title I thought it was a translation dictionary of ‘man English’ but let’s be honest, could such a thing really exist 😉 ?). I’ve only flicked through briefly so far but it’s the simple statement she asks us to ask ourselves that resonated: asking ‘where is the Maths (or English) in that?’ for any activity. We should do this every lesson! I’ve been observing my team this week and seen some great literacy and numeracy activities, but each time it needed to be made explicit to learners that ‘here comes the maths part’. Why are we shy about saying we are doing something normally found in another subject? Are we afraid children will accuse us of poaching lessons?! Isn’t it about time we showed learners that we, as professionals, can teach ANYTHING and EVERYTHING in our lessons? Time to raise the bar, to accept responsibility. At the end of the day: Manglish matters.

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Starting to feel more like mine…display boards

So I’ve been in my new school for 11 weeks now. After being in the same school for 6 years since my NQT year it has come as quite a culture shock, and it takes a while to get used to new systems and simple things like your own room.

When I moved in there was a lot of clearing out to do following a very messy predecessor and a lot of waste: gutting the department to mark a fresh start for us all, and updating Humanities as a whole to make us a bit more cohesive. My amazing parents came in during August to help – well, my dad did sleep in the corner bless him while mum and I got busy with backing paper and trim! Things are gradually getting there and it’s lovely hearing from staff and kids about how different it feels purely because the ambiance is more positive; there is space, the tables have moved, the boards are exciting and have decent student work, and it’s clean! I’m hopeful that a quality environment will have a subliminal effect on kids as well, leading to quality work and a pride in their own presentation…we shall see!

Anyway, just thought I’d share a few of the displays either in Geography or in Hums.

We’re aiming for a strong cross-school, cross-curricular message regarding numeracy and literacy. This idea was borrowed from a Maths colleague @NatalieLoveMath who has a ‘mood board’ with mathematical symbols linking to literacy creatively. In the image is a

Vowel-less words
Vowel-less words

‘Vowel-less Geography Words’ display. Key terms have their vowels removed then kids have to try to guess what the words are. Within 10minutes of it going up on the wall I had students of all ages wanting to have a go. Definite conversation starter.

Command words with reminders of key geographical terms are around the walls and are constantly referred to, as are the ‘heavenly’ and ‘banned’ words to push for better quality

Command words
Command words

geographical literacy. These were borrowed from David Rogers at my past school and then just adapted to suit me.

Humanities corridor numeracy board
Humanities corridor numeracy board

In the Humanities corridor we have a numeracy board with ‘thunks’ and maths questions tied to either History, PPD or Geography thrown in. We also have a key word literacy wall.

Humanities corridor literacy corridor
Humanities corridor literacy corridor

Again, these are referred to and you do hear students discussing them as they wait for the start of lesson.

The PEEL (Point Evidence Explain Link) graphic is repeated around the department to refer to. It’s always amazing how students can recall doing ‘PEE’ type paragraph writing in subjects like History or English when you prompt them, but fail to see that literacy skills are essentially the same across all subjects and therefore require the same skills. So consistency helps.

PEEL explanation
PEEL explanation

Cheesy it might be, but it does seem to get across the idea that extended writing is meant to be a continuous developing process of becoming more complex.

Lastly we are being encouraged to employ SOLO taxonomy more across school, particularly with a view to ‘life after levels’ and possibly using just comments for KS3 to guide progression rather than a summative score. There are benefits to SOLO, although I dislike the language

Solo board
Solo board

used in classification (personally I find ‘unistructural’ a bit meaningless to a young person and also would make me feel quite bottom-of-the-ladder to be classed as), but as with all taxonomies / methods it is not the only tool to use. However I do like the simplicity of the progression, and that you can tally the skills to the stages quite easily and students seem to find the logos very visual and easier to understand. So the display wall is again there to refer to, so that if a child gives the classic gut reaction one idea answer you can simply point to the board and explain ‘currently your answer is only……….you need to be analyse in order to……….’ type conversation.

I also like pretty things so there may be quite a few butterlies around the walls, and some plants…good to have oxygen eh?!

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