Report writing

Each year I buy several ring leaf record cards (one for each school and year group) like these from Wilkinsons. At the beginning of the year I label each card with the name, photo and class/year group of each pupil, and throughout the year I jot little notes down about their progress: participation, pronunciation, accuracy of written work etc. It doesn’t take much time to write a quick line on the card while marking work, or to add a sentence at the end of a lesson.  I obviously don’t write on every card every day – just when there is something particular I want to add, such as the fact that they’ve shown particular interest in a topic, started answering more questions etc.

I find this useful at parents’ evenings when I can refer to the card to make sure I don’t forget anything important. When you watch the children grow and progress week by week, it’s sometimes hard to remember that the confident child who is always first to volunteer for role plays was too shy to say their own name at the beginning of the year – especially when you are teaching more than one class in more than one school. I don’t have to spend time writing notes especially for the occasion because I’ve been doing it bit by bit during the year and I’ve had a really positive reaction from parents, who love the personalisation.

It’s also a blessing at this time of year when it’s time to write reports because everything I want to say is right there at my fingertips – a whole year’s worth of progress all on one card.  There’s no need to choose from banks of statements, or copy and paste sentences from reports of children who are similar, with the risk of forgetting to change the name. It’s quicker to just write individual, completely personalised reports from the notes in my hand.

How to Learn Children’s Names in September

It’s that time of year again, when teachers are thinking about their new classes, hoping they won’t have too many with the same name, and wondering how they will ever learn all the names if they aren’t all the same.

Seasoned teachers know that there’s nothing really to worry about and that they will learn everyone’s name this year – just as they do every year. NQTs and those about to embark on teacher training courses might be feeling a little more daunted. This is how I do it:

I tell a story along the lines of The Enormous Turnip but about a person who got their hat stuck on their head because it was too small – and I take a flamboyant hat along to use as a prop. I’m a languages teacher, so I do this in French, but it will work in English too.

I call out the children one by one, and each time I retell the story I repeat the names of all the children in the line as well as those who are still watching. Eg: Jack B, Chloe, Izzy, Jade S and Jack C pulled and pulled and pulled, but the hat was still stuck. Dale, Hassan, Jack H, Jade  W, Millie, Ahmina etc were all laughing at them, so they called Hassan up to help.

Everyone joins in with the story, so even those sitting down waiting their turn to join in are repeating the words to the story and calling out the names (useful if you have a blank as there are 29 other children saying each other’s names!).

It’s quite time-consuming – you need to set aside a good 15-20 minutes – but by the time you have called the last person up , the hat has come off and everyone has pretended to fall over, you’ve repeated everyone’s name so many times that you know you’ll never ever forget them!

For me, it’s worth investing the time because I usually teach several classes in several schools so by the end of the first week I need to have learnt well over 300 names!  If you want to give it a go, bear in mind that it needs a lot of space so you will either need to clear all the tables away or better still book the hall! It’s a good opportunity to reinforce behaviour too, with plenty of praise for the children sensibly waiting their turn.

If you don’t have the time or the space to spare, or you don’t like the sound of this, I’ve also found a couple of other blog posts with some different ideas for you to try: https://jamesstubbs.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/learning-names/  and  http://teacherpop.org/2016/07/6-surefire-ways-remember-students-names/

If you have any other ideas for how to remember names, please do share them in the comments.

How to Study Smart: 20 Scientific Ways to Learn Faster – Daniel Wong

Most of us have to learn something new at some point in our lives. Thankfully my GCSE, A level and BA days are behind me, but I still like to do short courses and if ever a fairy godmother dropped a fortune in my lap I’d love to do a Masters in the future.

These tips, which I found on the Open2Study Facebook page are for everyone who still has exams to pass. I especially like the one about taking notes with pen and paper, because I always feel more creative with a pen in my hand than a keyboard at my fingertips.

How to Study Smart: 20 Scientific Ways to Learn Faster – Daniel Wong.

What’s the best order to learn times tables in?

Sometimes, something seems so obvious to you that you can’t imagine that other people don’t already do it.

This is how I feel about times tables. I’ve always encouraged children to learn them in a particular order and have always just assumed that everyone else does too. However, the more different schools I work in, and the more I come into contact with children who are being asked to learn their times tables in numerical order, the more I have come to realise that this is not necessarily the case.

I always get my pupils to start with the 10x tables. These are easy. There’s a pattern to 1×10=10, 2×10=20, 3×10=30 that makes them easy to remember. Once the child has spotted the pattern they can easily recall them in any order. I follow x10 with x11. There’s another pattern here 1×11=11, 2×11=22, 3×11=33 that takes them all the way through to 9×11=99. They already know 10×11 from their 10x tables, and if they struggle with 11×11 and 12×11 there is a little 11x tables trick they can use to work them out.

After that we look at 2x tables. There isn’t a pattern to these, but the answers are all even numbers, they are all doubles of the question, and the highest answer is 24, so they are fairly easy to learn.

When they are confident with x2, it’s time to move on to x4. All the answers here are double the 2x tables, so while they are learning 4x they are still practising 2x. This is important as I have seen so many children forget the x table they have just learnt when they start learning a new one.

After x4 comes x8 because – you guessed it – it’s double x4. If necessary the children can look at the number in the question and do double (x2), double (x4) and double again – eg 3 x 8 –> double 3 is 6, double 6 is 12 and double 12 is 24 so 3 x 8 = 24. This means that while learning their 8x tables, children are continuing to practice x2 and x4.

By now the children are feeling confident because they know their 8x tables, and everybody knows that’s a hard one, so it’s time to drop back a notch to a couple of easier ones to get two more under their belts in quick succession. In the 5x tables, all the answers end in 5 or 0, which is a big clue to the answer, the answers are all half of the 10x tables, and most children can count really quickly in 5s so even if they struggle with recall they can work them out quickly. Then we look at the x9 finger trick so that even if they never manage to learn their 9x tables off by heart, they can work then out so quickly on their fingers that it doesn’t matter.

Then we take stock of where we are. They know their x1 x2 x4 x5 x8 x9 x10 and x11 so they can see that we are 2/3 of the way through them, and two of the so-called tricky ones (x8 and x9) are out of the way.

And so we move onto the threes. Now in my opinion, x3 really is a tricky one. There are no patterns, it’s not as easy to count in 3s as it is on 2s, 5s or 10s and there are no tricks. After x7 I think it’s the trickiest one there is. However, now it’s not so bad because they have learnt most of their tables already, so there’s only 3×3, 6×3, 7×3 and 12×3 left to learn which doesn’t seem too daunting at all.

And then of course x6 is double x3, so they can learn x6 and practise x3 at the same time.

By the time they have finished their 6x tables, the only ones left are 7×7, 7×12 (and 12×7) and 12×12, and buoyed up by the confidence of having learnt all the others it doesn’t take long to finish these last few.

If you need some idea for how to learn the times tables, rather than just this suggestion of which order to learn them in, have a look at Teaching the Times Tables.

Finding a square of a 2-digit number in your head

Recently we looked at how to square two-digit numbers ending in 5 in your head.  What about the other square numbers?  Well, there’s a quick way to do that in your head as well.

Let’s look at 372.
First of all round the 37 up or down to the nearest 10.
You added 3 to get 40, so you also need to subtract 3 to get 34 (37-3=34)
Multiply these to numbers together 40×34 = 4 x 34 x 10 = 1360 (4×30=120,  4×4=16, 120 +16 = 136, 136×10=1360)
Finally, add on the square of the number you added and subtracted (here it was 3 and 3×3=9 so add 9) 1360+9=1369.
So 372 = 1369

Here’s another example: 622
Round this down to 60, and then because you subtracted 2, you also have to add 2 so you get 60×64 (6 x 64 x 10). 3 x 60 = 360, 6 x 4 = 24, 360 + 24 = 384, 384 x 10 = 3840
Remember to add the square of the number you rounded down by. 22 = 4 so add 4.
3840 + 4 = 3844
So 622 = 3844

If you’ve enjoyed these tricks then you might enjoy the Secrets of Mental Maths course from The Great Courses. It’s fascinating!

Related post: How to multiply any 2-digit number by 11 (in your head!)