Incorporating Literacy in the Language of Numbers

Placeholder ImageWhen joining my first school as a NQT I had to embark on the challenge of teaching an additional subject, Psychology. I qualified with a PGCE in Mathematics therefore the challenge of teaching an additional subject and that being a humanities subject meant I had to learn to incorporate a lot more literacy within my lessons. But why should we not place a higher emphasis on literacy within mathematics lessons though?

My plan of action is to observe a science lesson as Mathematics and Psychology both include mathematics to a certain extent (research methods). I hope by making these observations I will see a variety of strategies that encourage a high level of literacy within the lesson and be able to apply these within my own lessons.

Observation: 8th May 2017

Setting the Context

  • Learning objectives displayed on the board as students walked into the room to almost set the tone for the lesson.
  • The keywords were highlighted in bold (definitions are not displayed)

Deconstruction and Modelling 

  • Worksheets were designed with a set amount of lines for students to work on. Included key word tasks within hints on the length of the key terms.
  • Text was also modified by the teacher for this particular class to allow the students to focus on the key components of the lesson.

Joint Construction

  • Teacher went through the test and used students examples to help construct an answer and got the students to read aloud their own answers.
  • With the scientific formula the teacher read aloud then asked the students to separately read aloud the key terms and break down the algebraic notation included.

Speaking and Listening

  • The teacher used simplistic language when questioning the students to ensure they could comprehend what was being asked of them.
  • When talking and explaining to the whole class the teacher would use more elaborate language but would provide a definition for any word the teacher thought they would not be familiar with.

Key Findings

The strategies that the teacher used helped the students to be able to understand exactly what was being asked of them however, by using more elaborate language at times the students then became more exposed to a higher level of literacy.

The way in which the teacher edited the formal test I thought was especially good practice as they had adapted some of the language used to make it easier for the students to comprehend. When the teacher went over the test however she reworded the question back to its original wording to highlight to the students that they were being asked the same thing only the language being used was different.

Lastly the way in which the teacher modeled the answer by using other students examples I think increased the students literacy skills as it praised the student whose example it was. Using the students example could also make it easier for other students to comprehend what was being asked of them.

Application 

Within my lessons in future I will aim to adapt strategies from my observations to help aid students and focusing on these main area;

  • Spelling key terms correctly
  • Promoting the use of Mathematical language during lessons
  • Developing literacy through discussion
  • Using students’ examples with an emphasis on literacy (even punctuation and spelling)

I have included the spelling key terms correctly element because that is something that I have picked up on recently whilst teaching Geometry and identifying properties of a circle. Using mathematics language in my lessons and getting the students to speak and sound of the key terms regularly. Asking students to highlight these key words and placing a huge amount of emphasis on these key terms and their definitions. Getting students to talk to one another about the work and when they are doing this ensure they are using the proper language, key terms and definitions. Praising students work to highlight to them the importance of literacy within the mathematics lesson.

Final Thought

Without the observations and learning about the importance of literacy within the mathematics lesson I firmly believe I would not be placing literacy in such high regard. Having applied some of the teaching strategies with literacy I have found that students are beginning to interpret and understand functional questions and even attempting these questions on their own before asking for help.

No Response, No Problem … read on

Student participation can be highly irritating within the classroom, asking a question and seeing no students raising hands or actively trying to share their ideas can cause a sudden halt within lessons. A particular Year 12 class that I teach often left me with feelings of distress, worrying that I had not clearly asked a question or that I was questioning the students on something that they had not learnt. My colleagues at times shared this worry with some of their other classes and upon reading the students’ homework and mock exams it became apparent that they did have suggestions but were not willing to share this in the lesson.

Working with a senior member of staff and two fellow NQTs we worked together to find techniques to get students to contribute and participate in class rather than being too shy or embarrassed or lazy to answer.

Lesson Study: Research Plan Lesson 1 – January 12th, 2017

Sociology Lesson for Year 10s

Lesson Objective – To be able to explain changing trends in fertility and childbirth and how they impact the family. To develop exam skills.

Techniques that we began to plan must include;

  • encouragement strategies to participate and increase students confidence
  • using physical indicators of decision i.e. stand up, sit down or hands up or hands down activities.
  • Controversial statements used in order to shock the students and almost force the student to make a suggestion or at least react.
  • Group work to increase the confidence of the students and to discuss
  • Students informed before the group activity that they may be picked on to contribute during the class evaluation. – use planner to select students.

Observing Lesson 1- 16th January, 2017

 

Observations:

  • using physical indicators of decision i.e. stand up, sit down or hands up or hands down activities.

Students at first were reluctant to join in but after a couple of statements this “game” became slightly more appealing to students and eventually all students were contributing.

  • Controversial statements used in order to shock the students and almost force the student to make a suggestion or at least react.

Students all reacted to these statements and often sparked a mini discussion in the classroom, where many of the students contributed and became very interested in the lesson.

  • Group work to increase the confidence of the students and to discuss

A lot of class-related discussion was happening and the classroom did become quite lively however the discussion remained on the task at hand – note the controversial statements remained on the board during this time.

  • Students informed before the group activity that they may be picked on to contribute during the class evaluation. – use planner to select students.

All students contributed (perhaps to fear of being picked to suggest and them not having any suggestion?) and this gave each of the students that had been identified as weak contributors to make a suggestion that had been previously discussed in the group.

Lesson Study: Research Plan Lesson 2- 26th January, 2017

Psychology lesson for Year 12s

Lesson Objective – To be able to explain and evaluate learning theory of attachment.

Techniques that we began to plan must include;

  • Think, pair and share activities (no hands up feedback)
  • Media clips to gain the students interest and attention, almost to provoke a response from the students
  • Randomly selecting students to answer the questions

Implementing Techniques with my Year 12 Psychology (Lesson 2) – 2nd February, 2017 

Observations:

  • Think, pair and share activities (no hands up feedback)

During the lesson I realised that it was crucial for me to allow students to have an appropriate amount of time to think, then share with their fellow students.

  • Media clips to gain the students interest and attention, almost to provoke a response from the students

This idea was particularly engaging for the students however it is very important to note that the clip that is being used must be very relevant to the topic that is being discussed.

  • Randomly selecting students to answer the questions

Students became aware that they could be randomly picked on at any time therefore they became more engaged and attentive to the lesson and what other students were suggesting.

Conclusion

Applying the techniques led to students becoming more involved in the task and more suggestions being given by a variety of students, with more detail. Ultimately students gained a deeper understanding of the topic with the alternate suggestions given by other students and was worded in a way in which they would understand. I have found the lesson study sessions to be highly resourceful as they have provided me with an insight to how I can implement new techniques to keep the students attentive and engaged in lessons.