A-Level Teachers' Support Group (aka help me!)

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by brookes, Feb 14, 2008.

1. brookes

Am supposed to be teaching year 12's S1 for this summer's exam.

I'm concerned that:-

- we've only just finished recapping the KS4 stuff and haven't even started on the A-Level stuff;

- in class tests some are not even picking up a single mark (on the KS4 topics we've done);

- I'm inexperienced in as much as this is my first year teaching A-Level, and think there'd be fewer problems if I wasn't;

- I see them once a week on a Friday afternoon (meaning that I saw them 4 hours last half term and will see them 3 hours next half term!).

I want to get this remedied and need an emergency plan putting in action (for the 3 hours I see them next half term).

2. brookes

Am supposed to be teaching year 12's S1 for this summer's exam.

I'm concerned that:-

- we've only just finished recapping the KS4 stuff and haven't even started on the A-Level stuff;

- in class tests some are not even picking up a single mark (on the KS4 topics we've done);

- I'm inexperienced in as much as this is my first year teaching A-Level, and think there'd be fewer problems if I wasn't;

- I see them once a week on a Friday afternoon (meaning that I saw them 4 hours last half term and will see them 3 hours next half term!).

I want to get this remedied and need an emergency plan putting in action (for the 3 hours I see them next half term).

3. emilyisobel

Sorry, this is not going to be much help but - you need more teaching time. Students find S1 difficult due to the questions being difficult to interpret.

If you look through some past papers you will see the type of question that will come up:
There is always:
Normal distribution
Confidence intervals with a nod to the central limit theorem.
Binomial theorem.
Probability without the binomial theorem - use tree diagrams type of thing.
Linear regression.
Numerical data crunching and averages and spread.

On the whole they need to know how to do all the stats stuff on a graphical calculator and they need to be able to draw the diagram to make sense of the question.

If you have have an email address I have a quick guide to S1 which might be useful.

4. emilyisobel

Sorry I should have asked - Which board?

5. fieldextensionNew commenter

brookes wrote:
"we've only just finished recapping the KS4 stuff and haven't even started on the A-Level stuff;
- I see them once a week on a Friday afternoon (meaning that I saw them 4 hours last half term and will see them 3 hours next half term!)."

What have you been doing for the rest of the time since September!?

You need to speak to your HOD as it is unlikely you will have enough time. Plan out in advance how many lessons you think you might need and speak to your HOD and see what he/she thinks should be done. If you do not have an effectual/helpful HOD, speak to someone on the department who fits the bill. It is better if the problem comes to light and is dealt with now, rather than right before the exam when it may be too late to fix.

Could the people/person teaching the Pure modules do you a favour and cover some of the Stats topics? I know I would be understanding if working alongside an inexperienced colleague who gave me lots of notice and asked me to cover some extra topics.

brookes wrote:
"in class tests some are not even picking up a single mark (on the KS4 topics we've done)"

What grade did they get at GCSE? Are they suitable to be AS candidates? What are they predicted in the pure (i.e. core) modules? Are the low test marks due to sheer laziness on their part? If so, are the students and their parents aware that they are falling well short of your expectations and aware of the grade they are headed for? With students who are capable of better I would insist on lunchtime retests (or help sessions if you taught it badly first time round) until they learn the material properly and get a respectable score.

6. IlluminationNew commenter

Recapping the KS4 stuff can be hard - either they could do it before or they couldn't and they don't always concentrate as fully as they might and Friday afternoon doesn't help.

I think you need to do something that is new to them - I would suggest either correlation/regression or the binomial distribution (at least one of these will be in your S1). If some of your students are scoring zero they will be dispirited - have a look at http://www.coventry.ac.uk/ec/~nhunt/home/ they may find some of the self-testing stuff helps which gives them instant feedback boosts their confidence and their learning.

Sometimes students don't see the point of statistics - getting them to see that it is both interesting and widely used can boost motivation. You may find that using some of the "What happens if...?" in Exploring Statistics helps - see http://www.tech.plym.ac.uk/research/mathematics_education/res...

7. brookes

Thank you Emily, my addy is brookes21 at hotmail.co.uk. The tips about popular topics is very useful (and one of the things my lack of experience isn't helping with). We're doing edexcel.

Fieldextension, we all taught C1 in the first term. This term I'm doing S1 and two colleagues are teaching C2. The plan was they'd come over to S1 when they'd finished. When I realised the time problem I chased that up (basically, did what you've suggested with a timetable etc) but I've now been told they've so much to do on C2 they won't be coming over at all. (I think this is a misunderstanding on my part, and will try again on Monday).
The pupils are a real mixed bag (GCSE B on the intermediate up to A*). Some are very lazy and not putting the effort in (I think if the lessons were Monday morning it would make a difference).

Illumination, many thanks, that's helpful. Last term I spent time uploading interesting and useful websites to my website for them, but only the keen ones bothered. I'll keep trying though. I think you're right about the new topic, I'm sure motivation might pick up then.
I'm not going to bother with the "enriching" stuff, as I feel (unfortunately) I may have been wasting time on this. In C2 (different I know), they have very structured lessons. I'm going to try the more traditional teaching style of my experienced colleagues and see if things improve.

8. brookes

Thus my plan is:
- Draw up a new timetable and discuss this with my (very supportive and brilliant) HOD;

- Do a mid-week lunchtime resit for those with low scores (I think this will help, I mean, how difficult is to estimate the mean from a grouped-frequency table?? My year 9s can do that!);

- Not give up. Plan very structured lessons and try to keep up the motivation, acknowledging the achievements etc.

Thanks for your help and support, I was feeling pretty helpless last night.

9. bombaysapphireStar commenter

Just a bit of reassurance from me. This is my second year teaching S1 and the one thing I have really picked up from last year is the need to get through the syllabus more quickly. It is tight. I have one lesson a week, last thing on a Friday which also does not help.

To help focus give them a copy of the S1 formula sheet and make sure they are clear what they need to learn and what is on there. Cover PMCC and linear regression together - they are both about applying formulae from the sheet together with a bit of interpretation. There are some nice resources on www.mathsnet.net.

10. fieldextensionNew commenter

With lazy and weak A-Level classes, I have found it works well to start every single lesson with a three-minute test, which involves them doing one or two basic questions in silence which are waiting for them on arrival. You collect their papers in and mark them quickly (i.e. in about 60 seconds) while they are working during the lesson. At first, tell them the lesson before what you will be testing (e.g. "next lesson I will be testing if you can find the mean from a grouped frequency table. Part of your homework is to make sure you come to my lesson knowing how to do it"). They have no excuse not to get it right and you can insist the ones who get poor marks come back again and again at lunchtime until they show some vague idea of the method. I have found this provides a very structured (i.e. silent and work-oriented) start to lessons.

If my students got zero in longer whole-lesson tests (and are capable of doing much better) I would be immediately on the phone to the parents to tell them exactly what grade their child is headed for. [I am at an independent school and the parents don't pay good money for their kids to mess about!] Many non-fee paying parents would be very supportive, too. Lots of kids live in denial and need to be snapped out of it. If supportive parents can help you, use them.

Having said all that, you don't want to focus on the weak and lazy at the expense of the A* GCSE kids who are probably going to carry on Maths next year. Those with a B grade at GCSE are unlikely to be very successful whatever you do. Part of the problem here is that AS Maths is now so easy that the ability range of kids doing it (in one classroom) is enormous. For a single lesson to address all of their needs is almost impossible. I would make sure you continue lessons at an appropriate pace to finish the curriculum so as not to hold back the A-grade students (or get as close as you reasonably can, consistent with significant learning taking place in lessons!) and then offer outside-lesson help to the weaker ones.

I would make sure they know the situation is serious and they cannot afford to mess about. You mention "traditional" methods, but I don't think you have time in lessons to have them copying pages of notes off the board. I recommend you construct handouts which have basic (i.e. dumbed-down) notes and key exam-style questions with gaps, such that you can write the answers on the board and discuss them, and they can copy it to fill in the gaps. These will serve as model solutions to help with homework. This is not inspirational teaching but sometimes when things are desperate you need to put inspirational teaching aside and do what is necessary to get them through the exam. Someone mentioned making statistics relevant. Although I agree this is good for motivation, I don?t think you have time to send them running off round the school to collect data. In my experience, kids are also motivated by success. If you can get them doing well in lessons/homework, that will increase their interest.

What is your policy towards homework assessment at A-Level? In my experience, if you set homework for A-level students and do not collect it in, they just don't do it! Since the answers are at the back, I get them to tick and cross their answers in a different colour pen, and get them to hand in most homeworks (I don't tell them in advance what I will collect in). You don?t need to spend hours going through it all every single time. A mere browse through, and the mere act of collecting it in, acts as a motivational tool. If they are getting more than 20% of the work wrong, I tell them not to bother to hand it in, but instead to get help off me or a classmate until they can get less than 20% wrong. I would make sure these kids are clear what grade they are headed for. When you can get an A with 60ish% and a B with 40ish% at higher GCSE, some think it must be the same at A-Level!

11. fieldextensionNew commenter

Brookes wrote:
"we all taught C1 in the first term. This term I'm doing S1 and two colleagues are teaching C2. The plan was they'd come over to S1 when they'd finished. When I realised the time problem I chased that up (basically, did what you've suggested with a timetable etc) but I've now been told they've so much to do on C2 they won't be coming over at all. (I think this is a misunderstanding on my part, and will try again on Monday)."

Get it clarified ASAP. What you described is totally unacceptable. If what you described is correct, speak to your HOD as soon as possible and tell him/her that you cannot be expected to cover a module with half the teaching time needed, especially not given you are teaching it for the first time!! If your HOD insists on doing it that way, tell him/her you would like to share the C2 and one of your more-experienced colleagues can achieve the necessary miracle by teaching S1 in the time needed. If your HOD has any sense he/she should realise that what is being asked is impossible (especially for an inexperienced teacher).

12. brookes

Again, thank you for the advice both of you.

FieldExt, I've already started the 10 minute test at the start of the lesson (I read that idea on here, so 'twas probably you advising it!). I really don't know what to do with those that aren't bothering. I must admit, I'm sensitive that they're probably doing ok with C2... still, I'd best get on the phone with parents.
I am wise to the homework thing now. Last term I naively thought A-Level students would do the practice/reading I asked, because they'd want to pass and were responsible for their own learning. How stupid was I?

I am going to try the handouts too, which shouldn't be too onerous because they'll be similar to the IWB slides I'm writing each week.

I think my attitude's been totally wrong here. I was expecting the attitudes and behaviours we'd had at sixth form 10 years ago. Thinking about it that was totally unfounded and naive of me.

13. fieldextensionNew commenter

You say you are new to sixth-form teaching but it is not clear to me whether or not you are a NQT.

If we are honest, there are not many people who in their first year are anything other than poor. I know I was! Every time I have taught a topic, I have taught it far, far better the second time. Don't be so sensitive about feelings of inadequacy that you don't feel you can ask for help. If your colleagues are reasonable people they remember being in the same situation and will go to great lengths to help you. They may have worksheets, etc, that they can share with you. Those who don't ask, don't get (I'm afraid I don't have anything to offer in that regard!).

14. brookes

I'm new to the profession, only in my fourth year of teaching. However, I work hard and my teaching of KS3 and KS4 is successful. It's partly due to this that I've been "trusted" with KS5 and given one hour a week at it.

The colleague who taught this last year has a very different working style to me, and doesn't have any resources to share. (I'd thought of that!).

I'm feeling much more positive now, and am happy to just get the reassurance that not all my problems are down to me being ****!

15. topsey&tim

When I am new to a module I always split up past exam papers to get questions on the same topic together so that you can see exactly what it is necessary to cover. Some textbooks give detail and examples that are interesting but not vital & can be omitted when short of time. You can get exam banks that will seperate papers for you or if you post your email address I have done this for a number of edexcel S1 papers which I can send to you.

Mathsnet.net has already been mentioned - it is brilliant (for all modules). Really push it with your students. It gives step by step solutions to questions & allows you to change the numbers so you can repeat them over & over (you could use them for your quick tests - no excuse at all for not being able to do it)

If you will definately not be able to cover it all, you could prepare independent learning sheets on the most straightforward bits to cover for homework. Most of discrete random variables could be covered like this

For any of the calculations bits (correlation & regression, standard deviation, interpolation) give them a worked example together will straightforward 'stick numbers in your calculator' questions WITH ANSWERS & insist that they see you if they can't get the answers out. It is amazing how many can't use their calculators properly which can be sorted out quickly one-to-one but is not a good use of valuable lesson time. If motivation is a problem you will probably need to say you will test them on it next lesson (would your colleagues be willing to give a few minutes of their lessons to testing this as you are short of lessons?)

Finally - don't be put off Statistics. I agree with a previous poster that we are all worse the first time we teach a module. If possible try to teach S1 again next year - even at the expense of taking your class through to Y13. It may be the case that Stats is not very popular amongst the staff in your school in which case there is an opportunity for you to become the Stats 'expert'.

16. brookes

Thank you Topsey, that exam analysis would be much appreciated (brookes21 at hotmail. co. uk).

I am already a big convert to mathsnet.net, but the kids don't seem to share my enthusiasm! I think the independent study sheets are a great idea, but I guess what and when will be something that's better to decide with a year's experience.

Regarding the class sitting the test with a colleague, I'd already decided to ask about that next week, seeing as I won't be seeing them on the Friday.

17. oc7New commenter

Hi this is a very interesting thread.

I am teaching As Edexcel C1 C2 and S1 for the first time this year on my own!

topsey&tim

Please can I have the earlier mentioned S1 exam questions

My students sat C1 in January and we are finishing Ch6 (of the Edexcel text C2) now.
The plan is to finish C2 then start S1.

I have 4 students, 3 very able, and 1 unfortunately less so.

18. Leopardo

I am also interested in everyones strategy with S1.

What about next year too? C3, C4 and M1.

19. choccy cake

My 2 students are taking their AS this year - C1, C2 and S1/M1 . They had done most of C1 at the end of last school year when I arrived at the school. So we worked on C1 for 2 of the 4 lessons each week, and M1/S1 the other 2 lessons (1 of the students chose M1, and the other S1; so thats what I am teaching them!)

They took their C1 in January and now we work on C2 for about 2 of the 4 lessons each week and M1/S1 for the remaining 2 lessons. I think since they are sitting their remaining 2 modules in May/June that it is quite important that they know the material for both modules in as much detail as each other - thus we are working at them both them at the same time.

Would be a reasonable ask to have your class for exactly half of the lesson time left before the exam to give them a better chance to learn and understand the concepts?

20. bombaysapphireStar commenter

We do S1 in year 12. Lessons are organised 4 a week on pure and one a week for S1. Start S1 in September and run it right through - the problem is that all focus goes for December and January as they prepare for/recover from C1.

We finish C1 in November so December is revision lessons and start of C2. We will finish C2 and S1 syllabuses by Easter and spend the next half term on exam papers.

The pure is split between 2 teachers, 2 lessons a week each. One of us also does all the S1. The flexibility has been useful. I have stolen pure lessons sometimes because there have been a lot missing on our scheduled day for Stats.

Year 13 runs similarly with M1, C3 & C4.