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Do you use paired work in lessons to give students time to discuss answers?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by ilovemathsgames.com, Feb 27, 2012.

  1. ilovemathsgames.com

    ilovemathsgames.com New commenter

    I just read a paper on paired work at http://www.eriding.net/maths/tl_resources_sec.shtml - the link is at the bottom, and is called 'paired and group work for secondary students in mathematics', and have been trying it out in my classroom today.
    Basically, I have made sure all students are in a pair (or 3 in dire emergencies) and when I've asked a question - an open-ended one - I've given them 30 seconds upwards to discuss and decide on their answer as a pair.

    I started one class off with my 'awesome survey' - a very biased, silly questionnaire, and treated it as though it was a real, sensible one. They quickly started criticising my questions, so I gave them 30 seconds to discuss with their partner what they thought of my quiz, and come up with their answer. They independently came out with words like biased, and ambiguous :)
    They then were asked to take 2 minutes to evaluate a particular question that they were assigned, and feed back in pairs.
    (I took in a 'service' bell that I was given as a joke for Christmas - GREAT for signalling the end of the discussion period without me needing to shout!)
    Before feeding back, I made them join another pair to make a bigger group, and share and compare answers.
    They came up with some really good criticisms, and suggestions for improvement to my questions, and were much better than I'd expected at the whole 'listening to each other' thing.

    I was surprised at how well they responded to the exercise, and plan to use the same format next lesson to elicit some ideas on what survey we should design to get student feedback to our BSF process, and also how we should collect data. They are a top set, so I hope to get some good ideas about avoiding bias...

    Another group are starting a constructions topic, so I used the same strategy with them to elicit a rule for the sides of triangles to ensure that it actually makes a triangle - they came up with 'the sum of the two shorter sides must be greater than or equal to the longest side.' We then had a great discussion about what would actually happen if they were equal ;)

    The paper challenged me to think about how I question students - do I give them processing time before they have to answer? Mostly no if I'm being honest.
    I found today's experiment quite eye-opening, and it really showed the kind of mathematical language you can get students using to articulate themselves.

    I challenge you to give it a try! :)
     
  2. ilovemathsgames.com

    ilovemathsgames.com New commenter

    I just read a paper on paired work at http://www.eriding.net/maths/tl_resources_sec.shtml - the link is at the bottom, and is called 'paired and group work for secondary students in mathematics', and have been trying it out in my classroom today.
    Basically, I have made sure all students are in a pair (or 3 in dire emergencies) and when I've asked a question - an open-ended one - I've given them 30 seconds upwards to discuss and decide on their answer as a pair.

    I started one class off with my 'awesome survey' - a very biased, silly questionnaire, and treated it as though it was a real, sensible one. They quickly started criticising my questions, so I gave them 30 seconds to discuss with their partner what they thought of my quiz, and come up with their answer. They independently came out with words like biased, and ambiguous :)
    They then were asked to take 2 minutes to evaluate a particular question that they were assigned, and feed back in pairs.
    (I took in a 'service' bell that I was given as a joke for Christmas - GREAT for signalling the end of the discussion period without me needing to shout!)
    Before feeding back, I made them join another pair to make a bigger group, and share and compare answers.
    They came up with some really good criticisms, and suggestions for improvement to my questions, and were much better than I'd expected at the whole 'listening to each other' thing.

    I was surprised at how well they responded to the exercise, and plan to use the same format next lesson to elicit some ideas on what survey we should design to get student feedback to our BSF process, and also how we should collect data. They are a top set, so I hope to get some good ideas about avoiding bias...

    Another group are starting a constructions topic, so I used the same strategy with them to elicit a rule for the sides of triangles to ensure that it actually makes a triangle - they came up with 'the sum of the two shorter sides must be greater than or equal to the longest side.' We then had a great discussion about what would actually happen if they were equal ;)

    The paper challenged me to think about how I question students - do I give them processing time before they have to answer? Mostly no if I'm being honest.
    I found today's experiment quite eye-opening, and it really showed the kind of mathematical language you can get students using to articulate themselves.

    I challenge you to give it a try! :)
     
  3. Been gettung kids to discuss their work nearly every lesson for couple years now and it does make a massive difference. Rather than 'traditional' approach of hands up who knows how to do this question i give kids x seconds to discuss. I can then gage how many of class have a good idea of what is going on in about 30 secs and adjust lesson accordingly. This works at all levels , even bottom sets some days!!

    Black box key recommendations includes 'pupils should discuss work'. I also encourage pupils to discuss work in lesson before asking me. Plenty of conatructivist theory behind that.

    The benefit to all of this is I do a lot less repeating myself and work during lessons.

    Enjoy better understanding - and less work!

    Of course SMT will think you are being lazy!!!!
     
  4. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    re paired work.
    you should ask for time to visit your feeder primaries.
    They almost certainly use paired talk widely. Since moving to Primary, I now use it virtually every day and I would agree that it absolutely works.
    Do you also use individual whiteboards? Your year 7 intakes will be used to using them most lessons, especially for the starters.
    Lots of benefits of both approaches, much more individual responses, so easy to spot problems for AFL. ALSO a much reduced marking load.
    Pupils will likely be used to taking their individual whiteboards for photocopying if you wish to keep some evidence.
    Re the individual whiteboards, the primary pupils will also be used to an immediate sanction for drawing on them!
     
  5. Insert a topic here_________________________
    Now ask yourself is that topic going to move kids on in the way you intended (or more)?
    The answer is universally no in most cases.
    Picking one idea and believing it to be successful IMO is incorrect.
    Some classes will do well in paired work, some it simply opens up social time and work avoidance or a time where they cannot move forward.
    For me its simply a case of looking at a cohort, looking at a topic and deciding the best way at that monent in time to move kids on.
    All the 'research' in the world will never provide you with the answer of what to do for all classes.
    Paired work for my bottom set year 7 is utterly pointless as they are not able to control themselves, think or articulate to express themselves.
    Flip that over to a good A level group on M1 and you are in an entrirely different place.
    Paired work, this work, that work is only as good as the teacher who deploys it at the right time in the right situation.
    To think group work is key to outstanding lessons for ofsted IMO is a joke.
     
  6. Who mentioned OFSTED and outstanding? Why do teachers pander to inspectors and not pupils needs.

    Obviously it is a struggle or non starter with some bottom sets but if you keep it quick and basic it casn be done, e.g. Tell your pal what is missing from this bar chart, you have 15 seconds. By simply listening to their response you can assess their understanding,

    I'm not saying do it all the time but asking kids for an answer and only ever asking the 5 or 6 who put their hands up for a response isn't a good way of gaging if learning is happening,
     
  7. Anyone who believes that having to do cliche things in lessons is required.
    Mini Whiteboards, plenary, starter, VAK....all fabricated rubbish is <u>many cases</u> just to tick boxes.
     
  8. Anonymous

    Anonymous New commenter

    I teach primary - whiteboards are fantastic. Except when the pens run out. A good way to get the children to jot down their thoughts and display them.
    I agree with the rest though - teaching is too formulaic but woe betide anyone who dares to question the formula.
    Paired work - I find this is useful. When I was young, I had a bad speech impediment and rarely put my hand up. The opportunity to talk about work and to show what I knew on a whiteboard might just have shown the teachers I knew stuff rather than ignoring me.

     
  9. ilovemathsgames.com

    ilovemathsgames.com New commenter

    My point was more that it's an approach I very rarely used before, not that I plan to use it all the time, or to tick a box, or to impress anyone... Having found a way that it can work, I shall try to build in 'thinking time' for more class questions, so that they have the opportunity to discuss mathematics with each other, and so those that need more time to think it through can also get their say.
    If nothing else, it's provided me with an excuse to have a little bell on my desk that I can 'ding' when I want their attention - much more civilised (and it entertains me... little things please little minds etc!)

    Robyn147 - I have a student in my Y9 class with a speech impediment, and I got the impression he was appreciating the new approach :)

    Haven't really tried the whiteboards for a while, and my aim is more to get them talking about the maths than to see what everyone knows individually.

    Teaching may be formulaic, but we're maths teachers for goodness sake - rearrange the formula to suit you!! ;)
     
  10. I've used the mini whiteboards a great deal as a way of ensuring that all pupils are actively taking part in the lesson, rather than just hands up and the hassle that can bring with then pleading for more people to 'have a go'. With the whiteboards all know that I expect to see them trying. It also gives us instant teaching points if some get an incorrect answer then we can get another pupil to explain their reasoning. The whiteboards get a big thumbs up from me as a way of engaging pupils who might otherwise be tempted to sit there doing very little.


    As regards group work, I tend to stick with pairs, any bigger and I've tended to find at least some who will be riding on the coat tails of others. My initial reaction to pairs work was that yes, some pupils did take advantage but with persistence many classes have been able to show some success with this. I certainly wouldn't go in and do group work in the first few weeks of working with a class, I like to keep it 'straight down the line' initially, but once general behaviour expectations have been established then I'm happy to use different strategies for different topics.


    Fabricated rubbish? I prefer to try things and see what works for me and my classes, in most ideas their is at least a grain of usefulness but it does have to be applied with common sense. Hope that helps the OP but should they require any more then please give me a shout.
     
  11. Too right.
    We have a huge number of pupils that cannot think for themselves.
    And this is not a problem solving issue. This is the ability to work on their own, without checking answers with anyone else.
    Exams require you to be confident in your own ability.
     
  12. Mini whiteboards have to be used correctly. Some look at what others have written and copy. It needs pace as well as thinking time: a fine balance.
    Group work requires a good understanding of the whole group so you can get them in the right groups. Some classes divide well into groups. Some end up with a pupil either dominating or other lazy pupils doing nothing. Personally, I've had successes and failures in this regard. Anyone who says otherwise should tell us the secret.
    In the end though, I'd expect almost every class to be the same as mine: about 70% working on their own and checking with the person they are sitting next to or discussing/helping, 10% working entirely on their own, 15% as a pair on certain tasks, 5% on group tasks (3 or more).
     
  13. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    The mode they "get" (though they often don't remember the word "mode").

    The mean they "get", but they often can't find it correctly because their basic numeracy skills aren't good enough.

    The median they "just about remember" but can't find it because they forget to put the data in order.

    As is so common, the weaknesses exposed in Secondary are not "understanding" of the "higher level topics", they're the lowest level basics. They cannot reliably add up a set of values, nor divide - and are "blown away" if the answer is not an integer. They cannot reliably order a set of data unless the data has similar magnitude because they aren't "solid" with place value, decimals and fractions.

    And because of this, they get answers wrong and lose confidence.

    Once again, I beg primary schools to stop teaching the "higher level" stuff to all but their top sets. Nail the basics and we'll build on what you've done.

    All too often, we inherit kids who's foundations are built on sand.
     
  14. This thread is really interesting, it shows issues in teaching that are so wide ranging that forum based arguing won't solve. I'll just put what I think here and you can agree or disagree but at least I've done my bit! Cooperative learning is essential if you want every child in your class to achieve all that they can. I'll take it a step further; proof schools are failing; if you've got something new to try would you prefer to use it with Y7 or Y11? Who will be more receptive? I'm betting Y7, doesn't this say everything about our issues?
     

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