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Teaching Assistants in the Maths Classroom

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by lynseyfox, Dec 7, 2011.

  1. Hi there,
    Does anybody have any best practice they would like to share with me for best use of a TA in my classroom.

    I'm currently doing my Masters in Education and I've decided to focus on improving the relationship between teachers and TA's in my lessons. Any advice would be great!

    Thank you!
  2. Hi there,
    Does anybody have any best practice they would like to share with me for best use of a TA in my classroom.

    I'm currently doing my Masters in Education and I've decided to focus on improving the relationship between teachers and TA's in my lessons. Any advice would be great!

    Thank you!
  3. Involve them in some of the planning and delivery. You could for instance get them to lead a plenary.
  4. Not all would necessarily be happy with leading a class, though yes, it can work. I've had experience of working with TAs doing the job as a prelude to PGCE and they jumped at the chance to actually do a little bit of teaching. I'd agree with involving people in a little bit of the planning, that can certainly be very helpful, especially if you get someone who is good with differentiation and they go away and sort resources for a particular group of pupils (though naturally, the teacher should still have oversight of this).
  5. "Involve them in some of the planning" when? Many of our TAs are not comfortable themselves with the mathematical content and would be unable to lead some teaching.
  6. There is a huge variation in the mathematical ability of TAs (no offence intended to anyone, I have the greatest of respect for TAs). At my school we have a TA attached to the maths department who has proved an invaluable asset and is well able to make a major contribution to planning, including finding resources for those working at Level 1 or 2, she has certainly been an enormous help to me with a whole range of classes.
  7. Definitely not all would be comfortable. We have however been very lucky to have one attached to the department who put herself forward to work with the very low ability students, was keen to differentiate resources and actually played a role in planning some lessons with staff in the department.She even run some intervention sessions with a few year 11 studentsIt's on that note I raised the suggestion about involving them but it all depends on individuals among many other things.
  8. bombaysapphire

    bombaysapphire Star commenter

    We have had a focus on encouraging TAs to try and help students to develop some independence.
    We had issues with them being very quick to scaffold and offer tables grids, numberlines etc. While these can be necessary if it is the only way a student can access the work, we need to be aiming to wean them off these supports as far as possible. That might mean teaching students to write their own numberline or to write their own times table at the side of the page.
  9. Have the right TAs, trust them, let them know what you plan to teach, discuss pupils with them in terms of strategies.
    Wrong things: allow them to become to "matey" with pupils, allow them to talk whilst you're talking to the class, allow them to do pupils work for them, allow them to sit with some pupils and avoid the more difficult pupils or make them sit with difficult pupils purely to make your life easier.
    A good TA is well worth having in the classroom. Poor ones are virtually useless. I've seen both and having had some really bad ones early in my career and hated having any other adult but me in the classroom.
    Some like to be lead carefully, with simple instructions. Others have quite large personalities and can make it difficult for teachers. We have some of both at our school. Those with "larger personalities" can make if difficult for teachers because they think of themselves as psuedo-teachers. A view from our NQTsis that they find them difficult to manage. And a teacher should be the manager in the relationship.
    Like I say: clear boundaries for TAs, get them involved where possible, ask for their input so they feel valued, but maintain the position where the teacher is the trained professional and manager of the situation.
    Needless to say, some TAs don't want to be in my lessons, whilst others find it rewarding.
  10. I have a year 8 group that are about a Level 2C to 3C in ability.
    The TA is invaluable in that we can discuss at the end of the lesson what went well, what we should readdress at a later data and how to progress.
    Whilst I take the lead, she feels that she can make input, though she defers to myself most of the time: yes, I have a dominant personality as well...
    Still, working at that level (e.g.number bonds to 100) when we then swap immediately to A Level is what we are paid to do, even if I question whether a pupil is correctly in a main-stream school if they are still unable to add 3 and 7 without using their fingers in Y10!
    I do wonder if we are enabling these children to make progress in the wider curriculum if they cannot add 3 and 7 after 10 years of schooling? And if they have problems reading at above the level of a 5/6 year-old whether doing French, History and other parts of the curriculum is really a proper use of their time.
    Off the subject I know. As my brother says, the shallow end of the gene pool is rapidly expanding.
  11. I work as a TA and in one of my current roles, support a year two teacher during numeracy lessons.
    As the working at levels range from below year 1 to year 3 in numeracy, we find the best use of me is to able to differentiate the work, sometimes by the level of support pupils receive or sometimes by content. Often, quite different work is planned for different groups of children and we take it in turns to work with the different ability groups so that we're both aware of their progress.
    Hopefully this means we are less likely to miss children 'falling through the cracks' and us assuming they have understood something because they haven't stood out. We both make notes at the end of the lesson about any children who haven't achieved their targets and I take them out for 1:1 work, probably for 5 minutes during registration time, when I don't have a class to register so I'm not wasting my time.
    We also take it in turns to take the BOT group during an assembley time once a week. If I am confident in how to teach that component, I take it, if we haven't had time to discuss they plan, or I don't understand (or if I've hit a brick wall with the group), then the teacher takes the group and I take the rest of the kids to assembley.
    I think the best thing really is keeping on top of where the kids are at. Although I love numeracy, I find it the most difficult subject to teach well to all the class when I (on cover) am on my own. There always seem to be so many ability levels and really, no-one can teach at so many levels at once effectively and really know that the children are ALL making good progress?? Can they?! If anyone out there can, I'd love to know how you do it!
    Good wishes : )
  12. My sister teaches Y1 and has done reception recently.
    Do you find that more and more pupils are arriving at your school without basic counting skills like my sister does?
    As a child, as soon as I could count I counted everything. From the age of 3 I counted stairs, the steps I took, toys, everything.
    Basic counting and thus the number system is fundamental to Maths improvement.
    More worrying is the increasing numbers we get every year in Secondary school that have yet to master the basics.
  13. We also have two part time TAs attached specifically to maths, and they do all of the great stuff you mention. However, all of the joint-planning and resource development is down to their good will of talking whilst we eat dinner or spending 20 minutes after work with us. The other, school TAs, just don't have the time allocated and must rush off to history or English...
  14. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    Planning time with TAs....? Get real!
    I agree with alot else of what's been said here.
    Additional to other comments: I sometimes get TAs attached to a higher set where there's a statemented student eg. aspergers, or aurally impaired, etc. I usually go to the SENCO, or whatever they call them these days, and tell them to reallocate the TA.
    In higher sets, TAs naturally enough assume their role is still to go round and help students besides the one they're in there for. I tell them not to - and many find this really difficult. Apart from 'servicing' their student, I really don't want them to do anything, and would rather they were allocated to a needier class. I want students to learn to think for themselves and dislike this business of instant help as soon as the hand goes up. Whatever happened to a student thinking their own way through a problem...?
    To a certain extent, I wonder how much the previous statement applies in bottom sets, too...
  15. I think that a big problem for teachers is the range in all sorts of abilities seems to be wider when children arrive at school. Motor skills and concentration are vital to be able to count using objects, number lines, hundred squares etc. and it is very difficult for a child to count when they keep forgetting what number they have got to because they are distracted, or knocking cubes on the floor without noticing. The gap between the highest and lowest achievers in many primary numeracy classes makes it very difficult for teachers to teach effectively in my opinion.
    We have been teaching our KS1 & reception in ability groups for literacy for about 4 years now and I think it's been brilliant. It means children are much more likely to be accessing appropriate learning opportunities and ACHIEVING. I wonder if anyone has experience in setting for maths in KS1/ reception? I am quite keen.
    Good wishes, Jill
  16. Here's an article by Jo Boaler on why setting does not work:

    In my own research I have yet to come across an instance where setting reflects the genuine ability and potential of the children.
  17. mon_ster

    mon_ster New commenter

    I worked as a TA in a secondary school for two years and having an interest in maths I was mainly given maths lessons to support. I think the main issue, which perhaps is not always appreciated is the fact TAs recieve little or no training whatsoever. If they are doing things in your classroom that you don't like it may be because they don't know any better. Is it a Teacher's job to manage and train their TAs? Probably not. Looking back ,some of the things I did when supporting a lesson would have undermined the teacher, but at the time i didn't realise or intend that. I think if TAs work under the maths department rather than working out of the sen department there will be more chance of building up effective working relationships.

  18. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    Ok, off topic, I know, but I'll rise to the bait.......I admire Boaler's research, but don't have the patience for the hassle which would go with mixed ability and I think the potential gains have been overstated.
    As regards setting not reflecting the genuine ability of students, teachers would be foolish to assume otherwise. Even in the most tightly defined setting arrangement, the ability range is potentially wide over the plethora of different topics, and the need for differentiation always exists. Why else can we get Cs from students in our bottom sets, yet fail with other students two groups higher? This is no argument against setting...
  19. The analysis suggested that pupils made more progress if they were not in mixed
    ability schools, and there was some evidence that set schools strengthened the
    relationship between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 scores.
    High attaining pupils in mathematics at Key Stage 2 do better at Key Stage 3 if
    they are in a set school, whereas low attaining pupils do better if they are in
    a mixed ability school.
    The summary of Mathematics findings.
    Boaler's work is getting widespread discredit in the USA. Her research is flawed as the statistical evidence she has been using has been substantially found to be at fault.
    And she's also always been pushing the same agenda since her PhD thesis.
  20. Thank you all for your responses! This has definitely sparked some debate. My biggest hurdle is (as someone mentioned earlier) finding a fine line between getting suitable support from the TA for my pupils and having them 'scaffold' for the pupils when not always necessary.
    Involving my TA's with planning would be fantastic, though in a school with 1200+ on role and a large proportion of SEN pupils it is difficult to pin a memeber of staff down long enough - especially when on an average day I see anything between 3 and 5 TA's (That would be a LOT of planning and preparation time with them).

    I do try to discuss lessons with them whenever possible but time just doesn't allow what I know to be best practice so I'm looking for a way to make do with what I have but make it perfect (if that makes sense?).
    N.B. I'm also looking for suggestions from anyone who has used TA's to support G&T pupils (preferably secondary mathematics though not picky!)
    Thank you all again for your responses!

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