A dramatic shift in the approach to teaching occurred as a result of the recent pandemic. Now that we have returned to a state of normality, it is a good time to reflect on ways we can reset expectations in our classrooms and ensure we are reintroducing aspects of our practice that were not possible to uphold during the pandemic. Our maths department have highlighted three areas that staff should prioritise in September including a refocus on live marking, higher and consistent expectations on book presentation and a smaller reliance on teaching from your desk.
Understandably, we have become acclimatised to a separation between the teacher and students as a result of needing social distancing within classrooms. Many teachers, myself included, have gotten out of the habit of circulating the classroom as much as we used to. There are many reasons why not always teaching from the front has a huge benefit. For example, it may be that you have set the students on a deliberate practice task and wish to observe them working from the back of the classroom. Quietly observing without jumping in and helping them allows them to develop their own independence in the task and allows you to see what they are doing without being an obvious presence at the front. I sometimes situate myself at the back of the classrooms and set up a “help desk” where students can come and ask me for help but I am still able to see the whole classroom whilst I work with them 1:1.
Similarly, it is really important that we return to frequent live marking as this is a fantastic way of assessing the understanding of a class, and delivering instant feedback to students. One of the huge positives of socially distant teaching was that many teachers developed their use of mini whiteboards to assess understanding without necessarily having to circulate the room. It is important that we continue to develop this formative assessment strategy, as well as returning to our habit of live marking.
Another aspect we highlighted for improvement was general presentation of books. Our hope is that students will take great pride in their books and view them as personalised revision guides. This is only possible if the teacher holds the highest expectations on the class’ presentation. This is where circulating the classroom goes hand in hand with book presentation. By not situating yourself at the front of the classroom at all times, you are able to regularly check in on students’ books and give them feedback on how their work is laid out. We are also going to introduce a system where we monitor the books of every student at regular intervals and put sanctions in place if students are not meeting our presentation expectation. In turn, it will be a fantastic opportunity to praise those students who are taking huge pride in their work. We have suggested that placing books under the visualiser for the whole class to see would be a great way to model what we are looking for and give opportunities to praise individuals.
September is always a busy, but motivational month for teachers. It is a chance to reflect on your practice and refocus your priorities. The difficulty is always retaining consistency across the course of the year. Departments should prioritise allowing time in the term to do regular book checks for every student to maintain the high expectations throughout the year to ensure they become imbedded.
Zofia is a Maths Teacher and Research Associate at Durrington High School