Engaging pupils in transformations and developing their understanding

An important part of my personal development plan before starting Teach First has been to pick an area of weakness on the KS3 curriculum and to develop my understanding of the topic and how to teach it.

I chose to focus my efforts on transformations and, after studying the topic I have written a practice lesson plan. I now want to reflect on how I might engage pupils in this topic and develop their understanding.

In terms of engagement, I didn’t find this topic the easiest one to relate to something relevant or real-life. After some thought, I remembered a NCETM resource on tessellations, which recommended having pupils take a picture of any pattern they can see, such as bricks in a park or wallpaper. We could then use these pictures in class to introduce the topic of transformations, and return to the pictures at the end to show the learning that has occurred. I could even extend this by encouraging pupils to design their own Christmas present paper made from transformations, and have this printed (or ask them what they want to design).

See the funny thing is, when I sit here and reflect on how I can teach transformations in an engaging way, I have come up with a lot of ideas and yet when I was writing the lesson plan these ideas didn’t come so easily. This reinforces the value of high-quality reflections, and also recording my thoughts when they do occur so I can refer back to them.

In terms of ensuring that students develop their understanding: to do this I obviously need to know where they are starting from as a baseline, and I could achieve this through open questioning and think-pair-share with the wallpaper images. I then need to pitch the lesson at the limits of that current understanding, as far as possible for each student. There are lots of ways in which students’ understanding can progress: from not knowing what a transformation is to being able to name and recognise them; from being able to recognise a transformation to being able to construct them; from being able to construct one transformation to being able to construct two or more in succession; and from being able to recognise each transformation individually through to linking two transformations together e.g. a rotation and a translation can be the same as a reflection.

Ensuring that students make progress is all about helping each one to recognise where they are currently and how they can develop their knowledge in one of the above (or another way). Achieving this will require me to have an in-depth knowledge of the curriculum and a good understanding of each individual’s current understanding.

Classroom behaviour Ch 8: When things get difficult: hard class, hard times

  • If you are struggling/see someone struggling, ask for/offer non-judgemental support.
  • Meeting other colleagues who work with that class is vital. Acknowledge the reality that teacher behaviour can also be a problem.
  • Holding a classroom meeting to address: behaviour and rights and responsibilities can help to re-establish a class (p.223)
  • Following a classroom meeting, have a re-establishment plan (p.224)
  • Review the plan with fellow teachers a few weeks in.

Reflection on Classroom Behaviour Ch 7

  1. How aware are you of your characteristic angry behaviour; what do you do and say when you are very frustrated or angry? I rarely get angry, but when I do I shift quite suddenly and have an aggressive, cutting tone. Often I recover from it quite quickly too; I think managing my anger may be an area of strength.
  2. How do the suggestions on ‘communicating our anger’ enable your experience and reflection (p.207)? Valuable, but I think the biggest challenge is ‘catching’ my anger in the moment and taking a moment to calm down. If I can do that, the rest follows quite naturally.
  3. How do the suggestions noted in this chapter inform your work with angry parents? I don’t yet know, but having a strategy in place is a big part of the challenge overcome I think.

Classroom behaviour Ch 7: Managing anger in ourselves and others

  • It is natural to get angry; we need to learn to express/manage that anger in a constructive way.
    • Awareness of what lowers our tolerance helps; so does skill
    • Characteristic behaviours when angry can be learned and unlearned.
    • It can be valuable to get angry on issues that matter, but do so in a controlled way after taking a moment to calm yourself. De-escalate the situation swiftly afterwards, perhaps with cool-off time. The teacher will also have to initiate rebuilding.
  • With angry parents:
    • Let them explain how they feel
    • Invite them to sit down
    • Listen and reflect back
    • Assure them that you know they and the school care
    • Have the facts as the school sees them
    • Be honest and supportive
  • When a student is angry it may be useful to let them run out of steam and deal with it calmly later.

Reflection on classroom behaviour Ch 6

  1. We have all worked with students who procrastinate and argue…are you aware of how you engage argumentative students – particularly when they display secondary behaviours? Up until now I have not engaged very well – although I remain calm I often struggle to know how to react and so get flustered. The idea of deferred consequences is valuable here.
  2. How aware are you of how you typically communicate with challenging students – in the heat of the moment? Not aware enough; I’m conscious of what I do sometimes, but probably don’t have an accurate recollection, particularly when I’m flustered. This would be a valuable source of reflection, when it happens.
  3. Do you always follow-up challenging students? I’m not sure, but I will in future.
  4. How does the discussion on attentional and power-seeking behaviours help in the understanding of challenging behaviours? How does it inform your practice? I think I intuitively ‘get’ this already. Keeping it in mind will, I think, help to empathise with students acting in this way. I really like the idea of calling attention to possible reasons in a one-to-one.
  5. How does the discussion on swearing inform and shape your practice? How do we raise and discuss this issue with students generally? And one-to-one? The distinction is valuable and I think swearing at people aggressively is clear-cut (its aggressive if nothing else). The more tricky area is conversational swearing. I don’t yet feel I have an effective way to respond to that.

Classroom behaviour Ch 6: Challenging children and children with emotional and behavioural difficulties

  • To support children diagnosed with ADD or ADHD:
    • Seat them near a positive, supportive role model
    • Use visual cues to assist student focus and attention
    • Break down tasks into smaller parts with progress clear
    • Check for understanding by getting them to repeat back
    • Make normal learning routines explicit
    • Allow time for reasonable movement
    • Avoid keeping them in at break time
  • To support children diagnosed with or displaying signs of ASD:
    • Build and sustain a calm working environment
    • Take care in any touching
    • Use clear, context specific language cueing
    • Have clear routines and prepare child in advance for changes
    • Give specific feedback not general encouragement
    • Have an individual behaviour plan
  • To respond to attention-seeking behaviour
    • Consider tactical ignoring if:
      • the student does not get kudos
      • no-one is prevented from working
      • the student is not e.g. swearing
    • If you ask the student to move and they refuse, offer a deferred consequence or time-out whilst remaining calm
    • Follow up one-to-one if it is a repeat occurrence – but do not construe follow-up as an additional punishment
    • Strategies for one-to-one pp. 175-181
  • Swearing as hostile intent towards others must be dealt with immediately, firmly and briefly, with cooling-off time.
  • Conversational swearing should be acknowledged not ignored.