Calling all new teachers – let’s join forces on twitter

Two weeks in…teaching is both more thrilling and more challenging than I could possibly have imagined. I’ve never tried to hold so many (competing) ideas in my head at once whilst reacting to curve balls, from all directions, at all times. What a job, in the best and worst sense!

There are so many areas I want to make progress in the classroom, and so many ideas that I want to try, but have no real idea whether they’ll work or not. And, with a previous career as a researcher, the idea of having a sample size of 1 (i.e. me) when testing whether a particular idea helps my students to progress is, well, bonkers.

So…a proposition for any new teachers (as well as existing ones who want to get involved):

Let’s try one new teaching idea each fortnight, and tweet about its impact on student progression.

I’ll collect together any tweets sent to @weeklymaths with the hashtag #nti (it stands for newbie’s teaching ideas) and publish them on this blog every fortnight, along with another new idea to try. New ideas to try can come from anywhere – feel free to tweet these too and I’ll try to incorporate them.

To kick us off, the idea I want to work on over the next fortnight is to:

Break down and scaffold EVERYTHING for students.

More experienced colleagues tell me that one of the biggest challenges as a new teacher is not to assume that learners are familiar with some of the conceptual leaps that you will make in your subject without thinking about them. For example, I was teaching about rounding in maths, and made the silly assumption that learners would somehow instinctively know which number was the most significant.

Over the next fortnight I’m going to focus on this idea by:

– Forcing myself to break down new areas of maths into scaffolded, step-by-step models. Deliver these interactively in class, give students time to practice and then try to gradually take the scaffolding away by encouraging students to generalise their learning and apply it in new settings through practice.

– Get feedback from my students as to whether this scaffolded approach has worked, and whether they have noticed any difference in my teaching and their learning as a result.

There are loads of other ways in which we as teachers could break things down for our students. What works for you? Try it and let us know by tweeting before the end of Saturday 28th September.


So in summary:

1. Alongside the maelstrom of information, let’s work together to try out, and assess the effectiveness of, one new teaching idea every fortnight.

2. Look out for a blog post and tweet like this one on alternate Sundays, to introduce the new idea.

3. Try the new idea out for a fortnight, reflect on its impact on student progression.

4. Tweet your thoughts to @weeklymaths with the hashtag #nti

5. Come back to this blog on alternate Sundays to read what other people have found, and to see what the next teaching idea is

6. If you have an idea we should try (or a way to make this collaborative process more effective), tweet it to @weeklymaths with the hashtag #nti and I’ll incorporate it.


Why do this?

You’re busy. Why add this to your list of things to do?

Because its through collaborating on new ideas that we can progress towards becoming excellent teachers ourselves. We’re in the same boat, more or less. We are facing the same issues, more or less. I see this process as a little bit like being able to observe all of your classes across the country, and have you all observe mine. Learning from each other in this way is hugely powerful.

And, lastly, because at the end of the day when you’re struggling to see a way forward with a particular challenge, its lovely to know that there are others out there trying to do the same, getting knocked down in the same way, picking ourselves back up and dusting ourselves off in the same way and having another go. And celebrating together when something starts to work.

So good luck for the next two weeks, and please get involved!


3 thoughts on “Calling all new teachers – let’s join forces on twitter

  1. So…breaking things down for students? How did it go?

    From my side – I’ve had some successes and some frustrations. Big success: adapting Kris Boulton’s advice for the start of lessons:

    1.Rule off after yesterday’s work
    2.Write today’s date
    3.Attempt these questions in your book

    Using this approach every lesson ensured students were clear about each step they should take to start the lesson, which helps both the genuinely confused and the disingenuously confused.

    Another success: a lesson for my year 9s on standard form. A grade B topic apparently, and my year 9s are all grade D and E. I’ve been struggling to break things down sufficiently on a SOW that is pitched at grade C/B. This lesson, though, we worked slowly through powers of 10 notation and multiplication/division by 100 and 1000 until gradually introducing the concept of writing a number in standard form. It worked, part by fluke and part by design.

    Frustrations: Breaking things down requires you to know each of the steps that someone will take to solve a problem. And I am continuing to assume those steps. I’m not even conscious that I’m doing it. As an example, on a lesson on using calculators I didn’t explain what the square root sign was. It didn’t even cross my mind to do so. Stopping myself from assuming knowledge is going to be a long, arduous process!

  2. Pingback: New teaching idea: exit tickets | Weekly Maths

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