‘Rate my Focus’ – understanding and taking ownership to help learning excel in Maths.
Guest Blogger: @MrJPWalton
‘Rate my Focus’ – an idea to help children activate their understanding of, and take ownership of their focus in lessons.
This term I have decided to challenge my wonderful Y6 Maths class to develop the amount of time they focus on tasks within our lessons. It is an area we have decided upon that needs improvement to help our learning and fits in well with our school Jane Simister ‘Futuresmart’ disposition theme for term.
Focus in mathematics is important when leaning new concepts as it is at these times when you need your brain to make the links with other areas. I have found that the best mathematicians are the ones who use their focus positively, being actively involved in their learning, making the links that are essential for deep rooted understanding and the ability to transfer knowledge across different areas. It is this transfer of knowledge, along with the subsequent extended ‘time’ practising due to starting an activity quickly, that many children find challenging. I wanted to see how moving ‘Focus’ to the forefront of our learning would affect the children’s understanding of work covered.
We began the challenge by coming up with descriptors for our level of ‘Focus’ from 1 to 5. This enabled the children to take control and become active members in setting the parameters and targets for each level. We also decided on that we would measure the total ‘score’ by the class, and then check it against my thoughts on what the ‘score’ was. This worked really well to engage the children in their understanding of what I was trying to achieve and gave them the opportunity to say what factors we could measure. Having a group total meant that the children all had to collaborate fully and were part of a team. This meant that ‘Focus’ went from being a word that is said within the class to a measurable target, with clear success criteria on how to achieve. We decided that for every lesson we would refer to the ‘Focus chart’ and use this to help manage our lessons.
At the end lesson each child rewarded themselves a score out of 5 which they then added together to get a total score for the lesson. I then told the children the total score that I gave the group. The aim was to score a high level of focus, and for the children’s score to match my score. The children quickly became used to the criteria they had arrived at and the language became part of the independent and collaborative parts of the children’s learning. We found that they realised the reasons for having to remain focussed at certain parts of the lesson. Throughout the week, the total scores increased and the difference between my totals and the children’s totals became closer.
Overall I have found that bringing ‘Focus’ to the forefront has allowed the children to deal with mathematical concepts more effectively, share their learning and make links with others. The overall ‘score’ throughout the time has increased and the children have increased the expectations on themselves and the level of Focus they need to show. They are certainly more active in their learning and aware of this in conversation.
I would recommend tailoring something that draws ‘Focus’ to the front of your lessons to see how it affects the teaching and learning that goes on.
These are our criteria… (note the children’s input, language and ownership!):
Our level of focus for this lesson:
- Bad focus you’re not going to learn anything – disruptive
- “You’ve had a bad day, tell me don’t lie…” But there’s some effort there – you’re wearing pants but no trousers!
- Some zoning out, midway focus. Late to lesson but settle quickly …
- On target and focussed. Book out and equipment ready.
- Amazing learning. Everything is awesome. Helping everyone to learn and stay focussed.