Saturday, 28 April 2012

Don’t get me started…

My two year old, Little Angel, can count to ten, well, with a little help! She skips number one probably because we are always starting her off by saying, “How many? Lets count… one..” So in our house, its two, two, three, two, sic, seve, eight, nigh, ten. One of our favourite apps at the Little Monkey Apps house is Counting Bear by GrassHopper Apps What a great way to get young children to count objects with one to one correspondence! 

There are so many great early learning and numeracy products out there and for simple addition and subtraction but not too much for the in-between stages. After showing off my Little Angel’s talents to a colleague she expressed her experience that her students hadn’t had enough exposed to ten frames. They also needed exposure to subitising, they didn’t know their friends of ten (2+8, 3+7, 4+6 1+9). 

At Little Monkey Apps, we never make something that already exists and meets the standard that we would use in our own classrooms. After having a look at the App store together, I noticed my colleague was right!  Ten frames were missing (although now there are some!) or were simply flash cards or question and answer, multiple choice. 

Professionally, it is pedagogy, and to steal a Montessori phrase the “prepared environment” that I am interested in, thus most of our Apps will have a teaching module. When it comes to it (and I will harp on about this) it is the teacher, tutor or peer combined with a learning experience that allows the child to come to the “ah ha” moment! 

Please don’t think that because you’ve got iPads that you MUST use them for everything!  Apps are only ONE way of presenting material. Use blocks, counters, real life experiences, for goodness sake! (If you MUST use the iPads every lesson, take a photo of a physical experience or activity your class has completed!) It is through the presentation of the same concept multiple ways that will allow more students to reach this “ah ha” moment and that is why Friends of Ten is useful.  

Back to my original story though, we have stopped prompting Little Angel by saying “One” now. She is like many two years olds when it comes to learning new things and has just started to say “No Mama…I do!” I’m sure what she is trying to say is “Don’t get me started, I can figure this out for myself!” So instead we ask “How many are there? What number do we start with?”

Friday, 27 April 2012

Multiplication Tests every Friday!

From Year Three to Year Six, I remember being tested on my tables. There were twelve questions at Year Three and Four on a specific table, then twenty random questions at Year Five and Six…every week of my schooling for four years. If I remember these tests as a regular occurrence, then I’m sure others do too! 

So when I started teaching Year Five I heard the groans when the tables test was about to be given. They were sick of it. Were they sick of learning their tables, or sick of the presentation? Did these tests allow for individual needs or students who were in a music lesson when the tables were due to be called out?   
Tables had to be learnt. So with my students we brainstormed various ways of learning and testing tables…. Partner tests, Small Group tests, Tables race, Tables grid, Footy tables, Tables ladder, Dice tables, Choose your own…. I still needed a way to record the data without the mundane correction, time wasting recording of results…and get on with more authentic assessment!

Other teachers used a tables grid. I tried it for a while…A piece of paper with tables across and down. The timer went on. Students called out “finished” and a student monitor called out the time. Students read quietly while they were waiting for the 10 minutes to be up. Then a student monitor called out the answers, another student monitor collated the results on the group chart. Students could see their own improvements of time and accuracy, allowing for individuals to make their own progress. 

It worked well, something different! But everything gets boring if you use it too often. I soon figured out that Term 1 should be spent gauging were the students were at with their tables through small group tests, partner tests and teacher student interactive games, I  would use tables grid in Term 2 and 4, and something else in Term 3. 

Then, the iPad hit my school. Sure, there are quality teaching and learning apps out there and we played for a term or so, just getting used to the technology. At the back of my mind was that for some teachers, the iPad would be daunting and they would want to stick to tried and true pedagogies. Surely tables something that has to be tested EVERY week could be on the iPad, an easy way to do something familiar for teachers and students to make the leap and use the technology that was right in front of them! 

Little Monkey Apps Timestables was born! The app saves paper, and time for correction and allows for individuals to track their progress. In an update, students can pick their tables, choose the size of the grid or learn one set of tables. 

I would still have a chart of scores and times displayed because I love the morale booster when all the students can see a student making progress and congratulate each other (or commiserate when scores weren’t progressing). It gives ownership back to the student. The data collected is interesting, and as a whole gives you a snap shot of whether a child assesses well using this type of ‘test’. It forms ONE tiny jigsaw piece in the assessment puzzle!  (Don’t get me started on authentic assessment but I would prefer to ask “can you explain 8x5 to me as if I was an alien?” to see whether they REALLY understand multiplication!)
Every now and then, I think it would be beneficial to print off a grid, just to see if writing the numbers makes a difference to the way a student processes and recalls their multiplication facts. 

iPads don’t teach the student. Technology and Apps don’t provide the learning experience. The best teachers can teach without all the paraphernalia. Nothing can replace a quality educator, but if you’ve got the technology why not use it in a meaningful, useful and purposeful manner!