8 January 2023

Tips for Teachers

Exciting news! Craig Barton has a new book out: Tips for Teachers. If you're a maths teacher who reads my blog then I'll be surprised if you haven't read at least one of Craig's other books, so I don't need to tell you how utterly engaging his style of writing is. You already know that this book will be a thoroughly enjoyable read, packed full of sensible and practical teaching ideas. It's classic Craig.

In this book Craig takes things that many experienced teachers already do, and tells us how to do them considerably better. And for people new to teaching, highly effective classroom practices are broken down and explained in such a way that they are super easy to implement for the first time.

For example, Craig tells us how to Cold Call, how to use mini-whiteboards, how to do exit tickets and what to do if a student says 'I don't know'. He tells us what we're doing wrong and how to get better. I've been teaching a long time now, but when I read this book it made me acutely aware that I can improve in a number of areas. All teachers can always improve. It forced me to reflect on my embedded routines and wonder if a few tweaks here and there might benefit my students.

My favourite bits of advice are those regarding questioning and checking for understanding. I thought I was pretty good at questioning until I read these sections! In Craig's advice on improving Cold Calling, he gives detailed explanations and advice on:

1. Telling students why you're doing Cold Call
2. Asking the question, then saying the name
3. Giving adequate wait time before taking the answer
4. Asking students to respond using full sentences
5. Giving adequate wait time after hearing the response
6. Managing your tell
7. Promoting active listening

This takes the reader from this starting point (i.e. not very good use of Cold Call):

Teacher: Harry, can you tell me Pythagoras' Theorem?
Harry: c2 = a2 + b2
Teacher: Fantastic. Okay, next question...

right through to this:

Teacher: Okay, no shouting out, everyone silent thinking (wait)...  What is Pythagoras' Thereom?... (wait) ... Harry?
Harry: c2 = a2 + b2
Teacher: Full sentence please...
Harry: Pythagoras' Theorem is c2 = a2 + b2
Teacher: (wait) Thank you, Harry. Kyle, what do you think of what Harry just said?

There are further examples, including those that show a sequence of Cold Calls. 

What I like about Craig's books is that he explains things incredibly well, because he's an outstanding teacher himself. He practises what he preaches - his book is full of very clear modelling, making it easy for teachers to learn techniques and apply them in their own classroom.

In terms of checking for understanding and addressing misconceptions - something that is vitally important in the maths classroom but maths teachers often struggle with - I love Tom Sherrington's '8 out of 10' tip on Page 189 (read the book for more on this!).

Rounding Up
The other section that really struck a chord with me is about 'Rounding Up'. 

Rounding up, as it's described by Doug Lemov, is when a teacher responds to a partially or nearly correct answer by affirming it and adding critical detail to make the answer fully correct. Like this: 

Teacher: What is a good first step when trying to solve 6x + 5 = 29... Molly?
Molly: You move the add 5 to the other side, and it becomes a takeaway 5.
Teacher: Nice! So you are saying subtract 5 from both sides of the equation, because subtracting 5 is the inverse operation of adding 5.

I do this all the time, and I kind of feel like it's important to do it to ensure my students are always exposed to clear and correct explanations. But this book made me question my thinking on this.

Craig explains why we shouldn't round up, and gives examples of more effective exchanges between student and teacher. Since I read this, I've been working on improving my questioning and cutting down the frequency of my 'rounding up'.


Just like Craig's other books, Tips for Teachers is incredibly useful for both new and experienced teachers. If you're a reflective practitioner who is always striving to improve, then read it - I think you'll be surprised by the sheer volume of good ideas. 

This excellent book again shows us that Craig Barton is one of the UK's leading experts in teacher development.

1 comment:

  1. Just tried the new improved cold calling technique and it focused my yr11 students really well.