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Palmerston North Intermediate School: ALiM report

Number of
students
Year Initial stage
Add/Sub
Final stage
Add/Sub
Time in programme Predominant
Focus
8 7/8 stage 4/5 stage 5/6 4x60mins weekly
10 weeks
Times tables
Place value

Advice for teachers and principals who want to accelerate learning for students

  1. Equipment (Tools and representations)

    Equipment was a significant component of my trial. Concepts being developed were explored with materials to consolidate understanding. Examples of this included:
    Fly flips, beans, unifix cubes – derived multiplication
    Pop sticks, place value houses, beans, number lines, arrow cards – place value knowledge
    Place value houses – place value knowledge
    Hundreds boards – place value knowledge, addition/subtraction facts
    Deci-pipes – decimal place value knowledge

    To consolidate multiplication facts, children were engaged in a number of ‘games’ such as loopy, family of facts trading game and many more.

    The emphasis during these sessions was on ‘doing’ (making, showing, sharing and explaining) rather than recording, with very little being actually written by the students. Children were consistently required to explore others' understanding of concepts and justify their own. They had opportunities to see what the other students were doing and were challenged to explain their thinking. They had access to this equipment during lessons and were encouraged to use equipment to explain their thinking to others.

  2. Repetition and routine (Worthwhile mathematical tasks and Building on students’ thinking)

    At the beginning of each session children were required to complete a timed basic fact test. For the first four weeks children completed the same test, which focused on 2, 5, and 10 x table (48 questions). This was increased to 72 questions across all basic facts for the remaining six weeks. Students recorded progress in a notebook, which was taken home. Initially children created their own basic facts cards to peer test and practice at home from their incorrect responses. After each basic facts test students needed to identify which basic facts they didn’t know so they would know which ones to learn. Students shared, on a daily basis, their previous day's score to highlight and celebrate their progress.

    New teaching activities and games that were introduced were taken home as practice and were repeated several times over the following lessons. These were also revisited over the time. The focus when playing these games was on thinking and strategy by talking aloud and sharing ways to work out solutions. It was important for students to practise this verbalization of their thinking and to describe what they saw (imaging). Towards the end of the programme we revisited some of the earlier activities. Generally students had forgotten most of them despite having practised them many times in the first weeks. I noticed that after the term holiday break, students were notably slower in basic facts and had not retained concepts taught in the last week of term. It took about two weeks for students to build up to the level they were at before the holiday break.

  3. Organizational skills

    I also found that the organizational skills of the individual students were a determining factor in their success. Those students who had good self management and organizational skills attended with a greater regularity, were punctual to lessons and arrived with the correct equipment, and had completed and returned with their homework tasks. The students who did not make as much progress were often late to lessons, absent from school, arrived without homework tasks or equipment needed. Seven out of the eight students had a very positive attitude towards maths and the lessons. They enjoyed coming to lessons and were often disappointed if they were not on (that is, when I was away at camp). A student's attitude and willingness to improve was not a determining factor in whether they actually made progress.  Rather it was the lack of skills/ tools for learning that was the barrier. It is worth noting that most of these students have had many years of inconsistent attendance and lack organizational skills.

    Our school timetable had an impact on the programme. As a large intermediate school, our timetable rotates and so students would sometimes have to come from P.E classes, technology lessons or computers and therefore miss out on those subjects. It also meant that students did not always have maths in their class as well as lessons with me. This may have influenced progress. A solution could be to timetable remedial groups at the same time as extension groups in the afternoon programme.

    There were also interruptions to the programme due to several team trips and school camp.

    I surveyed the students at the conclusion of the programme to see what activities they found helpful and what advice they would give teachers. They all enjoyed the daily basic facts tests. One student noted, “ I knew what to do when I came in and the egg timers made it fun. I could see myself getting better.” They all enjoyed the games, particularly the families of facts game . “ I could play it with my family and you had to think fast”. Another student noted that being timed “made you dedicated”. The students all agreed that the individual flash cards were helpful. They liked seeing what they knew (and how much they knew) and then only learning those they needed to. The students all said that they had shared learning with their family and felt it helped them in the classroom. One student was excited to tell me that she was able to get the decimal questions right in the IKAN test and she had “gone up a level”. Overall they all felt more confident in class, particularly when working with their group.

School Profile

We are a large intermediate with a roll of 670 students. There are 21 year 7/8 classrooms. The school operates a 6-day rotating timetable Monday to Thursday. This is to accommodate the six teams technology programme. Special school events such as athletics or catch-up technology sessions are also timetabled Monday to Thursday. There is a Friday timetable that allows for performing arts groups and assemblies. The students in the programme came from across the school. They were from five different teams. The students identified were all working on stage 5 and were identified through initial testing as needing basic facts and place value knowledge.

Programme

The lessons were 60 minutes, four days a week (Monday-Thursday) from 9.30am -10.30am. Each session began with a basic facts test. Students used egg timers to complete as many questions as they could. They then swapped sheets to mark another student’s work. Scores were recorded and shared. Students then did their homework activity (sometimes an individual task and sometimes a group or pair activity). This was followed by lessons/games focusing on basic facts. After this there were lessons/activities on place value. If time allowed, a group activity finished the session. One of the activities was given for practice at home.