You have something in your teeth

numeracy leaders Jun 08, 2023

The other day I dropped my son at my mum and dad’s house. They look after him on a Thursday while I work. Thursday is his 'equal favourite' day of the week (equally as exciting as Tuesdays, when he visits his other Grandparents!). He spends the day being doted on and eating much more sugar than he is allowed at home!

Last Thursday morning I had a brief catch up with mum about all the latest ‘news’ within the family (not really anything exciting to report), then I went home to begin my day. That particular day I was working from home, I had meetings organised with some of the schools I work closely with through the NTA-Ex program and I was preparing for a PD I was running at a school the next day.

It was going to be a busy day.

That afternoon my husband picked up my son from mum and dad's place.

About 9pm I received a phone call from mum.

She called to report she had noticed in the morning I had some food in my teeth, and wanted to let me know so I could remove it before I ran my PD the next day!

I was shocked for several reasons, and had many questions.

  1. Why had she not told me when she was speaking to me in the morning?
  2. Why had she waited so long to call?
  3. Did she think I would not brush my teeth or look in the mirror before I attended my PD 24 hours later?

This made me laugh, but it also reminded me of the importance of gaining immediate feedback on our maths instruction. 

When we work with our students we want to know straight away if they have understood what we have taught. It is no use finding out three weeks later, when we conduct a post-test that half of the students didn't really understand a skill or concept we covered! By then it is too late! 

There are two ways I like to gather this critical formative data and use it to inform my teaching.

1. Check for Understanding (CFU)

A technique I like to use is 'checking for understanding' (Hollingsworth & Ybarra, 2018). Basically this means as I am teaching a concept I am regularly checking to see if the students are 'catching what I am throwing'. For example, the other day I was teaching a Foundation class on  'doubles'. They were sitting on the floor and we had discussed the meaning of doubles and explored some examples, I asked them each to write a 'double' on their mini white board and 'chin it' (this means hold the whiteboard up under their chin so I can see everyone's at once). I took a quick look around the room and immediately I was able to get an idea of who could identify a 'double'.

This meant I could confidently move on with the next part of the lesson I had planned.

This immediate feedback allowed me to check we were all 'on the same page'. Super Powerful!

2. Exit Ticket

At the end of a session, I often like to invite students to complete a very quick 'Exit Ticket'. An Exit Ticket is just a brief prompt or question that checks if the students have understood the main idea of the lesson. For example, I taught a lesson on renaming the other day. At the end of the class, I asked the Year 3 students to each rename one of the following numbers in as many ways as they could.

I provided three options: 67, 123, 456.

The students renamed their chosen number on a piece of paper and I walked around observing and taking brief notes of:

1. the number each student chose to rename (which indicated their confidence and willingness to take on a challenge)

2. If they were correctly renaming

3. If they were being systematic in their renaming

In a very short amount of time I was able to get an idea of everyone's understanding of the renaming. I knew for whom the lesson had 'made sense', and could identify those students I needed to continue to support. I also knew where to pitch the next lesson. Formative assessment at its finest!

This week I encourage you to try weaving CFU or an Exit Ticket into a few of your maths sessions!

Neither of the techniques are time-consuming or difficult to enact and you will be pleasantly surprised by the value of the immediate feedback you gather related to your teaching!

The first time you try CFU or an exit ticket, it might seem a bit 'clunky'... but keep going... each time you and the students will get better and better, and soon you will being using CFU and exit tickets regularly to inform your teaching, 

My final tip for this blog is to make sure to check there is nothing in your teeth after snack or lunch today! 😂




Want to learn more from Dr Ange Rogers? Click here to find out about her 'Quality Place Value Assessment in Years 3-6 Mini Course'

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