Teaching in a Bubble

To prepare for teaching in a bubble when students return to school in September, I thought it would be helpful to share some ideas on how my department will adjust to the new restrictions associated with year group bubbles.

This includes how we:

  1. make the most of formative assessments to gauge student’s understanding
  2. mark student’s books to provide meaningful feedback
  3. and manage equipment including exercise and textbooks

1.  Making the Most of Formative Assessments

In the past if a student had not fully understood what was being taught at the front of the classroom, they could seek a more detailed and private explanation from the teacher at their desk.  However, as teachers now need to maintain 2 metres distance from their students and cannot walk around the classroom this is no longer possible.   Therefore, the formative assessments we make during the initial teaching phase need to ensure students are ready to work independently.

We can formatively assess a student’s understanding in the following ways:

Using mini whiteboards

When the teacher has posed a question to the class to check their understanding students present their method and solution on a mini whiteboard.  I ask students to show me their whiteboards at the same time.  I do not comment on individual whiteboards, so students do not risk embarrassment.  Students can either work in pairs on a single whiteboard or individually.  If they do decide to work in pairs, they must both agree with what is written.  I look at everyone’s whiteboard and feedback any misconceptions by modelling the solution on the board.  You can learn more about using mini whiteboards in this blog.

Traffic Lights/ Thumbs Up, Middle, Down / Fingers Up Scale

Students can signal to the teacher their level of understanding using either a set of traffic lights, (which are often included in student planners) using thumbs up/middle/down or holding up 1 finger for poor understanding to 5 fingers for great understanding.

When the teacher has worked through some examples on the board the students could be asked to signal their understanding.  If two students are sharing a desk and one presents green the other presents amber or red the student who presented green can help their peer.

Prolonged Thinking Time

Research tells us the average time a teacher waits before calling on a student to respond is about one second.   By giving students longer to consider the problem, formulate an approach and present their solution we will gain a far more accurate assessment of their understanding.  To increase the thinking time, we could encourage students to work in pairs or to work collaboratively on the problem with a single mini whiteboard. 

2.  Marking Student’s Work

Because student’s exercise books cannot be taken outside of the year group bubble, we will base our written feedback on half termly assessments.  These will cover all the topics covered over the half term and completed online for homework. 

Teachers will analyse the results and focus their diagnostic comment on the topics where improvement is needed.  We will use the proforma below to write our personalised comment and give to students to stick in their book.  The class will then be given time to complete the response task in their book.

3.  Managing Equipment

To manage moving around the school it is important I carry as little as possible.  Therefore, students will need to have their own equipment.  This includes scientific calculator, 30 cm ruler, pen, pencil, ruler, protractor, eraser and pair of compasses.

On our return in September, I will write to parents with details about the necessary equipment and how it can be purchased on the high street, online and through the school.   You can download a template of the letter below and amend it for your own school.  In addition to the mathematical equipment students will also need their own mini whiteboard and dry wipe pen to use during lessons.  These will be provided by the school.

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About Mr Mathematics

My name is Jonathan Robinson and I passionate about teaching mathematics. I am currently Head of Maths in the South East of England and have been teaching for over 15 years. I am proud to have helped teachers all over the world to continue to engage and inspire their students with my lessons.


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