Top 10 Tips for Teachers for the year ahead

August 2016

C. Flynn

As September 1st approaches and all of our teachers prepare for the year ahead, we thought we would lend you our top 10 tips for success for getting started with particular reference to teaching maths, although most of the tips can be applied across the curriculum.

1. Familiarise yourself with the maths programme used in your school and all relevant documents for your year group.
Get an overview of the concepts taught in each term and the order in which they appear – is this right for you and your class? Are children building on what they have learnt in the previous year and throughout the year? If not don’t be afraid to move some topics around to do what’s right for your class. Also remember that the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) have designed a range of manuals to help to complement and support the Primary School Mathematics Curriculum 1999.

2. Know your pupils as best you can
It is important to speak to the teacher who taught your year group previously to learn more about your pupils and consider how you might meet the differing needs of your pupils from day one.

3. To set or not to set
This is the age old question of how best to group your pupils. Many teachers do not get to decide how their class will be grouped but if you do have a say try to think flexibly about the groupings – there are just as many advantages to having mixed attainment groups in your class as there are to having ability groups. Think about the concept and what would work best for it specifically – remember your groups should change throughout the year depending on the topic you are teaching.

4. Know the first concept
Plan September in depth so that you are aware of the basics you need to revise and also what foundations you need to be laying for the year ahead. Set clear expectations for your pupils and give yourself time to reflect on the lessons, what worked well and remember to allow for flexibility with a new class.

5. Language expectations
One of the key aims of the Primary Maths Curriculum is to “enable the child to use mathematical language effectively and accurately” (p.6). This is a great opportunity to set high language expectations from day one – remember that you, as the teacher, are the greatest role model they have so you need to use the correct mathematical language at all times. It is also a good idea to have 5 minutes in each lesson where the pupils are practising the correct language with a partner. For example, this could entail, for column addition, giving each pair of pupils a column addition that is completed incorrectly. Pupils must talk to each other about why it is incorrect and how they would correct it – no recording would be expected here – they are just talking about it.

6. Everyone deserves a gold star for something!
Think carefully about how you are going to praise your students work throughout the year. Always praise the effort put into something, for example, “well done – I can see that you tried really hard with that question and you got there in the end!” Praising a child for a mistake can also be of huge benefit, for example, “Well done – at what point did you realise that you had made a mistake?” Or “if you were to do this question again what would you do differently?” This allows pupils to realise that mistakes are good and we can learn from our mistakes.

7. Resources, resources, resources
Familiarise yourself with what resources you will need throughout the year: how can these be made most accessible to pupils? Would it be beneficial to have a pack of resources for each table/group? Are there resources that will be reused throughout the year and would benefit from being laminated? It is important to remember that manipulatives should be used in each lesson, either as the main learning, or alongside the pictorial and, or abstract and all pupils should have access to them- - don't only reserve them for the lower attaining pupils! Pupils will need training in how to use new or unfamiliar manipulatives, so remember to factor time in for this as well.

8. Seek advice
Is there an area of the curriculum that you have not taught before or are you teaching a new year group? If so seek advice from experienced members of staff who may be able to offer practical help and support for you. If you are unsure of who you should ask for help or support please feel free to get in touch with us at mathsweek@wit.ie and we will do our best to help you out or put you in touch with someone that can! You can avail of the PDST Numeracy Advisors for in school support, seminars and workshops.

9. Timetable
As well as doing your long term yearly plans plan out the first half of the autumn term in detail. The morning time is usually considered one of the better times to teach maths as pupils are generally more alert and focused at this time.

10. Have fun!
Most importantly make sure that the lessons are lively, interactive and practical where possible – it should not always involve taking out the maths book no matter what age! Remember if a pupil can understand where the maths is used and relate it to their own life they will have a better chance of remembering it.