3 months in to teaching the 2 year GCSE course

We’ve just done the first assessment of how the 2 year GCSE students are getting on. I have so much I want to blog about, it turns out designing a course from scratch is wonderfully liberating, absolutely terrifying and really hard work!
There’s a post about what is happening here if you want background and the scheme of work.

Before half term they filled in a progress tracker (see a copy here) to review the start of the year and when we got back we did some revision and a confidence check. All of this is then feeding into the reviews that I’m writing this week (yes I’m blogging to avoid writing reports!). It’s given me a lot to reflect on.

What is working
Staff on the whole like teaching the course. I’ve enjoyed it more than the one year course.
My students could tell me something they’ve improved on. The second progress tracker asked students what they felt they had improved on and almost all of my student identified one or more of the topics we’ve covered. A few weren’t sure but in the one to one’s could talk about what they now knew.
Splitting into skills and applied lessons is working. The two parts of the course compliment each other while giving the chance to be working on different things so students (and teachers) aren’t getting bored or frustrated too often.
Students have responded well to going back to basic with the skills lessons. The Don Steward resources have been brilliant for being able to have questions that practice the basics but have scope to also challenged those who are confident with the skill being practiced.
It’s really nice to go slower in the applied lessons. We’ve got a theme for each term in the applied lessons so there is time to really spend on topics. There’s no need to rush through, we can do nice activities and try things out. When students are already quite confident then it’s nice to give them extensions within the topic.
I love doing estimation starters. It’s something I used to do with Y11s and brought in as a weekly starter. A question is on the board when they come in and each student has a post it to answer on. My favourite so far was how much does the prime minister earn? The discussion was brilliant and reminded me why it’s great working with teenagers.
After the November resit exam Sharon came to show me the paper and there is a lot on there we’ve already covered. There’s a few students keen to try the exam at the end of thus year and were designing things to support them but there’s also a lot who are pleased not go be doing an exam this year.

What isn’t working
The independent learning project was a nice idea but I didn’t emphasise it enough and its fallen by the way side. I’m going to try something shorter for when we do shape instead.
It’s not a magic bullet. Day to day teaching resit classes can be so hard when students are having to deal with their own problems, of which some have far more than they should, and express that by acting up. Attendance and homework is a continual battle, though I think I’m at least winning on the homework front.
I should really have thought about how to evaluate what we’re doing. I have no idea whether what we’re doing is actually going to make a difference to exam results. I hope it will but I know from many years of teaching resit classes that its hard to know and a good or bad wind on exam day can make all the difference. At the end of the day the thing I hope we’re doing is giving students a good experience of learning maths that will help them feelnnetter about maths and develop some useful skills.

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