Wednesday, November 18, 2009

times tables

One of the two detentions I remember at school was for not knowing my 16 times table by heart (young people, this was for pounds and ounces). I still don't.

we all know our 2s? so 4s and 8s are easy
most of us know our 3s so 6s are easy
9s - use your fingers!
5s and 10s easy

just leaves 7s but not 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x, 6, 8x or 9x!

7x7=49 is the only one you have to LEARN

teach children to work them out not memorise them

BTW the other detention was for writing I love Donny Osmond on a desk - I didn't do it!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Learning Journals

Learning Journals – Brief Outline and further reading

Students are guided by me about what to include in their learning journals until they get to a stage where they are able to do this independently (although I maintain frequent references to it). Students use either marginalia or 'think' bubbles to annotate their work. Lessons generally have time built in for students to update their learning journals as they work and this also forms part of their weekly home work (private study). I am particularly interested in the ways in which learners develop problem solving and reflective skills and this is something which I ask them to record. When guiding students to become independent learners, it is necessary to aim particularly for ‘deep learning’ and ‘target setting’ although this is very difficult, especially with young learners. Deep learning entails personal evaluation of learning achieved and reflection on development as a learner.

In my opinion, reflection is innate for some, whilst for others it can be improved through guidance. For Moon (2005:2) “reflection is a fundamental feature of a deeper approach to learning” and “it enables learners to feel that they ‘own’ their knowledge because they have been part of its creation”, “ability in reflection often implies ability in metacognition”. I originally began to put these ideas together following my reading of some very important ideas about ‘multiple intelligences’ and ‘process folios’. The work of Howard Gardner (1999) was probably the most significant in guiding my thinking, along with Puntambekar and du Boulay (1999), as well as Patricia Murphy (1999).

Anne Langley (2002:78), in the SOL[1] Theoretical Reader, collapses Perry’s (1970) ‘positions’ of intellectual development into three stages: absolutism, relativism, commitment. Until learners (at any level) are at the stage of relativism, that is, they are able to perceive a world in which the teacher does not know everything, I believe that they can never make the jump to becoming independent learners. I needed to consider how to move my students towards commitment. I wanted each of them to be able to develop her/his own intellectual identity and accept that this may vary and change over time and with new information.

This is what I wrote for my GCSE students on their wiki (Moreland, 2008a):

Being a reflective learner means taking something that you already know really well such as how to read, or doing basic Maths, or something about how cars work, or your favourite music or artist. You then use that existing knowledge and apply it in new situations, usually to solve a problem. In so doing, you actually develop new knowledge and it is better than just being told or taught something by someone else because you will remember it so much better. Of course, at school, college or university, and even when training for a new job, you usually have to have someone to guide you. If you take the time to sit and reflect afterwards, write it down in a Learning Journal or mind map, or whatever suits you, you will find that you do something called internalising the knowledge - remember when I talked about metacognitive skills?

Elizabeth Holmes (2/10/08:1), writing for CPD Week, uses an analogy from children’s literature to begin her explanation of professional learning journals:-
Any Harry Potter fans out there may remember a conversation between Harry and Dumbledore about the 'pensieve'. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by JK Rowling, Dumbledore explains to the young Harry that the stone basin he calls the pensieve is used to hold excess thoughts from one's mind so that they can be examined at leisure. "It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form", says Dumbledore.

I believe that this would also make a good explanation of why student learning journals should be encouraged. Teachers strive to help their classes with pattern spotting and link making and it is my contention that by assisting them in making links across and between subject areas we are helping them to become independent learners for the future. Northedge and Lane (1997) describe a spiral of learning which begins at the point where we realise that we need some extra information in order to enhance our learning, moving on through study and lessons, using some old knowledge, to internalise new ideas and begin the spiral again. The issue which I believe exists even more markedly with young students is that they need considerable guidance to move sensibly along this spiral. Langley (2002: 21 – 24), based on a variety of other authors, provides some suggestions for developing strategies which students can use to enhance their independent learning skills. Bearing in mind that these are suggestions and not a ‘recipe’, they are:-

· Concept mapping
· Linking different parts of the course
· Emphasis on qualitative reasoning
· Check your neighbour in class discussion
· Using students in class illustrations
· Discouraging verbatim note-taking
· Linking subject matter with everyday examples

Gardner, H. (1999) Assessment in Context in Murphy, P. (ed.) Learners, Learning and Assessment, London, Paul Chapman
Holmes, E. (2/10/08:1) “Professional learning journals – making learning come alive”, CPD Week (
Langley, A. (ed) (2002) Supporting Open Learning Theoretical Reader (2002) Milton Keynes, The Open University
Moon, J. (2005) ‘Learning through reflection’, Guide for Busy Academics No. 4, Higher Education Academy
Moreland, J. (2008) private wiki for my GCSE Maths students
Murphy, P. (1999) Supporting Collaborative Learning: a Gender Dimension in Murphy, P. (ed.) Learners, Learning and Assessment, London, Paul Chapman
Northedge, A. and Lane, A. (1997) ‘What is learning?’ in Northedge, A. et al. The Science Good Study Guide Milton Keynes, the Open University pp. 20-2
Perry W G (1970) Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years, New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Puntambekar, S. And du Boulay, B. (1999) Design of MIST – a System to Help Students Develop Metacognition in Murphy, P. (ed.) Learners, Learning and Assessment, London, Paul Chapman

[1] Supporting Open Learners