There’s often a fine line between looking lazy and acting efficiently.
It was only during my NQT year that I finally accepted the idea that I could use an answer sheet in maths. During my PGCE training, I was concerned it would almost be considered ‘cheating’ and I worried it would look as if I wasn’t capable of working out the maths myself. Therefore, almost without fail, I’d complete each of my maths lessons having muddled through with a focus group but never really knowing how the rest of the class had faired. I’d look over their books later that day and groan at the misconceptions, inaccuracies and lack of progress that were evident. I soon realised that I needed to check in on each and every pupil during the lesson but found that I was spending more time trying to work out if their answers were correct than actually supporting or extending as necessary.
Now, for the majority of my maths lessons, I come prepared with an answer sheet and so I decided to map out the benefits of this approach:
- Having the answers allows me to instantly assess whether my children are understanding the concepts to such an extent that they are producing the correct answer(s). Naturally, it is also important to observe methods, approaches and efficiency within children’s maths work but arming myself with an answer sheet allows me to identify the support or extension required for any given pupil far quicker than if I were to solve the problem myself during the lesson.
- Perhaps even more importantly, however, is that the children receive instant feedback in regards to their learning. This is far more effective than addressing any issues outside of the lesson itself. If a significant number of children are struggling, I can pull them together in a focus group and revise the concept or readdress it in a different way as opposed to them reinforcing misconceptions or failing to make enough progress during the lesson. Alternatively, if children are sailing through the task I can introduce further obstacles to deepen their understanding.
- I get a greater overview of my class’ understanding as a whole because I can mark at a much faster rate and therefore check each child’s work rather than only focusing on a select group within the session. This is not to say that I don’t have a particular focus group within each maths lesson. However, I do make sure I schedule some time for myself and my TA to feedback to each and every child in the class at some stage in the lesson.
- By providing children with the answer sheets after completing the task, they can independently assess their own understanding and take control of their own learning, whether that means seeking support or challenging themselves further. By doing this, I hope to develop their own meta-cognitive skills, enabling them to get to grips with themselves as learners.
- Marking during the lesson gives me more time to reflect and plan further interventions that children require following the lesson, rather than spending that time marking the children’s work. Additionally, marking during the lesson can sometimes eradicate any need for further intervention as the issue is dealt with there and then. As my school’s marking policy states, I still ensure that detailed marking with acknowledgement of strengths and next step comments are provided regularly but it is also quicker to execute these when I have already assessed each child’s understanding and progress within the lesson.
- Creating the answer sheet allows me to pre-empt any potential misconceptions that the children may have as I attempt each task myself. I make a note of any possible stumbling blocks and consider ways in which myself or the children could resolve these issues if they arise.
- Preparing the answers allows me to feel more confident as a mathematician – something that I don’t feel comes as naturally to me as my teaching of literacy, for example. With this confidence to back me up, I feel my lessons are more engaging as I have more faith in my own mathematical abilities.
I’m sure these pointers are nothing ground-breaking whatsoever. However, it is very easy to plan a variety of mathematical activities and then run out of steam when it comes to producing answer sheets. Therefore, I have created this list to motivate myself to do so as, evidently, it provides numerous benefits for myself and my pupils.
Clearly, this is a very ‘maths-heavy’ marking strategy so this raises some important questions I hope someone can answer:
-Does anyone have any efficient ways of marking other subjects that ensures the children’s learning is really benefiting?
-Can you spot any other positives or flaws in regards to the use of answer sheets? Please let me know in the comments below!