Possible Plenaries

One part of the mathematics lesson that always seem to disappear as the lesson comes to the end, is the plenary. The plenary is an important ‘end of the lesson’ moment, where it is possible to both peer,self and teacher assess if the pupils have made progress. In today’s waffle I thought I would give you some ideas that I have used in the past to engage the pupils in the plenary.

Ask the children to mark some work you prepare.

Ask the children to mark some work you prepare.

The plenary is just as important as the activities within the mental and oral starter and the independent tasks, although it tends to be the last thing that is planned and, since the creative juices are probably running low at this point, it usually ends up being more a glorified show and tell of the tasks that the children have engaged with or a tidying up time. Although these are some activities that you could use, remember also there should be an opportunity for the children to self assess their work and considering what they would like to learn next. The activities here are based on mathematics, although I am sure that these could easily be adapted to be used in any lesson.

“What can you do now (in mathematics) that you couldn’t do at the start of the lesson?”

  • Marking Work – I’m not saying that this point that the children should be encouraged to mark their own work in the plenary. The idea is that you present the children either with work that you have prepared that requires marking or has been marked and is incorrect. Both of these activities encourage the children to engage with the mathematics and to see whether the answers are correct or have been marked correctly. In order to add more of a ‘real-life’ context to this task, I would often say that my ‘long suffering’ teaching assistant had completed some work – which was wrong – that needed to be corrected – although this could easily be redirected to any situation – even saying that the work done by the university tutor you consider is incorrect and you need the children’s help to check it! As the children mark the work, they need to say why it is correct or incorrect, and in doing so they will be using the same processes that they have been using within the lesson. This is also an appropriate times to check if they answer the misconceptions which may be associated with the topic.

  • What can you do now? – This next activity, is not for faint heartened. The essential feature of every lesson is that the children make progress. This activity involves asking the children the following question – “What can you do now (in mathematics) that you couldn’t do at the start of the lesson?”. This reflects the progression that the children have made and can often identify groups of the children who have made no progress at all. Often this can be the higher group(s). I have often misjudged groups, making the work either too easy or even too hard and the children have not made progress. Although this might not be desirable, at least by completing this activity, I would be able to make adjustments ready for the next lesson. Remember, even though this is a question, the way the answer is recorded can be varied – this might be in a spider diagram, verbally or even written.

  • Tell me how. – Anyone who has been in any of my teaching sessions will be aware that there are a number of key features of a teaching that are more precious to me than the other aspects. Two of these are key questions and discussion (talk). This final activity focuses on using verbal feedback for the children to share their understanding of the concept. Essentially, the children are required to tell their talk partner, or someone else, how to actually complete the mathematics that they have been doing. This could be on the carpet and be to different children from those in their original group, or to children in the same group. This is not a time for other children to judge their feedback, more to listen to see if they are explaining it well. Often this is an important time that the children can use their key vocabulary as well as using that skill from the aims of the 2014 curriculum of reasoning. Of course, you can add your own slant on this activity – suggesting that the children have to explain it to an alien or even a child from another class who knows nothing can make it more engaging. Again, although this is a verbal activity, technology could be used to record their responses if needed for assessment. One of the important parts of this activity is that it allows you, as the assessor, to listen in on specific children’s discussions to assess their understanding.
  • It is important to remember that the plenary should be as engaging and enjoyable as the rest of the lesson. In the same way as we often have a range of generic mental and oral starters at your disposal, consider starting to collect and implement a range of plenaries – of course you could start to use these to start of with, as well as your existing good practice. If you have any of your own ideas which you would like to share then please add them in the comments below or send me them to be via twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, google+ or email.

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