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January 20, 2012

A pupil informed me recently that she’d counted 132 post it notes on the walls of my classroom. It was not until this moment that I realised I may have a problem. They say the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one so here goes, my top uses of post-it notes in the maths classroom.

Thoughts and Crosses

Anyone who reads Mr Taylor’s Blog will have read about this great idea, a grid of questions which increase in grade or level as you move up the grid. Whilst there are a variety of ways you could use these they are a great way to bring competition as well as differentiation into your lesson. I made this one on solving equations and got students to work in pairs, they each got a different colour of post-it note and had twenty minutes to cover as much of the grid as they could. To claim a square they had to have a fully worked solution to that question on their post-it. They really enjoyed this and it was interesting to see which questions they chose. Next lesson I am going to give them the grid back with someone else’s solutions (which I will have removed) and they will have to re-match the solutions to the correct squares.

What am I?

This popular party game can easily be used in the maths classroom. Students work in pairs and each write something on their partners post-it, this is then swiftly attached to their partners forehead, they take it in turns to ask each other yes/no questions to reveal what is on the post-it. This can work for loads of topics but here are a couple I have tried:

Number Types – pupils have to write a number between one and 100, you will find students questioning about factors, multiples, primes, odds and evens without even realising it!

Shapes and their properties – pupils have to draw a shape (works for 2D and 3D), students quickly realise they need a range of questions beyond ‘have I got four sides?’ and will be asking about parallel lines, lines of symmetry and equal angles before you know it!

Fill in the blanks

An idea for a starter is to have some questions on the windows (or board) with numbers or words missing, as students come in they get a few post-its and have to fill in as many blanks as they can. Using the windows is a really good way to engage students, often they become a bit desensitized to the IWB.

Bar Charts or pictograms

Post it’s are great for doing bar charts, all you need is a blank axes and a question. Each student records their response on a post it and then sticks it in the correct position on the graph, this works just as well for pictograms if you get some post-its which are fun shapes. You can then have a discussion about labelling the axes and scales etc.

Plotting lines and curves

A fun way to teach plotting lines and curves is to allocate each pair of students an ‘x’ value, they must work out the corresponding ‘y’ value and write it on their post-it. They can then all plot them on a set of axes the board and you can discuss the pattern etc.

Peer assessment

In my experience students really like assessing each others work if you give them some pupils speak level descriptors. It’s hardly groundbreaking but I often ask them to write their assessments on post-its, they have two each, one for the level with a reason which references the criteria and one for how they could have reached the next level.

Feedback on books

I sometimes have the problem of students not reading feedback in their books so I mix it up a bit and occasionally give them feedback on a post-it on the front of their book, they will read it straight away as it is different.

Afl strategies

Post-its are great for lots of AFL strategies. You can ask students to write ‘one thing you have learnt’ and ‘one question you still have’ on post-its and then stick them on a wall or window. These can be reviewed by you to inform your planning and they can be reviewed at the end of the next lesson to see if students questions are now answered.

Another nice AFL activity is to ask students to write their name on a post-it and place themselves on a scale of confidence which refers to the objectives of the lesson (this can be on a wall or on the board). You can review this as often as you like to see if students are making progress, especially good if you are being observed and need to evidence progress in a short space of time.

Secret questions

I love the secret question! Before the lesson you stick a post-it under a chair with a question on, this can be about anything for example ‘give me three key things you learnt last lesson’. At some point in the lesson you shriek ‘secret question’ and the students have to all check under their chair, the chosen one has to read out the question and an answer (remember to give them some thinking time!).

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Sharon Derbyshire

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