This week, as a department we did a bit of a “book look” and this opened up a discussion about presentation and layout of books within Maths. Whilst we’re all adhering to the school marking policies and doing all that we should – it was obvious that there are some variations in terms of presentation across the department and not just across different groups or sub-groups of students but because we don’t have a “modus operandii” for all teachers it’s really difficult to see if there are any trends within sub groups of “less than acceptable” bookwork. What we all agreed on is that there are some amazingly detailed books with immaculate working out … basically everything you’d want to see but we all to have different ways of working. For example Seager uses the back of his books for all his starters and never sticks sheets in the books whereas I stick everything in (I hate loose sheets!); One of our teams books, all have margins in, but I’ve never insisted on them … and up until a couple of years ago, was of the “I couldn’t give a monkey what colour you write in … as you long as you write something” school of thought. However as my confidence as a teacher grew I felt that it was OK to insist on certain ways of doing things – but it took me a while.
As a school some other subjects have adopted the “best-book & practice-book” philosophy but in maths we’ve gone down the “our maths books are our “best” books” route with any rough work (you know, working out or quick ten questions etc) scribbled in the back of the books. What we discovered was that it is easy to assume when flicking through an almost-full book that the “scruffy stuff” at the back is part of the students normal maths work and in lots of cases, it isn’t and this is how we came up with the idea of still using the back of the book for “rough stuff” but getting the students to turn the book upside down – which is why today, me and Will nearly come to blows over some “This Way up” stickers (he got his way!! but I let him win the argument … honest!) which we’re going to stick on the back of our exercise books so that it is obvious when the two types of work meet in a student’s book.
Our “book-look” also showed that in most cases any obvious shortfalls in presentation had been picked up on when the books were marked but it was a tough exercise because, what I may have thought was acceptable, another teacher may not so we came to the conclusion that we needed to come up with a set of standard things that we want in our books across the department – it sounds minor but things like a margin make a massive difference! So we agreed what our “non-negotiables” should be and last night I started putting together something … the idea is that as a department we’ll focus on a different “expectation” every term with the books being phase 1. We put the finishing touches to this today and I’m pleased with the finished product ( I particularly like the “upside down” bit) .
Last night, whilst I was playing at putting this together I wondered if I was reinventing the wheel so put a tweet out for ideas … you just gotta love twitter. There are some great ideas out there:
- Jo Morgan @Mathsjem wrote about her homework expectations in her POST HERE
- Nikki @Mathszest has written about this too in her LATEST POST HERE
- Amanda (@MakeMathsMatter) also shared this one made by @murraymaths – I particularly liked the idea of a “beautiful maths book”