Now that my surroundings have changed I find myself much more relaxed. It might be the change in my teaching classes (since some are shared) or the lack of exam classes, but I feel a lot less pressure these last few weeks. As a result I feel free to read more and try new things. I have been taking more risks in my teaching. We have weekly department meetings and in one of the first I attended, a colleague said, “You must make more time to *think*.” I have been making time, and there are so many good ideas to mull over. Increased motivation and inspiration has led to this blog. (I imported a few posts from years ago that I had about maths teaching but never published elsewhere.)

Students in my classes are learning maths and also learning to work together. I have one class that seems to struggle a bit with working together well; last week I happened to be reading about cooperative learning and I decided to teach my students to work together a bit better. I was reading about Kagan structures, which is where I got the activity called Sage and Scribe.

First I made up ten questions on the topic we are studying: percentages. (Actually, I borrowed them from an old worksheet.) Students work in pairs, each partner gets five questions. Student A gets the odd numbered questions, and Student B gets the even numbered questions. For the first question, Student A is the Sage (“a wise person”): they describe how to solve the question to their partner. Student B is the Scribe: they have to write down the solution as their partner describes it. Then A and B switch roles for question two. They keep taking turns; each time one person describes and the other records.

This is such an improvement on just practicing percentages from the textbook. I found that the activity helps the students explain what to do more fully and also helps them record better what needs to be done. And it’s cooperative, so they are learning about helping each other and working together. I tried this with my bottom set (“gentle set”) year 10s and my top set year 7s and both liked it.