Catching a glimpse

I visited St Martin’s Primary school watched active learning in action when I observed a P1 class doing maths. I watched spellbound as the children showed incredible enthusiasm, confidence and focus towards the tasks set by their teacher Cath Nairn.

Cath explained how the pupils were probably three to four weeks ahead of where they would normally be for this time in P1 – so what’s the difference for the children? “Children don’t have to worry about writing it on a piece of paper” “It takes away the stumbling block of getting a mark on a piece of paper” “They’re not worried about making a mistake – it liberates them to engage and enjoy learning maths”


What’s the difference for the teacher? – “You get to see children making progress on a day-to-day basis, where you can set challenges to continually extend their learning”

The photographs show some of the activities that the pupils were engaged in during the lesson – which link to the plan on the last photograph.

Coin recognition

Cathy used the Interactive Whiteboard to great effect with small group of pupils where they dragged and dropped coins to make sums of different values.

Shopping lists with tally marks

When I spoke to the children they all used the same word – “FUN”

Cath stressed how important it was that she was able to build upon the work undertaken in the nursery. Cath doesn’t spend as much time marking jotters but she does spend more time planning what the children will be doing next – I would suggest that this time well spent.

Weekly plan

Daily plan

6 thoughts on “Catching a glimpse

  1. This is fab Don! Please put more pictures of great practice from your visits on your blog. What Cath is doing is clearly excellent, and so is your whole-hearted support for this approach.

  2. ‘Fun’ – for me you have just summed up what school should be! When teaching children, without ‘fun’ I believe you won’t maximise the learning potential of young people.

    By the way, great photos!

  3. The best days for me are the ones where the children say “Haha! We’ve done no work today!” and then when you get them to think about what they’ve learned from the activities they’ve done, you see the light bulb go on in their head.

    But a parent recently said to me that she thought there was far too much fun at school these days. In “her day” (I’d guess she was not much more than 25!) teachers were old ( I thanked her) and you were frightened of them so you got your head down and you learned.

    We have a long way to go with some parents I think.

  4. Hi Don,
    What a fantastic story! I wanted to tell you about another “fun” activity that is taking place in the educational community.

    I just wanted to make sure you were aware of a great new contest announced by Interwrite Learning, below is more information on the contest!

    The contest is going to be a great way to get students and teachers working together to achieve a common goal in the beginning of the new school year. Three winners will receive an Interwrite MakeoverTM by creating a music video of the song of their choice and will receive prizes valued at more than $15,000!

    Do you think you’ll be able to tell your readers about this exciting new contest? Please let me know if you have any questions!


  5. I remember in my dim & distant days as a maths teacher, I used to have music playing in the classroom, some days the pupils choose it some days myself, this made for a relaxing and enjoyable time for all. I also used to teach part of the maths syllabus as a language, allowing the pupils to learn new words, work out the grammar etc. and for some this really clicked.

    We’ve been running rock climbing taster course for the P7s the last two weeks & I have been using an approach of encouraging the pupils to “have a go” at tying the knots & attaching the belays, asking them not to worry about getting things wrong as I’ll help them to ‘improve’ the knots or safety aspects before they start to climb. I also emphasis to them that ‘not getting things quite right’ is part of learning. This seems to work well in a situation where they have direct responsibility for each other’s safety, as long as the checking is thorough and sound and seen as part of the process by them.

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