It's not often you hear the chanting of times tables in the morning. But as the majority of my class take part in our daily walking bus - and have played a large role in organising it with the head and the school council - perhaps it should not be unexpected.
This walking bus is entirely led by learning. Certainly it encourages a healthier lifestyle, but our volunteers - some former teachers - also see the learning opportunities that present themselves. Chanting times tables is just one of them.
The volunteers asked staff for suggestions on how to make the walk to school more purposeful and they came in thick and fast. The literacy coordinator saw opportunities to describe the journey and the people they met on the way. The history coordinator saw chances to point out landmarks, and the science coordinator leaped on the possibility of observing adaptation, seasons and the water cycle. And when it came to maths, the opportunities seemed endless.
For the first half-term each walk had a task, such as counting how many steps it took to get to school. For older children, the data was used in class to compare ratios and create formulae for the size of the child in comparison to the size of the steps. Children found two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes in the local area, as well as timing the walk and being challenged to beat their times each day.
One of the best examples of using the walking bus was when mental maths entered the fray. The walking bus leaders began looking at number plates and challenging children to add, multiply or subtract the numbers. Older children were asked to multiply their answers by 10. Younger children multiplied them by 2, or added a new number to make additions to 10 or 20.
The children were sometimes challenged to make the biggest or smallest number possible and at times all answers were added together to create a total. As the half-term went on, children participating in the walking bus grew to expect new challenges and enjoy them. By the end, older children were able to calculate how far the journey was, how long it took and then in class work out a formula for finding out the average speed of the "bus". At the same time, younger children were becoming more confident with general maths principles.
Older children supported younger ones with their maths. Learning was both fresh and consolidated. So what began as an opportunity for parents to ditch their cars and for children to start their day in a healthy way became an opportunity to learn for children of all ages. And the chanting? Well, that has become a welcome feature of our working week.
Chris Fenton is an associate headteacher in the North West of England
Walk to School Month
Encourage pupils to walk to school with these resources:
A song in your step
Sing about why walking is the best way to get to school.
Give pupils confidence in this lesson on map reading.
Explain the importance of speed limits and road safety in Living Streets' assembly.
If pupils still need convincing, use this video to persuade them.
How we all get to school
Collect data from your class and create a pictogram.
It's off to school we go
Compare different ways of getting to school. Which is fastest? Which is healthiest?
I spy with my little eye
Ask pupils to note down what they see as they walk to school.
Think! Cross with care
Make story time meaningful with this road safety tale.
Reward a walk
Celebrate walking success with Walk4Life's certificates.
Be safe on foot
Health advice and walking safety tips from the NHS.
For these Walk to School Month resources and more, check out the TES collection at:
Practise addition, subtraction and other sums using the TES Calculation Strategies collection. bit.lyTEScalculating
Problem-solve with bus timetables using ptaylor's worksheets. bit.lybusmaths.