Nothing new in whole-class lessons

4th February 2000 at 00:00
IN YOUR curriculum special on maths (TES, January 14), Sue Jennings and Richard Dunne tell us that the Framework for Teaching Mathematics describes teaching methods "rarely employed in this country". And what are they? "Whole-class teaching."

Can these two writers really be suggesting that whole-class teaching is a novelty? In my experience teachers who know what they are about have always used a variety of strategies, of which whole-class teaching is one.

If there is to be a change of emphasis, with an increased amount of whole class teaching, teachers will continue to use a variety of strategies. They will merely alter the balance. Whole-class teaching and differentiation are not mutually exclusive, in maths or any other subject.

Sue Jennings and Richard Dunne then comment on techniques for questioning. "Teachers are advised to design questions for individual children so that each child is able to give an answer ... Over 10 minutes a child may have to give twoanswers. It does not take any child very long to realise that there is no need to listen unless their name is called."

Well, of course, if you say, "Marmaduke, what is 18 plus 7?" 29 other children will realise that they do not have to answer. But anyone who has been teaching for more than a few weeks knows that the way you do it is to say - to the whole class - "What is 18 plus 7?", pause for a couple of seconds so that they all think about it, and then continue, as perhaps you always meant to, "Marmaduke, can you tell us?"

And it does not require a Ted Wragg-type analysis to realise that in the picture above the article the teacher has put a question to the whole class, lots of hands have gone up, and the teacher is selecting an appropriate child to answer.

Perhaps we need more articles by teachers like Robyn Pickles, and fewer by heads of initial-teacher training or curriculum design consultants!

Michael Landers

7 Keats Close


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