You are the weakest link. Everyone else is going to help you survive

16th March 2001 at 00:00
Sitting at their desks, grouped in a semi-circle, Jillian Gordon's primary 2 pupils take part in their own version of Ann Robinson's The Weakest Link before moving on to more maths practice using an overhead projector - old tech brought back with a purpose.

Pupils come out to take part in calculations using the OHP, scoring out wrong answers and explaining their reasoning, while others watch closely and pitch in when asked. When an answer is correct, everyone gives the thumbs up.

Mrs Gordon, who is in her first year of teaching, is enthusiastic that the new approach has been brought in at Alva primary. "I feel so much more that I'm teaching," she says.

Morag Smith, a primary 1 teacher, is another fan of the new maths regime. "The main difference is that it's whole-class, interactive teaching. It's much more job satisfying and you feel you are teaching a lesson," she states. The previous course was based around ability groups with a focus on workbooks and staff were unhappy with its direction. They spent more time moving around groups and trying to keep everyone active.

Both teachers accept the pace is fast and the course intensive, although a daily review is built in to confirm learning.

Staff can vary the course, set out in a thick manual, but the attraction is the easy-to-reach material. "You are told exactly what to teach each day and all the resources are provided for you as well," Mrs Smith sas. Workload has eased because a largely prescribed curriculum deals with teaching for a unified class rather than three ability groups.

Mrs Smith believes her pupils are able to do mental maths far more quickly. "In P1, we used to go up to 10, now they are counting up to 100," she says. Children are also using the maths symbols for "greater than" and "less than", another first.

Staff can tailor levels of difficulty to individuals so that everyone has a chance to contribute. Pupils learn from one another, they say. Patricia Paterson, depute head, confirms the method's success. "It promotes a fundamental understanding of number with an emphasis on discussion. The children have to verbalise clearly. I find the teachers are using a common approach and a common language," she says.

At Abercromby primary in Tullibody, Gillian Robertson, a primary 3 teacher, echoes these opinions. "It's brilliant because you get a chance to teach and you are not whizzing around four different groups," she says.

Mrs Robertson, now in her third year of the IPM scheme, believes the daily lesson pattern gives pupils the "big picture" and allows them to progress in their own favoured learning style. Sometimes it is acting out, sometimes oral explanations.

Colleague Anne Paterson says: "Pupils are much more able to retain what they learn because the scheme keeps coming back to the same things. The children love it."

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