Preparing for KS1: 3 questions every teacher should ask

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Teaching a KS1 classroom full of curious, independent five to seven-year-olds is no easy feat. Here are three questions to ask yourself before heading into the new school year.

It’s time to wave goodbye to the last of the summer sun. That’s right, September is coming!

Preparing yourself to welcome thirty new KS1 children into your classroom is no easy feat — but it’s worth it to watch your pupils grow into independent and successful learners.

So as you shake off the cobwebs, here are three questions to help you on your way to being KS1 ready.

1. What should the children know?

You might forget this question as you throw yourself into the new school year. I’m guilty of getting carried away with my curriculum or thinking about how to make fractions exciting: cake, definitely cake.

Look back at what they’ve already learned

But, you need to think about the previous year group’s curriculum before you plan your own. Knowing what your class should know helps you to plan better lessons and tackle misconceptions straight away.

Look ahead to the end of the year

Once you’ve established your learners current understanding, look ahead to where they should be at the end of the year. KS1 is a critical stage in children’s learning. It’s where they learn the basics that they’ll rely on as they move through their mathematical journey. Knowing the end goal lets you to plan how to get your learners there.

The Year 2 Teacher Assessment Frameworks can be useful here. It gives you an overview and lets you know what you need to do to challenge children towards greater depth. Make sure you’re familiar with the recent TAF changes before you dive in.

2. What do the children actually know?

What children should know is often very different from what they do know.

Now before you go running to your class’ previous teacher, remember that six weeks is a long time when you are five. Plus, on average, pupils lose about 2.6 months of maths learning over the summer months.

Talk to children about their learning

When you plan your first week, schedule some time to talk to the children about their learning. You’ll learn more during a meaningful conversation than by asking your class to reel off their number bonds to 10. It will also give you a clear picture of their reasoning and problem-solving skills.

Activities like making paper chains in different colours or using marbles provide a good baseline (you don’t need to bring out assessment papers). Then use these conversations to inform your planning.

Think of learning like building a wall

I often tell my class that learning is like building a wall. As you learn new things, you add bricks to your wall. But if a brick is missing or is crumbly, then your wall will collapse — as will the children’s understanding.

There’s no point trying to teach counting to 10 if your class hasn’t mastered the five counting principles. It’s okay to plan time to revisit prerequisite learning before moving on to the main show.

3. How can you help them learn?

So you know what they should know and what they do know, but now what? Well, here’s where the fun begins.

Think about your environment

The first thing you should focus on in September is your learning environment. Set up a functional and useful maths area in your classroom. Now, put down the laminator, the best maths areas and working walls are purposeful for the children.

Start simple and, most importantly, make it fun! I always like to have the numbers to 10 up along with ten frames and counters the children can move to show the different numbers. A number line they can order and jumble up or a number of the day children can make with base ten are also great ideas.

Involve your class to get them excited about maths

At the start of the year, you want to get your class excited about interacting with maths, so it’s meaningful for them. When you add things to your working wall, involve your pupils, or even better, let them add things to the learning wall themselves, you are giving them meaningful learning experiences.

If you are one of those lucky teachers with spare space in your classroom, it’s a good idea to create a maths area. Use this as a chance to let the children experience those mathematical concepts we only touch upon once a year. Get out the shapes, scales, clocks, and if you’re brave the measuring cylinders and water.

Resources resources resources

Now you can bring the laminator back out. Make sure you create an area where children can access a range of well-labelled resources. You can start with number lines, base ten, counters, cubes and ten frames.

How you store your supplies may change throughout the year and also depend on your class. Start with resources grouped together, but you may have to move to trays for each table or even plastic wallets for each child.

My parting advice before the start of September? Don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

Children have an unbridled enthusiasm for the world around them. As a teacher, you play such an essential role in setting them up as secure and articulate mathematicians.

The first few weeks are a time for you to get to know your curriculum and your class, including where they are in their maths journey. Don’t put pressure on yourself to hit the ground running; take the time to listen and talk. And most importantly, don’t forget they’ll love you as much as you love maths.

is an experienced Year 1 primary teacher and a contributor to the blog.
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