#074 Jemma Sherwood – Part 1: Sequences of lessons and the importance of silence

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On this episode of the Mr Barton Maths Podcast, I spoke to Jemma Sherwood.

Jemma is Head of Maths at Haybridge High School and Sixth Form in Worcestershire. Jemma is a governor at a primary school, and a professional development lead for the NCETM. She is also the creator of one of my favourite educational blogs – jemmaths.wordpress.com – and the author of How To Enhance Your Maths Subject Knowledge. This is actually Jemma’s second appearance on the podcast as she was my co host for the Conference Takeaways Podcast from researchEd Rugby in 2018, and after that performance the public demanded more!

But of course we didn’t get round to talking about Jemma’s excellent book, or how she runs her maths department, because like Dani Quinn, Kris Boulton, and Naveen Rizvi before her, this conversation centered around one key question: how does Jemma plan a lesson. And her answer is fascinating. And fear not, everyone, Jemma will return to the podcast in the near future so I can get through the other 92% of questions I have for her.

So, in what turned out to be a wide-ranging conversation, we chatted about the following things and plenty more besides:

  • What is Jemma’s favourite failure, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • And then we dive deep into Jemma’s planning process for a sequence of lessons – what does it look like, where does she write it down, where do the resources come from, what happens in the lesson? It is all there, as well as numerous tangents along the way, and it is brilliant!
  • And then to finish, how have Jemma’s views on silence in lessons changed over the years?

I loved this conversation. I have long been a fan of Jemma’s work, and having had a ball co-hosting the Conference Takeaways Podcast from researchEd Rugby with her, I could not wait to get her on the show. And she did not disappoint. I will let you into a little secret – Jemma was reluctant to come on as she did not think she could offer listeners anything that other guests have not. I know we will all benefit from the fact that she changed her mind.

Two quick plugs before we crack on:

There are 20 free Diagnostic maths revision quizzes for Key Stage 2 SATs, GCSE Foundation and GCSE Higher available at diagnosticquestions.com/Revision2019 to check out the questions and quizzes – and there will be a link to that page in the show notes.

And if you are interested in spreading the word about your product, service or event to 1000s of intelligent, engaged, and quite simply incredible listeners, then I am now offering the opportunity to sponsor episodes of this podcast. Just drop me an email at [email protected].

On Twitter Jemma is @jemmaths
Jemma’s blog is: jemmaths.wordpress.com

Jemma’s post on Silence is here
Jemma’s book is How To Enhance Your Mathematics Subject Knowledge: Number and Algebra for Secondary Teachers
Mark McCourt’s blog post on Mastery (Part 3) is here

My usual plugs:

Thanks so much for listening, and I really hope you enjoy the show!
Craig Barton

2 thoughts on “#074 Jemma Sherwood – Part 1: Sequences of lessons and the importance of silence

  1. I am a regular listener to the cast – thank you – I enjoy it very much. Jemma Sherwood gets to the fundamentals in a down-to-earth way and much of what she says makes sense. However, there seemed to be a bias toward teaching to the centre in several of Jemma’s comments which, although given in a light-hearted way, gave a worrying insight into how she or her school caters for higher attaining students. On explanations in the classroom Jemma says, “It’s not going to hurt them thinking a little bit longer.” Then later, on differentiation, she says, “I have no problems with students who already understand something spending a further 10 minutes on it”. What Jemma is perhaps missing, is that ‘some’ of those high attainers understood the topic of the lesson before entering the class and that little bit extra thinking or extra 10 minutes is after the end of a tedious lesson (for them). Jemma talks about placing a ceiling on the ‘some’ at the low end but lives little consideration to the (albeit temporary) ceiling on the ‘some’ at the top, possibly for the whole topic. I’m sure Jemma does think carefully about where she wants everyone to be at by the end of a lesson but this necessarily involves spending time pulling the stragglers into the middle and hence a much lower bar than the high attaining students might achieve. Providing challenge questions exploring the nuances can’t require much exploration at GCSE – though I’d like to see some examples. I would disagree that the extra practice “doesn’t hurt them” and does “nothing but good” if they are being turned off of maths, learning to rest on their laurels and, at the very least, sitting bored in maths class and, at worst, those students will never reach their full potential after that window of youth has closed.

  2. I can’t believe you’ve both dismissed MWB’s so easily!

    For me they are vital for AFL. It feels like I’m flailing in the dark without them. I use them in every single lesson!

    I have to say I feel the excuse that the pens run out or that the students doodle with them are weak.

    You’re both better than that aren’t you? I don’t think Jemma’s alternative is very good. She asks a question and then ‘sees’ the responses around the room. How is she ‘seeing’ these responses without MWB’s.

    *confused smiley*

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