Gail Roberts, More Able and Talented Coordinator at Llanfoist Fawr Primary School, shares a simple but effective activity to engage and challenge all learners – combining mathematics, oracy, collaborative working and more…

Facilitating learning, rather than directional teaching, not only ensures children take ownership, it also opens the floodgates to more able learners. Obviously it is vital to choose an effective challenging task and teach the skills they need beforehand, in order for learners to access the experience fully and develop it further through ongoing evaluation.
In the past at school, children may have brought cakes in from home to sell as an enterprise activity. Although this is usually an enjoyable experience, it isn’t a true representation of the profit and loss of running a business, and fails to optimise on additional opportunities for learning.
In this alternative activity, I ask learners to work in teams to make 3D shapes and then come up with a plan to sell them. This gives them a tangible experience, a determination for gaining information about shapes, and a chance to make choices which they can then witness the effects of at first-hand.

Develop key skills and understanding

From two weeks before the planned “sale day”, I encourage learners to consider the skills they will need and provide opportunities for them to develop these. Identified skills include:
  • Persuasive language – learners are challenged to think of sentences that will entice people to stop at their stall, come up with a catchy jingle or slogan, etc.
  • Negotiation – bartering on prices for the shapes.
  • Understand profit and loss and interest.
  • How to keep a record of the accounts, on paper or electronically.
  • Elect leaders of the group and allocate team members.
  • Sell using at least two languages.
  • Working effectively as a team toward a shared aim.
Teaching the children how to formulate the boxes on a spreadsheet is easy, if you have previously taught coordinates. When spoken about in simple terms, profit and loss can be seen by every child. Allowing more able learners to formulate the spreadsheet gives them the opportunity to make it as complex as they want, while the opportunity to develop a business plan allows more able business minds to shine.
Giving learners time to think and plan for the sale day ensures that ideas can be evaluated and developed, and allows the group to come together as a team.

Replicate real-life challenges

The activity can also be used to help learners develop their understanding of real-life business processes and challenges, including:
  • Premises to rent – every 15 minutes learners must pay rent for their stall; if late, they incur a fine.
  • Property maintenance – fines incurred for untidy stalls.  
  • Marketing – stalls decorated to attract customers.
  • Interest rates – opportunity to start business with a loan, which must be paid back with interest.

Allow learners to shape the activity

The learning can be further enriched by inviting learners to suggest rules for the running of the activity. For example:
  • When buying, be willing to pay more if learners can answer questions on the properties and names of the shapes, and if well-made or decorated.
  • If someone in the group is not working efficiently, allow the team leader to give a warning or sanction.
Over many years of facilitating this kind of learning, the outcome has never been the same twice. Learners think of things that I would never have come up with. For example, this year they discussed ideas to test individual skills and allocate jobs based on ability, rather than simply getting every team member to cut, decorate, stick and sell. They discussed ideas about firing those who weren’t working hard enough, buying other teams’ products and selling them on at a profit, buying another table to expand their company, and researching language patterns and properties of shapes in order to sell to a broader audience knowledgeably.

What learners say…

While the summary above is hopefully sufficient to allow you to run a similar activity in your school, the impact is best expressed in the words of learners themselves:
“I thought this was an excellent idea for learning. Without realising it, we were making many cross-curriculum links, especially between maths and oracy. We were using strategies for problem solving and working as a team. We were having fun but learning at the same time.”
“I think learning in this way makes it easier to learn, because we are learning important things, but at the same time having fun. I prefer learning this way. I like being in charge of my own learning, thinking outside of the box, rather than being told.”
“This was a fun, challenging and exciting learning environment. This made it easier to remember the skills we needed and to use them effectively.”
“At the start of the challenge I didn’t have a clue what a spreadsheet was, but I enjoyed the challenge and felt proud that I could format the whole sheet myself and code new boxes when I needed to.”
“Communicating in a different language was challenging. However, it helped me to appreciate other people’s struggles to speak English. Our group worked cooperatively, making the most of individual talents.”
“It didn’t feel like we were learning. However, reflecting back on what we did, I realise I learnt and used a vast range of new skills.”
“It took me a matter of minutes to learn the properties and names of a massive amount of different 3D shapes. This was because I had a real purpose to learn. I was so proud when a visitor asked me questions on the properties and I blew him away with my knowledge and how confidently I was able to answer his questions.”
“It helped me to understand the importance of working as a team. We all had a job to do. These were selected, because we could do that particular thing really well. It made me feel like it was an actual place of work and we were actually doing a ‘job’. Real-life situations like these help me to realise the importance of everyone’s unique abilities.”
Gail Roberts is the MAT Coordinator, Maths Coordinator and Year 5 teacher at Llanfoist Fawr Primary School in Monmouthshire. She has worked in education since 1980, starting out as an NNEB with children with severe difficulties in basic life skills, and gaining her NPQH in 2007. Llanfoist Fawr gained the NACE Challenge Award in 2017, in recognition of school-wide commitment to high-quality provision for MAT learners within a context of challenge for all.

Read more from Gail: 
Tuesday, January 15, 2019