At Summerhill we like a bit of inter-class competition. So we created a Times Tables league table of the six classes (3 year 5’s and 3 year 6’s). Classes could earn points one of two ways – from singing the songs well and from performing well in a quickfire times tables quiz.
Each Wednesday I would teach the latest song to the whole upper school in assembly.
They would then have one week to practise it. Everyone really got into this and classes were practising the whole time – last thing before break, coming in from break, getting changed for PE, as a mid-lesson energiser etc. It only takes 2 minutes to find, open up and sing the song.
The following Wednesday morning I would then visit each class for 5 minutes to hear them sing and do a 60-second quickfire quiz, firing times tables questions randomly around the class. If a child was stuck I would wait no more than 5 seconds, tell them to keep thinking and shout out when they had the answer, and fire the next question.
Each Wednesday assembly, after learning the next song, I would present the league table.
This whole process took 30-45 minutes of my time each week, depending on how disturb-able the lessons were when I knocked on the teachers’ doors (often they were in the middle of something so I had to come back later), plus 15 minutes to award points and update the league table. I was able to fit this easily around my Teaching Assistant role.
The points system:
1 point per correct answer in the quiz.
After a few weeks, when we had built up a bank of songs, I gave classes the option to take the quiz on just one times table (1 point per correct answer) or a mix of all the ones we had learnt (more difficult, but 2 points per correct answer). All chose the mix, and all got higher points.
Bonus points for singing the song, for the top 3 classes only. For the 7’s (Mamma Mia) the bonus points were 7 points for 3rd place, 14 for 2nd place and 21 for 1st place. For the 8’s (Don’t Stop Believing) it was 8, 16 and 24. And so on. The children picked up on this very quickly!
Singing the songs well didn’t necessarily mean singing it loudly – this would be unfair on the classes who had put in the effort but were a bit shy – points went to the classes where the most children were singing.
All the way through I found that a class would be bottom of the table for a week or two, very despondent, then pull themselves together, work really hard and leap up the table. This didn’t need any fixing from me!
The competition lasted two terms, from the start of January up to Easter. Midway through, as an interim prize, I took the leading class (5RC) to another primary school in our Federation to sing in their assembly and teach their children the songs. The final prize for the overall winner is a music day at Kings Oak secondary school, to be organised some time after SATs and GCSEs. The students from the band (see my blog about recording a CD) will run a series of music workshops for the children.