Fellow teachers… be more Yeti!

James Walton

James Walton is an enthusiastic, dedicated educationalist who believes in inspiring, supporting
and motivating those around him to deliver outstanding thinking and learning. He’s someone who has proven leadership experience, leading effectively through clear communication, empathy and having the strategic vision and creativity to achieve excellent results. James is a firm believer in promoting a growth mindset in all members of the school community. His goal is to inspire and nurture children, and also to empower staff to become active participants in their learning and development, giving them the opportunity to fulfil their potential and become successful individuals with a positive self-image./p>

Follow @MrJPWalton

Website: mrjpwalton.wordpress.com Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“We are skilled mathematicians... this year we will become more skilled…” This message has helped me to drive home some messages that I hold dear to my educational philosophy and use in my everyday teaching and learning. It has helped develop growth mindsets, positive self-images and, most of all, developed an attitude which helps children to learn.

It’s nothing revolutionary and the key messages and themes have been around good teaching for many years, b ut I would like to share how using this approach this year has helped me, and more importantly, how it has helped my wonderful Year Six Maths set.

I can’t do it

My best lessons come when children are active in their learning, thinking, making connections and, most importantly, enjoying the tasks and learning opportunities available to them. I have been promoting this style of learning for many years with, dare I say so myself, some pretty good and memorable learning taking place!

"One simple caption: ‘I can’t do it... YET!"

I will say now that I have had many lessons as well where this has not been the case, and apologise to all those students who have had to suffer my instruction and voice at times when they would rather be anywhere else but in my class! However, those students can sit easy knowing that their feedback and response – yes, I have had a child almost fall asleep in my lesson – has helped future classes enjoy much better quality and engaging teaching and learning!

This year a colleague of mine introduced me to her ‘yeti’. I loved it. The image. The message. The power. Everything I had been trying to say wrapped up in one simple caption: “I can’t do it... YET!” The influence that last word has on children is amazing.

The children have embraced the message and it is regularly referred to during lesson times. Although it could be introduced at any time during the school year, I started in September during my first lesson with the children. This allowed me to allow it to influence my delivery and our mindset towards our learning. The class in question were my Year Six Maths set. A group of boys who find the application of knowledge a challenge and therefore, their true ability and understanding does not come out in assessments. This causes a downward spiral that dominates their school year. They work hard all term and then when it comes to the piece of paper that questions what they know, they go into meltdown. I was determined to try and put a stop to this. It started with ‘Yeti learning’ and then moved onto six key statements and an image I have used many times before:

  1. “What is the best way for me to achieve in Mathematics?”
  2. “What is the sticking point in this task?”
  3. “What can we now do to teach others?”
  4. “I don’t know what I will achieve this year.”
  5. “Everyone can learn to…”
  6. “I will earn feedback and praise in Mr Walton’s class.”

The first question was about attitude. It gets the children thinking about their active role in their learning and formed part of our class expectations and rules sheet.

The second made the children think about what it actually was that they couldn’t understand. The message from pupils I have had in the past is the absolute “I can’t do this…” when actually, once you have explained one small part, the child has an almost religious epiphany and suddenly the learning gateways flood open. This question makes the children deconstruct and apply their prior knowledge to the problem in front of them. It takes some training, but even after a few lessons, children were able to focus on specific parts of their learning and we could address them accordingly. This also had the knock-on effect of showing the children what they could do rather than be stumped by a larger problem in front of them.

The third question built on the second. The old adage ‘the best way to learn is to teach’ is used to get the children sharing their learning with others and therefore gain a deeper understanding of it. Collaborative learning and communication skills are vastly improved through this type of activity.

The brain and weights represents a growth mindset and the image shows us that the more we use our brains, the more it grows. This is unashamedly put in there to show the children that by being lazy, you are not helping yourself in the future. It works a treat!

The last three statements were put in after talking to the children (with careful guidance) and brought together the main points of what we wanted to get out of our year. They talk about uncertainty, progression and ‘reward’. Something the children all have control over. This helped the children gain perspective on the year ahead.

Results of leading children’s learning with these messages has been very positive. Lesson feedback from the children (they grade their learning and my delivery and content in each lesson) has been one of optimistic and constructive points that allow us to focus on what we have learnt, rather than what we haven’t been able to achieve. This has been important, as each little step is another step closer to being able to apply the learning in the right situation.

"This question makes the children deconstruct and apply their prior knowledge to the problem in front of them."

My class are now willing to give challenges a go, and have raised their own expectations and level of challenge when I set tasks. The children are given a range of problems to complete, and can move their level of challenge up or down depending on how they feel about the activity. They know that a lesson of getting everything right will not allow them to give themselves top marks for their learning, but a lesson where they can show and then explain where they have had to move their thinking on, will do. I know that a lesson where they fly through the work, give me 10/10 and say it was easy, does not mean that they have learnt lots. A lesson where we have some huffs and puffs and scratching of heads is far more beneficial to them.

Some say ‘The proof will be in the pudding‘ whenever someone tries something new and waits for results. In this case, the proof will be during their first assessment. Will the children be able to apply their learning more? I am confident they will be able to and look forward to seeing what they can achieve after changing their thinking ‘I can’t do it Yet!’ to look what I can do now.

I would like to thank some great Maths teachers for their influence, not only in this piece but also for developing my understanding of the subject and ability to teach it. Thank you to Roma Phillimore (Hazelwood School), Krista Bradford (Four Elms), Hugh Sergeant (Copthorne Prep), but mostly to Hilary Loney (now enjoying a well-earned retirement!) who instilled in me (and many more others) a confidence, belief and a love for a subject I found challenging.

Do you use such tactics in your classroom? Share your experiences below!

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"