Saturday, 14 December 2013

Using SOLO in a maths classroom

I've blogged on SOLO before (here and here), and it's still very early days in rolling this out beyond a few experiments, but it's working and developing...

Here are a few of the things we've been trying...

SOLO to structure revision:
The hierarchy of understanding that SOLO brings is a natural match to structuring revision. In helping my year 9 middle ability group to prepare for a test I put together some  sheets that tried to help them to collect and organise their knowledge & skills.

I used SOLO to guide them trough it:

  • Prestructural - do they remember that we've covered that topic?
  • Unistructural - can they remember one fact about it?
  • Multistructural - can they remember any more facts about it?
  • Relational - can they combine these facts to answer some questions about it?
  • Extended Abstract - are there any links to other things that will help them to remember the key points?
I didn't want to guide them too much so I left most of the boxes blank, but gave example questions for them to complete in the Relational box, so they could prove their understanding. A completed sheet looks like this:

I tried this with the class with only a limited explanation of the stages - just presented them with the sheets and encouraged them to use their notes or other resources in the room to help get from Prestructural to Relational, pushing to Extended abstract where possible. The students reacted in a really positive way - they really liked the way they could demonstrate increasing understanding. The weaker students also liked that they could demonstrate some understanding even if they couldn't get all of the way to the bottom of the sheet. They recognised that they needed to find more of the multistructural facts and link them up in order to answer the questions posed. As a result I will definitely be using this approach again with this group.

More advanced revision
I have also started using a similar approach with my year 13 group. Initially this was a relatively informal process, with the SOLO icons scribbled on the board and student lead notes being made in class. Like this:

Following the success of the year 9 sheets, and a good response from the A-level students I've now got to the next step and created some proper A-level revision sheets - like this:
Tried it out with yr 13 on Friday - again a really positive student response, meaning I'll create more.

SOLO as a problem solving tool
I've also used SOLO a few times to help students to solve unfamiliar problems. For example without actually teaching anything about arc length or sector areas I put this slide up on the board:
The class then followed a "Think, Pair, Share" type activity to generate enough facts, individually and as a whole class. They then linked them up to allow the problem to be solved.

The second slide (arc length) needed much less discussion as the class had already accessed the key facts, and reached the solution more quickly.

Form there, without me actually telling the class how to do it at any point in the lesson, they all went on to confidently answer a range of questions relating to arc lengths and sector areas.

SOLO as a starter
We've also looked at using SOLO to collect prior knowledge on a topic at the start of a lesson. This can be really useful with a new group, or when coming across a topic that you've not touched on with a group before. Just put the icons on the board, write the topic name next to the prestructural blob and then see what facts the students can give to you and what links they can make between the facts.

SOLO as a Plenary
Part way through a lesson or at the end - just ask the students where on the SOLO taxonomy they think they are, how they know that and what they need to do to move to the next level - they soon get the hang of the icons and the conversations are great.

How are you using SOLO?
Do you have any comments or suggestions - I'm really keen to know how others are using SOLO in maths and in other areas - please comment or drop me a line on twitter.


  1. Are these activities available to download? They look really great and I would love to try them out with my classes.

    1. Some can be shared but some are a bit sensitive to copyright due to using stuff licenced to my school. Could share templates easily enough. Drop me a line via Twitter (@listerkev and I'll see what I can do)