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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Using Music to Remember Maths Facts!

At the start of the year, our school had a full day inset with Anthony Reddy. His ideas were fantastic to help engage and improve children's calculations skills. One of his biggest recommendations was using music to help children remember certain number facts. The idea is that maths facts such as times tables are something that can be memorised in a similar way as words. If children can read they should be able to remember maths facts. Finding the easiest way for children to remember the facts is the challenge for us as teachers.

Anthony started each session using examples from the Number Fun Songs website. The website provides over 6 books full of songs that cover almost every aspect of the numeracy curriculum. Most have a catchy tune and dance moves to accompany the words and the children love to sing all about maths in their lessons. All the teachers were up dancing during the inset reciting maths facts! With this idea of using music to assist children in remembering maths facts, here are some activities I have used to further develop this in the classroom. 

The first app/s that I have used are from Smule and are Autorap and CineBeat.

The Autorap app allows you to record a conversation of someone talking or rapping  and remix it into a catchy hip hop tune through mixing and autotune!

The children absolutely loved hearing back the songs and even could recite the facts using them! I am sure after listening a few times the facts would stick and be remembered easily!

I then repeated the exercise with the six times tables, again the rap is generated in seconds and there are loads of different free tracks to choose from, the children were bopping away to their times tables!!
Here are a couple of examples:

The challenge for next week??? Who can recite their 7 and 8 times tables to become a hip hop star, you wouldn't believe how many came in wanting to recite their tables.

With Year 3 today we recapped on our two and ten times tables, listen to our examples here:

Another way for children to incorporate music into their maths lesson is to use the app Garageband. 
This app allows children to create their own song to which they can they sing their times tables or other number facts over. The children love being able to create music and having them sing and listen to their  song over and over will hopefully make those number facts stick! 
Here are some of the children's effort making their own times tables song:

Another app that I came across thanks to @Cherise_Duxbury is VideoStar. This app allows children to create their own music videos in lots of cool and exciting styles. Click here to see Cherise's class who made their own reading music video. Inspired by this idea, I decided to let my Year 3 class create their own music video to one of the Number fun songs mentioned earlier.
First the children had to listen and discuss the song to generate ideas about how they wanted to video to look. They listened over and over to the lyrics trying to learn it so they could mime in the video. It gave them purpose to learning these facts and they were storing them without realising! 

Once they had planned and decided in a group what each person was doing, they filmed their videos. At the end of the lesson, I just asked a few questions relating to the theme of the song, it was amazing to see how quickly they could recite the facts. Here is a snippet from one of the videos:

Doubling Machine - Music Video from Davyhulme Primary School on Vimeo.

For more examples of useful songs that could be used for this type of activity check out @MrACDPresent's blog here -



Tuesday, 7 May 2013

What makes a true Champion? - The Derek Redmond story to inspire writing

I was asked by the wonderful Springboard Stories to write a article on using digital media in Literacy to inspire writing with a link to their latest issue - Sport.

Straight away I thought about a wonderful theme I used last summer in the build up to the Olympics. I am a big believer in using sport in the classroom as I find it a great way to inspire and engage boys but also to teach some of the life skills sport wonderfully promotes and encourages children to develop. I have previously written other blog posts about using sport for Literacy - Using Football and iPads to engage reluctant writers or Sport adverts to inspire writing and I also helped to build The Sports Shed on the Literacy Shed.

Sport has played an important role in the lives of children since the time of Ancient Sparta, where they saw sport as a necessary experience that mentally and physically prepared them for adult life. I completely agree that sport provides so many opportunities for children to develop key skills that will help them later in life. However, I am not an advocate for the “winning at all cost” mentality. ‘Wanting to win and do your best,’ is the motto I live by and there have been many examples of amazing feats of courage and determination in sport which didn’t result in a gold medal, but defines the true meaning of a champion, demonstrating grit, determination and perseverance to win are qualities that, if we instil in children, will help them in any direction in life. I would like to share how I used the story of Derek Redmond to inspire some amazing writing in your class.

I am not going to share everything from the article I wrote as I feel it is such a good resource that you should check it out and get a copy! However to accompany the article I want to share some of the examples of work the children produced from using this stimulus. All of the examples that I will share are from a Year 4 class.

Derek Redmond is probably best remembered for the courage he showed in the 1992 Olympics 400m semi-finals, more than anything else. Despite pulling his hamstring halfway into the race he was determined to finish and hobbled all the way to the finish line, although he was in excruciating pain. Here is a video of his story:

The way I set out this unit was to build up to writing a first person recount of the race, however break it down into parts to focus on different narrative methods.

We did a lot of build up, looking and discussing the video, using senses grids and writing speech between the characters - all of which are discussed in the article with links to apps to develop this.

When it came to writing the story I wanted to slow down the whole writing process. Taking each part separately to get the children to really focus on the success criteria of that particular paragraph/stage of the story.

We started by using Alan Peat's "In Media Res," idea of opening a story - to read more about an In Media Res opening please click here. This was a short opening paragraph starting in the middle of things, starting at the point where he tears his hamstring, but not to reveal how? where? or when? hooking the reader to read on to find out more. We were aiming to use some precise description and similes to entice the reader. Here are some examples of that opening paragraph:



For the next paragraph we went back to the start of the story and set the scene, therefore creating the atmosphere for the story using as much description and focusing on our senses. Here are some examples:



Once we had set the scene, it was time to build up to the point where he sustained his injury. To do this we looked at techniques used to build tension in writing, annotating examples and making our own checklist. We started this as a shared write using inspiration from Pie Corbett - see the man in action here. Here again are some examples:



Finally, as a Big Writing lesson the children had to write the climax and resolution to the story. I wanted to get the children to really focus on this ending as often it is something that doesn't get as much attention as the opening. By breaking the story down, it gave the children time to really think and focus on the ending to their story:



The standard of writing from the whole class was amazing, but more importantly they were able to see how persevering, being determined and never giving up makes you a winner every time!

And please do check out the latest issue of Springboard Stories for more great resources and ideas to use in the classroom. 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Utilising the iPad to enhance Primary Science lessons

Many of my posts look at ways to use the iPads in Literacy and Numeracy to enhance learning and engage, motivate and inspire children. But how can using the iPad also help children in other subjects like Science, History or Geography? Here are some ideas about how using the iPad can help the children show, share and develop their learning in these subjects with a distinct focus on Science.

Starting a Topic

Normally at the start of a topic, children will be asked to design a page in their books with the title and pictures relating to the topic. Or children may be asked to make a mindmap of prior knowledge, one which can then be repeated at the end of the unit to show the difference in the children's learning. One of my favourite mind mapping apps (available through the website too) is Popplet.  Another lovely way to see what the children already know and then contrast this at the end of the topic is using a Word Cloud. There are a few websites which will allow you to create word clouds such as Wordle and Tagxedo  there are also some apps which are great for this such as TagCloud or WordFoto. As an eye catching way to start a topic, it gives the children a great way to show what they already know. To see some examples of both apps click here for TagCloud and here for WordFoto:

2013-01-07 14.58.05         2013-04-16 13.51.50

It is a great way to assess pre and post learning, as making a word cloud at the start of the unit and then repeating it at the end will show how much more the children know and what knowledge the children have acquired during that topic.

Labelling and Identifing 

Many units in the science curriculum ask children to learn names and identify different parts of a specific diagram or picture. There are a few apps which are great for children to show their understanding by labelling, annotating and matching terms to pictures. To incorporate more aspects of ICT, the word processing app 'Pages,' can be used to match pictures to scientific terms. Here is an example I used with Year 1 who were looking at the different stages in a human life cycle. They had to match the picture to the correct stage but I also used it as an opportunity for the children to learn how to format and change the text and text box - Read more about the lesson here:


Another useful app for labelling pictures or diagrams is Skitch. This free app allows children to add text and highlight different parts of the pictures or text. If children had to label parts of a plant or parts of the human body then this app would be perfect for children to show their understanding.

Here is an example from when we used the app to label a map of our school - read more about the lesson here.

Another example is to use the app TypeDrawing which is where children can draw pictures using words. I have used this app when children were looking at the human body and they drew word art skeletons labelling different bones, here are some examples - read more about the lesson here:

Children can also label pictures using the app Pic Collage. Children can label pictures showing their understanding of different terms or scientific facts, here is an example- read more about this lesson here:

2013-02-06 15.01.27

Children can also identify and label different pictures using iMovie, creating slideshows of pictures which they can then record themselves narrating over, here is an example of Year 1 sharing what they know about their science topic of Minibeasts - Read more about this lesson here:

What do we already know about our new topic - Minibeasts? from Davyhulme Primary School on Vimeo.


Using the iPads to plan, carry out and analyse investigations has been amazing. The main app that I have used for this has been BookCreator.  Generally this is one of my favourite apps, it allows children to import different media - pictures, video, sound as well as text.

Firstly, children can plan the investigation, share pictures of equipment, write the process and even make predictions. What makes this app great for this process is that rather than write everything children can record themselves, making it easier for children who maybe struggle with their writing therefore letting them purely focus on the science and the investigation.

Recording - Children can use the iPad camera to take pictures or record themselves carrying out the experiment or if the process will take a longer period of time, time lapse apps such as iLapse could be used to record the results - here is an example of this app although it wasn't used in a scientific context:

Trialing iLapse in our Classroom from Davyhulme Primary School on Vimeo.

If the children needed to make a graph to display results they could use the app Numbers or use the app Doodle Buddy to create a graph - read more about this app here.

Again using Bookcreator, children can analyse and evaluate their investigation using text or recordings. Every little bit of the investigation is kept in an eBook which can be saved and shared online. Here is an example of an investigation a Year 4 class did looking at proving whether air is a material - read more about the lesson here:

Using BookCreator for a Science Investigation from Davyhulme Primary School on Vimeo.

Explaining Processes and Sharing Facts & Research

Another great way for children to demonstrate their learning by explaining processes is to use the app Explain Everything. Again one of my favourite apps as it allows children to really be creative in the way they showcase their understanding. Children can use pictures, videos, text, highlighting tools while recording themselves explaining a process such as - the life cycle of a plant, or the relationship between Earth, Sun and Moon, or explaining how different circuits work, the possibilities are endless.

An alternative to this would be to use the app Puppetpals to create animations to explain processes or demonstrate learning from research. The app allows children to add characters, backgrounds and move them while recording themselves discussing their ideas. Here is an example Year 3 did to show their understanding after researching the first moon landing:

Class 3A explain the Lunar Landing using PuppetPals App from Davyhulme Primary School on Vimeo.

Children could also use iMovie Trailers to explain a process, children can change text and use pictures or videos to show their learning in a creative and different way in the style of a movie trailer, here is an example:

These were just some ideas that I have used to enhance learning in Science with iPads. As mentioned at the top of the post, word clouds can be used as a way of assessing children's understanding during a topic. Socrative is also a great way of assessing the children's learning, quizzes can be made by the teacher which will test the children and results can be exported into an excel file.

Most of these apps and ideas can easily be used in other foundation subjects such as Geography, History, RE and will have the children approaching the subjects with enthusiasm, creativity and motivation to further their learning.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Examples of some of my ideas in practice

Here is a lesson implementing a few ideas from some of my recent blog posts. I think it is important to demonstrate the impact some of the ideas have.

I am always looking for interesting, different and engaging ways to capture the children's  attention and inspire them to write. Recently I put together some ideas for using music videos to inspire writing - read more here.

 I decided to use one of those videos for Year 4 to do some writing, in particular focus on a technique to develop characters in a story. I came across this technique from Alan Peat, whose resources have become invaluable in my teaching. This focus, one of his great free resources, looks at developing characters using a 'show not tell' technique which focuses on developing feelings through the description of a character's expressions, speech or movements - See the article here. This specific video really helps children grasp this concept as clues are given throughout about how the girl feels through her movement and expression. It also shows the children how effective building up a story for a surprising climax can be - when the girl is reunited with her pet there was a real WOW moment as the children do not suspect the pet to be a giraffe. Here is the video -

 I started by questioning the children throughout the video:
  • Watch the first 20 seconds - how is the girl feeling? What makes you think that? Why might she be excited? What clues do you get from the girl's movements and expressions that she is happy?
  • Pause just before a minute - how has the girl's feelings changed? Why do you think that is? What might she have lost? How has her face and body movement changed and what emotion does this portray? What could she do now that may help?
  • Pause again at 1.42 - Has the girl's feelings changed even more now? Why do you think that maybe?
  • Once the giraffe appears - are you shocked why? How does the girl feel now?
  • At the end, ask whether the children liked the video and why? The class said that they liked the fact that at the end the giraffe was revealed which was a nice surprise. Tell the children that this is a great technique to also use in their writing.
We started with some shared writing where I demonstrated some of the sentence types I may use. The children were then encouraged to write their own stories, referring back to the video whenever they needed to. Once the children had finished, I shared an uplevelling checklist for them to work through with their partner, I have found this to be an amazing way for children to check and edit their work. They try and compete against each other and justify word choices to earn more points.

Here are some examples of the children's work:






Another really good way for children to check their work is to get them to read it out loud and record it over the original video. This gives the children a real purpose to read back through their work.  The children downloaded the video using the 'Dropbox trick,' they then imported the film into iMovie and recorded themselves reading their work. This is a really useful exercise for children to practise their oral reading skills. Furthermore it is amazing how quickly the children spot mistakes in their work as they are reading it out aloud. It is also a great way of extending the higher achievers by asking them to try and write in time with the video, therefore thinking carefully about word choice and length of their writing. Moreover it provides a real purpose to their work as the finished videos can be shared to a worldwide audience. The finished videos are also extremely effective to have the visual image running alongside the children's writing. Here is a mix of some of the children's efforts: