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Saturday, 26 October 2013

How to ensure impact with blogging!

The idea behind children blogging is simple - give them a platform to write for a real audience and this provides a purpose to write. When children have a purpose, it impacts on the quality of writing.

The most difficult part for teachers trying to encourage children to blog, is to create an audience for children to write for. There are a few websites teachers can sign up for an use to really help build an online audience:

100 Word Challenge -  Simply an amazing way to promote and showcase children's writing. Each week a prompt is given which the children need to write a blog post of 100 words about. The post is then linked from your blog to the website where it can be seen by the thousands of schools, teachers and children that visit the site each week. A group of willing volunteers have the busy job of trying to comment on as many posts as possible. As the site now gets around 1000 entries a week they are crying out for people to help comment on children's work. I think a lot of Secondary school teachers should encourage their students to comment as it is a great way to really promote themselves as responsible digital citizens. As a class we sometimes will do the 100 word challenge as a lesson, look at children's examples from around the world before having a go at writing their own.

Quadblogging - Created by David Mitchell, this termly project groups your blog with another 3 schools from around the world to create your quad. The idea is to then have a focus school for that week with the other schools visiting and commenting on work on the site. A really great way to ensure children's writing is seen and commented on and also teach children responsible use of the internet.

Lend me your Literacy - If you are not blogging but want a way to have your work seen and commented on, Lend me your Literacy can provide that service. They will come and deliver a day with a class, publish all their work on their site and promote it so it receives comments from people all around the world. Within the package they will also publish other examples of work throughout the year to continue to inspire children to produce quality work.

Using these three tools will definitely build an audience and light up the globe on your blog. However they can't guarantee that every post that the children write will have feedback and be equally valued. It is comments from people outside of the classroom that has the biggest impact on children's work. Therefore creating a way to guarantee comments will create an encouraging environment throughout the school.

This idea originally came to me from Mr Osler and Miss Gardner who had the idea of recruiting a group of parents to ensure every child's work is commented on. I thought this was a great idea however for maximum impact, I didn't want the children to suspect it was parents commenting, instead other special visitors who were 'experts' at writing. And so the "Guardians of Grammar," was created.

The real identities of the GoG will remain anonymous, they are only known as their literacy superhero alter egos. Their mission, to leave no posts on the Davyhulme Primary Blogs without constructive and useful feedback.

How we set it up - A simple Google Form was set up for parents to sign up with an email. I then created log ins for each parent so they can comment under their new superhero identity.

Thanks to twitter I was able to acquire a number of superhero names that can be used (thanks to Bryn Goodman, @JwjmcdonCeltic Hippie, @RedgieRob,  @AlanPeat and  @InspiredMinds for all their suggestions) here are some you could use:

  • Razor-Clause. 
  • Adverbigirl. 
  • Capit-Al. 
  • Admiral Adjective. 
  • Professor XYZ
  • The Red Margin. 
  • Inverted Commander
  • The Vocabularmy. 
  • The Determinator!
  • The Ellipsis of Evil
  • The Credible Hulk
  • Wonder WhatHappens aka Paige Turner. 
  • Night-Vowel. 
  • Diction Harry. 
  • The Forward Slasher.
  • Grapheme Girl, 
  • Dr Digraph, 
  • Captain Complex, 
  • The Modal Master
  • Comma Bomber. 
  • Director Speech
  • The Fiction Phantom, 
  • SpagMan. 
  • Doctor DotDotDot aka Eric Ellipsis. 
  • Optimus Time Connective. 
  • CinderSpeller
  • The Ascender, 
  • Colonel Colon, 
  • The Guardian of Grammar, 
  • Metaphor the Merciless
  • Agents of Alliteration, 
  • Aunti Nim, 
  • Meta4,
  • Ben Pen. 
  • Captain Noun-sense. 
  • Verbot.
  • The Full Stopper
  • Subordinate Mariner
  • The Dark Determiner
  • Dash
  • Subordinator, 
  • The Comma-dore,
  • Super-lative. 
  • The Eraser.
  • Alliteration Boy
  • Preposition Man
  • The Comma Chameleon
  • The Magnificent Metaphor Man
  • The Terrific Tenses Woman
  • Kid Flashback
To make this even better I sent all the superheroes this link for them to create their own SuperHero Avatar - Click Here

It was important to inform the children about these superheroes who were now visiting our blog. Where were they from? Who are they? Why were they visiting our blog? These questions filled the children with excitement to get writing. When it was revealed that these superheroes find excellent pieces of writing to reward and comment on. This has filled the children with enthusiasm to have their writing seen and commented on by real superheroes!

As for building connections with parents and involving them in children's learning this has been a great tool to use. By all means try it! But make sure that the parents can be trustworthy enough to keep the GoG a secret!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Beyond the Typical Multiplication App

I am very fond of using different multiplication apps for children to practise their times tables and quick recall of number facts however very few apps allow children to develop their understanding of multiplication beyond this. However a new app, developed by Daydream Education, aims to cover all aspects of multiplication covered in the new curriculum. It covers the ability for children practise their times tables but then extends this by looking at methods for long multiplication, multiplying by multiples of 10 and useful tips.

(Click the picture to see the app.)

Having tested the app with a Year 6 class, I wrote this case study for the app which covers all the great features of the app - CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD:

After the lesson I interviewed some of the class, here are their thoughts:

At a price of £2.49, it is a MUST HAVE for all schools using iPads in the classroom.

SPEED LEARNING - MANCHESTER - Thursday November 21st

If you haven't attended a Teachmeet or Speed learning event, you are really missing out! These free CPD events can be incredibly inspiring and will have you buzzing with new ideas to try in the classroom. After attending a speed learning event at St Silas last year, our school Davyhulme Primary, has decided to host a Manchester event on Thursday 21st November from 4pm - 5.45pm.

What is Speed Learning?
Knowing how precious everyone’s time is, Speed Learning aims to provide an intensive but fun learning opportunity after school. You will leave each event having picked up a series of top tips and short term strategies to support learning as well as one or two longer term ideas and thoughts.
When you arrive you will be warmly greeted by teachers, teaching assistants, heads and leaders – all of whom are part of the Primary Network – the largest school-led national network of primary practitioners.
Running from 16.00 – 17.45, you can have a well-earned cup of tea and a few biscuits whilst you hear a 15-minute keynote on the latest educational developments from one of the school leaders. Then, choose five tables to visit that reflect your highest priorities. Move around the carousels, ‘speed-dating’ style, to hear three minute nano-presentations at each table followed by discussion with like-minded colleagues on practical, relevant classroom topics.
Each Speed Learning event is different, with different people hosting tables. So far for the event in Manchester we have the following people hosting a table: 
Mr Parkinson Mr Parkinson - will be leading the keynote looking at building an audience for your children's work.

Rob Smith Rob Smith - (Creator of the Literacy Shed) - Animation to inspire writing.

Miss Gardner Sarah Gardner (Davyhulme Primary) - Using Picture books for cross curricular writing throughout a whole Primary school.

Emma Brundrett Emma Brundrett (Davyhulme Primary) - Stimulating learning using puzzles and games.

Mr May ICT David May (St Christophers) - Using QR Codes and Survey Monkey as a cross curricular tool.
Mat ✎ Inspired Minds

 Mat Sullivan - Using comics in the classroom.

Jon Chippindall Jon Chippindall (Crumpsall Lane) - Programming and Coding in KS1/2.

CD Cherise Duxbury - 

Gina Donaldson

 Gina Donaldson (St Silas) - 

EducationCity UK Education City (Sponsors) - 

We are looking at potentially one more host for the event so if you are interested please contact -
The event is completely FREE and will be an exciting evening, if you want to attend all you need to do is fill out this sign up form. You may want to use this event as your weekly staff meeting and have your whole staff attend. The event is hosted at Davyhulme Primary, Canterbury Road, Urmston, Manchester M41 0RX. The school is located close to the Trafford Centre. 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Writing for a real audience!

This half term I have been working with a year 5 class on a Thursday afternoon. We have been basing our work around the theme from the Film Blackfish about Whales in captivity. In the first week back in September, after discussing the film with the class, the class created an awareness video, which supported the fight to free Orca whales in captivity. Here is the video:

The reaction to video was inspiring, to see some of the feedback CLICK HERE.

From this reaction, it has provided the class with an audience and therefore a REAL purpose to write. I had to use this opportunity and the platform of the blog to share children's writing about this topic. 

The amount the children have been blogging about this topic has been amazing! The standard and quality of writing is clear to see as children know that their writing is being read by experts and professionals all over the world - You can read some of their work here.

I have seen this in the tasks we have completed in class based on this topic. Once we had completed our writing, we have used the iPads to try and present our work in a more creative and entertaining way. 

We first looked at some poetry about Captivity as part of  National Poetry day, the theme for the poetry was Acrostic poems however we tried to push this style further by looking at hidden acrostics and tele stitch poems. The idea came from Alan Peat and his free resource “Beyond Acrostics,” 

We firstly listed some words that related to our project such as – Captivity, Orca Whales, Killer Whales and Free Morgan.

We then wrote an acrostic poem, once we had finished we edited and changed our poem to try and add either a hidden acrostic or tele stitch.
Once we finished and were happy with our poems, we decided to present them using an app Videoscribe.

This app is fantastic for bringing pieces of writing to life and adding added elements such as images, drawings, music and also getting children to think about the pace of their presentation.
The finished poems portray a very powerful message while demonstrating the children’s ability to challenge themselves following some tricky poetic styles. Knowing their poems would be shared on the school blog and be read by different people added a real incentive to create a high standard of work:

Another task the children completed was based on a clip from the film showing how wild Orcas were captured and kept in captivity. Here is the clip:

Using a mixture of Slow Writing and Alan Peat's Exciting Sentences children wrote the story of this capture from the Whale's point of view. Again using the iPads to create a more powerful outcome with their writing, the children used the app iMovie to narrate their writing over some emotive pictures of the whale capture. This takes their writing and creates a task incorporating spoken language skills where children can use their voice for effect. Some children also were adding music to accompany the mood of their video. Here are some efforts:

We have a couple of weeks left of this half term and I have more ideas planned for the children to use this topic to write other text types knowing that they will continue to write with a real purpose and for a real audience. If you are blogging, try using a real issue to help build an audience for your children's work, the outcome will be immense.

This project took the children's work global and they were awarded with a PETA award for all their hard work!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Pic Collage - More than just making posters!

It is usually the first app that schools download when they have purchased iPads in the classroom and usually the most used app if schools only use iPads to a limited degree. I visit many schools that are full of posters made on Pic Collage, visually great but have no real impact on learning. As an app to enhance learning it is still one of the best, only if teachers use some of its lesser known features.

Firstly, using Pic Collage to create posters, eye catching topic covers, persuasive leaflets etc is an engaging activity for children but shouldn't become a regular lesson. Instead look at other ways in which Pic Collage can be used as a tool in Literacy and across the curriculum.

Take for example the frame layout option, where you can add frames arranged in different ways almost resembling a comic strip. This could lead to a variety of different tasks in which children can use the app. Children could create a set of instructions using the camera and then labelling each picture to describe what it shows. Children could also use the frame layout to sequence a story, take pictures of story and re-arrange them in order of which they happened in a particular story. Take this example from a Year 1 class who used Pic Collage to sequence the story of the Gingerbread man:

Children could also use this frame layout to help plan a narrative or plan a recount, using visual pictures that they could have created on Pic Collage.

Another underused tool that Pic Collage provides is the ability to clip photos (double click the picture and select clip photo,) cut around people and objects so that they can be added to other backgrounds and places. This can be an incredibly powerful tool to help teachers develop drama in the classroom as children can create freezeframe pictures of themselves as characters but then add in the background or location to give it more authenticity. These pictures can then be used to create a comic strip or make a plan for a narrative. Take these examples a class of Year 5 children created when making screenshots from their class novel 'Kensuke's Kingdom.'

This can be edited in Pic Collage to create images like these:

Children were able to creatively make screenshots from the book based on their understanding of the setting as well as the characters feelings, facial expressions and body language. Creating pictures like this can also inspire creative writing, children physically being able to see themselves in a particular location or setting. It maybe that they create a picture from history and add themselves to it and write about what it would have been like to be there. They can also clip their face and add it on top of another character to see what they would look like dressed as a tudor or soldier or victorian.

These are just a couple of suggestions of how to take a simple collage app and utilise it to help enhance learning in literacy other other subjects across the curriculum, if you can use Pic Collage to create a poster you can also use it to create these other useful pictures all of which can be saved to the camera roll and used within other apps.