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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

An incredibly powerful video for the classroom!

I am a fan of using visual media in the classroom to spark discussion and encourage children to develop higher order reading skills. A video I stumbled across today would be another example of a great visual resource to use in class. I would recommend this for upper key stage 2 +:

Some questions to ask -
  • Watch the first 20 seconds and ask the children to listen to the music. How does the music set the mood? What word best describes the atmosphere the music creates?
  • At 35 seconds, who are the characters we meet? Where has the little girl been?
  • At 40 seconds, what do you think the relationship is between the two characters?
  • At 1 minute, what new characters do we meet? What relationship are they to the little girl?
  • At 1.30, how is the girl feeling? How is she treated by the others? Is there anything unusual by the way she is treated?
  • At 1.50 - Why are the adults shouting at the child? Is this deserved? Is this right?
  • At 2.05 - The music changes, what do you think this will signify, what mood is the music creating now?
  • How does the music match the little girl's feelings? Can the children describe how the girl is feeling and how they know this?
  • At 2.20 - How does she feel now? Why do you think the Mum is ignoring her? 
  • At 2.30 - What is the girl wanting? Why does she keep putting the doll on the table? Why is the Dad ignoring her? Is this how she should be treated? What message do you think the author/director is trying to get across here?
  • At 2.45 - The mother sees something, how does she react? What do you think has happened? Why do you think this?
  • At 3.00 - The couple make a decision, what do you think it is?
  • At 3.15 - Ask the children whether they have any more idea about what the decision was and where they are going?
  • At 3.48 - Why has the father thrown the doll? What may happen?
  • At 4.00 - What has happened to the girl? Establish she was a metaphor throughout the film as a dog.
  • Ask the children why the author/director has done this? What was the intent? Did it work? What is the message of this film?
  • Go back through the video and see if the children can now see the clues the author/director has dropped in about the girl really being a dog.
  • Discuss the effect of waiting until the end to reveal the character as a dog is more powerful? How did we feel at the end? Would this have had the same effect if we knew at the beginning?
Writing activities -

  • Make a list of all the ways the director used dog like behaviours with the girl throughout the film.
  • Write a first person recount as the girl/dog.
  • Share data about abandoned dogs - (According to Daily Mail, 2014 - there are 110,000 abandoned dogs in the UK.
  • Use the video and data to write persuasive letters to stop people abandoning dogs. 
  • Write a guide for people about what to consider if they want a dog. 
  • Create a set of instructions for how to look after a dog.
  • Create a script to film their own version of the film about another animal - cat for example. 
Please share any further ideas or examples of children's work if they use the video in class.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Minecraft Geography!

I have used Minecraft in the classroom for over two years now, not because I particularly like it, I have never really played it myself. In fact, my knowledge of Minecraft isn't fantastic in any way shape or form. But this gives me a powerful tool to use in class. All I really know and need to know is that Minecraft is a game all children love playing and it allows them to build and create anything. The only restriction is the child's imagination. By reversing the roles and allowing the children to be the experts, incredible things happen! I know a lot of teachers will shy away from using Minecraft because they don't know how to play it. But allow yourself to become the student, let the children teach you and the role reversal will inspire them to take responsibility for their learning in impressive ways.

I have previously blogged about Minecraft -

Minecraft to inspire writing

Inspiring locational writing with Minecraft

Minecraft maths

Creating our own Kensuke's Kingdom islands

This week, I have used Minecraft in another curriculum area to great effect! Year 5's topic is Rivers and they have recently returned from a 3 day residential to Grasmere in the Lake District.

It is a brilliant trip and one I hope most schools provide something similar. The children do a hike and see a river before carrying out different tests. Experiencing it first hand will always be more powerful than using technology and it is important message teachers should not forget.

Learning is continued back in school all about rivers, how they are created, different parts and learning the terminology. Children first started by using the app TypeDrawing to label the parts of a river -

To evaluate the children's understanding of rivers, I challenged them to build one on Minecraft. They had to include examples of all the features we had focused on and create it in a clear way. Straight away the children were hooked, completely engaged and working hard to complete the task. Once they had finished, I asked them to take a screenshot and use the app Skitch to label the features. As an evaluation to the topic, it was a brilliant way to allow children to demonstrate what they had learned! I was so impressed with what they created! 

Now, this wouldn't be done in a computing lesson. The direct links to the national curriculum are here - 

Geography -
Ge2/1.1b    name and locate counties and cities of the United Kingdom, geographical regions and their identifying human and physical characteristics, key topographical features (including hills, mountains, coasts and rivers), and land-use patterns; and understand how some of these aspects have changed over time
Ge2/1.3a    describe and understand key aspects of physical geography, including: climate zones, biomes and vegetation belts, rivers, mountains, volcanoes and earthquakes, and the water cycle
Ge2/1.4c    use fieldwork to observe, measure, record and present the human and physical features in the local area using a range of methods, including sketch maps, plans and graphs, and digital technologies.

I have previously linked Minecraft to Literacy, Numeracy and History. Children relish the challenge of using their knowledge of the Tudors to make a Tudor House or Roman village or Anglo-Saxon settlement. The potential is huge and to have the teacher learn alongside the children is extremely powerful!

If you are interested in how Mr P uses Camouflage Learning and other tech to raise standards in the classroom, visit this link with info on all the INSET and training he can provide - CLICK HERE 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

E-Safety Awareness Videos using Plotagon!

Plotagon is a cracking app! So much potential for the classroom! Today I used it with Year 3 to let them create videos explaining the importance of internet safety.

We first discussed different ways in which we need to stay safe online and what to do if it happens. We planned stories to show these issues and how to resolve them. We then looked at the app. Instantly, the children loved it!

You need to be careful with this app as it does allow you to browse other animations created by others. There is no way to control the content of other animations so we put our iPads in airplane mode so children couldn't browse, they could only create.

Year 3 found the app quite tricky and so not everyone was able to finish, however by the end of the afternoon most were getting confident with how it works. The app is a brilliant way to demonstrate script writing and is amazing how the script instantly comes to life!

I think the app is perfect for Upper Key Stage 2 and a fantastic way to bring stories to life. The new feature of being able to create your own characters take this to a whole new level!

Reading with Augmented Reality

If you follow my blog, you will see I am a big fan of using Augmented Reality. Today, we used it to help develop reading while building positive relationships between children from different year groups.

With the children bogged down with SATs, I thought this would be an enjoyable activity that children would relish.

Before the start of the day, I went over to KS1 and took a range of different home reading books.

I also created a set of stickers with instructions for how this will work for the KS1 children - 

During the session, I ended up working with all the girls from Year 5. I explained that I wanted them to use the iPad to record a video where they read the book. However, to challenge the Year 5, I also asked them to think of questions they could ask KS1 children. This really got them thinking as they had to make sure they created questions appropriate for the audience. They generated questions about the story, key words and making mistakes for the reader to pick up on. 

They created the videos on Explain Everything and used the exported film to create their own Aura in the Aurasma. Once completed, the book was now interactive with KS1 children able to use a smart phone or tablet to scan the title page with the instructional sticker to have a video played back to them with the story narrated by Year 5 with challenging questions. This video shows the process and some examples - 

It was a fantastic activity and one the children really enjoyed. It is another great way to use technology to enhance learning but also make brilliant links between key stages. The sense of responsibility in the KS2 children to create interesting videos and the eagerness in the KS1 children to get their hands on an interactive home reading book.

This is just one of the many ideas Mr P shares on his INSET and training, if you are interested please visit THIS LINK.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

FunTalk - Animated interviewing on the iPad

I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this app since Steve (@iPadEducators) shared it with me a while back.

FunTalk has just been released and it a great app for creating interviews between two animated characters.

It is similar to apps like Puppetpals, Tellagami, Morfo Booth and Plotagon. It gives children the opportunity to be creative and bring learning to life.

The app allows you to choose two characters and record audio as each character. It also allows you to add actions for each character as the other one speaks. If they disagree, they can be angry or put their thumbs down. If one character tells a joke, the other can laugh hysterically. It is another great way for children to demonstrate their understanding of a particular character by demonstrating how they would react to certain questions or answers.

At present, there are limited characters, but I am sure this will grow with further updates. It would be incredible if you were able to design your own character, which is a great new feature in plotagon!

There are so many ways this app could be used in class: interviews between story characters, retelling events of the past, debating an issue and commentating on an event are just a couple that spring to mind!

What is best about this app is that it is currently FREE, so download it now HERE!

Here is an example of what you can make on the app -

If you use this with your class, please tweet me examples of their work!

Quick and effective Digital Storytelling!

The main way in which I encourage children to use iPads in the classroom is to transform writing and bring it to life using apps that create stunning digital presentations!

With such a big focus on coding and computer science in the new computing curriculum, some forget that digital literacy and ICT are still strands and important aspects of the curriculum, as it states - 
"Co2/1.6    select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create a range of programs, systems and content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information."
The problem that teachers face is finding the time for children to use technology in this way! The iPads are a fantastic tool for children to quickly and effectively create digital stories that allow children to creatively present their work.
A couple of apps that I have recently been using to do this, have been Adobe Voice and Adobe Slate.

These FREE apps allow children to create eye-catching videos and web pages.

They can be used in so many different ways from storytelling to reports, recounts and persuasive texts. What is impressive about these apps is the simplicity and ease for children, meaning they can quickly create stunning presentations which can then be shared on a school blog.

Today, I was working with a Year 5 class who had just returned from a residential trip to Grasmere. With the teacher yesterday, they wrote persuasive letters to convince others to visit. Today, we used the Adobe apps to turn the written letters into videos and web pages. Here are their efforts -

Grasmere by Amy and Georgia

It would be great if in the future you could combine both apps and embed an Adobe Voice video into a Slate project! Fingers crossed this will be possible soon!

SpellFix - Engage children with their Spelling!

Click the image to download

The latest apps released from the Alan Peat Ltd team are the FREE SpellFix apps. The apps are a series of games where children have to read a description of a word and attempt to spell it using a series of letters provided!

The latest addition - SpellFix Y3-Y6 Word Lists, is fantastic for the KS2 classroom. As a focused spelling activity or independent challenge, children relish this game!

They think carefully about the clues and what word it maybe and if they still struggle, use the hint option to reveal the first two letters.

I would highly recommend this app! It has become the app children choose and use if they finish a task early or if I am doing a guided reading activity. The independently go and grab a dictionary to check words and it has become quite competitive between children in certain classes trying to get to the furthest level.

Screenshots of the game

Along with Alan's other word game apps - Any Word and Word Juice, this is another app that will have your class begging to play and experiment with words and make spelling more enjoyable and accessible for children.

As I had a group of Year 5 boys with me for a short session this afternoon, Spellfix had them all focused, engaged and motivated!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Teaching Spelling through Mary Poppins - By John Murray

This blog post is a taste of what will be shared on my conference with John Murray - Improving Reading and Writing through Popular Children's Movies and Media on Friday 19th June in Dudley. Places are still available so click the link to book a place.

Let’s face it, the teaching and learning of spelling can be a little formulaic and is not always the most interesting of lessons to deliver.

So here’s a fun way to encourage children to talk about spelling patterns, share strategies for learning how to spell and explore reasons why people make mistakes when writing unfamiliar words.
What’s more, it can also help introduce your class to the classic Mary Poppins!

Ask your class: “What do you do when you think of a word you want to write down but you are not sure how to spell it?”

Elicit from your class which strategies they like to use, encouraging learners to share specific examples. Include one or two words that you (as their teacher and adult) find difficult to spell yourself! This will highlight that learning to spell is much more of a journey rather than a final destination and that we all, at times, make spelling errors. More importantly, it helps learners to become aware that everyone, young and old, employs a variety of techniques, strategies and tools to help them to spell. The more we have the better spellers we become!

After this discussion get into pairs and sit back to back, each individual having a wipe board and pen.
Tell them that they are going to spell a word that they will not find in a dictionary. It is a ‘nonsense word’ and as such there may be different ways to spell it… so don’t worry about being right or wrong. Tell them you want them to listen to the word and write it down. It’s a loooooong word!
Are you ready? The word is: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Once done, get each pair to face each other and share their spelling of this word.

Any part of the word that both individuals have spelt the same they underline and any part they have spelt differently they circle (or vice versa). Encourage learners to share ideas as to why each segment of the word has been spelt the same or differently and feedback these ideas to the whole class.

You will find that children will naturally segment the word even when they are not aware that they are doing so. For example, not only will most children have written the first ‘super’ the same way, but they are usually able to give specific examples (such as ‘supermarket’ and ‘Superman’) that link to prior word knowledge when explaining why they think they have spelt this section ‘correctly’.

However, useful discussion and examples can also be had when talking about why other sections of the word may have been spelt differently. For example: ‘cali’ or ‘kali’.

This will lead you into why English spelling is hard, certain letters and letter strings having the same sound but are written on the page or screen differently.

Explain to the class they are about to investigate one such spelling, a suffix that causes many adults difficulty: the difference between ‘tious’ and ‘cious’. Which one did each individual use when spelling their version of the nonsense word? Lead them towards the suffix ‘cious’.

Tell them they are about to watch a clip where this nonsense word comes from. However, they are going to also hear two more words that use the ‘cious’ suffix. One is a KS2 word, the other a KS3 word. Get them to draw a box and head each box, telling them to write down each particular word in the right box and put a star next to the one they think is hardest to spell.
Then play the following clip: