Learning Journals Transforming the Classroom

So, after a hectic start to the year, would you believe I’m only just getting round to writing this post. If you haven’t heard of the app Seesaw, you need to download it! I introduced this app to my school this year, and it has been revolutionary! Its changed teachers, pupils and parents attitudes to learning!

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Seesaw is a learning journal for every child. It is an easy platform to share and store children’s work, in a safe environment. The beauty of this app however, is the connections it makes. It links parents to their pupils work and links the pupils to other peers in the class. Essentially, for the children, it creates a ‘news feed’ platform, think Facebook style, allowing pupils to comment and like on each other’s work. For parents it creates a bespoke file, just showing their pupils work. Parents are instantly notified when their child uploads or is tagged in any piece of work- something our parents love, they love getting a notification whilst at work, showing what their child is up to!

We invested in this system for two reasons.

Firstly, parental engagement. Today, we are roughly getting between 400-500 parent visits to the class sites per week. Per week!

stats500 conversations on what their child is learning. No longer the awkward ‘What did you do today at school?’ conversation. 500 parents helping their children, knowing exactly what they are learning every day and pushing their children on. Who could ask for more?

The second reason, was to change the way we view learning. How often do children complete work, in a book, for no one to see? How often to children see learning as a linear process, associated only with ‘school’? Seesaw connects learning everywhere, with the children accessing and posting from school, home and even when they are out and about. Children are able to make the connection that learning is everywhere and share their knowledge on Seesaw. Children can continue their learning at home when work is shared online, the beginning of what we hope to be a flipped classroom… (and an added plus- no more printing off worksheets, trimming them and sticking them in their books… what a waste of time. One resource. One platform. One learning centre).

I know we are only at the beginning of our journey; teachers, parents and pupils have embraced it and it has so much further to go. But here are some videos of what we’ve done, for a real life view of just a handful of the uses and benefits it can offer. If you want any help on how to get this excellent resource up and rolling in your classrooms don’t hesitate to contact me @missvilder

Year 5- Pupils Assessing each others work via video
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.0073d8ba-a220-4be6-8b98-4b7c62597800&share_token=FkOVtc5pQFOI8EfoMTtlhw&mode=embed

Year 1- Sharing their phonics sounds with their parents
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.b2afc535-ba9f-43cd-90b4-aa8a232ff328&share_token=OuYRDTKHS1y8T0hX-RlnqQ&mode=embed

Year 4- Teachers leaving personalised feedback
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.a4b505e9-4753-4255-82f6-3bb78bd20bb1&share_token=kaTiMytWTYOQsA6I0KF2kg&mode=embed

Year 5- A flipped learning video explanation
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.eaf3f737-6347-4f44-823d-3a58a2ea96a7&share_token=XSMqSXZxRjiJrwBPKTr0hQ&mode=embed

Year 1- Assessing each others work against a success criteria
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.19ad1f28-9c92-47be-b134-066d8db077d1&share_token=SwQALGZtQ22BRVZqEwc-aA&mode=embed

Finding capital letters, full stops and adjectives
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.df97418b-7f99-4c71-b930-89681bda36c2&share_token=TWiIMUcIRVKlaitjZ-KRVQ&mode=embed

Year 2- A way to link and share work completed online
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.715b5896-d877-4d3d-9a0d-af2a6fd22cf5&share_token=mVbWSRBlS2iSC9ZBBr1K4g&mode=embed

Y4- Guidance videos- collecting and evidence bank for assessment
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.a1981c81-79d9-4458-b069-dcd679931081&share_token=eX5TE0zAS0aay0K-rNxE9Q&mode=embed

Year 6- Information videos after a D&T project
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.42a5fd7a-ae89-4260-902a-bd8cecc28ed3&share_token=YYS_UBWXSxCTyXp44Azfsw&mode=embed

Year 2- Sharing food tech photos
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.cd7a1749-4d59-48a2-8dc7-55619fa8cbab&share_token=OVYjBk_FTw-sm9t80VD2Kg&mode=embed
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.6e6d63f2-7ba2-422d-bafb-d3810cb2fd44&share_token=ya0ToVzpRAWIgnVLt2S8iw&mode=embed

Year 3- A snippet into the classroom during our virtual reality session
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.c78a05aa-f706-46c9-98aa-8433fb7545ca&share_token=D-ZNRZYcR-u0zqfCqOMOOg&mode=embed

Year 5- A place to share extra work completed at home
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.aaab9cc1-3454-434e-9b5f-d2e6056d1b2d&share_token=-ci6uOp-QQeSQZGGGIj3dQ&mode=embed

Year 2- Sharing mathmatical methods with parents
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.37506e82-8c4f-4ac3-ba70-c14e2e0603c9&share_token=-xQ_fKMNQDidbkLo0wHPLA&mode=embed

Year 4- Sharing praise and highlighting excellent work
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.4365d8c4-3c68-43db-9ba7-261ef49f3cc7&share_token=MMo9QJG2TWG5ojW2SCl-Kg&mode=embed

Year 5- A place to brainstorm ideas in a shared forum
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.ce22f308-caa8-4c5c-8bc5-561b7adb39d7&share_token=3Wy9cWHqTCq0UF-HMVrcvw&mode=embed

Year 4- Interactively annotating Newspapers
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.10855d37-c68d-4b33-b29c-f9278060416f&share_token=i5-r-lIfQ4Gsg-4lLYTpAg&mode=embed

These are just a few of the many things we use it for. Get on board!

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Easy Animation

Want the children to get in the mindset of different characters? Maybe an interview with a famous historian? Sharing the viewpoint of a character from a story?

YAKit Kids allows you to bring any image to life. Simple, yet effective. You can add a voiceover to any image that you wish…

 


This video was merely a ‘hook’ for the start of a maths investigation. It took minutes to make and, to the children, ‘working’ for the chef from ratatouille was much more engaging than working for the teacher.


However, it can be used in numerous ways; an interview for literacy or history, an explanation for a character for an iBook, to act out role play conversations for PSHE, endless opportunities…

It gives you the option to have different mouth pieces, and to change the pitch of your voice, to suit the character you are animating.


All easy and all for free (French voice not included).

Top Tips from my Apple Teacher Training

Apple Teacher Learning Centre

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I must admit, having worked with Apple and iPads for several years in the classroom, I thought of myself as quite savvy in the field. Completing the Apple Teacher accreditation, I found out there was far more to these devices than I once thought…

If you’runitse an avid apple fan, then I recommend signing up and becoming a recognised Apple Teacher.

In order to achieve this status, you must complete eight units based on content either for an iPad or Mac.

The great thing with this, is that you are able to access an iBook for each of the units, an excellent resource for teachers, for free.

Although already familiar with the majority of these apps, even the ones I used regularly, I learnt new shortcuts for.

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Top 5 Shortcuts!

Number 5

It may seem a simple feature, but the Slide Over feature on the iPad has just made multitasking a whole lot easier! Using Slide Over, you can open a second app without closing the one you’re currently in (available on iPad air and later, iPad pro and iPad mini 2 and later). Simply swipe left from the right edge of the screen. This will give you a list of different apps which you can pick from.

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Drag the app divider to the centre of the screen

 

You can even go one step further from having the two apps open simultaneously, you can Split View your screen. Just drag the app divider to the centre of the screen and both windows are active.

 

 

Not just great for us teachers multitasking, I’ve used this for children in class too. It gives them the opportunity to have Notes open whilst researching a subject on Safari. Or have a Photo open whilst using Notes to write a setting description. Simple but easy!

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Countdown to be continued.. 

Google Expeditions- VR in the Classroom

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Today was an exciting day for Linchfield, the day that Google Expeditions came to visit our school. If you, like most of our teachers, are wondering what this entails, then just watch the video of what we got up to…

 

Google Expeditions is a free educational programme run by Google, in which they bring Virtual Reality headsets into school for your children to experience. We were given an extensive list of different places from around the globe to visit, and by extensive, there’s over 250 different places to explore! These places are downloaded to their headsets and brought in for your children to step into!

To tie in with our current music topic, we chose a recording studio in LA; the children literally were stood where the Rolling Stones, Kanye West and Lady Gaga had once stood. The beauty of this VR is that is gives the children the opportunity to see a 360 degree view of the place chosen- giving the illusion that they are truly there.

Alongside this, the app also gives the teacher key notes for every place chosen. This gives areas to focus on, information, and even the option to direct the children to specific points of interest within their headsets. Just like being on a school trip and pointing things out along the way!

Obviously, I couldn’t just let my class experience just one place. It would be rude not to take full advantage of the many options. Today our ‘school trip’ consisted of a recording studio, diving underwater with sharks, climbing a volcano, visiting San Diego zoo and a trip to outer space.

I can’t recommend this visit into school enough, and, with this resource being free, you should most definitely book online now!

One thing that is worth noting, if that due to Google restrictions, headsets can only be used with ages seven or over- great for Key Stage 2. For Key Stage 1 however, they didn’t miss out. We used our iPads to have a 360 panoramic view, just on a 2D basis. This is something that could easily be recreated in school and done without the need for headsets, so if your school has any iPads, I would recommend giving this a go! Simply download the Google Expeditions on your iPads or tablets and you’re away. Set up your staff iPad as the ‘leader’ and your pupil ones as ‘followers’. Download the places you would like to visit and, just like that, take your pupils to another world.

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Lino- the online post it note

downloadNeed a collaborative work space for your class to post and share ideas in real time? This simple app does just the job.

It is literally an online corkboard on which post it notes can be stuck. A list of ideas on how to use this app isn’t really needed, as the opportunities are endless…

One easy way to start, is to use the app as a tool to aid a pre assessment when introducing a new topic to the class. An online KWL grid…

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We looked at what the children knew (green post it notes), what they think they knew (orange post it notes) and what they wanted to discover (red post it notes). This then created a great online working space to start with. I could check misconceptions with the green and orange post its and steer the content of the topic through their questions on the red post its.

 

 

Independence Day My Street

Just scrolling through Facebook tonight, I came across a link that one of friends posted. It’s called Independence Day my street. 


The premise is pretty simple, type in your street address and it turns it into the 360 view of the ruins of your town- it even worked on the sleepy Lincolnshire town of our school. The 360 image will allow pupils to have that virtual reality essence and the images are moving, with fires still blazing and even alien spaceships zooming around.


A great simple little tool to spark some creative writing or introduce a space or natural disasters unit. Will definitely be using this in class! 

Social Dummy

socialSo for my forthcoming assembly I wanted to make some fake profiles for a spoof featuring some of our teachers. I found a great little app called Social Dummy, which allows you to make fake posts on social media; Twitter, Instagram, snapchat, you name it.. Now, although these apps may be networks pupils shouldn’t yet be on, it is naive to assume their not, and even more naive to not hook into these as a stimulus for their writing.

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Although not used for learning in my assembly..


Think about it, they so easily could. We’ve all done the persuasive text on your ‘headteacher wanting to ban break time’, but what if we had proof to show the children..

Or a tweet from Harry Styles?

Your inspiration is endless. And the children don’t need to know it’s not real now do they…

Quiver Augmentation

 

 If you haven’t heard of Quiver app yet, where have you been? It’s a fab creation that literally beings your designs to life, see their rather cheesy advertisement…

 

This app allows you to colour different templates, and augment your own designs. A great app for all different ages and can be used in a variety of ways. Doing a unit on mythical creatures? Bring a dragon to life. Planning a unit on wildlife? Bring some of the creatures to life as a stimulus for writing.

More recently in my classroom, we used the pretty basic version of augmenting a ball…

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CaptureOkay, boring at first, but re-brand it with creating a 3D version of one of the planets, and it tied in with our curriculum nicely. In art, we had been looking at using different mediums to design the different planets. The pupils took their most successful medium and sketched their planet on a larger scale. Unknown of the app at the time, once completed, we brought them to life. The expressions of even the supposedly ‘older’ children were great to see. It certainly hooked them and led onto some great discussions, which fed into their creative writing.

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This is the app used on a basic level, but the possibilities are endless. Check out the website for a bank of free templates to use. Also, have a look at how Mr P has investigated if it has an impact upon writing.

Floors Game Design

icon175x175Ask any groups of children what they like to do in their spare time, and no doubt gaming will come into conversation somewhere along the line. Gaming is something that children do every day and more importantly, something children love to do every day. This noted, I decided to try and use this with lessons.

Within the new computing curriculum, the ‘programming’ element lends itself brilliantly to game creation. To create a game holds so much value, from planning, drafting, designing, making, editing graphics and evaluating. This is exactly the process we followed with an app called ‘Floors’, an app made by Pixel Press.

Floors is a brilliant app that allows pupils to create their own video game from scratch. There are two elements to the game, to draw your design either by hand or to design it online.

We took this game design as a unit of lessons within our computing sessions. The first thing we did was to allow the pupils to explore some of the games already created. This app has a great element of sharing games that have been produced. This gives that ‘wider audience’ element for the pupils, knowing that their games could be shared globally once created.

After this, we looked at the key, in detail, for how to create the game. I found this to be fundamental in ensuring functioning games at the end of the unit. Although it seemed harsh to the children, having a lesson exploring the design ‘key’ and not actually creating, it allowed them to fully understand the potential of what they were creating. Having just ‘played’ with design, I am sure we wouldn’t have had so many interesting teleports, sinking blocks, keys to new worlds, etc.

Click here for a detailed pdf on the key elements.

After the key, came the creation. With this app you can do this in two ways, design on paper to scan or design online. I chose both. The pupils created a draft world on paper, which was modified after feedback given. Then they designed their programme online also. The simple reason behind this; the scanning tool wasn’t very effective with our iPads. However, whilst copying their hand-drawn world, I found the pupils continually flicked between the design, and what it actually conveyed to, reviewing and editing their work independently as they went along. Fab!

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After the games were created, we looked at how the graphics could be changed, changing characters, coins, obstacles, etc. The children thought about the ‘theme’ of their game and edited these accordingly.

Lastly, and most importantly, the children were given time to play and evaluate each other’s games. I structured this session before the children’s games were published online, and before other pupils from the school played them, in the style of market research. We rotated, each playing the game for two minutes (although they felt this was too short when they were hooked on the games) and then each child left both positive and negative feedback. The pupils were then given time to make final amendments on the game, taking into consideration the feedback of their peers.

All in all, Floors was a brilliant app for computer programming. From understanding the working of the app, planning, editing, designing graphics, reviewing and publishing. Brilliant.

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Google Chrome Takeover

Starting the lesson with a personalised Google screen hooked the children in today’s computing lesson.

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That, followed by a spoof newspaper article about the stench of another college. What more could they want?

image1Today was an impromptu lesson on looking at the coding behind websites. It was an introduction to familiarise the pupils with HTML code, but in an engaging way. We have recently been looking at newspaper articles in English and I just so happened to stumble upon a way in which to manipulate the appearance of websites. Cue playing with BBC news.

On Google Chrome, there is a genius tool, called ‘inspect element’. This enables you to change any part of a website, simply by right clicking and choosing ‘inspect element’. This will bring up the coding for the page. Click on ‘edit HTML’ and you’re set to have some fun.. change the text, pictures, just about anything!

Step one:

 

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Step two:

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Step Three:

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Here are the two short videos I watched to get the basics!

   

I taught this, alongside how to copy a URL of a photo, to change the pictures, and skills suck as ctrl F to search, making their code editing easier. For our first lesson, the children really picked up the code well, making some interesting headlines..

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Garage Band Music Composition

imagesToday, for the first time, we used Garage Band within our music lessons, looking at composing a short piece of music through the app. In previous lessons, we looked at musical techniques that effect the dynamics of a piece of music; focusing on how emotions can be portrayed through music. For the application of such knowledge, we explored composition through the app.

To do this, first I downloaded the videos from YouTube and placed them into the school Dropbox account. Our Dropbox is logged in on every pupil iPad, so after I had dragged and dropped it into the Year 5 folder, it was pushed out onto each of our pupil iPads (explanation of this process to follow). We then used iMovie to export the video into, giving the option to mute the sound. This was fundamental so they had no pre-conceptions of the vision of the music beforehand!

From there, we then explored Garage band, looking at what instruments would reflect different emotions and discussing about how the music produced needed to fit into the concepts of each scene. After a quick demo of the basics, I was astonished to see the pupils pick up the app so quickly. After only a short 30 minutes composing their music, some of the finished results were amazing.

You can clearly see the differing dynamics for the different scenes. It was equally as amazing to see each and every child so engaged in their music. To be sharing edits and drafts with other pupils and constantly asses and change their music was great to see.

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A brilliant stimulus I will definitely be using again! Nowhere near as daunting or complicated as it may first seem.

Instant Feedback

plickers2If you haven’t heard of an app called Plickers, it is definitely one I would recommend. AfL is always fundamental in lessons, knowing whom and where to scaffold, aiding progression. Plickers helps to make this easier.

plickersPlickers is a quick and easy way to check the understanding of each pupil in your class, anonymously. No more ‘intimidating’ hands up if you’ve grasped it or not. How this works is with each child having a ‘block’ to hold up with regards to how they’re feeling. As you can see, on each side there is a letter: a, b, c or d. You simply set the criteria, e.g. A- 100% confident to D- not a clue. Then, each child holds up the card with their response at the top, and you scan your camera around the classroom, with the app picking up each individuals response. If you’re worrying that you have to ‘scan’ each card like a QR code, then don’t worry, it recognises responses from a distance.

Have a look in this video:

plickers3The way I’ve set it up in my class is to associate each child with a number. As you will see on the example above, each ‘block’ has a number. On your online account you can edit each number to have a pupils name, thus when you scan, it will show you what each child voted. I have my class stick their Plicker ‘block’ in the back of their books. Then, at any point in a lesson, I can ask my pupils to hold up their book with a, b, c or d, and there- simple, quick feedback to use within lesson.

Temple Run- games to inspire

downloadUpdate: Click here for the resources and presentation slides used!

Following some inspiration from Mr Parkinson (again), I decided to plan a unit of work around the game Temple run. Our topic for the term is Survival, so this fitted in nicely.

I found using a game such as this, made the world of difference to the pupils: both on engagement and achievement. Tapping into the pupil’s popular culture is fundamental and this example highlighted this clearly.

download (1)We started off submerging the pupils in the app. I allowed them to play the game (and did throughout to engage and refresh) and then asked them to produce a mindmap on the topic. For this, I used a great app called Popplet. In an essence, this is an online version of spider diagrams: it’s great for linking and gathering ideas.

Here’s some of the examples which they produced:

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From this, I planned a sequence of lessons, focusing on areas on which my class needed to work on, all based around the game:

  • First we looked at ambitious vocabulary, aiming to up-level- our verbs for how Guy was running out of the temple and adjectives for the setting
  • 2Next we focused on withholding information. For this, we wrote a story opener starting with Guy running away from the temple. I set them some rules of which information they could not tell the reader, merely prompt ambiguity in these areas. This challenged the way in which they used their vocabulary

‘Out of the blue, sharp claws cut my shoulder: I was running for my life. I could feel my heart skipping a beat, the tune loomed over me, protecting me from the luminous sun. It felt like the rest of the woods were against me. The wind targeted my ear and it seemed the plants wouldn’t stop taunting me. All that kept me from the end was an old rickety bridge’

  • 3The next lesson was on a Show not Tell lesson, i.e. SNOT. This was to develop children to extend their descriptions by implying and showing actions. For example rather than saying the character was nervous, we would show that he was sweating or trembling, etc. A great resource for emotion prompt sheets can be found here.

‘Sweat ran down my bright red face, my heart skipped a beat. Gloom overshadowed me. In the distance I saw a bright light. I took a deep breath as the light pulled me closer towards it. I hesitated and thought to myself, ‘what if it is a trap?’ As I released my breath, I knew it was the only way in.’

  • The next session was on character descriptions. For this we tied in Indiana Jones as our character, a good link to temple run. We looked at four key areas, focusing on movement, appearance, feelings and speech to improve our descriptions.

‘The sweat ran down his face as he cautiously crept through the damp, dark tunnels of the temple. His shirt was blackened: stained with the stories of adventures that led him to where he stood. His brave face masked the unknown fears running through his mind. Dr Jones took small steps as his feet trembled, where did the tunnels lead? With a suspicious frown take over his forehead, he cleared his throat, “This way, stay close” he softly murmured, trying not to attract attention.’

  • Lastly we focused on linking paragraphs, highlighting the importance of repetition, and connections using time and place. This lesson wasn’t specific to Temple Run but we used the story of Indiana Jones stealing the golden idol as a stimulus. I used a great video from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the lost ark, as suggested by Literacy Shed


Again some great work was produced. I asked the children to read and share a few extracts of their work which can be seen here:

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These reflect only a handful of the amazing work produced by the pupils. It was extremely evident that using Temple Run as a stimulus had an amazing effect.

Staying Safe Online

Online safety seems to be an ongoing issue within schools. In a recent staff meeting, it was something I felt important to highlight. Children growing up today won’t be using Facebook, or Twitter; if recent trends are to go by. Technology is ever changing and adapting: it is fundamental that children can stay safe online and understand the importance of their digital footprint.

How many of these apps can you identify..

Askfm-icon download (1) download (2) download (3) download (4)   download Download-WhatsApp-for-iPad-iPod-Touch-BlackBerry images imessage-icon-ios-7 unnamed Whisper-Icon

All of these have/are being used by pupils in my primary school…

Being a Year 5 teacher, and interacting with a school instagram account (@linchfieldmissvidler) allows me to keep in touch with children ‘of this day and age’s’ online world (not monitor!). It is scary to see how many past pupils, of whom are at seconday school, will happily post their snapchat, oovoo, kik, email and phone numbers to their 500+ ‘friends’.

I’ve found a few e-sefety videos that provide great stimulus’ to spur conversation amongst pupils, obviously age dependant. If you have used any others, please comment so I can collect a good resource to share.

CeOP

Flocabulary- Oversharing: http://www.flocabulary.com/oversharing/

Let’s fight it together: http://www.digizen.org/resources/cyberbullying/films/uk/lfit-film.aspx

Can I be your friend? Found here by @chrismayoh

Mr Selfie

Mr Selfie from weareseventeen on Vimeo.

New to Coding- Hour of Code

Hour of code is a great resource for teachers that need a little help taking their first step on the computing curriculum. Hour of code provides lots of different activities, aimed to be completed within an hour. It is a simple and engaging way to get pupils motivated and show them they can code.

The activities are designed for pupils: so far we’ve using angry birds, plants vs zombies, flappy birds and frozen. Click on the pictures below to take you to each activity.

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The beauty of the Hour of Code, is that you don’t have to be a coder to know what you’re doing. Each unit comes with an introductory video and instructions for each level. If the pupils get it right, it will mark the level green at the top, providing a great assessment tool. If they get it wrong, it will provide hints and messages to aid them, ergo very little knowledge needed from teachers.

B1sskjbIEAAQa4sIts a great way to introduce coding to pupils in a simple format. The drag and drop instructions make it user friendly and I find this format lends itself well to progress onto using Scratch’s format, another great programme. Another brilliant aspect is after each level, it also gives the pupils a chance to see their code written. We have utilised this within lessons, exploring the written form of code.

As it’s winter/like the ice age outside at the moment, frozen is very apt. Using this is class recently, I found the extra level at the end to be brilliant. All the levels, in all games progressively introduce new concepts. With frozen, after everything has been taught, level 20 allows the children to create their own snowflake. Cue assessment of the pupils application. I asked the pupils to create their own snowflake and screen shot it. This gave me a perfect opportunity to see if they can then use code independently without any guidance given. Brilliant.

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String: Augmented Reality in the classroom

If you’re thinking what? where? who?

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Thank you Wikipedia, but no thank you. In a nutshell, it’s basically cool things, coming out of nowhere, providing one of the most engaging stimuli possible.

If you’re still unsure, then here’s your stepping stone to using augmented reality in the classroom. Try an app called String. String is a free app which creates augmented reality in four different forms: a dragon, an alien, a trainer to personalise and graffiti free writing.

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You can find the pictures online here, and each print off provides the stimulus for the augmented reality to take place.

I’ve used this app in the classroom as a stimulus to inspire writing in English lessons. The best two images, in my opinion, are the dragon and the alien. Have a look for yourself…

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The dragon I used within a Year 5 lesson: it’s great as a link on to another app used called Epic Citadel (post to follow).  It creates a portal to another world, through which a dragon then enters the classroom. In simplest form, we opened our story with a setting description. Here being some of the work the pupils produced…

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The alien I used last week in a year 1 class, as part of their topic of Space. This was used as part of developing their descriptive language. Above anything, their faces when they first saw an alien appear on their tables, painted a picture. If you’re wondering how to incorporate the slightly odd picture to be scanned, it was a postcard, obviously… We gave pupils the opportunity to look at the alien, have their photo taken with it, in preparation for a character description.

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I chose to use this app alongside Explain Everything, another fantastic app, creating a presentation for them to orally record their ideas on. I made this, shared it onto the pupil ipads via Dropbox, then the pupils simply recorded their ideas.

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If you haven’t used String before, I certainly recommend it!

123D Catch

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An app that augments just about anything!

I love this app and recently used it with my pupils within a Design and Technology lesson. We were working on a project of making a volcano, with some fantastic models (no bias at all..), and I wanted to be able to share their work, thus, 123D.

In a nutshell this short video shows you about the app…

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The app allows you to take photos of just about anything to produce a 3D online augmented model. The pupils took photos of their volcanoes to create their 3D versions, which, in turn, produced a link for each project. We went on to share our links on our blog, allowing parents to see the model. However, this app not only allows you to see the model, but to rotate around, zoom in and out, really bringing the pupils work to life.

Alongside this, 123D catch provides an online database for all models. This provide endless opportunities, from being able to look around prehistoric burial ground in Sweden when covering the stone age, or just looking at cupcakes..

Christmas Advent Calendars

An idea from Mr Parkinson (if you haven’t checked his blog, you should), on ways to use the iPads around Christmas. Using the piccollage app and thing link, you can make an interactive advent calendar to share with your pupils.

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Extremely easy and quick to create!

Firstly, on piccollage, create your advent calendar format. Simply choose your Christmas image and set as your background. Then add text on top to make your windows for each date. Once you’ve made your calendar you can export it by saving to camera roll.

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Then open up the thing link app (you will need to set yourself up with an account, which is free). Insert in the photo from your camera roll. Once inserted, you simply tap where you would like to place your media and then you will have the option of filming a video, inserting a file from your gallery or inserting a video from YouTube.

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Lastly, when you’ve finished your calendar, you will need to log into your thing link account through safari or the internet. If you click on your image, it will give you the option to share. From there you need to highlight the embed code to place it into your blog. A working model can be seen on our class blog here.

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This idea could be used for numerous other projects, not just Christmas. For example, to record orally descriptive sentences for different elements of a photo, or highlighting parts of a map, etc.

A great interactive tool

The Sainsburys Christmas Advert

Christmas approaching, cue inspiring projects to hook the pupils. A Thursday morning, after a school trip the day before and our English lesson was based on recount writing (I know, how predictable). However, after seeing the Sainsburys advert whilst having breakfast that morning, I decided to go off -piste. I set their recounts as homework and took a punt. No WALT, no WILF, no plan, the children were my direction (which is really what teaching should be about). Honestly I can say the work they produced was the best so far this year, you can be the judge…

After teaching the lesson I made some notes for others thinking of using the advert as a prompt. Here..

First thing we did was to watch the advert all the way through, not speaking a word. There was no need to talk as the video speaks volumes Then we discussed what the advert was about, spoke of the war, that it is based on a true story, etc. As we had just looked into advertising as our prior unit, we also discussed whether Sainsburys should use this to advertise, evaluating the ethics.

After, I played the video for a second time I paused for questions, to ensure everyone had fully understood.

  • 0:05 Which side is this soldier?
  • 0:10 Which side is this soldier?
  • 0:12 How is he feeling to receive the package?
  • 0:20 Upon hearing the singing- what might he be thinking? Who is singing and what song?
  • 0:30-1:00 How have the soldiers expressions changed?
  • 1:15 Why does he clench his fists?
  • 1:20 Why do the Germans react that way?
  • 1:25 Why does he hold up his hands?
  • 1:27 What might the German be saying?
  • 1:40 What might they both be thinking or feeling?
  • 2:26 After the tackle look at their faces, is there any rivalry or hatred?
  • 2:37 How does he feel upon hearing the cannon?
  • 3:00 Why did they share their food? Did they know the other person was going to do this?

From there, once we had really taken in the message, we started to write our narratives. We wrote from the perspective of the British soldier. As the advert holds such a clear and powerful message, the children really took pride in matching the standard of their writing to meet it.

We broke the clip down and focused on writing short parts at a time, in thorough detail. Not exactly ‘slow writing’ but to that effect. Here are the times the clip was broken down into and the prompts we discussed.

  • 0:00- 0:20 Hearing the cannon, receiving letter and opening it
  • 0:20-1:09 Hearing a faint noise, getting louder, recognising the tune, joining in and how they’re feeling- hope.
  • 1:10- 1:18 Waking up, clenching fists, standing up
  • 1:19- 1:27 Hearing Germans shout, guns being raised, friend shouting no
  • 1:28- 1:44 Seeing the walls of guns, all the shouting and then silence, seeing the German
  • 1:46-2:36  Wall of Germans and English, shaking hands, football together-forgetting about war (discussed feelings- thankful, relieved glad, hope)
  • 2:38- 2:58 Hearing the cannon, the feelings, today together and tomorrow fighting
  • 3:00 Back in trenches, exchanging gifts
  • Thinking about one last line to finish.

These bridged over two lessons. Our first lesson we extended as the pupils were so engrossed, and why, as teachers, should we stop after an hour because it is ‘maths time’. I proposed the question to the pupil: that if Roald Dahl had scheduled lunch for 12 and he was on a roll would he stop? Interesting.

It was amazing to see boys and girls alike love to write. More interesting was when asked why they enjoyed it so much, they answered with because there were no restrictions for them, no WILF to tick. Of course, I modelled the language I wished for them to use, but independently they were including embedded clauses, personification. Level 3 writers were using level 5 techniques. You could argue that I allowed them to ‘work with someone you work well with’ and as such were mixed ability, but as seen from some of the video clips, they mostly worked independently.

As you will see, we used the ipads for the children to play back the advert- through uploading it to my Dropbox account (guidance on this to follow). We also used them to record our narratives over the advert, in a similar way to our advert voice-over lesson.

I gave them freedom. Which is rare to come by with the pressure on teachers. But the results speak volumes, and it didn’t go unnoticed…

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Adverts using iMovie

So after two weeks looking at persuasive writing, and the children writing some very impressive letters to Nicky Morgan as to whether or not iPads should be used (uninfluenced by me of course), we decided to have a no writing couple of lessons.

We investigated different adverts and debated the ethics of advertising on TV. This all built up to the pupils creating their own advertisements for a holiday destination of their choice.

Here being one of the results:

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After looking at all the features of persuasive writing, I decided to see if the children could embed these in a different format. We used iMovie to create our adverts. This can be done through the trailer option within the app; providing ready-to-go trailer formats. First step, was to show the children what was expected, cue a silly modelled version of an advert by myself (they love it, and it allowed me to work out how to use the app).

imovieThen, and probably most importantly, I gave the pupils a planning format, as you can see. I can’t take credit for these as they were found here thankfully. This allowed children to see clearly how many pictures and titles they had to complete, steering them think through their structure of the advert.

Once they had finished their trailers, I challenged them to come up with a voice over to sell their product further. This can be done by saving the finished product, opening up a new movie on the app and then loading the exported trailer into the movie version of the app.

This was both a fun activity for the pupils and a good final assessment point to see who knew how to take the features from their writing and use them in this context. Enjoy.

Why Blog?

The question I seem faced with by many colleges is why blog? Or maybe not so much why, but how?

Take a trip down memory lane to six months ago, when our school was lucky enough to have a visitor called Deputy Mitchell (don’t get your hopes up, not a real deputy). If you haven’t heard of him, I suggest you check him out on twitter; the blogging font of all knowledge.

Anyway, he came in and worked alongside pupils and set up my class with a blog. They were hooked. They were engaged. They were inspired. Through this online forum, we managed to get even the most reluctant writers, to write! And, as a teacher, you will know ‘those’ children. Those who almost seem to need a drink/tissue/toilet/new pencil/rubber/ruler/new chair (yes I’ve had it) every two minutes. Well, those children didn’t move an inch from their chair. Magic..

If you don’t have a blog, I fully suggest you get one! Why? Children are growing up in a digital world, children are using technology everyday, yet as schools we are not tapping into this?! The blog creates a platform to motivate those who don’t like to write in books, excites those do not see it as ‘working’, allows pupils to think creatively, inspires collaboration between pupils and forms links between working at school and at home.

Long gone are the days of writing having no purpose. Imagine to be a child. You work hard for an hour, to produce an amazing piece of work. The teacher marks it (on the day if you’re lucky), leaves a little comment (if you’re lucky), and the books shuts, page turned, not to be looked at again.blog

Blogging transforms this. In one term my class blog has had over 4,500 visitors, from 14 countries and comments from around the globe. This speaks volumes, this makes children want to improve, to better themselves. This, is the key.

To set up a free blog, check out WordPress, Edublogs or Primary Blogger.

If you want help with this. Deputy Mitchell can provide training and trial blogs. Alternatively, our whole site has been set up by John Sutton from Creative Blogs (who is amazing!).

R.I.P Lollipop sticks

May lollipop sticks with your cname3lass’ names be a thing off the past (not extinct mind you, as technology can never be 100% reliable).

However, the app replacement is an excellent tool to spark a little more engagement in the classroom. The exciting nature (and our guilty pleasure of the theme music) make the children want their name to pop up, who’d of thought!

 

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You can create more than one group or class and add as many students as you wish to the classes. The App randomly selects a pupil from the  group, with all names being displayed before a name is displayed for a second time (the pupils don’t need to know this) However, if you do have that ‘relaxed ‘(lazy) pupil you can change the settings so each name can be displayed up to three times, so the pupils never know when they may be called upon again!

This once free app, now can be purchased for £1.99 through the app store.

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2k14 ‘poetry’ using Garageband

rap3So, as it loomed upon the year group.. poetry. Yes, the unit which we all fall guilty of leaving until last, especially with a boy heavy class as mine.

However, this time I thought I would approach it from a slightly different manner. After investigating the rhyming patters, I gave my class the task of writing their own rap song. Immediately they were hooked.

 

This here being the result, all made, recorded and produced by the children.

We wrote our verses all around our topic focus of space, with the whole song being done on an iPad- using two apps; Garageband and iMovie.

rap1Easier to do than you may believe. Step one, pick a song and simply purchase the backing track on iTunes (69p). Place the backing track in Garage band and you are set to go.

Then, using the microphone record your solo/group vocals, we used several platforms as you can see enabling the children to overlap vocals so they can hear the person before them singing.

 

 

rap2Once complete, the children exported this into iMovie and we went on to record our own rap video- the icing on the cake for unmotivated boys (not on Youtube due to parental consent- so we did a lyrics only version).

Extremely easy and extremely engaging for those less motivated. They loved it and couldn’t wait to write another ‘poem’. Job done!