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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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!).