Thursday, 19 December 2013

Digging Deeper

It's a quick one...

You see a Tweet about an app and you go and download it. You see an interesting blog post and go to read it. Do you ever click on the button for more apps by that developer or look at the blogger's other posts? 

While we're at it, when did you last go and look at someone's Twitter feed? Yes, look at your own streem of those you follow, but when you see something good, go see what else they've recently had to say.

Go on, dig a little deeper!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Apps for Your Classroom #6 - #BlappSnapp Puzzling

Our sixth post about apps. This time we're writing as part of @Ideas_Factory's Blapp Snapp

We have some apps we've used for developing thinking, perseverance and problem solving skills. They don't fit into any particular subject or key stage and these are probably just a few in an ocean of puzzle apps, but they're the ones we've used.

First of all, Flow. Available for both iOS and Android. The game requires the user to link coloured dots together whilst filling the squares on the screen. The game begins with easier levels and gets progressively more challenging. It can be quite addictive. I first saw it being played on a train by a three year old and have seen adults of all ages enjoy it. A search of either the iTunes Store or Google Play Store for 'flow' will also reveal a long list of similar apps that include bridges, numbers and various other takes on the original.

BlockPath is similar to Flow in that the screen needs to be filled. This time, you get a starting point and and end point. Join the two. Simple, right? The game begins with easier levels and gets progressively more challenging. 

Connect the Dots is again similar to the others. Join red dots to blue dots with horizontal and vertical lines. How hard can that be? 

Ending is again available on both Android and iOS. The object on screen needs to be moved step by step towards a goal. As the object moves there are 'enemy' objects that move towards yours and try to stop you escaping. There's one way out. Can you find it?

Next, Glow Puzzle. The user needs to draw lines again. This time, following a path and again not crossing lines over. Starts easier and becomes more challenging as levels are completed.

Our most recent addition is Dots, available for Android and iOS. Similar to many other games in that similar coloured dots need to be next to each other to clear them off the screen. In this app more points can be gained by selecting more dots at once (or see what happens when a rectangle is drawn). This app has a multi player mode for a competitive edge. 

Mega Dead Pixel makes you think. It's simple to use - tap the screen to move from side to side. Grow bigger and bigger to collect more pixels. Only available on iOS. 

Space is Key involves jumping a block over and through different obstacles. It keeps going. No time to stop and think. It's harder than it sounds and addictive! Just turn the sound off! Jumpy Block is also similar to this.

Use them during a registration session, brain break mid lesson, at lunch or break, as a challenge / reward. Just a little something to get brains (both adult and child) working. It might not improve the child's maths or revolutionise their ability to use a full stop - their brains will get a work out though.

UPDATE April 2015: We'll continue to add similar apps here.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Making the Writing Process Explicit

We've recently written about caring explicitly. Now it's the turn of making the children's writing process more obvious to both child and teacher (oh, and anyone who might visit your classroom and want to see books).

In our school, children write in black ink and adults mark in blue ink. Both different colours and obvious to see who's written what. The children do any editing / tweaking in green ink. Our most recent addition is responding to feedback in red pen. 

The reason for using red for responding was initially as a result of being told children weren't responding to feedback in books. The children were responding. It just wasn't easy to find.

So now we have this: Children write in black ink. They edit using green ink. Next, an adult will mark in blue and the child will complete the process by responding to / acting upon the feedback in red ink.

Although this was originally put in place to meet the needs of someone else looking at the books, it has proven very useful. The children can see from piece of work to piece of work what they're adding to their writing at different stages and the progress (hopefully) that they are making.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Augmented Reality with Aurasma Part One

We are always looking at making use of different technologies to improve the experiences of our children and the online presence of the school.
A friend of ours, who works in private industry, recommended Aurasma some time ago after using it when setting up exhibitions. After registering with the company, the account lay dormant for some time, in part because we were intimidated by our expectations of how complicated it would be to create what is known as an aura.
Aurasma, through their apps (which are available on both iOS and Android devices), allows users to add a layer of a photo or video over an image. Then, when the image is scanned, the app superimposes the video or photo over it allowing you to insert information into the original image. As part of registering as a developer, you are provided with access to their online studio with all the tools necessary for developing your own augmented reality including a detailed, but simple tutorial.
It was with a high-level of sheepishness that our first aura was completed. The tutorial is excellent and quickly and simply takes you through all the steps needed to create an aura. By following these instructions we were able to make our first aura in a matter of minutes.
The first aura we created linked a trailer for a Shakespeare film we made with the children to an image that went on the back of the DVD covers that the children made. Now, when you scan the image with the app, the trailer for the film appears. Subsequent auras include linking photos of the school to the school logo and an image linking some class artwork to a welcome sign.
It is remarkably easy to create the auras. They can be made public or private depending on need and allows the school to provide more information to Aurasma users about the school. 

Download the app, follow this link and scan the image below in order to see a simple example of what it can do.

The next step is to use Aurasma to provide a more information rich environment for children especially during project-based learning. We have used an image of a Henry VIII to link to a film about him and an image on a display to link to a film on how to do an addition calculation.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Caring Explicitly

Last week, I made a passing comment to a colleague, 

"This would be a lot easier if I didn't care!"

Then, I went away and I thought about what I'd said. I want the children in my care to succeed, progress, do well, be proud of themselves. I don't work more and harder to achieve an end of year bonus or to win a victory over a competitor. I provide a service to young people. Young people and their families. So that they may succeed, have a bright future and be the best that they can be.

Next, my mind turned to Channel 4 and their Educating Essex and Educating Yorkshire series. In both, I watch intently. Each week enjoying looking inside another school and seeing other like minded professionals doing what I do and yes, showing a whole bucket load of care. After the first series, I went to meet 'Mr. Drew'. He'd become something of a celebrity. During Educating Yorkshire, both Mr Steer and Mr Burton displayed how much they care about their classes, individuals and the school as a whole. On Twitter, I read Tweet after Tweet that read, "I wish my teacher cared like Mr Steer does" and, "I wish Mr Burton had taught me". I replied to a couple: "Your teacher probably is Mr Steer, just with a different name" and, "You will have been taught by a Mr Burton".

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So I returned to my class, a Thursday morning, lesson 2, rain outside and we're writing instructions. I'm repeating myself, I'm talking to children who are not acting upon the feedback I'm providing, going around in circles. So, I stopped the class and I began, "Look! I care, I really really care. About you (pointing) and you (pointing again). I want you to do well. I want to help you. I do this job because I care..."

The children listened to me. I wanted to get my point across. I'm working hard becasue I care and I informed those who I care about, those I'm trying to help. I told them. I made it explicit. Who knows, maybe later on that day, "Mum, my teacher cares about me".


"This would be a lot easier if I didn't care!"

But unfortunately,

"I do care, A LOT!"

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Primary Ideas Dropbox

We've added to our arsenal...

Click on the picture below to find our resources on Dropbox. We'll add more as time passes. Get in contact via email, Twitter, Facebook and any other means of communication if you'd like to have the Dropbox folder shared with you.
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Not got a Dropbox account? Get one here. If you already have a Dropbox account, we'd recommend setting up a 'professional account' using your school email address.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Puzzle Games in Maths

As part of a recent problem solving week, we decided to use a puzzle video game as an introductory element to our maths lessons.
The Professor Layton games are available on Nintendo DS and 3DS and each game consists of an extensive range of puzzles within a mystery story to be solved by the character of Professor Layton. This, coupled with the fact that there are six games within the franchise, means that there are a vast amount of puzzles to choose from. The fact that these are available on the Nintendo DS means that you can make use of a visualiser to project the game onto the big screen. Alternatively, there are many websites on the web which have images of the puzzles which can be used to create paper copies of the puzzles.
The puzzles themselves are incredibly diverse, both in terms of the skills needed to solve them and in the level of difficulty. Over a series of lessons, you can cover a wide range of problem solving skills and target all levels within your classroom. In case you do not want to go to the trouble of solving the puzzles, there are many websites with solutions.
The children were motivated by the puzzles within the class in part because of the high quality delivery of the game, the fact that solving them moves you along in the game with a reward and because the puzzles are designed to be accessible to a range of people. There were several times when children announced that the puzzle was 'impossible'. It was an excellent opportunity to take children through problem solving strategies as you work together towards a solution. Many children asked if there was a way of taking the puzzle home to show parents and others.
There are, of course, many different puzzle games available across all sorts of formats, but these are favourites of ours. We will certainly be continuing to use these puzzles to inspire problem solving in the classroom.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Why Bother?

Why bother? Why bother to blog, to Tweet, to Pin?

We are teachers, we enjoy seeing others learn, daily. It's what we do, it's what we enjoy. So, helping others to learn, people doing the same job, is just as rewarding. Hearing back from others about the ideas we've shared here and how they've been used is rewarding. It reaffirms the belief that we're doing the right thing. We share a Google Doc and visitors come - awesome. We post a Tweet and one person, just one, ReTweets it - excellent. Someone comments on a blog post, "Really like this" - fantastic.

We're busy; books to mark, lessons to plan, clubs to run, meetings to attend, whilst also seeing family, friends and generally living.

We don't earn money from this.

We share ideas here. We read blog posts elsewhere. We're allowing others to learn from us, just like we're befitting from the blogs written by others. If we do something outstanding* in our classroom and tell no one, 30 children benefit. If we write about it here, there's the possibility that the whole world could benefit. That's an amazing thought.

At the time of writing, just under 100,000 visits to this blog have been registered in its first 26 months of existence. We have hundreds of Pins on Pinterest, Likes on Facebook and Circles on Google+. Videos on YouTube.

So, should you join Twitter? Yes. Use Facebook professionally? If you want. Look at Pinterest? At least take a look. Start a blog? It's daunting, read some others, give it a go.

As already said:

We are teachers, we enjoy seeing others learn, daily. It's what we do, it's what we enjoy. So, helping others to learn, people doing the same job, is just as rewarding.

*Technical vocabulary for 'good' or 'engaging'.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Apps for Your Primary Classroom The Fifth (The Augmented Chronicles)

So, our fifth post about apps. This one's not just all the newest ones we've found, it's all the new augmented reality apps we've been playing (learning) with. See our other app based blog posts by clicking on The 'app' label at the bottom of this post.

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These apps also appear on some of our other posts. We thought it might be useful to have them all listed together too:

AR Flashcards 

AR Flashcards Space


ColAR Mix

My Dragon Toy

SkyView Free
Spacecraft 3D
Space AR 

Space Journey
Star & Planet Finder

Walking with Dinosaurs

Again, if you have any we don't know about then please let us know.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Padlet Your Thinking

After reading a blog post by @SwayGrantham about her implementation of iPad devices I decided to give one of her ideas a go. This would work on any internet enabled device.

In maths, we spent two days working on a real life investigation looking as redesigning the school's garden. The task was the culmination of our work about 2D shapes and their properties.

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I set up a Padlet wall and asked the children to post ideas, thoughts, help, suggestions and photos onto the Padlet wall for others around the classroom to see. The wall can be found here. The children completed the task, whilst sharing their knowledge and learning from each other. It's also created a good digital record of the lesson.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Create Your Own Word Banks

We've written before about Google Forms and how it can be used to generate vocabulary. This time we didn't rely on the kind people of Twitter, parents or colleagues to generate the words, we handed that over to our children. 

We provided them with these two links:

Bossy Verbs


Interesting Adverbs

The children entered up to 10 words each. This generated over 1,000 words for each and we then made the result into word clouds to use during our instructional writing: 

Words for the children to use, by the children who will use them...

Sunday, 13 October 2013

What is It?

Firstly, this is not our idea. It's stolen, er sorry, 'magpied'. So, if Sarah is reading this, yes we listened during your staff meeting, yes we liked your idea and yes, now we're blogging about it so the country, continent and wider universe can find out about your idea too...

Below is an example that could be used for a history lesson. We've adapted this for a geography lesson about map knowledge too, but it can be adapted for any subject and age group. The idea is to show different parts of a picture or object 3 or 4 times and ask the children to work out what is being shown.

For example, the wives of Henry VIII:

Firstly, showing shoulders, then hands, followed by eyes and so on. Children make predictions, based upon previous knowledge and think about how their predictions change as they see more and more detail. So, hence forth and give it a go. Oh and thanks again Sarah, if you're reading. 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Word of the Week (40 of them)

Over the 2012-2013 academic year we had a Word of the Week displayed in the classroom. The word changed each week and the children were encouraged to make use of it in their writing. Along with this we looked for 'new' words in reading books, finding out their definitions and being able to extend the words used in all writing. 

Our focus was on extending vocabulary and 'using more interesting words'.

The 40 words we used can be found here.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Dice for Writing Exciting Sentences by Alan Peat

During 2013, we have begun using the Writing Exciting Sentences book by Alan Peat in our classrooms. We have found it to be a very useful resource and would recommend it to anyone who thinks it may be useful. As of May 2014, an accompanying app has been available.

To accompany the resource, we are about to start using dice as one way for children to, sometimes, choose which kind of sentence to write.

Idea 1: Each child has two dice. They roll them and then use this grid to decide which kind of sentence to write:

Idea 2: Cut of these cubes to make dice for the children to roll:

A copy of these documents can be found here.

Also, here's a game we made using Scratch. 

UPDATE - See our our post from 2014 about sentence dice by text type.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Maths: A Starter for Five

There are five days in a week, which for most of us means five maths lessons. Here are five maths starters we use in our classrooms (if you do a quick division, that means a different one each day). Also, although these have been called 'starters' we often use them mid-lesson too, or even at the end...

1 - Target Number

2 - Mental Calculation

3 - Countdown

4 - Tell Me More About...

5 - Kung Fu Maths

The above are screen captures from SMART Notebook presentations we use in our maths lessons. An example of each is easy to set up in any presentation software and can then be easily adapted each day/week. If anyone would like a copy they can be found here.

Monday, 24 June 2013

E2BN TeachMeet 2013

In June 2013 we presented at the E2BN TeachMeet:

Presentation 1: "Every Day in Just Three Words"

See a blog post from us here.

Presentation 2: "What Can I do With my Google Login?"

See a blog post from us about Padlet.

See a blog post from us about Google Forms.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Open Source - Free Software

Open Source has a philosophy of developing and sharing software for free use. Some of this, and other free-to-use, software is useful for use in school. Here's some free-to-use software we've used:

AndreaMosaic - Make mosaic pictures using your own photographs.

GameMaker - Programming software.

GIMP - The power of Photoshop, for free.

Leonardo Sketch - A vector based drawing application.

Scratch - Well known programming software.

TUX Paint - Paint for mac, Windows & Linux. 

UPDATE 29/11/14:

PosteRazor - Make posters from images.

Tux of Math - Maths game. (via @MrLiconti)

GCompris - Educational games for children up to 10 years old. (via @MrLiconti)

Triptico - Interactive resources. 

Inkscape - Drawing software.

Sourceforge can provide a place to search for other software. Let use know if there's any other you know of that we've not included.

Note: this post was updated further on 21/01/14. Thanks for the comments.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Padlet Beats Sugar Paper

Have you seen Padlet (was WallWisher)? It's on online 'wall' where sticky notes can be added. It allows anyone with the link to the page to add to the content of the wall.

Here are three examples of its use:

My newest idea for using Padlet is as a replacement to sugar paper. How often do children in your class work collaboratively while huddled around a piece of sugar paper passing a marker pen between them to add content? How about providing them a Padlet wall to write on? Either one for the whole class, or one per group. Start with a blank wall or possibly start with a prompt in the middle (a photograph for example). Then at the end, the class teacher can project the results or get each child in turn to visit the other walls to see what's been written. Also, there's no need to store rolls of paper for future reference. Just keep the links!

The walls above are on going throughout the year and therefore all posts are moderated. If I was using a wall within one lesson I'd probably leave it unmoderated so results were put live instantly.

If you have other uses for Padlet please let us know.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Codes of the Cryptographic Kind

Recently, our classes took part in a writing week. Our focus was on writing in the style of a Sherlock Holmes story. With the emphasis on writing, we were eager to find different ways of keeping children's engagement throughout the week. One way was to give children a different code each day to solve.
The idea was that there would be a new code each day and by solving that code, children would gain one word in a sentence which would lead them to a chocolate-based prize on the final day.
The inspiration for these started with the dancing man code from the Sherlock Holmes story 'The Adventure of the Dancing Man'. In this story, a code of dancing figures is used to communicate with one of the main characters. I used this code for the first day of the week. In order to do this, I downloaded a dancing man font from the internet and used this to help create the code.

The second day was a simple numerical code with numbers replacing letters. This proved rather simple for the children in the class, which was fine as they still were working on the clue from Monday.
The next clue was written in Morse code. Most children were unclear what the dots and dashes might represent, but there were a couple of children who knew what it was. This led to a great learning opportunity around what Morse code was and how it developed.
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At this point there was a small group of children engaged in the code-breaking so I revealed the final prize on offer which inspired more children to take part.
On the Thursday, in order to draw the children in, I used reversed words as the simple code. The children were feeling confident with groups coming together to solve the problems.
When I released the code for the final day, it was a humdinger. There was a combination of the previous codes with some wrinkles. There was a repetition of the dancing man code which only a few children had solved. Instead of the backwards words I used the phonetic alphabet to represent letters and instead of numbers I provided calculations with the numerical answers representing letters.
The children were particularly motivated by now and a group worked over the start of lunchtime to solve the problem and achieve their treats at home time.
As a whole class problem it was great as it allowed me to personalise problems for different groups of children. By the end there was a significant number of children taking part using a range of different skills.
More information on codes can be found on the Bletchley Park website.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Base Rounders

Before I began teaching, I worked on a number of holiday playschemes. While on those playschemes, we often invented and adapted games to suite children, resources and of course the weather. 

On one rainy summer's day, we invented (or believe we invented) 'Crash Mat Rounders'. Outside it was pouring down, the children wanted to play rounders and we had a sports hall at our disposal. We placed four crash mats out as bases, had a spot for the bowler and a place to bat from. We decided on some rules too. You were only out if caught, or if you were touching the sports hall floor while the ball was in the bowler's hand. There could be as many children on a base as they wanted, batters could overtake while running and the teams swapped over when the batting team had no one available to bat.

The enjoyment of less rules, jumping on crash mats and quicker turn around of innings made the game a huge success and it being played (indoors) on even the sunniest days of that summer!

So, when I began teaching, I was looking for ways to cover 'rounders skills' but in a more enjoyable way, with more children involved more of the time. I adapted 'Crash Mat Rounders' to form 'Base Rounders'. I have played it with every class I have taught, with each preferring it over various games of cricket and the traditional version of rounders.

I set up the pitch as shown below:

Each base is made up of four cones. With a cone for where the bowler needs to stand and a cone for the batter.

As I said earlier, the rules are simple:

Batter, hit the ball (or not) and run to a base. If you're running when the bowler gets the ball back you're out.

Fielder, catch the ball, or stop it and throw it back to the bowler.

Swap over when there's no on to bat. I usually get 4 - 5 innings per team in a lesson!

Hopefully that makes sense. Give it a go. I always explain it's not the 'real' rounders rules and do have games of rounders using those traditional rules too. 

If anyone else has played similar or the same as this, I have not stolen your idea as my own - I have independently generated these rules.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Apps for Your Teacher

This post is a follow up to our recent posts about apps.

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These are apps we have made use of, as teachers, in our primary classrooms. Although this list links to the iTunes Store many of these apps are also available on other operating systems too:

Alan Peat Pocket App of Exciting Sentences
Best Sand Timer CamFind 
Google Drive 
Google Earth
Google Translate
MyScript Calculator
OS MapFinder
QR Reader
Random Name Selector
Red Light, Green Light
Socrative Teacher
Teacher Feedback

If we've missed any that you use please let us know!


Saturday, 23 March 2013

More Apps for Your Primary Classroom

This post is a follow up to Apps for Your Primary Classroom

These apps have all been used by us in our Key Stage Two classroom. Although this list links to the iTunes Store many of these apps are also available on other operating systems too:

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abc Joined Up
Doodle English
Grammar Wonderland (Primary)
Grammar Wonderland (Elementary)

Doodle Maths 
MyScript Calculator 

Daisy the Dino
Cato's Hike Lite

Flow Free

We'd welcome your additions. Add them as comments below and to our previous posts about apps. Next, we'll blog about apps for the teacher too...

Monday, 18 March 2013

Friday, 15 March 2013

Google Docs - More Forms...

This is a follow up post to 'Google Docs - Forms' that we recently wrote.

We've been using Google Forms again for collecting information to help our class. This time, we have used it to aid our literacy teaching. With a writing lesson approaching we decided we wanted to help our children extend their vocabulary. So, we posted the question below on Google Forms:

We're looking for some help! Next week, we're writing Robin Hood stories set in a castle. Sometimes we find it difficult to think of adjectives and adverbs to use in our writing. If you can list some below it would really help us. Write as many as you can, even if it's just one!

The form can be found here.
Image credit: Screenshot from

We collected the words and shared them with our class to aid their writing. We shared the form with our followers on Twitter, through the school's websites and also emailed it to the children to ask their families to help. We had positive feedback from people who filled in the form saying they liked the challenge of coming up with words they thought would be useful and would extend our children's vocabulary. The results can be found here.

We also put the words into a word cloud: