Saturday, 29 November 2014

Writing on iPad (Tablet) Devices*

*or any internet enabled device

This is the second post of two. In the first, we wrote about writing using a tablet as a prompt for writing and now follow it up with a post about writing on a tablet.

We've written many times about using as a tool for sharing writing. Those posts can all be found here. Padlet offers many levels of privacy for the walls created and can be easily accessed from a tablet with a camera using a QR Code

TitanPad is an online collaborative writing tool that does not require a login. Again, easiest way to access would be through a QR Code. Collaboration could be within a class, across classes in a school or even between schools. We have used it to collaboratively write a text (instructions, story, recount), list features of a text type, improve a piece of writing, to practise sentence structures and more...

Most recently, and based upon an idea from L Parkinson, we have used the tablet devices for peer assessment of written work. After writing, children take a photograph of their work and then, using Pic Collage (or similar), the children write comments about the work directly on to it and next to the part of the text that is being commented upon. 

The iPad most recently comes pre-loaded with the Pages app, which is a powerful word processing application for writing on a tablet.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Writing with iPad (Tablet) Devices

In the past, we've posted many times about app suggestions. We thought it was about time we wrote about how we use some of them. In this first post of two, we'll write about writing using a tablet as a prompt for writing and will follow it up with a post about writing on a tablet.

We use iPad devices and therefore write about our experiences with those. However, where possible we also do our best to refer to other tablet alternatives. 

Epic Citadel
At a TeachMeet, back in 2011, we were introduced to Epic Citadel. In the app, the user can navigate their way around a fictional Citadel. We have used this while writing stories about Robin Hood and King Arthur. In addition, we have also used it as a 'one off' creative writing task in the first or third person. It's currently available for both iOS and Android. Oh, and it's free!

ColAR Mix
We downloaded ColAR Mix about 18 months ago. We downloaded it because of various messages we saw about it on Twitter. The first time we used the app, we put the colouring sheets on tables and simply asked the children to colour them in on entry to the classroom. Once the sheets were mostly coloured, children were instructed to open the tablets and scan the picture. It's one of the most amazing classroom experiences we've had! The children are amazed! The children were then instructed to, "Write about what's happening on screen". Some descriptive writing followed as the children were engaged.

Next, we made used of the ColAR Christmas and New Year resources. No writing this time, just a it of end of term colouring and enjoyment (that's allowed - isn't it?) Recently ColAR app released some more free images. We used the football playing sheep, and again after colouring, the children wrote recounts, diary entries, stories and more about the sheep. Most recently, we used the Pudsey picture and wrote a recount of 'Pudsey's CiN Disco 2014' (after colouring the picture of course). Colouring in the classroom? Yes! You get some great writing afterwards... Again, free and on both Android and iOS.

My Dragon Toy
Very similar to ColAR Mix as it uses similar technology. Give the child a target image, a tablet device, get them to scan, imagine and the write... Yeah, you guessed it - FREE!

Writing instructions
Give the children a game/puzzle to play on the device. Once they've had a jolly good play and hopefully enjoyed themselves, get them to write a set of instructions for how to use said app. These instructions could then be shared with staff, parents and so on... 

Epic Zen Garden
Very similar to Epic Citadel. Making a journey around a fantasy world that can then lead onto fictional writing. 

Using adverts
Advertisements can provide an excellent impetus for writing and this one from Cadbury in 2013 proved a hit with a Year Five class and some lovely writing. With tablet devices, children can watch, forward, rewind and so on in their own time. In addition, using QuietTube helps to remove comments, adverts and more. 

So, there are some ideas for having a tablet device on one part of the desk and writing on paper (the examples here have been typed up for ease of sharing): using it as a reason to write, inspiration for writing or to engage young minds. Writing and tablets does not have to mean writing on them, but that post is coming soon...

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Stories in a Tweet

We wrote earlier this year about two sentence stories. We're still getting some good writing from that and were intrigued by this Tweet we recently came across:

Of course! Write a story in 140 characters. Having previously written about Tweets in the classroom, we were impressed with this idea. So we gave it a go, and here's what some Year Five children came up with:

Our Tweet sheet is available on Dropbox to download. Feel free to share more ideas below.

Also, anyone for homophone jokes in a Tweet?

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Playing Cards in Maths

This year, we are having a bit of a focus on practical maths and teaching maths using lots of apparatus. Earlier this year, we came across "41 Math Card Games" via Twitter. We clicked the link and came across an Australian website requiring a small payment to buy the 'book'. The book is delivered by email as a .pdf. So, we paid for the book and have not looked back since…

A pack of playing cards do not cost much.

They are designed to be handled, lots!

They involve looking at numbers in different ways (Ace, Jack can equal 11, the numbers are represented by the figure and pictorially and so on…)

Any game involving numbers 1 - 10 (or up-to 13) can be played with them. 

Children enjoy using playing cards (well, I know 30 Year Fives who have so far demonstrated this).

We're not going to write here about what is in "41 Math Card Games"  but certainly recommend making a purchase. It'll give you ideas, remind you of things you may have forgotten and give you starters, drop-in activities, pleanries and "Oh, I've got 10 minutes, what shall we do? Answers". Any associated resources we make will be placed here. The cards shown in our Dropbox folder game from Open Game Art.

This afternoon I had 30 boys playing one of the games and here's what he had to say afterwards.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

More Display Interactivity

This post is a follow up to our post almost exactly three years ago. Since that post about interactive displays, we added Word of the Week in 2012 and we've now added to it further… 

In October, we wrote about #PadletBombing. That blog post came from an idea inspired by Robin Smith. Robin, you're responsible for this one too…

The Padlet Bombing came about from Robin's class working on different sentence types on a weekly basis and using Padlet as a place to share their work. This got us thinking: 'A sentence per week? What could we do with that?'

So, the interactive display has been added to:

We use the Writing Exciting Sentences book (and associated apps) by Alan Peat to aid our teaching of sentence and punctuation variety. The sentence type for the week and examples used on the display come from the book and app. Children can write their own example of the sentence type and then stick it onto the display. We are using a sentence type that links to the text type being taught that week and ask children to write their example as one that could be used in our writing for that text type. 

In addition, we also came across this yesterday:

You may like a separate section for your interactivity or add it to a Working Wall. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

School Twitter Account (Part 4)

Our fourth post about school Twitter accounts. Click to view: Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3
Image credit:

This time, it's 'locked' versus 'unlocked'. The opinions here could apply to school accounts as well as personal/professional accounts. When we joined Twitter, we applied the lock to our accounts. Being familiar with other social networks, we wanted to ensure our safety was secure. However, in order to make the most of the social network, we soon removed the lock. If you need the lock, then keep it. But...

Removing the lock allows contributing to discussions via hashtags, users to follow Tweets without having to join Twitter and for easier communication between users. If an account is sharing no personal information, nothing sensitive and nothing 'you wouldn't want the world to see', then there's no reason for it to be protected. We'd like to think this applied to all school and teacher accounts. It's also worth remembering that a Tweet from a locked account can still be shared by copying the text and any 'trusted' follower of a locked account could, in theory, copy and share photos or other information. Use an unlocked account and don't share anything that you wouldn't want anyone to see or read. If you've got the lock applied, consider breaking free.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Blog Books

Want to blog? Heard about how other schools are succeeding with it and making strides forward with writing progress? But, you can't blog...

Maybe it's the school that's in the way, technology not allowing it, you're not convinced...

Here's an idea I've had: 'Blog Books'.

Ideally, the children would be blogging online, building up an audience and receiving comments / feedback. If that's not possible, you may like to try this:

- Grab a pile of books that are not being used.

- Stick a class list in the front cover of each one.

- Give the class a writing task. 100 Word Challenge or 5 Sentence Challenge would be a good start. Maybe a recount or just as the children to, 'write something'.

- The children write.

- Now, the teacher marks nothing. The children give their book to someone else, who leaves comments and feedback. They also tick their name off on the class list in the front of the book. Each 'Blog Book' session, the feedback and commenting needs to be done by a different peer.

Children will be carrying out many of the skills associated with blogging. After a few weeks or months, there'll be evidence of children 'blogging' and commenting, and maybe, just maybe this may lead onto blogging on an online blog...

Want advice about blogging? We'd suggest contacting David Mitchell.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Deconstructed Maths Problem Solving

In the past, we've used worded problems, extended worded problems and open ended maths investigations. All with various success. Earlier this year, we were introduced to Deconstructed Maths Problem Solving after training from 5ense of Number.

We have an example here. Print these out so that there are enough copies for one of each per group in your class. Put them in piles, of the same sheets, face down, where you will base yourself in the lesson. Number each pile and keep a note for yourself of which information is in each pile.

Here's how it works:

- introduce the problem by stating that this is actually about you and that it is going to happen. Make the children believe it's real. (In the example given here, it's your family, your holiday and you'll actually be going). Do not give away any information that's on the sheets;

- in groups, the children list everything they think they need to know to solve the problem;

- now, one (and only one person) at a time from each group can come and ask for the information they think they need. For example, "How many people are in your family?" And, they'd be handed the sheet that gives them this information.

- the group calculate the parts of the problem they know about as, and when, they get them;

- as time is running out, allow children to come and collect any sheets they have not yet collected;

- finish by running through the answer together.

This has not been about getting the right answer or completing the investigation (although most groups have done both). It has been about group work, discussions, completing numerous calculations and looking at jottings or methods used.

Give it a go. The children complete 'loads of maths' and it's been a fantastic activity the two times we've run this to date. As we make more of these, we'll share them via our Dropbox here.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Padlet Bombing

Collaboration and working online is great, engaging and enjoyable. Last week, Robin Smith shared with the world the Padlet wall his class were going to be working on during their lesson. I clicked his link and up came the Padlet wall. Thought nothing more off it, until...
Image credit:

... the next day. A child asked me a question and we were about to use the internet on my teacher iPad device to access the internet, when up came the last site I looked at. Yep, you guessed it: Robin's Padlet wall. So, what did I do? We passed the iPad device around my classroom, reading his childrens' work (as they wrote) and adding some ideas of our own.

I then Tweeted Robin saying that I hoped he didn't mind my "gatecrashing". He replied, coining the phrase, "Padlet Bombing".

I realised in advance that Robin had been looking for collaboration and wouldn't mind someone joining in. However, anyone sharing an open document online is looking for collaboration, aren't they... 

Monday, 20 October 2014

Time for Feedback

What's had the biggest impact in my classroom so far this year? Providing a timetabelled feedback session, that's what.

Last year, a year group at my school ran 'Feedback Friday' each week and I've now taken that into my own practice. On a Friday, between 11:20 and 11:50, my class have our 'Feedback Friday' sessions. 

Here's what we do:

- all the books are out on the tables;

- children have red pens and coloured pencils (see this blog post for more information on that);

- children review the work from that week that has been marked and act upon the feedback provided to them.

- if all the feedback has been acted upon, children look at their work and independently look for ways in which their work may be improved.

At the time of writing, we have had five of these sessions. It's not been as straight forward as outlined above: the children have needed coaching and guiding through responding to feedback. Each time I have directed children, as a whole or individually, to a particular piece that they should begin with and then allowed them to look at other books or items of work.

Of course, lessons during the week still have elements of looking at previous work and learning from feedback, but having the Friday session means that I know there's a dedicated half an hour slot in the timetable for children to look at the feedback provided and act upon what has been identified. It's also great to see children looking for and finding ways in which they can improve their own work as they revisit it.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Dice for Writing Exciting Sentences by Text Type

Just over a year ago we posted this. In the past year we've used those dice in our classrooms. The original idea of rolling a dice didn't quite work as any sentence doesn't always work in the context of a piece of writing. We have however used the dice in our lessons more as a 3D reference tool. Children quite like looking at them for inspiration.

In August 2014, Alan Peat contacted us:

These dice are based upon the following book: Writing Exciting Sentences The book has been followed up with associated apps. Also a credit to Bryn Goodman, whose advice about which sentences fit each text type was essential.

We hope the dice are useful and thank you again to Alan Peat for his resources.

Friday, 11 July 2014

You Need To Speak Proper (Like What I Do)

In my NQT year, I noticed teaching assistants and other teachers correcting children's speech:

"Er, say thank you."

"Use please next time."

"You mean 'David and I'."

And so on...

In that year, and some since, I was more focused on some of the more basic aspects of the job. However, more recently, I have become aware of the need for children to speak correctly and then how that impacts more widely their ability to communicate, read and indeed write.

This year, a boy in my class had been frequently asking, "Can I go for a toilet?" This, in the past, was something I hadn't corrected with other children. Every time he asked, I corrected and he repeated. Then, last week, with a huge smile he came over and asked, "Can I go to the toilet please?" Of course, the answer (to a Year Five child) was, "There's only five minutes of the lesson left - see if you can wait." But, also, "I'm so pleased you asked correctly." And, I was pleased. I had been persistent and succeeded - I'd taught something (after all, I am a teacher)!

It's so easy to let these slip by. Does it mean the child doesn't know how to speak (and possibly write) correctly, are they being lazy or is it something else? You don't find out if it's not challenged. 

You and I (see what I did there?) have a duty to ensure we teach and, where required, correct children.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Looking for Sport's nth Term

I noticed that in the 2014 FIFA World Cup there are 32 participating nations and 64 matches. That's half participants to matches. 1:2 if you like. I noticed that as a possible pattern and wondered if it'd continue for a competition of 16 teams and therefore 32 matches. However, I didn't investigate. I'm going to get my class to...

Feel free to edit and adapt for your own class.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Here's What It's Like Around Here

On Monday of this week, a Tweet was posted:

At the time of writing, that Tweet has 14 ReTweets (even one from Brian Moses) and 19 Favorites. That's a lot for Liam: he's convinced most of his Tweets don't get read by anyone! Lots of interest out of the blue, and to something we though everyone would be doing. Wrong!

It's my 8th year of teaching and this is something I've done every year. Two weeks before 'Transfer Day', I give the children a home learning task to write a letter to a pupil in my next class. Here's how that was worded: 
The results were very impressive. Here are some extracts:

"Finally, you do lots of literacy and maths, but the teachers make it fun!"

"The Isle of Wight is really worth all of the five hours it takes to get there."

"The more time you spend in this year group, the more you will love it!"

"If you get my teacher, you're lucky: he's awesome!"

"The homework's not difficult if you listen in class."

There's a trip to the National Space Centre (not Space, in Leicester) and it's fun."

Your new class get to hear from those who have just experienced a year in your year group, classroom and presence. They tell it how it has been. Good points, not so good points and, at times, pick out aspects of the teacher's personality. They're useful for the teacher to evaluate the year too. 

Most of all, it's impressive to see the time taken by many of them to produce something that shows real empathy with the child who is going to be reading the letter:

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Ninth Collection of Apps for Your Primary Classroom

Another bunch of apps that we've given a go in our primary classrooms. We've found them useful and others may do too. Links are to the Apple App Store as we are operating iOS devices.
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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Averaging Speed in Maths

Driving along, observing the speed limit and I entered a section of road covered by average speed cameras. I understand how these work and therefore know a driver should drive at a constant speed, at or under the speed limit, in order to avoid encountering a conviction. However, I observed a young lady speeding in between cameras and then slowing for each one. She clearly did not understand the term 'average'. This lead me to think about how 'average' could be taught using these cameras as a real life context.

I have two possible methods for carrying out this investigation:

One: Using the formula for calculating speed: Speed = Distance ÷ Time. Give the children a set of data. The data being that for time taken for drivers to travel the distance between cameras. The data can be put into the formula and then the children work out which motorists are within the limit and those who are not.

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Two: Giving the children the driver's speed in between each camera on a road and then the children calculate an average of those speeds. Again, from this the children work out which motorists are within the limit and those who are not.

The first idea is more in line with how the system actually works. However, the second would work better in a primary classroom for calculating averages. We've made a resource to accompany the latter.

Also: See Stuart's very useful and helpful suggestions below

Update: February 23, 2015

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Television - Beaming Ideas into your Livingroom!

"Don't watch the TV, it'll make your eyes square!"

"Sitting there all day will do you no good."

Indeed those are good points. Although, the first may not be scientifically accurate. We blogged a while ago about using an idea from a BBC show and we're confident most classes have had a go at the Countdown numbers or letters game.

Recently, we've made use of some ideas from School of Hard Sums. This was aided by some excellent resources from Stuart:

This made us thinks a little more. How about a classroom activity using Blankety Blank, Pointless, Eggheads Catchphrase and more...

Give it a go and as always. Let us know how you get on.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Apps for Your Primary Classroom Huit

For the eighth and most recent time, here are some apps we've been making us of. Other bloggers may offer more information about the apps, but we've chosen to do it this way. Again, they're all apps we've actually made use of and although the link is direct to the iOS store, some apps may also be available on other devices too.

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On this occasion, we feel it would be good to point out that some above developers allowed up to try their apps for free. Please note that this in no way influences their appearances on this post. 

Missed our other app posts? See them here.

Monday, 7 April 2014

4 Pics 1 Word in Your Classroom

On Saturday, I was sat near a child on a train who was playing 4 Pics 1 Word on his father's phone. Then, when I returned home, my other half was requesting help with a puzzle she was stuck on. In the way it often does, my mind struck up and started to ponder how this could be used in a classroom. 

Idea 1: Children create their own puzzles for others to try to solve. Possibly using homophones or where the same word (eg stamp or smoking) can fall into a number of different word types:

Idea 2: During a topic of work (eg in geography or science), use the puzzles to introduce or recap vocabulary: 
Idea 3: Use it as a method of introducing new vocabulary.

Note: We have not seen this idea anywhere else. Well done if you've come up with similar. As far as we're aware, creating one's own 4 Pics 1 Word is not copyright - please inform us otherwise if it is. Finally, the pictures used in our example all came from a Creative Commons Image Search - you should do the same (or take your own).

We gave it a go with a Year Five class. The class used iPad devices and the app Pic Collage. With very minimal instructions, here's what they came up with. The examples are also available to download from Dropbox.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Use YouTube with More Confidence

Here we go, a follow up to a previous post. Everything in the previous post is still relevant, but since, we've learned more.

We have found more ways of 'de-cluttering' YouTube:

1. QuietTube (via Julian);

2. SafeShare.TV (via Ben).

Also, we've found more ways of downloading from YouTube:

Short. To the point. Want to know more? Read the first post.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Crowdsource - Who Else Wants to Share?

In the past, we've contributed to other people's crowdsourcing. We decided to give it a go ourselves. Often, on social media, the term PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network) is used. What is often not mentioned is that on Twitter, someone had two PLNs: The PLN they follow and get ideas from in their feed and the PLN they are followed by and can therefore ask for help. The two PLNs are very likely to be different!

This crowdsourcing focuses on those a Twitter user can ask for help. Your followers. In my classroom, we were preparing for some project based learning around the topic of Space. I decided the groups in my class would all produce a video, that could then be attached to a photo using Augmented Reality and share it with the world. I had some ideas, but wanted more...

So, I set up this document: 'Video Ideas'

I Tweeted it a couple of times and got responses. All of these responses were valuable and offered to the class as options for their video outcome. That document can now be kept and also shared with others. 

Tweet and Tweet often. Direct it at users you know will have ideas. Ask / hope for ReTweets. Share it on other social media too. Send it to friends, colleagues or someone in a certain sector of work. If people add, that's great. If someone has no ideas or can't contribute, nothing's lost. Of course, this does rely on having numerous followers or others choosing to share it further. Ensure you're direct about what you want to find out. It'll allow more space than a Tweet allows for someone to share an idea. 

Having a go? Let us know, we'll respond and, you never know, we may even help to spread the word...