Monday, 31 August 2015

Math Duel League

In 2014, Lee Parkinson wrote an iBook to share ideas for iPad device use during the Football World Cup. This blog post builds upon one of Lee's ideas in that book. Incidentally, all of Lee's books are very useful (for both Apple and Android devices) and can be found both here and here

 Image credit: Lee Parkinson

In the book '15 iPad Lessons for the World Cup' Lee outlined an idea for using the Math Duel app in class to improve maths skills through a bit of healthy competition. This year, I plan to build upon this with the Math Duel League...

This is an idea I've been playing around with for a while and hope will work. I imagine it'll take a bit of tinkering with, and as I do, I'll update this post. As I'm writing the post before trying it out, any suggestions others have are most welcome.

We're in school for thirty odd weeks during the year and I have thirty children in my class. This is where the idea started. How about each child playing another child each week through the year and then, at the end of the year, have a completed league table. 

- Each child must play each other child 'home' and 'away' during the year. A copy of the class list for each child to tick off as they go will be useful for this.

- 'Home' is the child sat in their usual class seat. The 'away' child moves to sit with them. The child at 'home' inputs the settings (there needs to be a fair play agreement here). They then play their game.

- On Google Drive, there'll be a spreadsheet for children to input results into and the table can be created from this. The children will be able to access the Google Drive document from the iPad device once their game has finished. 

My main concern using thinking about this has been about the children who may finish bottom of the league. I'll not share the whole league table with the class. The 'home' and 'away' and the 'home child' being in charge of the settings should enable all children to win some games. Another thought was about handicaps based upon head starts or giving children certain times tables to work on. 

Image Credit: Ellie's Games

I'll give it a go and see how it goes...

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Our First Book: 'The Best of Primary Ideas 2011-2015'

Four years ago today, Liam and Dan met to set up this blog and the Twitter account attached to it. The aim: to share what we were doing in our classrooms with the wider world. Since that time, it's grown and grown. It now covers various social media sites and generates thousands of visitors per month. We're pleased it's been so useful to all those who have looked at what we share. We are full-time class teachers sharing our ideas as and when we can. As a bit of a summary of the past four years, we've published our first ePub, 'The Best of Primary Ideas 2011-2015'.

Download from the iTunes Store or as a PDF file

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Tips For Tablet (iPad) Use

Ten tips for using tablets in the classroom... 

1. Desensitise - The term came from Sway. However, it's something that I've always done with each class as we use the devices for the first time. The touch screen on any device takes some getting used to. How hard should a tap be? which directions can be swiped in? what multi-finger gestures can be used? This will possibly become less important as touch screen technology becomes the norm.

2. Prediction - When typing, the predictive element can cause typos or (depending on spelling ability) incorrect substitution of words. Schools need to decide what predictive text is turned on or off and ensure the children are able to utilise it properly. I'm still to get to gripes [sic ;-)] with it!

3. Copy & Paste etc. - Ensure children know how to select a work, or a section of text and then cut or copy it before pasting it somewhere else. Indeed, the same with images. This is essential if any App Smashing is to take place.

4. Orientation - filming / photography - If footage or images are going to be edited together as part of a film, as a minimum, ensure they're all captured in the same orientation. Ideally, do them all landscape. It works much better in modern widescreen outputs.

5. Microphone - Do the children know where the microphone is? For example, on the iPad Mini it's at the top, not the bottom like a phone (most phones). Sound is much better when directed towards the microphone. Particularly in a classroom, with say 29 other children doing similar...

6. Sharing between apps - App Smashing! Sometimes copy and paste works just fine, but sometimes saving to 'Camera Roll' or 'Gallery' may be required to then input the object into another app. Theach this once and it'll then be useful over and over again!

7. App missing? How to put it back - "Sir, I don't have the app!" Often this can easily be resolved (dependant on management system in place) if children know how to. Not installing apps, not buying them, just putting one back that's for some reason gone missing.

8. Search - At the time of writing, only know of this on iOS (happy to update if told different). Instead of scrolling through looking for an app, swipe down in the middle of the screen and type in the app's name - it'll then appear. If I set up an iOS device for my use in the future, I'll not set up any folders, for me all I need is the search.

9. Turing off apps - Saving the battery. Tablets that charge over night? Used five hours a day by children? Let's make sure they make it. Double tap home button (iOS) or hold home button (Android) to see which apps are running. On iOS, swipe each to turn off, but (wait for it) on Android, press the 'close all button' :-). This will save battery power.

10. It is not a rock - They break. Two hands! Don't throw! It's not yours. You get the idea.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Finding Sentences Structures

Earlier this year, whilst on a school trip to the National Space Centre, a colleague and I were reading some information when she exclaimed, "Ah, nice embedded clause there". This then developed through the rest of the day with us trying to spot types of sentences we'd not seen so far that day. Some of the children even got involved. In fact, for one of them, it meant she read a whole lot more than she probably would have done otherwise! 

As a result, I decided to do more of finding sentence structures within texts to look at how and why they've been used...
1. Authorial Intent
During reading activities (guided, group, class, one-to-one and so on...), look for sentence structure variety. Discuss what sentence structures have been used and why the author has chosen to use them. Do they stick to a certain type? Do they have large variety? Does the child(ren) know and use those sentences?

2. Write Sentences Into a Story
When I read Alan Peat's 'A Second Book of Exciting Sentences', I found in it a story called 'The Minotaur’s Revenge’. This story contained in it examples of the sentences from both of Alan Peats' books about sentence types. My class read this story (enjoying it) and found many of the sentence types we'd been learning to use. As a result, I had a go at my own story (just using the sentences from 'Writing Exciting Sentences: Age 7 Plus') and that story can be found here (Also, answer key). Again, my class enjoyed reading the story (whilst agreeing I shouldn't give up the day job) and the challenge of finding the sentence types. I was very clear that this was a contrived exercise and I was not suggesting or expecting that their story writing should reflect this example of including a group of sentences in a text. In addition, I included a couple of sentences that showed how the rules taught when learning these sentences can be tweaked and adapted, which lead to a interesting discussion. A text example (fiction or non-fiction) could be written as an exemplar for something being studied and then include relevant sentence structures. 

3. Sentence Structure Booklets 
Each week, our children write down words that are new to them and find out their definitions. Following on from this, I created a booklet for children to use during reading time (at home and in school) to write down the sentence structures they come across as they read. A copy of this booklet can be found here. And, for those using Alan Peat's 'Writing Exciting Sentences: Age 7 Plus', this (select pages that are useful to your children, don't just print off the whole lot) and this may be of use.

4. Sentence of the Week 
Some easier than others but, if you have a Sentence of the Week: "Can anyone find an example of that in a book"

After children have found a number of sentences in published work, can they identify any particular sentence structures that fit a fiction and non-fiction and then genres? The main area of discussion, and the largest section in the booklets I gave the children to use, is authorial intent. Why is the sentence used? What's the impact?

Some of the ideas outline above have been done with Alan Peat's own advice about using his work and his blog post 'Exciting Sentences – a word of caution' in mind. The ideas and resources shared here do not contradict that advice in the way they were delivered.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Rolls and Flips: Probability All Done

Covering probability or data handling in maths and using lesson time to generate data? Well, it's already been done for you:

@RollADay are rolling a dice each day. The data can be found here:

Image credit: @RollADay

@FlipADay are flipping a coin each day. The data can be found here:

Image credit: @FlipADay

Follow the accounts. Use the data. Maybe even share with the accounts what's been produced using the flips and rolls.

Both of these are operated by Tad Fry. Other useful online tools can be found on his site.