Friday, 23 December 2016

Non-Chronological Report Writing

As previously written about, we're always looking for ways to enthuse learners, engage them in their learning journey and provide them with an audience. 

In the past we've tried writing non-chronological reports about the following with children: instruments (it was a link to making instruments in design and technology, but the children's research about what to write about let them down), Anglo-Saxons (again subject knowledge let them down despite it being a cross curricular link), David Beckham (subject knowledge was ok, but some children got events mixed up) and other relevant subjects.

In the autumn term 2016, many of the children in our school have been captivated by Pokemon and Pokemon Go. As a result, we decided this would be the topic for our forthcoming non-chronological writing. What? a non-fiction text type being written about a fictional topic? can that be done? looks like it: "Harry Potter - The Character Vault" & "The Pokémon Encyclopedia, Official" for a start. 

Our hopes: the majority of children who are often turned off by writing would be engaged by this, those who already enjoy writing would still do so and that the few left 'in the middle' could be encouraged by the others. In addition, the children would be writing a report about a 'new' Pokemon, a Pokemon they would invent. Subject knowledge needed? No, because they're creating the creature. Can what they write be wrong? No, it's their creature. They can focus on report style and layout. What if anyone really doesn't want to write about a Pokemon? They can write about a mythical creature (shhh, that's what a Pokemon is!)

How did it go? Over the three weeks, we designed the area in which our Pokemon would live, learned about how Pokemon my act and interact and what attributes they may posses. At the same time, learning about report layout, style and contents. This meant that when it came to writing, the children were about to write about a Pokemon in the correct way. We wrote a first draft and then a second draft in Book Creator.  

We have created the children an audience in a number of ways:

We believe we've stayed within Copyright with this process as we've only used Pokemon as a prompt. We certainly engaged 120 Year Five pupils. We'd love to hear about your non-chronological report writing.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Curating articles through Pinterest

If ,like us, you access a lot of different articles online, it can be a challenge keeping track of everything you wish to read. One technique we have started to use is curating the articles using a Pinterest account and a Pinterest button extension in our browser.
Beyond the different blogs we follow (which is upwards of 100 now - you amazing, interesting writers, you), there are emails sent daily with articles (a great one is diigo which often has contributions from the brilliant ICTMagic) and of course things which ping our way as we float around Twitter (@primaryideas).
It is often too difficult to read all of these ideas during the school day as we juggle planning, marking and having fun, and by the end of the day, we would end up with a load of memory chugging tabs open in our browsers.
To deal with this, we installed the Pinterest save button. Now, when we open a page that interests us, all we do is click the button, choose an image and save it in the relevant folder.
When it comes time to read, you can read it online or on any of the mobile devices which have Pinterest apps. Finding the time is still an issue, but at least now there is flexibility in it.
We are sure that there are loads of other ways of doing this, but this is one which works for us.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Minecraft and Grammar

We love to play Minecraft, kids love to play Minecraft (many, not all). Therefore, when possible, and without over-doing it, we use the game to provide a context to some of our lessons.
Recently, we have been giving our children some work on the different elements of sentences and have been focussing on the difference between verbs, subjects and objects. This is important knowledge for helping them to understand how their own sentences are structured as well as for when we work on the differences between the active and passive voice.
To help the children understand the difference we put on a quick game of Minecraft and started mining.

 The children were able to understand the difference between the subject (Steve) and the object (the blocks being mined) as well as the verb.
To reinforce this, we were able to change the 'skin' of the character as well as the view of the camera. This meant that the children could see the subject from different viewpoints (changing the skin changes the look of the main character). By changing the equipment that the character was carrying we were able to change the verb as well.

Just writing this has given me the idea to look at using Minecraft to reinforce writing in the first and third person. Look back soon for how that goes...

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Evaporation Videos

This morning it was frosty, very frosty. Upon looking out of the window, I noticed that in the rising Sun's sunshine, the evaporating frost was visible. So, I went outside to try to film it.
Teaching evaporation and condensation to primary age pupils is always a challenge as it (usually) can't be seen and, for some, is a process that's hard to comprehend or believe. That may explain why we've made a number of videos to support our teaching of this scientific processes:

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Bake Off for Evaluation Success

Last week, my mind was cast back a number of years. A few years back, we were researching, designing and then making our own biscuits. During the 'research' stage, a Year Five boy explained to me how he was evaluating the biscuits I'd provided "Like they do on Bake Off". Genius! So, the lesson stopped, the previous night's Bake Off went on and our evaluating and vocabulary improved. Instead of mostly eating their way through biscuits and saying "nice", "nicer", "not so nice" and so on, children were now commenting on the snap, appearance and much more than just the taste and their personal opinions. 

Image credit: Little Bakery

Last week, I thought about how the baking on Bake Off was evaluated. Such depth could be used to improve all evaluating and in particular peer assessments and reviews. Watch and example of how to evaluate baking before evaluating something. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Strictly Come Arithmetic

While watching Strictly Come Dancing (yes TV to the rescue again), I noticed a contestant was given a 7 by each of the judges. My brain immediately set to work and inside my head, I muttered to myself, "Oh, 28". Genius, I know. So, Strictly Come Dancing can be used for some four times table work. Maybe screenshot the scores, maybe make your own, maybe watch a dance that's given four of the same score (to engage the class) and ask the class to quickly work out the total. Of course, we can not do any of those here due to copyright (Have emailed the BBC to ask for permission though - they always say no though).
There's more here than just the four times table of course, it's mental addition. Score of 6, 6, 7, 6 is 3 X 6 + 7. So now all scores given are useful. Again, take screenshots, make your own, watch it back in iPlayer. I like the idea of seeing part of the dance for a bit of context. How quickly, and most importantly what methods are used, to get the total score given?

Saturday, 22 October 2016

For Your Classroom... 50 Primary English Questions - Volume 1

We've written another book. This time, it's a book of question types that could be used in English lessons (and other subjects). There are 11 types of question and each question type comes with 5 examples. 

We hope it's useful. Is is available to download from iTunes Store or as a PDF file. Let us know if it's useful.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Lunchtime Story Club

Michael Morpurgo recently spoke of the virtues of teachers reading to children in class. Of course, we agree, we've written about it on this very blog.

At school, our librarian shared the article. Some replies of, "Already do". Others of, "That'd be good". But, many of, "When? I'm too tight on time already!"

However, our quick thinking librarian was straight on to it and thus Storytime Club was born. There's a sign up sheet for teachers. One slot per day (12:15, start of lunch). A notice for children, informing them of the teacher reading that day and the book's title. At the start of lunch, the teacher sits in the library (I sat on beanbags) and reads to whoever turns up (I had 3 children) - not many, but a nice small group to read and discuss a book with. 10 minutes later, picture book read and all off to lunch.

Looking for time to read to children? Set up a Storytime Club they can attend. There may only be three turn up, there may be more, but three, remember, is more than none and they benefit from the story.

Next steps are we hope all members of the school staff and some senior students will join in with reading. 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Re-Blog: "Shoes Off If You Love To Learn"

On Monday 3rd October, Liam was lucky enough to visit Great Denham Primary School. This was the first time he'd been inside and if anyone reading this is located close enough to visit them, He'd strongly recommend ringing up to see if they can show you around. 

Anyway, the first thing he noticed was that the children had no shoes on in school. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Letter Formation - Sky, Grass & Mud

At a recent Whole Education event, we were introduced to 'Sky, Grass & Mud' for reminding children about where letters should be placed while writing and which letters ascend and which descend. We feel this is particularly important for making letters distinguishable and showing the difference between capital and lower case letters.

We've made this resource to copy our school's cursive writing expectations. The font is courtesy of Cursive Writing

  Mat for Tables

Banner for Walls 1

Banner for Walls 2

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Free 'Stuff' - Actual, Real 'Stuff'

Earlier this evening, Liam presented at a TeachMeet in Stevenage. He presented about learning opportunities he'd been able to use in class that had no costs attached:


Monday, 10 October 2016

Picture Books and Some Ideas For Classroom Uses

We've written a few posts recently about picture books. Here's another. We've started a Pinterest Board of books we've read to our own children (you know, the ones we live with) and how these books could possibly be used in the classroom...

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Emoji Autobiographies

Getting to know your class at the start of the year can take many forms. Both of us are now part of job shares where we only teach for part of the week. Here's something that one of our classes did with one of our inventive colleagues...

Half the battle of getting children to write is engaging them. As we've written about before, the emoji keyboard can create engagement in writing. This task was for the children to write about themselves and insert emojis for some of the nouns in their sentences.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Extended Exit Polls

We make extensive use of exit polls in the classroom to support our formative assessment. They are a great tool for assessing where children are at the end of a lesson, are generally easy to mark and allow you to quickly make a judgement about the next lesson to teach.

Increasingly, we have also started adding some extra information on them so that they can be used for a further purpose. We have always been interested in how children's viewing habits have changed especially around online sites such as YouTube and have, with increasing frequency, been using online videos such as those provided by Khan Academy, to support home learning. If it is appropriate, we have started to add a shortened link and a QR code to an exit poll. This links to a video explaining some content from the exit poll.

Now, after marking, we can give the exit poll back to the child with their errors on and we encourage them to take it home and have a look at the video. At the moment, this is optional and some children do not bother. However, there have been occasions where, because they have watched the video or done some further work, the misconceptions have been corrected by the next lesson.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Marking: No Writing, Stamps and Stick Figures

September 2015 we revised our marking policy. We've shared how successful it's been in various Tweets over the past twelve months. We've written posts about marking in the past. This supersedes all of those! Here's a bit more about it...
Firstly, it was not something us or our school developed, so we can't say too much here. If you like what you read, contact Shaw Primary Academy to find out more

Previously, we had a requirement to mark every piece of work, provide feedback about what the child had done well and what thy needed to improve in the future. In addition, we had a number of codes and coloured pens we used to make the process 'quicker'. 

In July 2015, we looked at what we'd been doing and after reading the NAHT article linked to in the Tweet above, we knew something had to change. We had a visit from Shaw Primary Academy who met with our SLT, asked us about what our current practice was, what they thought of it, told us what they did and it was then delivered to all staff.

We've taken on the practices that were shown to us: we don't write any comments in books, all work is marked, all children get vocal feedback as needed, spelling is checked, grammar is corrected, calculations are marked and we know how much support a child had in a lesson. 

Impact? Marking takes less time. Only necessary feedback is given. Children actually act upon the advice given. Marking is less painful. There is more time to plan and adapt future lessons based upon what's been understood. 

Fed up with your current policy? It's not working? Feel like you're wasting your time? Well, you know what to do about it. Join the revolution... 

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Your Red

At the time of writing, the video below is one of Tesco's current television advertisements. Firstly, watch it before you read on.

Did you hear what we heard? Will your children in your class? - you're / your

So, Tesco ended their advert with a homophone play on words. Here are some suggestions for classroom use:

- Play the advert and ask the children if they spotted anything.

- Ask them to write the script for the final 10 seconds. Do they use the correct homophone?

- Can they think of another homophone that could have closed this advert?

- Can they create another, similar advert, that uses a homophone to sell something?

- Can the children use this advert as an aide-mémoire to remember your/you're?

If you have any of your own suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, 29 August 2016

For Your Classroom... 50 Primary Maths Questions - Volume 1

We've written another book. This time, it's a book of question types that could be used in maths lessons (and other subjects). There are 11 types of question and each question type comes with 5 examples.

We hope it's useful. Is is available to download from iTunes Store or as a PDF file. Let us know if it's useful.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Words With Friends Edu

In July, we spotted someone new had begun Tweeting: 'WordsWithFriends EDU'. We're quite excited about this, and here's why...

We wrote earlier this year about 'Teacher Vs Class' and continue to use AirServer to engage the whole class in participating in a game. We've also seen how free resources from Top Trumps and Bananagrams can be an engaging teaching tool.

Image credit: Zynga Inc.

While writing those posts above, we had in mind that it'd be great to have child and school friendly versions of apps like 'Words with Friends', 'Letterpress', 'Yahtzee with Buddies' and others.

We've now found one:

We're singed up. It looks good. We'll give it a go when this forthcoming academic year begins...

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Taskmaster: Prepositional Phrases

A third addition to our ideas for the classroom that have come from the television program 'Taskmaster'

This time, linked to English, and grammar in particular. Watch the video below:

The task set was along the lines of, "Place the gym balls on the yoga mat that's on top of the hill. While most contestants carried the balls up the hill to the mat, Richard Osman went up, brought the mat down and then place the balls onto it: balls on the mat that (was) on top of this hill. Room for interpretation in the prepositional phrase? Greg Davies thought so. 

Can you set you children a similar task and look for scope within the prepositional phrases involved to carry out the task in 'their own way'?

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Taskmaster: Pizza Oracy

We've written before about using ideas from 'Taskmaster' in our classroom. We've picked up another idea...

Our school is currently focusing on improving oracy amongst our young people. We (adults, at home in our own time) enjoyed watching this task on Taskmaster

Could see it, and similar, working well in the classroom. The children couldn't ring an actual pizza delivery company (or could they? or even Skype...), but they could work in pairs. It could also be run with other scenarios and 'banned' vocabulary. The video clip below is from the program and, unless we missed something, it's safe for a primary classroom:

If you come up with you own versions, please let us know...

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Transition Activities

Again, inspired by a Tweet:
We couldn't answer in 140 characters, so we'll answer in a blog post...

On our transition day, we get our new year group for just over two hours. Lots of time to get to know them a bit and learn a little about them. We do a short maths activity, a short writing activity and do lots of 'getting to know you' activities. 

'Getting to Know You a Little' - Children roll a dice and answer a question based upon what number they roll. For example: 1 Something you enjoyed about this year. 2 Favourite colour. -> 6 Dream job.

Share the curriculum for the year ahead. Let the children know what they'll be studying. They may even do some pre-learning. 

Trips. Again similar to above, let the children know what trips they can expect. 

'The Hardest Test You'll Do All Year' (Getting to Know Me a Little) - I give each table four pictures. For example: sweetcorn, peas, carrots and broccoli. They need to work out which is the odd one out and why. Always some interesting answers and then I explain the right answer. Can't stand sweetcorn by the way!

'Getting to Know You' - provide the children with a form to fill in so you, the teacher, have something to keep about them as you prepare for the year ahead.

Share a sideshow of photos from your current year.  

Look at your class / year group blog. 

'Just Like Me' - Someone says something they like or do and anyone who is the same/similar says, "Just like me".

There's some ideas. We really value transition day. Get to know the children a little. Make introductions. Set some expatiations. And, all before it begins 'for real' in September...

Saturday, 25 June 2016

RAF at Your Event

The Royal Air Force "complete many flypasts each summer as they transit from display to display." On the RAF website, there is the ability to request a flypast for an event. For schools, this is most likely to be a summer fayre or similar. There are events they will not provide a flypast for and they only flaypast for one person's birthday (HM The Queen), but school faryres fall into the category of events they will do. 

We've requested a flypast in each of the last five years and were successful in 2013. As previous, we sent off our application and then, much to our surprise, we received a call from the RAF wanting to confirm our location and timings. On the day, we were waiting at the estimated time of arrival and suddenly the roar of a Spitfire engine came closer and closer. The pilot gave us a stunning display before wiggling the wings and setting off into the distance. Unfortunately, we only caught a small part of the flypast on camera.

The flypast is only possible if the RAF happen to have an aircraft passing and we've been lucky enough to have one visit once. We'll keep applying and hopefully have one back again. Got your fayre planned? Put in an application...

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Story Behind the Tweet

Not all our ideas are our own. Here's another we found on Twitter:
Nina posted the above Tweet and we immediately loved the idea. It's taken a few weeks to find the opportunity to try it out, but now we have and it worked quite well. It certainly engaged a group of Year Fives who just about know how Twitter works and certainly hear about and see Tweets in various media they see.

Here's what we did:

Firstly, I considered looking for an intriguing Tweet (which I may do in the future), but I didn't and instead created my own, fictional Tweet, using lemmetweetthatforyou:

I read the class the original example from Waitrose in Nina's Tweet and then showed them the fictional Tweet. I informed them that it was fictional and I even went to the bother of checking that the @Mentions don't currently exist on the site. 

Challenge 1: explain what the Tweet's about. Challenge 2: write in a similar style to Waitrose. Challenge 3: explain it in exactly 140 words. 

We completed our writing in the Count Words & Characters app and then posted the finished stories to a Padlet wall

We've written in the past about other forms of restrained writing: Two Sentence Stories, Stories in a Tweet, 100WC and others...

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Musical Notation and Fractions

While planning a unit of work about fractions recently, a colleague (musical one) suggested using musical notation as a way of introducing fractions.

Four beats in a bar: this can be achieved in many many ways! 

A bit of a reminder / teaching about musical notation and off we went...

And then, the children had a go themselves:

The resources were all made using Printable Paper.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Lessons That Resource Themselves(ish)

On 9th June 2016, Liam was invited to present at Animate2Educate's Talk on the Tyne event. Below is a copy of his presentation:

Martin ran two stunning events over 9th and 10th June. If you've not yet taken a look at what he can offer, we strongly suggest you do:

Friday, 20 May 2016


At some recent training with Dylan Wiliam, he asked us a question just before a coffee break and before lunch. He told us we'd get the answer after the break - you know, like Eastenders. So, I've been doing it. Pose a question just before break or lunch that'll be answered at the start of the next lesson. Some of the children actually go away and think about it. Of course, it's very easily done with a book that's being read to the class too...

Monday, 16 May 2016

Lynne Truss' Books for Punctuation

I can remember when 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation' was first published. I was at university at the time and a house mate purchased it as a gift for his mother. I had a flick through and found some of the contents of interest. A few years later, and now teaching, I came across the 'child version' of the book. So, I made a purchase and often us the three child-friendly versions of the original in class. Although aimed at children, these books often act as an aide-mémoire for me too!

We've recently been looking at how commas can change the meaning of a sentence. 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves For Children: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference' is ideal for introducing this. After looking at the examples in the book and some of what's in the other two books pictured above, we had a go at writing some of our own:

Saturday, 14 May 2016

The Piano - Some Resources

Another post prompted by a Tweet. We recently saw the below Tweet and our answer was of course, "Yes", but knew our full response wouldn't possibly fit in a Tweet, so here's the blog post answer...
Between us, we've taught the English module based upon 'The Piano' since it was added to the English curriculum. Every year we've been amazed by the writing it produces

We've not written about our work with 'The Piano' before as we were a little unsure about its copyright status. However, in October 2015 Aidan Gibbons, who made the short, told us "it's a free for all".

So, here's what we've got to share...

- First of all, just listen to the sound track. What do the children think the film might be like? 

- Watch the film through and collect responses via a Google Form.  

- Carry out a film review: 

- On a tablet, take screen captures and make memes that can be used when writing about the film.

- We edited the original animation. Does the order of the scenes change the narrative?

- We've played the film with a Yakety Sax soundtrack and a Ludovico Einaudi soundtrack instead of the original, as well as playing it with the sound off to show how much the sound track impacts. We can't share those here as we don't have copyright permission for the music.

- Some of the above resources and others can be also found here.

- If you write a voiceover, use some technology to put it onto the original film:

Monday, 25 April 2016

That's Not My Homophone

We've got about fifteen of these books in our house. My daughter loves them. The images and tactile features of each page are great for engaging a toddler with reading.

What I've realised is that just about every page of the book covers 'that's', 'its' and 'too'. So, today I took in one of her books and projected it for the class to read. The vast majority of them recognised the book. We read it and discussed 'that's', 'its' and 'too' as we came to each one. My main teaching point was 'too'. I told the class to think of these books every time they write 'too' or 'its/it's'.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Fictional Animals and Determiners (A or An)

A couple of years ago, I went to see the comedian John Richardson in a tour called 'Nidiot'. He named his tour this as, when he called someone 'an idiot', he said it sounded like he'd said 'a nidiot'. Similarly, 'an onion' and 'a nonion'.
At the start of this year, I shared with my class the 'Alot' - it's been on my wall since. Whenever a child writes 'alot', we refer to it and we're all now writing 'a lot' (most of the time).
In this lesson, we had a go at creating our own fictional animals. Take an animal that begins with a vowel sound, separate and a and n in an and create a new animal starting with an n. Here's how the lesson went...
We started by looking at some alots. 'Alot of money', 'I like Christmas alot' and others. We found them amusing and talked about what they reminded us of. Next, we listed some determiners. From that list, we wrote out the three types of article (a/an/the). I then displayed a picture of an orange and an onion. I got the children to repeatedly say what they could see. Then, I wrote up 'a nonion' and 'a norange'. This time, I got the class to say these two phrases. Much amusement from the Year Fives about how much 'an orange' sound the same as 'a norange'. The children then created their own new fictional animals to remind us about the rules around articles.

Some of these are now on our Woking Wall, along with the Alot, as a reminder about articles. As part of the lesson, we also covered why it's 'an hour' as opposed to 'a hour' and listed some words that begin with a consonant letter, but a vowel sound. If any other classes create their own animals, we'd love to see them.

Update (30/01/2017): It's a real thing! Rebracketing.