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.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Monday, 11 April 2016

Teacher Vs Class

In the past year, I've begun getting more involved in apps that allow me to play games, via my phone or tablet (LettersPress, Words with Friends, Yahtzee and more), with friends, family and 'strangers'. A bit late to the party I know!

I enjoy playing these games. I have my go. The details are sent to the opponent. When they can, they play and so on. Sometimes, there are a few moves in an hour; other times it takes days. 

It's made me think about how this could be used in class. Set up a chess board in the classroom. The teacher plays against the class, taking turns as and when get the opportunity. Scrabble would also work in a similar way. Yahtzee for a maths element. With both of these, the actual board game could be used, or a 2D laminated version could be used on the wall.

Friday, 8 April 2016


At the time of writing, WordsEye is currently in Beta. "WordsEye lets you type a picture! Create 3D scenes simply by describing them and share your creations with friends."

Type a sentence into WordsEye and it creates a picture of that sentence. The image above is based upon the sentence, "Cat under the large bed."

Current ideas for use of the pictures: prepositions, adjectives, determiners and story prompts.
Prepositions - display the picture and ask children to describe the relationship between the nouns pictured.

Adjectives - describe the picture to someone else.

Determiners - create a picture with a number of objects in and use determiners to pick out one or more of them.

Story prompt - create or use someone's picture and write a story based upon it.

We see this being used as a teacher's resource and not children. UPDATE: WordsEye contacted us to tell us about their "educationportal". Click here for details. Got some more ideas for uses? Let us know.

Friday, 1 April 2016

'We Make Use of...' Night Zookeeper

Again, something we've know about for sometime, but took a while to get around to using. Over the past five years, we've shared the work of Night Zookeeper many times and often spoken to and shared ideas with 'Night Zookeeper Paul'. Since September 2015, we've been using the Night Zookeeper website with our classes.

Free Elements
First of all, it is possible to use the Night Zookeeper website for free. Something Night Zookeeper state is that they are a 'Social Enterprise' and will always offer 'free elements' of their site. This allows all children, in all schools, from all walks of life to access and benefit from what they offer. For us, this sums up the company and the employees (many of whom are co-founders and company directors). They're just a nice bunch! Take a look at 'Free Resources', every class gets a Class Blog (ours: & and Star Writing

We just said it can be used for free. Why subscribe? We thoroughly recommend a subscription. Through this, a teacher can set their own 'Teacher Missions'. This is where the class complete a task that their teacher chosen the objectives for, work bank and more. In addition, Children can complete their own missions, change their avatar, create animals and more. As a teacher, the writing can be assessed against the criteria set. In the time we've used the site (seven months), there have been many, many useful upgrades and there are more in the pipe line. What we've written here is only a taster of the site. When signing up, full access is initially given for free, so sign up and try it to see how you get on with it.

What We've Done
We've used it to complete the 100 Word Challenge on a weekly basis. In addition, we've also completed the Star Writing Challenge. We've read other children's work on commented upon what they've written. We've received comments ourselves. A small number of safeguarding issues have cropped up (sharing information), but when they have (in this safe environment), it's been a good opportunity to learn for the children involved. We took part in World Creative Writing Month 16, finishing 19th and writing over 94,000 words in about 20 days. The children enjoyed using the site, have written lots and been enthused by it. It has been a positive addition to our classrooms. Most of our writing has been in addition to our English curriculum and some has been part of our English work. Many children have chosen to use it at home and during break times in school.