Sunday, 31 December 2017

Lightning Writing

Just like anything else, one of the key elements of becoming a better writer is actually doing it. One of the strategies we have used to increase the frequency of our writing is something we have called 'Lightning Writing'. This takes place most mornings during registration and involves writing for a short amount of time (often only 15 minutes). In general, the writing tasks fall into the following areas:
  • three sentence stories - write a story in three sentences. Horror works well, but it can also be a good opportunity for teaching rhetorical questions as a story ending.
  • improving supplied sentences - give them basic sentences and get pupils to improve them.
  • sentence combining - a variation on the above. However, with a focus on joining simple sentences together.
  • teaching sentence types in a context - we use Alan Peat 'Exciting Sentences'. This is a great opportunity to teach some of the different styles.
  • descriptive passages - writing a description based on a stimulus such as those provided by the brilliant 'Pobble' website. Although we have used our own such as this one.
    There are, of course,  lots of other options. We wrote tweets, emails to the prime minister and even letters of complaint. 
Once the idea is set up, the task is displayed on the board and children were able to get on with having a go independently. 
This activity does require a bit of extra marking, but, by adding in a peer-assessment day, editing day and feedback day, one task can become an extremely constructive piece of writing over a whole week. Often these tasks are so good they can be published (including sending them to the people they are writing to). Another advantage is that they come so frequently you can get them to write what interests you and the children as well as those pieces on the curriculum. A favourite of ours was the writing of haiku, which ended up in our best work books at the end of the year.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Maths Reasoning - Was Peter right? What did he mean?

On Thursday 16th November, Peter Kay was on the radio with Chris Evans. Here's a conversation they had. Available for 30 days (listen at 41:15)... 

Peter Kay (PK): You're lying in bed now thinking, I'll get up after this song. Round it up... What is it now? 7 what?
Chris Evans (CE): 7:12.
PK: Wait until 7:15.
CE: Yes, yes...
PK: Don't get up on an odd number.
CE: Go crazy.
PK: Wait until 7:15. When it's 7:17, wait until 20 past. 
CE: Is that what you do?
PK: You gotta round it up. You can't just get up mid numbers. 

So, Peter said to not get up at 07:12 and wait until 07:15 as he doesn't like to get up on an odd number. What's wrong? What was he intending to say? How can that be re-worded, but more mathematically accurate?

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Preposition in the Classroom

Heard of Elf on a shelf, right? So, here's something inspired by it...

Print and laminate the word 'preposition'. Each morning, put it on, under, behind, inside something and the class need to find it, and then describe where the word is, using a preposition...

On the window, under the chair, next to the board...

Monday, 13 November 2017

Welcome to Your Classroom

So this happened between us two many years ago and I've kept it going since...

After three years of teaching in Year Four, I was told I'd be moving to Year Five. I wasn't thrilled by the prospect, however, it turned out to be one of my most successful and rewarding years in the classroom to date. 

When I (Liam) moved into Year Five, I took over the classroom previously occupied by Dan. On the day I went into the classroom to sort it out, there was a note on the whiteboard. "Mr. M., Welcome to Year Five. You'll be awesome! Dan". It meant a lot.

Since then, I've moved classroom (but not year group) many times. And, I've always left a welcome message for the new incumbent of my previous room. 

Maybe you could start doing it too?

Monday, 23 October 2017

Synchronised Video Task from #Taskmaster

Ok, ok, maybe we should just start watching and enjoying TV instead of linking it back to the classroom. But...

Again, in the most recent series of Taskmaster there was a video task. The task was to perform something in synchronisation as a pair. We've previously used the 'Backwards Video Task' with some excellent outcomes and group/partner work.

In this task, pupils need to work as a three. Once to act as camera operator and the other two to perform something either mirroring or matching each other. This requires thought as a group to decide the act to perform, what each person will do and how they will remain in sync. In addition, linking it back to gymnastics; mirror or match?

Sunday, 22 October 2017

#Taskmaster - Spot the Difference

Yep. Taskmaster came up trumps again!

The contestants came to sit at a table. On the table was a task and in front of them were a number of, apparently irrelevant, objects set out in a scene. The contestants were asked to blow up a balloon so that its circumference was the same as the length of an average cucumber (an interesting idea on its own!). 

Once the contestants had blown up the balloon to the what they thought met the task, they were asked what they thought had changed in the scene in front of them.

Basically, put someone in front of something and give them a task to focus on. Then, when that task is complete (and you've made a few changes to the scene), ask them what's changed...

See how your pupils get on. There will be surprises!

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Personalise Your Posters

As teachers and school leaders, we often seek to inspire pupils (and staff) through motivational wall coverings or put up lots of prompts or reminders for lessons.

These may be created in house, or externally. They may be bespoke, or 'off the shelf'.

Here's something that Sparky Teaching recently made for us. Below are snippets of posters made with teacher's names, class/year group names and school name on to add that element of personalisation to a message.

This isn't just any poster. It's a poster for THIS school, class, group... 

Like them? See more at

Monday, 18 September 2017

Large Numbers

In maths, we're required to order, round, calculate and so on with numbers up to millions. Where can we find such numbers?

House prices
Sporting event attendances
Phone numbers
Social media follower numbers
Car mileage
Geographic values (mountain heights, distances, water depth)

[In coming days/weeks, we'll update above with some examples...]

Got any other ideas?

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Flightradar & The Skies Above

Over the summer, I've spent some time sat outside, particularly in the evening. With the clear skies for viewing and no cloud to mask sounds, I've notice how many planes and how frequently they pass over my home. I'm located in the home counties, within easy reach of many of our major airports - its a busy air space.

After watching plane after plane passing over, I started to wonder where they'd come from and where they were going to. Step forward the Flightradar24 app. I could now find out about each plane.

Then an idea came to me:

At school, download the app or use the website. Go out onto the playground. Look for a plane of two. Go and research the origin location, the destination, the flight (frequency/duration etc), the airline, the aircraft and more...

After looking at the Flightradar24 site, I came up with another idea too. Zoom the map out. Simple question: What do you notice?

That's just for starters. It intrigues me the more I look at it. Maybe it could be a writing prompt too? I'm sure there'll be a maths link. Have you seen the map shows night/day? Comment below if you come up with any further uses...

Friday, 25 August 2017

'We Make Use of...' Charanga

For over a year now, we have used the Charanga website to aid our delivery of the music curriculum across the school. The scheme is used by adults who are 'not musical', those who have a decent subject knowledge and those who play instruments and are very knowledgable and confident in this subject area. All find it a useful resource (in different ways).

First of all, it's more than just a scheme. There's loads more too!

The scheme is useful and split into six units of work per year group (one per half term). Of course, in school you could juggle some of these around, but there is progression built in. The units come with lessons planned and resourced, but the teacher still needs to teach with them and possibly even adapt the lesson and resources for their class. Each unit is based upon a song or composition and builds up an understanding of it and the way it has been produced. The image above shows units for the autumn term for Year Four and Five. There's sheet music, backing tracks, interactive videos...

In addition, there is:

Music World is a Charanga programme especially for children to use themselves. It’s a safe online space where children can learn more about music and practise their instrument if they are learning to pla.

Song Centre is 100s of songs to enjoy with your pupils + singing courses for younger children.


Freestyle Resource Centre is a bank of songs to be used as you wish. 

There's planning to support SEND pupils too and an assessment tool.If you're interested in it, sign up for a free trial and give it a go...

Charanga is provided to our school through our LA. We have not been asked to write this post or received anything for it. This is, as always, the view and opinion of two full-time class teachers about something we use in the classroom. We hope it is useful for others to read. 

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Gifts / Cards - Word Clouds

Bit late for this year UK teachers - sorry. But, you can start planning for next year...

For two and a half terms this year just gone we actually taught the same class. Mates, assistant heads, bloggers and job share teachers. Think we drove each other a little crazy at times. Anyway, come the end of the year we were thinking of a gift for the pupils in our class and this is what we came up with: 

Again this year, we undertook the summing up of each day in three words. At the end of the year we therefore had 190 X 3 words. We stuck these words into a word cloud generator, purchased some picture frames and hey presto, they look rather good. They certainly look like they cost more than 80p each to make! And, they're full of the children's thoughts, word choices and experience whilst in our class.

I hope that most of them will keep it and look back upon it fondly. And, as for 'english', we decided it looked good as a design choice - but it bugs me the more I look at it! There's the off typo/spelling error too... However, look which word came out top!

We'll three word blog again next year and may even use word clouds on Christmas, Mother's/Father's Day (and so on) cards too.

Word clouds from some previous years too.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Classroom Design: Sit in the Pupil's Seats

So, you've set up your classroom. There are displays a plenty, a Working Wall, room for you to move around, it looks good from the front: symmetrical, perpendicular and organised... WAIT! Sat in any of the children seats yet?

Can they see the board from where they are sat?

Can they actually read those displays?

Is there space when the chairs are slightly out with someone sat at them?

Can 30 children make their way around the room?

Remember: when you set up your room, think about the 30 small children who will use it. Walk around it, try to select items from drawers, sit in seats and look at displays. Can you pick up any issues before they find them?

Then, do this throughout the year. I often mark in a different child's seat each day, and while there, I look round the room at what they see.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Edit Your Friend's Facebook Posts

Some of my friends on Facebook and contacts on Twitter write beautifully and accurately, others (like me) have the off (:-)) typo here and there, while others just write with errors all over the place (your/you're - grrr).

This is a post by a friend of mine on his Facebook page. I took a screen capture and asked my class to correct it. We did it as an Exit Ticket activity.

So, spot an awful social media update, copy it, anonymise it, and give it to your class... 

Friday, 14 July 2017

Times Table (Ball Pit) Relay

After seeing something on Facebook, I did a times table relay with my class. On Twitter, Mr Dyson saw it and liked it. He challenged one of his teachers to 'do better'. That set me thinking!
And, today this is what we did...

I filled two recycle bins with ball pit balls;

Outside, I stood the sticks against a wall;

I put the Velcro numbers for a times table in each of the ball pits;

I then got the class, in turn, to run and collect a number, work out the times table and add it in the correct place on the stick. 

It. Was. Great!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Numenko for Maths

Earlier this year I came across Numenko one day on Twitter. You know, things just pop up and you click on them! So, I got in contact with Tom about packs for schools, but initially just decided to buy a set for me to use at home - my money, my game. :-) I fancied getting a game as I really enjoy Bananagrams and rather enjoy maths, so this looked great to me. I played at home and enjoyed it and I took my pack into school and found it useful...

Image credit:

The game is good. It gets children doing maths, thinking, playing. So, that was good.

But, it's more than that! Above is algebra: I asked two pupils to create calculations with a :-) (freechoice) tile in them and then get their partner to work them out. can you?

Above and below, I asked two children to make as many calculations as they could that were equal to 9. Not all their calculations were correct and it raised some interesting discussion points.

The key is a multichoice. It's rather useful for discussing maths, making calculations, looking at patterns and raising discussions.

On his site, Tom has a number of free resources you can make use of.

I've found it really useful! You may do too. It's reasonably priced, and there's discount on offer for multiple purchases. If you try something out, let us, and Tom know what you've been up to. 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

#Taskmaster - How Much Would You Give?

Yep, another one from the most recent series of Taskmaster!

Each episode, the contestants are asked to bring something. In this particular episode, they were asked to bring a sum of money. Whichever contestant brought the most money got to keep the lot.

Now, it's unlikely our primary-aged pupils will want to bring all their hard-earned pocked money to school, so we thought of a way round that...

We've created 10 fictional people and written how much is in each person's bank account. Split the children into groups of 4 or 5 and get them to decide how much of their money is going to go into the pot. Then, get them to share their decisions and see who would have taken the loot! The footballer? the teacher? how much, or little will the highest amount be? who takes risks and who doesn't?

A bit of estimating, a bit of guess work, a bit like Top Trumps. A great oracy opportunity to discuss people's thoughts and choices.

Monday, 19 June 2017

#Taskmaster - Draw the Median Duck

Yep, another idea from the fantastic Taskmaster on Dave.

 Image credit: screen capture of Dave TV Channel

This one is about averages. Get a group of about five children together and ask them to 'Draw the median duck'. 

Once they have all drawn their ducks, measure each one from beak to tail. The person closest to the median wins. Do you draw large, small? What's everyone else going to do? Who knows! It's similar to Spoof, in that thinking about the likely actions of others needs to be thought about. 

NB: Guess what! It doesn't have to be a duck. IT could be anything!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Times Table Relay

A little while ago we saw this video on Facebook:

Today, we gave it a go with our Year Five Class:

It was good:

- times tables
- team work
- critical thinking
- proof reading
- correcting other's work
- fun in the sun
- #math

Just another way to cover times tables that doesn't involve sitting at desks! Thanks to AnAppleForTheTeacher for sharing.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

How it Feels to be 40

Saw this Tweet,
Asked some Year Five children for their responses...

This sort of question gives an insight into their thinking and raises interesting talking points. I'll be doing it more often.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Flags & Emojis

So, last month I saw the below Facebook post from a friend.

It got me thinking; do the children know the answers?

So, here's what we did:

- I gave them tablets (iPad);

- Got them to open a document and, from the Emoji keyboard, insert a flag that contained a Union Flag.

- Next, find out where the flag is the flag of, why it contains a Union Flag and some of the history of the country*. They used the internet, books and each other for help.

-> Of course, this could be used for any flag in the Emoji keyboard, "Whose is it?" "Why that 'pattern'?" "Why those colours?" and so on... 

Here's some of that they produced:

*Not all of them are countries!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Book of Knowledge

Since February, we've been undertaking something we've branded 'The Book of Knowledge'. It uses a resource on the ReadWorks website called Article-A-Day™.

We'd noticed that some of our Key stage Two pupils didn't always focus during reading time, didn't appear to know 'the purpose of reading' and struggled with some basic comprehension skills.

So, we did something about it. Either first thing in the morning or first thing in the afternoon, every day, the children complete their 'Book of Knowledge' activity:

1. Class teacher needs to print out one of the resources from here - we make them into a booklet for each child.
2. Each child chooses one of the articles to read.
3. They note down three interesting facts they've learned (into their BoK).
4. The teacher chooses three pupils to each share a fact and write these onto the Working Wall.
- The whole thing takes no more than fifteen minutes. We've learned all sorts!

In the week, all pupils read all the articles, but in an order they choose. They learn new facts, they note them down and the asking of three pupils to share a fact ensures everyone is taking part. The texts are in American English, but for us this is a minor issue.

At the start of each session we remind pupils that we're reading to:
- learn new information;
- practice 'the art of reading';
- develop of ability to recall something we've read. 

Monday, 15 May 2017

Here's How That COULD Be Spelt

The Phonics Screening Check is undertaken in Key Stage 1 and is supposed to indicate a child's understanding of phonics. 
As part of the check, children are asked to read words. Some real; others made up (pseudo):

How about turning that on its head when studying phonics, reading, writing and spelling across primary (and maybe even secondary) education?: 

When studying a spelling, ask the children for examples of how it could be spelt. There are 44 phonemes. How can they be rearranged and swapped to create the same sound, but a different spelling: fone, phone, phowne, fowne...

Which one looks right, do all the suggestions look likely, how could this be useful for spelling new words?

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Count von Count Place Value

Each day, or a couple of times a day, the count Tweets a number. Stick it on your board in your classroom:
 - can the children write it in numbers;

- what are its factors? Is it prime?;

- what's half of it? Double it;

- and so on...

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Physical Multiplying and Dividing by 10, 100 & 1000

Here, we go. Another, "We saw a Tweet and post..."

So, we saw the above Tweet and then went and tried it out. This video has always aided our teaching of this mathematical concept, but saw instantly how this could add to it. 

We took some chalk and wrote out some place value headings and asked the children to stand behind them. Then called out X and ÷ questions and watched them move. Sometimes they were correct, sometimes wrong and sometimes disagreed. They enjoyed it, did some learning and we had a few discussions. See below for a video of what we got up to.