Monday, 3 December 2018

Advent Maths

So, this year (2018), 1st December was on a Saturday. Doors opened on Advent calendars all around the land. Go to church on 2nd December and they're lighting their candle and saying that it was the first day of Advent.


There are four Sundays in Advent. The four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

#Taskmaster - Estimate of Perimeter in...

Calculating perimeter can be a bit, er, repetitive.

Estimating can be a bit, er, repetitive.

So, you've been studying perimeter. You've measured, you've done 2(A+B), the trundle wheels have been out, you've costed a new fence for the school field and more...

You've tried and tried to convince your class of the virtues of estimating, but they think you're just balmy.

Well, we like this task!

In the task the contestants have to estimate the perimeter of the caravan in baked beans. So, perimeter of the field in beans, the perimeter of the school hall in paper clips, the perimeter of a maths book in dice and so on...

Same learning, same objectives, but in a different way. Mix things up and get 'em thinking! Let us know how y'all get on...

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Penalty Angles

Going back a couple of months, we came across 'The science behind Eden Hazard's FA Cup winning penalty' on Facebook. We watched it and, of course, it gave us an idea for a lesson...

It was the video's thumbnail (above) that caused our minds to begin thinking 'school' and 'maths'.

Like you, we imagine, one of our biggest tasks is the 'how do we get them engaged?' question. Football is usually quite successful!

Here's a photo of Messi taking a penalty. Similar to us, you could search the internet, or screen capture penalties being taken (remember to check copyright laws!). 

If you attend football matches, you could take your own photos:

Perhaps, even better. Get the children taking and photographing their own penalties. 

28/10/18 Update: See here for numerous examples!

Finally, whichever you choose, give the children example shots of the penalties being taken. Get them to put on the '0 degree line' and measure the angle from there. If using your own photos, is there an angle that guarantees scoring?

Got some examples? Do share them...

Friday, 14 September 2018

What Peer Marking Can Tell You About the Marker

Peer Marking:
-time saver
-gives children the opportunity to see each others' work
-allows pupils to receive feedback from people their own age

Here's something we've recently learned to use better...
- Pupil A completes their work
- Passes it to Pupil B
- Pupil B reads the work and leaves a peer assessment 
(This does all the points above)
- Teacher reads the assessment and gains a better understanding of Pupil B's grasp of the task

Some examples:

Above: peer used 'story' - we were writing a recount. 'Describing more' is ok, but describing what and how - does the peer assessor know?

Above: 'Nothing' - really? A piece of writing in Year Five (or at any age) with no scope for improvement?

Above: Tense identified. What 'sentence types' and why?

Look at your peer assessments more closely. What does it tell you about the pupil carrying out the assessment? What do and don't they know?

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Plant a Conker!

I was in the park with my three year old daughter. I found a conker on the floor. "Look," I said. "What's that?" she replied.

I explained, it's a seed, grows into a tree, you can play with it, it's spikey, but brown and shiny inside. "What?" she replied!

So, we're going to plant it...

So, right now, it's about 'Conker Season'. Grab one. Plant it. Share it's journey with this class. And, your next... Then, plant it in the school grounds. 

Talk about how it grows and remember where it came from and what it will grow into.

In fact, as the year goes on, plant the odd seasonal item and have it there in class as an ongoing experiment that can be referred to.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

What is the Purpose of Success Criteria?

Earlier this year, Ross (of Teacher Toolkit fame) ran a twilight session at UCL. It was entitled 'Effective Classroom Differentiation with @TeacherToolkit'. It was on Wednesday 7th March, but we were unable to attend, but as we subscribe to UCL's PLN, we were sent a copy of the slides used by Ross in his presentation.

Much of what Ross had presented looked useful, but we were particularly impressed by his piece on Success Criteria. It really struck a chord with us. 

Here's the basics of it (and it really is simple): Get the children to design, draw, make, write something with only basic instruction. Get them to mark this against success criteria that they only see after they have finished. Then, repeat this, but with the success criteria shown in advance. Then, discuss which was more successful and why...

We've put together some examples here (Currently as .notebook & .pdf)

NB: unrelated to any of the above, but from the same presentation we also picked up the following;
- Refer to No Hand Up Policy as 'Cold Calling'

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Colloquial Imperatives

Want to help your children find, identify and remember where imperative verbs are used in instructional writing? 

Try making the imperatives a little less formal!

Saturday, 16 June 2018

#Taskmaster - Obscure [Noun] Miming Task

So, here's how the task went:
- contestant was handed an envelope. In that, it said to write down as many obscure animals as possible;
- once the list was written, they were handed another envelope. This envelope disclosed that they needed to mime the animals for their team-mate to guess.
- result, amusing TV!

The clip below shows one of the attempts and comes with a language warning:

So, how could this be used in the classroom?

- Name obscure adjectives, adverbs and so on...
- Name features of a topic, eg rivers, space, Egyptians
- Name cities in the UK
- It's endless...

But, you can't do it too often. It relies on the person writing the list not knowing the next bit is coming.

Taskmaster used this as part of a comedy program. We're certainly not looking to mock or ridicule children. The skills here are: deep thinking to make the 'obscure' list, quick thinking when the task develops, ability to communicate without words and the ability to interpret - and, this person must also have the knowledge to know what's being described! 

Give it a go.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Sporting Number Bonds

Last month, I was at a football match. The team I support were winning, for a change. As a result, I was clock watching for most of the second half. As time went on, I realised that my Number Bonds to 90 are pretty good.

Too often in school, we focus on Number Bonds to 10 and to 100. This is all good and well, but it's not enough. The children need to know their Number Bonds WITHIN 100. This then aids their addition and subtraction greatly. They need to know all 288 X and ÷ facts, and in the same way, they need to know these sum/difference facts within 100. For example, 5 and what make 13? 15 add 7 is? 23 added to 19? 44 subtract 17?

Here's an idea. 
Like I was, use the scenario of a sporting event to help:
Football: Number Bonds to 45/90
Basketball: Four 12 minute quarters
Cricket: Number Bonds to 6 (overs), 40/45/50 (game length)
Netball: 60 minutes, divided into 15 minute quarters
Ice Hockey: 60 minutes, divided into 20 minute thirds
Rugby Union: Number bonds to 40/80 

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Do You Know?

It's my own children and the TV box in the corner of my living room helping me out again...

My toddlers and I have recently discovered 'Do You Know' on CBeebies. "Join Maddie as she finds out how things work."
As it is on the CBeebies Channel, it is aimed at toddlers, much younger than most of the primary age group. But, it's still largely appropriate. Maddie covers technical aspects of aeroplane flight, how plant pots are made, friction on a slide and more. It is a fine balance between being technical and factual, much of which goes over my chidlren's heads, whilst also being engaging to very young children. Primary age pupils will 'get' the factual information and be mostly still engaged by the child-friendly format of the show.

I have used them as an opportunity to add to our general learning by playing some at the start or end of the day or between lessons. But, they can be useful in lessons - the playground program in science when learning about friction for example. 

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Magical Hatching Writing

Recently, my daughters purchased some 'Magical Hatching Unicorns' and in school we used some hatching dinosaurs as a writing prompt.
With my daughters, toddlers, they knew that there were unicorns in the eggs and that they would hatch, but not how or why.
With the children at school, they knew the item was a 'toy' and that it would hatch, but not what was going to come out of them.
For those of you who have not come across these, it's a plastic egg, with an item inside and when it is placed in water for a couple of days, the egg hatches and the animal grows in the water.
To add to the excitement of the animal hatching, we used so augmented reality apps to make a dragon fly around the classroom.
The anticipation of what would come out of the egg, seeing it slowly appear and all the talk that went with it, created excitement and intrigue that lead to enjoyment of writing. 
What will you do with them?

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Pause for Thought for Your Thought

We are required to hold an act of collective reflection each day.

In our school, these are assemblies with the head teacher, church leaders, in year groups and as part of year group singing.

Recently, I was working at home (with Radio 2 for company). The Pause for Thought that day matched our assembly theme (humility) for that week perfectly. It reminded me of what the head had said the day before and I saw how it could be used as part of year group assemblies, on the same theme, later in the week. Some year groups did: the children listened perfectly, responded well and it made our assembly, and the reflection better. On key element was that it was spoken word, not TV or animation, but just a simple voice.

I'm going to use Pause for Thought more in assemblies, in class, and, as someone with faith myself, maybe even make more time to listen to them myself.

Take a listen...

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Augmented Reality with Motion Stills

This week, I've found the Motion Stills app by Google.

It does three things:
- AR Mode
- Motion Still
- Fast-Forward

The 'Motion Still' takes a 4 second (I think) video/gif that will play and keep repeating. A rather contemporary way of recording video that the pupils should relate to. There are numerous ways this short video could be used in class...

The 'Fast-Forward' does exactly what it says. Easy way to record something and then have it sped up without having to involve editing software. 

The 'AR Mode' is the new addition to the app and the one I see being most useful. Augmented reality has been around for a little while now. I'm amazed by it, but Skype amazes me too! The thing about augmented reality that's brilliant is that whenever I've used it in class, it has enthused the children. They know what they are seeing is not real and I know it too. But it's like its real and we can all enter that imaginary world through the augmented reality and pretend we're there. The AR Mode includes: a dog, spaceship, heart, basketball, spider, dinosaur, chicken, alien, gingerbread man, globe and a robot.

I've been having a play. While me mam was eating her dinner and 'finding' bugs on the kitchen floor.

I can see this being a really useful writing prompt too, or for creating a story sequence, or any other ideas you may have...  

The gif or video can easily be exported to many apps for #AppSmashing or as a finished product. 

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Part Part Whole, Bar Model & Perimeter

Earlier this year, we were calculating perimeter of compound shapes with some missing measurements. Some children were struggling to work out which measurements were missing. 

So, we took to using the bar model to offer some support.

1. Count the sides of the shape
2. Colour horizontal sides one colour and vertical sides another colour
3. Identify which sides have an unknown length
4. Use 'Part Part Whole' bar model (one for horizontal and one for vertical) to help find missing lengths
4a. The bar models can also be colour coded the same as the sides
5. Check the number of lengths found matches number of sides and looks sensible 
6. Add them up...

It worked well for us. Of course, as always with the bar model, it will help work towards an answer, but not give an answer. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Every Primary Teacher Needs a... Lab Coat

It's Liam writing this one. As a trainee teacher, I observed Dan (the other 1/2 of Primary Ideas) teach art with a lab coat on. I saw him in his lab coat in his art lesson and it made sense.
So, I purchased one - actually it came from Santa somehow, but that's another story! From my NQT year (2006) to now, I've had a lab coat in my classroom. It comes out for water colours, clay, 'messy science' and various other activities. It allows myself to throw myself in without worrying about my clothes. The 30 children have art aprons on, so why shouldn't I? Currently, 11 years on, we're still the only two members of staff in our school with a lab coat for art. Mine gets borrowed fortnightly! why has no one else got one? 'Cos they keep borrowing mine, I know! 

So, get yer self a lab coat - you'll use it loads! 

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Proud of Your Work?

Lee recently published his 'Taking Teaching Back Episode 1 - Book Scrutinies' video. While watching it, one of his points really struck a chord with me.
The above image is from 5:14 in the video. I've seen this online many times and thought it a good idea, but never got round to it. Lee's point is about the extra work this places on the teacher. His solution is something along these lines...
This is a poster we've now placed in our classrooms. We used 'iPad' as those are the devices we have and used 'Google Drive' as every child has access. You can adapt it for the devices your school has and whatever cloud the children have access to.

So, 'Request a Selfie' nice but no thanks. Take your own photo, put it in your own cloud and show the adults at home: yes please.

Any similar ideas, please let us know. And, check out Lee on YouTube (Or Facebook - he's Facebook royalty!)

Saturday, 3 February 2018

The Canary in the Coal Mine (Classroom)

Whilst watching The Graham Norton Show last week, I discovered a name for something I often do with with class.

One of Graham's guests was Tom Hanks. Hanks asked Norton if he'd ready the copy of the book he'd sent him. Norton replied that he had, and that he'd found the 'Canary in the Coal Mine'. On one of the pages, to test if Graham Norton would read the book, Tom Hanks had left an inscription for him to read. 

Hanks described this as a 'Canary in the Coal Mine' and added that they're often put into scripts to check that the actors read the script. 

The above picture is one I recently used with my class. You'll see that not only did I give them a sentence that didn't need correcting (that was the activity), but I repeated it. How many would notice? How many would plough on regardless?

So, in slides, worksheets and in your own speech, start dropping in the odd canary to check the people in the coal mine as still 'with it'.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Piano Key Problem

I was watching a program about how a piano works earlier with my daughter. One of the facts was about the number of white and black keys. Wonder if children can use their reasoning skills (drawing a picture, making a model or looking for a pattern) to solve this:


On an 88 key piano, there are 52 white keys. How many are black? 
The lowest key (first note) is an A. The last note is C.How many A, B, C, D, E, F & G notes are there?

Here's the answer with a picture from

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Supermarket Maths

It's a quick one...

Supermarkets are full of maths, well everywhere is. You're probably walking around with your phone in your pocket. Snap some maths starters or additions to your lessons. they'll be a real life link. We've started here.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Team 100WC – Comment on Writing

One of the biggest impacts on writing standards in our classrooms has been the use of the 100 Word Challenge and similar writing opportunities. Blogging and 'little and often' writing tasks really help children improve as writers.

A huge part of this is children receiving comments about their work. Writing in a book and me marking it and then that book sitting on a shelf is ok, but only ok. What's much better is when someone from some far-flung part of the globe comes along and says what they like about a child's writing and what could be improved. Being part of a 'Hub' and receiving peer comments is part of this, but adults in 'Team 100WC' are a massive help and have a huge impact on children's writing. 

The 100WC is free to use, is offered by a retired head teacher and relies on volunteers to operate. 

Think you have 20 minutes spare a week to read some fantastic writing and leave some comments? Do you know someone else who might? You don't even have to be a teacher, or be any good at writing - just need to be an audience! I do it each week. It is enjoyable. I read work from around the globe. I read work that's amazing. I read work that's no-so amazing. But, for each one, I say what I like and offer some advice. I hope I'm making a difference. 5 pieces of work a week - it's not much. When children in my own class receive comments, they really, really appreciate it!

If you can, take a look here!

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Dialogue and Breaking the Fourth Wall

If you're looking for a way to teach punctuating dialogue, it's hard to beat Lee's "Teaching Direct Speech Punctuation using the iPhone text messaging!", which he published nearly five (FIVE) years ago.

Recently, I've been reading books in the following series to both my own children and my class. As someone reading a book out loud, the thing I like it is the way the books talk to their audience and invite them into the narrative.

The reason they're appearing in this post is that they're written as direct speech, with the speech in speech bubbles.

- children look at page or pages in a book and convert the speech bubble(s) into written, punctuated dialogue.

- children create a dialogue between themselves and the book. The books get the reader to think or intimate a response. These could be written down.

- children could write the narrative of the story. Still writing dialogue, but adding actions and descriptions too.

Just a few ideas to get you started...

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Minecraft and Rocks and Soils

We recently taught some of our introductory work for our science module on rocks and soils. As part of this discussion, we were discussing that rocks from under the soil can be seen around the world. To demonstrate this we nipped into our Minecraft world and had a fly around. Within the game, we were able to see places where rocks appeared above ground.
Then we did some digging under the soil and discovered rock below the surface.

Finally, we even managed to show how igneous rock is formed by pouring water on lave to make obsidian.

Of course we used lots of other real world resources showing how rocks are really formed, what lava and magma are and different types of rocks, but it was engaging for the children and, more importantly, linked to a context that they understood. A number of children went, "Oh yeah, I've done that" once they got over the fact that obsidian was a real life rock. Next step is to try and build a portal in the classroom.