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Monday, 25 February 2013

What is our online global audience?

Since beginning our blogging journey, I am constantly trying to show the children the potential it can have on improving their writing. Giving the children an audience provides a purpose for their writing. They carefully consider their writing which provides them with a more focused approach which has a knock on effect to improve their writing.

It is sometimes hard for children to see how global their work can spread. Throwing numbers around doesn't always enthuse the children to carry on blogging. Over the past week I have tried a little experiment to try and give the children a visual picture of the global audience available through sharing work online.

Just over a week ago, two classes from my school made their own versions of the latest internet meme - Harlem Shake. Here was our effort:

As much as the children loved making the video, there was a real purpose to it. Youtube provides in depth analysis of all the views the video recieves, from the demographics to the gender and platform used to watch it. I wanted to use these statistics to inspire the children to see how global our audience can be and further prove the benefits of blogging to showcase their writing.
First I downloaded the report from YouTube showing all the countries and the amount of views (3500 in a week.)
 2013-02-25 11.57.24
I then provided the children with a blank world map:

The children then used the app Globe to locate the countries and colour them in depending on the amount of views. The children had to think of their own key to show the amount of views. It was a fantastic exercise for children to further their geographical understanding of the world. It provided them with the rare opportunity to really study and investigate the location of different countries.

They were amazed to see how far and wide the video had reached. It completely inspired them, knowing that this is the potential audience for their writing and other work. I finished with this thought for the class:
If this is how many people watched you dance for 30 seconds imagine how many would read a story? 100 word challenge? or more?
  The finished maps gave the children a clear visual picture to back up all my discussions about the potential of blogging. They were able to clearly see how much of the world saw our school! I am hoping this will then encourage the children to blog even more knowing their work can be read by thousands of people. 

Most blogs have tools that will show maps of where visitors have come from, Clustrmaps for example. I chose to use the video as I hoped it would be able to give us a quick and concise picture of the potential audience by using a popular and current trend. The idea was to inspire the children to blog and I believe it has definitely served that purpose well. It also provided the children with a great opportunity to learn about different countries around the world. 
UPDATE - Our Harlem Shake Video was featured on CBBC Match of the Day Kickabout this week. Click on the picture to see the full episode.

Thanks to @SimonHaughton who managed to record the part of the show where we were featured:

Sunday, 24 February 2013

My journey with iPads so far - Feb 2013

This was a post I was asked to write for Rising Stars  - click here for their published article.
DG on an ipad (Small)Around a year ago the Head Teacher approached me and suggested I came out of the classroom to cover PPA. I have undertaken the role of ICT co-ordinator since my NQT year and ICT was my specialism for my university course. He wanted me to use my expertise of teaching ICT to work across the whole school and see how well I could embed core ICT skills within the curriculum. Initially I wasn’t overwhelmed by the idea, the ICT suite although big enough for a full class, was starting to feel outdated and was often temperamental. To take on this role I needed something new, fresh and exciting to really impact on teaching and learning. That was when I started to look at iPads as a tool in the classroom. A couple of websites I stumbled across really opened my eyes to the possibilities that iPads could provide – and
After showing the Head some of these websites and discussing the potential for these devices, he agreed to purchase a class set (35) and a number for the senior leadership team (7). We purchased two charging trolleys and protective covers for each iPad. There have been many arguments over justifying the cost involved when purchasing these devices and schools can be easily duped into believing that the next piece of technology will be the best thing ever to hit the classroom! I remember my dissertation at University for my ICT specialism for my BA in Primary Education posing the question ‘How interactive is an interactive whiteboard?’ and 15,000 words later I concluded with – not very. Most schools now have IWBs but how many use them to their full potential? How many can really justify all that investment? I concluded that it is not the technology itself that improves teaching and learning but the teacher using it. This is the exact same with iPads, schools cannot simply see the buzz around these devices and rush to purchase them and think that’s it, job done. This is only the start; the real investment for the effective use of iPads is time.
Getting started
As soon as I knew that the school were purchasing iPads, I spent a lot of time researching and reading case studies, examples of how iPads were effectively being used in the classroom, the best way to set up a class set of iPads and what apps/programs would cover the current ICT curriculum.
I found an excellent long-term ICT plan including iPads apps from Simon Haughton:
ICT plannign grid for MR P iPad blog post
A couple of the websites that I had looked at conveyed the idea that by using iPads it would be the end of the traditional ICT suite. I was hoping this may be the case, but shortly after experimenting and using the iPads I was soon to realise that not all of the ICT objectives can be met by using iPads. There is definitely a place for laptops and PCs in school especially when it comes to programming and control as there are limited apps to rival the likes of Scratch on Windows.
Therefore I decided that when I cover PPA I wouldn’t cover ICT lessons. I wanted classroom teachers to continue teaching the normal ICT curriculum and I would use my lessons to look at how iPads could enhance learning across the whole curriculum. Most of the children from our school have access to some sort of mobile device at home. From using iPads in the classroom I have found that I am not necessarily teaching the children new skills, however providing them with the opportunity to use this technology in a creative and constructive way.
I have noticed a massive rise in confidence with SEN children. Reluctant writers are more engaged and are given the opportunity to use different skills which they are more confident with. I have found within Literacy that iPads can provide some amazing speaking and listening opportunities. Children who struggle with writing therefore have the chance to express themselves in different ways. Read more about speaking and listening using iPads.
Benefits and impact
The benefits of using iPads in the classroom have been immense. The engagement and focus from children has been overwhelming and they love the opportunity to be creative when showing their understanding in different topics. I feel it is too early for me at this point to comment on the impact as far as results are concerned but for creating motivated and eager classrooms – iPads have become invaluable.  Overall, behaviour has improved immensely within my lessons, children seem to take more ownership of their own work, they are willing to continue learning outside the classroom and children are becoming more independent and focused. Giving the children the opportunity to creatively use this quickly developing technology is crucial in preparing for life in the future. Children are going home, using the apps we have used in school in a more constructive and useful way.  Our school blog has grown immensely with children finding a purpose to write and share their learning.
I have alsochildren using iPad_only ot be used for Mr P ipad blog post noticed a massive rise in confidence with SEN children. Reluctant writers are more engaged and are given the opportunity to use different skills which they are more confident with. I have found within Literacy that iPads can provide some amazing speaking and listening opportunities. Children who struggle with writing therefore have the chance to express themselves in different ways. Click here to read more about speaking and listening using iPads.
Many of the iPad apps, especially in numeracy, are game based which is great to engage children to challenge and compete against themselves and others. It is also useful for children to get instant feedback. Apps such as the Rising Stars Achieve Level 4 Mathematics app, will give children instant feedback after answering a question. Sometimes I find that when children are independently solving calculations they can answer many questions incorrectly without being corrected if the teacher is working with another group. If children are told that an answer is wrong straightaway they are able to check their calculation before moving on, therefore addressing misconceptions within the lesson.
As so many children use these devices out of school, I have recently tried using some of the most popular games as a focus in lessons – the reaction and impact has been unbelievable – read more here.
I have also found it to be an amazing tool for collaborative work. Removing the shackles of computers being fixed in a separate room, iPads can be brought into the classroom, easily moved around, which provides great opportunities for some useful and worthwhile group activities.
What’s next?
My only challenge now is making sure that other staff ‘jump on board’. My main concern is making sure that if I was to go back into the classroom, the iPads would still be used to their maximum potential. I am hoping to use the summer term to team teach with other staff. I want to work in the classroom demonstrating firsthand the opportunities they provide within lessons with the teacher working with me. I am also hoping that we can purchase iPads so that every teacher has one. I feel this is particularly important as teachers need the opportunity to become familiar and confident in using the device themselves. Also staff training and inset will demonstrate how to use the iPads effectively in school. I am hoping to lead this training not only in my school but in other local schools in the North West.
Having the time to really experiment with the use of iPads has been vital in realising their potential.  If I could give any advice to schools it would be not only to invest money in buying iPads, but invest time, training and CPD so that you can use them to their full potential. IPads can transform teaching and learning however this is only possible with creative and innovative teachers willing to plan, research and experiment with them.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Epic Citadel - Igniting children's imaginations for both fiction and non fiction

Possibly one of the best apps on the iPad to ignite the children's imagination and creativity is Epic Citadel. The app is basically the setting for the computer game, Infinity Blade. A medieval kingdom, where the children can explore every inch of this fantasy world.

There are no characters, stories or plots which leaves it up to the children to create their own characters and stories. This is what I love, the children being able to interpret the kingdom in whatever way they feel. As a school, we have recently had a big focus on using picture books as a stimulus in Literacy to encourage the children to use their imagination and build on their own interpretations. Epic Citadel is a very similar idea except rather than a book, it is a computer generated kingdom. From the first moment the children explored the app they were completely enthralled by the game like structure and many felt they were playing a game despite there being no direction or story.

Before I started planning to use Epic Citadel I came across some websites from classes who have used the app before.
The Digital Teacher's Summary of the Epic Project approaching its conclusion.
Porchester Junior School's record of word abour Epic Citadel.
Epic Challenge
Tim Rylands' Pickpocket story See how he used the app to inspire writing here:


I was initially going to base the story around Tim's suggestion, however it wasn't until a child asked why no people lived there did the class decide on their own direction for the story.

The literacy lessons all focused on narrative. I am hoping to do some non fiction writing using the app next half term but these were the sequence of lessons I did with the Year 5 class:

mza 8096978239385435540.175x175 75 Year 5s Epic Citadel Journey begins...Lesson 1 - The children explored the app, they were given plenty of time to investigate and discover the world of Epic Citadel. They then generated a world cloud using the app tag cloud to make a word bank of descriptive words that could be used in future weeks.

Lesson 2 - Used the app Keynote for the children to write an opening for the setting using the Alan Peat "Imagine 3egs:" sentence.

Lesson 3 - Building on from the previous lesson the children continued to write their opening using a slow writing technique. They then saved some screenshots from the app and imported them into iMovie where they then narrated their openings over their pictures. We then used the app Aurasma to turn their videos into Augmented Reality Auras using their word clouds from lesson 1 as a trigger image - Read more about Augmented Reality here.

Lesson 4/5 - Children used the app Book Creator, importing their videos from the previous lesson and then write their own stories about the world of Epic Citadel. As mentioned earlier we were going to use Tim Ryland's pickpocket story however when one of the class asked why there were no people in the kingdom? It got us thinking about how this could happen? What could of happened to make wipe away the population but keep all of the buildings in tact?? That's when one of the children mentioned a disease that could have killed all the inhabitants of Epic Citadel. This led us to research the plague and stumbling  across the story of the town of Eyam. A city which lost most of its population due to the plague however decided to put a ring of stones around the village to stop the plague spreading. This led to a great discussion about whether that was the right thing to do. This had the children completely hooked on the climax to their story. They used a fotobooth app to create a picture of themselves suffering from the plague and completed their story. Here is an example of one story and you can download some other example below:

An Example of the eBook based on Epic Citadel from Davyhulme Primary School on Vimeo.

Another Project using Epic Citadel as the Focus - Multi-apping with Cloud Art, iMovie, String AR, Pic Collage, Comic Life, Puppetpals, Doink Greenscreen and Book Creator.



we looked at using the app to help with some non fiction writing. We looked at writing some persuasive leaflets to try and persuade people to visit Epic Citadel for their holiday.
First, we looked at an example and identified some features such as:
  • Exaggerated adjectives.
  • Dare to disagree openers - Obviously, Surely, Everyone knows that..
  • Deliberate ambiguity - Perhaps, maybe, possibly
  • Opinions backed up by facts
  • Rhetorical questions.
We also discussed other persuasive techniques such as testimonials and using celebrities to help endorse their product.
I then gave the children some time to explore the app and consider how many different angles they could use to persuade others to book a holiday there. We established that holiday companies would need to try and cater for all different tastes and preferences.
With the children now familiar with the app Book Creator, they quickly went about putting together a short, colourful, eye catching leaflet. 
I absolutely love this app, the ability to import pictures, video and audio adds an extra dimension to the children's work and they can incorporate more skills into their books. 
I was really impressed by how independent the children were and how creative they were being with the task. Some were not only using pictures from the Epic Citadel app but using google images to find other pictures. Others were using the app Funny Movie Maker to make celebrity testimonials. Others were even ageing themselves through fotobooth 10in1

The efforts were really impressive and the children enjoyed using the iPads to create their leaflets. Please have a read of some of their efforts and let us know whether you have been persuaded to go to Epic Citadel for your holiday.

Art Lesson - We also used the iPads to create some Epic Citadel artwork using the app brushes.

There are plenty of other ways you can use Epic Citadel in the classroom and the links mentioned above have plenty of great ideas. Next half term, I hope to look at using the app as a focus for some non-fiction writing.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

How to provide more to a school play!

In the six years of teaching at my current school I have put on a production each year. Each Year group puts on a play throughout the year as a way of providing opportunities for the children to showcase talents and interests that aren't always covered in the classroom. The facilities are amazing with a fully functional stage with a hall that can hold up to 150 people.

Each year group performs a production throughout the year - Year 3 do Harvest (October), Year 4 - Christmas, Year 5 - Easter and Year 6 do a leaving show at the end of the year. I taught for four years in Year 5 therefore had to find four different ways of retelling the Easter story. We like to keep it traditional as we feel it is important that children learn the story behind the holidays we have, so each one had to tell the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.

To keep the idea fresh I had to find creative and new ways to retell the story. The first year as an NQT I kept it quite safe performing GOOD NEWS, using the complete script and songs from the purchased play. The children enjoyed it especially the different take on the story - through different news reports however after a couple of weeks lost a lot of enthusiasm for the songs as they are far from the type of music that children listen to at home. The play provided plenty of cross curricular links including writing newspaper reports, looking at the history of reporting news and the process of broadcasting different types of news.

ON THE CASE: Davyhulme Primary School pupils performed their Easter play in the style of TV crime show CSI. Pictured are Gregory Burke, 10 (soldier), Leon Patrick, 10 (forensics expert), George Harper, nine (Barabas), and Alex Maybury, nine (CSI Leader)The next year, I tried to spice the story up slightly by adding a different twist and I stumbled across the play CSI Jerusalem. The story of Easter told in a similar way to the popular TV show, using the script and writing a few scenes myself. The children loved this approach, becoming detectives, learning about the job and the different aspects of a police investigation. Again this provided plenty of different cross curricular links with projects looking into the history of the police, providing different science investigations and writing persuasive reviews, trailers and posters. CLICK HERE TO READ A REPORT IN THE LOCAL PRESS ABOUT THE PLAY.

Some of the cast at rehearsal.The problem again was though was the music, the children loved the play however grew bored of the same old songs. The next year I wanted to provide music that the children would adore and love learning. After the untimely death of Michael Jackson, my stepson became obsessed with all of his songs, it seemed to inspire a whole new generation, I therefore harnessed this enthusiasm to help retell the Easter story in a whole new, enjoyable and creative way. I sat down an re-wrote the lyrics for a number of MJ classics to fit in with the story. The children absolutely loved performing, they recreated some of his famous dance moves, sang all the songs with enthusiasm and never grew bored of singing. This also provided more topics that could be covered in class, not only did the children learn about the Easter story, they were designing soundtrack album covers, collecting data about MJ's album sales and showing results in graphs and writing biographies. YOU CAN READ A REPORT IN THE LOCAL PRESS HERE.             AND ANOTHER ONE HERE

After such a positive response from the children using more appealing music, it led me to use a similar approach the next year. Due to the Easter break occurring before the Easter weekend we couldn't really do an Easter show three weeks before. Therefore we had a chance to do another themed play so decided to try and introduce Shakespeare to Year 5 by performing a modern version of a Midsummer Night's Dream using songs by the Beatles. The added focus of the Beatles fitted in great with the KS2 History Unit of looking at the life of a famous person - John Lennon. Having both the Beatles and Shakespeare as a focus provided so many learning opportunities and the children really loved researching and making projects about these famous figures of the past.

As I changed to Year 4 last year, we did a traditional Christmas Carol for the Christmas show, we focused on Charles Dickens and learnt about him and his life and other work. But again I rewrote some of the children's favourite Christmas carols and songs to fit in with the story. It seemed to have the children completely enchanted with the show and made such a big difference.

The timetable is relaxed for a couple of weeks before each show, providing time for children to practise. I always fear that this break in routine can mean children fall into bad habits and lose momentum with their learning. This is why I have always tried to provide as many different learning opportunities to the play as possible. Learning about the Easter or Christmas story is important however using music from different artists can also provide rich learning opportunities.
With all the plays I have done there are plenty of different activities that children can do if they are not directly involved in the scene being practised which can be used with any play:


  • Write synopsis of the play.
  • Character descriptions.
  • Persuasive reviews
  • Adverts
  • Film Trailers
  • Handle a budget, provide prices for stage design, hall hire, costume etc and work out the price of a ticket to make a certain profit.
  • Problem solving - Seating plan with certain colours - look at all the possibilities.
  • Handling data - Charts to show favourite characters/scenes.
  • Design programme front covers.
  • Posters to be displayed around the school. 
  • Stage design - backdrops etc
While performing a play for some will have their creative juices flowing and they will relish the opportunity others will prefer to stay in the background which is why we also have a handful of children working backstage. One thing is for sure, every child loves learning songs they would be listening to at home. 

No money is ever made from our school productions, they are only performed in school time to parents and other children.