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Friday, 27 June 2014

Loom Bands Craze

Unless you don't speak or look at your children, you will know about Loom Bands. The latest craze involves children creating different types of fashion items out of small coloured rubber bands. Even suit jackets have been put together using them!

My step son has been designing some of his own, self taught through watching youtube instructional videos.

It was discussing them with him that I realised the potential of using this craze as a focus in the classroom.

I asked them to explain what they were? How to make one? The enthusiasm he responded with got me thinking about how I could harness that in class.

I am sure many schools may have banned these accessories and can understand why, however for this to work you may need to arrange a day or afternoon where you allow children to create and make some fashion accessories. You can pick up a set of the bands from Amazon for £2. Using loom bands could be a great DT lesson, either making bracelets or other objects -

To give children time to make something like this, will have them hooked and is an another example of the Camouflage Learning approach.

And it is the way you can then use this enthusiasm in different curriculum areas to get some great work from the children. For example:

Numeracy - 

Work out how many bands are used to create a ring. Then work out how many would be needed to make rings for one hand, two hands, two children, ten children or even a whole class.

Work out how many bands are used to make a bracelet. Work out how many would be needed for 5 bracelets, 10, 20 100 etc.

Link colours to ratio and proportion - if a bracelet was made from 40 blue and 30 green bands, how many bracelets can be made from 120 green bands? How many blue bands would then be needed?

Look at percentages - if I use 50 bands and 20 of them are blue what % are blue?

You could also look at cost per band. If you can buy 2000 for £2 you can work out how much 10 bands would cost and apply this cost to price up bracelets. Children could then look at profit gain if you were to sell the bracelets.

This could potentially become an enterprise project. Children could choose a charity and set themselves a £100 target for fundraising through making and selling loom band creations.

Literacy - 

With children being the experts on loom bands, the teacher can really focus on embedding text features when asking children to write about them. You could for example write:

  • A set of instructions for how to create a bracelet using Loom Bands.
  • An explanation text all about Loom Bands.
  • A letter to the Headteacher why they shouldn't be banned.
  • A persuasive advert why people should buy their designs.
  • Discussion text - Are loom bands good for children? Should loom bands be allowed in school?
With children who are obsessed and interested in a topic, they will be more inclined to write about it with passion.

Give it a go and please share any examples of work you produce with your children!

UPDATE Here are some examples of different classes using Loom Bands as a stimulus -

Farsley Fairfield 

More from Farsley Fairfield

AccessArt Competition

The Numeracy Shed

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Frog Conference - ICC Birmingham - #Frog14

Today, I was lucky enough to be invited to present at the Frog Conference 2014 at the ICC in Birmingham. An incredible venue and some great speakers sharing some fantastic ideas. I presented a 45 minute presentation looking at ways in which I have used iPads to enhance the Literacy curriculum. Through blogging and using different apps, I shared examples of work that demonstrated how iPads can make learning real, relevant and interesting for children today. I have been offering training through Frog for about a year and have written a guide to Camouflage learning which is available through their website.

I was lucky to meet the inspirational Tim Rylands and Sarah Nield who finished the conference with their amazing keynote full of incredible ideas and free tools for teachers to use for an array of different lessons. It was great to hear their feedback on my session and thank Sarah for taking some pictures which I have shared below. You can read about their view on the conference here.

I was astounded at the amount of positive tweets I received after my session, so thank you to everyone who attended and contacted me afterwards, also a MASSIVE thank you to Frog for hosting and providing a fantastic day!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Introducing the #go2team

Yesterday, I travelled to meet Alan Peat, where I was introduced to other teachers he currently is working with on a number of projects.  Although not a exclusive group, the individuals were chosen as we each offer something different, but all have the same approach similar to Alan's philosophy of improving standards in the classroom with ideas that work!

I have been working as part of Alan Peat Ltd for nearly a year and the support and guidance both Alan and Julie have given me has been invaluable. I am very grateful to be working for and with them. My input to the #go2team is the training I provide in schools, clusters and conferences focusing on using technology to improve and enhance learning.

On Friday, I had my first conference at the Village hotel in Dudley - "Alan Peat presents USING TECHNOLOGY TO DELIVER THE NEW PRIMARY & LITERACY CURRICULUM."

It was an incredible day with a room full of enthusiastic and eager teachers. The feedback I received was fantastic and I want to thank all who attended for their comments.

Of the 36 feedback forms completed, 34 rated the content and delivery of the training as Excellent with the other 2 rating it good. Here are some of the comments from the evaluation forms:

"Probably the best training event I have been on. My only 'criticism' is I want to go back to school and do EVERYTHING!""Fantastic amount of ideas which are easily usable, range of ages, good examples of children's work.""WOW! Amazing. Both awestruck." 
"What a fantastic day! So may ideas to use and take back. Feel so inspired, thank you." 
"Lots of practical advice!" 
"Nice real life examples." 
"Excellent ideas & suggestions." 
"A wonderful day full of relevant content delivered by a fellow classroom teacher not someone who has escaped from school life!" 
"Excellent and engaging." 
"Excellent, engaging speaker!" 
"Explanation given about the learning potential of the apps, modelling was very useful." 
"Very good, lots of useful ideas for resources and activities to use back in school." 
"Really inspiring." 
"Superb! Very useful. Excellent ideas which I will be applying at school." 
"Everything expected - great content, well presented and I have left with loads of ideas to use in the classroom." 
"A really interesting and informative day, thank you!" 
"Excellent course. Met all expectations & has provided us with lots of practical ideas that we can implement/use in school." 
"Fab! Very informative & useful." 
"I have found the ideas & tools discussed really useful and feel that I will have the confidence to try some of these in my classroom. I think it is particularly effective as you are showing your own practical experience. The day has been really inspiring." 
"Loads of ideas to take back into school. Great day!" 
"Excellent course with lots of ideas and tips for the school. Excellent examples of the work done by yourself and your school. Really find your blog useful and I am trying the ideas in school." 
"Practical ideas that I could do in class tomorrow. Great to meet requirements of new lit curriculum. Keep it up, our children are loving school!" 
"Absolutely superb, could not have wanted more! Plenty of practical activities to take back to school." 
"Excellent - very inspiring and engaging speaker."

I will be running similar conferences next term and all the details can be found HERE. 

Another inspiring teacher, who is running his first conference through Alan Peat Ltd next week, is Mat Sullivan aka @inspiredmind5. I have worked with Mat previously and his ideas are phenomenal. His upcoming conference - Improving writing through comics and exciting sentences, is SOLD OUT! It comes at the time that his first solo book - Developing writing through Comics, is released.

This book is an absolute must for any KS2 teacher whether they like comics or not. The ideas and activities suggested in this book will raise standards in the classroom and I have seen it myself when I visited Mat's school recently. Just look at his website -

Mat also co-wrote The Second book of Exciting Sentences with Alan and has a wealth of engaging and inspiring ways to make writing meaningful and enjoyable for children.

I was able to have a sneak peek of the book and I was blown away by both the content but also the incredible design and that was down to the very talented Simon Matthews.

Simon aka @SiTheDesignGuy, has been working with Alan Peat Ltd for a number of years and handles all the design on websites, books and other media. His work on the resource "Word Warriors," is fantastic and some of the design for Mat's book is stunning, just look at some of his tweets:

But it is his new project that really excites me! is a new website that will be sharing extracts from a diary of a soldier throughout the First World War. The diary will be turned into a collection of podcasts shared on the website for free. The project also provides a monthly magazine full of information, links and lesson ideas from Alan, Mat and other teachers linked to the diary. The design of the website and magazine is amazing! A school can subscribe to the project - receiving each monthly digital magazine for only £50 a year. I believe there will also be an option to pay monthly. It is well worth a look as a cross curricular topic in class, it will be very useful!

I also met Gareth Metcalfe the creator of The Maths Apprenticeship resource, I am very excited about this as I received a copy of the pack and will be using it over the next couple of weeks, so watch for the blog post to follow. From reading Gareth's blog, the product looks a great way to really challenge higher ability mathematicians - read about it here. Gareth will also be running conferences through Alan Peat Ltd, all details can be found here.

I finally was able to meet Doug Stitcher aka @therenegade78, founder of Angel Applications. He has created the Pocket Curriculum app (left) as well as a range of other useful education apps.

I have been in contact with Doug for a while now as he is working his socks off creating an app for me. I am pleased to see it is in its final stages and should be available in the next month or so. Details to follow on that one!

He has also been coding the new range of apps from Alan, both of which are great resources for teachers.

Alan's first app is an interactive guide to his Exciting Sentences approach in writing. I have been using the exciting sentences in my teaching for nearly 4/5 years and can say they have had a phenomenal impact on writing standards. Through using them as a whole school we have gone through two OUTSTANDING Ofsted reports, with strengths in Literacy with Alan's approach being a key part to the winning formula. For only £1.49 this app is such good value for money considering the impact it will have on writing in your class.

The next app, which was released today, and currently heading towards the top of the Education App charts on iTunes. Again it is another fantastic resource for teachers looking for useful ways to teach punctuation. For only £1.99 it covers every punctuation mark with an array of different ways to embed the use of each one in children's writing. As a reference guide for teachers it is another useful app to add to the collection.

I felt very fortunate to be in such great company and thank Alan for the opportunity. From the first training session I attended, led by Alan it had a massive impact on my approach to teaching. As I head towards the end of an incredible year of my career, I am thankful for the opportunity both him and Julie have given me. With some very exciting projects in the pipeline, including a joint conference and ebook between both Alan and I as well as other apps he is working on the #go2team will be something to keep a very close eye on... stay tuned.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Back to the Old School - Using 3D images as a writing stimulus

Sometimes it doesn't take much to spark children's imaginations. The iPad has proved to be a fantastic tool to engage children in their learning and something I really showcase through this blog, but here is another way to immerse children through an image.

About a year ago I presented at Teachmeet East Lancs, another presenter - @FrankFarrell, showcased the use of 3D images in class, it really caught my attention and was impressed with the idea here is his presentation:

The Anaglyph 3D glasses are available from Amazon for £1.50 for 3, meaning a class set will cost you £15.

A simple Google search will reveal hundreds of fantastic 3D pictures you can then use as a stimulus in the classroom with your 3D glasses.

The children can then really immerse themselves into the image which will spark their imagination, creating a real WOW moment that a teacher can harness into some quality writing.

Take this example (you will need 3D glasses) -


When you view this image with a pair of 3D glasses you really see the depth to this picture, giving children a real sense of size and scope of this setting. Children could write about the creature and travelling on it across the landscape describing the setting. 

Another example - 

Children could start by deducing what is happening here? What could have happened? How is the landscape different further back in the picture? Where would they prefer to live and why?

Again as a setting this picture would really immerse children and give them more to work with with a descriptive story. 

There are iPad apps that allow you to create your own 3D Pictures. i3D Photo - allows you to create a 3D version of your own photos. I can't say I am convinced the images are significantly improved, here is an example:

Another app, which I was shared to me by the great Tim Rylands, is Seene. This app allows you to take a photo and turn it 3D so when you move your device you can view the depth of the picture. Below is an example:

These 3D images allow children to view an image in a unique and different way. They can really inspire children to look beyond a normal image and use it to for some quality writing opportunities.