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Sunday, 31 January 2016

5 FREE apps for Building Vocab and Spelling!

It is my belief that wherever possible SPaG should be embedded in reading and writing. Sometimes, however, there maybe the odd five/ten minutes where the children can play a game to help practise spelling and build vocabulary. Here are some great apps and ideas that children can use as a quick mental starter for the day or lesson.

1 - Emoji Quiz 

I have previously blogged about using Emojis in class, you can read this here. This app challenges the children to guess the compound word from the emojis in the image. There are different categories to work through but be aware there are adverts and in-app purchases (put the iPad in airplane mode to stop these) -

2 - Spellfix 

The first app in the list from Alan Peat is a great way for children to practise spelling and learn the definition of different words. I have previously blogged about this app, which you can read here. 

3 - 1Pic8Words

This new app is similar to the Emoji Quiz in that children are presented an image and have to find the words linked with it. With this app, the children must find 8 different words within the picture. The children love the added detective feel to the app and the fact they have to really study the picture to help find the words. The app also helps think carefull about the spelling of each word. Again be aware of the adverts and in app purchases (stick it in airplane mode) -

4 - AnyWord Crossword

The second app from the Alan Peat team is one of my favourite games to play with children as it really gets children thinking carefully about vocabulary and experimenting and playing with words. You know it works when children are hunting down dictionaries to use! Here is a short promo video -

Make sure you check out Word Juice too!

This is an idea that came from seeing an example of a 6 word hidden picture - 

Children can load the image onto the student's iPads and ask them to load the app Skitch where they can then highlight all the hidden words -

The words found can then be used to find definitions, look for links or even create short stories or sentences using the vocabulary. You can find some more hidden word pictures here. 

Friday, 29 January 2016

Computational Thinking - Guest Blog Post with @DrChips_

I am privileged to work alongside some amazing trainers! I will be leading conferences with Alan Peat, John Murray and Mark Anderson throughout this academic year. To find out more about these conferences, click here. Another trainer I work alongside is Jon Chippendall aka @DrChips_, I have led training with Jon before however until Tuesday had never sat through his whole session. I have to say I was blown away. I feel my training focusing more on ICT and Digital Literacy, whereas, Jon focuses on Computer Science. His expert knowledge and ability to explain concepts in a way that makes any teacher understand the importance of computer science makes the day really valuable for teachers. As both myself and Jon still work in our school, we share real and successful ideas to ensure technology is being taught creatively in the classroom.

I was really impressed with Jon's session on Computational Thinking. I am pleased he has been willing to write this guest blog post explaining it in more detail. Computational Thinking is at the heart of the Computing curriculum, but what actually is it, why is it important and how do we teach it? Below Jon answers these questions.If you are interested, make sure you book on our next course - visit

To purchase Jon Chippindall’s whole school Computing curriculum for just £140 please follow this link: or get it for FREE if you book onto our next course!

What is computational thinking? 

The opening line of the Computing purpose of study states: 

“A high-quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world” 

So, what exactly is computational thinking? Computational thinking is not thinking like a computer, as machines don’t think (Alan Turing believed this may change in the future, but that’s a different story). 

Computational thinking is all about effective problem solving. Sometimes this involves computers but others times it may not. The Barefoot Computing project ( proposes 6 computational thinking concepts: logic, algorithms, decomposition, patterns, abstraction and evaluation. 

Barefoot Computing Computational Thinker
Let’s look at a couple of examples…

If pupils are challenged to create a game in Scratch, there is much they can do in solving this problem before they jump on to the computer and start coding. First they would breakdown the game into different parts (decomposition). They would decide what information was and wasn’t important to include in the game (abstraction). Critical to the game are the rules which describe how the characters are controlled, how the game is played, and won and lost etc. These are expressed as algorithms which need to be implemented as code. Pupils might spot patterns in these algorithms which help to speed up this coding process. Importantly, they would do all this ‘computational thinking’ before they move on to coding their game.

Whilst the above example uses Scratch, computational thinking happens all the time in ‘non-tech’ situations too. Take mathematics for example, as pupils solve word problems they could break the problem down to make it easier to tackle (decomposition), spot patterns which give rise to formulas, work out the order to tackle things (algorithms), and work out what information is integral to solving the problem and what is superfluous (abstraction). 

Computational thinking also appears in our English lessons: we learn how to spell by spotting patterns which give us spelling rules (algorithms) or by decomposing words into sounds; if your pupils use text mapping this relies on us decomposing a text into sections and creating pictures (abstractions) of the important information. 

So what?

The aim of developing pupils’ computational thinking is to make them better problem solvers, whatever the problem in front of them. It is about giving pupils a toolkit of skills to tackle the tasks they are set, and tasks they might be set in the future – whether that be in education or out in the world of work, these are life long skills. Whilst pupils may naturally exercise these techniques, being explicit about the skills they are using, and using the language to describe them, develops pupils’ awareness of their thinking; their metacognition. 

By using the common language of computational thinking, we can enhance learning across a range of subjects, from computing to English to geography (look at the patterns in settlement locations!). We can teach pupils to be better at abstraction, making them more confident approaching a math’s problem with a wealth of information. Or, to understand the power of pattern recognition: “I think I’ve noticed a pattern… the area of the rectangle is always equal to the width times length!”

Give it a go…

Here are a few activities you can use to start teaching computational thinking with your pupils… 

Speed Modeling: Decomposition and Abstraction

Give pupils a limited time (2 minutes or so) working in pairs to make an animal from plasticine. The aim being that others have to guess what it is. This activity forces pupils to abstract as they think about the important features of the animal needed so others will guess it correctly. As they work together they will also decompose the animal into parts and work on different sections.

Tweeting: Abstraction 

Twitter only allows you to post 140 characters. This forces you to abstract as you negate irrelevant information. If you don’t have a school Twitter account, create a 10 by 14 square grid writing frame (as Mr P suggests) for pupils to write their ‘tweets’ in (or better still get a Twitter account!) 

Logic: Reasoning ‘why’ in games
Logical reasoning is all about explaining ‘why’. Use pupils’ interest in games such as Minecraft to develop their logical reasoning by asking them to explain what they are doing, or might do next, and why. You can develop pupils’ logical reasoning across other subjects too - why have you chosen to use that material? (DT) What do you think will happen if we increase… (science) 

Thank you so much Jon for this and I am sure we will be developing this further on our course in the future! Make sure you book a place on our next conference! 


Saturday, 23 January 2016

Raising Standards in Writing Using Technology Conference - Leeds 22nd January!

Yesterday, I led my new conference - Raising Standards in Writing Using Technology. I had a great time sharing ideas and strategies to engage, inspire and enhance learning in the classroom. I want to say a massive thank you to every teacher who attended, I hope you all found it useful and I am so grateful for all the wonderful feedback!

35 Evaluations

35 Rated the Content as Excellent
35 Rated the Delivery of the Speaker as Excellent

Comments - 

Fantastic course! By far the most useful and inspiring course I've been on in my 15 years of teaching! 
My face aches I've been smiling so much!! The ideas and enthusiasm shared has inspired me. I can't wait to go back and share! It was so much more than expected - resources, ideas, application, links to everyday life in the classroom. 
Wealth and knowledge and experience relating ideas to OFSTED requirements whilse being current, fun and immediate. 
Thank you so much for an inspirational day! Feeling enthused - so many ideas to try and share with staff. Only wish the day had been longer!
Engaging speaker - inspiring and motivational. Gave lots of practical ideas I could use in my class. Can't wait to try them. 
What a fabulous day! I have learned so many new things and I can't wait to try them out on my year 4 class! A truly EXCELLENT day- Thank you! 
Fantastic ideas delivered in a well pitched and inspirational manner. My children will love using these tools!
Fantastic delivery - thought I knew lots about using iPads in the classroom before todaybut so many ideas - absolutely buzzing - thank you!
 Fantastic delivery. Will definitely be booking on future courses. Brilliant! Thank you and thank for your blog and tweets too!
 Brilliant! So many engaging, relevant ideas!
Inspirational, grounded in realistic day practicalities. It will really kick start our writing! Thank you, how can I share this with such humour and passion with my staff? I'll try, but my jokes won't be as good!
Really useful ideas to develop writing. Useful apps that can be used, a great course - thank you! 
 Very imformative and lots of good resources recommended/used in session. Will be good to use ideas in class.
So inspirational! Loads of wonderful ideas to take back to school to motivate the children! 
Fantastic delivery and very inspiring, will go back to work with many useful ideas!
Lots of fantastic ideas! Can't wait to get back to school to try all the ideas! 
Definitely feeling inspire to inspire! Thanks for a fabulous day with lots of practical ideas!
Inspired to take into classroom! Fingers crossed I can take the passion you show back to the other staff!
A great course with lots if practical ideas for use in the classroom! 
Fabulous! I just want to do everything next week! 
Excellent! Can't wait to try these things on Monday! 
Brilliant! So inspiring and so many practical ideas to use in school!
 Inspirational! Good Paced and packed with great ideas. It ahs been brilliant! Thank you! 
Excellent ideas! Can't wait to try them with my class! 
Updated version of technology use - absolutely ace! Will be using!
Excellent! Loads to go home with - don't know which to try first! 
Great ideas to take back and use in the classroom!
Excellent, engaging and inspiring!  
Practical and Entertaining!
Very interesting and useful. Lots of ideas! 
I am leading this conference in Norwich on Wednesday 27th Jan and Blackpool on Friday 24th June. For more information and to book, follow this link - Raising Standards in Writing Using Technology 

For all of my other upcoming courses and conferences - click here.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Force is Strong in Year 3

I have previously blogged about using Star Wars in class -
It always engages and inspires children with their writing! 

I am currently working with Year 3 and running some initiatives with technology with a real focus on using Seesaw for flipped learning and oral feedback. I will be blogging the results in due time.

In English, we have been writing with a focus on Star Wars,

Using the Star Wars Website, we looked at a setting description -

This week, we used Greenscreen to be X-Wing Pilots with the responsibility of destroying the Death Star, the children then had to write internal monologues about the mission - 

The app we used was Doink Greenscreen! Stay tuned for more over the next few weeks...

Monday, 18 January 2016

Bringing Characters to life!

There are plenty of apps available on the app store where children can record themselves as different characters, here are some of my recommendations -
Morfo Booth is my favourite, the ability to enhance the image into a 3D animation and add facial expressions is fantastic for the classroom. Another app with lots of potential for use in the classroom is the newly discovered Face Swap Live!

The app allows you to swap faces and record a video. This in itself makes it a hilarious app and one for use outside of the classroom. 

The other feature allows you to place your face into a picture of a famous celebrity, historical figure, storybook character - the possibilities are endless. The app tracks and maps your face meaning that you can really bring characters to life through the student's own acting. The app has a selection of famous faces or you can load one from the camera roll or search online directly within the app. This makes the app a great way for children to demonstrate and share their learning about a person's life or their personality based on what they have read in a book or from doing research!

Here is a short video about the app - 

Having only discovered the app over the weekend, I have yet to use it with a class, however have been experimenting with my children! 

Here is the face swap feature 😂😂😂😂- 



The photo aspect has two options - Either mask your own face -


Or add your face into a photo - 

 As you can see, there are so many possibilities for using this app in and outside of the classroom! As a guided reading activity to further explore a character to enhancing topic and history lessons by bringing historical figures to life. The children will be able to use their own facial expression to really demonstrate their understanding about different characters.

For more creative ways to bring the curriculum to life, please visit this link to see how Mr P can help your school and staff -

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Fruitastic learning in Year 1

Year 1's topic this half term is Fruitastic. As always, I have been exploring how technology can be used to enhance this topic!

Last week, we created some typography pictures of different fruits using the name of the fruit. We focused on our spellings and what the fruits looked like. Here are some of their examples -

This week we took it a step further by exploring more properties about different fruits! So the children created short videos as different fruits. Using the app Funny Movie Maker and some of the Funny Faces, the children cut out the mouth and replaced it with their mouths using the camera and recorded a short video sharing what they know about that particular fruit -

To put all the children's videos together, we used the brilliant app - Thinglink. I have previously blogged about using this idea here and here. Thinglink allows you to make a picture interactive by adding weblinks and videos. The image is then saved online and can be shared and embedded into blogs and other social media platforms! Here is the Year 1 Fruitastic Thinglink. Just click the picture and press any play icon - 

This idea can easily be adapted for KS2 by encouraging children to go into more depth about the vital nutrients each fruit or vegetable gives us and what that does to our body. This would cover the following science objective from the new curriculum -

Sc3/2.2a    identify that animals, including humans, need the right types and amount of nutrition, and that they cannot make their own food; they get nutrition from what they eat
This idea can easily be adapted to other curriculum areas, such as geography -

Or this idea from my eBook - 15 iPad lessons for KS2 History where the children created an interactive Tudor family tree -

If you would like a step by step guide to the above idea, you can now download a PDF copy of 15 iPad lessons for KS2 history for half price, just £1.50!!!
Please follow the instructions to the end to be taken to the download link!

Comics Head - More than a Comic Creator App!

There are a wealth of different comic creator apps on the app store, Book Creator and Comic Life being some of my favourites but I also love Comic Heads!

It is a fantastic comic creation tool available on apple and android, however, can be used for so much more! Posters, graphics, instructions, newspaper reports, displaying data and video creation are just some of the other ways this app can be used. What sets this app apart from some of the other comic apps is that it comes loaded with a huge range of backgrounds, characters, props and effects!

The app also allows you to record audio to add to your comic or graphic turning it into a video to be shared on blogs, youtube etc. I love the fact that with each character there is a range of poses to choose from -

The app has a tagline - endless storytelling opportunities and it certainly lives up to this. Using the app to plan and storyboard a story would be great but to also perform children's writing through the audio recording tool would also bring writing to life. 

There are also lots of cross-curricular opportunities: from using the map tool for some Geography work to recreating historical events, explaining science concepts or creating e-safety comics - 

Here is a video of the updates being added to the next version - 

I have 5 copies up for grabs! To be in with a chance of winning, just head over to my facebook page and like and share the following post! Make sure you comment to tag your friends but also let me know you have shared!

WEEKEND APP GIVEAWAY!We have 5 FREE copies of the brilliant Comic Heads app! To be in with a chance of winning, just...
Posted by ICT with Mr P - Tech to Raise Standards on Saturday, 16 January 2016

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The Update That Makes Seesaw A Game Changer!

I have been a massive fan of using Seesaw and discuss it a lot on my training and inset. I have flirted with Showbie, which is a similar app, and seen some wonderful ways it has been used in schools. In my experience, one thing most primary teachers are looking for is simplicity! Seesaw stands out to me because it is so simple and easy to use.

I am not going to go through the ins and outs of the app, this video covers the basics - 

The main reason I recommend this app is because it can help collect evidence of learning that can't be measured in a book. The confusing message some schools are getting is that when Ofsted come into your school, they will look at your books and so they have to be top notch. The problem is that so many objectives in the new curriculum cannot be assessed in a pupil's book. Therefore, Seesaw provides the perfect way to keep a updated record of a child's progress. It links brilliantly with other apps so is a fantastic way to collect and share work with pupils on their iPads. 

A lot has been added since it was first released and the latest addition is one of my favourites. Now you can create a class blog directly from Seesaw. Most people will know how much I value blogging as a way to purposefully teach children about online safety but also inspire their writing by sharing it with a real worldwide audience. With Seesaw it couldn't be any easier to blog!

Seesaw now has the option to create a class blog and everything that is uploaded to Seesaw can then be published on the blog. All you need to do is tap the globe icon! If the children add something to the blog it won't be published without the teacher approving it. This is the same with comments. This makes it safe.  I feel this update will encourage so many more teachers to use the internet as a way to proudly showcase children's work to the world. 

There are a couple of tools that are not available yet. I love the ability to add a RevolverMap to not only show how many people have visited the blog but where they have visited from. As far as I am aware, there is a visit counter but it doesn't show where they have come from... yet. Also the ability to create a feed to your social media pages like facebook and twitter through can save a lot of time. At present, the blog address isn't recognised as a feed...yet. 

I am nitpicking, I think this update will make Seesaw an absolute must when teachers are using mobile technology. I go into more details about other ways Seesaw can be used in class on my training but I hope this post may inspire others to start blogging through Seesaw!

More information about the blogging feature can be found here -

Sunday, 10 January 2016

SPAG through Spam!

Spam Emails - they're a pain in the backside and a real nuisance, however, could they actually be a really useful tool in the classroom??? Absolutely!

This idea came to me after watching this very funny TED talk -

I think it is important to teach children about Spam Emails and what they are and how to recognise whether an email is spam or not. As stated in the new computing curriculum -
Co2/1.5    use search technologies effectively, appreciate how results are selected and ranked, and be discerning in evaluating digital content
Co2/1.7    use technology safely, respectfully and responsibly; recognise acceptable/unacceptable behaviour; identify a range of ways to report concerns about content and contact

Here are some links that have some useful information in explaining what Spam is and how to spot it-

The tell-tale sign that would be great to explore in class is the fact that most spam emails contain spelling and punctuation errors. Challenging children to identify these mistakes and correct them would be a great little mental/oral starter to your English lesson! 

Take this example -

i need urgently money.please  help me i need 777USD money. i will give back your money.
(if you are able to do my help .then i will give you my bank account no.
So ask the children to read this message. After discussing the ways to identify spam emails ask them to consider whether they think it is spam and why? Hopefully, one will say there are some spelling mistakes. Challenge the children to spot as many mistakes as possible and see whether they can use the correct terminology in explaining the mistakes. If the children need encouraging here are some questions -

  • What is the pronoun in the first sentence? What is wrong with it? 
  • The sender has used an adverb in the first sentence, what is it? Has it been used correctly? What needs to be changed?
  • What is missing from the start of the second sentence? 
  • Look at the phrase 'please help me' would you change anything? If so, what and why? 
  • 'i need 777USD money' does this make sense? Can we re-write it using a conjunction?
  • What type of word is missing from the third sentence?
  • Look at the 4th sentence - what words don't need to be there? 
  • What is wrong with the use of punctuation in the last sentence?
Give the children the opportunity to rewrite the email without any mistakes. 

I think it is a great way to practise SPAG within the context of e-safety and digital literacy. The idea of asking children to edit and 'uplevel' an example of work is really useful but rather than spending time writing examples, just take some screenshots of emails from your spam folder!

Here's a few I found -

I hope you find this little idea useful! 

6 Ways To Use the Star Wars App in Class!

I loved the new Star Wars film, I thought it was brilliant! In the build up to the movie, I had been using Star Wars as a stimulus as I knew a lot of the children were also excited about it. I did a big project based on the BB-8 Sphero in class.

You can read about what we did with BB-8 here. 

With another class, we explored an 360 degree video based on one of the Star Wars planets and wrote a story based on this -

The boy who created this example was amazed to see the Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself liked the video!

I also had to get involved with @iPadEducators and his Star Wars Project that you can read here.

Today, @WatsEd shared the following tweet - 

The web link is fantastic and gives an amazing immersive panoramic image of two scenes from the film that children can explore and use as a writing stimulus in class!

From exploring the site it led me to download the Star Wars Force Awakens app! It is FREE and feels like it has been designed exactly for me with a range of activities that I love including - emojis, augmented reality and virtual reality. So here are a few ideas for how to use this app in class -

1 - Create a Growth Mindset Display Using the Force!

I am a big fan of promoting Growth Mindset in school and many schools have some fantastic display boards to promote this is school. Why not use the app to create your own by using the Selfie option. Let children turn themselves into Jedi Knights as shown in this example -

Next to each picture of the children could be their targets for the upcoming term alongside some of these fantastic posters from teacherpaulp's blog click the example to see them all - 

2 - Use the emojis to retell or create a story!

I love using emojis in class, you can read this old blogpost about different ways of using the emoji tool in class. Within the app, there is a whole range of Star Wars emojis that can be used for similar activities like story maps - 

3 - Bring a Stormtrooper into the Classroom!

The AR element to the app allows the teacher to bring three characters into your classroom - stormtrooper, BB-8 or flametrooper. Within the app, you can video or capture images as the character performs different actions.

I love using Augmented Reality in the classroom and you can read other ways in which I have used it here. It can be a brilliant stimulus in the classroom for writing. Maybe you could explain that some important droid, message or object is hidden in the school and the First Order are desperate to find it and therefore, storm troopers have searched the school. As Jedi Knights, the children must find this message and return it to the resistance! And there is the perfect stimulus to write a purposeful story. 
4- Explore the Star Wars Universe using Virtual Reality

I am a massive fan of virtual reality and I have previously blogged about using it in the classroom here. Within the app, you can follow a mission on Planet Jakku using Virtual Reality by either using a VR Headset like Google Cardboard or view it 2D on your iPad.

I love the way you can fully immerse yourself into the world and decide where to look. As a stimulus for writing it is fantastic as you have a multisensory approach with sounds along with visuals. The app will also take pictures every time you tap the screen making it easy to collect screenshots as the children can then use these pictures to create a storyboard. 
Following the same idea from this blog post - Creating Effective Storyboards using the iPad children can combine screenshots from the Star Wars app with Pic Collage and Book Creator to create a storyboard linked to the VR Mission in the app - 

5 - Orally tell the story adding sound effects!

Using the Emoji story map, Augmented Reality story or the Virtual Reality mission allow the children to write a story. As a way to further bring that story to life, ask the children to perform their writing and recording this on the iPad using an app like Audioboom. On a different iPad load the sound effects board and play the different sound effects at appropriate points in the story to really bring the story to life!
6 - How to be a Jedi instructions

The app also has a game that allows you to train as a Jedi by trying to follow the remote. Once the children have played the game and using their knowledge of the films ask them to create a set of instructions for How to Be a Jedi!
ALSO - Don't forget to check out this blog post looking at the Star Wars Crawl as a stimulus for reading. 

 I hope you find these ideas useful and if you use them in class, please tweet/email or share examples on my facebook page!