Thursday, 20 November 2014

Writing with iPad (Tablet) Devices

In the past, we've posted many times about app suggestions. We thought it was about time we wrote about how we use some of them. In this first post of two, we'll write about writing using a tablet as a prompt for writing and will follow it up with a post about writing on a tablet.

We use iPad devices and therefore write about our experiences with those. However, where possible we also do our best to refer to other tablet alternatives. 

Epic Citadel
At a TeachMeet, back in 2011, we were introduced to Epic Citadel. In the app, the user can navigate their way around a fictional Citadel. We have used this while writing stories about Robin Hood and King Arthur. In addition, we have also used it as a 'one off' creative writing task in the first or third person. It's currently available for both iOS and Android. Oh, and it's free!

ColAR Mix
We downloaded ColAR Mix about 18 months ago. We downloaded it because of various messages we saw about it on Twitter. The first time we used the app, we put the colouring sheets on tables and simply asked the children to colour them in on entry to the classroom. Once the sheets were mostly coloured, children were instructed to open the tablets and scan the picture. It's one of the most amazing classroom experiences we've had! The children are amazed! The children were then instructed to, "Write about what's happening on screen". Some descriptive writing followed as the children were engaged.


Next, we made used of the ColAR Christmas and New Year resources. No writing this time, just a it of end of term colouring and enjoyment (that's allowed - isn't it?) Recently ColAR app released some more free images. We used the football playing sheep, and again after colouring, the children wrote recounts, diary entries, stories and more about the sheep. Most recently, we used the Pudsey picture and wrote a recount of 'Pudsey's CiN Disco 2014' (after colouring the picture of course). Colouring in the classroom? Yes! You get some great writing afterwards... Again, free and on both Android and iOS.


My Dragon Toy
Very similar to ColAR Mix as it uses similar technology. Give the child a target image, a tablet device, get them to scan, imagine and the write... Yeah, you guessed it - FREE!

Writing instructions
Give the children a game/puzzle to play on the device. Once they've had a jolly good play and hopefully enjoyed themselves, get them to write a set of instructions for how to use said app. These instructions could then be shared with staff, parents and so on... 

Epic Zen Garden
Very similar to Epic Citadel. Making a journey around a fantasy world that can then lead onto fictional writing. 

Using adverts
Advertisements can provide an excellent impetus for writing and this one from Cadbury in 2013 proved a hit with a Year Five class and some lovely writing. With tablet devices, children can watch, forward, rewind and so on in their own time. In addition, using QuietTube helps to remove comments, adverts and more. 


So, there are some ideas for having a tablet device on one part of the desk and writing on paper (the examples here have been typed up for ease of sharing): using it as a reason to write, inspiration for writing or to engage young minds. Writing and tablets does not have to mean writing on them, but that post is coming soon...


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Stories in a Tweet

We wrote earlier this year about two sentence stories. We're still getting some good writing from that and were intrigued by this Tweet we recently came across:




Of course! Write a story in 140 characters. Having previously written about Tweets in the classroom, we were impressed with this idea. So we gave it a go, and here's what some Year Five children came up with:









Our Tweet sheet is available on Dropbox to download. Feel free to share more ideas below.


Also, anyone for homophone jokes in a Tweet?



Thursday, 13 November 2014

Playing Cards in Maths

This year, we are having a bit of a focus on practical maths and teaching maths using lots of apparatus. Earlier this year, we came across "41 Math Card Games" via Twitter. We clicked the link and came across an Australian website requiring a small payment to buy the 'book'. The book is delivered by email as a .pdf. So, we paid for the book and have not looked back since…


A pack of playing cards do not cost much.

They are designed to be handled, lots!

They involve looking at numbers in different ways (Ace, Jack can equal 11, the numbers are represented by the figure and pictorially and so on…)

Any game involving numbers 1 - 10 (or up-to 13) can be played with them. 

Children enjoy using playing cards (well, I know 30 Year Fives who have so far demonstrated this).

We're not going to write here about what is in "41 Math Card Games"  but certainly recommend making a purchase. It'll give you ideas, remind you of things you may have forgotten and give you starters, drop-in activities, pleanries and "Oh, I've got 10 minutes, what shall we do? Answers". Any associated resources we make will be placed here. The cards shown in our Dropbox folder game from Open Game Art.

This afternoon I had 30 boys playing one of the games and here's what he had to say afterwards.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

More Display Interactivity

This post is a follow up to our post almost exactly three years ago. Since that post about interactive displays, we added Word of the Week in 2012 and we've now added to it further… 

In October, we wrote about #PadletBombing. That blog post came from an idea inspired by Robin Smith. Robin, you're responsible for this one too…

The Padlet Bombing came about from Robin's class working on different sentence types on a weekly basis and using Padlet as a place to share their work. This got us thinking: 'A sentence per week? What could we do with that?'

So, the interactive display has been added to:




We use the Writing Exciting Sentences book (and associated apps) by Alan Peat to aid our teaching of sentence and punctuation variety. The sentence type for the week and examples used on the display come from the book and app. Children can write their own example of the sentence type and then stick it onto the display. We are using a sentence type that links to the text type being taught that week and ask children to write their example as one that could be used in our writing for that text type. 

In addition, we also came across this yesterday:



You may like a separate section for your interactivity or add it to a Working Wall. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

School Twitter Account (Part 4)

Our fourth post about school Twitter accounts. Click to view: Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3
This time, it's 'locked' versus 'unlocked'. The opinions here could apply to school accounts as well as personal/professional accounts. When we joined Twitter, we applied the lock to our accounts. Being familiar with other social networks, we wanted to ensure our safety was secure. However, in order to make the most of the social network, we soon removed the lock. If you need the lock, then keep it. But...

Removing the lock allows contributing to discussions via hashtags, users to follow Tweets without having to join Twitter and for easier communication between users. If an account is sharing no personal information, nothing sensitive and nothing 'you wouldn't want the world to see', then there's no reason for it to be protected. We'd like to think this applied to all school and teacher accounts. It's also worth remembering that a Tweet from a locked account can still be shared by copying the text and any 'trusted' follower of a locked account could, in theory, copy and share photos or other information. Use an unlocked account and don't share anything that you wouldn't want anyone to see or read. If you've got the lock applied, consider breaking free.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Blog Books

Want to blog? Heard about how other schools are succeeding with it and making strides forward with writing progress? But, you can't blog...

Maybe it's the school that's in the way, technology not allowing it, you're not convinced...

Here's an idea I've had: 'Blog Books'.

Ideally, the children would be blogging online, building up an audience and receiving comments / feedback. If that's not possible, you may like to try this:

- Grab a pile of books that are not being used.

- Stick a class list in the front cover of each one.

- Give the class a writing task. 100 Word Challenge or 5 Sentence Challenge would be a good start. Maybe a recount or just as the children to, 'write something'.

- The children write.

- Now, the teacher marks nothing. The children give their book to someone else, who leaves comments and feedback. They also tick their name off on the class list in the front of the book. Each 'Blog Book' session, the feedback and commenting needs to be done by a different peer.

Children will be carrying out many of the skills associated with blogging. After a few weeks or months, there'll be evidence of children 'blogging' and commenting, and maybe, just maybe this may lead onto blogging on an online blog...

Want advice about blogging? We'd suggest contacting David Mitchell.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Deconstructed Maths Problem Solving

In the past, we've used worded problems, extended worded problems and open ended maths investigations. All with various success. Earlier this year, we were introduced to Deconstructed Maths Problem Solving after training from 5ense of Number.


We have an example here. Print these out so that there are enough copies for one of each per group in your class. Put them in piles, of the same sheets, face down, where you will base yourself in the lesson. Number each pile and keep a note for yourself of which information is in each pile.

Here's how it works:

- introduce the problem by stating that this is actually about you and that it is going to happen. Make the children believe it's real. (In the example given here, it's your family, your holiday and you'll actually be going). Do not give away any information that's on the sheets;

- in groups, the children list everything they think they need to know to solve the problem;

- now, one (and only one person) at a time from each group can come and ask for the information they think they need. For example, "How many people are in your family?" And, they'd be handed the sheet that gives them this information.

- the group calculate the parts of the problem they know about as, and when, they get them;

- as time is running out, allow children to come and collect any sheets they have not yet collected;

- finish by running through the answer together.


This has not been about getting the right answer or completing the investigation (although most groups have done both). It has been about group work, discussions, completing numerous calculations and looking at jottings or methods used.

Give it a go. The children complete 'loads of maths' and it's been a fantastic activity the two times we've run this to date. As we make more of these, we'll share them via our Dropbox here.