Sunday, 23 August 2015

Tips For Tablet (iPad) Use

Ten tips for using tablets in the classroom... 

1. Desensitise - The term came from Sway. However, it's something that I've always done with each class as we use the devices for the first time. The touch screen on any device takes some getting used to. How hard should a tap be? which directions can be swiped in? what multi-finger gestures can be used? This will possibly become less important as touch screen technology becomes the norm.

2. Prediction - When typing, the predictive element can cause typos or (depending on spelling ability) incorrect substitution of words. Schools need to decide what predictive text is turned on or off and ensure the children are able to utilise it properly. I'm still to get to gripes [sic ;-)] with it!

3. Copy & Paste etc. - Ensure children know how to select a work, or a section of text and then cut or copy it before pasting it somewhere else. Indeed, the same with images. This is essential if any App Smashing is to take place.

4. Orientation - filming / photography - If footage or images are going to be edited together as part of a film, as a minimum, ensure they're all captured in the same orientation. Ideally, do them all landscape. It works much better in modern widescreen outputs.

5. Microphone - Do the children know where the microphone is? For example, on the iPad Mini it's at the top, not the bottom like a phone (most phones). Sound is much better when directed towards the microphone. Particularly in a classroom, with say 29 other children doing similar...

6. Sharing between apps - App Smashing! Sometimes copy and paste works just fine, but sometimes saving to 'Camera Roll' or 'Gallery' may be required to then input the object into another app. Theach this once and it'll then be useful over and over again!

7. App missing? How to put it back - "Sir, I don't have the app!" Often this can easily be resolved (dependant on management system in place) if children know how to. Not installing apps, not buying them, just putting one back that's for some reason gone missing.

8. Search - At the time of writing, only know of this on iOS (happy to update if told different). Instead of scrolling through looking for an app, swipe down in the middle of the screen and type in the app's name - it'll then appear. If I set up an iOS device for my use in the future, I'll not set up any folders, for me all I need is the search.

9. Turing off apps - Saving the battery. Tablets that charge over night? Used five hours a day by children? Let's make sure they make it. Double tap home button (iOS) or hold home button (Android) to see which apps are running. On iOS, swipe each to turn off, but (wait for it) on Android, press the 'close all button' :-). This will save battery power.

10. It is not a rock - They break. Two hands! Don't throw! It's not yours. You get the idea.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Finding Sentences Structures

Earlier this year, whilst on a school trip to the National Space Centre, a colleague and I were reading some information when she exclaimed, "Ah, nice embedded clause there". This then developed through the rest of the day with us trying to spot types of sentences we'd not seen so far that day. Some of the children even got involved. In fact, for one of them, it meant she read a whole lot more than she probably would have done otherwise! 

As a result, I decided to do more of finding sentence structures within texts to look at how and why they've been used...
1. Authorial Intent
During reading activities (guided, group, class, one-to-one and so on...), look for sentence structure variety. Discuss what sentence structures have been used and why the author has chosen to use them. Do they stick to a certain type? Do they have large variety? Does the child(ren) know and use those sentences?

2. Write Sentences Into a Story
When I read Alan Peat's 'A Second Book of Exciting Sentences', I found in it a story called 'The Minotaur’s Revenge’. This story contained in it examples of the sentences from both of Alan Peats' books about sentence types. My class read this story (enjoying it) and found many of the sentence types we'd been learning to use. As a result, I had a go at my own story (just using the sentences from 'Writing Exciting Sentences: Age 7 Plus') and that story can be found here (Also, answer key). Again, my class enjoyed reading the story (whilst agreeing I shouldn't give up the day job) and the challenge of finding the sentence types. I was very clear that this was a contrived exercise and I was not suggesting or expecting that their story writing should reflect this example of including a group of sentences in a text. In addition, I included a couple of sentences that showed how the rules taught when learning these sentences can be tweaked and adapted, which lead to a interesting discussion. A text example (fiction or non-fiction) could be written as an exemplar for something being studied and then include relevant sentence structures. 

3. Sentence Structure Booklets 
Each week, our children write down words that are new to them and find out their definitions. Following on from this, I created a booklet for children to use during reading time (at home and in school) to write down the sentence structures they come across as they read. A copy of this booklet can be found here. And, for those using Alan Peat's 'Writing Exciting Sentences: Age 7 Plus', this (select pages that are useful to your children, don't just print off the whole lot) and this may be of use.

4. Sentence of the Week 
Some easier than others but, if you have a Sentence of the Week: "Can anyone find an example of that in a book"

After children have found a number of sentences in published work, can they identify any particular sentence structures that fit a fiction and non-fiction and then genres? The main area of discussion, and the largest section in the booklets I gave the children to use, is authorial intent. Why is the sentence used? What's the impact?

Some of the ideas outline above have been done with Alan Peat's own advice about using his work and his blog post 'Exciting Sentences – a word of caution' in mind. The ideas and resources shared here do not contradict that advice in the way they were delivered.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Monday, 3 August 2015

Rolls and Flips: Probability All Done

Covering probability or data handling in maths and using lesson time to generate data? Well, it's already been done for you:

@RollADay are rolling a dice each day. The data can be found here:

Image credit: @RollADay

@FlipADay are flipping a coin each day. The data can be found here:

Image credit: @FlipADay

Follow the accounts. Use the data. Maybe even share with the accounts what's been produced using the flips and rolls.

Both of these are operated by Tad Fry. Other useful online tools can be found on his site.

Friday, 24 July 2015

School Facebook Account

In the past, we've written lots about our use of Twitter. These four posts about school Twitter accounts are some of our most viewed: 1, 2, 3 and 4. As a result of these posts, we've often been asked for advice about Facebook accounts for schools. Until now, we've not written about school Facebook accounts as we had no experience of them. However, now that we do, we can let you know what we've been up to...

Image credit:

First of all, we'd highly recommend contacting Chris Talbot,as what he doesn't know about running a school Facebook account isn't worth knowing. 

In the past, both our school and members of staff have had negative experiences of Facebook, so it took some persuading and careful thinking to get the page set up. First choice was whether to use a private Group or a public Page. We went for the page, for the same reason our Twitter account isn't locked: it's a public page for us to share news about our school. The vast majority of what's written in those four posts about Twitter accounts is also applicable to Facebook. Write about upcoming events, share news and engage with the local community. Remember, if someone's 'Liked' the page, anything shared through the page gets sent right into their timeline for them to read. 

In school, some members of staff and the office team have permission to posts to our social media pages from computers they have access to. Some understand Twitter better; others prefer Facebook. So, we set up the account so that something posted to either network will be automatically duplicated on the other. Whilst out of school, we make use of a school phone. From a local supermarket, we purchased a smart phone on pay-as-you-go for about £30 that we can Tweet and Facebook from whilst off-site. As outlined in previous posts, this avoids staff using up their own data allowance, but more importantly means staff can't accidentally post to the wrong social media account (i.e. posting something intended for their own on the school one). 

One main concern was monitoring the page and in particular 'comments'. Within the Page settings there's the option to 'block' comments containing certain words. We've blocked the 100 most common English words and names of teachers, local area and other key words. These comments still exist, so we can see them, but they're not public. In the future, this may change, but at the moment it's our way of monitoring what's on the page. 

Worried about what people may say about the school on Facebook? They'll say it anyway! Given them an official page to do it on and at least you'll see it and have the ability to reply. In addition, every now and again (if you have a unique school name) get the office staff to search Twitter and Facebook for your school's name - you'll be amazed (good and not-so-good!) 

So there you go, if you've not got one, go get one. If you're using one form of social media, you may as well use them all!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Re-Blog: "All in a Year's Work"

On Staffrm, Liam has reflected on what he's been up to over the past year...

"First of all, I'm a class teacher, computing subject leader and a year group leader who is part of SLT. That gives this post a setting. So, here are the roles that stand out from year nine of 'being a teacher':" Click here to read the full post.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Road Sign Angles

In the past we've used roller coasters as a real-life link and vehicle for studying angles in maths. When driving to work last week, I started to wonder about angles I could see on road signs...

It started with the 300, 200, 100 yard marker boards: "What angle are they at?"

Next, on the the directional signs, "Are the two obtuse angles on the end of the smaller are larger signs the same measure?"

Are there similar or same angles in lots of road signs? 

As of September 2007, 'Traffic Signs'.

Due to the responsible nature of my driving, I chose not to take photographs of the road signs whilst driving. These images came from a Creative Commons image search. However, next time I'm a passenger, I may snap some of my own.