A while back I began visiting this podcast site with students, as a means of introducing different voices to story time. Storynory, free audio stories for kids, hosts a wide range of stories, from fairy tales, to classics, from Greek Myths to Modern Stories. I have made a brief stop off to download a few of the stories for my niece to listen to with me over my Christmas sojourn. If you haven't visited before or subscribed to the podcast, I would recommend you do.

On my visit today I also picked up a link to an intriguing looking set of new online stories at Rockford's Rock Opera, that I will take a look at later, when finished the housekeeping.


Experimenting With Blogger and 2 Create a Story

I uploaded my students Henry VIII Biographies yesterday to the school website, and began thinking how great it would be to be able to embed an example or two here to share. The flash files were hosted already so there had to be a way of embedding them. Having played around for a bit, I have managed to meet my aim. Having borrowed some code from the Dummies Guide to Google Blogger Beta and "flash for blogger" following a bit of a fiddle, here are the results.

Now I am really excited about the further possibilities, this opens up for using 2create and 2 Create a Story. 2Create and 2Create a Story, both export to flash, can include embedded sound effects and animation, so with space to upload and host these files, inclusion to a blog space offers a new set of multimodal text publication possibilities. Am now pondering how we might do the same thing with the student's Wordpress blogs. Watch this space.

Post Script

After a visit to our y3 blog hosted by Ethink I have used the embed flash plugin to add one of the flash files created in 2 create a story to the blog. Can't wait to share this next term.


I'll Be The Narrator, And You Can Be Baby Bear...

Just a snippet from a learning conversation, but an exciting moment to end the term with. Three weeks ago we began our visit to playscripts and the presentation of speech. This culminated in the publishing of our class podcast performance of "On The Way Home" based on the story by Jill Murphy. Yesterday afternoon I had a request from one of my students, for he and some friends to borrow my laptop. This was a curious though not unusual request, as I often use it with students an additional classroom machine or in support of small group tasks, but obviously I wanted to know why only my laptop would do, when we have two other other PCs in the classroom they could use. It transpired that he and a group of friends, had decided they would like to make a podcast themselves, and my laptop having a nice internal mike, which they had used as a class would fit the bill beautifully for the task they had decided upon. They had found the book "Baby Bear's Christmas Kiss," by John Prater, in the school library, and bringing it back to class to share, had decided it would make for a good performance. Among the group, J had decided that he should be the narrator, (actually as it turns out he had also assigned himself the role of director) his friends being the voices of the characters, to who he had already allocated parts. Unaware of this initially but liking the idea I sent the children off to rehearse the story they wanted to tell.

The process they engaged with was really fascinating, taking the role of narrator in the story, J had decided to tell all the unspoken parts, referring to the punctuation in the text, to help delegate speaking parts, while he and his friends used speech verbs, and picture cues to help discuss how they would read the text. They spent a considerable amount of time discussing this and rehearsing so this morning we set up Podium to enable them to record their efforts. Each pair of pages was allocated as a chapter, in order to enable the children to edit each piece of the story in short chunks, or to delete sections and rerecord until they were happy with it. This part of the process is something which previously they had only done supported so I was interested to see what would happen. They were very keen to get the story to sound the way they wanted it, deleting chunks and sometimes whole tracks before rerecording it, replaying after every recording session, and using the wave forms they quickly identified overly long periods of silence, pauses or gaps in the soundtrack. After being shown how they began to delete these spaces independently. In order to complete the recording they finally asked if they could stay in at playtime. On completing the file, I helped them to copy and paste the clips in each chapter together, and we added the enclosing music file. The completed story went down a storm with their class mates, and tomorrow they have been asked to share their story with children in other classes. We also published the file to our podcast station, which added that extra wow to the outcome. We hope you enjoy sharing it too. Baby Bear's Christmas Kiss can be found by following this link to the Buzz. Merry Christmas from Year 3.


One Year Old Today.. Thank You

Well this is it, today is my blog's first birthday, and I wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has visited, shared this space with others, offered advice, kind words and support.
The space was originally set up in response to coursework requirements at university, and if I am honest for a long time I struggled to find a purpose for it and so it lay abandoned and lonely. In September 2006, I found myself in the rarest of positions, I was without a class of my own, covering PPA with a colleague, while teaching ICT as a subject specialism across the school, in key stages 1 and 2 with the occasional adventure with foundation stage students. My learning took a steep curve, new strategies emerged or were required not only to manage students and their learning in the ICT suite, but also to share, store and evaluate their work, as well as opportunities to engage with tools first hand that I had not used previously. This space since last December, has become a valuable professional development tool, somewhere to think aloud, reflect upon, share, sometimes to sound off about but overall to log my thoughts, somewhere to wander and think about what might be, while celebrating the achievements of my students.

The tone and content may have changed a little since September with a return to the classroom full time and teaching and learning with a class of my own again but with this has come the opportunity to add continuity, whole curriculum context and the use of a base to apply and reflect on how earlier thoughts work during the day to days of classroom life.

I often visit my Feedburner account curious to find out about my visitors, subscribers, what they are reading and what they are searching for when directed to my blog. I have been interested over the time I have been writing to find that a common search query that leads folk here, even if only for a brief stay, goes something along the lines of...

"ICT Recommended hours"

What I have found increasingly exciting however are the number of visitors who now arrive here, not searching for ICT related issues alone. Although being primarily my thoughts as an ICT subject leader, what I hope my blog offers are embedded situations and thoughts that leave visitors much less concerned with the recommended hours per week or per year students should spend doing ICT , but stimulate thought about how ICTs could be used differently as tools to support work across the whole curriculum.

I cannot imagine many sites being visited through the search string

"pencil paper glue recommended hours"

Looking back over the year to date, as a professional development tool, deciding to keep a blog has to be one of the best decisions I have made as a teacher. Keeping a paper based "learning log" or "diary," as I used to do does not draw the same level of support or common interest. The journey I have engaged in over the past 12 months has not been alone, but thankfully has been enhanced by the support of colleagues who visit, have offered comments, shared their thoughts or through their linking to this space have encouraged and enabled me to share my work and adventures with a wider audience. I would like to thank everyone who over the past 12 months has supported and encouraged me, through their comments and promotion of the space. Hopefully you will continue to visit through 2008 and beyond. Thanks, :o)

Now for a song, courtesy of ErFinanza, GreyWorldwide and YouTube


Santa's Problem

Santa's helpers have gone HiTech, and this year as they have read children's letters, they have logged all the children's requests in Excel. Well spreadsheets are great tools for representing data aren't they? But wait.. Why do we create charts? What purposes do they serve? Who are they for? Do all charts work in the same way? And is the way they represent information always useful?

As is fairly typical of a group with a new toy they have published the results in all sorts of pretty formats, but as we know not all of these are terribly useful unless we are aware of their purpose, and the contexts in which they can be used. So here we are, it is Christmas Eve and Santa is now struggling to use the tools he has been given to help him load his sleigh.

Part of being a good mathematician is not just being able to do the math, but is also about reasoning and thinking about which tools and strategies match the task. This Bar Chart was the starting point for this weeks maths sessions with my class. Was this the right tool to help Santa with the jobs he needed to do before setting out on his journey? If not how could we use the information we had to help us devise another tool that would make Santa's job of packing the sleigh easier.

The week was based on a teaching sequence that I hoped would allow students to explore how this information might be transformed and reprepresented, we carried out our own class survey, using a familiar device the pictogram, as a tally chart to help collect our data. We discussed the gifts that we would like for Christmas drawing and labeling these on sticky labels, then coming together to group and sort these on freize paper. We then discussed what we could see, focussing on the idea of this chart as a story. What story was our emerging "tally chart" telling us? Exploring the pictogram as a starting point and data source, we began to identify tools that were missing that might help our reader better understand what we had recorded. There was no title, and as the discussion unfolded an x axis was added, to label the gift categories. This too needed a label so our reader would understand that these were gifts, not random items. Since we had been working on scales, in one form or another for the last couple of weeks, one student suggested that another line could be added up the side and numbers marked in, our chart could have a scale and it could count in ones, (hmm perhaps we could add a y axis?) This scale would also need a label so readers could understand what it meant. The students were encouraged discussed the story again, and this time as the students commented these were recorded on the whiteboard as if responses to questions, before being asked to work in pairs to rewrite these as questions, rehearsing them aloud and remembering to include appropriate punctuation. Both our new hybrid pictogram, student comments and group questions were displayed to support the next session.

During session 2 we returned to the pictogram/tally we had developed yesterday, and the students were introduced to other ways of tallying, we could tick tally, this was abit like our pictogram as a data source, we had to count individual ticks, or images, but another way of representing the data we had collected the day before was to use a five bar gate system, and here we could use "clever counting," counting in groups of 5 and adding remainders. We began by asking how many students were in school yesterday. The children initially guessed, but were reminded of the tool we had used to help us think about gifts for Christmas. How could we use this tool to help us find the answer? If our survey was accurate, it would include one choice of gift from everyone who was here. The process of counting every block as with every tick, is laborious, but we soon agreed that there were 24 students in school. We began to talk about how we could have made counting easier, and I introduced the idea of five bar gate tallying, working through each column on our chart one at a time to build a running total, we had 5 sets of 5 and 4 left over this is 24. To model this system of tallying we carried out another quick but unrelated survey, using Mark Cogan's "Tally chart" ITP, observing what happened, when we reached 5. The students were asked why they thought this system might be called a 5 bar gate, and responses directed us to how the recording looked like a gate, with 4 uprights, and a cross through. Using our data from yesterday the students were encouraged to make their own tally charts, adding a total column. As a class these were then reviewed as we re represented this data, as a class frequency table in Excel, on the IWB. This final step in the session was a preparatory stage for our third session.

Session three involved us in looking at scales, and introducing the y axis. A helpful supporting rhyme for this came from my colleague as "y for the sky," an image which the children seemed to find useful. We began the session with a counting stick, counting horizontally in multiples of two, five and ten, before turning the stick to the vertical position as we had done with other scales last week and carrying out prediction tasks, eg if this is 0 and this is 100, what might each division in our scale be? How do we know? Where might 50 be? What about 20? 30? 25? and so on. 3 different images of yesterday's data were shared in the form of bar charts generated from the class frequency table and discussed. What could we see? What stories were they telling? This lead to children pointing out changes in the way the y axis scales were formed, one was counting in 2s, one 3's and the other 5s. The columns on the chart were all different, "no they weren't... they were different sizes but they had the same numbers in them.." beginning to refer back to previous sessions on scale some of the students began to recognise that even though the appearence of the chart content was different in each case, the scale on the y axis was determining how these numbers would be shown, and rather than each chart representing a different story, this remained the same, while how the chart represented the the story visually changed according to our choice of scale. This lead to a discussion of the importance of axis labels and titles. For the rest of the session the students were given paper charting frames, in which to represent the data we had collected, and challenged to include y axis scales, adding axis labels and good titles that would help their readers, understand the story their chart was telling.

With previous groups of older students I have used Excel to do this task, the students working in pairs to create charts and add labels at the computer. Although being pleased with the level of understanding the children generally achieved through this task the final outcomes showed some misunderstandings, not around charts, the visual representation was fine, but the paper based tool I had given for individual work. The label frames on the y axis seeming to cause particular problems, for some students who used this not to add labels, but to include their scales. On reflection, I think when I do this again, I will organise the group differently, having them work on the paper frame in pairs, and encouraging talking twos. We also need to consider the placement of numerical values on the y axis, we have not done any number track work this term, but student experiences, lead them not to mark intervals in some cases on the scale divisions, but in the spaces between, which may have been a confusion with how the x axis was organised on this chart type, or the tool they were offered, and is something I need to revisit and address in one more session. Although useful as an exercise in applying what they knew, it might have been better to build up the chart in stages, beginning with the addition of the scale first, moving to titles and labels as a class, before allowing the students to add the data.

Our final stage of the task was to ask which if any of these charts would be helpful to Santa when he began to load his sleigh. The discussion was great and the conclusions of the class resounding, all of the charts help him load it, but would be of little use when he came to deliver. He would need something more. Getting the gifts on the sleigh at one end was fine, but how would he know where to deliver them, and who was to get what. He could use a tally chart, or a frequency table with a check list/tick box to ensure that he had the right number of each gift, but to be extra safe he would need a list of addresses so he could unload at the children's houses when he got there.

Number play and exploration of the relationships between number and data, during my research project literature review, has been shown as something we rarely get to as an inherent part of data handling activity. A growing body of research shows that students involved in data handling activity, frequently spend more time drawing and colouring in graphs, than they do engaging with them to support questioning and reasoning and so rarely have time to use these for their intended purposes, as problem solving tools. The discussion, questioning and reasoning activity that began to emerge from this series of tasks was really useful in laying the foundations for future work, and I am looking forward to further work later, building on these foundations when we use data handling software together to engage with investigational activities around other themes later.


Low-Cost Multi-touch Whiteboard using the Wii Remote

Just picked this up from my feeds, again as something to return to later and follow, how Johnny Chung Lee of Carnegie Mellon University, has used the Wii Remote, and pens modified to emit infrared to create a portable multitouch whiteboard that also works as an input device for potential collaborative engagement on a host of other work surfaces. With the excitement that Microsoft Surface generated for me when I saw it earlier in the year, this solution, is a really interesting idea. It does not have all the bells and whistles, that "surface" as a commercial solution is likely to provide, but from a classroom perspective the ability for more than one student to work on the same surface at the same time, with tools we already have available to us, means this is a potentially exciting resource. In addition, as is demonstrated in the video below, using tools based on this, every surface in the classroom onto which you can project a computer desktop, becomes a potential multiuser interactive space. Currently using the solution may mean a visit to Tandy or Radio Shack, but considering the costs of installing IWBs, this solution, will surely require some rethink or redesign on the part of our current providers. I was made aware a few weeks back that the most recent Hitachi Board model includes multitouch features, but have not seen any proposals or demonstrations with other boards so far, it will be interesting to see as this idea emerges further if commercial producers will make or develop an infrared stylus, that can be sold separately for use with the Wii remote. What will also be interesting is how or if the cost of such tools will equate with the £40 to £50 pound price tag that this solution offers as is, in posts published by Ewan McIntosh and Will Richardson that directed me here.

There is still the cost projectors to consider, but this initial solution cuts potential costs considerably. Maybe with the addition of an open source, cross platform, object based software suite, that enables use of legacy file formats from other IWB software suites, this will have an impact on the solutions offered by IWB providers. Below is a video of Johnny demonstrating his innovation, you can also find his original you tube post, here amazing and inspirational.

Oh what Fun it is to ... Elf Yourself

Thanks to Keith and Scott for pointing me to OfficeMax's Elf Yourself, it really cheered me up. My first problem was to find a picture. Though you don't need one, and can use presets, I decided on a new use for a Y6 Caricature created of me last Summer, and made this. Really good fun, must try to find a space for my class to have a look next week and see what they can do.


Geotagging with Lucy

Just talking through, sharing and bandying some ideas with a colleague about how we might use Quikmaps to support our geography project next term. How to organise use of this tool with the whole class has been flagged as a potential issue, but by planning in and developing table top tasks as research activities allowing data collection before creating class or group maps as a final or ongoing outcome, should help with this. Look forward to writing about and sharing these later.


Google For Schools

Received an envelope full of glossy goodies from Google this morning, introducing Google For UK Schools. The space includes some interesting project ideas starting points and support materials for using Google Earth and Google Maps involving geotagging as well as search tutorials for students, and presenting some gadgets that may be of particular interest to teachers. I like the idea of the "Fair Trade and Chocolate" project, which seems to me to have some interesting possibilities for using geotagging to help students understand the origins of the foods they eat.

Next term we will be engaging with a geography based topic where we will be trying to integrate work on food and eating. This has set me thinking about how it might be interesting to adapt this to think about the journey of a meal. Perhaps beginning with food labels researching the origins of the ingredients, or even making a visit to the local supermarket, to photograph and note where the fruits and vegetables in our local five a day come from. The countries of origin could be geotagged by students using my quikmaps account, or following table top tasks as part of a shared session, for inclusion in our class blog or year group community pages. Maybe we could add these to our growing interactive school atlas, and be embedded in Tizz's Travels. Well some "food" for thought anyway. There are some interesting possibilities for this idea, and I am sure this would make an interesting starting point, not only for supporting understanding of our "place in space," but could be extended with older students around issues of global responsibility, sustainability and fair trade.


Spell With Flickr

Just found this great link, Via Twitter, and a visit to Thinking Past The Square, a blog by a Y3-4 teacher in Auckland. Spell With Flickr, enter a word, after a short wait, if available it returns image tiles from Flickr that match your search. It also returns code enabling the images to be embedded. This is what was returned when I typed in my name.

S seconds I M O_McElman_070709_0156 n

It reminded me of the fun my Y3 class had a while back with hieroglyphic writing tools on sites such as this at the University of Pensylvania's, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, where I made this Cartouche showing my name.

And also a Y4 class who loved using Viking Rune tools like the one I found here on the PBS Network, (unfortunately I couldn't embed my new found Viking name "Longshanks.") Students do find it fascinating and fun to play with ancient alphabets. To add another dimension to spelling and handwriting sessions, I downloaded a Futhark alphabet font set from Simply the Best a while back, and used these to make decoding games that really challenged some of the students thinking about how our alphabet works as a set of "sound pictures."


Food For Thought: Personalised Learning

From my Twitter feeds this morning I followed a link "challenging Assumptions," to a site colleague Linda Hartley had recently read, and as a result was directed to this thought provoking animation about personalised learning, provided by personalised learning now. Thanks Linda, I am flagging the site and animation here as a space to return to, and the animation as something to share with colleagues, when we think about the potential affordances of learning platforms. I feel we need to find a frame for showing that although these tools may mean additional work in learning how to use them, in the long term they require us to look beyond the technology, and not to see them as teaching and delivery devices that we fit into our current models of practice, but as resources and spaces that can enable and facilitate means of looking at teaching and learning differently. With a new set of technologies, perhaps we can find space to begin to reflect upon and explore new views of the "classroom."

I like the context for the animation, which embeds the historical context of current schooling within the Forster Act, the view continues through out the animation showing how schools and schooling, but particularly how cultural views of the learner and learning seem to have have changed little, despite changes and technological developments since that time. The confused Martian from a world where distributed knowledge, networked learning, conversation and shared meaning making are recognised and day to day features of personalised education, provides a powerful image of the differences between personalised catologued curricular, and the one hat fits all delivered curriculum paradigm we are currently so fond of. I apologise in advance if my interpretations and this summary oversimplify the presentation, check it out. I guess what excited and stimulated me most was how what is presented herebegan to help me link ideas that emerged during recent inspirational presentations given by Professor Stephen Heppell and Lord Puttenham. Thanks again Linda.


On The Way Home: Podcast Published

This evening I have published our latest class podcast episode, "On The Way Home." The episode is the outcome of a writing unit I reflected on in my post "Talking For Writing", dated 22/11/07, and can be found on both my learning to podcast space, and our class podcast station. I am incredibly proud of the outcome, the students worked really hard to achieve the performance. Well done Y3. I hope you enjoy.


Text Jumble

Have just picked this online fridge magnet and text tumbler tool up from my feeds via Joe Dale. Already got my mind whizzing with the possibilities it has for talking for writing, sentence and text rehearsal tasks and generating silly sentences on the interactive whiteboard.

Units of Measure: Might quikmaps help visualise big units in the locality?

This week we have been thinking about the relationships between units of measures, presenting an image of a cm and a m is fine, but how do you present a picture of 1km to a group of 7 year olds? I was pondering this evening on how useful quikmaps might be for this, estimating and plotting out the distance in the locality. Driving into school this morning I used the odometer in my car to help me rough out a kilometre so I could share it with my class, and this evening have set up a blog to use as a modelling tumble. What do you think, this map features a prominent landmark and an imaginary walk which is approx 1km long?


Tracking Santa

Check out this years Tracking Santa offering from NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command). This year they seem to have teamed up with Google. Thanks to the Witshire ICT Nuggets Blog for the update.


Repeating Patterns and DT: A Christmas Card Project For KS2

Even though I often express concern about our over reliance on the QCA scheme of work units, they are still incredibly useful starting points for thinking about activities or sequences of work we might develop with students. Unit 4b developing images and repeating patterns is a nice starting point for developing images, in a range of graphics packages while introducing the sometimes bizarre vocabulary that relates to how these tools work, and one which I used to frame my favourite unit of work for Y4 students.

The about this unit section says in this unit children will

  • learn to develop visual ideas
  • realise these ideas using ICT.
  • use a computer graphics package to explore and experiment with ideas, amending and modifying their work to meet specific outcomes.
  • learn to save their work as they go along (I would hope that by Y4 they are consolidating this).
  • learn to use ICT tools appropriately and to select areas of an image to cut, copy and change. learn to export their work to other packages and import images from sources such as clip art, scanner or digital camera.

The key statement for me in this whole introduction is that "children will apply what they have learnt in this unit... to produce pictures, plans and maps in art, design and technology, and.. (or).. geography." When I originally designed my unit of work the series of tasks that evolved focused around the Design and make Process for a Christmas card, embedding the ICT skills in moving towards this outcome.

The outcome for the "integrated task" says that children should use

"a variety of materials, created on and away from the computer, and use them to make a final image." This I interpreted to mean, drawing on available designs as well as the use of additional ICT tools and resources. The remainder of this post describes the process in its DT context, through ICT

IDEAS (Investigative, Disassembly and Evaluative Activities)

This unit was designed to fit with and work alongside a mechanisms unit for Design and Technology, where the design brief was to design and make an animated Christmas card. Students were provided with examples of existing cards, to evaluate, discussing and drawing from these common themes and ideas. In ICT sessions we also used the internet to explore Christmas scenes and images. We began also to use tools in Microsoft Paint to develop wire frames, of common Christmas Motifs. We focused on how shape tools could be used to form skeleton structures around which to develop our images, saving individual images, that might later be used as "stamps" in the composition of larger Christmas scenes.

FPTs (Focussed Practical Tasks)

The intention of any DT project is that all children should be able to realise a quality outcome, and in order to achieve this they must be provided with available designs to evaluate , innovate on and or develop. In class the students engaged in a range of making tasks, that involved them in constructing predefined mechanisms, rotary window type designs, the use of cams and lever based mechanisms, pop ups and sliders. As we engaged the students were required to evaluate as a class the outcomes they were creating. Drawing on previous experiences with cards, which parts of the images might we be able to animate, and which of the mechanisms might we use to enable this to happen. In my classroom I see FPTs as early prototyping activities, spaces and activities through which students can begin to visualise the relationships between the skills input, and the final design outcomes they hope to develop. Gill Hope, presents some really interesting ideas about design and technology in the Primary School, and the dangers inherent in requiring young children to draw and record what they want to make before they begin, design as a process is an ongoing sand iterative process, evolving continually as we evaluate and appraise our progress, and solve problems. Prototyping is a key area in the design process, and one which I feel should be as practical as possible. During DT activities, I am never without my digital camera, as I find this is one of the most powerful tools I have available to record and document student activity, and frequently use images captured through the use of Powerpoint to document learning stories. DT it seems for many is a real issue in terms of maintaining evidence, where do we store it? I find my hard drive or flash drive is ideal!?

In ICT sessions the students, were also encouraged to prototype, as we developed our wireframes, using fill tools, brushes, zoom copy and paste to add detail to our motifs. Our outcome in ICT was also to make a Christmas Card, but to use a desk top publisher to eventually achieve our design outcome. The children were taught how to use their motifs to construct a Christmas scene, and to use copy and paste techniques to develop a simple repeating pattern based on example of Christmas Wrapping paper designs we had discussed. This gave opportunities to discuss layering and transparent or opaque selections, and their effects on the images we were producing, to discuss how new layers pasted appeared on top of previous images pasted and the need to pre think and plan sequentially the order in which we would import, or paste our motifs to the image using our chosen tool. Using the transparent select tool we were able to make underlying layers show through, but once the imported section of our image was deselected, the only way back was through the undo tool. This really brought home the reasons why we need to "cascade save" after significant changes have been made. When we had made our wrapping paper designs students were encouraged to experiment with different fill colours, and to think about which made their paper appear most christmassy!!!

The DMA (Design and Make Activity)

In DT sessions the students, made "mock ups," and working models which were separate initially from their cards. They went through processes of trial and error, drawing on the mechanism designs they were familiar with to bring about the effects they were trying to achieve, and when happy that their designs met the success criteria we had established earlier from our design brief, applied their mechanism to a card. These cards then were decorated to match the effect required. Some children used images and objects developed in ICT sessions to apply to their cards.

In ICT, the children now had a range of motifs and design types they had developed that they could use to make their Christmas Card. We used Microsoft Publisher to do this, beginning from a design Wizard, the students used the the step by step process to generate their own Christmas card writing frames. Choosing from the images they had developed they were able to recreate the card the way they wanted it to look, innovating on the presented design to include/import their own images, and to drag them around the page to where they would like to put them. They could also include text in the form of text boxes or through the use of Word Art, and add borders and boxes to break up the pages they were making. Using Publisher in this way the students were also engaging in visual prototyping, discussing the effects they were creating and and making decisions about which images they would like to include and why? Considering text effects, and how these impacted on the overall design and personal aesthetic they wanted to bring to the document. The students were able to use clipart to reform the border art they wanted to apply, or to bring in additional web based or clipart images. When completed the students were asked to publish the card they wanted to keep and take home to the "Published Work folder" on their home drives. We only allow monochrome printing in the ICT Suite, so black and white mock ups were printed by each child to learn the making process, but each child's individual card was also printed out to card on the Colour Laser Printer we have for special work.

Using the tools on the iBoard Christmas site, our year one students last year were also encouraged to make Christmas scenes. See my very first post Photofiltre and screen printing. I used the print screen function to capture and save the images they had developed, pasting these to a graphics package, cropping them to be saved as .jpg files using the student's names to index them. Using MS publisher, I later imported and printed cards individually, that they were able to fill in with their own greetings. They loved the quality of the output, and were really excited that they were able to give something they had made on the computer to a special someone .

Just thinking now how amazing and exciting it might be to develop this further to combine the DT and ICT elements through the use of the plotter cutter we have recently gained...

A Christmas present From iBoard

I used this set of resources primarily with students in Year 1 last year, though some of our older students also enjoyed playing with this fantastic collection of object based flash tools from the inspirational iBoard Team, at Electronic Blackboard.

Resources include
  • Christmas Shape and Space Activities
  • Getting ready for Christmas: (label and wrapping paper makers, dress up Santa, and mend or even "supe up"his sleigh, being among the tools available here)
  • Christmas Writing: (drag and Drop Writing frames for letters and so on)
  • and a collection of Christmas Shopping activities

There are 19 activities in all available to use free here, the students who used them loved the tools, I hope you do too, and that your experiences encourage you to explore further the fantastic Foundation and Key Stage One focussed tools they develop.

Christmas is Coming 2: A Thought For The Day

Using Podium for students to hear their internal voice, might be a powerful use for the tool in guided reading time. I am already beginning to see the benefits of using Podium to help my year 3 students recognise the importance of expression when reading aloud, but a lovely idea I think at this time of year, would be for older students to engage either with bible stories, or familiar and Traditional Christmas tales. Choosing stories that perhaps give a particular message and recording these to share, as either a "thought for the day," type program or series, or that might be used by younger students on the classroom PC as a listening centre. Perhaps by including the PC or teacher laptop as one of the Guided Reading options, students could share a book or text alongside an older students performance, enabling younger or emergent readers to hear a model of how the text can be read.

Hearing Thoughts for the day, short expressions about the things I like or look forward to about Christmas, memories of previous Christmases or even colleagues and community members recording their thoughts and memories about Christmas when they were a child, would make powerful tools for thinking about what this festival means to different people, and how it has changed over time, enabling and supporting discussions about the significance and meaning of the festival. I have to admit to being curious too, about how a public might react to primary school students sharing Christmas messages through this type of public broadcast, in tandem with those we often hear from Politicians, religious figures and celebrities at this time of year.

Christmas Is Coming

Just spent the last couple of hours adding the finishing touches to our school's Christmas Pages and resource share space. Last year we also had a set of Christmas Pages on our website, but it in its format at the time the site was only a couple of months old. By this time last year our visitor count was around 1000, but since then has risen to over 25000 hits. I am hoping that the addition of these pages will draw not only our students to visit with their parents, but a host of other visitors from around the world, as we set out to send our "greetings to the World," and work to develop our image as a "Global School."

Our "greetings to the World," are developing slowly, but some of the students have begun to Use as a community space, practicing their email, internet and emerging web 2.o skills, to create Christmas pages of their own. The idea being that they will either, download images from the web, or create their own, uploading these to their Think spaces, adding a wish or greeting for the world, before sending a message to me that it is ready for inclusion in the school website. Adding to the website is a matter of download, copy and paste or insert using my choice of Web Development tool Ms FrontPage.

Some students have begun to expand on this remembering the pages we had on display last year, sending Christmas Funnies, or simple poems they have developed, and these too will be added to the space to celebrate their independent achievements.

Within the pages I have included links to some of the Websites I have used to support ICT activity in the classroom, these links are generally cross curricular in nature, but include things such as clipart site, links to pages about Christmas traditions around the world, and favourite site used by me with students from KS 1 last year, the iBoard online activities pages. There are also a number of resources and tools developed, for use with students, and some links to sections of the school website, describing and displaying student ICT outcomes around Christmas themes.

This year I am also interested in how we might begin to use the space to encourage colleagues to have a go at using Podium to develop simple podcasts, though time is short, and space to share this with colleagues limited I am convinced that the simplicity of the tool will enable colleagues to see how quickly they can prepare and develop a performance piece for publication. One idea I have shared is the notion of students performing their sections of the school performance, in class with these being recorded for upload. Another idea which has had mixed reaction is the idea of students creating a thought for the day type program, that could be developed during Guided Reading sessions, based on either reading from an available text or performance of something they have written and prepared. I have also proposed that if colleagues are unsure about the tool, if students rehearse and refine their performances, recording could be done using laptops during student Golden Time, and that I would be happy to work with small groups during this time. I would also be interested to see the quality of output from this tool, if we try to record students singing Christmas Carols and songs in real time, but this is an experiment for later.


Making a Molehill Out Of A Mountain: Ramblings and Reflections

Explaining how I plan or visualise the learning routes I design for my students has often been a headache for me, since I haven't found a visual model to help me explain. The IKEA man image I presented in a previous post, although describing my behaviour during the planning process, somehow didn't really explain how I see this process in my head. In order not to make a mountain out of a molehill, I have made a molehill out of a mountain instead, and in this post wanted to share a visual model I am currently working on with my students to help break the processes we engage with into steps while supporting us in working towards the outcomes I want to achieve. I would like to thank Di Pardoe for the idea behind this image, and for the inspirational work she did with us around assessment for learning practices, in recent years.

I mentioned in my IKEA Man post how concerned I was becoming that when we look at planning frameworks, particularly like those presented in the QCA schemes of work, we tend not to look at the end product first, or the outcome we want to achieve. A learning focus often taking a back seat to the need to deliver. This may seem strange to some of us, plans are essentially linear after all, we move from point a to point b and then we can do c. Our plans might be, but classroom learning as a long conversation, provides many first hand experiences of how when engaging with students, the assumptions we make during planning, can quickly become unravelled, leading to more complex situations and requirements than we intended or expected. Recent events have required my reflection on this and to find a way of formalising visually, the processes I want to engage with in supporting student learning and to guide classroom visitors and myself toward seeing where we are now and how this has been achieved, modelling how the small tasks and activities in our learning process are leading towards desired and intended outcomes. I still feel it is important that we and the students see the big picture, to ensure understanding of how the steps or processes that evolve link to the way we are approaching these goals, and using the Maths Mountain above is enabling me to begin fulfilling many of these needs. It enables students to participate in the journey we have taken so far and to see where we are to go next as we traverse our topic. On the top of the mountain goes the big objective, or target outcome for the week, and at stages or stopping off points up the mountain the smaller objectives to be achieved are displayed. We have a character who climbs the mountain with us as the week progresses, and during our plenaries we review the sessions and make decisions using traffic lights about whether we can move on up the path. In our final sessions we engage with a problem or a puzzle involving the steps we have developed to review where we are. This simple visual device is helping me to improve the transparency of the processes we engage in, and currently flexible enough to allow small diversions, while focusing my attention and guiding my conversation toward the intended outcomes of each session, allowing at a glance for feedforward and feedback around the steps in our journey and the possibility of insight for students and visitors to where we will be going next.

After attending the Year 3 numeracy sessions held in Bristol today I have been considering how this tool might also support another issue, that of evidence of learning. The practical nature of the teaching and learning processes shared and outlined today by our colleagues, and the emphasis on talk as a process I have over time come to recognise as "thinking together" is in stark contrast with school based requirements to have children record all outcomes. I was interested to hear the question "Why are we doing this? raised, is it for the students, for their parents, for the inspector or maths coordinator? One suggestion made to free us from this concern was that we list the things students had done in a word processor and to copy and paste these to create cut outs that could be stuck into student's books at the end of the week, or to perhaps capture photographs of students engaged in practical work and discussion to be added. This essentially might turn the student's maths book into a learning log, where some pages have student recording, while others outlined learning outcomes or showed images of learning in the first instance generated by the teacher. This fascinates me since it parallels much of the work I have been doing for my Degree on "Narratives of Learning." As a result this evening I am toying with the idea of producing in a smaller format the maths mountain for students to use with our existing green for go and pink for think colour coding system, so they can use the I can statements included in our class mountain, to share with each other their personal progress towards the class targets set, perhaps helping to take ownership of the learning we engage in. Perhaps at significant stages in the process, during plenaries or as part of a morning task the students might be encouraged to highlight or later annotate these with sentences about their work, putting the vocabulary they are engaging with into practice, or illustrating the mountain with examples of what we have been learning. Perhaps the addition of a problem or puzzle to be worked together, could also be used to provide additional evidence of their ability to use and apply the skills and experiences gained during their practical work. I was really drawn to the power of the idea of encouraging children to express themselves, what they have gained from a set of practical activities, rather than forcing an activity merely to model it for an often remote audience. As professionals, the idea of our plans as records of learning, even though as an assessment support teacher I used to advocate this, somehow right now doesn't seem to cut the mustard in some circles, and so this for me right now is certainly worth further consideration. I would be grateful for any comments that might support this idea.

(Having just reread this I have amended the title, it is a bit of a ramble, perhaps I should have called it High on a Hill stood a ... it seemed to make sense at the time Ed.)


NPS Teaching Tools for Mathematics and Some Other Goodies

One of my colleagues on the Y3 Primary Maths Day today mentioned how she had found it difficult to find the ITPs, that on the Numeracy Strategy Pages were all in one place. Resource files available on the new site are also grouped together and listed for download from the following pages.

Long before the NPS discovered and began publishing Excel based resources this site, , was a regular haunt of mine, the free download pages provide access to a number of really interesting and powerful Excel based interactive tools and resources, including support sheets and materials, as well as some cool PowerPoints. I have downloaded and used a number of these in the past, and particularly liked the Excel symmetry tools, which my previous year 4 classes loved using, Some of the worksheet generators were also quite useful time savers in creating Notebook pages for consolidation and practice activities, input the number ranges, generate the calculations and select and print to notebook. It was through visiting this site, that I first encountered MSW LOGO, the programing environment, free for educational use, that I now have installed and available for use by students. The children like its no frills look so much, many have downloaded it at home to use on their own computers. Onsite they have some nice resources and ideas available to use with with this tool too.

I'm not usually one for ready mades, but if you are looking for hands on tools, editable and printable templates or support materials for class use then why not pay a visit to The Leicester Maths Web, flip flaps, follow mes, Tables Fold Ups, place value grids, target boards, and much more.


Welcome to My Classroom: Images from a Learning Walk

My blog is primarily about ICT and Learning, but I am a classroom teacher, and not every hour of my working day is spent using the computer. To prove it here are some photos from my classroom. Last week we had some colleagues visit us from our local secondary school for a learning walk. During their visit they were encouraged to leave messages for us in the form of post it notes about features they liked, or thought would be useful in ther own classrooms. In class as well as our blog, we keep a scrapbook, of things that happen and exciting moments in our learning. I took some photographs of some of the areas of our classroom that my visiting colleagues liked and mentioned, to include in this and share with the students. To show I am not an entirely virtual teacher I thought I would also also share them here with you.

The students were not in for the visit, but this photograph shows something else that our colleagues really liked, the plants that every group have to look after in the middle of their group tables.

This is our target board, the kites are our numeracy targets, the balloons our literacy targets. As we begin to show evidence of these in our work, the kites and balloons begin to rise towards them.

Maths mountain, at the summit is our end of unit objective, and from the base of the mountain upwards the targets we are trying to hit on the way. We have a character who climbs the mountain with us and we use them to help us review our position on the mountain during plenary and opening sessions of our numeracy hour. This structure is helping not only the students but me to plot, track and find our way through the units of work we engage with. It is also helping me to structure my planning and focus my thinking about progression through our work on a weekly basis.

This is one of several Tudor displays in class. It is about Henry VIII and his Six Wives. The concertina books were highlighted as nice features, 3 d elements that drew our visitors in. They tell the story of how king Henry liked to spend his day. The black tights centre right are left over from a previous science display, that I haven't gotten round to taking down. We set the children a challenge to devise a fair test, to see which material would be stretchiest, as Henry was getting older he was getting too large for his tights, his hosiers worried about their heads needed to decide on a material that might fit over his ample frame. Which material could they use to make tights for the king, that would stretch to fit.

This is our learning tree, the leaves have on them things that the students have found interesting or exciting things they have learned, we use them for review, as well as for recording things we would like to celebrate about others as learners or good community members. Around the trunk are our Tudor Me's, framed self portraits, dressed in the tudor style. We have also published these to our communtiy pages on the school website. The thing I was really excited about was how much our visitors wanted tt celebrate the use of ICT by my students, they enjoyed the digital displays available from the school website, and the student voice we were able to bring into the classroom, even though they were visiting afterschool through use of the year group podcast site and Interactive Whiteboard.


Talking for Writing: Using a Picture Book as a Multimodal Text To Develop a Script for Podcasting

Just finished the first weeks planning of our new writing unit, and am really excited, having persuaded my collegue that the writing outcomes for work developed might be a series of short whole class podcasts. The unit of work relates to play scripts, and the obvious links within this are that as a written form scripts are intended for oral and visual performance. We discussed how it would be interesting to begin using the context of the unit as a vehicle to explore some of the ways in which speech forms are encountered multimodally within texts, as this links nicely with the way we have begun to approach punctuation for reading in class so far this term, and begins the students on a journey towards our could target.

Our starting point is a familiar story, and we have chosen to use "On The Way Home" by Jill Murphy. I love this text, a picture book based shaggy dog tale, about a little girl, with a "bad knee!" On her way home to tell mum all about it she meets various friends, who greet her, are told about her bad knee, and then subjected to an increasingly elaborate series of explanations and tales about how the injury was gained. What is lovely is the ending, "just how did she get her bad knee?" "Well.... I was p..." I don't want to spoil this and since we want the students to innovate on the story, perhaps you might visit our podcast when we publish to find out.

The page format for "On the Way Home" borrows many of its visual elements from the comic strip genre. Each double fold page being split into panes, that illustrate the story in beautiful and incredibly detailed visuals. The Character presentations in Jill Murphy's illustrations, offer fantastic opportunities for discussion not only around the written text but for developing inferential work, from gesture and expression to talk about feelings they may be experiencing, this inturn offers possibilities for unpicking how the words spoken by a character might be expressed. We have decided to use this as a platform to develop writing frames and Smart Notebook pages to encourage students individually, in small groups and as a class to discuss events, and consider what characters might be saying and how they might be saying them.

Using punctuation spotter activities with extracts from the book as a shared text, we want to extract character dialogue, adding these to the images through speech bubbles to present visual models of speech. Developments from this for students themselves to create their own page for a class book, replacing Claire the central character in Jill Murphy's story with a student from our class who meets friends from school on the way home. Over the course of the week, we intend the students to script a short passage of dialogue beginning in comic strip format, expanding this to think about how they and the friend they meet are saying things. Drawing on the rich visuals in the original text we want to draw out and develop a wordbank including new and familiar speech verbs, that can be applied as the students create there own dialogue, recording and adding these to our WOW word wall.

Since we are going to podcast our outcome, use of descriptive phrases and adjectives will be required to add depth and richness to the content our listeners recieve. Using "rub and reveal" activities, with the cover illustration from the book, we will begin by playing vocabulary games, to help extend the complexity of description given by the students. The WOW words used and collected can also be recorded and added to our WOW word wall for use as we progressively develop our short scripts over the sessions. Playing games the students will be encouraged to be "Claire" or the "class character" we have chosen, and to use sentence starters we collect from the text and develop such as "Weeeell!...." or "it was like this!..." "From nowhere a .... appeared!" "As I was...." and so on to rehearse and present exagerated descriptions, that we can draw on as models for writing in the dialogue we present. We use actions in our speech based activities, to mark punctuation types in spoken sentences and phrases as we speak and rehearse, and these will also form part of the development process through the games we play.

Throughout the week, while focussing on talk for writing within shared sessions we also want to use text book based materials to introduce and model how speech marks, are used to mark what is said by characters. Using speech bubble activities and punctuation spotter activities during shared work will help we hope to model the role they play, and also enable us to revisit prior work on special full stops such as question marks and exclamation marks. Usng student's written speech in bubbles, visual context cues and exercises we want to encourage the students to think about and rehearse speech; returning as we go on to consider how the choice of additional punctuation marks we have already worked on might influence how things are said, and how speech verbs will support this.

Our Big write on Friday this week will hopefully be a process of illustrating our class book and an opportunity for students to record their section of our podcast. Over the course of the week using modelled support the students will have gradually created in comic strip format, a short passage of dialogue between themselves and the class based "Claire" character, and an exagerated explanation of how they got their bad knee. These will then be recorded using the chapter tool in Podium as a dialogue between two children working in pairs, using the context sentences they produce as narration, to link additional dialogue created by other students as we build up the final podcast in chapters. The original story opener read by my colleague, and the close by myself to each story, having been modified to fit with the class characters chosen. The idea being that as we introduce play scripts formally next week, we will have an available class design to draw on helping us to make links between the text types used this week, the picture book, the comic strip and the podcast as we begin to discuss and identify the purposes that the formal structures of a playscript play.

I would like Podium to play a developmental role as a shared writing tool the week after next week, drawing on the "script writer" within the software enviroinment to help model how dialogue is organised within the play script environment. In a comment left by Doug, a couple of weeks ago about my post Reading With Expression: Punctuation for Podcasting With Year 3 he said:

"I would be really interested to hear/read about the role that the 'script writer' in Podium could/did play in this task. The move from text to speach through the study of punctuation strikes me as a very powerful thing indeed."

Hopefully as this unit unfolds I will be able to engage with some of these ideas in a practical context, and be able to provide concrete examples. For me becoming a reader or writer, is more than a process of encoding or decoding. In our multimedia world it is increasingly a journey towards gaining understanding of how text in a variety of forms is used to represent and share an inner voice or visualisation. One of the exciting things about using Podium with my class is that after the giggles and "barge" at the text approach we encountered at the beginning of term, students racing to complete their input; on hearing their own voice several students are beginning to think about what they say and how they say things when they are reading, and this is beginning to impact on how they approach the writing process too. It was exciting on Friday, as you can see from the photographs supporting this post, to see students for the first time rereading what they had written. One student in writing about how Henry VIII had married his brother's wife, asking "did I think he felt guilty about this?" Going on in the text he finally produced to hypothesise that he might have...?

The role or potential role of the Podium Scripting tool, in the development of understanding around the place of punctuation for reading is a potentially powerful one, and one which I am keen to explore and exploit, building on the current experiences we are providing with visual and oral textual models. It will be interesting to return to this as the writing unit progresses, and particularly as we begin to use the script writer as a dynamic resource to focus in on features of play scripts. Within this I am particularly drawn to providing an existing story imported to the scripting tool, to be reworked together as a class using the affordances of the interface to model how the format used by Podium in the allocation of roles, within a performance, mirrors formats we encounter in formal play script models we share. Using this to transform visually and dynamically the text on screen as we go, may help develop understanding of why inclusion of stage directions, or narration within the text we create will be neccesary, and seems to me a very powerful imaging role for the tool. I look forward to sharing this further as we explore the tool and processes involved.


Playing with my Voki: EULAs and E Safety

I am busily preparing an esafety assembly, a reminder about our Internet 3 Bees for tomorrow. As I was downloading images to share, as starting points around some of the sites I know my students use regularly I suddenly thought how useful it would be to show a EULA or part of one anyway, one of those documents that appear online when we register for a service that highlight our responsibilities as users. If you are like me I frequently flick through, these clicking the accept button, but since exploring web 2.0 spaces and how they might be used, and in the light of e safety concerns, I have been increasingly drawn to read through some of these, focussing as a primary teacher on the "age limitations" presented by those offering the service.

Tomorrow in revisiting our Internet 3 bees, I now feel that I need to draw these documents to the attention of colleagues and students alike, inorder model the need to involve parents when they want to engage in online activities and before entering into any online agreements. This is particualrly important for us in light of the fact that we use which has a rather lengthy EULA, that constitutes a contract between school and Oracle. It is easy to bypass these, in the midst of excitement about the potential of online tools but when visiting the Voki site this evening, I was reminded that the age limit placed in their site EULA is 13. This is also the case for sites such as MSN, Google and social networking sites but the wordy legalise of EULAs means they are not easily accessible and students and parents may not be aware of the responsibilities they have, or choose not to engage with them. Even though it would be a shame for such potentially powerful tools not to be used, in the primary sector it is really important that we are aware of these, and that because of this any use of such tools, be developed with and through parental partnership, or class based accounts, inorder that we comply with the EULAs presented.

Anyway having been the Mr Grumpy, I agreed to the EULA at Voki, (being just a little older than 13) and have had a play this evening adding part of one of our class podcasts as a backing track. I think it would be great to have a class designed character, who would be able to appear on our blog to share what we have been doing, or to celebrate in a different student's voice a particularly fine piece of work, or in a piece of news. Using Podium the track can be recorded very easily, and exported as an MP3, I am thinking it would be great to upload this file together as a class alongside their blog entry, and share with their parents.

Get a Voki now!


Yesterday, One for the Staffrooom Wall

It seems that missing data and lost files, in the minds of some colleagues anyway, are always someone elses responsibility, or the result of some system crash that only ever happens to them. I saved it, and now its gone, or my flashdrive had all of my work on it and now it doesn't work. Backing up data is incredibly important, I seem to have a necklace of flashdrives these days, but these always contain files that I have saved elsewhere, and then copied for transport.

As I came across this lovely, (albeit ironic) wall display file from Teach today, I could not help but giggle as I imagined Paul McCartney's dulcet tones, rendering this timeless reminder that backing up data is the responsibility of those who generate it. Not the network manager, technician or ICT Subject Leader. Sung to the tune of an Old Beatles standard, I intend to print several for display, in prominent places about school.


The Craft ROBO Plotter Cutter: Integrating sensing, modelling and control in DT

On Firday last I spent a really enjoyable morning working with a colleague at our local secondary school exploring the Craft ROBO plotter cutter and its associated CAD package. I was really pleased with the Christmas card I finally made, but as a user of the Nuffield DATA Primary DT materials, available freely on line, this tool is now a potentially powerful addition not only to our DT toolbox, but also in support of the modelling and sensing strands of our ICT curriculum. Thanks to Phil for inviting us to take part in the DT project he is developing between a local cluster of Primary schools and his department with the support of the Medlock Charitable Trust. I left yesterday, at lunchtime with yet another toy to play with and share, a community sharable object based CAD package and one of these lovely tools.

As a personal professional support tool, I have uploaded these videos to return to later, but thought some of my regular readers might also be interested in taking a look at the tool and its potential uses for themselves.

Video 1: An overview of the Craft ROBO

Video 2: A demonstration of the tool

In terms of modeling, one of the things I liked about the tool is the potential to prototype. Designing on paper first how an object might look before beginning to develop the project in real time. Students can sketch design proposals to paper, and then transfer these designs to the screen, by applying shapes to a work surface in the craft ROBO software package. Being object based these features can be dragged around and placed using layout grids. Turning on snap to grid, means the objects can be dropped and held in place accurately on screen. Using colour coding, the plotter cutter can be instructed which areas to cut, which areas to leave and with the insertion of a biro, the tool is converted to plotter rather than cutter mode. Prototypes and mockups, can be plotted first, and then replacing the biro with a cutting bit, a prototype can be cut using paper first. Inserting dotted lines lead to perforation cuts, being made, that allows for easier folding by small hands, no need for scoring.

After prototyping the full design, can be developed, with photographs or images inserted to the design file. Printing out on a colour printer, leads to the production of a colour net and the addition of "registration marks." which are later used by the cutter to align itself in relation to the design, when instructed to cut. This has alsorts of potential for developing these sessions to discuss sensing and control, within the context of the DT application for which the tool is being used. I am looking forward to trying out this tool with students as christmas approaches, and have already got one or two ideas for how we might use this to develop standard as well as animated christmas cards.


Reading With Expression Follow Up Post 1: Young Henry VIII Poetry Podcast

I have just uploaded episode 1 of the Henry VIII Podcast I began with my Y3 srudents yesterday. If you would like to give it a listen, it can be found by following this Link.


Reading With Expression: Punctuation for Podcasting With Year 3

As I mentioned in an earlier post about Comic Strips, the literacy target we have shared with our students for this term is to remember to include capital letters and full stops when we are writing, and to begin to use exclamation and question marks.

What has been interesting this week is the slowly emerging realisation that punctuation is not actually for the writer, but for the reader. A full stop indicating where a unit of sense making ends in an oral text, and a new unit begins. But also the "hooky bit" and the "line what comes down," above the full stop changes the effect it has. The full stop doesn't change, what we need to decide is how we want what we have written to be said by our reader, and that this will help us to decide whether our full stop requires the addition of these other parts to the mark. Deciding which mark to use requires us to put ourselves in the shoes of our reader.

This week we have been playing a range of table top games, and carrying out theme based activities, which have required the students to read their sentences aloud, working with a partner to "rehearse and write," and then on the basis of what they make, to first of all decide whether their sentences make sense, and to add the capitals and full stops. Following this using a coding system with highlighters, green for go, and pink for think, they have been encouraged to check each others completed sentences, to see if they have remembered their full stop and capital letter, before together deciding if any additions need to be made to the sentence to turn it into a question or an exclamation. To consolidate and practice this process they have really enjoyed reorganising silly sentences, such as "the bone bit the dog" "good a reader am I", rehearsing these together, the latter leading to some interesting dicussion and debate around the rightness and wrongness of answers, as it can be written, as either:

I am a good reader. Or..
Am I a good reader?

Today I used one of the nice examples from the BBC words and Pictures web site, printing it to a smart book for the students to use as a start of the day task.

We are learning about Henry VIII and his six wives at the moment, and I have decided to use extracts from Richard Brassey's brilliant picture book Brilliant Brits : Henry VIII,to help collect ideas and information for the vodcast we will eventually make. Using scanned images to play punctuation spotter games, and to begin discussing how we might read what he has written to an audience through the punctuation clues and cues he has written.

Today the students used an image of Old Henry from the book, to create simile sentences in a ten minute challenge, to describe what they could see. This was followed by an acrostic activity, where from a portrait of Henry as a Young man they were challenged to write a simile sentence for each letter in his name. Some of the outcomes were really lovely, and I decided to begin recording these, performed during the plenary session by the students who wrote them using Podium. The children were so motivated by this they did not want to go out to play, I eventually had to call a stop to the task by promising we woiuld retun to it at the start of tomorrow's session. The thing that really stood out for me from this activity, was just how hard they tried to use the ideas they had begun to learn about the role of punctuation in their work, for some this was remembering to pause at the full stop, though for others trying to add expression to the performance was also evident. In returning tomorrow, I think I will use the files we have already recorded to begin thinking about how performances might be enhanced, enabling space to rehearse more thoroughly before recording. I will try to publish the final performances to their podcast station later in the week, and to update the blog so anyone who would like to can share the production. I am sure the children will enjoy the idea that they can share these at home with their parents, though it will also be interesting to see what kind of reaction these files will get from the wider school audience if sent for sharing in our celebration assembly on Friday.


Remember, Remember, the 5th of November Part 2

Thanks to Doug for his much appreciated positive feedback on my previous post and the additional ideas he offered. In his comment he says:

"Great ideas Simon ... particularly like the speaking and listening idea using Podium to podcast ... would make a terrific historical drama with actors recording episodes in podcast diary format of the days leading up to the final arrests and then a reprise to sum up."

This week my year 3 class have been working in small groups to create storybaords during the literacy hour, based on the story of the plot. We are targetting the use of Punctuation Marks, and how they are used when we are writing and reading, and I hope over the course of the year we will be able to use podium as a tool to help us with this, through reading with expression. A moment to treasure from this week though will be the somewhat perplexed look at the beginning of the week, from a student who confused by the idea of the "Houses of Parliament," (aren't we all! Ed.), had begun thinking Parliament was a person, and they must have been very rich if they had more than one house that looked like that!


Our Probots have Landed

YEY! Today after much of the waiting, with the baited breath, the anticipation, the pestering of the office staff and the arrival of the mail man, our Tesco Voucher order arrived, and with it...

the class set of Probots and our license for Probotix. Can't wait to see what the students make of these new tools.

Watch this space!