…people just get it right? It’s been half term this last week and I’m sure lots of children have been going out or watching TV or playing with friends and that’s just great! But what’s also great is the fact that there are so many things that children can do online, especially if the weather’s not great (although, I have to say, today it’s lovely here). One of these great things is Purple Mash. 2Simple (or, as I like to call them, the people in the Purple Palace…) seem to pitch things correctly every time as far as I’m concerned and the online suite of tools that make up the Mash are absolutely fantastic. Kids just seem to love them!
Before breaking up for half term I reminded the pupils about their Purple Mash logins, both personal and group/class based. I thought (hoped) it might offer them something to do on those rainy days all holidays seem to include. Today I checked some of the club logins and was amazed to see the amount of work created and saved online to share back in school – it was phenomenal! Everything from drawings created with texture pens to reports on the rugby – you name it, they had tried it. Just check out the ‘Fairy Tale Shoe house’ above – how creative is that?
Obviously, it being half term, I’ve spent some of my time with some grandchildren and, again, Purple Mash is a total winner with all of them. My 4 year old grandson spent absolutely ages on his picture of Lightning McQueen and has since moved onto creating a 3d version in 2D&M with a little help from his big brother (I will post a picture when it’s all glued together). His big brother, who goes to a Welsh medium school, adores the fact that there is Welsh language stuff available – it’s just like at his school. It’s great to see children sharing ideas, collaborating on projects and (most of all) creating stuff, and this is one of the things Purple Mash makes easy.
It was also quite funny to see my older grandson revert to ‘school’ mode as soon as he was in front of Purple Mash – he started explaining and talking about everything in Welsh! I thought I’d better post something he created so here’s his picture of Elmer, or Eli as he called it. That’s Eli pronounced Ellie. To explain, Big J pointed out to me that, if he put a double ‘l’ in it would sound quite different in Welsh!
Every child loves having the opportunity to create fantasy stories set in imaginary places but it can sometimes be difficult to inspire pupils and get their creative juices flowing. It’s much easier if they can visualise a setting for their story and some pupils might need a little extra support to do this. So here’s an idea to get them enthused; and it costs nothing and is lots of fun too. It just involves a bit of fun photo editing.
We all know that visual images can be used to stimulate the senses and get pupils writing creatively so this project involves them creating some of their own. Now you could get your pupils to search on the internet for suitable landscape images, or use a site like Deviant art (not a site for children to access but very useful nonetheless)to find them a suitable selection to adapt, but the pictures created here used a set of clip art images I had prepared and created (you can download a few samples, if you want to use them, here). Of course you could extend the activity by getting the pupils to design their own landscape using a suitable art package first (like the ones listed here and here) before they manipulated it using a photo editing package – that’s up to you. It’s just the effect we’re after here: allowing the pupils to customise their image to transform it into something special.
The choice of photo editing software is totally up to you but there are some great online tools out there, many of which I’ve mentioned before, that are great for the job and easy to use. Tuxpi has a number of different photo effects available (although not all would be suitable for this activity). I especially like the way the heat map effect transforms the space scene above and makes it look truly ‘other worldly’. I’m also a big fan of Pixlr, which was used to create the unusual lighthouse image (utilising the water swirl filter followed by the color lookup effect). It also has a fabulous kaleidoscope filter which can look tremendous on some backgrounds – try it and see!
Of course the images don’t have to be a riot of colour (although that’s what I appear to be showcasing here): simple filters that tweak the backgrounds slightly (such as altering the pictures hue and saturation levels) can be just as effective. Different editing suites have slightly different settings and it’s worth investigating a few yourself to see which you prefer. I like to give the pupils a choice so I’ve looked at a number of them including FotoFlexer, MyImager and Picnik (to name just a few). Choice is key and different layouts might suit different pupils in addition to which the pupils may already know of something else that they use at home – and I’m all in favour of finding out something from the pupils.
I’m not saying you have to use online tools though. If you’ve got suitable software installed just go ahead and use that! With younger pupils, and those who need additional support, I like to use Photo Simple as the interface really lends itself for use with that group of pupils and it has two settings (simple and advanced) that you can ‘match up’ the pupil’s abilities. Downloadable items like Fotosketcher and Irfanview could also be used for an activity like this: both are free and have different things to offer so they’re definitely worth exploring.
Finally, I’d like to emphasise that this activity, while providing a useful link to ICT in the classroom and being a lot of fun, is really a way to get pupils engaged in their creative story writing. Once they’ve created the settings pupils could print them out and brainstorm suitable vocabulary (using post it notes), or do the same thing online by importing the picture into Linoit or Dabbleboard and doing it that way. You could even extend the activity into character creation to go with the fantasy backgrounds. How about displaying the finished images onto your IWB and giving the pupils sentence starters? Or using them as a starting point to work on similes? Take it wherever you need it to go – I’m sure the children will love it!
I remember when playing a game involved some sort of foldable board or some odd bits of plastic that somehow linked together (or, in the care of Game of Life, both!!!). But times have changed and electronic games are slowly replacing the cherished games of my childhood, like Kerplunk and, my all time favourite, Cluedo. I, for one, am quite happy with this idea. Families used to gather around and play Monopoly (at least they did in the adverts) – they now gather around the Wii, or some other social gaming platform, and can enjoy themselves playing all sorts of games – and that’s a good thing! Games also have a place in the classroom: they can motivate learners in all sorts of ways and inspire and enhance a range of classroom projects. There’s been plenty written and blogged about this already, especially by Games supremo Dawn Hallybone and the Redbridge Games Network and I have nothing more to add to their comprehensive advise. But I am going to talk about how creating games to support learning can engage pupils!
Now there are a few different things pupils can use to create games and activities for their own use but many are really only suitable for older (Ks2 and up) pupils. I want younger pupils, and those with SEN, to also have an opportunity to develop their skills in this area so I’m going to focus on 2DIY, and on one activity that I think is particularly suited to younger pupils. I’ve spoken before about using 2DIY in the classroom, and it’s a great piece of software to have available. What could be better than getting a child to create a game that links to their current targets so that they could use it to help them reach their goal? Or getting pupils to create games that can be used in class and assessed by their peers? It’s another great way to motivate and engage learners.
I love using 2DIY with younger pupils, especially as it gives them an opportunity to be creative and to think about their own learning. The pairs game may, at first, appear to be a simple idea but there are certain things you can do to tweak it ever so slightly and make it much more than the sum of its parts. The videos included to support you are fabulous and not only act as a way in for more visual learners (I often see pupils checking out the videos for tips) but they only give a snapshot of what can be achieved. Here are some ideas that will make a simple pairs game look really beautiful and well presented (in addition to being useful and engaging). Here are some tips…
- Use the text tool: as seen in the image above, the use of the text tool can make children’s games look really professional and attractive. It also has the additional benefit of making things very clear and easy to read.
- Use the clip art included: some things look beautiful when hand drawn but certain things need to be accurately displayed and using the included clip art (or your own) is great for this.
- Show pupils how to customise their palette by double clicking on individual colours in the toolbar: matching colours are easier on the eye and appealing to look at. This is also good when you might be creating games for pupils with dyslexia or dyscalculia - make the palette match their reading overlay!
- Colour code your activity: by making sure each pair has it’s own clear colour scheme you can give very young pupils an extra prompt towards finding the matching pair. And, finally…
- Get pupils to use the magnifier when hand drawing pictures and remind them that they can alter the pencil size. This is also where you can remind them about using their copying and pasting skills so they don’t have to attempt to draw the same thing twice.
There is, of course, so much more you can do with this fantastic program across a whole range of ages. But I haven’t come across a child yet who hasn’t enjoyed creating this simple sort of activity for themselves or younger pupils. If you haven’t tried it you really should…
We all know that pupils need choice when it comes to recording and plan their ideas. The written word can be the only outlet for some. Using pictures and bullet points might suit others. But simply speaking about your ideas, directly onto a digital recorder or another device, like an Easi-Speak microphone, can be a revelation for those children who have difficulty with traditional recording methods. Obviously the use of Audacity in the classroom could also enhance this and there are some ideas for this here but when we want to put the recorded sound together with visual content it might not be as easy for some as others, and we want their ideas and thoughts to be recorded in a way that suits them and makes them feel like they’re achieving. So which pieces of kit are best for this?
My first suggestion would be to use Photo story 3: it’s free, easy to use and the results look fabulous. There are a number of simple tutorials for this online but basically the program allows pupils to import photos, add basic effects, text, music and narration to make a short movie. It’s a very versatile, if simple, piece of software and can easily be used by pupils in KS1 (with support at first) and pupils with varying levels of SEN. The results look professional and ‘grown up’: pupils can be proud of their achievements and share their efforts with others easily. It’s great for topic based or diary type work but is just as good for tasks like story sequencing and retelling. I’ve used it many times with pupils where the pictures of a well known story have to be imported and rearranged in order, allowing for a retelling of the story in the child’s own words (and it’s even better if the child uses a program like 2Paint a picture to create their own images from the story first).
There’s only one trouble with Photo Story 3 (and it’s not really a problem with the program itself): if the pupils have used it in KS1 and lower KS2 they will want (and need)to move onto something different eventually! Some pupils, however, find that transition difficult: particularly those with recording difficulties when it comes to the written word! They want to put their ideas down but get frustrated when they can’t do it with the ease of others. The natural step would be to move to Windows Movie Maker but this is not always the best piece thing to use in a busy classroom (it’s not as straight forward or intuitive to use, it tends to crash or freeze, some pupils lose patience with it…). My solution is to get the pupils to record their ideas and speech directly onto PowerPoint – it’s easy to do and it gives pupils who may need a bit of extra time to get to grips with something like Movie Maker.
The technique is great for lots of topics but can easily be used to assist with literacy, particularly planning stories. Pupils can use a PowerPoint Storyboard (or perhaps something a little more jazzy, like the Movie Style Storyboard ) to help plan their stories: instead of adding written captions to their storyboard they could record their own comments instead. This would also work with a template like the Story Mountain Planner style one above – pupils could just use a microphone to record their ideas directly onto the slide and the need for written text is minimised.
From an inclusion point of view there are a number of other programs available that allow pupils to record spoken content directly onto their work: 2Create a SuperStory springs to mind, as does 2Connect, and there are others available. But if you don’t have those yet, and you need to give pupils opportunities to record their work in different ways (ways that suit then) then this is worth a go. Every pupils I have shared this with has been thrilled with the independence it has given them. I’m not saying they don’t need to write: I’m just allowing for the fact that some pupils, for whatever reason, are better at verbalising ideas. This is one way of making sure their contributions are as valued as everyone else.
Is it just me or does there seem to be something different on every week between the end of October and the beginning of January? It’s a non stop merry go round of events and activities that any school worth it’s salt should be acknowledging or celebrating. No wonder we’re all ready for a holiday come December! This week has been Anti Bullying Week and I’m sure many of us have spent at least a little time discussing and working on ideas linked to this for the last few days. Tomorrow it’s time for the annual fun, charity and madness that is Children in Need and many of us (including me) will be dressing up and being a little bit silly for at least part of the day (and why not? – it is a great cause). This also means you might be looking for some fun activities linked to Pudsey Bear so here are a few ideas.
Pictures of Pudsey are always popular but the picture above twists this idea. It’s a picture of Pudsey made out of spots! Especially good for this year as the theme for the day is ‘Show your spots’. It was created using the pointillism setting on 2Paint a Picture (although you could use any art program that allowed you to draw big circles). The background was filled with large spots of darker colour (absolutely no yellow) and Pudsey was made from layers of smaller spots. The overall effect makes Pudsey look lovely and fluffy as putting the spots close together gives the image some texture.
You could also use 2DIY to create some Pudsey themed games. Younger pupils could use the program to create simple puzzles and activities while older pupils might enjoy creating some more complex games and activities: possible a Pudsey catching spots game or a platform game that involves overcoming obstacles to find spots (or possibly donations of money) – I’m pretty sure the children can come up with some even more fabulous ideas.
If you don’t have access to some of the great software from 2Simple I’ve mentioned here there’s still loads you can do. The picture below uses autoshapes to create an image of Pudsey. This has been done in PowerPoint but could just as easily be completed in Publisher or even Word. For added fun why not fill the shapes with textures instead of plain colours as seen here.
Of course some of you might like to encourage pupils to create items that raise a bit of money for the cause and there are plenty of computer based ideas that you could call upon. Things like bookmarks and badges or stickers are relatively easy to make using any desktop publishing program and a bit of imagination while the more creative might like to make Pudsey masks using 2Design and Make via 2Simple’s PurpleMash or some Pudsey wrapping paper/paper bags using the pattern tool on 2Paint a picture. But whatever you choose I hope you have fun
Over the next few days I am sure a number of you will be looking for ways to create firework themed images with your pupils, be it via the use of ICT or not. Here are just a few ideas you could use in your classroom.
My first pick would be to use the Splash tool on 2Paint a Picture – it’s more versatile than you think! Use the brush on a large setting to fill the background with a nice dark night sky and the use a smaller brush setting (getting the children to vary the sizes works best) for the fireworks. There a number of techniques you could show the children: just clicking the mouse once gives a nice explosion effect, but you can also add a second splash, preferably in a different colour, to make it more dynamic and 3D looking. Clicking the mouse while dragging gives a lovely ‘whooshing’ type image and by using variety in the speed of your drag and the size of your brush can give you a range of firework styles that look very effective.
For older children you could use the All Tools setting as this gives pupils the option of developing a background scene and some foreground action or interest. Drawing characters looks nice but a street scene of houses with fireworks overhead can look equally effective. If you wanted to go in a different direction entirely you could also use the Slice tool to create Catherine wheel effect art, which look lovely cut out on a display.
Not everyone, however, has access to 2Paint a Picture so it’s worth looking around for alternatives to use. The best free piece of kit for this that I have found is Brushster: it has a large number of different brush styles and a full colour palette and is easy enough to use. You can set a black background and add colours on top and it looks very pleasing, albeit a bit more muted in tone than the 2Paint a Picture images. You will need to play around with it though – not all the brush styles are suitable and it might take a bit of time and error to get the look you want. It’ll be worth it in the end though.
Boys. What can you do with them? Never a day goes by when you don’t read or watch something relating to improving attainment in boys. It wasn’t that long ago that we chatted about the differences between boys and girls learning styles on ukedchat and we’ve also seen Gareth Malone recently going on about it on our TV screens. Getting boys engaged in learning is the hot topic of the moment. Everyone’s trying to do something about it. Both Pie Corbett and Tim Rylands give inspiring insets on storytelling, poetry, using Myst, and getting kids interested and there are plenty more people who do the same thing. You can get fabulous ebooks and graphic novels (many from Rising Stars who sponsored TeachMeet Pembs) and Scholastic’s interactive Read and Respond are also full of inspiring ideas let’s face it, who doesn’t like Stig of the Dump?).
Just recently I’ve been enthusiastic about visual literacy – great for engaging pupils of all levels. I’ve found some great resources linked a few different titles. If you’ve not checked out The Mysteries of Harris Burdick I’d suggest you check it out! There are a number of resources for it on both You Tube and SlideShare and there are also great resources based on books by Shaun Tan and David Wiesner . There are, additionally, some great video resources available online that they could use in class in a similar way, including a number of Pixar shorts and items from both the BFI and Film Education. Well worth investigating!
ICT can be a good way in when it comes to getting boys engaged in learning. This is just as true for pupils with SEN and here are some great ideas! The youngest pupils, many of whom might not be ready for a mouse, can have fun using the Switch activities on Help Kidz Learn (which are also set up to work with a space bar if you don’t have switches) while those slightly can enjoy exploring the land of the Red Fish. Pupils also enjoy accessing 2Paint a Picture and some of the PurpleMash Paint Projects using a touch screen. Older children are just can have lots of fun using the fantastic Publish Projects, again on PurpleMash, which really help them because the features (like the prompts and videos) are just so inspirational and inclusive. I’d also suggest using 2CASS to present work, another fabulously inclusive tool, which I’ll be blogging about at a later date. I’m sure these activities will be loved and adored by any number of boys (and girls) so why not try them out.
Linking ICT with the Outdoor Curriculum can often be a head scratching experience. They’re not a combination that, at first glance, appear to fit together. And yet there is more and more focus in our school lives on being outside (and not just for excursions or PE!!). So what can you do? Is there an easy answer? Well, new opportunities for linking ICT and the Outdoor Curriculum and there is much to be discovered and explored. Here are a few suggestions for younger pupils!
- Bring your BeeBots outside: Now this might not seem to be an obvious choice (after all – BeeBots need a smooth surface to run best) but it’s not too difficult to set up. you could develop an outdoor BeeBot area with a track and a clearly marked out area, but any large table will do – just make sure it’s on a level surface. Perhaps children could make obstacles for the BeeBot to travel around (extra DT is always good fun) or you could provide them with card, precut to 15cm x 15cm, to design their own track. You know everything is twice as much fun in the sunshine
- Get some walkie talkies: There are so many uses for walkie talkies in the outdoor area. As a starting point they’re great for role play – maybe you’ve got a vet or hospital topic going on? What better way to link in a little ICT than to have a paramedic or a vet radioing back to base with details of injuries or requests of assistance? They’re also good on a trip to your Forest School area, local beach or any other outdoor excursion, as pupils can use them to chat to each other compare information between groups.
- Get detecting: If you’ve got a large outdoor sand play area, or you’re out on a trip to the beach, a metal detector is a lovely addition to your equipment. Maybe you could use it to check different materials (metal/non metal) or actually hide some treasure for the children to find (nice if you’ve got a pirate topic going on) – I’m sure you can think of more suggestions.
- Talk about stuff: Got some Easi-Speak microphones? Then take them outside and let the children record what they’re doing so they can share it with others back in class. Slightly older pupils could record information while on excursions and use the recordings as a basis for their writing afterwards. What about using a digital recorder to help you remember the sounds you heard? Then use the recording to get an atmosphere of the excursion back in class.
- Give them a camera: Digital cameras are great in the outdoors Younger pupils use could use cameras like these and then use Photo Simple, on the basic setting, to edit them back in class. You’ve then got a perfect opportunity to use PhotoStory 3 (or whatever else you might choose) to make little movies from your images. Alternatively get hold of a Flip Video camera and use it to record pupils’ activities for playback later. You could even get the children to record their own adventures!
- Plan an audio trail: Leave clues for the children using recordable speech bubbles or talking points in addition to some written or visual clues. A bit like a treasure hunt but with added sound!
- Make some music: Remember Tom Hanks on the big floor piano in Big? Why not recreate it with a roll up keyboard? A bit of music in the outdoors is always enjoyable – for you and the children.
Hopefully you’ll find something in this little list that you haven’t tried before and be tempted to give it a go. Although some activities will work better with a little adult supervision there’s plenty of opportunity for a little independent learning. There’s also great scope for including pupils with SEN and getting them as involved as everyone else – so go out and explore the possibilities.
Been off on a little jaunt this week. It certainly was the weather for it, as I wended my merry way through Wales and up towards Blackpool. My destination was Hawes Side Primary School for Teachmeet Blackpool – the perfect arena for sharing ideas, innovation and advice. I was keen to go as I am trying to organise my own Teachmeet here in Pembrokeshire and I wanted to have a good look at how it’s done. Apart from watching and commenting on Teachmeets via the internet, while watching a live stream, my only other experience of a Teachmeet was at BETT 2010. So I needed help – and fast.
Sharing ideas is the central part of a Teachmeet
First things first. Being one of the people who uses an actual photo of myself on Twitter it did seem a little strange when two men I had never met before approached me and called me by name. I was quite safe: it was only Tom Sale and James Maloney, and they instantly made me feel welcome. This is one of the joys of a Teachmeet – meeting up with people you only usually converse with online. soon other people were flowing through the doors of the school giving me a wave and shouting my name. Some even remembered me from BETT 2010 (I thought I’d been very quiet!) and it was great to catch up (note to self - Chris Ratcliffe is the busiest person I know! How does he do it?).
Me trying to look intelligent (never an easy task)
The great thing about a Teachmeet is that everyone has something to share and every contribution is valuable. It doesn’t matter if you’re a technical genius or you’ve got a simple idea and a flip chart: everyone’s contribution offers something to the learning experience. If you want to know more about the dos and don’ts, and how to go about setting up your own Teachmeet event, just visit the website
So, I can imagine you all asking, what did I learn at Teachmeet Blackpool? What was my personal experience like? Overall, I can honestly say I had the best time . Everyone was friendly, welcoming and supporting and there were some truly great ideas being shared. Here are just a few things I’ll take away…
- Tom Sale and Jim Maloney could easily replace Ant and Dec as the country’s most lovable double act. They kept the whole thing flowing nicely and were a joy to listen to!
- Zoe Ross has the same guilty pleasures as me (well…maybe not musically). Her presentation about windows Movie Maker, PhotoStory 3 and Chroma Key was certainly one to remember!
- Bill Lord should be on the telly! He has more energy than Lee Evans and Harry Hill put together. Good with literacy too!
- Blogging can make a real difference to how children learn!
- Everyone I chat to on Twitter is really lovely and Dughall McCormick is a top bloke!
- Cover it live looks awesome – thank you David Mitchell
- The new features in Google Earth (especially the clock) look really useful
- Simon Haughton likes Doctor Who as much as my son (that would be a lot, then). Plus he is one of the most enthusiastic people I have ever met and I loved his presentation on Purple Mash
- I need to start using Myebook and Voicethread because they look really useful (and free).
- Everyone has their own favourite crisp flavour (no…hang on…I knew that already)!
Bill Lord should be on the TV!
I could go into more detail but really – YOU HAVE TO BE THERE!!! Here’s hoping that the Teachmeet I’m organising in the Summer (I’ll be posting details on the Teachmeet site soon) will be just as inspirational!
If you haven’t checked out 2Simple software’s Purple Mash yet you really need to take a look. It’s a truly glorious thing: plenty of well thought out, cross curricular activities (or, rather, APPtivities) that are suitable for primary pupils of all abilities. Today I’ve been using some of the Purple Mash APPtivities with my 4 year old grandaughter and others who are obsessed with the World Cup, and it’s fair to say that everyone not only found the APPtivities fun and easy to use : they’ve absolutely had a ball with them!
Now I’ve been lucky enough to have been enjoying a sneak preview of the new paint projects with textures that are going to be added to the Purple Mash repertoire, and they are truly marvellous. You really need to check out the latest 2Simple Blog post, but I’d describe them as having a Lauren Child ‘Charlie and Lola’ style look with elements of the Nick Sharratt children’s book ‘Don’t Put Your finger in the Jelly, Nelly’ (a total favourite in our house for the last 15 years!!). Having had a look at what these projects offer over the last few days I really think they’re going to enhance creativity through the medium of ICT, especially for younger pupils and those with SEN. They certainly have the WOW facto . If your topics is camouflaged animals, houses and homes or fairy tales (plus a number of others) then these new creative APPtivities are just the ticket . The above picture was one that was created today and looks great!
Now these new additions are fantastic but they are just one example of the fabulous array of different APPtivities included on the Purple Mash platform. There are so many great APPtivities ( in a range of different styles and all linked to popular and commonly covered school topics) and 2Simple are listening to what people want and making it happen. Yes, there are great free APPtivities available (always a plus) but it’s also a service schools can buy into: something that really gives you a comprehensive selection of software and APPtivities for all areas of the curriculum (just check out the info available here). Many APPtivities include videos, to help inspire and inform pupils, and the inclusion of things like word banks and writing prompts (as well as using a high visibility background) assist in making the APPtivities inclusive and accessible for pupils who may need a little extra help and support. The APPtivities are updated and added to regularly, with plenty of topical and seasonal content, and there is even an opportunity to have APPtivities linked to your local area . It’s something you really need to investigate so I suggest you all get mashing – soon!