So….the Easter holidays are finally upon us (okay, some of you have already been off school for a week or so) and it’s going to be a longer holiday than usual. As we’re not guaranteed to have great weather (this is the UK after all) I thought it best to suggest to pupils some things they could do over the break. Now there are lots of things I could have suggested but there are some great tools available at the moment that allow pupils to work collaboratively from wherever they may be – all they need is a computer and the internet. So here are a few things that I’ve suggested.
After the break some pupils will be working on projects for our local Film Festival and it made sense for some of them to work together in small groups. We’ve already been using Primary Pad in the classroom throughout KS2 and now pupils have started to use it from home to connect with each other and work on ideas. Primary Pad is perfect for this and is so much more than just a collaborative word processor: it has a sticky notes section and includes Primary Paint for collaborative drawing. I’m really pleased that pupils are making notes and planning out their ideas in this way: they’re even thinking of using it to plan their script! Very cool.
Another collaborative project I’ve asked some pupils to contribute to was something started by my friend Simon who has the most fabulous blog and regularly contributes to a number of educational websites> He’s also fairly prolific on Twitter and is well worth checking out if you’re looking for great educators to follow. Anyway…Purple Mash updates all the time (do those bods at 2Simple ever stop???) and one of the great things on there is 2Investigate which now has a great collaborative feature. Simon has asked some of his pupils to add to a bird study database and I’ve done the same: a number of students are going to birdwatch for an hour and add their data to a collaborative database that has been set up. I can see this feature being very useful: a homework project like this is just the tip of the iceberg: think of the possibilities there are, setting up collaborative databases with schools across the UK, and beyond, and being able to collate, use and compare the results – fabulous!
Now Prezi is not usually a site you might consider to be collaborative but you can invite editors to work on projects and also get pupils to collaborate by using a group or class login for all their projects. While this can be a little cumbersome at times (pupils make sure they include their names in the titles of their Prezis so I can check who has been working together) I have to say that Prezi is one of the online tools that has really caught the imagination of children in Year 6, with many signing up for their own personal accounts and using at home regularly. Recently pupils have been working on collaborative projects linked to internet safety; starting them in school and completing them in their own time. Really, you couldn’t ask for more.
The last collaborative site I’m going to mention is the pupils favourite online stickies site: Lino it. We use it for collaborations, brainstorming topics to record our prior knowledge or what we want to find out. It is also regularly throughout lessons and as part of plenary sessions. It’s truly useful, more inclusive than some other stickies sites (the font is clear, it is well laid out and the backgrounds are not distracting) and really versatile. Just give it a go and see if your pupils like it!
You all know I’m passionate about inclusion and that means including pupils who are more able in certain areas. It’s something that we all need to be aware of in the classroom as such pupils need to be challenged there’s nothing worse than being bored. But how to do it? Where do you start? I have a number of things I like to use; some free, some not, but the trick is to keep them interested. Here are a few ideas that you might be able to use in your classroom.
- The Challenge Box…: I have two special boxes in my room. They are undeniably spangley and a little OTT. They are called challenge boxes: one small (for Foundation Phase challenges) and one large (for KS2). Inside there are a range of colour-coded cards (different colours for different skill levels) that have ’one off’ challenges on them. I also have a couple of additional cards hanging up in poly-pockets, for quick challenges. Anyway, if a child finds a task too easy or finishes it quickly I always have a few meaningful extensions planned. If there is still time in the lesson and they have completed all tasks I will direct them to take a card of whatever colour from the box. The challenges will always relate to skills we have covered before – they are just independent tasks to get them thinking. For example…
- It’s a mystery: Regularly, particularly if there is something happening in the world that I think needs investigating (like the World Cup, World Book Day etc), I will come up with a set of mystery challenges (usually 5 or 6) which I place in sealed envelopes. In each set there’s usually a challenge linked to Science, Geography, History, Literacy, Mathematics and local (i.e. Welsh or British) interest. There are some examples of these challenges here and one of the important things I feel is that I am sourcing a number of the resource – this cuts down on the children wasting time looking for relevant stuff. These sessions challenge all pupils and sometimes work better when pupils are split into pairs or small groups but that’s up to you.
- Show them something cool: with younger pupils who are more able it’s nice sometimes to show them something extra a program can do and let them share it with their classmates (or other teachers) during a plenary session or back in class. It’s nice to feel special and kids love that you’re sharing a piece of added information just with them
- Give them choices: let the pupils choose the best way to complete their task. I love planning activities for pupils as young as Year 1 where they can select what they want to use. In a recent session (recording factual information about the Antarctic gathered by using Zoom School) Y2 pupils chose to record their work using either 2Publish+, 2CASS or 2Publish Extra (via PurpleMash). They also chose their own template and the way they presented work, leading to work that ranged from fact sheets to reference books while all covering the same skills ( importing, copying, pasting, etc.) and the same topic. This also works with older children: asking them to make a multimedia presentation might lead to a selection of videos and animations fitting in alongside more traditional Powerpoints or items made using web based tools like Animoto or Prezi.
- Use things that inspire and engage: if you can make room for a little gaming or game creation: it might take your lesson in unusual directions. I’ve recently brought in my ipad and shown pupils some of the great apps available – many of which could be used in the classroom. They are totally in love with it! Bringing in a console or something hand held (like a Nintendo DS) can have unexpected results – it just depends how you use it. Check out ideas from fantastic people like Tim Rylands and get technology working for you, and the pupils, in your classroom. On the flip side get pupils to create their own games or quizzes to challenge each other and link to topics or learning intentions. I’ve mentioned 2DIY recently (which I’ve just used with more able, younger pupils to create quizzes linked to their topic) but there are other things out there, includingScratch, which are equally useful especially with older pupils.
- Buddy pupils up! Use your more able pupils to assist the ones that need a little extra support – not intrusively, just as a someone to encourage or chivvy them along. I also like using older pupils along side younger ones (in a sort of Yoda style mentor role). again this isn’t intrusive, just supportive, and the pupils really seem to get something out of it.
So there you go. Not rocket science but a few ideas to than can be used to extend and stretch your pupils. I’m sure you can think of loads I’ve missed but I’ll leave you to fill in the gaps. If you’re looking for a place to start (to get more ideas – technology wise) then this might be worth a look.
We’re winding down to the end of term and there’s a chance to have a little bit of fun. I have come up with something the pupils could do in their ICT time which is fun on a number of levels.
I’ve been looking at the Molly Potter books recently and they have some fantastic activities to get pupils thinking. This activity (which I called What if? ) really produces a lot of interesting discussion. Give out a list of objects that all have magical properties and ask pupils to decide which ones they could use in school and on what day ( so they could link it to their class timetable if they wanted to). Items include a magic hat which helps you remember things and a key that can answer a certain amount of questions. Some of the items seem more obviously useful than others (although all have their merits) and listing a few possible uses can assist some of the pupils. Some pupils might play it safe and use the items to help them with class work etc. but there is scope for ideas that are truly inspired.
You could also try this second challenge (called Stranded!), which is about surviving in remote places and being able to design a shelter out of the things around you. Pupils are again given a list of possible choices and need to choose five items that might help them survive on a desert island. Some of the choices were electronic but, obviously, all of these needed battery power and some needed an internet connection (which there wasn’t likely to be on a desert island). Other choices included a torch, a sleeping bag and compass (obviously great if you know how to use it), in addition to other useful (or not?) items. This activity is another good one for problem solving and developing thinking. If you really consider the choices on offer you can come up with some great sensible answers (including making sure the torch was a wind up one) and good explanations on which items should be used and how(e.g. A sleeping bag would be useful as because you could unzip it and use it as a roof for a shelter). Some pupils, on the other hand, might look at the technology choices first (not considering signal or battery power) and may need a little guidance. But, however you use them, one thing both challenges are is fun.
Here’s an idea for a very short ICT session. What if all the children all do something completely different? No two children covering the same topic. Each one working independently, at their own level using the software of their choice. The only criteria - they have to discover something new that they hadn’t known before.
So this was how it works. Use the fruit machine style random name/word picker on ClassTools and fill it full of different topics: some which children will find irresistible and others that could be a little more academic or challenging. Put in a few things that I knew the pupils would have very little knowledge about (e.g. The Grand Canyon) and others that they would have studied in previous years. Each child can choose how they present any information (Ript, Prezi, PowerPoint, 2Publish+, 2CASS, Movie Maker, etc.). Explain the challenge to them, get each child to click the fruit machine and take the topic that came up. Then straight to the computers and off to work. They might come up with all sorts of new pieces of information, some of which you might refer to as ‘totally useless’ (a bit like a certain DJ’s ‘Factoids’). No matter! After all, everyone learns something new – including you!
Thinking skills are an ever growing and important part of classroom life. Mind mapping, brain storming, ideas explosion…whatever you call it it is increasingly being used in schools around the country. And there are great ideas out there, both free and internet based or bought in software packages, that help us cover this in our educational settings. I use a number of such packages and ideas in my lessons and everyone has their particular favourites. 2Connect, Dabbleboard and bubbl.us are the ones that many people generally flock to (and with good reason), but this week I’ve looked at two internet based tools to take mind mapping to a different level: Prezi and Spicy Nodes.
Prezi is something you may seen before. Some teachers use it in the classrooms (mainly as a presentation tool) and you can create shared ones on the IWB during thematic sessions (e.g. when you’re bsgining to investigate a new topic) but the new educational options regarding licensing is going to lead to many more teachers using this with pupils in their classrooms. Recap or complete topics by creating mind maps showcasing images and information gained over a few weeks. Pupils can add video content while others can convert examples of their work (e.g. PowerPoint glossaries) and web pages they found interesting into PDF format so they could be included as well. There are lots of worthwhile ways you could use Prezi in school. From information scrapbooks on specific topics (created on the IWB and built upon from week to week) to using it as a self assessment tool to see how much pupils can remember and recall on a given topic.
Buoyed by people’s reaction to Prezi I decided to investigate Spicy Nodes: a new online tool still in the early stages of development. This was one of those great twitter finds that people flag up from time to time. Although I only looked at it briefly and had a bit of a play around with it I feel students would take to it and enjoy using it quite quickly. So much so that I’m going to try and use it more often so I can fully investigate the possibilities.
It’s Fairtrade Fornight again (22nd February - 7th March) and for some of us that means finding activities and ideas to use in the classroom. So I thought I’d share a few ideas with you that might be useful as a starting point. Some of them you might have come across before and some are ideas I’ve created to use in school but hopefully there’s something for all.
I’m sure many of you have come across the CAFOD website and it’s excellent resource section. Well there are some fantastic downloads and ideas to use during Fairtrade Fortnight included in both the primary and secondary sections. I particularly liked the look of the Banana split activity listed on the secondary resources page but also suitable for UKS2 too. And there are lots of other useful websites you might like to look at. The Fair Trade Resource Network also offers a range of teaching resources and if you want something more visual, or feel like creating some multimodal PowerPoints there are plenty of useful clips available online.
One activity I thought of was to create a Publisher cook book using a suitably themed template and this website. I have to say some people might be disgusted by some of the recipes but pupils can ones they liked, looking for suitable images to accompany them etc. If you don’t want to produce a cook book why not use this themed publisher paper to get you started on a poster or something similar?
You could create a survey about the use of Fairtrade products and use the data collected in Maths sessions to link into data handling. Younger pupils can also have fun with Fairtrade: get them to produce posters or leaflets on Fairtrade produce using 2Publish+ or look at some of the nice activities on Oxfam’s Cool Planet and Dubble that could be used to tie in with Fairtrade. I’ve also put together a Healthy Eating Challenge Pack which has a number of PowerPoint Templates that may come in handy (one of the activities is also Fairtrade based and you could adapt the others if you wanted to) for pupils in KS2. Another idea would be to use Google Earth, to follow a banana’s journey, or to create some informative multimedia work with Prezi, PhotoStory, Animoto and PhotoPeach. I’m sure you can think of some other fun ideas too (please share them here if you’ve found or created anything fabulous!!!).
Another Day – another PowerPoint Project. Today looking at designing your own PowerPoint templates.Now if you want to start creating your own PowerPoint templates there are tutorials for 2003 and 2007 available online to walk you through the process. For maximum impact it’s also an opportunity to use art based or photo editing software – I’m using Microsoft AutoCollage! Firstly, make a new folder and searched the internet and resource bank for suitable images for your theme. . You’ll need about 20 to 30 images but Microsoft AutoCollage allows up to 50 images to be used and will discard any that are not large enough to be included before you create the actual photo collage.
Once you’ve created your collage use photo editing software: installed stuff like PhotoSimple or internet based applications like Tuxpi; to make changes. You might like to colourise or posterise. Sepia and Greyscale can also work well. It’s just a personal choice. Now time for the next stage – creating slide backgrounds!
Insert your collage or image on a blank PowerPoint slide and trim it to fit exactly using the crop tool. Then use autoshapes to add a focus area for the main title, making sure the fill colour or gradient fill compliments the colours in our image. Then group these two elements and save them as a jpeg image. But one background a template does not make (did I sound like Yoda then?) so you’ll needed to work on.
For our second background add a rectangular autoshape the exact size of the slide (again using a suitable colour or gradient fill). Follow that by inserting your image and cropping it to a banner or sidebar, possibly adding an additional autoshape for a title spot. You could create both a banner and a sidebar combination on two separate slides. Again, the items on the slide were grouped and saved as jpeg images, giving at least two backgrounds to use. You can then save this as your very own design template to use in your PowerPoints.