Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘descriptive writing’

Are you an Angry Bird (addict)?

So…here goes with my second post of the day – I must be mad. I did, however, promise a few people I would share a few of my bonkers ideas for using Angry Birds as a basis for learning in the classroom. I’m sure many of you have some ideas of your own to go with this topic and I have a few friends who have already been using Angry Birds activities as a way of engaging pupils in the classroom. Now not all of these ideas are ICT based but I promised I would share them so…here we go…

First the mad part. I was sitting on the train the other day with my ipad and I saw a mum bring out some home made toys for her little one. Simple felt balls, about 6 cms across, (created as shown above) with little eyes and extras on. I thought how that would make a lovely idea for a school fete or similar and made a note of it.  Then she brought out a blue one that looked just like an Angry Bird – my mind went into overdrive. My initial idea was to get pupils to create them (or, possibly a friendly adult) and stuff them with a set weight of kapok so they could be used in maths for weighing/comparing/measuring. Maybe sort them so that the black one weighs twice as much as the red one which weights twice as much as the blue ones (if you know what I mean). After this, mind still in overdrive mode, I thought about creating a separate set of blue ones which had three mini blue ones inside – for times tables work or counting (but  I realise this might be pushing things a little too far…). Of course, if money is no object, you could always purchase a complete set of Angry Birds plush toys but I doubt many school budgets would stretch to them!

Let’s move onto my next batch of mad ideas then. After maths I moved onto science. How about using the little blighters you’ve just made for maths in a lesson on forces, complete with giant catapult. Too dangerous? Well it’s just an idea. Coming back down to earth with a bump (!!!! – sorry, couldn’t resist) why not use autoshapes, or another shape drawing program, to create your own Angry Birds? They could be as simple or complicated as you like. The one above is fairly straightforward – I bet the pupils could come up with something better. Another ICT idea I came up with involved the use of 2DIY (or maybe even 2DIY 3D if you have access to Purple Mash): creating games based on the Angry Birds story and characters. Maybe a journey game where the birds have to sneak past the pigs. Or a collection game for finding golden eggs. Again – the children are bound to come up with much better ideas.

And so to my final few ideas for today (and, I’m warning you, I have loads more): let’s link to literacy. If there are pupils who are really familiar with the game they could hone their instruction writing skills by creating walkthroughs for other children to follow. I think this would be a lovely exercise that could involve some really obvious peer assessment. I also think that the initial introduction to the game would make an interesting story starter and, if you want to get really into it, why not get pupils to storyboard and create their own game trailers, similar to the one seen here? I bet they come up with some corkers!

World in Cartoon Motion

Comic strips and animated cartoons have been around a long time. Everyone I know has, at some time in their life, bought a comic book or read a comic strip; be it a small 3 frame strip in their daily paper or a large graphic novel. The great thing about comics is their accessibility. the pictures tell the story. Written text is often kept at a minimum and often a single word is all you need to portray a ‘sound’ or a mood: and that’s great when you’ve got some reluctant writers. Cartoons are another item that have something for everyone: from simple cartoons for the very young up to more sophisticated Manga or full length features. During our lifetimes most of us will have sat and watched Scooby Doo, or something a little more edgy, and thought it would be fun to have a go. Unfortunately not all of us are artistically blessed but you just don’t have to be!  With that in mind I thought it was worth sharing a few online or downloadable comic strip or animation creators that could be useful in a classroom setting.

Comic Strip Creators

  1. Make Beliefs Comix: This site was one of the first comic strip creators I used with pupils, quite a few years ago. I like it because it’s really simply presented and the children could work out how to use it really quickly. There are a selection of characters included (new ones have been added) but,  and this is a disappointment if you want to create an epic, you can only create four panels at a time. The site doesn’t have a save facility (a bit of a downside) although you can send a copy to your email address. I used to get children to hit the Print Screen key and paste it into PowerPoint (so they could crop it and add more if they wanted to) – a small step that children pick up quickly and are quite happy to do in order to preserve their work. Obviously, comic strips don’t have to be in English, so why not use them to support work in other languages?
  2. Bitstrips: I have never used Bitstrips but thought I’d include it here as some of you might find it useful. You seem to be able to have a go without registering if you want to try it out (although that appears to be free). Like Make Beliefs Comix,  it includes a selection of characters (and a separate activity where you can design your own) and looks to work in the same way. You are able to save your creations although I think this is to an online gallery – you might be better off using Print Screen! There is a Bitstrips for Schools option, which offers additional ideas support and features, but this service is not free.
  3. Super Hero Squad: I can easily see this site appealing to children as it includes recognisable characters from Marvel comics and is very bright and eye catching. On the negative side, the emphasis on the Marvel universe could limit the usability and flexibility of it within the classroom but it still a useful thing to have access to. It allows users to create small comic strips (with 1-4 panels) or a longer comic book story and does include lots of nice features, including a selection of fonts, and artwork. Completed work can be printed or downloaded to your own computer in pdf format.
  4. Lego Comics: Similar to the Marvel website in options and settings, this Lego style comic creator  is worth a look. It’s not one of my favourites as I think it is too heavily weighted towards boys character wise (girls like Lego too!!!!!) but it’s still worth checking out.
  5. Comic Life: Not an online creator or a free download but still the most complete comic strip creating tool for schools. Comic Life allows you to use your own photos and has a whole load of layouts and options available. It’s available for Windows and Macs and there’s even an app for your ipad. To get truly inspired check out some examples from Porchester Junior School in Nottingham.
  6. Stage’d: Another one I haven’t tried out properly but thought was worth including, Stage’d combines comic strip creation with animation. To try it out you need to install the Unity Web player to get it running online but once it is running you’ll that you have two choices of character: one called TS and another called Robot (they look like little wooden men). Once you’ve got started there is a little question mark in the bottom right of the screen – click this and up pop a selection of handy hints to get you started. the panel on the left shows you a selection of options for ‘dressing up’ the characters and allows you to select their actions. This tool is probably best for pupils in UKS2 and beyond – have a go and see what you think. Now time to look at…
Tools for Animation
  1. Domo Animate: Domo might not be to everyone’s taste but it’s a cool little thing from the people at Go animate (another one you might like to look at). Simple characters, lots of options, free to register (once you’ve registered content can be saved) and pupils I’ve shown it too have absolutely loved it. I’m pleased to see they’ve got rid of the word ‘fart’ in the sound effects section as this had the potential to send some children into fits of giggles!
  2. Shidonni: Simple, Foundation Phase/KS1 friendly website. Needs Microsoft Silverlight to run properly. Children design and draw a little character and bring it to life. The hand drawn quality makes it a little different to other animation websites and it certainly is cute. I can see this appealing to girls more than some of the other websites listed here but boys would have fun with it too.
  3. Zimmer Twins: Another animation creator that looks appealing and is free to register. I haven’t used this in school but have shown pupils in UKS2 what it can do and they’ve gone home and tried it out for themselves. There’s a great video showing how to create you movies included and the set up is quite similar in look and feel to Domo Animate.  There are lots of completed movies to look at, including this one on Cyberbullying. I like the way that you can rate completed animations and make comments and there is a teacher area if you are interested in using it within the classroom.
  4. DoInk: I’m not entirely convinced about this site as some of the recently created videos you can access are not suitable for sharing in school. It also needs a little more artistic flair and mouse control than the others featured here so might not be accessible or suitable for everyone. that said, some of the animations are beautiful to look at and I’m sure, with time and patience, good results could be achieved.
  5. Kerpoof: Make a Movie: Another activity available via the Kerpoof site: this has similar themes to the story creating activity shared yesterday. Each theme includes a selection of backgrounds and animated characters along side other options like your own doodles, text etc. Items have to be dragged onto a timeline to animate the movie, making it a little tricky for younger pupils, and there is no guidance included – you would have to have a go before sharing it with any students. Some of the characters included in the menus have to be bought in the Kerpoof store and this is not made clear until you choose them! I’m sure some pupils would find that frustrating! You might still like to give it a go though (or, as I did with Zimmer Twins – mention the site to pupils so they can show their parents and use it at home).
Obviously this list is incomplete. There are lots of other activities available online, or to download, so I thought it best to focus on those I have used or already knew about. Considering the animation element; there is plenty of information available regarding animation software that can be used in school (Scratch, Pivot Stick Figure, Anithings to name but a few) and I have previously blogged about creating stop motion animation and using mobile apps.  If you would prefer to use something you already have available in school, like PowerPoint, you could look at some of the activities I’ve created here. Just remember: animations and comic strips can be used across the curriculum in all kinds of ways. And, what’s more, children seem to love them.

I Wanna Tell You a Story…

There are a whole host of online tools, downloads and websites around that are really useful when you want children to get creative with their story writing. Some are very simple and others are absolutely astounding but, as the spotlight seems to always be one the literacy (and numeracy) skills of pupils I thought it was about time I shared a whole bunch of them on here. Many of them you may have come across or used before but I’m hoping there might be a few tools here that you can use in your classroom to inspire both you and your pupils. So, here we go…

Getting Inspired…

  1. We Tell Stories: A site well worth mentioning if you haven’t come across it before; We Tell Stories includes six different stories told in six different ways. Each has something to offer, depending on the age of your pupils, but the one I really like for primary school use is the Fairy Tales one. The child needs to make a number of choices to complete the story and, if they don’t agree with how the story turns out, can write their own epilogue at the end. Every class I have shared this with has loved it – including the boys, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect given the genre.
  2. Lightning Bug: This is an Australian website, full of  ideas to help with the story writing process. It includes a Teacher Resource section and numerous links to useful online content; including author sites and things like a plot bank.
  3. The Story Starter: This is very simple – it does exactly what you think it would do. You click a link and it generates a sentence to get your story started. Could work in conjunction with a story mountain or a ‘BME’ story plan structure. There is also a version available for younger children but be warned – some of the sentences (on both versions) are not what I would choose to use!

Creating Story Books Online

  1. Zooburst: Zooburst is a really unusual 3D Story book creator that I’m sure pupils will find really cool and (hopefully) inspiring. The 3D pop-up really brings a story to life and gives this site an extra something when compared to other book creating sites. You can rotate around the book in 3D, add your voice to the characters and use a webcam to introduce a bit of augmented reality. You can register on the site for free and there are a number of stories in the gallery you can check out before you get started. I would suggest you have a few goes yourself with it before unleashing it on a class but it certainly has the ‘wow’ factor and could get a few of your reluctant writers interested .
  2. Storybird: If you haven’t checked out Storybird before you need to visit it sometime soon. Again, it’s free to register and they have accounts specifically for classes. What sets Storybird apart from some other sites is the inclusion of beautiful and breathtaking original art – enough to inspire pupils to create wonderful things.  Whatever their age or level, students (well – everyone really) can create something that looks beautiful and can easily be shared with others. Check out the About Us section of the website and get inspired
  3. ArtisanCam Picture Book Maker: This picture book maker is a very simple online book creator that is both unique and beautiful. There are not many options here but the artwork is homely and childlike and it could be useful with younger children.
  4. E2BN Myths and Legends: Free and cool to use, the Storymaker tool available here has loads of options (recorded speech, added sound effects etc.) and you can register for a whole school account. Completed stories can be downloaded and can be short and sweet or far reaching epics. I think the style of clip art included here would really appeal to the boys but girls would enjoy it too.
  5. British Council Storymaker: A fabulous little tool that could be used to inspire older  pupils with SEN or used with younger pupils. It is not quite the same as the other activities listed here but deserved inclusion nonetheless.  This is an activity that guides you through the story writing process by giving you choices, starting with the three different types of story you could write (fairy, horror or science fiction). It’s simple but effective.
  6. Picture a Story: This activity might look a little twee, with it’s old fashioned styling, but it still allows pupils to use the items at their disposal (backgrounds, characters, props) to create a story. Stories can be written or recorded using a microphone (making it suitable for inclusion purposes in a class of pupils with differing abilities) and can then be shared with others via email.
  7. Little Bird Tales: This site is fairly new and was brought to my attention by the fabulous Tim Rylands. All I can say is it looks fabulous and is worth finding out about – check out Tim’s blog for more information (as there’s no point me repeating it!)!
  8. Kerpoof Storybook: Beautifully presented and appealing story creating activity with six themes of story included. Similar to the Myths and Legends site, but a little more modern in appearance, I like this one for a few reasons. Firstly, you can fill the pages with a background colour if you want to, possibly making it a suitable tool for pupils with dyslexia. Secondly, it has really been designed with children in mind and is pretty intuitive to use. You can easily change the size of your font and there are three fonts included. Story characters are included in a range of positions, there are loads of backgrounds and it also has speech bubbles you can add. To access the site fully, so you can save work, you have to register (again – it’s free) and there are lots of other great activities available via the site.
I hope you find something that will inspire your learners in that group of tools. Tomorrow I’m going to share a whole load of online animation tools and comic book creators! There will be something for everyone!

 

All You Need is Love…

I’m not sure if you’re aware but there’s a bit of a shindig on this week. I believe it might be a royal wedding involving a couple called Wills and Kate. Now it occured to me that some of you might be looking for some royal things to do in school (if you’re indeed actually in school – my school is on hols until after the bank holiday!!) so I thought I’d gather together a few ideas of things you might like to do with your classes

I’m really pleased to see (although not at all surprised) that those fantastic people at Purple Mash have put together a small selection of activities for the event. There are some great Publish Projects with beautiful clip art created just for the occasion, including a fabulous newspaper template for reporting the event – some top ideas for pupils from Foundation age upwards. There are also some great apptivities available via Purple Mash that have could also be used to tie in with the celebrations: you could make a crown using 2Design and Make or use the castle or palace available via the Fairy Tales section of the Paint projects to create the perfect royal party venue. If you print off more than one copy of your palace you can get creative and join them together for a bit of small world play – just  look here to see what I mean! Of course Purple Mash are not the only online site with some great resources available for you to use. TESiboard has also added a range of royal themed resources: from creating royal wedding outfits to a cake creation sequencing activity. In fact, TESconnect has got a whole list of resources in one convenient list – why not check it out!

There’s also a whole load of great websites you could use with your students if you want to get them to carry out and present research on the British Royal family, including their own official website and Mandy Barrow’s really useful Project Britain site, which has loads of sections just right for researching all sorts of areas of the royal family. If you want pupils to present their work via PowerPoint you might like to download this template of the Union Jack or this one of London. You can even take a tour of Westminster Abbey online if you want to!  If you want to go down the design route, or do something completely different, why not get pupil’s to design wedding outfits using the ideas presented here or get them to actually plan a wedding, using spreadsheets to keep track of expenditure? It might just be the thing to get them interested! Other ideas you might try could involved designing place mats, wedding invitations or cards ( 2Publish+ or Microsoft Publisher would be good for this if you want the activities to be ICT based) or designing a menu fit for a princess (although possibly not along the lines of this activity!!!!). Whatever you decide to do I’m sure you’ll have a right old time!

Fantastic Journeys

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!

Getting Inspired

So there’s a  big box and it’s  just sitting under the IWB. What was in the box? Do you think we should open the box? Who does it belong to? What if…? I’m sure you know where this is going: it generates lots of ideas and discussion which you could string this out for weeks.Inside the box is a large treasure chest and this starts the discussion off again: should we tell others about it or keep it as a secret just for us? Should we share it with others in assembly? What if the contents are poisonous – what could we do? And so it goes on…

The chest it was full of eggs (which started off a whole load of What ifs…? and other questions yet again) and in the eggs were little creatures called Querks who come with their own little ‘accessories’ which turn them into more ‘normal’ every day creatures. There was also a book, and plentyof ideas of how the Querks could be used or the topics they could be linked to (Inclusion, PSE, Geography, Animal/Habitats…the list went on). Other ideas that could inspire the pupils could be making it look like a crater or spaceship had landed in the school grounds, leaving clues around the classroom that suggest someone has been there. I’ve also learnt this week how to create a string poem. If you’ve not heard of a string poem before, here are some instructions: String Poem

My ICT tip today is visual literacy themed  – the delights of Deviant Art.  It’s a good place to find interesting pictures (and occasionally videos) that could be used as a basis for visual literacy. Unfortunately it is one of those sites that gets filtered out at our school but it is a fabulous site and well worth exploring at home in the evenings to get a bit of inspiration. As a starting point I have searched through and found some interesting images the night before and prepared them in PowerPoint format. You can see the ones I chose – I split them into three slideshows: Visual Art – Portrait images, Visual Art – Landscape images and, my particular favourite, Visual Art – Into your world – great images of imaginary creatures, and their habitats, from an artist listed as Tommi_75 (who also has a lovely selection called mechanimals too).

To stretch the use of these pictures (and the links to ICT) I suggest people use a zoom tool (like ZoomIt or even the magnifier in Windows accessories) to zone in on areas, or use the spotlight tool on ActivInspire to reveal little bits at a time before revealing the whole image. Another idea could be to import the image into something like LinoIt or Dabbleboard so that the pupils could annotate around it or answer questions posed by the teacher (or each other). You might have other ideas for the images but the site definitely falls into my ‘must see’ category.

Boys will be boys…

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.