Firstly – an apology for the recent lack of blog posts! I can safely say that it’s been a little bit busy!! Not so long ago I was in Newcastle at the Northern Grid conference; talking about ICT and inclusion. Then last week I had a whirlwind trip to London to pick up a TES Award where I got to put on a posh frock and chat to a lot of great people, including the famous Mr Thorne of ‘Mr Thorne Does Phonics‘ fame. It was a fantastic event and everybody I came across was really lovely, so I’ve got to say a big thank you to the TES team – you guys rock! Anyway, apart from the great excitement of the TES awards I had a few things that were going on just before and then just after: namely TeachMeet ThinkBig and Reflect and Share. Here’s a short report on each.
TeachMeet ThinkBig was small but perfectly formed. Due to the change of date we managed to clash with a few other things that were on but we managed to have a great time in any case. It was fairly amazing that anyone got to take part – our network crashed at 10am that morning and was still not working properly at 3pm. We managed it though and, thanks to the team at NGFL Cymru, it got streamed as well. Because we were in a fairly informal setting we managed to forget about the camera and have quite long discussions among ourselves – I’m sorry if this spoilt anyone’s viewing pleasure but there were a few newbies there and lots of questions were asked in between presentations. We had a number of virtual presentation from some great people I’ve got to know through Twitter, including this one from Mike McSharry (which had all of the attendees scribbling notes furiously), a couple from Alessio Bernardelli (including this one on using mind mapping properly) and a fantastic presentation on thinking skills in science from Claire Lotriet (there were many more great vidoes and I will add details to the wiki soon). We also had some interesting live presentations from Dave Stacey, who had some interesting ideas on how to use a text book, and Rosemary Davies, who shared a load of free web tools and talked about using Edmodo as a learning platform. I also gave a few presentations, mainly showing people a few things they may not have seen. One included a new variation of the old traffic light fans (I’ll talk about this at a later date in full) and later on I demonstrated 2Connect and explained why it’s such a great program for developing mind mapping in younger pupils or those with ALN. I also shared a few ideas that I’ve posted on here that I felt linked in with other presentations, especially ones that allowed for a bit of creativity or supported what was said in the presentations. In fact I probably talked way too much…(and that’s hardly ever the case).
Of course the Reflect and Share session, which took place on Wednesday, was quite different, This involved Year 6 pupils sharing their ideas about their learning and resources and activities they thought were worthwhile and eahc child involved made their own presentation or gave a demo to the staff who attended. We had presentation on a whole range of activities including developing problem solving skills by using Machinarium, using unusual images to inspire poetry, movement in art (inspired by work on Jackson Pollock), developing writing skills using Myst, using Wordle and other word based ideas and creating music using Incredibox and Isle of Tune (which I’ve talked about here). I don’t want to miss any presentations out here (pupils were brilliant and every presentation had something to offer) so the others were about the use of ebooks in the classroom (highlighting the books we have from Rising Stars), using Purple Mash at home and in class (everyone seems constantly amazed by how much content is available through it), using BlockCAD lego to link to DT, Prezi, Primary Pad and Primary Wall (this included live demos – staff were very impressed), our school library, how after school clubs have helped pupils improve skills, using Class Pet in class and at home (especially the maths activities), learning logs and Pivot Stick Figure. I was really proud of all of the pupils who took part (twenty one in all) but what I felt was truly fantastic was the way they had obviously taken on board things I had shown them or introduced them to and then taken it in their own direction. Hopefully it’s the sort of event that will take off in other areas – it was certainly worthwhile!
Want to have a bit of fun with your class? Well, why not introduce them to my friend the Flurb? He’s a cute little critter from the planet Snoofle and he needs a home. But it needs to suit his needs and his needs are pretty specific. I introduced the Flurbs in class today and bombarded the pupils with information that would come in handy when planning and designing an artificial habitat. I wanted to get them thinking on a number of levels. One – I wanted them to think of the types of materials they could use to build the new artificial environment. Two – I wanted to think of solutions that would support the Flurb’s dietary requirements and other needs. If they managed to get all that done the next stage was to move onto how we could advertise and market the Flurb to households around the globe: what were the good points we could highlight to make him the most wanted creature on the planet. In addition to this I wanted the activity to be fun and creative and allow the pupils freedom to carry out the task in which every way they wanted – whether that was by ICT means or otherwise.
If you want to introduce your class to Flurbs you might want to check out the presentation I created to use in class. To support it there’s also a basic fact sheet to support children who might need a little gentle reminding about the Flurb’s needs and another template I used for a brainstorming session after pupils had been given the chance to go through all the information presented. You might be able to use the resources to take things in a totally different direction – but that would be up to you. The idea itself was simple and not only generated a lot of interesting discussions and designs but was also enjoyed by all the pupils within the classroom. And you can’t ask for more than that, can you?
Creating an avatar is one of those activities that I always include as part of my sessions on internet safety. The fact that pupils find this a lot of fun is a bonus and if it helps them realise how important it is in the quest keep yourself safe online then that’s all well and good. A few years ago these sessions seemed to concentrate on using photo editing software to manipulate and alter a photo of yourself so that it was in some way distorted or funky looking, often using freely available software like Irfanview on online editors like Tuxpi but as more and more ‘avatar creator’ sites pop us it seems a shame not to use them – so use them we will.
With younger children I like to show them a few cool things they can use to make cartoon-like or fun versions of themselves. This might not immediately be linked with internet safety but it’s handy that when we come to talk about creating an avatar many recall these sites as possible options. Be Your Wild Self is a site I keep coming back to (once you’ve tried it I’m sure you will too): use it when looking at habitats and animal classifications or when creating fantasy creatures for literacy – so much fun and great for generating discussion.You could, alternatively, tie your face creating into a maths activity and create faces made of simple Autoshapes as shown here , after all, it’s always useful to have a few topics linked together and this is the perfect opportunity! For even younger pupils you might like to check out the Me Maker from Kent ICT Games. Like many of the activities offered via this website, the Me Maker will run online but is also available as a download and is a great introduction tool for an ‘Ourselves’ topic. Although both the above mentioned activities only allow you to print out your creations you could always use this as an opportunity to show pupils how to use the Print screen key or use a free tool like Gadwin Print Screen to capture the finished image.
I have to say that, for a long time, one of the most popular avatar creators with KS2 pupils was the now unavailable site Simpsonize Me. I’m happy to report that you can still make yourself look like a member of the simpsons cast quite easily online by using the avatar creator included on the Simpson’s Movie Site. There are a number of other television programmes and movies that occasionally post such activities. I used to enjoy using the Wallace and Gromit avatar creator but this is another that is currently unavailable. But if you are a lover of all things clay I suggest you try Clay Yourself! which is just as much fun. If you would prefer to look a little more heroic in your finished creation why not try Hero Machine? I could see this site not only being useful as an avatar creator but additionally as a way of creating characters to inspire writing or discussion. Worth a look.
Finally, no selection of avatar creators without looking at some that reflect the avatars many pupils create to use on gaming consoles at home. My Avatar Editor and the Mii Avatar Creator both tap into this have proven popular with the pupils in my school, especially those at the upper end of KS2. Another site that the pupils seem to go back to is Reasonably Clever (Lego style characters)which they also used to create characters for storyboards and animation. The site contains a kid friendly version (not a funky looking but it doesn’t include things like cigarettes or guns) and a Blockhead version, just for faces. Even the Autoshapes idea can be extended into this age group: just use combinations of shapes to create cartoon style faces.
In closing, I’m pretty sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as finding web tools for creating faces goes. There a number of others I can think of that cannot be accessed in my school setting due to some of the social aspects of the site the rest in or the unsuitability of some included items. I’m sure this would be true of most schools and educational settings so I’ve chosen to concentrate on those I know can be accessed, albeit in my location. If you know of any really good ones I have missed out though I’d be really interested to hear about them
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!
Words. Phrases. Vocabulary. Subject specific language. We want children to use it in the correct way. We want them to try things out…take risks…be adventurous. We want pupils to identify and ‘magpie’ good ideas and extend their use of the English language. But it’s not always easy – how can we get them using language in the way we want them too? Maybe we need to get creative…
Word wheels, particularly with pictures or a subject specific background are a lovely way to develop vocabulary based around a topic. The image shown above was created using a setting included in 2Simple’s online creative space, Purple Mash (it’s included in 2Publish Extra): a product that recently won an ERA award and is really worth checking out! You can add up to eight words on this template (just enough in one go for younger ones or those with ALN) and the clip art library (plus other tools) is available for illustrating the wheel or individual words – it’s really easy to use! Also, in my opinion, pupils are far more likely to use a word wheel if they’ve created something themselves that they can be proud of: get them laminated so pupils can keep them in their trays or include them in their spelling journals, if you use them.
Older pupils might like to create their own calligrams for a working wall or display. You can do this in a number of ways with the pupils. This resource was created by downloading a whole load of appropriate free fonts from a website like Dafont but students could try creating their own calligrams using a combination of Word Art, autoshapes and appropriate fonts on a desktop publishing program like Microsoft Publisher. If you prefer, and you have a suitable art or graphics package available, you could use a program like 2Draw or Revelation Natural Art to create a similar effect and, if you haven’t got something like that installed, look online to web based applications like Sumo Paint – it has a text setting and is absolutely free!
Using a word cloud program to create a vocabulary mat is a pretty cool thing to do, especially as there a number of available word cloud generators to use. Wordle is a usable as ever and I have always loved the way you can customise your palette to reflect or enhance the meaning of the words. The fonts are not always as child friendly as they could be though, so it’s a good job that ABCWordYa has a selection of ‘friendlier’ fonts even if the features are not as extensive. Word it out is another worthy addition to this groups of word cloud generators but top of the tree has to be Tagxedo: allowing you to add shape to your word cloud is an act of pure genius.
Of course there are loads of other great things you can do in your classroom to help your pupils build a great vocabulary and not all of them involve technology. Make a word or sentence tree (although I really do like the one shown here for use on an IWB – it can be different every day and pupils can interact with it), create flash cards with picture or super cool word mats (or save time by searching online to find them already made for you), include key vocab on your working wall…just have fun with it. One free download I want to remind you of before signing off is Textorizer (as seen above in the picture of MLK) : free, cool and allows you to use an image as a background to overlay words on. Why not have a play with it (or any of the other ideas presented here)and see what you can create?
Earlier in the week I took part in an online where I was showing people how to create simple clip art images using autoshapes. The session was very popular and, near the end of the session, I shared some simple alien characters I had created using the same techniques. These were quite popular so tonight I’m posting a short video showing hot you can create your own. I’ve tried to include a few handy tips in the video that I think others might find useful. Here are a few more…
- If you create a shape or character you are particularly happy with save the Publisher or Powerpoint document so you can access it again and make simple changes – it’s much easier than starting things from scratch!
- If you want to save images with a clear background save them as PNGs – Jpegs and bitmaps will save with a white background (which you can remove easily when importing into some programs anyway.
- If you find things really tricky find an image you’d like to replicate and use the curve tool to trace over it carefully: this technique is particularly good for creating clip art images of historical figures and people as it will help you get the proportions right.
- In newer versions of Publisher you can sample fill and outline colours to get an exact match – this can be especially helpful when filling with pale colours and skin tones.
- If you have an idea what sorts of colours you want to use in your image, and you’re using 2010, select a colour scheme from the design tab first – that way you get graduated samples of the colours you want that are easy to access.
I hope you find that helpful – now it’s your turn to get creating :)
Time for another clip art tutorial using Autoshapes: this one showing how to create simple flowers. More on the way soon.