Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘Thinking skills’

A New Direction

Well, hello. It’s been quite a while since my last blog post, and with good reason. Last year I changed my job; no longer am I school based. These days I work at TES, devoting time to finding and creating quality resources that support pupils with SEN. I still, however, like to keep up to date on what is happening in education and spend time exploring lots of web based ideas I think might be interesting and I thought, what with today being the 29th February and therefore a little special, I’d share a few new finds an old favourites. All these sites have some link to inclusion (even when it’s not obvious – I will explain) and all of them are free to use. So here we go – a special top ten for a special day! Hopefully there’s something for everyone here.

1. Doorway Online: I love this site. I cannot stress how useful it is for so many reasons! All the activities on here have been created with inclusion in mind and would be useful across a number of different settings. All the activities have a clear font and an uncluttered layout. It’s just lovely 🙂

2. Poisson Rouge: If you haven’t indulged it the joy of the Red Fish you really need to check it out! No instructions and some areas are undeniable French (it is a French website after all) but within the madness there are some great activities The ‘School of English‘ (the castle) is quite handy for learning vocab and other languages are supported too – making it great for MFL. In the bugs section (flower on the windowsill) there are lovely basic mouse skills activities and matching games that would be useful to use with pupils in EY or SEN settings. Everything is brightly coloured and engaging. Some items might be a little annoying (the choir is distinctly odd) but there is a wealth of usefulness within the site – both ICT skills wise and across other curriculum areas.

3. Literactive: This is one of those websites you will either love or hate. It’s free to register and you can ask to register with UK English (the site is American). I just found that the Road to Reading  section had some really useful sequencing and memory based activities that some pupils with SEN found both engaging and enjoyable. It is pitched at a young audience but the animated content in the sequencing activities and some of the more cartoony elements mean that you could use it with some slightly older pupils if you needed to.

4. Help Kidz Learn: Another website that has been created with inclusion in mind (after all – it is from the bod at Inclusive Technology), this one has lots of beautifully presented and helpful activities across a number of areas. As you would expect, the activities are switch accessible and are all aimed at a basic skill level. This doesn’t take away from the beautiful design of them and I particularly like the creative section.

5. Bembo’s Zoo: I have a real soft spot for this website. It inspired one of my first blog posts and is truly beautiful. You would need to be creative to find lots of ways to include it in your teaching (although animal and alphabet focused sessions are a given) but it’s worth exploring. Even if it is just for fun.

6. TESiboard: I was a big fan of TESiboard long before I went to work at the TES. I’m still a fan. A plethora of great interactives from, EY to KS2, that can be used in a number of ways. And, from read aloud story books to creative activities (taking in lots of great curriculum topics along the way), there is so much here that’s available to support pupils with SEN. I remember suggesting this one to a 1 to 1 TA when the class were writing about their families – she needed something quick and accessible for her charge and this did the job brilliantly!

7. ARKive: A fabulous website with so much information included it’s mind boggling. It even has a layer you can use when accessing Google Earth! Loads of video and photo content, which is fabulous quality, and supporting teaching resources and games too. I think it’s just an amazing site that you (and the children) will want to explore time and time again.

8. Qwiki: It’s not perfect but any website that allows you to search for a topic then watch a slideshow about that topic while listening to audio content (a little fast but still useful) has to be a winner. Yes, the automated voice is a little annoying (but you can control the volume and pause the slideshow/go back over things) and the images are sometimes not the most accurate (check something before you let the children loose) but the pros still outweigh the cons as far as I am concerned. It even has read along captions with the slideshow which you can turn off if you want to.

9. Dabbleboard: There always seem to be new tools appearing that can be used to support collaborative learning and thinking skills within the classroom. Dabbleboard takes elements of both and fuses them together seamlessly. You can draw. You can type. You can add shapes, arrows and lines. You can share. You can chat. You can insert pictures and documents. Truly fab.

10. Teacher LED: Lots of nice, clear activities for your IWB. Many are maths based but other areas are covered too. I really like the new Word Circle activity, mainly as it reminds me of a similar idea I had using PowerPoint. I’m also a fan of the Map Maker. Some of the maths based interactives are the best I’ve seen – just take a look for yourselves.

Top of the World

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!

Word Up!

It’s Saturday night. As there’s absolutely nothing to watch on the telly I thought I’d share something I’ve been using recently in class. This isn’t actually an ICT activity but the resource is for the IWB so I’m popping it on here anyway. Simple really – just a word puzzle to get them thinking. Each slide has a box with nine letters on it. The letters can be arranged to spell out a 9 letter word but I give the children a set time (usually 15 minutes) to see how many words of three letters or more they can come up with. Each table has access to a dictionary to check spellings if they need to. To add a little edge (let’s call it healthy competition) there’s a little prize for anyone who finds the 9 letter word and another for the person with the most words that are spelt correctly. Nothing to it really – it’s not rocket science; just a bit of fun to have at the end of the day. If you want to try it you can download my resource here or just make your own.

Another idea I’ve used recently is Save the Egg. I did share details of this with others at a Science day in Cardiff , and it’s an activity that someone else shared with me, but it’s so much fun I thought it was worth sharing again here. Bring in a couple of eggs. Ask the children what would happen if you dropped it (for extra effect I would actually drop an egg – the reactions are priceless): how could they stop it from breaking? What could they use to protect it? This activity covers so many things and you can weight it towards which ever focus you think fits you best. I’ve structured it from a materials point of view but it could just as easily fit in with work on forces or just be a thinking skills project. I’d run it over two sessions; using the second session to bring in an egg for each child and a whole bunch of the materials they highlighted (bubble wrap is a big favourite) so they can perfect their designs and test them out. Does it matter if their designs fail? Not at all – it’s an excellent way to start discussions on what they might do next time to improve it. My one rule – everyone has to name their egg  – it makes it more personal.


This Flurb Needs You!

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?

It’s a Celebration!

I’m really feeling on top of the world today! I returned home from work to find the blog has made the shortlist in the Education Blog Awards! I am absolutely flabbergasted and would like to send out a heartfelt thanks to everyone who voted – you’ve made my day. I’m also feeling rather pleased about a couple of things I’m organising during July, and I’m hoping you will be too.

Reflect and Share is about giving pupils a chance to speak about the lessons and resources they have loved using within there classrooms. The children involved will be sharing their thoughts on learning with teachers in an effort to let the teachers know what they children think really works well. Although the final date is not set this is an event I’m really looking forward to organising and I’m hoping to get a few goodies for all the children who are willing to present as I think it could be a little bit nerve racking . Here’s hoping it goes well…

I’m also looking forward to organising my second TeachMeet as the first one was a really enjoyable affair with fantastic presenters and supportive sponsors. This time the event will be in term time (it’s so hard to sort one out in the holidays with everyone going away) and will be focusing on developing thinking skills and creating independent learners. As soon as I’ve got everything in place I will add it to the TeachMeet site but I have to say I’m feeling pretty enthused already and I hope people will enjoy contributing and being involved – I can’t do it without you.

Finally, I’m pretty sure you all know how proud I am of being Welsh and one event I’m really excited about attending is TMSwansea . It’s going to be a great opportunity to pick up new ideas and share some of my own, and I’m really looking forward to catching up with some fellow Welsh educators. In fact, with that in mind, I’m fortunate to be attending what I feel could be a really ground breaking event for Welsh educators on Friday – to discuss the development of #addcym. Inspired by Colin Hill ,and his great organising and vision surrounding the #ukedchat discussions, I’m now involved with a group of other ‘Welshies’ in developing something similar for Wales. That said, we’re quite happy for people from elsewhere to join in so if you’re on Twitter between 8pm and 9pm on a Sunday evening do look out for the #addcym hashtag – we’d love for you to vote in the poll and join in with the discussion – the more the merrier! There are exciting times ahead in the world of Education and I, for one, intend to be a part of it. And I’m hoping you’ll join me for the ride.

Let’s Work Together

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!

Macro Magic

After the fabulous few days I spent in Cardiff last week I’ve come away inspired about a couple of things: tools for developing thinking skills and PowerPoint Macros. I have talked about using macros before but I have now discovered that my favourite Drag and Drop Macro has been improved and now does all sorts of things! The advantage here is that the slides can contain some custom animation (although not on the objects to which the macro has been applied) and the macro just does so much more. I had seen Alessio Bernadelli (follow him on Twitter here) showcase some items he had created with it – now I was going to have a go.

I started out by trying to develop a comic strip creator that would run as a PowerPoint show and I asked some friends to test it out. Here I stumbled across a few little niggles. Firstly the macro only runs properly on some versions of PowerPoint: it won’t work properly on 2010 and it also doesn’t run on a mac  (but I’m sure someone will iron out these issues before too long). Secondly, not everyone remembers to enable their macros (or how they can do it) . But these are just minor quibbles. I was quite pleased with the comic strip creator and intend to make some more. I even gave it a pop up menu, similar to one I had seen Alessio create, which I think works quite well. But I had other ideas in mind for the macro so  I’ll come back to the comic strip at a later date. Now…onto the next thing.

I decided to move on to some templates I thought would assist with developing thinking skills. I had been creating some resources for discussion (with a bit of help from some others including Danny Nicholson) and thought it might be nice to create some templates so teachers could present their own ideas and spark of discussion in the classroom – not just during science but during any subject lesson. I finally came up with TimeforDiscussion (and followed this with different style of it in TimeforDiscussion2 and TimeforDiscussion3) which I hope will be useful in helping teachers set up points for discussion. Again, I have to give a massive shout out to Alessio who checked everything for me and ironed out a few glitches – the man’s a trooper 🙂

As a final fling I created a learning caterpillar template for younger children, based on yet another idea from Alessio butgiven a child friendly makeover to make it more accessible to younger pupils. I think I might go a step further with this and add some sound files too, but we shall see. Why don’t you download MyLearningCaterpillar (in pps format: for ppt format click here) and see what you think. I think the more tools we have for developing thinking in younger pupils the better!

Celtic Times

Not all schools cover work on the Celts and there is very little out there on the internet for this topic. Now, as luck would have it, I do know a fair bit about the Celts having covered it in the past.. Luckily there are some great resources available via the BBC: the BBC Celts site (for schools in Wales) and a fabulous animation showing how roundhouses were constructed. These are a good starting point for a number of activities: you could plan a literacy one based around instruction writing and time connectives using the roundhouse reconstruction and an internet research and post it challenge on based on using the other site and comparing our life to that of the Celts. If your not going to be working with ICT, or even if you are, then it’s worth exploring a Celtic design theme, which could be loosely based around maths and symmetry, where pupils have to  design, sketch and paint their own Celtic style designs. You could use the internet (and books to) research designs: there are plenty of Celtic arts and crafts on display, many of them really beautiful and inspiring. But what if you want to tie all these activities together at the end of your session? Here’s a plenary idea…

Why not introduce an online post it too for recording facts? Now, you could go with Wallwisher, which is a fantastic tool and I’ve it used before, but I’ve recently come across something that is a little bit ‘friendlier’ looking called Lino it. Lino is definitely a crowd pleaser – everyone can engage with it at their own level and you can import images and other file types in addition to adding written content. And, the best thing, it’s free. So why not try it as a way of finding out and recording how much your children have got out of a lesson!

Let’s get thinking!

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.