Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘writing frames’

Getting Better All the Time

Well done to the bods at 2simple! They’ve just revamped their fantastic creative online space, Purple Mash, and, I have to say, it looks rather spiffing and works very well. New graphics, new menus, a lovely clear layout and an amazing array of content. If you haven’t tried it you really should: it’s inclusive, adaptable, cross curricular and a whole lot of fun. Pupils can have their own logins and save work in their own online space or to their own computer: meaning they can be creative at school and at home. Of course I’ve been a fan of Purple Mash for quite a while but, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, let’s have a look at some of the new developments.

Well, firstly, there are some nice little changes to the main menu and subsequent areas. For a start there’s the addition of links for the different educational phases, making it easier for teachers to see what content might be age and skills appropriate. As you hover over each icon a lovely, unobtrusive pop up menu explains what to expect when you click through. They’ve also included a link to the most seasonal activities, the most popular activities and their latest content. All these features make it far simpler to get find what you want which, for busy teachers or impatient pupils has to be a good thing.

One of the most anticipated developments in Purple Mash (especially among some of the pupils I know) has been the inclusion of 2DIY 3D – a fantastic maze game creator that has a cross curricular purpose while, at the same time, being a whole lot of fun. I’m not going to wax lyrical on this now (although I think it’s absolutely fantastic) as there is a fantastic post available for you to read right here that will pretty much tell you all you need to know. I will, however, say that I think this activity lends itself you finding interesting textures that can be used to create the stunning 3D landscape (as seen above). I quite like to use a site I’ve mentioned before called CG Textures and, in the above screenshot, I used a tiled sky texture to create the ‘roof’ of the activity. The walls of the maze were created using a tree image I created especially. I think I’ll probably make more elements like this and post them as a bundle at a later date. Finally, I used a picture of the grass in my garden on the floor: I was trying to get a foresty feel as the game I’m creating is linked to the fabulous children’s book ‘The Gruffalo’ and I will be posting about this some time soon. Of course games are to be played and need to be shared and 2Simple have even got this covered. Once games created with 2DIY 3D have been completed and saved there’s a ‘share’ option allowing you to link to the game or embed it in a blog post/school website. Genius!

Going back to the main menu, another addition which I think teachers will find really helpful is the new Themes section which can be accessed from the tabs across the right of the page. As more schools go down a creative curriculum route they need to be able to find resources on a given theme quickly and efficiently. This section is just the job: I counted over 30 themes available at the moment and, when you consider how often the team at 2Simple are adding new and relevant content, that’s only going to blossom and grow even more.

So there you have it: quick, initial thoughts on the revamped Purple Mash. I think it’s getting better all the time: have a look and see what you think.

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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.

World in Union

Well, the 2011 rugby World Cup has started and I, for one, am pretty excited about it. Maybe it’s because I’m Welsh but I’m pretty sure others feel the same so I thought I’d share some resources and ideas you could use with your class. And I’m going to start with those super people at Purple Mash who are yet again ‘on the ball’ (excuse the pun) when it comes to current and relevant content to use in the classroom. There are a few resources to choose from here, including a great template for writing a match report , and all of the activities include fantastic themed clip art in addition to word banks or writing prompts. There are also other resources that would fit into this theme. There’s a Welsh Celebrity Profile writing frame which includes rugby themed clip art (great for writing about Shane Williams or your favourite Welsh player) and a Sports Star Profile (no rugby themed clip art but you could use the drawing tools). There’s a writing frame for describing the rules of a sport (rugby clip art included) and, if you visit the creative tools section, there are some useful writing frame templates available via 2Publish and 2PublishExtra. Make a rugby themed word wheel! Or a poster! Or a leaflet about one of the counties involved! Loads of lovely possibilities all in one handy online space. You could even use 2Investigate to create a graph about the top players. If you’ve not used PurpleMash before and would like to know more then get in touch with the bods at 2Simple or send them a message online (via Facebook or Twitter).

Of course the statistical information involved in any sporting event makes it obvious to link this topic to Maths and there are lots of possibilities. There is plenty of statistical information available on the official site but it might be nice to follow the event and come up with activities of your own. During the last Rugby World Cup a friend of mine used the pools as a sort of mini competition between the groups in his class. 4 pools – 4 groups. Pupils were in charge of keeping a note of all the scores recorded by teams in their pool and using little numbered rugby balls to keep their total updated every day. A bit of a competition with a smattering of basic number skills and place value thrown in – the winner being the table with the most points scored. There are also plenty of investigations that could be done based on the rugby field itself: area, perimeter, measuring etc. and a bit of fun to be had with angles (linked to goal kicking). There are also fantastic opportunities to link the topic to DT/Art (flag, kit or mascot design, build a stadium), Science (investigations of fabrics used in sports kits, forces), Geography (pick any of the countries involved) – you name it!

So what about activities linked to ICT? Well, in addition to the great stuff available via Purple Mash it would also be worth searching through resources available via TES Connect (there is bound to be something useful) and seeing what the teaching resource section on the official site has to offer. You could get pupils to make adverts, publicising the games ,using Windows Movie Maker, Photo Story or iMovie or use Pivot Stick Figure to make some rugby themed animations  I’ve put together made an ICT challenge pack aimed at KS2 (but you could adapt the idea) if you want to have a go. I’ve also added a selection of clip art to my posterous blog (it’s already included in the challenge pack) if you felt like creating top trump cards or something similar – in fact, why not get the children to do it. That’s far much more fun!

 

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!

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.

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!

Back to School

So, the Easter holidays are finally coming to a close and there seem to be a plethora of great things happening in the world right now (or very soon) that are perfect for covering in the classroom. There’s the forthcoming general election, the recent Icelandic volcano incident and a little matter of the football World Cup. This could make it a topical and jam packed term and it seems a shame to sit and let such opportunities pass. So …what to do?

Election wise there are opportunities for producing persuasive information, possibly using the recent Marmite adverts as a stimulus to get them to design adverts for imaginary products – both printed (using Microsoft Publisher or 2Publish+) and as a multimedia task (using Movie Maker, PhotoStory or PowerPoint). Ideas for this could be planned out using storyboards or writing frames and then move on from there.

In terms of linking some work to the recent volcano incident; unfortunately there has not been much evidence of the ash cloud in our own local area, but there are opportunities to use a lot of stuff that’s already out there as part of their study. There are some fabulous useful bits and pieces on The Whiteboard Blog, another usable site here and the every lovely and industrious Simon Haughton has posted some great stuff in the TES Resource Bank. I am currently putting together a selection of Icelandic photos and creating some resources for Communication 4 All but, if you want to get a presentation together, you can use this PowerPoint template to get you started. I’m thinking of also covering this topic fleetingly – maybe some ‘lava pictures’ using the wet paint and ink settings on 2Paint a Picture or use This is sand to create a volcanic landscape. I’m sure you can come up with other ideas.

Finally I’m going to talk about the football World Cup. I think it’s going to be a marvellous topic to cover for a number of reasons. For a start pupils in our area will not automatically support England (we are, after all, Welsh) which always makes for a good split in the classroom and a great deal of discussion – so they will be enthusiastic already! But the possible links to different areas of the curriculum are fantastic. I’m just about to finish an ICT challenge pack (I’ll post the link when it’s ready) covering ideas that link to maths, geography, history and literacy and there are already a number of great ideas out there! There are some truly fantastic resources available for this topic already! The selection here is truly mind boggling and comprehensive and there are also useful resources available via The Literacy Trust . Another great find (thanks to EBD35) is this site linked to the  Paralympic World Cup which has some great free downloads. For me the possibilities, particularly from a mathematical standpoint, of activities that could link to this famous event spurred me to create this pictogram activity for Excel 2007 (it also includes instructions for creating one in 2003) and a few additional mathematically based resources but there are so many good angles I’m sure you’ll find a way in that pupils will love. In fact I’m sure you’ll be able to link to all three ideas (although, as Meatloaf said, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad)!