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Monday, 18 July 2016

Tournaments App - A Useful Tool for PE Teachers

As well as being the computing leader in my school, I have also been the PE coordinator for a number of years. We have been very successful as a school over the years in a number of sports and try our best to value physical education and understand the benefits the subject can have on children both physically and mentally. It there is one job I loathe in my role as PE co-ordinator, it is organising tournaments. 

We regularly host a variety of sporting tournaments, including our local football league and it can take me hours working out the logistics of who plays who etc. However, over the weekend someone suggested the app 'Football Tournament Maker' on the iPhone and it is brilliant! 

The app is completely FREE and it allows you to create a tournament, add the number of teams and it will then generate a fixture list, a matrix of results and league table. You can also set up the tournament to be a knockout format. 

 The app will also give you individual team breakdown throughout the tournament:

You can then share the league tables and matrix as an image and the app allows you to turn your tournament into a website for others to access and use. 

A very handy app for PE coordinators but can also be a great tool to use for a data handling activity in maths or if you organise class tournaments. 

The Internet in Real Time

This web page is brilliant for showing how much information and data is being generated on the internet in real time. The orginal webpage seems to be down or not working, so I have embedded it here so you can access it.

Click the animation to open the full version (via pennystocks).
Click above to view the full version [h/t Penny Stocks].

Click the image to open the interactive version (via Penny Stocks).

Click above to view the full version [h/t Penny Stocks].

Click above to view the interactive version [h/t Penny Stocks].

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Traditional Tales with a Twist: Rashomon through Tweets!

Today Year 4 were given a mammoth challenge in English. We introduced the idea of a Rashomon story: a story told from different perspectives. They had to choose a familiar story and retell it from two different character's perspective. That sounds a challenge in itself but I decided to take it a step further by explaining that the character's version of the story had to be told through 5 tweets, each of 140 characters EXACTLY!

The children relished the challenge and had my new app. 1-4-0 to help. The app allows children to write a story or text within a grid of 140 boxes. The app has a word counter and a character counter to make sure children keep to the constraint. This is an idea I have previously blogged about and share on my training to actively encourage pupils to play and experiment with words and language. What I love about the idea of using twitter as a constraint is that a character can be a letter, a space or a punctuation mark. So children will actively muck about with the use of different punctuation marks to help reach the 140 goal. The idea was inspired by all the constrained writing challenges featured in Alan Peat's books. 

To make sure the app enhance what can be done on paper, alongside the character and word counter, there is the option to turn the message into a fake tweet. This is a great teaching tool, as teachers can use this to create fake tweets from celebrities with deliberate mistakes for the children to spot and correct.

The children had to tell the story as a character through 5 tweets of 140 characters exactly. It was a tough task but one the children enjoyed. They worked brilliantly, trying ideas, changing words and phrases to make their story fit.

For most of the children, there wasn't enough time in the session to complete the whole task but all of them managed to get a few tweets done. Here are a couple of examples from stories such as: Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk and Hansel and Gretal. 

For those children who did finish, they could put all their tweets together using the app Adobe Spark Page. I have previously blogged about this cracking app, where children can create stunning web pages for a variety of tasks. Here is one of the finished efforts from the class:


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Minecraft in Year 1

Any followers of this blog and teachers who have attended my training know I am a massive fan of using Minecraft in the classroom. As a creative tool, it is a fantastic way to let children build settings, historical structures and different environments.

Last week, I was working with my Year 1 class. Their topic this half term is the seaside. After learning all about features of the seaside, I challenged the class to try and build a seaside scene in Minecraft. Encouraging them to include as many features as possible, it wasn't going to be an easy task for Year 1. However, I was lucky to have some helpers in the form of Year 6 students, who are nothing short of experts when it comes to Minecraft. As most of the cohort were away visiting their high school, I had a few pupils transform into teachers helping and guiding the Year 1 pupils through their task.

Some of the efforts from the Year ones were amazing! I was really impressed but I loved the discussion and collaboration between the students and their Year 6 mentors. It is something I am hoping to do more in the future. Once the children had designed their scenes, they could either label the features:

Or they could put themselves into the picture using the app Pic Collage:

It was a very enjoyable afternoon all round. I was able to assess what the children could remember about the seaside and features you would see there. The Year 1 children relished a session using their favourite game and the Year 6 helpers loved using their expertise to help other students!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

More Guided Reading through Music: Dj Snake- Middle vs James Bay - Let it Go

I love using music in the classroom! I have previously blogged plenty of ideas for using music in the classroom. Some of my favourites have been using songs to develop reading skills. Some of the most popular have been:
This blog post will share some more ideas for using songs and lyrics to develop key higher order reading skills. 

While I would encourage you to use these ideas and lessons, I think it is important to make clear there needs to be a balance between these shorter texts and longer whole stories. 

My work with John Murray has certainly inspired these posts, so please check his website out and also look at the READWRITEPERFORM resources for more of these ideas and strategies to teaching English. 

With this blog, I have chosen two songs that cover the same issue with a different outlook, I will break each song down and finish with some comparative questions.

DJ Snake - Middle 

Here are the lyrics with some questions to consider:

Play the song through once asking the children to listen carefully to the lyrics. Ask the children what do they think the song is about? A relationship that is on the brink of ending.

[Verse 1]
Staring at two different views on your window ledge
Coffee is going cold, it's like time froze
There you go wishing, floating down our wishing well
It's like I'm always causing problems, causing hell
I didn't mean to put you through this, I can tell
We cannot sweep this under the carpet

  • Read the first two lines, what scene do you picture? How many people are there? How do you know? 2 people in a room, looking in different directions not talking.
  • Why has the singer focused on the ledge in the room? What does this symbolise? It symbolises the fact their relationship is on the brink of ending.
  • Why is the coffee going cold? They are both deep in thought about the relationship
  • What does the phrase 'time froze' tell us about how long they have been there? A long time
  • What is a wishing well? Why has the singer used this as a metaphor? A wishing well is where you drop a coin and make a wish in hope it will come true.
  • What do you think the wish is?
  • Why has the singer chosen the word floating?  That this uncertainty hasn't been sudden has been coming for a while.
  • Who is to blame for the problems in the relationship? How does it make both the singer and his partner feel? What words are shown to emphasise this? He is to blame, the word choice 'hell' shows how hard it has been.
  • Does he make mistakes intentionally? How do you know this?
  • What is meant by the last line? Sweeping something under the carpet is to ignore a problem.

I hope that I can turn back the time
To make it all alright, all alright for us
I'll promise to build a new world for us two
With you in the middle
(With you in the middle)
(With you in the middle)

  • What does he hope to do when he says 'turn back the time?' Start the relationship over from scratch.
  • On a scale of 1 - 5, how confident is he that he can do this? Not very due to the word 'hope'
  • Will he try his best? How do you know? He promises
  • What does he mean when he puts his partner in the middle? She will be the focus of everything
  • Why does he repeat this phrase?

[Verse 2]
Lying down beside you, what's going through your head?
The silence in the air felt like my soul froze
Am I just overthinking feelings? I conceal
This gut feeling I'm tryna get off me as well
I hope we find our missing pieces and just chill
We cannot sweep it under the carpet

  • Read the first two lines, what scene do you picture? Lying down in silence with the singer thinking and worrying about his partner and her thoughts.
  • How does he feel? Worried and anxious 'soul froze'
  • Why has the singer used the word 'soul?' His whole being, everything about him is worried.
  • Why did he use the metaphor 'froze?' Linking weather creates the feeling of coldness which the situation has created between the two. 

I hope that I can turn back the time
To make it all alright, all alright for us
I'll promise to build a new world for us two
With you in the middle

(With you in the middle)
(With you in the middle)
(With you)

James Bay - Let it Go

Play the song through once asking the children to listen carefully to the lyrics. Ask the children what do they think the song is about? The singer is trying to end a relationship. 

[Verse 1]
From walking home and talking loads
To seeing shows in evening clothes with you
From nervous touch and getting drunk
To staying up and waking up with you

  • What does the singer explain in the first verse? The progression of the relationship. 
  • What things did they do as a couple? Go to shows, go out drinking
  • Why did the singer describe the touch as a nervous one? It was early in the relationship, he wasn't sure whether she wanted to hold his hand.
  • The last line infers they have spent the night together. You may want to skip past this or it could be inferred that they have travelled or been on holiday together. 

[Pre-Chorus 1]
Now we're sleeping near the edge
Holding something we don't need
Oh, this delusion in our heads is gonna bring us to our knees

  • What does the edge symbolise? Being close to the end - make links to the previous song.
  • Why does he say they are sleeping there? This can show that they have been near the edge for a long time.
  • What are they holding? Why don't they need it? The relationship, it isn't working for both of them.
  • Could you think of a more powerful word to use than holding? Clasping, clutching
  • Why does he describe the belief in the relationship as a delusion? 
  • What does the phrase 'bring us to our knees' mean? It is an idiom to show you're defeated.

So come on, let it go
Just let it be
Why don't you be you, and I'll be me?
Everything that's broke
Leave it to the breeze
Why don't you be you, and I'll be me?
And I'll be me

  • What is he asking her to let go? The relationship
  • Why? Because it is changing them as people, they are not the same as they were at the beginning. 
  • What has broken? Why does he suggest leaving it to the breeze? Problems in the relationship and the breeze will take them away and be forgotten about. 
  • Is this line grammatically correct? Can you correct it?
  • What do we learn about the characters and what the relationship has done to them? 
  • Why does he repeat the phrase "And I'll be me?" To emphasise his belief that he is making the right decision. 

[Verse 2]
From throwing clothes across the floor
To teeth and claws and slamming doors at you
If this is all we're living for
Why are we doing it, doing it, doing it anymore?

  • What is happening in this verse? They are fighting, throwing clothes - sorting belongings.
  • What does the phrase 'teeth and claws' tell you about the fighting? It is aggressive and nasty. 
  • What question is the singer asking? What is the point
  • Why do you think he repeats 'doing it'? It happens a lot and is becoming tiresome. 

[Pre-Chorus 2]
I used to recognize myself
It's funny how reflections change
When we're becoming something else
I think it's time to walk away

  • What has this relationship done to the singer? Made him change, he has become a different person and lost confidence in himself. 
  • Does he like his reflection? No, which is why he wants it to end.
  • Does he think his partner has changed? How do you know? He uses the contraction "We're"

So come on, let it go
Just let it be
Why don't you be you, and I'll be me?
Everything that's broke
Leave it to the breeze
Why don't you be you, and I'll be me?
And I'll be me

Tryna fit your hand inside of mine
When we know it just don't belong
Cause no force on earth could make it feel right, no no
Tryna push this problem up the hill
When it's just too heavy to hold
I think now's the time to let it slide

  • Can you correct the word in the first line?
  • Why do you think her hand doesn't fit? It is a metaphor for their relationship. 
  • What point is he trying to make when he says 'no force on earth'? It will never fit no matter what happens.
  • Why has the singer used a hill as a metaphor? To show how hard this problem is to solve
  • What picture do we imagine of the problem and how it makes the singer feel? Under a lot of pressure
  • Why has the singer used the adverb 'too' when talking about the heavy problem?
  • Why does the singer choose the word slide? How does it contrast with the hill? 

So come on, let it go
Just let it be
Why don't you be you, and I'll be me?
Everything that's broke
Leave it to the breeze
Let the ashes fall
Forget about me

  • Why does the singer use the word ashes? To symbolise the death of their relationship

Come on, let it go
Just let it be
Why don't you be you, and I'll be me?
And I'll be me

After deconstructing both songs, it would be useful to compare and contrast and try to identify the similarities - subject matter, reference to edge etc and the differences - trying to keep the relationship together compared to ending it. You could then discuss why both songs are popular as people can relate to the subjects, why both singers wrote the songs? From personal experience. 

I would love to hear from you if you use these ideas in class and link any writing to it. Please do email, tweet or comment on facebook. Thanks!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Evertoon Fun!

Evertoon has been an app on my radar for a while. I had the opportunity to play with a beta version of the app and I saw straight away the potential in the classroom.

The app allows you to create an animation of two characters interacting. You have the ability to design yourself as a character. Adding a costume and background to your scene.

You are able to use the camera to take a photo of yourself and add it into the scene.

There is also a selection of celebrities you can also choose from.

Once you have designed your characters, you can then create a dialogue. A character's actions can be created by selecting an emoji. Each emoji will make the character act in a certain way. There is the option to then use the microphone to record what the character says.

The app has a 9+ rating and some of the emojis make the character act in a rude way (kissing, passing wind etc) however there is so much potential with the app.

A couple of initial ideas:

  • Visualise how to write direct speech, using the actions to aid reporting clauses.
  • Create interviews with famous people, book characters, famous historical figures.
  • Use in PSHCE to act out how to be friendly, how to treat each other. 
  • Create a stimulus for a story.
  • Act out a debate or discussion about an issue.
  • Persuasive arguments.
Here is a quick example I created playing around with the app.

If you use any of these ideas or use the app in class, please share some examples of what you create and I would be happy to share!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

A Message for the England Football Team!

It is just a week until the Euros and the nation is hoping England will do well after the disappointment in some recent tournaments. After using ideas from the latest ReadWritePerform pack, students in my class wrote and performed their own motivational speech for the team. Using Doink Greenscreen and Videorama the class were incredibly proud of the finished video they created.

We are now on a mission to try and get the England team to see our video before the tournament starts! We NEED your help! We are hoping through the wonderful power of the internet the class reach their goal. Please share, like, tweet, RT, comment, tag and post this video to try and get it seen and hopefully passed on to Roy and the lads!

Thank you in advance!

Video on Facebook:

Video on YouTube:

So far we have had a fantastic response on Facebook and twitter with England legend Ian Wright, Soccer AM and journalist Henry Winter sharing the video:

Today, we had this message from the team:

I can't wait to see the reaction from the children!

Please keep sharing!