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Monday, 27 April 2015

Turning 30!

Warning - This blog post has no ideas for use in the classroom!

Tomorrow, I turn 30. I don't know why, but I felt compelled to write about it! I am not dreading turning the big 3-0 as many of my friends are, in fact, I embrace growing older as see it as a beautiful thing, a privilege denied to many. What turning 30 has made me do is reflect, reflect on everything I have done and look at everything I want to do.

I am an extremely lucky man. I have an incredible family, wonderful wife, beautiful children and have an amazing job working as a teacher and running my own business training teachers and working with schools all over the country. I am lucky and often think I don't deserve to do it. My wife soon reminds me how hard I have worked for this. To be where I am now, I have worked incredibly hard, things have worked in my favour and I believe this happens when you strive and pursue something. That doesn't just apply to my job, working hard as a husband and father too is just as important.

Back when I was 18
The question was put to me the other day - 'If you could have a conversation with yourself at 18, what would you say?' Obviously, the choice in previous girlfriends was the first thing that came to mind ��, however, when I thought about it, I realised I wouldn't change anything, as it has led me to be where I am today. I managed to think of some advice I would bestow upon my younger self -

  • Appreciate the time you have! You will never get it back, make the most of it and enjoy every experience. Time is the most precious thing you have! I don't know whether I have realised this turning 30 or being a Dad, either way make the most of it!
  • Listen to your Mum and Dad - they are right on almost everything and you will realise this sooner rather than later.
  • Teaching is both really hard but equally as rewarding - You have a job to educate and care for the most important person in many people's lives, it is a privilege and a joy, don't lose sight of that. 
  • Play as much sport as possible at the highest level you can - there will be a time when you can't and you will look back and reminisce.
  • Forgive people - Life is too short to hold grudges about certain things from the past, if people have learnt and matured, learn to forgive. You will make plenty of mistakes and want forgiveness too. 
  • See the positive in everything you do - you will have set-backs, obstacles and negativity thrown at you, learn from it and move forward, don't give up on what you want. 
  • Don't judge people without knowing them - everyone has a story and there will be a reason for their behaviour, be understanding, you may not be friends with them but respect them.
  • Accept change! People change, you will change, your relationships with friends and family will change, don't worry or get upset about it, true mates will always be there. 
  • Man Utd won't stay invincible forever - Make the most of them winning now, tough times lie ahead!
Made using Age Booth app
It then got me thinking about what I might say to myself when I reach 50 and could speak to myself at 30. What would I say? It helped me think about goals I want to set myself at this tender age!
  • Run - Keep fit, your body is slowing down and so it harder to stay in shape and easier to put weight on. Your body is an incredible machine but not invincible, take care of it.
  • Eat less rubbish! See above.
  • Be more like your Dad - My Dad is my hero, his selfless attitude to make sure we had the best childhood possible is something you strive to do. 
  • Make your Mum proud - Don't think because you're older you are anything less important, even if she is softer with the grandkids. 
  • Don't take people for granted, especially your wife! She has made the choice to spend the rest of her life with you, make it the right choice!
  • Be the man you want your sons to grow up to be and the man your daughter wants to be with. Treat her like a princess and trust she will make good choices (even though it will be hard to bite your tongue.)
  • Support and encourage the kids in everything they do, it might not be what you like but they should be given the opportunity and platform to excel in anything they are interested in. This also applies to being a teacher with children in your class!
  • Carry on inspiring and innovating - nothing makes you more proud than receiving messages from teachers thanking you for inspiring and improving their teaching. Continue to help children achieve and believe in themselves.
  • Accept people will steal ideas without crediting you! The ideas are there for people to use, most will also thank you or give you a nod. Take it as a compliment if they don't, don't let it make you angry. As long as you can continue to generate new, useful ideas you will be ok. 
  • Continue to write - continue with the blog, ebooks and books. It is simple, the more you write the better you are. 
  • Put the phone down! I know you don't want to miss a new idea or app or interesting lesson but being a Dad and Husband is more important... Don't forget this.
  • Man United will be back winning trophies - this is just a phase, we will be back at the top of the league before long. However, England will still always lose on penalties!
  • Leonardo Di Caprio will win an oscar - I know he has deserved it before and this has annoyed you but he will get it soon enough!
  • Hangovers will get worse - To quote a great line -  'When you drink alcohol, you are just borrowing happiness from tomorrow!'
  • Appreciate the time you have -  You will never get it back, make the most of it and enjoy every experience. Time is the most precious thing you have, make the most of it!
I am sorry if I have just wasted your time in reading this. As a teacher who promotes blogging, I wanted to publish this so in 20 years I can look back and see if I achieved these goals!

I also want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has continued to support this blog and the training I am doing. It means so much to get positive feedback and motivates me to continue to work hard creating useful lessons and ideas for you to use. THANK YOU!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Authorial Intent in Teaser Trailers

The teaser trailer, it is becoming an integral part of movies and is usually the trailer for the trailer. The teaser trailer is aimed at creating a buzz with the audience and usually asks more questions than actually answering any.

So if the aim of a teaser trailer is to tease and leave the audience excited and wanting more, discuss this with children to get them thinking about how this is done.

One of the most exciting teaser trailers this year is the Star Wars Episode VII trailer. Here is the trailer -

To use this in the classroom, children may need a little background about the Star Wars films. I am not suggesting you watch them all, even though the original three should be part of the curriculum but discussing the huge success, a little about the story and the huge expectation of this upcoming film. Here are some questions you could ask about why this is a great example of a teaser trailer. 

At 14 seconds, we hear a voice, ask the children whether they think this is a hero or villain. Why do they think this? 
The voice says 'There has been an awakening have you felt it the dark side and the light' (missing punctuation) ask the children to listen to how it has been spoken and correctly punctuate it. 

At 22 seconds, we meet our first character. Ask the children who he might be? Hero? Villain? Why has the director purposely introduced him first? What effect does this have?
How is he dressed? How is he feeling? What could have happened? Where is he?

At 28 seconds, we see a droid moving really quickly. Show the children a picture of R2D2 and discuss the differences. What does this show us? The new story is in the future as the droid is improved. 

At 33 seconds, we see a set of stormtroopers, do they look positive or negative characters? What is their job? What is about to happen? Make links with the first character we meet as he is wearing the same outfit. What can we infer from this?

At 39 seconds we meet a new character? Who may this be? Look at the background, where is this set? Same planet as the first character, why has the director introduced this character in the same setting as the first one. 

At 50 seconds, we see another character, do we think it is a hero or villain? How do the surroundings determine our thoughts about the character? Why do you think we don't see his face? How does this add to the anticipation? What is different about his weapon? Why has this been included in the trailer?

What role does the music play up to this point? 

At 1:00 we see the return of the Millenium Falcon, the most iconic object from the original film, why have the creators purposely added this into the new trailer? How does the music link with this? 

Does the teaser trailer work? Does it build excitement and leave the audience wanting more? How does it do that? 

If you like these ideas, you maybe interested in an upcoming conference I am leading - 
Improving Reading and Writing through Popular Children's Movies and Media
Here are some details - 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

More constrained writing... Hiding messages in writing!

Today I used the following clip to inspire some writing -

I had to edit the original clip as the man uses inappropriate language at the end.

I knew this would be a great short clip to use to build tension in children's writing. I shared the clip stopping at 10 seconds explaining that what the man is doing is wrong and clearly something you should never do, hence the reason for the barriers. At 20 seconds, I asked the children to list some adjectives to describe how the man may feel? At 30 seconds, I asked the children to suggest what would be the worst thing that could happen now? We then watched what happened.

After watching the rest of the video, I asked the children whether they thought it was real or not? This video has duped millions of people but has since been exposed as a fake. I showed the children some of the suspect elements before introducing the writing challenge. I suggested to the children that they write a first person recount as the diver, however, there would be a little twist!

I am a massive fan of constrained writing and previously blogged about it here and here. Today, I wanted to see whether my class could add a hidden sentence within their story. We decided that the sentence would be - THIS VIDEO IS NOT REAL, IT IS FAKE. The children had to then drop a word in from the sentence into every sentence of their story. We first tried to create an example where each word could be the 1st, 2nd or 3rd word in the sentence. After giving it a go, it was a real challenge so just asked the children to include the word somewhere in the sentence. Here is an example -

As you can see the word in each sentence in capitals spells out the sentence - This video is not real, it is fake.

We were a little stretched for time, but a couple of children who finished early were able to then narrate their writing over the original video adding another constraint to make their writing fit the action from the video. Here are a couple of their examples -

This idea of constrained writing can easily be applied to any sort of writing task. Imagine writing a book review where the hidden sentence reveals the true opinion on the book. Or a mystery story where the ending is revealed through a hidden sentence within the story. The difficulty of the constraint can also be made trickier by asking the children to make the first word or last word of the sentence be the hidden message. 

Please do share any examples if you use this idea in your classroom, would love to share more examples. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

SPAG revision on the iPad with Sentopiary!

Sentopiary is an app that I came across a couple of weeks ago and is a fantastic way to support and challenge children with their understanding of grammar.

The app has two modes to play - a free 'create' mode that allows children to simply build sentences by using a grammar-based tree structure.

The challenge mode tests children's understanding of different word types by identifying them in a sentence. There are 4 levels of difficulty covering different terms and tenses.

Level 1: Students build sentences with articles, nouns, pronouns and verbs in the present tense.

Level 2: Students expand their sentences with adjectives, direct objects, and past and future verb tenses.

Level 3: Students add prepositional phrases to both noun phrases and verb phrases.

Level 4: Students build sentences that incorporate adverbs and progressive verb tenses.

This is an app I have been looking out for! A fantastic interactive way to practise some SPAG! This app has been a welcome break for our students working towards the SPAG test. While I don't agree with the test, I recognise that teachers are looking for more engaging and interesting ways to teach children different grammar terms. The game is structured to allow children to work independently and with different levels can be differentiated for a range of abilities. So if you have iPads in your KS2 classroom, this app is well worth a look for grammar lessons or as a literacy warm up activity. You can read more about the app - here.

On my facebook page, there is a chance to win a FREE copy of the app! Visit my page to see more details and watch a video of the app in action.

FREE APP COMPETITION - We have three free codes up for grabs for the brilliant Sentopiary app. It is a great way for...
Posted by ICT with Mr P on Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Simple inference and deduction using WeeMee!

Teaching higher order reading skills such as deduction or inference doesn't have to be done only through text. Simply browse The Literacy Shed to see how animations and short films can aid children in thinking beyond the literal!

Still images can be just as useful to get children answering questions and justifying their answers with evidence and clues from the picture. 

Weemee is a website and an app that allows children or teachers to easily design their own avatars. 

They can design every aspect of the face, choose an outfit, change hairstyle, add different objects or hobbies and place the avatar in different scenes.

Teachers can use this tool to create characters and pose questions where children will need to answer giving evidence from the picture.  

Here are a few examples - 

Is this character old or young? 

What is his job?

Do you think he enjoys his job?

Can you think of a word to describe how he feels? 

Why do you think this?

What are his hobbies?

What might have happened just before this picture was taken? 

What word best describes how the character is feeling?

Why do you think this, what evidence can you find in the picture? 

What time of the day is it?

Why is she so tired? 

How old is the character?

Why do you think she has a coffee?

What are the character's hobbies?

How old do you think the character is?

Can you think of three words to describe the character?

Can you explain your choices?

What is the character's favourite food? 

Are you similar to this character? If so, why?

What time of day is it?

How is the character feeling? 

Why might he feel this way?

What is the character's job?

What makes you think this?

Where is the character?

Why is he in his dressing gown?

Is the character happy or sad? 

How do you know?

These are just a couple of examples I have put together and I am sure you will be able to create even better ones. You could use the app as a challenge for the children, maybe you have been reading Mr Stink, could the children use evidence from the book to create a weemee of that character?

When doing this in class, I focus more on children explaining and using evidence from the picture to justify their answers. 

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Retelling Shakespeare with the iPad

For everyone who has attended my training sessions or followed my blog will know I use technology to enhance and improve learning in the classroom. I don't want it to replace writing, instead use the iPad as a tool to engage, inspire and enhance the writing process. This recent project is another example of this.

Over the past half term, I have been working with a Year 4 cohort. I wanted to see whether using the iPad as a tool would engage children with older literature and provide them with tools to create their own versions. Using one of Shakespeare's most famous plays 'Romeo and Juliet,' the students read the story, created freezeframes, turned these into comic strips and created short videos and animations to help retell the story. This media was then linked to their comic strips to create interactive digital comics that have been proudly shared on our school blog.

The level of engagement towards this project from the children has been incredible. Their level of understanding of the plot and characters is impressive. We even had a visitor from New Zealand, keen to see our iPads in action, blown away by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the children. Here is a video of the project -

Here is an example of one of the finished interactive digital comics -

This project will be discussed in much more detail at my upcoming conference with Alan Peat. On Friday 12th June in Manchester we will be delivering a BRAND NEW course, with a whole range of ideas similar to this one. There are still a couple of remaining tickets.
Watch the video below for an outline of the course - 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Finally... some alternatives to Epic Citadel - Deep Sea Diving with Year 3

Epic Citadel is and has been a must for most primary schools with access to iPads. The app allows children to navigate around a medieval kingdom, which can inspire children to write all sorts of different text types. The multi-sensory environment allows children to fully immerse themselves in this virtual world and inspires them to some fantastic writing. I have previously blogged about Epic Citadel - here.

The problem I have faced is finding alternative apps that allow children to immerse themselves in virtual worlds. I have used Myst and Castlerama, however, both are a similar style setting to Epic Citadel. The team behind Epic Citadel have recently released Zen Garden which is a step in the right direction -

However, there is a massive gap in the app market for more virtual world apps to be created. There doesn't need to be any sort of game element, just a world that children can navigate around and use as a stimulus for writing. Even if game developers simply stripped the characters and plot from a game leaving a virtual world to children to explore. That was until Google Cardboard was released!

I blogged about Google Cardboard about a month ago where I used a roller coaster app to inspire some writing with a Year 2 class, you can read the blog post here. At that point, there were very few apps on the iPhone as Google Cardboard was created with Android in mind. Since then, VR apps have been released on mass! Some apps allow you to just view the content with a VR headset; others have two modes, with or without the VR headset. It is these apps that lend themselves brilliantly to the iPad. 

I worked with a Year 3 class today and every child became deep sea divers! The app 'Sharks VR' has two modes: Play (which involves defending yourself against sharks,) or Dive (which lets you explore a reef and photograph the animals swimming around.) As I later realised, the app has a 12+ rating, due to the 'play' option of hunting sharks. PLEASE BE AWARE OF THIS IF YOU USE THE APP. I made it VERY clear to the class that they were only to go onto the 'dive' option. But I am sure you will agree, the virtual environment children can explore is incredible and well worth using. As soon as the children were exploring the reef they were hooked, taking pictures, talking about the different animals and writing down as much vocabulary as possible. I also passed around the Google Cardboard headset so the class could experience the full 3D virtual reality effect. 

The children then turned the vocabulary into descriptive sentences and narrated these over screenshots they had taken in the app using it as an editing tool but also a way to transform their writing into a digital story to be shared on our blog. Here are some of their efforts -

The potential to use this app in Literacy is massive! Creating Diving Diaries, non-chronological reports about the animals, writing in role as an animal or diver, looking at pollution and protecting sea life are just a few opportunities. 

I hope there are more and more apps like this being released! Some I have yet to use with classes are - Dino Park VR and VR Labyrinth with Dive City Rollercoaster being used in this blog post

Please do let me know if you use any of these ideas in class and please, if you do use any ideas from this blog, be courteous and credit where the initial inspiration came from. 

If you like this, why not have Mr P visit your school and share a wealth of ideas to improve teaching and learning using technology! More details here -