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Sunday, 5 July 2015

More Pixar in the Classroom - Inside Out for Character Development!

I am a massive fan of using Disney in the classroom and I have previously blogged some ideas here and here.

Anyone who attended my recent conference with John Murray in Dudley would agree that our approach to using Disney in the classroom both inspires and improves children's learning in lots of ways but isn't strictly exclusive to these movies. Read more about the conference here. 

One idea we looked into on the day was using the latest Pixar film, Inside Out, to help write more effective characterisation in children's writing.

The film, which is due for release later this month, revolves around a group of characters that live inside a girl's head. Each character represents a different emotion. Here is the trailer -

Here is how I would use the characters from this film to help children when writing about different characters. Share the following image - 

Explain to the class that these are characters from the latest Disney/Pixar film. Discuss that each one represents a different emotion. Can the children guess which emotion they are? This gives the perfect opportunity to collect as much vocabulary linked with an emotion. For the first character, the children may say - worried, shy, anxious, scared, fearful... generating plenty of useful vocabulary to link to emotions. After collecting ideas reveal which emotion they represent - fear, sadness, joy, anger, disgust. 

Discuss how they represent that emotion. Look at body language, facial expressions, costume, height, body shape, colours. If they children have correctly guessed the name of the emotion, challenge them to explain why? Then build on this with more complex questions -
What is anger doing to show he is angry? Scowling his eyes, gritting his teeth, clenching his fist.
Why is disgust green? We link the colour green to envy and jealousy.
Why has sadness got that hair cut? Wearing large, round glasses and a thick wooly jumper?
Look at Joy's dress, what time of year would you wear it? Why would that be linked with Joy?

Of course, there are tonnes of other questions that can be asked and this is discussed in much more detail on the conference (including links with emotional literacy and helping vulnerable children identify feelings and the way these present themselves.) This can then be developed further in children's writing by linking it with pathetic fallacy and Alan Peat's Show not Tell approach. Rather than telling the reader how a character felt, show it through how the character acts and interacts in the story. If you use Alan and Mat's exciting sentences, it gives the perfect opportunity to develop the Tell: Show 3 examples; sentence. Take anger for example -
He was angry: scowling his eyes; gritting his teeth; clenching his fists. 

For more information about the conference - Improving Reading and Writing through Popular Children's Movies and Media, watch the following video. We will be in Wirral on 6th October and places are selling quickly!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Playworld Superheroes! Fantastic writing stimulus!

Another fantastic app that popped up on Apps Gone Free the other day was Playword Superheroes.

As a teacher who has seen first hand how using popular video games can both inspire and engage children to produce quality writing, this app is another great stimulus to use. It is a technique I call camouflage learning and you can read about how I have previously used other iPad games like angry birds and temple run here and, of course, Minecraft.

Often the problem is, most popular games aren't appropriate for the classroom. Playworld Superheroes is a fantastic way to inspire writing through a video game appropriate for primary school age children.

Here is a quick trailer for the game -

The game involves choosing a character and entering a treehouse to reveal a magic box. Children then find different cardboard items around the garden and can design it by colouring and adding attachments to create their own superhero outfit. Once completed, the children instantly transform into a real superhero! They eventually play the game as the superhero trying to defeat different enemies.

The design element to the game had the children hooked! All the accessories featured in the game can easily be obtained so children could physically re-create the design as a DT lesson. This opens the app up to lots of writing opportunities such as instructional texts. 

The gameplay can inspire writing in so many different ways. Some I will blog as I carry on this topic with the class. It will also feature in the book I am currently writing - 50+ iPad lessons for Fiction. The 50 + iPad lessons for Non-Fiction is currently in design and should be ready for release in September - very excited!

Today in class we played the game. The children were hooked! We focused on the first part of the game where the child becomes a superhero - the origin story. We presented our stories in the form of a comic using the app - Comic Life 3.

There is more to come from using this app with my class, so please watch this space!!!

We are also pleased to have 5 FREE codes for the app which are being given away on my facebook page, just like and share the following post - 

FREE APP COMPETITION!!!We have 5 FREE codes for the fantastic Playworld Superheroes app up for grabs! To be in with...

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Reading into Writing using Padlet!

On our recent conference 'Developing Writing in the Modern Classroom,' Alan and I stressed the importance of a reading into writing approach. Making sure that when you teach fairytales, children would be reading a range of fairytales in lessons, guided reading etc. I am planning on writing some Sci-fi adventure stories soon with a Year 4 class, so to try and gather examples of different features seen in similar stories, we used padlet to collect examples.

Padlet is a web based tool, that allows a teacher to create an online notice board that anyone can contribute to. It is absolutely free and can be used in SO many different ways.

I decided to make four different padlet walls, one for a different feature - Openings, characters/settings, key words/phrases/sentences and problems/ending. I then shared these with the children through QR codes -

We then discussed what to look for to see whether a book is in the Sci-fi adventure genre. We listed -looking at the title, blurb and images. We visited the school library and encouraged the children to look for sci-fi themed books. They examined the books with their partners and discussed the content. Using the iPad they scanned the QR code, which took them directly to the Padlet wall and added some ideas. 

I encouraged the children to try and analyse and explain what they found. What type of sentence was used? What effect did it have? Some children struggled with this, however when we look at all the padlet walls as a whole class next lesson, others will be able to give their opinion. It was a great way to get children to read and identify features but also think about the authors intention. Padlet was a great way to collate all the children's ideas for them to use for inspiration in their own writing. 

As this was the first time the class had done this activity, some of their ideas weren't as developed as I would have hoped and some of their choices for 'Sci-fi' books weren't quite on point, however with regular use of this activity, it would be a great tool to improve children's understanding of specific genres and help develop more of a flow in their own writing. 

Will you be joining us on 13th October in Walsall? Tickets selling quickly! Book your place now for the Developing...
Posted by ICT with Mr P on Saturday, June 20, 2015

Improving Reading and Writing Through Popular Children's Movies and Media....Friday 19th June 2015 Dudley

Big thanks to all that came to the first day of our new conference yesterday. John and I, had a great day sharing ideas on improving reading and writing through popular children's movies and media.

25 Evaluations

23 rated the content of the speakers as excellent

2 rated the content of the speakers as good
22 rated the delivery of the speakers as excellent
2 rated the delivery of the speakers as good
1 rated the delivery of the speakers as satisfactory


"This has opened my mind completely! One of the best CPD courses i have been on!"
"Loads of ideas that I will be using in school. All great for learning and child engagement. Just thanks - best course i've been on in a long time!" 
"Fabulous! Brilliant ideas to take back to try in the classroom. Thank you!"
"Excellent speakers, fun, informative, knowledgeable! Thank you for a fantastic day with lots of ideas to use in school."
"Fantastic, inspiring, practical advice, clearly child centred. Thank you for inspiring me! I cant wait to set up a green wall back at school."
"Great ideas to use in class, some easily developed for younger children and different approach. Thanks for a super day!"
"Fantastic ideas to use in class to motivate writers."
"Wonderful ideas! Resources accessible and top tips from John. Inspiration throughout! Loved the up to date, relevance to the real world and minds of children."
"Brilliant content. So inspiring and exciting to be able to use in my classroom. Thank you!"
"Loads of fantastic ideas, very inspirational. Cant wait to share today's ideas with my staff!"
"Inspirational and innovative as ever!"
"Fantastic ideas, enthusiastic, funny and engaging!"
"Fantastic day! Very informative and inspiring!"
"Very creative, opened up a world of resources at your fingertips. Just very inspiring. Thanks!"
"Excellent delivery - learnt a lot that i will take back to school and share. A fantastic course, come to Doncaster!"
"Excellent, informative and enjoyable! Keep doing what your doing!"
"Fantastic practical activities to take back to school." 
"Really engaging speakers, relevant and lots of great practical ideas to take straight into the classroom."
"Great course, thank you for all the ideas to help bring the love back for some disengaged children from the drudgery of meeting target demands!"
"Not what we expected but brilliant course. I feel that i can use lots of things back in the classroom. Excited about trying some of the ideas. Didnt get bored - makes a change on a course! "
"Excellent ideas. Have just had 60 iPads delivered and now not so scared to get them out! Inspired to go home and explore Garageband and iMovies!"
Fantastic ideas and resources Lee. Thank you!"
"Great use of visual prompts with practical ideas that can be used in the classroom. It was great to see real life examples from children in classrooms."
"Well pitched with a range of ideas. Thanks!"
"Got lots of novel and interesting ideas. It was a great day!"

We are extremely pleased to announce we have confirmed another date for this course in the Autumn term.

We are VERY pleased to announce that we will be leading the 'Improving Reading and Writing Through Popular Children's Movies and Media' conference in Autumn term in the NORTH WEST. On Tuesday 6th October at Thornton Hall in Wirral. John Murray and Mr P will lead a conference described as 'the best course I've been on in a long time! Loads of ideas that I will be using in school. All great for learning and child engagement.'You can read all the feedback from the recent conference in Dudley and book your place for the Wirral conference here - or email to book a place.
Posted by ICT with Mr P on Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On Tuesday 6th October, we will be leading this conference at Thornton Hall and Spa in Wirral. You can book a place NOW by filling out the following form and watch the video below. Places are available for £150 per person + VAT.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Math Shake - Brilliant for Word Problems!

When it comes to assessments in maths, it can be tricky for some children to be able to extract the number sentence from a word problem before they solve it. It is also hard for a teacher to be in 30 places at once to make sure the pupils have got it right. An app I have been using for a while now helps with both these problems!

Math Shake from @TopStoreyApps is a brilliant app to use in Maths. The app has six levels of difficulty and children can choose which operation to focus on or do all of them. They are then given a word problem and have to press on the key facts to build their number sentence. If they do not get it correct they are instantly told and, therefore made to check their answer. 

Once they have figured out the correct number sentence, they are automatically taken to a whiteboard with a range of maths tools they can use to solve the calculation. The app also has a record feature to allow children to record the screen as they calculate the answer. They can then enter their answer and again if it is wrong they are taken back to their working out and encouraged to check their work. When they get it correct, another word problem will show. 

I highly recommend this app, it encourages children to work independently and helps them decode word problems. If you head over to my facebook page, we have 5 FREE codes up for grabs!! See the link below!

FREE APP GIVEAWAY!!! I am very excited to have 5 FREE codes for the BRILLIANT Math Shake app! It is a fantastic app to...
Posted by ICT with Mr P on Monday, June 22, 2015

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Jurassic School!

I have been recently using the children's enthusiasm for the latest blockbuster - Jurassic World - to inspire writing.

With one class, we created guides to Jurassic World using Adobe Slate and then created films where we entered a dinosaur infested jungle!

With another class, we used greenscreen to bring a real-life dinosaur into our school. There are plenty of greenscreen apps on the app store but Doink Greenscreen is easily the best one I have used. This task was slightly different. We first started by downloading stock footage from youtube -

We were then able to film the dinosaur in different locations around the school. The children then used the greenscreen in our new media suite to film themselves in the scene too. 

The finished video was then used to inspire a short narrative about a dinosaur in the school. The children were so engaged having the visuals of them with the dinosaur. The added element of acting the scene out first also helped children describe their feelings and reactions to the action. Knowing the writing was going to be transformed into a film also motivated the children to complete the task and do it to the best of their ability. 

I love the ability to bring Hollywood style special effects into the classroom like never before and it certainly inspires children to write with the purpose. They would love a comment to know what you think of their work! 

If you would like to know more, or have Mr P lead inset and training in your school, please visit this link.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Making the most of our space!

We have recently embarked in a project to try and turn one of our ICT suites into a media suite. At the beginning of 2015 we had a KS1 ICT Suite and KS2 ICT Suite. I felt this wasn't the best use of the space and decided to reduce it to one whole school ICT suite.

I am often asked about whether schools should keep an ICT suite and I would say yes. I feel children need the opportunity to learn and use as many different forms of technology. If you replace an ICT suite because you now have iPads you will be deskilling children from using traditional PCs or laptops. In my experience, children are exposed to mobile technology more nowadays but it is still crucial for children to learn basic skills such as creating a file and saving it to a folder on a PC or laptop. Sometimes the iPad is more like a cheat machine and while it can do wonderful and marvellous things and save you time we still need to teach children the basics of using computers.

We still have a computing lesson one hour a week and encourage staff to get the children into the ICT suite to teach the computing science aspect of the curriculum. The information technology and digital literacy is embedded through the curriculum in the way we blog and use iPads.

Our traditional ICT suite
I had visions of turning the KS1 ICT suite into a media suite, with space for projects including greenscreen, stop motion animation and radio podcasting! We have therefore painted half of the room in green opening the door for so much quality speaking and listening through greenscreen activities. In the couple of weeks since the walls have been painted we have already done this and this.

At present, the room looks like this -

Our other ICT suite now a media suite
On the left-hand side, are some PCs alongside working stations for children. We are hoping to add a radio station alongside some stop motion animation studios. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of some of the Zu3D animation kits and Lego story starter kits to get going with this. On the right-hand side, you can see the huge greenscreen area we have.

I am on a mission to make the most of this room! I know it can easily fit a half class of children and know that with a focused and engaged activity the children would work independently in this area. I will update you on the progress with this and share other ways in which we use the space!