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Monday, 5 December 2016

UK Blog Awards Nomination

I am very excited and honoured to see that my blog has been nominated for the UK Blog Awards 2017. This will be the third year my blog has been nominated. In the previous two years, I have made it to the shortlist and narrowly missed out on the top prize!

This year, I would love to go one step further! But I NEED YOUR HELP!

The next part of the process is the public vote, so I need as many people as possible to vote for my blog. I have been nominated for three categories: Education, Digital and Technology and Vlogger! So if you have found any ideas or inspiration through the blog, or found some of the videos and vlogs funny, please take a minute to click the links and vote. I really really appreciate it!

Please click here to vote for Education and Digital & Technology Categories
Please click here for the Vlogging Category


Thank you so much for the continued support! It means an awful lot! Fingers crossed, I can make the shortlist again!

Saturday, 3 December 2016

The Struggles for a Teacher Putting on a Christmas Play!

I am sure there are plenty of teachers around the country who can relate to this! So feel free to share!




Friday, 2 December 2016

50 ways to use my app 1-4-0 in class

I have been meaning to put this blog post together for a long time. Just before Summer, Alan Peat and the team very kindly turned one of my ideas into an app.

The 1-4-0 app.

My main focus when it comes to using mobile technology is trying to get teachers and pupils to see themselves as creators and focus on apps that allow students to create, demonstrate, express and share their learning.

A lot of schools are still stuck using app that just focus on consuming and using the tech. Don't get me wrong, there are some brilliant consumer apps out there: some great maths games and English word games. My worry comes when schools are only using technology in this way and therefore not being creative through the technology.



I like to think of the 1-4-0 app as a creative app that allows students to create content. The app, however, has a focus on providing constraints which further promotes creativity. For a number of years I have been using and adapting some of the ideas Alan Peat shares on constraints, including his book - 50 ways to retell a story and his work on OULIPO.  I love using constructs as it does force creativity. You only have to look at the social media platform vine and how 6 second videoIt led me to create some of my own constraints in the classroom such as:




It is the twitter idea that has been the main driving force behind the app. I am a massive fan of using twitter, not just for the CPD benefits, but the way it encourages me to play with language. This is because you can only get your idea or message across in 140 characters. A character can be a letter, space or punctuation mark. I decided to use this as a writing constraint with my class. A simple 10 x 14 grid would give them 140 characters to play with. The problem with this low-tech version was the children focused far too much on the counting and not the content. This is where the technology helps. The app does all the counting for you.

Added into the app are different options: Write a tweet (140 characters,) write a mini saga (50 words,) write a drabble (100 words) and choose your own (you decide the character and word limit.)

Once you have chosen your challenge, you will have a text box which will allow you to type into and the counting will be done automatically. The app will then stop you if you go over the limit. There is the option to save a picture of the screenshot or with the Twitter challenge you can turn the text box into a tweet screenshot. Here you can add an image, username and handle to create your own tweet. With the choose your own challenge option there are endless possibilities for how to use this app. So to get you going here are a few I've come up with. First here is a video of some ideas I shared at a recent teachmeet:




1-4-0 app

  1. Spooky 6 word stories - Set your own challenge to six words and challenge your students to create a chilling 6 word story.
  2. 6 word blurb - Same as above but write a blurb for a book.
  3. 6 word review - Review a film/song in 6 words.
  4. 6 word headline - Using a recent news story try and create a headline for the story in 6 words.
  5. Tweet book review - Write a book review in 140 characters.
  6. Drabble book review - Same as above but in 100 words.
  7. Mini saga book review - Same as above but abstract to 50 words.
  8. Tweet book synopsis - Rather than review a book, write a summary of the story in 140 characters.
  9. Mini saga book synopsis - Same as above but in 50 words.
  10. Drabble book synopsis - Same as above but in 100 words.
  11. Retell a fairytale in a tweet - Choosing their favourite fairytale or traditional tale, write a new version in 140 characters.
  12. Retell a fairytale in a Drabble - Same as above but in 100 words.
  13. Retell a fairytale in a mini saga - Same as above but in 50 words.
  14. News story in a tweet - Choose a recent news story and sum up the story in 140 characters.
  15. News story in a Drabble - Same as above but in 100 words.
  16. News story in a mini saga - Same as above but in 50 words.
  17. Create a twitter account for a historical figure.
  18. Write a short biography of a historical figure as a drabble.
  19. Write a short biography of a historical figure as a mini saga.
  20. Have a discussion between two historical figures in tweets. Ask your pupils to creatively retell an historical even through a series of tweets.
  21. Create a twitter account for a story book character.
  22. Retell a story through a character's perspective in a series of tweets.
  23. Retell a story through a character's perspective in a drabble.
  24. Retell a story through a character's perspective in a mini saga.
  25. Summarise a chapter of the class reader in a tweet.
  26. Summarise a chapter of the class reader as a mini saga.
  27. Summarise a chapter of the class reader as a drabble.
  28. Predict what will happen next in our class reader as a tweet.
  29. Predict what will happen next in our class reader as a mini saga.
  30. Predict what will happen next in our class reader as a drabble.
  31. Create a Rashomon story in a series of tweets.
  32. Write the scariest story in a tweet.
  33. Write the scariest story as a mini saga.
  34. Write the scariest story as a drabble.
  35. Write a description of a picture in a tweet.
  36. Write a description of a picture as a mini saga.
  37. Write a description of a picture as a drabble.
  38. Write a persuasive advert for a new product in a tweet.
  39. Write a persuasive advert as a drabble.
  40. Write a persuasive advert as a mini saga.
  41. Explain the findings of a science investigation in a tweet.
  42. Enter the 100 word challenge.
  43. Describe the weather in a tweet.
  44. Ask the children to write a recount of their weekend in a tweet
  45. Ask the children to write a recount of their half term in a tweet.
  46. Give peer to peer feedback on another student's work in a tweet.
  47.  Give the children a story opener for them to continue in a tweet.
  48. Re-write an emoji sentence in a tweet.
  49. Evaluate their learning of a topic in a tweet
  50. Create fake celebrity tweets with SPaG errors for children to correct.

As you can see I started to get bored repeating the same idea three times but you can see there are a wealth of short writing activities that get children playing, thinking and experimenting with words and language.

The app provides the perfect extension activity if a child finishes a writing task early. Ask them to take their last two paragraphs and rewrite it as a tweet, Drabble or mini saga.

For just 99p it is a great go-to resource to support writing in the classroom. Download it here. 

Monday, 28 November 2016

Appy Kids Smart School


Last week I was very lucky to be working in Dubai. I presented at the Digital Education Conference giving a keynote and also taking part in an App Battle with Steve Bambury. It was brilliant! I had a great time. I also was very lucky to get my hands on an Appy Kids Smart School Kit.

The kit includes a toy, which can double up as an iPad stand, and a set of cards. The cards cover letter, shapes, colours and numbers. 

There is also an app, which is free and available on both the app store and google play.

The following video shows what the kit is all about.




It is a fantastic tool to use in the classroom. To have one that you can set up and have in the continuous provision area or as a small group activity would be a great way for children to build confidence and practise their letter, number and shape knowledge. It is a great way to take learning beyond the screen.

I decided to put the app to the test and do a live facebook video with my son. Completely off the cuff but you can see how easy it is for a 5 year old to get up and running and using it. After the video finished, Harry continued to play with the app for a good half an hour before bath time!



The kit would make an ideal Christmas gift for young children if they have access to a tablet. 

The kit costs $59.99 and can be delivered to the UK.



AppyKids have very kindly given us one of the Play School kits to give away on our Facebook page! Watch the video below:

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Mr P's Round Up of Christmas Adverts 2016!

'Tis the season!

It is nearing the festive season and as always our televisions are full of some Christmas themed adverts. They have almost a tradition in themselves. For a number of years, I have blogged ideas for using these adverts in class. Despite seeing plenty of other blogs, I thought I would share some ideas that have a unique text-centric approach.

Here are some of the previous blog posts about Christmas themed adverts:

Developing Emotional Literacy through a great Christmas Advert
John Lewis Christmas Advert 2015
John Lewis Christmas Advert 2014
Sainsbury's Christmas Advert 2014

With all the work I now do with John Murray, my approach to using visuals in class has changed somewhat. Film can be a very powerful tool in the classroom, I talk about how motivating it can be for children when it comes to writing. However, the more I see it used in classrooms and the more I see ideas being blogged and shared, the more I see it being misused and in some cases detrimental to learning in English.

As we talk about through our READWRITEPERFORM approach, visual literacy can enhance, it can give a reference and it can give context but it CANNOT replace text. Using these adverts and asking questions is not Reading Comprehension. Reading Comprehension is understanding text. Both myself and John are working with schools who have tried replacing text with film and are now finding that their students are struggling with reading comprehension. Through this blog post, I want to demonstrate the approach echoed in READWRITEPERFORM and provide some ideas for how to use these adverts with a text being king.

So let's start with probably the most famous and anticipated Christmas advert - John Lewis. It seems they have decided on a much more light-hearted approach this year. Initially, I wasn't going to blog about the advert. Don't get me wrong, I love it, I think it is a great advert. The problem is there is no text. Despite this, what I would suggest is creating your own. This is why I would be looking at Year 1/2 for this example. At this stage, pupils are still transitioning from the mechanics (decoding) to the understanding (higher order reading skills - DIAL.) Therefore, this video can allow children to discuss and think more in relation to those higher order reading skills. Once children have mastered the mechanics, understanding should come through text. For more on this, please read John Murray's notes in the Christmas Letter Teaching Pack.


John Lewis' - Buster the Boxer



So watch the clip and ask the following questions:

Pause at 10 seconds.
  • What does the young girl love to do? How do we know?
  • What might be on her Christmas List?
  • What do you think the dog is thinking when he is watching the girl?
  • Why does Mum tell the girl to stop?
Pause at 25 seconds
  • What has Dad built for the girl?
  • Why has Santa not delivered this gift? (This is a tricky question and actually got quite a backlash online. I feel it is easily explainable by either suggesting Santa delivered it early for it to be built, it was too big to fit in the sleigh, the girl had already written her Christmas letter and this was a surprise from the parents)
  • How does Dad feel as he is building it? How do you know?

Pause at 1 minute 25 seconds.
  • Can we name all the animals that go onto the trampoline?
  • Are there any similarities about the animal? This could open up a discussion about nocturnal animals. Are all the animals nocturnal? How do we know?
  • How do the foxes feel when they first step onto the trampoline? Why do you think this?
  • Do you think foxes and badgers usually get on? Why do they decide to be nice to each other?
  • How does buster feel watching from inside? How do we know?
Pause at 1 minute 33 seconds.
  • What day is it? How do we know?
  • How is the little girl feeling? How do you know?
  • What do you think Buster will do?
Watch to the end.
  • How does the girl and her parents react when Buster jumps on the trampoline?
  • How do we know this?
  • Why do you think they are so shocked? Link to Buster at the start and how obedient he is.
  • Do you like the advert? Why?
  • What is the message that John Lewis wants to get across through the advert?


Can we think of some words for what Buster does on the trampoline:
Jump, leap, bounce...

Once you have had the discussion about the film, we can now introduce some text:

Print out and photocopy the following sentences and in groups ask the children to put them into chronological order. The sentences are simple to support children with decoding.

Buster runs onto the trampoline and jumps up and down.

Buster watches the girl jump on her bed.

Buster is sad watching animals bounce on the trampoline.

Dad makes a trampoline in the garden.


This activity will start getting children to understand the structure of a narrative and ordering stories in chronological order.

One element I do like about the advert is the accompanying VR video. You could allow children to watch and view the 360 video as a way to inspire some writing.




You may want to turn the children into the nocturnal animals by using the app Chatterkid and allowing them to orally recount the night they went on the trampoline.

Here is a video of the app in action with children in Nursery:

Nursery as the Three Little Pigs from Davyhulme Primary School on Vimeo.



Aldi's - Kevin The Carrot

Love love love this! Why? Has text within that we can deconstruct and discuss along with the visual. So with this, I would be looking at Year 3/4 for this one.



Pause at 13 seconds.
'Twas the night before ChristmasA carrot gazed at the sky,Thinking..."I could meet Santa!When he gets his Mince Pie."
  • What day is it?
  • Look at the word 'Twas. What is unusual about it? Why has the author started with this word?
  • How do we know it is a contraction?
  • Do you know of any other stories that start that way? Make links to the poem, the Night Before Christmas. I will hopefully blog about this poem soon.
  • What type of text are we reading? How do we know?
  • What is the rhyming pattern?
  • Look at the word 'gazed,' on a scale of 1-5 where would you put this, why?
  • What has the family left out for Santa?
  • Why have they left it next to the fireplace?
  • What will Kevin have to do to get to the Mince Pie, can we make a prediction?

Pause at 30 seconds.
But a Christmassy Spread
Though a joy to us all,
Can be quite scary
When you're three inches tall.
  • How does Kevin feel about his journey? How do we know?
  • What is a 'Christmassy spread?'
  • Can you find the adverb in the third line? Why do you think the author has chosen this word?
  • On a scale of 1-5, where would you put the word 'scary'?
  • What is the contraction in the last line?
  • How big is three inches?
  • On your whiteboards, can you write a simile to describe the roast potatoes chasing Kevin.
  • What might the grater be used for at a Christmas dinner?

Pause at 47 seconds.
Still our carrot went forth,
On his dangerous quest,
And soldiered on bravely,
To the chimney breast. 
He finally arrived,
Though exhausted methinks,
As he said to himself,
"Just a quick forty winks."
  • What does the phrase 'went forth' mean? Does it sound formal? Have you heard it before? Why do you think the author has chosen it?
  • Find the adjective to describe the quest.
  • On a scale of 1-5, where would you put the word quest? What else could we have used? Why do you think the author chose quest?
  • Why has the author used the verb soldiered? What effect does this have?
  • What is the adverb used to describe it? What does this tell us about the quest?
  • On a scale of 1-5, where would you put the word 'exhausted'?
  • Discuss the word 'methinks' is this a modern word? Why has the author chosen to use this?
  • What does Kevin mean when he says forty winks?
Watch to the end.
Then all of a sudden,
Young carrot awoke,
Flying high over London,
Or Glasgow, Or Stoke. 
So the sleigh flew much faster
That cold Christmas Eve,
Powered on by a carrot,
We like to believe.
  • What has happened to Kevin?
  • Why has the author used the conjunction 'or'?
  • Why do London, Glasgow and Stoke all have capital letters?
  • Which word is used to describe the Christmas Eve?
  • Why do you think the sleigh flew much fast?
  • Do you think this story is real? What evidence in the text makes us think not?

  • What does Aldi sell?
  • Why do you think they chose a carrot as the main character?
  • Why do you think they chose to name him Kevin?
  • Do you like the advert? Give reasons for your answer.

As far as writing opportunities, I would do a similar project to 'Honey, I shrunk the class' greenscreen project we did, imagining what it must be like to be three inches tall.



Sainsbury's - The Greatest Gift

Love this advert! A whole song to deconstruct and enjoy so let's look at it:





Pause at 46 seconds
Another year over, where do they go to, it's a mysteryNow it's December, so much to remember before Christmas EveI'm already late, and my train is delayed, disruption on the lineI race into work and the place is berserk, yes it's Christmas timeI wanna find the greatest gift I can give my familyBut right now I don't have time to breathe

  • What does the first line of the song imply? Time moves quickly
  • Why does the singer use the word mystery?
  • What does he need to remember before Christmas Eve?
  • Why is he late?
  • What does the word disruption mean?
  • Why has he chose the word 'race' to describe how he went to work?
  • On a scale of 1-5, how effective is the word berserk?
  • Why is his work berserk at Christmas?
  • Why does he want the greatest gift for his family?
  • What does he mean by the phrase 'don't have time to breathe'?


Pause at 1 minute 57 seconds:

The streets are chaotic, the shops idiotic, there's a queue for the queue
A granny's taking her time at the front of the line ('Ninety-one... ninety-two...')
There's a party at work and the manager's twerking inappropriately
To top off the day, another train is delayed, it's a catastrophe
Christmas time is here, I'd like to spend the time with the ones I love so dear
I'm trying to find the greatest gift I can give my family
I don't have time, there's only one of me
Tell me how do people do it all, I'll never get it done
If only there was a way to be in two places at once...
Wait... that gives me an idea!

  • What do the words chaotic and idiotic mean? Do you think they are effective word choices?
  • What is 'there's' a contraction of?
  • 'There's a queue for the queue' is a phrase to show what?
  • Feel free to skip the twerking line 😳
  • What phrase shows the singer is being sarcastic?
  • On a scale of 1-5, how effective is the word catastrophe?
  • How is the singer showing he is getting more desperate as time passes?
  • Do you think he is a good Dad? Why?
  • Do you think he thinks he is a good Dad? Why do you think this?
  • Why has the singer used ellipses?
  • Why has he also used an exclamation mark?
  • Can we make a prediction about what his idea will be? Why do you think this?


Watch until the end.

If I wasn't alone, what if I had a clone, I could do so much moreIt would all be a breeze, with a couple more mes, I'd have time galoreI wanna find the greatest gift I can give my familyThe greatest gift I can give is meNow I can meet with the boss and empty out my inbox all simultaneouslyLeaving me time to spend with my family and friends, where I wanna beI wanna find the greatest gift I can give my familyThe greatest gift that I can give is meI wanna find the greatest gift I can give my familyThe greatest gift that I can give is meI wanna find the greatest gift I can give my familyThe greatest gift that I can giveThe greatest gift that I can giveThe greatest gift that I can give is me

  • What is a clone?
  • Why would it be a breeze?
  • What does the word 'galore' mean?
  • Was your prediction correct?
  • Do you think the singer enjoys work? Explain your answer?
  • What is the greatest gift?
  • What is the message that Sainsbury's are trying to express in this advert?
  • Do you like the advert? Why/Why not?



M&S - Love Mrs Claus

This clever advert has little text but a thoughtful message. Let's consider the text:


Pause at 16 seconds on the close up of the letter.


  • How old do you think the child is who wrote the letter? How do you know?

Mrs Claus: Hot tea, cheese and pickle. Keep away from this mince pies!

Father Christmas: Any last minute requests?

Mrs Claus: No, no, just bills. Fly safe. Don't forget Australia!

Father Christmas: I won't. Easily done. Rudolf harrrr


  • Why has Mrs Claus kept the letter a secret?
  • What impressions do we get of her as a character so far?
  • Why does she tell Father Christmas to keep away from Mince Pies? Do you think he will?
  • Why might Father Christmas forget Australia?

Dear Mrs Claus,
My name is Jake and I am six years old. I've a big sister called Anna who is tall and sometimes angry. I also have a dog called Tiger who loves eating things. This Christmas, I need your help because I want something and I know can get it for me. You might think I don't like my sister very much but I do. I love her a lot and I want her to be happy at Christmas.
Love,
Jake
Ages 6 but 7 in two weeks.

  • Why do you think Jake has written a letter to Mrs Claus and not Santa?
  • How old do you think Anna is?
  • Why might Anna be sometime angry?
  • How do you know that Jake loves his dog Tiger?
  • What type of opener is 'This Christmas'?
  • How does Jake persuade Mrs Claus to help him?
  • Why might Mrs Claus think Jake doesn't like his sister?
  • What words can you think of to describe Jake? Can you back these up with evidence from the text and film.
  • Can you find all the proper nouns in the letter. How many are there?
  • How many contractions can you find? What type of contractions have been used?
  • Why does Jake add the phrase 'a lot' to his last sentence?
  • What do you notice about the name of the helicopter?

Watch to the end.

Father Christmas: Merry Christmas! So, how was your night?

Mrs Claus: Oh you know, quiet.

Father Christmas: How did that get there?

Mrs Claus: Well it wouldn't be fun if you knew all my secrets.

  • Do you think Mrs Claus gets a lot of letters? Why/why not?
  • Why does Mrs Claus describe her night as 'quiet'?


This would be a great advert to link into the READWRITEPERFORM Christmas Letter pack.





Others adverts to consider:

Heathrow Airport - Coming Home

Again with this advert I would focus on KS1 children and do a very similar activity to the John Lewis advert discussed above.


Waitrose - Coming Home



The advert is lovely and comes with a short story written by Michael Morpurgo. This would be perfect as a short class read for the last couple of weeks of term. Waitrose have also published a number of lesson plans to accompany the advert.




I hope you find these ideas useful and can see the importance of using text in everything we do. The latest Read Write Perform resource - The Christmas Letter pack is also a great way to bring Christmas into the classroom. Like all the other packs you have reading comprehension activities with a contextualised SPaG approach, writing for purpose and a performance element which works on fluency for meaning.

In this special pack, it is broken down into two parts. The first is aimed at KS1 where the students read, write and then perform their own letters to Father Christmas. These letters and videos are then passed to KS2 where the students read, write and then perform a reply as Father Christmas. These videos are then sent back to the KS1 pupils for them to watch and enjoy.


Here is a quick video showing the pack in action:

A video posted by Lee Parkinson (@ict_mrp) on

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Introducing the next Read Write Perform pack - Dual Narrative: The Hunter and The Hunted Pack


I am very excited to announce the release of the latest Read Write Perform pack - Dual Narrative: The Hunter and The Hunted.

It takes a lot of time and effort to create each pack but both myself and John are so proud to see the packs being used by schools worldwide and the fantastic feedback we are getting.

The idea is simple - a cohesive and engaging approach to teaching English. A meaningful project that covers: reading, writing and performing. 

Technology is not essential to use the pack however the pack demonstrates how technology should be used to enhance and transform learning. 

This pack focuses and building tension effectively in writing. The pack uses the dual narrative technique to achieve this.

Dual Narrative is a technique used in a lot of stories, most famously in the book Jaws, where the story jumps between characters from paragraph to paragraph. The pack has a huge focus on style and children understanding how sentence length, use of clauses and phrases can match the atmosphere for each character in the scene. 

The pack includes comprehension lessons, a focus on contextualised SPaG, writing for purpose, fluency for meaning and assessment opportunities throughout.

The finished product is an audiobook performance of the children's writing. Here is an example after working through the pack:





Look out for the next pack which we are close to completing:


NEW VLOG - What's in your Teacher Bag?


Also available on YouTube: