Total Pageviews

One of the Top 100 Education Blogs

View All 100 Blogs

Saturday, 21 March 2015

My 21st Century Teaching Slippers

(Not my slippers)

As a teacher I spend lots of my time thinking about, researching and planning for ways to improve both the teaching and learning experience for my pupils. Increasingly I rely on technology to inspire me and my teaching. However, it has become much more than just using Google search. Like all of the resources I use I have the tried and trusted, the resources I automatically default to, the warm slippers of technology in my classroom. 

Word Clouds used for:

Building pupils self esteem - I ask all of the pupils in my class to add words to a list to describe each pupil in their class. The words for some year groups come from them, for the younger children we would generate a list of words together, then they choose the word or words that they would use to best describe their classmate.  These words are then typed into the word cloud generator which produces a personalised image for each pupil which shows them what their class mates like about them the most. They can be shared with the pupils as a reward, an end of year gift (signed by the whole class, as a leaving present or when a pupil is having a rough time and needs a reminder of how many friends they have and how valued they are in the class. They also make a great gift for parent helpers at the end of the year or trainee teacher moving on to pastures new.

Character Descriptions - when trying to get children away from describing characters looks rather than personality the word cloud really helps them to look through a part of the text in a story to look for the adjectives which describe their character. These are then again added to a word cloud as a visual reminder of character words to use in their own character descriptions. Again for younger children this can be done as a group or class activity or even typed up by the teacher before a guided reading session and then handed to pupils as a 'spot the character words in the story' activity.

Topic  -  Word clouds are also great for collating topic words on the Stone Age, the Vikings, Continents and Oceans, Castles, Materials, Life Processes etc ... in a fun and interesting way either at the beginning of a topic, as research, or at the end of a topic as a review of things learned.

QR Codes - The uses for QR codes is huge! I have used them for:

Easter egg hunts, follow the clues to solve a mystery, during a Market Place activity to keep pupils on task,  a 3D shape hunt, steps for completing instructions, for encouraging children to write paragraphs. The list and possibilities are again endless .......

Picture Collage Makers - This has again been really useful for:

Descriptive writing of,  trees, plants, buildings, characters from books, each other.... The real difference from this as oppose to word clouds is the image as a stimulus, which has proven very useful for reluctant writers or those that struggle coming up with ideas. If they have taken the picture themselves the words just seem to flow!   

Writing Instructions using a picture collage creator is so easy and yet it makes it much more engaging and exciting for the children, who thought writing instructions for making a sandwich could be so interesting!

Classifying in Science -  The children took lots of pictures of different types of leaves and berries they had found around the school grounds, in the woods on our trip and in their own back gardens. They then used a Picture Collage as a way of creating their own visual classification tool to determine the tree they came from. Great fun!

Stop Frame Animation - This is a relatively new tool for me but I am hooked already.

Retelling Events - We have used this in our class as an end of topic review of The Great Fire Of London, using Lego characters, the buildings on Baker Street that they made in D.T. (Just before we set fire to them!), and lots and lots of fire coloured paper tissue and of course team work and trial and error.

Dance - As part of our class assembly the children were dancing to Under The Sea from The Little Mermaid. Clearly some of the boys particularly were a bit reluctant to 'let go.' But with the use of a stop frame animation, which was to be added to the end of the video we were creating, they all became totally engaged.

Video - 

Dance -  As mentioned above we have used videoing and video editing as part of our class assembly this year. In fact it has become a bit of a class tradition. It all began last year with the 'Happy by Pharell Williams' craze last year. We got all of the children to create their own version like the ones we had watched together on YouTube. They worked in small groups, pairs and whole class coming up with their choreography. They took turns filming indoors and out and then they watched and assisted in a bit of the video editing (year 2 pupils.) The final piece was used in the assembly and then burnt onto DVD as an end of year gift. This year our topic of Continents and Oceans was crying out for a bit of dance and the new video was born!

Interviewing - Using video to interview each other on their favourite book, what they would like to know about a topic, what they have learned etc. has and is a regularly used tool in our classroom. 

Comic Strip and Story Book Creators 

These do  exactly what they say on the tin, they enable and engage children as writers and creators. These have been used in Literacy, topic and Science. My next task use them in maths. Mmm that has got me thinking!

Reading Eggs and Mathletics -

Up until now I have stayed away from naming my most used technology apps via branded names as their are a variety of each of them out there and each is as useful as the next. However, the following tools are so deeply embedded in the teaching and learning in our school and in my classroom that these are probably my most warn technology slippers and could not really be described without their 'brand name.'

Mathletics - as maths co-ordinator I am and have been constantly on the look out for ways of improving maths skills across the school, as a learning tool I believe Mathletics has had the biggest impact so far. I use it in a variety of ways. In class we use it at least once a week as part of our allotted time in computer suite. This has been possible as most I.C.T skills are taught in the classroom via I Pads, cameras etc. The pupils also access it at home for about half an hour a week. It is mostly self directed but they may occasionally require a bit of explanation or support. Mathletics can be accessed via IPad, Android, Kindle, Hudl etc. It also does not require internet access which means most of the pupils have access at home. The children collect points, for every hour spent on Mathletics across a seven day period they earn a bronze certificate, five bronzes become a silver and then four silvers mean a gold (much coveted) Silvers and Golds are then awarded in Headteacher award assemblies. Even in year 2 competition drives the children to use it.

Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress - Introduced by our Literacy co-ordinator to improve reading and comprehension skills. Used in my class exactly as shown above. In place of points comes eggs, eggs then allow the children to update their avatar or buy items for their on-line playroom. This again I believe has had an impact on improving reading and comprehension skills. 

My other most used tools:

YouTube, Quiet Tube, Google, Google Earth, Literacy Shed, Numeracy Shed ..... 

Plus a whole host of teacher resource sites including Primary Resources, Hamilton Trust, UR Brainy .... 

Not forgetting Social Media of course - Twitter, Slideshare, Blogger, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest .....

Technology really is entrenched in our lives and the lives of our children. If used properly it enhances the teaching and learning experience. Exciting times!!!

What are your most worn technology slippers? Share those via the comments on this blog and please retweet if you've enjoyed reading. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Teaching Gimmicks

There is a lot of Twitter talk at the moment about the pop culture of motivational posters. Society in general but perhaps teaching more specifically is littered with them, they even feature in lots of school mottos.

This debate promoted me to reflect upon the many 'gimmicks' which teaching has been subjected to over the last 10 years. Below are some of the ones that stick in my mind the most and due to my pragmatic approach the ones I subjected my various classes to at the time. 

Brain Gym - This initiative led to classes full of children all around the country staring at the point of their finger whilst they drew a figure of eight on its side or pointing and stretching across their bodies in a move reminiscent of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever! Teachers were advised to put brain breaks into the middle of most lessons or at least during mid morning and mid afternoon when it was muted that the pupils attention was at its worse. 

Brain Breaks - mid lesson when pupils were beginning to become distracted the teacher would ask them to stand up, put on a piece of music and jiggle, shake, jump about. The memory of this makes me laugh out loud, it must have been a hilarious sight!

Peer Massage - this craze came with a series of massage techniques that pupils performed on their partners back. Permission had to be given by parents and pupils. The permission from pupils had to be given to their massage partner at the beginning of each session. Massage took place after lunch as this was seen as the part of the day that had the worst behaviour triggers and peer massage was suggested as a way of calming children down. 

SEAL Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning)- a PSHE program based around themes. Each theme very structured in its delivery and beginning with a whole school launch via a whole school assembly. 

When I reflect upon using each of these 'new initiatives' it reminds me how much teachers were and still are subject to constant pressures upon the teaching day. How much we are subjected to political agendas. The curriculum is jam packed yet not a day passes without a suggestion in the media of what teachers needs to teach. 

All of these initiatives were suggested after,  I am sure, there was lots of research and evidence at the time on their effectiveness but were all of them failed was the lack of consideration for the packed curriculum. 

What are the present day teaching gimmicks?