Are you blogging in the classroom already?
Blogs are incredibly easy to set up, and there are plenty around to give you inspiration. You could begin here. The question is, why bother?
There seems to be plenty of examples about pupils who would not write, or were reluctant writers, who were inspired by blogs to write more and to write well. Not to mention teachers who were inspired by reading/writing blogs. One paper does attempt to answer the question of impact on pupil progress, however it does not seem to offer any statistically significant improvement, although it does offer evidence for motivation and engagement. Other research points to the impact blogging can have when it is channelled towards a learning objective such as second language learning, or critical thinking skills. See link for Hourigan, below. More ‘hard evidence’ is something we are waiting for, in the meantime all we can do is share our experiences.
Some evidence is anecdotal, a quick trawl through twitter gives you enthusiastic and inspired teachers who really believe that blogging is giving their pupils the motivation needed to write.
And there seems to be the point, motivation? A good, well managed blog does more than that:
– it supports audience awareness, great for fine tuning language skills
– develops digital literacy skills as pupils become responsible for their own blogs
– an awareness of cultural differences, geography, citizenship. Check out the brilliant Quad Blogging for details of how schools are linked together to ensure children are sharing experiences across the globe.
– develops communication skills and team building
– can address an aspect of school life, like parental engagement or school dinners.
What about for teachers? This excellent blog here details one school’s journey and describes how blogs were introduced to staff. There is no doubt that teachers benefit from the chance to share and reflect on their practice. Could blogging be the way to do this? This blog from a secondary school teacher encourages plenty of reflection and is a very worthwhile read!
Another excellent mixture of ideas and reflection comes here, KrisitanStill, would encouraging staff to keep a blog be a step in continuous professional development?
Blogs can also be used incredibly effectively for CPD, check out this a site set up to allow teachers to moderate piece of writing in line with National Curriculum levels. Very useful!
It’s well worth checking out the ‘impact’ section of the QuadBlogging site here. Lots of talk about community, collaboration and team-building, which is supported by reading some of the research. It seems pupils are enthused by having a sense of audience, control over content and the use of a medium that they are comfortable with.
Another great site is here Set up by a teacher to share resources and give tips!
If you have any success stories, please add them here!
So where can you start? My advice, is to begin with a teacher who is already interested. Start small and let other teachers see how it can be managed and what can be achieved. A free site, such as posterous or blogger can be used and initially teachers can post and students leave comments. Ensure any comments come to you to be moderated, and start with some very simple posts.
Do remember to think about your e safety policy at the same time as introducing class blogs. Will pupils be taught how to respond to comments? Will you encourage parental contributions? Perhaps a coffee morning for parents to discuss any fears or share any ideas?
Using a school-wide blog, such as The 100 Word Challenge can provide a focal point, and raise the profile of a subject.
The Impact of Blogging and Scaffolding on Primary School Pupils’ Narrative Writing: A Case Study
Ruth Mei Fen Wong, National Institute of Education, Singapore Khe Foon Hew, National Institute of Education, Singapore
iBooks is a brilliant app for buying, organising and buying books.
For teachers this choice can make finding great books a chore, meaning we are sticking to books we already have copies of in the classroom or we are missing some of the advantages of having ebooks.
So, are there are advantages of using iBooks for classroom texts?
Storage and ease of use – you can have books stored in one space that would take up valuable room in the school.
Motivation – undoubtedly some children enjoy using the devices.
In app features which aid learning – such as dictionary, thesaurus, adding notes.
Instant purchases – very useful when you need that new topic book or you want to show an author’s work on the whiteboard.
Fonts and size options can make some books more accessible.
There are of course disadvantages, an eBook won’t always replace the physical copy, but there are still many reasons to consider putting budget money aside for the purchase of some key texts in electronic format.
This page from the brilliantly popular ‘Traction Man’ shows how selecting the words, and holding your finger on that word can bring up more options.
What can iBooks do?
Firstly. It’s worth remembering that there are two key different types of books on the book store. Enhanced and normal. Enhanced books have features which look like they would fit well into the app- they may have video clips, or an author’s podcast and even the whole book narrated.
These books, like David Walliam’s excellent Billionaire Boy, add that extra dimension to the text, and help to think specifically of author voice, or appealing to an audience.
Normal eBooks may not have such interactivity, but they do allow you to select text, then define that word, hear the iPad read it aloud (warning of the pronunciation here!) or even leave notes for the pupils to respond to either in the app or on paper. This means that the children can read longer texts, be prompted with teacher comments and find out the meaning of unknown words. Very useful for the more advanced readers. Most of the books also allow you to search text, change font and size and alter screen brightness. Bookmarks can also be kept, and synced across devices by an option in settings.
How to navigate the store?
The app like any other book store is searchable by title and author, so if you know what you want it is easy to find. There are also ways to stumble across books too, very often some section of children’s books is featured in the front page. At the time if writing it was a lovely section on Children’s Picture Books – some of which had enhanced features. Unfortunately for teachers, ten minutes browsing can turn into an hour before you know it!!
Like the simple, enhanced offering from Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, a promotional from the movie, some iBooks are free but aimed squarely at entertaining. Worth looking out for.
Begin by thinking what the children will be doing with the book – if it is purely for guided reading perhaps you don’t want longer novels, perhaps short story collections would be better.If you have many specific needs in class, or a large number of children with English as an Additional Language then look for enhanced books where they can hear the language and the expression in the reading. For topic work and non-fiction there are some genuinely beautiful books by DK publishing, and these can really benefit the whole class, not just reading time sessions. Considering what exactly you will be using the book for will save you some time when purchasing.
Part of the 100 Facts.. series 100 World Facts is a great free book to get you started.
Consider the needs of the pupils in the classroom and when they will access the books. Do you want to buy them copies of a book you are reading in class?
Finally, use the ‘related to’ search option within the menu, this may lead to authors and books which you wouldn’t normally consider!
Remember that the children may not get the chance to read the whole book, it depends on their access to iPads.
Using monitors or pupil digital leaders? Let them browse the book store, or get the school council to choose some.
Integrate it with topic work – there are some brilliant non-fiction books on the store.
Spend some time browsing, and remember you can usually download a free sample.
Enhanced eBooks may be better for reluctant readers
Recently here has been a big improvement in the quality of apps which focus on maths. I am a huge fan of using apps such as Explain Everything – which allow children to provide detailed explanations in their own words – the iPad can also be used to target specific skills in many different areas. The apps chosen here all provide high-quality activities with progression built in, but they also allow collaboration between children, encouraging the sharing of ideas and reinforcing vocabulary.
Excellent app which has four activities designed to encourage collaboration and problem solving. Each activity has four levels of difficulty and as the apps come in different year groups they can get very challenging.
Designed for two players, they naturally elicit high quality talk. Highly recommended! Take a closer look here.
Squeebles – Fractions and Timestables Brilliantly designed, these fun games provide excellent opportunities to rehearse skills which many children find tricky. The fractions app covers comparing, equivalent and simple calculations and the timestable allows random practice as well as specific tables. You set pupils up with usernames on each app (number the iPads!) and they earn rewards for their efforts. The app also provides useful data on completion of tasks and errors made allowing the teacher to be in control.
Have a look at the Multiplication game here. and the Fractions app here.
There are new Squeebles apps, detailed on the website.
Maths Doodles and SymShuffle These apps have a really great look, very distinctive and friendly. The ‘doodles’ app offers problems that need solving, and like the Talk Maths apps will really get the children talking. Mystery numbers, guess the number and place value are all covered here. Find out more here. The ‘symshuffle’ offers simple symbols, or pictures, that need to be reflected, translated or rotated in order to match. Look closer here.
Both apps offer options which allow you to alter difficulty, play in different styles (such as a race against the clock) or have ‘hints’ on the screen. Great for Key Stage 2, the children will really enjoy using these apps.
Motion Maths – Wings, Zoom and Hungry Guppy Very polished apps which cover very specific parts of the Maths curriculum. Wings is an excellent game which looks at number arrays and covers the introduction of multiplication. Check it out here! Zoom looks at number lines and ordering numbers and Hungry Guppy looks at number skills, creating numbers.
All of the apps are very intuitive and designed to be child friendly with use of the motion controls and touchscreen combined. They are also very good at providing motivation with rewards and customisation options. The apps are free to try, though that can sometimes be a bind for schools as you could struggle with the in app purchase, however it does mean you can try them first. The friendly controls and gentle introduction to maths concepts makes these great for KS1.
Invasion of the Moon Monkeys Another app perfect for targeted practice of Times Tables – this one has a very familiar feel to it and will really appeal to those children who already play games. There is a storyline, of sorts, and a competitive element as it keeps track of scores. Practice sessions, and the chance to make elements of the game and the maths harder means that it will provide a challenge for all. Really great for those children who just need that extra practice. Find out more here.
Math Evolve Take a look here.
As usual, great apps are coming onto the market all the time, but i’m really beginning to think that ‘less is more’ and these apps have chosen because they are cross year group and represent areas of maths which can traditionally be tricky.
I would love to know your thoughts!
The Year 6 Sats will include a grammar and punctuation test this year.
Whilst the writing tests have always included marks for spelling and grammar this is the first time that a separate paper has been included. Writing, let’s not forget, is still teacher assessed with some LA moderation taking place.
Do remember that it is working from the current framework, see guidance below! Nothing new is added at this stage…
So, what can Primary teachers and Literacy Coordinators do to add more opportunities for grammar and punctuation lessons in their classrooms?
- Literacy Coordinators need to be reminding teachers of the vocabulary, meanings and correct use of grammar and punctuation now – don’t wait until the test. The draft curriculum is due to be introduced in 2014, but you can use the vocabulary and punctuation guidelines now. Introduce some vocabulary or a rule each week during staff briefing. Share a game that can be played to support this rule or vocabulary.
- School wide focus – make ‘correct sentence structure’ a school wide focus. Encourage age-appropriate targets linked to sentence structure and reference this in marking for all subjects.
- Model the correct use – all adults need to be ensure they are a model for the children to use. Remember the saying – if they can’t speak it how can they write it? If they don’t hear it said, how can they write it down?
- Language rich learning environments – everywhere in school all displays should be language rich – encourage mathematical explanations and model scientific language.
Do share the test and expectations with Parents, the DfE have produced a guide:
There are many home-grown resources out there – and I will begin to collect links and documents here. I’ve been thinking about Maths games – how great teachers are at creating resources to encourage quick recall and calculation skills – and employing this in literacy. Flashcards for vocabulary, matching games for sentence types and ‘follow-me’ cards can all be used for quick grammar and punctuation.
Also Pie Corbett has recorded an excellent video for Oxford University Press here, talking about grammar in context, which is incredibly important!
Thinking about your own understanding, there is an excellent site here, from Bristol University to test you and explain any misconceptions.