I first heard about Slow Writing at a #researched session delivered by David Didau, @learningspy when he talked about asking children to slow down when writing, cut the waffle and focus on every single word or sentence that they construct. I went away and read all he had written about Slow Writing on his blog where he has now helpfully grouped all the slow writing blogs.
I have used Slow Writing successfully over and over again. I have recommended it to many schools who also feedback that it has 'transformed' writing for some children.
New to slow writing?
Just start with 6 - 8 prompts. Allow no choice. This makes it a constrained piece and children have to really think about each and every sentence in the paragraph.
An example may be:
1. Your sentence must start with a verb.
2. Your sentence must contain a simile
3. Your sentence must use a relative clause.
4. Your sentence must be 3 words only.
5. Your sentence must use start with a time phrase.
6. Your sentence must use a modal verb.
Don't just copy and paste this one but think about what you want your pupils to achieve in that single paragraph. With slow writing it is about quality and not quantity. Get the children to work double spaced and then go back and edit these six sentences until 'perfect' (or as close as they can get). Once they are familiar with this concept they can choose the order or you can increase the number of prompts and allow them to choose from the list.
You can see an example of it in action here: Chaperon Rouge Blog
"But this isn't independent!" "Moderators won't like it..". You may say. However, this is not for moderators, it isn't for teacher assessment. This is to allow children to practise their skills, which hopefully they will then use in their independent writing.
Slow writing can be differentiated. You could make a number of lists dependent on ability or once children are familiar with the concept you could give them a choice of options. See diagram below.
Green: Y3 objectives.
Yellow Y4 objectives.
Orange Y5 objectives.
Purple Y6 objectives.
The children in this mixed-age/mixed-ability class were allowed to start where they wanted although the class teacher did guide some pupils as required.
As always I look forward to receiving comments.
A few tech presents arrived at Shed HQ recently ready for review. We thought we would pass them to the experts Mr. Chase, a teacher at our local school and also @_geekyteacher on twitter. He was very excited to get his hand on some tech and his gadget geeks were even more excited!
HD Pro Camera
Positives: Device has a bendable neck that allows the Hue HD Pro to be used both as a webcam for things such as SkypeChat and Google Hangout and a visualiser/document camera for things such as highlight work, demonstrating skills or sharing a class book.
Keep in Mind: Whilst it is one on the best visualisers I have used, if comparing or using as a webcam keep in mind that it cannot be mounted to a monitor. In my opinion this isn’t a negative though as the bendable neck can be used to manipulate and show work or move to people speaking. Also, if you want animation software for your lessons look into the Hue HD as it comes with it.
Overall Verdict: The Hue HD is a mid-range webcam with an excellent design, but it lacks full 1080p HD resolution.
The Hue HD Pro is a webcam for the classroom. It has a stylish body with a bendable stand. You can use the swivel neck to turn the camera whichever way you want, and with this design, many classes can use it as a document camera. Unfortunately, its highest resolution is 720p. This counts as HD, but if you watch 720p content on a 1080p display, the image tends to look grainy or pixelated. It has a few features that make it good for video chatting. I used the visualiser feature of the camera in my lessons to live model activities for students; they love watching me do things and naturally want to work along with me and the HUE HD Pro delivers such a crisp picture and that I was never interrupted learning to fiddle with the camera.
Installation was simple, plug into the desktop PC or laptop, and with no technical problems and I was away! I could project children’s work up onto the display board, or use it to show my examples. The base is nice and sturdier than many other models I’ve used, and the head is very flexible but also steady. You can focus easily using a dial on the head of the camera, lights are also available and easy to use, a colleague did point out that they didn’t make a large difference in a bright classroom, in fact paper can sometimes be a bit overexposed. The camera comes with a whole load of visual software tools, however for most people initially just the basic camera driver will produce good results. I would recommend this to any school that wants to get visualisers cheaply into classrooms.
Some children from my school, my ‘Gadget Geeks’ or ‘Digital Leaders’ created their own reviews as unboxing videos. Here are their initial impressions:
The camera was the Winner of the Technological Innovation of the Year 2016, Best in Show at ISTE 2016 (the largest EdTech show in the US) and Teachers Choice for the Classroom 2016
It’s priced at £44.95 + VAT so schools can afford one in every classroom.
For further information please visit our website https://huehd.com/
A short video with examples can be seen here https://huehd.com/pro/
HUE Tablet Stand:
Positives: Device has a bendable, but stable, neck which allows for movement and user can be relaxed that device won’t fall out. Vice system can be adapted for most surfaces.
Keep in Mind: If you have thick tablet cases, as many schools do, you may struggle to get the tablet in securely. I had to remove the school ones.
Overall Verdict: A brilliant resource that allows user to utilise an iPad or tablet more, however might struggle with thicker tablet cases.
HUE’s Flexible Tablet Stand has been designed to help educators get the most out of their tablet devices. It can also be used in the home or while traveling to make use of tablets in new and creative ways.
The stand is available in a choice of three colours: green, blue or black.
The tablet stand is perfect for:
The tablet stand uses a clip-like, spring system which has no problems holding an iPad Mini, or full sized iPad Air 9.7 this system is fully covered by a rubber band that protects the tablet or iPad from any scratch. Admittedly I haven’t tried the larger iPad pro or other tablets but I see no reason why stand wouldn’t cope, the company do assure on their website that the stand can support up to 12.5 tablets. Furthermore, its rear has a locking and unlocking to remove the tablet foot you have, it's super easy to remove and put simply clicking on the lock button. It doesn't seem that the stand would do well with thicker cases that are often the norm in schools so if you have a thick case on you may tablets you may want to keep research other brands or combinations. If Hue made the clamp so that it would fit an iPad in any case it would be perfect. The clamp which attaches to the desk or table is solid as well. It holds up to very tight clamping to make the rig secure.
Overall, I really enjoyed using the stand, I think this is because I am a big fan of using iPad’s Airplay system as a bit of an all-rounder; I use it as a visualiser, I demonstrate apps and I use it to record and play StopMotion animations- all of this is aided with a good iPad stand.
Some children from my school, my ‘Gadget Geeks’ or ‘Digital Leaders’ created their own reviews as unboxing videos. Here are their initial impressions:
The BFG is one of my favourite Roald Dahl books and with the premiere of the new BFG film a few weeks ago it is more popular than ever. If you are studying Roald Dahl this year then you may find this useful.
In this British Pathe film from 1936 you can see Robert Wadlow who was 8ft11" tall.
Born in 1918, Robert is still to this day known as the tallest person in medical history.
When the Pathe cameras went to film him in 1935, he was a 'mere' 8′ 1 1/2″. When they returned the next year, he was 8ft4″. By the time of his death at just aged 22, he had grown to 8ft11''. In this clip, he is surrounded by his family and even though his father was 6ft, none of them stand much above his waist.
Children could compile lists of questions that they would have liked to ask Robert Wadlow if he was still alive today. (Sadly he died at the age of 22.) Using augmented reality and the 2015 version of The Guinness Book of records (still available in some online bookstores) you can then invite Robert into the classroom for the children to meet and measure themselves against.
Using an app such as Puppet Pals 2, Yackit Kids or Tellegami children can then answer the questions in the role of the 'World's youngest giant.' (See Below)
Once these 'interviews' are over children can write a news report about the day that Robert Wadlow came to their school.
<<<A screen shot from the app and Robert is filling the school hall.
In the example below using Puppet Pals 2 you can see Noah aged 5 interviewing me as Robert Wadlow for a mini homework project.
If you like this idea and want to see many more why don't you book some Literacy Shed CPD or come along to one of our training days near you?
In no particular order these 10 films are those most popular with KS1 and the ones that Rob, the Literacy Shed’s creator likes to use in class workshops with KS1 children.
Writing assessment 2017 or Post apocalypse writing.
Part one – The content of the Interim frameworks 2016 and their adverse effects.
Has the dust settled on the 2016 assessments yet? No way I hear you say. I agree with you, I continually get asked about them on social media and when I go into schools. There is much debate on Twitter and Facebook about what the writing assessments will or will not look like next year at the end of KS2.
Will it look the same as this year? Will the interim framework just become the framework? I cannot imagine there will be many changes if any at all.
The way writing is assessed against the framework is, anecdotally, having a negative effect on the teaching of writing in some schools, especially where the tick list method is used.
Gone has the teaching of writing which focused on effect on the reader, an outpouring of the author’s creativity and feelings - to be replaced by staid pieces of writing whose main aim is to demonstrate the proficient use of complicated grammar and punctuation which is often unnecessary in quality writing. Pick up a novel – go on… get one now… open it to any page. How many exclamation marks, colons or semi colons does it have? I am guessing in many cases that they are rarely used and if they are used at all then they have been inserted sparingly.
This week I heard via Twitter of a child in Y2 being assessed as below expectations because she had only used exclamations in two of her moderated pieces of writing and thus didn’t demonstrate sufficient secure use. (Surely if the two were used correctly this demonstrates a secure understanding?)
The sad thing is that I can’t see anything being done about this at a governmental level any time soon. However, as teachers we can still focus on creating opportunities for our children to create writing which is creative and imaginative, which looks at the effect on the audience, develops vocabulary use and choice etc. Whilst teaching grammar in context as part of the writing journey, which can then be used by the children as and when necessary. This needs to be done, as it says in the National Curriculum, through the teaching of reading, writing and speaking and not as a separate bolt on. If this is done from year 1 onward, at a level appropriate for our pupils then we should see the effect in future years.
Part two – Flaws in the assessment process.
Recently many people have been expressing their displeasure in the moderation process, that they have been forced to produce tick lists and endless evidence for moderation whereas other schools have had quite a positive experience. Other schools didn’t have to experience it at all and we’ll just have to trust their results, with some teachers worried that they have been too generous or too harsh.
A friend of mine believes (and I am swayed this way too) if one school is moderated then they all should be. This would certainly seem fairer although it would come at great expense.
**Typing from my Anderson shelter**
It may be much simpler to return to the writing tests.
Not quite as they were before but still a one off test which would allow children to show off their writing skills.
I would personally go for a ‘cold’ write narrative which had an interesting and engaging prompt and a non-fiction ‘hot’ write.
How would that work?
Firstly, we would need a sea-change in what we (teachers) think the assessments are for. At the moment I feel that many teachers think assessments are a way of students proving how good they are, showing off their very best work which is why it is produced over a period of time with a number of rewrites. Is this really the purpose of the year 6 writing assessments though? Not really, the purpose is to level/rank children against their peers and use these levels/ranks ultimately to rank their schools against those in the LEA and nationally.
Not many pupils are going to produce their best piece of writing under test conditions, not many of us would. But what the tests would give is a standardised piece of work which can be easily ranked and compared across the country.
So what would these new tests look like?
They would be four hours long. Two hours for non-fiction and two hours for narrative.
Give children an engaging stimulus, an image or a short film and ask children to write a narrative piece based upon this. It maybe that if they are watching a film extract they could write a conversational piece, they could be asked to write a description of setting, character or both. They could be asked to write an ending for a short film or a piece of action. It would be short and not a whole narrative. Children should be used to this type of writing as it is standard fare in most schools. The two hours would allow for 30 mins thinking/planning time if needed followed by an extended writing session of 90 minutes which would allow some children time to edit and redraft sections.
(Disclaimer) This is just an idea that I think could possibly work.
Two/three weeks prior to the test date teachers can download a 2/3 week basic unit plan on a topic with key focus points, key information and key vocabulary. This, for example, could be Volcanoes, Castles etc.
The teachers then have 2/3 weeks to teach content and vocabulary whilst revising text types and applying them to the topic.
On the day of the test the task is revealed. Something like non-chronological report, recount of visit to… etc
The children at this point should have the content knowledge and also knowledge of text types in order to ‘succeed.’
Although in a perfect world none of this would happen, we would just teach our pupils how to write creatively, passionately and accurately without the need for testing.
As always I welcome your comments.
I like to use films with an emotional story line with children. It often leads to deep and mature discussion, allowing the teacher to draw out emotive vocabulary from the children who are then inspired to write using this language whilst including the emotional content in their writing.
I was thinking about the films that had an effect on me as I was growing up. I was born in 1982 and I still love watching children's films today, so I thought I would compile a list of the 6 saddest moments in Children's films. (I have 6 as I couldn't narrow any further to a 'top' 5)
I tried not to include 6 death scenes in the list, although this is often the saddest point of any film. Some of the obvious ones are not in there - Bambi's mother for example, but I have never seen that film (or Starwars!) I would also like to feature 'Land Before Time' - When Lightfoot's mother dies and the death of Mufasa in 'Lion King' but again more death scenes, so they only get a notable mention.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Toy Story 2 (2000)
Monsters Inc (2002)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
I watched this film with my 6 year old and we were both in tears when Stoick died, I have just asked Noah what the saddest part of any film he has seen is. He said when "Dumbledore dies or when Stoick dies." When I asked him why this was sad, he said "because Stoick was the leader so more people are sad." But "also he is killed by 'Toothless' - Hiccup's best friend so it makes it even worse for Hiccup." I think he puts it rather well!
I would be happy to hear your comments about the list. Maybe you agree with the tear ratings or maybe you would like to add your own scene to the list, please do so using the comments below.
A quick video of me exploring the Warhorse Interactive App. It has a mass of information on there. Start with the illustrated novel. Then you could open the timeline and read about key events including maps, images, audio and videos. There are also interviews with historians on the battle sites. You can then see an excerpt of the novel read by the author himself.
I recently came across these great interactive story books on the app store, like all great finds, whilst I was looking for something else.
The iClassic bundle contains 12 interactive tales from four of the world's greatest authors: H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Alan Poe, Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde.
The Lovecraft stories are probably more suitable for students in secondary school (age 11+) The Poe and Dickens stories are suitable for students in UKS2 (ages 9+) but it will be a good idea to read them before sharing with your class. The Oscar Wilde texts are suitable for children from around Year 3 (7+)
Lovecraft titles - The Hound, The Window and Dagon - there is also a brief biography of the author.
Poe titles - Eldorado, The Cask of Amontadillo, Alone, The Facts in the case of M. Valdemar.
Dickens Titles - Christmas Ghosts, The Ivy Green, A Madman's Manuscript and a brief biography.
Wilde titles - The Selfish Giant, The Happy Prince, The Nightingale and the Rose plus a biography.
In December 2014 I wrote a blog entitled Story Starters with 60 original story starters in. You can read them here.
I thought I would add to that with another 25. So here you go! Some have been provided by Literacy Shed users. They are credited in brackets.
3. She felt someone tug her sheets. She woke up thinking it was her cat. She looked down and fell aback. No cat, no dog, only a hand... (Dyna Wilson)
4. I had failed the test. There was only way I could solve this problem...
5. Because of you I only a pair of cerulean eyes to bury in an otherwise empty casket. (Schuyler Loughlin)
6. I hated moving house. They are never the one I grew up in. Never the one where my dad died. (Emily Thomas)
7. He had been waiting for ages. Why hadn't he come? He had promised.
11. It was just a game, but like everything can, it went horribly wrong, as the body at your feet proved. (Erika Adams)
12. There was a note in my fortune cookie that said, "Leave now don't say anything to anyone and never come back!" (Bradie Rouse)
13. The pages flickered, there was no breeze, as if an invisible hand was turning the pages. It stopped on page 73...
14. "I can see you!" said the text, she looked around nervously.
15. He wasn't leaving - he was King of the Mountain, no one could take that from him.
16. The air filled with a familiar smell.
19. The bed began to shake... the air turned grey... where had the walls gone? The bed began to spin as it rose into the air.
20. Lightning struck the tree in the garden. Another flash and Arthur could see someone standing there looking up.
If you enjoyed these visit the original post for another 60 here
Please add your own story starters in the comments and I will compile a new blog of them soon.
One from the master:
I saw this earlier and thought it looked amazing. Then I was tweeted by Mr Young (@mrysgc) on Twitter that he is going to use it with his Year 6 class this week.
There are some stunning settings shots in the opening sequence. Which the pupils can describe.
They can describe walking towards the castle in the snow and how they would feel as they approach the castle, before going inside and seeing the cobwebbed interior.
There are some discussion points to talk about with the pupils, such as who is the girl? Who is speaking? Who owns the castle? 'What if she is the one?' What does that mean?
My Young is going to pause the film at 1 minute 6 seconds and ask the children to carry on the story. This is a great idea, especially if they do not know that it is Beauty and The Beast. Most children will not have seen the trailer, the only clues are the 'Be Our Guest' titles and the piano music playing at the end.
We would love to hear about how you think this could be used too, so leave us a comment.
Rob from Literacy Shed