I have planned a long blog about reading. How it is more than just decoding the words and when using a picture book the pictures are not there to help the children decode the words but to add to the narrative and enhance the story tenfold. However, I am now on holiday, we have a new website to launch, a publisher deadline looming for the new book and two children to keep entertained. If you would like to read a great blog about reading and picture books then I recommend this blog by @sputniksteve.
This blog is going to be about a little boy called Monty. (here he is below)
Monty is going to be two years old in July and already he likes sharing books with his Mummy, brother and me - his Daddy.
Today we visited Bamburgh Castle and he chose, alongside a sponge sword, this beautiful book by Petr Horacek. This is what happened when we got back to the cottage and read it.
'Puffin Peter' is a story about two puffins; one called Peter and one called Paul. One day whilst out diving there was a 'big, big storm. Peter was lost.'
I have been thinking about and researching how to improve comprehension skills using a range of high quality texts, images, picture books and of course film.
After a number of sessions with children in schools using the new content domains, which can be found on the gov.uk website, I found that all of the key comprehension skills were being covered through the domains. As some of you who follow this blog will know, I like a mnemonic. So I set about thinking about a mnemonic that could be used by teachers, other adults who read with children and also the children themselves. My first attempt - MR SIP TEA was not the catchiest so we have come up with Reading Vipers. Vipers cover the key comprehension skills in line with the 'new' content domains.
At Literacy Shed the minions are now busy making a whole host of resources that will link to Reading Vipers. There are now 30+ Film VIPERS on www.literacyshedplus.com
We are also creating a range of comprehension materials based on extracts from classic texts such as Black Beauty, The Time Machine, Robinson Crusoe and many more which will soon be available here. www.literacyshedplus.com Until then you can download The Time Machine sample (as seen below) by clicking here. =
The same key viper skills can be rehearsed effectively using single images or picture books.
Take a look at this example using the picture book 'Return' by Aaron Becker.
There are over 30 sets of VIPERS questions for the Literacy Shed films now on www.literacyshedplus.com
The question stem documents can be downloaded by click on the relevant image below.
As always comments are welcome!
Click the text below for further reading.
Today I had the pleasure of delivering a keynote at a conference in Wolverhampton today alongside some great speakers and the team from Wolverhampton LEA.
One thing I will take away is using technology to aid spelling in writing. Mark Smith and others demonstrated how Siri can be used to aid those children whose spelling problems stop them from using a dictionary properly. His example was with children looking up 'mystery' in the dictionary by searching in the m-i-s- section and being unable to find the word they want.
Here is a video of Noah in Y2 asking Siri to spell 'Caterpillar' for him:
As you can see in the video as well as displaying the written spelling it also reads the spelling to the child.
We then tried it with a homophone 'allowed' with mixed results. There is also an option on Google Search using the microphone button there. Here is what happened:
So as you can see it may be that homophones confuse the situation, but it could still be a useful tool for some children.
We were advised today that if this is normal classroom practice that STA will accept it as independent writing for assessment purposes. (when used for single words and not whole sentences)
Even if you do not think you would like to use it in independent writing it could be useful for novice writers in other year groups who can write but struggle with spelling.
Comments welcome as ever.
I have been on twitter as @redgierob since the 16th of May 2011 and I consider myself a fully-fledged ‘edutweeter’ with over 66,000 tweets to my name.
Recently ‘edutwitter’ seems to have become increasingly embittered although predominantly there is some amazing sharing and support going on. (There may be a list of fabulous edutweeters to come in another blog!)
I thought I would share some advice about how to go about twitter which you can follow or choose to ignore if you want. Sometimes I need to remind myself of these rules too!
Get rid of your egg!
An egg can make you look like you have a fake account or are in transit from one account to another. Choose whether you’re going to be yourself or use an alias but decide quickly and then get tweeting.
Twitter is first and foremost a social platform so try to be social. If this means you are the quiet one at the party watching from the side-lines, then that is fine and if you are the gregarious one dancing in the middle of the lounge arms flailing wildly remember that the quiet ones are there trying to have a quiet conversation too. I have met people and made very dear friends through twitter and it is always great meeting people, who you have only ever chatted with through twitter, for the first time.
Don’t Judge Publicly! (One I sometimes struggle with too)
Teachers love to share a range of things their accomplishments, their passions, their worries and their questions. If a teacher shares a piece of work, a lesson plan or a simple idea then it doesn’t give you the right to judge it unless they ask you directly for an opinion. Imagine you saw a couple of people trying on clothes in your local fashion hotspot and one asks the other, ‘How do I look?’ you wouldn’t wander over and tell her that it doesn’t suit, makes her look older than she is and actually went out of fashion several months ago. You certainly wouldn’t call your friend over and repeat it to them and hopefully you wouldn’t pull your phone out of your pocket, snap a pic and send it to your friend to judge too.
Pretend it is real life! (Don’t be a keyboard warrior)
Speak to people with the grace and courteousness that you would in real life. If someone asks to retire from a conversation, then allow them to. Delete or untag people from specific threads if it is requested. Declining the offer is tantamount to chasing them down the street and shouting your argument in their face whilst they try to walk away.
Don’t quote tweet selected tweets from a thread out of context in order to prove a point. It is very rude. Refer to the last rule – would you do this in real life?
Don’t tag people using their twitter handle (@______) into posts to garner support for a cause or an argument without first asking them. Either address the tweet to them publicly asking for their support; ask permission in a separate thread or use a relevant hashtag.
Letting off steam about school?
Want to rant about your own school? Twitter is probably not the best place to do it. Remember your SLT can easily see your tweets or someone else could share your tweets with them as it is an open forum – unless you protect your tweets which defeats the object of twitter really. If you need a rant – gather some good friends that you can trust and create a private group chat!
I welcome your comments always!
@_geekyteacher - enthusiastic user of iPads and Minecraft
@ATaleUnfolds - Amazing film creating and writing resources
@athole - Scottish film educator soon to be expert in Chinese cinema
@BBCteaching - made the list because he is from Ramsbottom too!
@beazeley - A parachuting headteacher (metaphorically that is)
@Bennett31 - Superhero head teacher in Oldham
@f33lthesun - Deputy head and SEND expert
@Blandpoet - poet extraordinaire
@booksfortopics - need a book for a topic? They'll point you to one.
@bryngoodman - Primary Rocker
@carole_XLIX - she'll land you in deep water (swimming) exceedingly good cakes!
@ChrisDysonHT - Leeds! But we won't hold that against him
@gazneedle - The legend behind Primary Rocks
@goodman_ang - Primary Rocker
@grahamandre - Numeracy shed maker and primary rocker
@HYWEL_ROBERTS - Roving teacher
@ICT_MrP - iPad starlet and Mrs May watcher
@ICTEvangelist - Tech specialist
@ieconsultancy - Teacher and writer of mastery resources
@imagineinquiry - He wears an expert mantle
@janeconsidine - made of the write stuff
@jennaLucas81 - Primary rocker
@jon_brunskill - knows his stuff, research led teaching with well organised knowledge
@jonnybid - teacher of a class that seriously read!
@jordyjax - SEND expert based in Lancashire
@jmpneale - once took me for fish and chips at Weymouth Harbour
@teacherstarr - Deputy head in Nottingham
@KCLynchey - Drive behind #TMRammy Y4/5 Teacher
@leah_moo - Primary Rocker
@elearning_laura - North Tyneside eLearning lead teacher
@Mat_at_Brookes - knows a lot about books
@MichaelT1979 - Finger on the pulse, TES columnist, assessment leader, deputy head.
@MissSMerrill - Primary Rocker
@MrHeadComputing - Primary Rocker
@mrlockyer - has hundreds of good ideas
@MrsPteach - whole class reading expert
@MrTRoach - Y6 teacher in Oldham Great to discuss things with sensibly
@farrowmr - Primary Rocker and press up machine
@rpd1972 - self confessed perfectionist
@russbrownauthor - SEND teacher, writer and circus performer
@Ruth_Leask - Head teacher who is now a wise old owl.
@samdaunt - Editor of PrimEd and curator of Once upon a picture
@shaunh0pper - Teacher from the North East filled with passion for writing.
@shinpad1 - Soon to be Dr. Shinpad!
@simonpobble - one of the founders of Pobble and great guy.
@smithsmm - I thought I was a children's book enthusiast until I met him.
@Sue_Cowley - My go to for EYFS advice.
@teacherwriterPJ - Poet and writer settled in a northern Villagetown
@TemplarWilson - Whole class reading expert too with her friend ERIC
@watsed - Will help you take the inside outside or the outside in!
I am sorry if you are not on the list it wasn't intentional. If you think I am missing someone off the list that would be great for primary tweeps to follow then please tell us in a comment.
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.