Sunday, 11 December 2011

6 Circle Time Games

We recently answered a tweet asking for circle time games. Below is the response we gave. These are just 6 out of many ideas for games to use in circle time. You may have used some of these and hopefully some of them are new. Please feel free to comment below to add any other ideas you have of your own. An internet search will also provide a plethora of ideas!

Idea 1: The Parrot Parade

Give each child a colour: red, blue, green, red. Then read out a made up story about children making a parrot made of those colours to go on a float at a carnival. The story describes the making of the parrot and then the parading of it. Describing all its colours at every opportunity. When the children hear their colour they stand up, turn around and sit back down. They enjoy it especially if their colours come up a lot consecutively!

Idea 2: Lifeboats

The children all start sat down and then have to stand up one at a time with out communicating with each other. The aim is to get all standing up, but if two stand up at once they all sit back down.

Idea 3: Pass the Squeeze

Start of end the session with pass the squeeze. A handshake with a squeeze.

Idea 4: Hello

Person A says hello to person B, person B then replies hello, person A then says tell person C, person B then says hello to person C, person C says hello, person B says tell person D... and so on... (A nice way to start can also be used at the end with good-bye).

Idea 5: Fizz Buzz

When the person starts, they start by saying 1. The next person must then say the next number, and so on. People take their turn by saying the next number in sequence. If the number is divisible by 5, the person doesn't say the number, instead, they say "Fizz!". Similarly, if the number is divisible by 7, they must say "Buzz!". These fizzes and buzzes combine together - for example, instead of 35, I would say "Fizz, buzz!", because is divisible by 5, and is divisible by 7.

This example of using multiples of 5 and 7 could be changed to other numbers.

Idea 6: Pass the Hoop

All hold hands; pass a plastic hoop through everyone around the circle.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Kung Fu Maths II

Part one of this blog gives ideas for using physical hand movements to replace mathematical symbols and how this can be used for introducing mathematical vocabulary. In this blog entry, we will look at how else this strategy might be used. 

For example, in pairs, children can test each others mathematical knowledge and then link this to inverse operations.
  • Child A comes up with a calculation (4x12=);
  • Child B then says the answer and creates the inverse operation with their own symbols(48/12=);
  • Child A then says the answer(4). 
This game both gets children to practise speed of their mental answers and allows the teacher to check the understanding of inverse operation. In the classroom, this can often get competitive and chldren like making the maths quicker and quicker.

Another option for advanced users is to introduce the bracket (one arm pointing up and one down) into the mix and move into groups using a combination of symbols and whiteboards with numbers on. Teachers can instroduce equations with brackets in different places to show how they impact on the equation.

As a strategy, Kung Fu Maths gives teachers the opportunity to introduce practical elements to the maths currciulum.Getting children out of their seats doing physical movements which reinforces concepts for many children and, as importantly, is fun.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Class Timer

Christmas is here. And so is the associated mess of Christmas decoration and card making. Glitter embedded so deep into the carpet that it will still be shining in July, glue on seats and tiny, tiny pieces of cut up card in every nook and cranny.
However, we have a ‘willing’ volunteer force to help with the mess. The children made it so they can sort it. An excellent tool for helping with this can be found at in the form of their Countdown timer. The default setting is a timer for 30 seconds and the music from Countdown. For those ingrained messes though I recommend the 5 minute, Indiana Jones music.
Image credit: Russel Tarr -
The children love the mixture of recognisable music and visual stimulus and it certainly gets them going on the jobs that need doing. There is even sedate, calm classical for use in normal lesson time.
My favourite? Hawaii 5-O at 57 seconds.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Participation is Key

A key aspect of the usefulness of technology in the classroom is how it can motivate children in their learning. As the proverb goes: You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. Getting children engaged in lessons is a key skill for teachers in today’s classroom.

Many homes are full of technology and children will happily make use of this for sustained periods. Video games, computers and mobile handsets are used by children to socialise, share and educate each other. Schools need to be making use of these tools in order to encourage participation.

When we made ringtones in our classes, we offered children the opportunity to bring their phones into school in order to make it real. We use ‘Brain Training’ games on the PSP to encourage mental maths skills and we use iPods to deliver teaching through video and podcasts.

However, technology cannot be the sole tool for encouraging participation. Dylan Wiliam recently exhibited some key strategies in his BBC programme, ‘The Classroom Experiment’. In a range of secondary classrooms, he showed how tools such as coloured cups, whiteboards and lollipop sticks could encourage those children who felt disengaged by school to participate in lessons through discouraging the use of ‘hands up’.

At our school, we looked in detail at the use of these techniques. We are always looking at better ways of engaging our children in order to maximise the quality of the learning. Firstly, cups. Some of us dreaded the prospect of crinkly, noisy, distracting cups so we made discs out of laminated card. Green means - I know what is happening. Orange means - slow down I am unsure of what is going on. Red means – Stop, I don’t know what is going on. To keep the use of these in the children’s minds we have a picture of the three discs on most pages of our lesson presentations. Most of the time the children have the discs on green and, when needed, they are able to move it to red to ask questions.

Every class has lollipops with children’s names on. Whenever we need to ask children to participate in lessons, we pull out a stick. Sometimes, we catch the children who know the answer, other times we catch children who are unsure. This gives us a far better picture of how well a lesson is going as well as ensuring children know that they need to keep up with the lesson as their name might get pulled out. For those of you who love a gadget, Smart Notebook and both offer funky alternatives in the form of random name pickers and a fruit machine Flash tool.

These techniques have equipped us to better engage children in lessons. Discs and lollipop sticks mean that we can get immediate and valuable feedback about how lessons are going, leading to lessons which are much more effective for children.

Google Earth in Maths

I have used Google Earth a number of times in maths lessons. It has mostly been to make use of the 'ruler' tool and provide real life links to the lesson.

The first use I've found for the ruler tool is for providing real life links to calculating area and perimeter. The ruler too can be used to measure the dimensions of the school playground, a football pitch (see below), a child's garden, the courtyard of Buckingham palace or even The Pentagon, anywhere really! This can be either as a whole class on an interactive display, with everyone calculating areas and perimeters based on the measurements taken or as individuals taking measurements on computers or hand held devices. As the ruler tool measures accurately it offers an opportunity to discuss rounding. Also, if calculating the area and perimeter of part of your school the activity can be carried out virtually on Google Earth and then in 'reality' by going out with trundle wheels and then comparing the two.

The other time I have used the ruler tool is when converting lengths. I've usually done this converting between centimetres, meters and kilometres, but it can also be used to practise converting metric to imperial or vice versa. The example below shows how the length of one side of the Pentagon can be measured and then converted into various different units of measure. The original measurement was taken in meters. I'd then ask the children to convert this to centimetres, kilometres or feet, inches etc., if covering converting to imperial measurements. Once the children have their answers one click of the button can quickly show them the measurement they should have arrived at. The measurement of 'Smoots' always causes some amusement and a good teaching point about less well known units of measure for length.

These are just some ideas I've made use of for using Google Earth in maths lessons. If you have some ideas of your own I'd love to have some comments below.



Images all credited to 'Google Earth':

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Edublog Award Nominations

Here are our nominations for this year's Edublog Awards:

Best individual tweeter: @ICTMagic
There is something useful from Martin on his Twitter account every single day!

Best Twitter hashtag: #edtech
The resources shared through the edtech hashtag enable and encourage innovation through ICT within education.

Best free web tool:
A useful online tool for converting videos to various different formats. I have used it for converting videos to .flv to use within SMART Notebook.

Best ed tech / resource sharing blog:
Mark's blog does just what is says in the title: "A blog where I discuss ICT, education, my teaching, their learning and everything else in between".

Best educational wiki:
Again, this is from 'ICTMagic' and it's an amazing collection or resources and ideas to use in the classroom.

Best open PD / unconference / webinar series: TeachMeet
We attended two TeachMeet events this year. First of all as 'lurkers', but stepped up the second time to present. Those two TeachMeets were so useful for both generating ideas and for networking. Through Twitter and various blogs we've also been able to follow the goings on at TeachMeets we've not attended.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Kung Fu Maths

Kung Fu Maths is a practical maths activity for reinforcing mathematical vocabulary. It can be carried out in a classroom or outside, standing up or sitting down. 

Firstly, it involves four actions:

  • Arms crossed, one horizontal and the other vertical represents addition.
  • One arm placed horizontally represents subtraction.
  • Arms crossed diagonally are for multiplication.
  • Finally, one arm placed horizontally and then the other arm ‘punching’ once above and once below shows division.

The way I have used this is to reinforce mathematical vocabulary. I say a question to the class, for example, “What is the product of 2 and 3?” The class then respond by showing the correct sign, in this case arms crossed diagonally and call back the answer (6).

It’s a nice lesson start or end to a lesson, or even in the middle!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Austin The Travelling Bear

While completing my Primary PGCE six years ago, I undertook a placement in a Year Two class. While at that placement I acquired the idea of having a bear that could travel the world and return with stories to be told to the class. So, thank you Mrs. Koletzki (if you're reading this) for the idea! I suppose it's also an extension of the Barnaby Bear Key Stage One resource.

Since completing my training, I have only worked in Key Stage Two, but have had my own class bear (Austin), who spends most days sat in the classroom observing all that goes on. But, every now and again he goes off on adventures. I have a photo album that contains photographs of the places he has visited, a write up of what he did and a post card from each country. In addition to that, I also have newspapers, coins, flags and some other artifacts from each country he has been to.

The children enjoy looking at the pictures of where he has been, seeing the different post cards and, without realising it, developing their knowledge of countries and cultures from around the globe.

This of course all started as a classroom resource, but it's also started to make Austin quite a special bear because of all the places he has now been to: China (twice - including visiting the Great Wall and the Olympics), Finland, Germany, Israel, Jordan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Spain (twice), Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UAE and Wales. He is, at the time of writing, in the USA. He's had quite a busy six years taking in Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania and North America.

I must extend my gratitude to friends and family who willingly take him away with them on holiday (often asking for him) and then provide resources from the countries for the classroom.

You can find Austin online here: AustinTheBear

He's certainly better travelled than I am!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Interactive Classroom Displays

In my classroom I have a display board that I refer to as the ‘Interactive Display’. This display is composed of four parts:
  • Country of the Week
  • Number of the Week
  • Park it Here, Let’s find out!
  • This is Good Because…
It is a part of the classroom where the children contribute the content to the outline I have put in place. This is how I have used the four parts:
This part of the display was put in place partly due to me being a geographer, but also as an opportunity to help the children widen and improve their geographic knowledge through their own independent research. Firstly, it highlights the children who already have geographic knowledge as they can add to the display first thing on a Monday morning. It then, throughout the week, provides a discussion about children’s research and where they acquired information. This part of the display is a laminated piece of A3 paper that the children write onto with whiteboard pens. I change the country each week on a Monday morning.
The idea of having a number of the week came from a colleague. Again, this became part of the display partly through my enjoyment of maths, but also to provide an opportunity to look at the children’s knowledge of number. This display is also a laminated A3 piece of paper that the children write onto with whiteboard pens. On this one there are prompts like ‘factors’, ‘half of it is’, ‘double it’ and so on. Although I have shown 100 and 1000 in the two examples below the numbers used range through 45, 88, 125, 366. Again, I change this number each week on a Monday morning.
Park it Here, Let’s find out!
This part of the display is a whole school approach to ensuring questions that are asked during a lesson do not go unanswered. The idea is that when a question is asked that the teacher cannot answer or a question slightly off topic comes to light, it is written onto the Park it Here display. The teacher and the class can then research this question so that it does not go unanswered, but is answered at another appropriate time.
This is Good Because…
The final part of the display is for the pupils in the class to provide each other with some public feedback and praise. When I come across what I perceive to be a ‘good’ piece of work I take a photocopy or photograph of it and then put this on the display. I then write on it why I thought it was good and then the rest of the class can do the same. A little coaching in what to write is required, but the comments are excellent once the children have got the hang of it. When the piece of work is taken down the child gets to keep the copy of their work and the comment slips that were added to it.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Make Use of Time Lapse Video

I've always enjoyed watching time lapse videos. There's something about time passing along quickly and witnessing something that happened over hours or days in a matter of minutes or seconds.

Earlier this year, I planned to carry out an investigation with my class to prove that evaporation existed. The plan was to make puddles on the playground and then monitor and measure them throughout the day. The problem was that on the morning of the science lesson it had rained heavily over night. This meant we would not be able to create puddles to measure. However, I quickly realised nature had created one large puddle for us across the playground, so I set up a web cam looking out of my classroom and set it to take a photograph every minute between 07:30 and 15:45. The result was the video below, which my class loved watching and evoked a thoughtful discussion afterwards about what we could see happening on screen. I'm now looking for other ways I can make use of time lapse in the classroom...

Saturday, 1 October 2011

What do your class do during registration?

In my first year of teaching, I used registration as an opportunity for children to have some individual reading time. This was a good use of the time and provided children with an opportunity to read.
However, I felt that some children were disengaged with it as every registration resulted in silent reading time. Over the years since, I have started to investigate what other activities could take place during morning and afternoon registration so that I am using the time to my advantage and the children engage with the activities provided. Here are some activities I have used:

Reading: I have not stopped using registration as a time for the children to read. I still use it a couple of times a week. Most days children sit and read at their desk, but this year I have instigated ‘Sit Where You Want Thursday’. On a Thursday afternoon, when the children come in from lunch they can take their book and sit where they want; their own seat, another seat, on the floor, just wherever is most comfortable for them to be when reading. In addition to this, I have also ensured I read a book of my own when the children are reading to model expectations. Both of these have ‘revamped’ reading during registration and provided a more enjoyable experience for some of those who don’t enjoy reading.

Boggle: Using Play Boggle Online I project a Boggle board for the children to make words from. After explaining the rules the first time the children can then carry out this activity without input on further days. It allows children to create words on their own level and provides an opportunity to look at spelling and vocabulary use.

Image Credit:

Countdown: I look in the dictionary for a nine letter word and write it jumbled up onto the board or put it in the middle of each table. The children can again create words at their own level, ranging from one letter words all the way up to seeking to solve the nine letter word. This also provides an opportunity to look at spelling and vocabulary use, while also discussing the meaning of the nine letter word if it’s new to some children.

Wordsearches / Crosswords: When approaching a new topic, I have used wordsearches and crosswords to introduce the vocabulary associated with that topic to the class in advance. I have found the puzzles engage the children in looking at and seeking out the words and then following up this with a discussion about what the words mean and how we can use them.

Thinking Time: Provide the children with an open task like ‘make a list of words that end with a letter g’ or ‘design a flag for our class’. Children complete these and then have the opportunity to share their ideas.

Take 10: During morning registration, take the children outside, or in the classroom in the weather’s not up to much and do some exercises to get them (and you!) ready for the day ahead.

Mobile devices: In the secondary environment this could be the children’s own devices. In the primary environment, if you’re lucky enough to have them, the children can use iPod devices or PSPs to carry out Brain Gym, times table or other suitable activities to allow them to ‘play and learn’ at the same time.

These are just some things I’ve come up with or acquired from others. I have sought to vary the activities I offer, while ensuring what the children are doing is of value to both them and me. Please feel free to comment on these or leave me your suggestions for other things I could use.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Multiplying and Dividing by 10, 100 & 1000

After searching for ways to help children understand what is happening when multiplying and dividing by 10, 100 and 1000, this is the best method I've come across. Moving children away from the notion of 'adding a 0' or 'taking off a 0' is essential for them to be able to multiply and divide by multiples of 10 when using decimal numbers. This video shows a simple way to demonstrate this:

Friday, 23 September 2011

App Sharing

Apps are awesome. I have so many apps on my phone that I have not played with half of them. Photgraphy apps, which make my naff pics into amazing art, truly addictive games and, of course, educational apps from tracking stars to making books into mini-blockbusters. The problem is which ones to get for our iPods at school?

We were introduced to the fantastic site AppShopper which tracks price changes as well as new apps. This is great but means we are getting even more of a range of apps to look at. We decided that we would like to use this blog to help suggest apps that would be good to use in school.

Therefore, we need you.

Please use the comments section to offer your ideas for great apps which we can use to make our lessons even more funky.

Thanks in advance.

The Importance of Versatility

I really like Apple computers. I like the simplicity of the interface especially on the mobile platforms. I like the way I can take a film from iPhoto through iMovie to iDVD. I also like the way apps allow me to educate, play and explore at the same time. The thing is, I really like Windows too. I like the interface on PCs. I like the fact that I can get right into the depths of the OS and play around with it and I love Open Source software and gaming.  I have friends who have an almost religious fervour about Apple computers and I have friends who are equally zealous about Windows.
To me a computer is a tool. Sometimes I use it well, often rather badly. This is sometimes down to how well I know the software but more often than not it is down to how well the computer is working for me. 
As an educator, my job is to teach children. When I was at school we made use of a BBC Micro. When I was at college, we used Windows 95. When I started teaching, there were only a few computers i
n school and five years ago the touch screen mobile platform was only just starting.
The fact is that we cannot anticipate the sorts of operating systems and technology that our children will be working on in ten years when they leave school and go into the adult world. It is imperative that we teach children how to use the tools we give them effectively. Even more importantly we need to teach them the basic skills that you need to be able to adapt so that you can work with computers of the future. It is only by doing this that we will be able to ensure our children are prepared for the future.  Our children need to be taught to use OSX, Windows and even Linux. It is only by doing this that we can get away from people saying that they cannot use one system or another and make our children future proof as well as our hardware.
Lesson 1: Turn it off, wait thirty seconds, then turn it on.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Team Lego

At the start of the year, it is all about getting to know your new class. The children go through initial assessments in reading, writing, maths, art and all the other subjects. We also want our children to leave school at the end of the day having had fun. This year we looked at how we could add a bit of fun to some of our assessments,

A key area of development for us is developing teamwork skills, as well as independence and initiative. In the past, whilst we were teaching the skills of how to work in the team, we offered theoretical problems as well as classics such as building bridges with newspaper. So, this year, we looked at spicing them up.

Lego. I love Lego. The kids love Lego. It is easy to put together and easy to pick up. And, of course, I love Lego. After a visit to the Manchester Lego Discovery Centre, where my family and I played with the Duplo tower activity, my colleagues and I set up problem number one. How high can you build a Lego tower? The joy of this activity is that you can clearly highlight a design and evaluation stage.

Problem number two was slightly more complicated. As part of our curriculum we film a Shakespeare play, so I wanted to assess how well children were able to orient themselves around a camera shot and storyboard. In order to do this, I set up the challenge of making a film, with sound, using two Lego figures (from the Lego Minifigures range) and two sheets of paper as well as anything they had in their pencil case. The children had two hours to complete this. To add an extra challenge, I gave the children specific film genres to work with, from Romance to Science Fiction.

By the end of the morning, all the children had completed their films. We had the scary 'Demon Skateboard' as well as a beautiful romance between Disco Girl and the Chef. Most importantly, I could see how well the groups worked together, as well as their proficiency with the software and the cameras.

Now I can move forward with the shot types I want to teach, the software we need to work on and the team skills I need to focus on. I also got to play with Lego.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Who are our Children's Role Models?

At the start of a new school year, classes may choose to undertake a study into role models. Or during the year, the study of role models may be part of the PSHCE or RE curriculums. The term role model may also appear in history, science and other subject areas when significant figures are mentioned or studied. The purpose of these studies and the use of the term ‘role model’ is to give children direction and someone for them to aspire to be or become more like. If we, as adults, refer to someone as a role model then the person’s actions, morals and achievements need to be something worth aspiring to.

The people seen by children as role models are more often drawn from contemporary society and modern culture and are often world famous. I would like to see children thinking more deeply about the term role model. What exactly makes a role model and are they someone that everyone can aspire to be more like?

From looking in the dictionary, I found: ‘role model (noun); a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated’. My parents were role models. I looked to and still look to them for inspiration, advice and direction. While, not all parents will be perfect role models for their children, they, even though children may not realise it, are their first role models, shaping and defining their early lives. A discussion of parents as role models could be a good place to begin the lesson. How do the children perceive their parents as role models? The teachers and other members of a school’s staff will also be seen as role models by some of the children they work with. Have any of the children realised or experienced this?

There are many people in a child’s life they will look to copy, turn to for advice and reassurance. These people (close relatives, teachers, club leaders or community members) can be looked to first in a lesson about role models. These are the most important role models as they are the ones children have daily contact with and may not even realise they are role models. Then the children’s idea of whom they see as a famous role model can be looked at, before possibly discussing some other role models that are possibly less well known.

Within primary education, on the news and in various other media I frequently hear the name ‘David Beckham’ being put forward as a role model. While I have nothing against David Beckham or his achievements I do feel there are other role models we can look to first. The Wikipedia entry for Role Models highlights children’s perception of what or indeed who a ‘role model’ is. Below are some suggestions of less mentioned role models:

Richard Branson – Found school challenging. Has dyslexia. Left school without qualifications. Multimillionaire!

Elizabeth Fry – Prison reformist. Features on £5 notes in England.

Maximilian Kolbe – Took the place of a condemned man at Auschwitz. Kolbe died, Franciszek Gajowniczek went on to live until 1995.

St. Thomas More – Refused to go against something he believed in.

Adam Smith – Earned a reputation and became one of the most influential works on economics ever published.

Aung San Suu Kyi – Political activist.

Margret Thatcher – Perhaps not a popular choice with everyone, but overcome boundaries to become the UK’s first female Prime minister.

Monday, 29 August 2011


We've started to use Twitter to communicate with other teachers. We want a space to write more. Here it is. From today, we will write about what we're up to in our classrooms and hope it'll be useful. Two full-time class teachers, sharing for others to read...