Friday, 31 May 2013

Open Source - Free Software

Open Source has a philosophy of developing and sharing software for free use. Some of this, and other free-to-use, software is useful for use in school. Here's some free-to-use software we've used:

AndreaMosaic - Make mosaic pictures using your own photographs.

GameMaker - Programming software.

GIMP - The power of Photoshop, for free.

Leonardo Sketch - A vector based drawing application.

Scratch - Well known programming software.

TUX Paint - Paint for mac, Windows & Linux. 

UPDATE 29/11/14:

PosteRazor - Make posters from images.

Tux of Math - Maths game. (via @MrLiconti)

GCompris - Educational games for children up to 10 years old. (via @MrLiconti)

Triptico - Interactive resources. 

Inkscape - Drawing software.

Sourceforge can provide a place to search for other software. Let use know if there's any other you know of that we've not included.

Note: this post was updated further on 21/01/14. Thanks for the comments.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Padlet Beats Sugar Paper

Have you seen Padlet (was WallWisher)? It's on online 'wall' where sticky notes can be added. It allows anyone with the link to the page to add to the content of the wall.

Here are three examples of its use:

My newest idea for using Padlet is as a replacement to sugar paper. How often do children in your class work collaboratively while huddled around a piece of sugar paper passing a marker pen between them to add content? How about providing them a Padlet wall to write on? Either one for the whole class, or one per group. Start with a blank wall or possibly start with a prompt in the middle (a photograph for example). Then at the end, the class teacher can project the results or get each child in turn to visit the other walls to see what's been written. Also, there's no need to store rolls of paper for future reference. Just keep the links!

The walls above are on going throughout the year and therefore all posts are moderated. If I was using a wall within one lesson I'd probably leave it unmoderated so results were put live instantly.

If you have other uses for Padlet please let us know.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Codes of the Cryptographic Kind

Recently, our classes took part in a writing week. Our focus was on writing in the style of a Sherlock Holmes story. With the emphasis on writing, we were eager to find different ways of keeping children's engagement throughout the week. One way was to give children a different code each day to solve.
The idea was that there would be a new code each day and by solving that code, children would gain one word in a sentence which would lead them to a chocolate-based prize on the final day.
The inspiration for these started with the dancing man code from the Sherlock Holmes story 'The Adventure of the Dancing Man'. In this story, a code of dancing figures is used to communicate with one of the main characters. I used this code for the first day of the week. In order to do this, I downloaded a dancing man font from the internet and used this to help create the code.

The second day was a simple numerical code with numbers replacing letters. This proved rather simple for the children in the class, which was fine as they still were working on the clue from Monday.
The next clue was written in Morse code. Most children were unclear what the dots and dashes might represent, but there were a couple of children who knew what it was. This led to a great learning opportunity around what Morse code was and how it developed.
Image credit:

At this point there was a small group of children engaged in the code-breaking so I revealed the final prize on offer which inspired more children to take part.
On the Thursday, in order to draw the children in, I used reversed words as the simple code. The children were feeling confident with groups coming together to solve the problems.
When I released the code for the final day, it was a humdinger. There was a combination of the previous codes with some wrinkles. There was a repetition of the dancing man code which only a few children had solved. Instead of the backwards words I used the phonetic alphabet to represent letters and instead of numbers I provided calculations with the numerical answers representing letters.
The children were particularly motivated by now and a group worked over the start of lunchtime to solve the problem and achieve their treats at home time.
As a whole class problem it was great as it allowed me to personalise problems for different groups of children. By the end there was a significant number of children taking part using a range of different skills.
More information on codes can be found on the Bletchley Park website.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Base Rounders

Before I began teaching, I worked on a number of holiday playschemes. While on those playschemes, we often invented and adapted games to suite children, resources and of course the weather. 

On one rainy summer's day, we invented (or believe we invented) 'Crash Mat Rounders'. Outside it was pouring down, the children wanted to play rounders and we had a sports hall at our disposal. We placed four crash mats out as bases, had a spot for the bowler and a place to bat from. We decided on some rules too. You were only out if caught, or if you were touching the sports hall floor while the ball was in the bowler's hand. There could be as many children on a base as they wanted, batters could overtake while running and the teams swapped over when the batting team had no one available to bat.

The enjoyment of less rules, jumping on crash mats and quicker turn around of innings made the game a huge success and it being played (indoors) on even the sunniest days of that summer!

So, when I began teaching, I was looking for ways to cover 'rounders skills' but in a more enjoyable way, with more children involved more of the time. I adapted 'Crash Mat Rounders' to form 'Base Rounders'. I have played it with every class I have taught, with each preferring it over various games of cricket and the traditional version of rounders.

I set up the pitch as shown below:

Each base is made up of four cones. With a cone for where the bowler needs to stand and a cone for the batter.

As I said earlier, the rules are simple:

Batter, hit the ball (or not) and run to a base. If you're running when the bowler gets the ball back you're out.

Fielder, catch the ball, or stop it and throw it back to the bowler.

Swap over when there's no on to bat. I usually get 4 - 5 innings per team in a lesson!

Hopefully that makes sense. Give it a go. I always explain it's not the 'real' rounders rules and do have games of rounders using those traditional rules too. 

If anyone else has played similar or the same as this, I have not stolen your idea as my own - I have independently generated these rules.