Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Year Six Teacher is dead... Long live Year Three Teacher!!

It is a sad day for me (not just because it's the last day of the summer holidays) because as from today I will no longer be Year Six Teacher. From tomorrow I will be teaching Year Three!

This change is an exciting one, but one that also fills me with nerves!

I am moving from Year Six for one reason only - to gain more experience. I have taught Year Six since I qualified as a teacher back in 2001 and I love it! Each year I have seen our curriculum evolve and become exciting and interesting for the children and for the teachers! It really is a brilliant year group to teach and I will miss it terribly. Amongst other things, I will miss the humour of the children, the visits (especially the trip to France), the ability of the children, the way that the children approach their responsibilities so professionally, the indepenence of the children and the curriculum that we teach. However, after nine years in Year Six (and in the same classroom), it is more than time for a change.

Year Three promises to be really exciting and I'm looking forward to teaching a new curriculum, moving to a new classroom, new situations, new visits and the opportunity to help shape the Year Group into something I am very proud of. However, I am not afraid to admit that the move makes me really nervous. For the first time in nine years I'm not really clear about what I'm teaching from day to day. I'm worried that I'll pitch the lessons all wrong until I adjust. It will be a challenge to tackle situations with children with needs that I'm unfamiliar with. I will miss my old classroom too!

Over the last few years this blog has evolved into a place for me to share ideas and thoughts about issues that affect Year Six, management, technology and education in general. I wish to continue with this but there will also be an opportunity to reflect on my experiences as I move year group.

Thank you to all Year Six teachers who have supported the blog over the years and I hope that they find my thoughts as a Year Three teacher interesting. This blog will remain live for the time being, but all my new posts will be at the new blog. My Twitter username will change to @y3teacher

The new blog url is: www.y3teacher.blogspot.com

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Weeknote 6

This week I have...

Been on holiday
We've enjoyed a great week in North Devon. We booked a holiday apartment for a week in Ilfracombe. We had two days of glorious sunshine and we spent these two days at the beach in Woolacombe. From the Tuesday onwards it rained... and rained... and rained. It was torrential at times! We managed to visit various places: Combe Martin, Clovelly, Croyde, Barnstaple, Bideford, Great Torrington, Westward Ho! and Appledore. We had a good day at Exmoor Zoo and watched a stunt show on the Tuesday evening. It was great to be sent some recommendations about where to eat using Twitter!

Realised that I need a Twitter cull
I have read lots of tweets using Tweetdeck during the week and I've realised that I follow so many people that it's hard to find usefulness and meaning from all those tweets. I need to look more carefully at the profiles of the people I follow.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Weeknote 6

I'm writing this from our holiday in Devon!

This week I have...

I've caught up on blogging during the week. I wrote a review of a book by Terry Freedman which he has linked to from his website at www.ictineducation.com.

I've been painting the fence in an effort to keep up with the targets I set in my monthly review.

Set up my classroom
The drawers and cupboards are now labelled and the room is set out how I want it.

Been to a wedding
We had a fabulous day at a wedding in Whitchurch.

The journey to Ilfracombe was a nightmare thanks to an overturned caravan which held up up for two hours. Still, we are here now, and looking forward to a great week!!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Engaging with families

 A couple of months ago I raided the Becta website for publications in the fear that they might suddenly disappear. Fortunately the government's cost cutting initiatives haven't included cutting bandwidth to the Becta website just yet, so the document I refer to hasn't disappeared yet. (Incidentally, I wonder what will happen to the publications when Becta does fold?)

Messages from the evidence: Engaging with Families talks about how technology can be used to engage with  parents more effectively. It is based on research from a 2009 survey and is intended to help schools to use what technology has to offer to improve parental engagement. There is an expectation for all primary schools to offer secure online access for parents to information about their child's learning and school life (assuming this expectation still exists).

Now I am well aware that many schools are miles in advance of our school, but here are some things that our school does to use technology to engage with families and what I would like the school to do in the not too distant future.

  • Text messages - we subscribed to a school texting system around 18 months ago and it has proved to be a massive hit! Staff love it because it is simple to use and it is an effective way to contact parents. the feedback from parents has been fantastic. I'm not sure how it will work, but next year I want to enable to function where parents can reply to the texts. I don't know if it will become over-complicated for our office staff to manage.
  • Emails - the same texting system now offers an email package. We mainly use the system to send newsletters home, reducing the number of printed letters by 75% in the process. In the next year I want to extend this to other letters (e.g. trip letters and after school club letters). This will save time and paper.
  • Twitter - although it's hard to tell how effective our Twitter feed is unless people start to follow, I'm sure the fact that our tweets are displayed at the very top of our website means that people must take some note of the news items that pop up daily. I only wish that the Local Authority would unblock it so it can be shared with the children in school.
  • Blogs - the Year Six blog that my colleague and I ran has been extremely popular amongst our pupils. Next year it's time to extend this throughout the school and one of my challenges for the learning platform is to demonstrate to staff how to use the blogging tool and get them using it! A blog about our visit to France and a visit in another year group proved to be very well received! It will be important to demonstrate to parents how and where to leave comments.
  • The school website (learning platform) - we are just scratching on the surface of the possibilities this offers. During the summer I will be redesigning the school's homepage to make it easier for parents to find essential information like holiday dates, diary dates and news. (I'm sure that I found a statistic somewhere about how many clicks within a website that a visitor will make before they get frustrated and leave. I want to reduce the number of clicks in order to find these items.)
  • 'Enable parents to book appointments and consultations online' - blimey! The document recommends this and it would be really cool. I just haven't got a clue how to do it!
  • Links on the school website - our Delicious bookmarks feed into our website (using RSS feeds) but I need to add links for parents like local council websites.
  • Homework - A survey of parents in 2009 showed that 97% had internet access. I wonder if I could set staff the challenge to distribute some homework to be completed online only?
  • Sessions for parents - I would like to offer sessions for parents to demonstrate how to use the school website and the different technologies we offer.
  • Online reports - Next year we will be revamping our reporting process. I wonder if we can make the reports available online?
Of course, the document reminds us that,
"No one-size fits all. Good communication includes a range of options to fit around parents' different needs and circumstances, including technology strategies and non-technology strategies."
I guess you can't beat face-to-face interaction in the end! But I'd love to hear from people about how they engage with parents using technology.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Teachers Pet

In the process of setting up my brand new Year Three classroom I looked around for some classroom labels that would be good for labelling drawers, pegs and a few other bits and pieces like a visual timetable.

I was delighted to find some fantastic items on the Teachers Pet website (www.tpet.co.uk) which is completely free! I loved the animal labels in particular which I have used to create drawer labels, and the visual timetable will be perfect to use on the wall. It was good to find resources which are editable too!

If you have any labels needed for your classroom, I cannot recommend this site enough.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Go On, Bore 'Em by Terry Freedman

I wanted to write a quick review of this book by Terry Freedman which is available here which talks about why some ICT lessons can be excruciatingly dull.

Whilst very much aimed at secondary ICT teachers, I actually think a lot of his ideas can be transferred to primary school teachers, and not just for ICT.

The starter activity
The logical and scientific way that he explains the need for a starter activity is superb. When I work with trainee teachers I will pass them the book so that they can read this chapter to help them to understand the need to plan an engaging starter activity.

"In one lesson I observed, as part of an ICT inspection I was undertaking, it was 8 minutes between the first student entering the room and the last one entereing the room... The first student to enter had 8 minutes in which he was expected to sit down and say and do nothing. The second student had slightly less than 8 minutes for the same thing, and so on. In other words, by the time the last student entered the room, most of the students already in the room were now virtually unmanageable."
Doesn't that make sense? I think it really highlights the importance of planning a starter activity.

The myth of students' superior technical knowledge
I thought that this chapter would help me to get through to teachers who plan activities in ICT without planning a purpose for the challenge. It will help to show the need for the need to plan a task where pupils can apply their skills and knowledge and show real understanding of ICT.

The chapter on too much talking by the teacher will also be invaluable advice for students. I guess we all have lessons where we 'go on a bit', but again the logical reasons he uses to justify his advice are spot on!

Moving to Year Three next year is something that's on my mind. I'm not quite clear yet what the homework routine will be in this year group, but the advice about homework in this book will be useful. He argues that homework is not a bolt-on, but should be an integral part of the lesson. He writes that homework, "Should help ensure that what goes on in the lesson itself is useful and meaningful and that the time in the lesson is well-spent." This is great justifucation for making greater use of our learning platform and its forums and wikis at home to form part of the homework routine.

There's more great advice which I will offer to trainee teachers about good plenaries, but I also found the chapter on data to be very interesting, particularly after my work on data in my Leadership Pathways course.

Go On, Bore 'Em by Terry Freedman is a worthwhile read. It can be purchased here.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Weeknote 5

I knew that 'Weeknote' was over-ambitious. I know I've said it before, but I've just been so busy. There's literally been something on every weekend since the end of May and unfortunately blogging didn't get done.

Time to get back on track...

This week I have...

Sorted my iTunes
Music is so important to me that I enjoy spending time editing the information about each an every tune. When I started to use iTunes in February I didn't think the process of making sure all of the song details are up-to-date would take as long as it has, but the end is now in sight - I've finished all of the songs beginning by artists from M to Z which means that I've don't over half of the alphabet. M took forever (due to hundreds of Michael Jackson, Michael Buble etc. songs)

Watched films
It's been nice to relax with my wife and watch a few films. We watched Toy Story 3 the other day (enjoyable film). A while ago I bought the Two and a Half Men series one boxset and we've enjoyed watching these too!

Been ill
I felt really poorly from Tuesday night to Thursday morning. On Wednesday I went to bed at 6 and was in bed until 10 on Thursday morning. It's not like me to do that. Still I'm better now.

Caught up on jobs in my office
All of the pictures taken at school and home over the last few months have been uploaded to the relevant Flickr collection. I've sorted various things that needed doing in the office.

Begun to prepare for my new class
Moving to Year Three promises to be very exciting and I can't wait, but I don't mind admitting that I'm very nervous about it. So it was a relief this week to meet up with my colleague and begin to plan the year.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Monthly Review August 2010

Well, I have to say that my monthly review process has been an absolute waste of time. Of the targets I set, I have achieved very few, in particular my personal targets. I have learned a lesson which I need to try to address next year, that basically my life has been devoted to school for the last two months. The last half-term at school has been so busy that when I came home each evening I didn't really feel like doing much. But with loads of social events (I know I shouldn't complain, but there were so many) I found fitting in anything productive at home very difficult.



Go running eight times - Disaster! Just after writing my monthly review I injured my ankle whilst running and could barely walk for a week. It meant that I didn't go running for two months! I am back on track now though.
Start playing squash again - Disaster! I didn't play at all - with many evening events with school and various social events over the last couple of months I just didn't get chance.
Begin to tidy up the garage - Disaster! I can only blame my lack on enthusiasm and lack of time for this one.

Organise the school's 'university' project - Done! Read my blog post here.
Write my school reports - Done! Arrrgghhh! I need to write much less next year! 
Collate the pupil questionnaires - Done, although quite late. Unfortunately I had other priorities during the last few weeks at school that these sort of fell by the wayside.

New Targets:

Go running eight times - I must do this!!

Start playing squash again - I'm looking forward to doing this
Begin to tidy up the garage - I need to do this.
Paint the garden fence - (I just need motivation and good weather)

Tidy up my office at home - That means complete all of the work that I've piled up in there!
Set up my brand new classroom - I'm moving to Year Three - more on this soon!
Move in to my office at school properly!
Plan my first lessons for Year Three
Revamp my blog and Twitter - Year3Teacher!
I plan for August to be a more productive month!! (I promise!)

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Tanzanian visitors

For a year or so now our school has been involved in Tanzed's charity work by becoming a partner school with a school in Tanzania. In October, staff from our school travelled to Africa to meet the teachers from our partner school and spent a week decorating a classroom, sharing resources and learning about the Tanzanian way of life.

During a week in June two teachers from our partner school came to England to spend some time in our school. I have to say that it made me do a lot of thinking about how I take so many things for granted.

The teachers spent much of the week in school visiting classes and working with the children. They came to watch a lesson I taught, working on frisbee skills and playing ultimate frisbee with the class. Our visitors' faces began to smile as they could see the simplicity of the game and the possibility of creating new games with the frisbees. The children insisted that we gave them some frisbees to take home with them.

We had various old laptops in school which are no longer used by staff as they are too slow. We arranged for our technician to strip two of them down until the basics (an office package) and a few educational programs were on there. The school bought two digital cameras for our partner school. It was wonderful to think our visitors would be returning home with two laptops and two digital cameras - I try to imagine what a difference this would make in their school.

A local company made a significant donation by purchasing a full football kit for the children to wear in Africa! Our own school kit was purchased in 2007 and various pieces have gone missing over the years. I'm confident that in three years time the African kit will be completed and cared for.

We had an evening to celebrate our visitors when all local schools who have taken part in the scheme met together. One of our visitors made a speech and he said how privileged he was to come to our country and said how much he had learned! I don't think he realised how much we have learned from their appreciation of everything and their desire to make education better for their students!

Over the week I learned how lucky I am to work in a school which is resourced and is able to offer the children an excellent education. But I also realised how important it is to not always rely on these resources - an enthusiastic and engaging teacher is what really makes the difference.

Friday, 23 July 2010


No one could say we allow our Year Sixes to leave quietly! A leavers' prom (organised by our network of schools) a presentation evening, a leavers' disco and a leavers' assembly all take place in the last few weeks of school!

It was really sad to see such a wonderful year group leave the school, and for my last Year Six they have been an absolute delight to teach!!

Friday, 9 July 2010

World Cup competition

Something else that has kept me busy - particularly at lunchtimes - during the last term is our World Cup competition.

The idea is simple - the children are asked to form teams and then they play against each other. In the infants the teams are picked from within their own year group and they must include at least one boy and at least one girl. In the juniors the children can pick their own teams, but they must include at least one boy and one girl and must also have a player from a different year group. This team picking process can take a bit of time, but it helps the children to develop thinking skills and social skills.

The infants and juniors do not play together (our school council said, "How can Foundation play against Year Six?") but their competitions run in more or less the same way (although with some relaxing of the rules for the infants).

The culmination of each competition is the final which is played in front of the whole school. A proper carnival atmosphere is enjoyed with classes all cheering for both teams.

22 teams played in each competition, so during the last term, six solid weeks of lunchtimes were taken up with refereeing matches! Great fun, but quite tiring too! Thank heavens I get a year off next year before the competition returns for Euro 2012!!

Thursday, 8 July 2010


One of the reasons I have been so busy recently is because I have organised our annual 'university and college' for the whole school. Let me explain...

Our 'College' is for our Foundation and Key Stage One pupils. The children are all mixed into groups. The teachers and teaching assistants all choose an activity they would like to deliver to the children. The activities include things like games, outdoor pursuits and team games, cake decorating, science, floristry, drama, yoga and lots of craft activities. Over three Friday afternoons the children attend a course each week. The children love it because they are in mixed groups and are trying something different. Although it can get a bit chaotic, the staff enjoy the fact that they can choose what to offer to the children. Many parents come in to volunteer too.

Our fourth 'university' was a phenomenal success this year. The idea of the university is that the school offers courses in a skill that could be used in a working career, and not necessarily something normally offered in the curriculum. The children are given the option of what they would like to attend (in fact they choose their top five courses and they will be allocated one). They attend this course for three Friday afternoons (at the same time as the college took place). This year we had 25 courses - our highest number ever. The courses offered included being a librarian, team building, sports coaching, cookery, musical theatre, website design, cross-stitch, gardening, woodwork, running a supermarket and being a magistrate. The courses were run by teachers, teaching assistants, governors, parents and grandparents and members of the community. One of our local high school has become very involved in the university and they not only bring ten students to the school to assist with the courses each week, but they also took a number of pupils to the high school to take part in a music studio course. Various trips took place this year - to a local library, a local farm, a local restaurant, a local supermarket and to local allotments. It's such a team effort - over 50 adults helped to make it a success (in addition to high school students) and the university is becoming well known in the community.

After the college and university have been completed graduation assemblies are held where the pupils are awarded certificates to celebrate their achievements in their course

All of this takes a mammoth amount of time to organise but it is very much worth it.

A researcher from National Strategies came in to school to talk about the college and university with a view to including it in a publication about parental involvement (due before the end of 2010). I'm quite excited by this and I hope it can inspire others to try something similar.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

River Study

Our summer topic is rivers and mountains and one of my favourite parts of the topic is our visit to a local scout camp for a river study.

Scout Camps are likely to be very busy at weekends but perhaps not during the week. This means that they are ideal for use by schools and it's worth getting in touch with a local scout camp if you'd like to arrange something similar.

We organise the day into three parts - water activities, dry activities and a barbecue.

I'll start in reverse order: the barbecue is a fantastic social event. Transport back to school is not arranged. Instead we ask parents to come to collect their child and to stay for a barbecue. Our school cooks kindly give up their time to prepare the food whilst the children play football and a dads vs children cricket game. Other parents bring chairs to have a sit down and chat. Although it is quite a way before the end of the year, it is almost like the first of our leavers' events as it is a great way for everyone to come together.

The dry activities are orienteering and team games, photography and a river walk (the children are given a list of river-related features to photograph) and a tree study (finding the age and height of a sample of trees).

The water activities are to measure the speed of flow (using a tape measure, stop watch and lots of dog biscuits!) and the depth of the river using rope and a metre stick.

All of the data collected is used in school to form photo collages, comparisons of speed on bends and on straights and graphs to show the depth of the river.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Tell Us Your Story

Please show your support for this fundraising inititative:

Tell Us Your Story is an online charity project. It aims to raise money for the Street to School Programme that will help 500,000 children get off the streets and into education.

Tell Us Your Story is giving people the opportunity to recognise and reward others who have made a positive impact on their lives or in their community over the past year.

The project is supported by Aviva, will donate £1 for every entry received to the Street to School Programme - a global initiative with the aim of reaching 500,000 children worldwide, helping them get off the streets and back into education.

A weekly prize of £1000 will also be awarded to the local hero that captures the hearts of visitors to the site and receives the most votes. One overall winner will be chosen by a celebrity judging panel for a prize worth £10,000.

Railway Children is the UK charity partner for the Street to School programme. Railway Children is the only charity working across the UK with vulnerable children. Every year in the UK, 100,000 children run away because they’re unwanted, unloved or abused and many are never reported missing.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Careers Day

In June Year Six hosted its annual Careers Day.
 The idea behind Careers Day is that children are encouraged to ask a parent (or grandparent) to come in to school to talk about their career. It is a fascinating day and once again we had a variety of careers to hear about. A police inspector, army sergeant, football scout, human resources manager and district nurse proved to be very popular.

The brief for our visitors is to give a 15-20 minute talk about their career to inspire the children. Each person presented slightly differently - many used PowerPoints this year, others preferred to bring in work-related items to share.

The purpose of the day was to give the children a taster of the possible careers available and to encourage them to think about the future (although not necessarily to make their mind up about a career).

The day was a valuable addition to our money and careers topic.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Weeknote 4

This week I have...

  • Socialised far too much!
Between football matches, parties and christenings I haven't got much at all done this week!
  • Refereed football matches
Our world cup competition is now in its junior phase. It's keeping me busy every lunchtime, and for a little while during the evenings whilst I update the information on the school website
  • Realised how lucky we are
We have had visitors from our partner school in Tanzania working in school this week. It was a delight to meet such enthusiastic, teachers who are desperate to do the best for their pupils. I have been choked up a few times this week to hear how lucky they think they are to come to our country to learn. It was amazing to learn how they teach enormous classes with no equipment. The work that Tanzed are doing out there is amazing. I'll write a quick post about this when I get chance.
  • Organised our university project
I'll write more about this when we finish, but our University and College had their first week on Friday. Staff, parents, grandparents and members of the community come in to school to run courses on something 'different'. Week One ran smoothly, but there's still much organising to be done for Week Two!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Weeknote 3

This week I have:

Visited Alton Towers
Blimey this place is expensive, but at least we had 2 for 1 vouchers. Alton Towers is amazing. I loved all of the rides - Th13teen is brilliant and Rita and Nemesis remain my favourites (Air was closed when we went over). It's just hard to not be amazed by the way the park has developed over the years. I'd love to see the way they go about Improvement Planning. It would be interesting to compare their process with the process used in schools. They too have to constantly improve, be innovative and meet the needs of an ever changing world.

I tried everything to avoid starting writing my reports, but I had to in the end. So far Maths and English comments are written.

Cheered on the England team
Last night's howler by Robert Green was a disaster, but I think he will take the blame for what was overall a very average performance. I love the atmosphere when our friends get together to watch the game. But I think I might arrange for the Wednesday afternoon game to be screened at school - I'd never be home in time!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The new curriculum is no more...

On Monday, the government made a significant announcement regarding the new curriculum:

"Along with today’s significant qualifications announcements, ministers also confirmed that they will not proceed with the last Government’s proposed new primary curriculum, which was based on a review led by Sir Jim Rose. The new curriculum was due to be taught in schools from September 2011, but the relevant clause in the Children, Schools and Families Bill did not successfully pass through the last Parliament.

Nick Gibb said:
'A move away from teaching traditional subjects like history and geography could have led to an unacceptable erosion of standards in our primary schools.

Instead, teachers need a curriculum which helps them ensure that every child has a firm grasp of the basics and a good grounding in general knowledge, free from unnecessary prescription and bureaucracy.

It is vital that we return our curriculum to its intended purpose – a minimum national entitlement organised around subject disciplines.

Ministers have always made clear their intentions to make changes to the National Curriculum, to ensure a relentless focus on the basics and to give teachers more flexibility than the proposed primary curriculum offered. They will shortly announce their next steps.'

In the meantime, the Department has advised schools that the existing primary curriculum will continue to be in force in 2011/12 and primary schools should plan on that basis." http://www.education.gov.uk/news/press-notices-new/nationalcurriculum
This announcement has disappointed myself and teachers all over the country. It seemed as if teachers were finally being listened to regarding what is taught in school. The creative curriculum, as it was dubbed, was the answer to many problems - it streamlined the curriculum, it allowed schools some freedom for how to teach and it meant that teachers, and pupils, could be creative - to do something different rather than the 'same old'.

Now we are told that after large amounts of money being spent in its creation and many schools already working on its principles we are told that it has simply been abandoned. It seems the government want to continue with discrete subject teaching.

I am really frustrated by this news - the creative curriculum was to be our focus for next year - mainly because David Cameron talked so frequently about his dislike of waste. How can he justify this wastage? (It's not just taxpayers' money spent on research and developing the curriculum, but also the wastage in time and effort in schools in introducing a new curriculum which we are now told is incorrect).

A report in the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jun/07/primary-curriculum-academic-diplomas-axed?CMP=twt_iph says that dropping the new curriculum will save £7million. However, I'm assuming this figure refers to planned expense, not what has already been spent - a figure which, as far as I know, hasn't been published.)

I hope that the government have a better plan up their sleeves and introduce a curriculum which combines the positives of discrete subject teaching and the creativity of areas of learning. I hope that they work with schools on this, not for schools. I hope that they will give further justification for why they have taken this decision, not just in a short press release. But most of all I hope they sort something out quickly - the curriculum which is currently law is outdated and drastically needs revamping.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Pop Maths Questions

I don't know about you but I enjoyed The Chris Moyles Quiz Night which finished its second series a while ago. My favourite part was the Maths Questions - I always thought they would be great to share with my class.

Well, here they are, on the shows producer's website. Perfect for a mental maths warm up!

I recall a few other artists being featured on the programme which aren't featured here. I hope they will eventually be found somewhere on the internet eventually!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

iPhone School & Prof Development Apps

I wanted to share a few iPhone apps that I have downloaded which could be used to support work in the classroom and to help with professional development:

  • Tweetdeck
Tweetdeck is my preferred Twitter client. However, the new Twitter app is looking very useful...
  • MobileRSS
I use this feed reader to keep up-to-date with education blogs. I have only ever used this RSS reader app so I have no frame of reference, but I find it hard to imagine a better app for this purpose.
  • Tumblr
I'm using this app to share ideas which feed into a widget in this blog. I love its simplicity.
  • ColorSplash
With this app you can take a photo and make it black and white. You can then highlight a feature in colour to make it stand out. It's incredible easy to get started but needs real concentration to master it, but you can produce some great results. You could use it to inspire a piece of writing, or to introduce a historical artefact.
  • Teaching UK
The Teaching UK was created by Mark Warner for his Teaching websites. This brilliantly simple app delivers education news and competitions, teaching and ideas and also the latest tweets. Excellent for professional development. You can download the app here.
  • Comic Twist
I like the fun of this app. You can add thought bubbles and speech bubbles to a photo. I'm not teaching Science at the moment (this is my management time) but I think this could be used to create concept cartoons with the children - to encourage them to discuss concepts and work through misconceptions.
  • Tiltshift
I have used this app to take photos of the school grounds. Again, it is so simple to use and it produces brilliant results. Tiltshift blurs parts of photographs to focus on a particular feaure. The effect makes the picture look a bit like a model village.
  • PhotoStamp
When visiting other schools, I frequently use my iPhone to take a quick photo of a display or resource that I like. I use the app to add a watermark to say where the picture was taken.
  • Mathemagics
I love maths (I know, I'm sad). For a bit of fun (hmm...) I downloaded this app which teaches you mathematical tricks, like squaring a number ending in 5, multiplying in the 90s and multiplying if the 1s sum is 10. I love the app, and I know my class will too after half-term!
  • StoryCubes
Rory's Story Cubes is brilliant! I found this app at the Education Show in March. Rory's Story Cubes are nine dice with pictures on them. You roll them all to reveal nine pictures. You can then use the pictures to create discussion or for story telling. I found that it helps the children to develop their verbal storytelling and also to improve creativity. The iPhone app recreates this on the iPhone. The one problem with this is that I can't display my iPhone screen on the IWB, but I can use my visualiser to display the screen. Alternatively I can save the picture produced by the app and email it and share it on the screen. You can download the app here. You can follow Storycubes on Twitter. Read more about Story Cubes at the website.
  • RAG
"The Random Activity Generator is an iPhone application. You give the iPhone a shake, the cards spin and you are given a random activity to do. Hundreds of carefully crafted activities will keep you busy for hours."
I love the idea of this app, but I'm not convinced of its worth in a primary classroom just yet. Put simply, I think some if the 'random activities' are beyond the children. There are many which would work, but when using it with the children, I would be frustrated if the activity was too hard for them. I would love to see a primary version of the app which is based on the knowledge and skills of the primary curriculum. In its current form, I feel the app is more for secondary schools or for staff use. I would use the app with staff to be an icebreaker activity or for team building work on an INSET day. You can find out more here and download the app here.

You can read more about education apps available at Mark Warner's Teaching News website here.

Do you use any iPhone apps in the classroom or for professional development?

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Weeknote 2

This week I have...

Become barbecued out
In the last seven days I have eaten at four barbecues, cooking at two of them. I've become an expert at cooking sausages and burgers. Now I love barbecues but I think I've probably had enough for a while. Anything to avoid writing reports...

Sorted my iTunes
Since getting my iPhone in January I have started to use iTunes to organise my music. I wasn't keen at first, but now I'm hooked! I love thie idea of setting up smart playlists much easier than the way I organised my music before. The one problem with iTunes is that I am a little bit OCD when it comes to my music. I need to know the year it was released and the album it was taken from. Therefore, it is taking me ages to update this information for every track I have! Using Wikipedia, Everyhit and Discogs I am gradually piecing the information together. Working backwards through the alphabet I am now working on artists beginning with 'S' - I think I've got more songs by artists starting with that letter than any other!!

Completing some long-standing jobs
Half-term has given me the opportunity to catch up on a few jobs that I've not been getting around to. I have updated my Linked In profile, listed some items on Ebay, sorted my clothes, installed our energy meter (from N:Power) and started to tidy our garage. I really must make more time for myself and do the things I enjoy during term time.

Monthly Review

The more I read #uppingyourgame by Doug Belshaw, the more I like his tips for productivity. One of the ideas that intrigues me, and one that he uses on his own blog, is 'calling yourself into the office.' Doug writes:

"Instead, as recommended by Dan [Pink], why not ‘call yourself into the office’ at the end of each month after having made some commitments at the start of it? These don’t have to be work-related. In fact, far from decreasing your work-related productivity, having projects over-and-beyond what you do in education often leads to productivity gains.

It’s natural to want to keep these commitments and targets quiet and to yourself. But they’ll be a much more powerful motivating force if you share them. I’ve found sharing these online via my blog or social networks such as Twitter much more powerful. People can hold you to account; you’re much more likely to stick to them!" Purchase your copy of Doug's book here.
I think a monthly review would be useful and would make me more focused, so I plan to give this a try. Although there may be personal targets I'd rather not share, I will have three personal targets and three 'professional' targets. As this is my first one, I have nothing to review, only to set targets for the month.

  1. Go running eight times (This will be a big achievement for me, and it will put me well on the way to completing a 10K run in Tatton Park in September.)
  2. Start playing squash again - play three times (This is a game I love but haven't played at all in 2010.)
  3. Begin to tidy up the garage - make two trips to the recycling centre (Two trips is probably only touching the surface! At least it's a start.)
  1. Organise the school's 'university' project (I will spend time in the half-term and my entire first week back preparing for this. Then plenty of time will be spent during the three weeks that it runs. I need to make sure that I stay on top of this.)
  2. Write my school reports (I hate writing reports. I find every excuse possible not to write them. But I need to.)
  3. Collate the pupil questionnaires (The results need to be collated and shared with all stakeholders.)
Here goes nothing...