I am continued to be blown away by the continued enthusiasm of the children wanting to write and comment on their class blog. I recently took part in an online discussion about the value of blogging in school. Many like minded teachers were involved and together the discussion proved a boost to improve mine and the children’s blog. Much excellent advice was given by (Microsoft Innovative Teacher National Winner 2010 )David Mitchell also known as @DeputyMitchell, as to what to include on your blog as well as how to get more visitors. One point I raised was that although we have a lot of visitors to the blog, not many actually leave comments, which is a shame as the children love to read them. Well, a few weeks passed and with much excitement on Twitter, David has begun to organise a project called Quad blogging. This seemed too good an opportunity to miss, so I contacted David and put my class forward. The way that Quad blogging works is that there are sets of four schools around the country (and the world it now seems). On a four week cycle, each school is the ‘focus school’ whereby the other three schools comment and respond to the work on the focus school’s blog. This not only gives an audience to the focus school but enables the children to blog, evaluate and comment on other children’s work and ideas, which impacts on the learning. I am very excited by the prospect as are the children.
This coming week the ‘idea now becomes the reality’ to quote David and Bowood Class (http://bowoodclass.wordpress.com) are the focus for our little happy band of Quad bloggers. The other three schools are: Abbotswood Junior School (http://3b3b3b.blogspot.com/) with Phil Bagge (@baggiepr), Blackfield Primary School (firstname.lastname@example.org) with Anna O’Sullivan (missosullivan) and Halam CE Primary School (http://mp1.halamschool.org) with Graham Cullen (@grahamcullen).
From recent tweets, we are all up for the challenge and no doubt this collaborative approach to learning and providing opportunities for dialogue between schools will be a rewarding experience for all concerned!
Night watchman hats – check, map of museum – check, controller – check, let’s explore further!
Once again, the children donned the night watchman hats to play the Wii game. They think it adds to the atmosphere if they wear the hats whilst playing – and who am I to argue? The game, as the children are discovering is getting progressively harder in that time limits, challenges, baddies to avoid and places to get to are now the aim of the game. The environment that is being provided is still a stimulating one as the children find out that there is much more to being a night watchman than they first imagined. These feelings and thoughts have come in very useful when devising job adverts for an additional night watchman to work alongside Larry! The children were careful not to ‘give the game away’ by revealing the ‘magic’ that happens in their adverts. They simply made statements such as “must like history”, “enjoy learning about the exhibits” and “must ensure that all the windows and doors remain locked”.
It has become the usual routine to watch/play the game and then write. By doing this, the excitement of both can be maximised. The homework this week was based around researching a historical character from the game (which can be viewed in detail on the children’s blog http://bowoodclass.wordpress.com). This will form the basis of our infommercials planned for the forthcoming week or so (greenscreen technology permitting!!)
In the meanwhile, my hope is that the children continue to enjoy the work and the learning that is happening in Bowood Class. My Y5s (if their comments are anything to go by) are raring to continue this exciting journey. Below is the current display of this topic including the non-chronological reports (tour guides) and Akmenrah’s Tablet complete with ingots as in the game and film. The children used modroc and gold paint to create the centrepiece.
Having researched and snowballed information regarding the eight audiotours in the Natural History Museum, New York, the children now have all the information they need to begin writing a Tour Guide (non-chronolgical report). A selection of photographs and hand drawn illustrations will accompany the writing to make an attractive guide to provide additional information for those that visit. I will post photographs once they have been completed.
As part of our persuasive unit, the children have compared and contrasted a variety of museum posters advertising exhibitions in order to identify persuasive devices with the hope of replicating them for their own posters. This was very successful and the children were also able to identify who the intended audience was for each of them which was great! Once the conventions of persuasive writing were understood, the next task of our unit was to design a poster to attract visitors. Some very ingenious designs were undertaken, ranging from dinosaur, torch, key and Gum Gum head shaped posters. Most had eye catching colours, slogans, imaginative lettering and important information. I decided that a little experiment would be called for. Instead of me providing the children with a marking ladder setting out success criteria, I wanted to challenge the children to write their own and critically evaluate against it. Having marked their efforts I was very surprised at the quality of their evaluations. Memo to self – I need to do more of this!!!
Art this week has involved (among other things) making Akmenrah’s Tablet complete with ingots as featured in the game. As well as being fun, it will form an interesting centrepiece to my display! There was a slot this morning to play the game, complete with ‘night watchman’ hats to help the children become ‘Larry’! This met with some hilarity but no refusals, they really do love this topic!!! I have the photographs to prove it and will post them too!
So much completed already and it’s only Monday! Part 3 coming soon…
(Images courtesy of gamrreview.vgchartz.com)
New year, new term, new topic! A non-fiction unit that would encompass a big history focus as well as incorporating more games based learning incentives to encourage writing?? Night at the Museum film fits the bill perfectly. Much of my Christmas holiday was spent getting used to the game and all that it involved (with the great help of my 16yr old son, who was far more adept than I could ever be on the Wii!) Total immersion into the environment that the game creates lots of possibilities that tick lots of non-fiction boxes. After a couple of planning sessions with my fellow Yr5 colleague, we came up with persuasive adverts, tour guides (non-chron. reports), job adverts for a night watchman like Larry and infomercials to persuade visitors to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum which involves using ‘greenscreen’ technology!
We began the adventure by flying to New York using Google Earth (much like we did to the Serengeti National Park when using the African Safari Wii game). This sets a context and gives the children a sense of travelling to the USA to begin their new adventure. Let the immersion begin….
The organisation of 30 children was such that for the first 15 minutes or so, I picked 5 children from the hat to play the game while everyone watched. Although they have had experience in games based learning previously, I wanted them to get the story and set up of this great environment BEFORE having tasks to complete. Then the class were divided into groups which have a rotation of tasks to complete over the next few days or so. One group would be ‘Larry’ and play the game, another group would be writing down what it feels like to be left in a museum on their own for a night, another group had A3 copies of the floor plan to plot where the audiotours for the exhibits were and the last group took notes once the audiotours were activated. The information on these audio tours just gave a taster which the children wanted to explore more so, our ICT slot was spent researching the Easter Island statues, Aztec temples, California redwood trees, Grand Canyon, Theodore Roosevelt, T-Rex and Nautilus’. They got in their pairs and researched one aspect and then we ‘snowballed’ the information to ensure that everybody has notes on each aspect of the audiotour.
In order to keep the level of concentration and involvement as high as possible, we have about 20 minutes playing the game and the 20 minutes writing. This way they are keen to get back to the game but are also aware of the need to get as much information written in note form to enable them to produce a tourguide (non-chron report). Needless to say the children are keen to continue the process. That’s the story so far, more as and when it happens…
There are many search engines that allow children to search safely due to the child friendly content it manages due to specific filtering. These should be used by teachers and children alike to ensure filtered content that is inappropriate has been removed. As these search engines often use humans to filter out unsuitable sites, they are not in themselves, infallible. Many filters rely on pixilation of skin tone and once an image exceeds the agreed percentage deemed to be ‘unsafe’, the image is filtered. I’m sure we all have experiences where even with filters in place, images become visible. We can, however, reduce the instances by using ‘safe’ search engines and image sites when teaching or for the children to use while researching. Here is by no means a definitive list but a few suggestions to use:
Ask Jeeves For Kids
www.askforkids.com – allows age-appropriate feature content and filtering technology to enable children to find both relevant and appropriate information on the Web.
It is designed to be a child-friendly way to search online with a focus on learning and educational. Ask for Kids enables children to even type in questions in a way that they would ask an adult in order to find an answer.
www.kidsclick.org/ – this is a service developed by librarians which includes searches and image sites
www.swiggle.org.uk – this is the SWGfL site which has a built in search option. By searching from a safe site, this reduces the incidence of inappropriate material popping up. It is always inadvisable for children to be left unsupervised when surfing the net. An adult should always be present and should any unsuitable material slip through, then the children should be taught what to do whether it is activating Hector and/or informing an adult as soon as possible.
www.primaryschoolict.com – is a site powered by Google which offers an ideal place from which to begin searches for sites and images.
If you are just looking for images, there are a number of sites that are appropriate to use in school, here’s a few:
This post is intended to give an overview of some of the resources available on the internet. It is not intended to be a definitive list, but a list of those sites I have used in class with children of varying ages. Teachers are always advised to check the copyright restrictions in place for using or downloading images as well as the relevance and child-friendliness of the information required PRIOR to using them in the classroom.
With encouragement from my fellow tweeters I have signed up for my first Teachmeet presentation which is being hosted at Bath Spa University on 7th February 2011 (5:30 – 8:30). It’s an opportunity for teachers to share ideas and insights using technology with other teachers. The informality of the event simply allows the time for teachers to talk to other teachers about what they are doing, about to do or would like to do. The collaboration aspect of the event is what I am most looking forward to and perhaps the opportunity to visit the university where I studied for my degree and PGCE.
Given what I have been doing in class for the last term, it didn’t take long to decide what to talk about – games based learning!! It will be a challenge to keep it to five minutes but a challenge I am willing to take on. I have had lots of positive comments from visitors to this blog and on Twitter about what has been happening in Bowood Class over the past eight weeks or so. Hopefully, the intention is to continue using games in my classroom, notably Night at the Museum 2 on the Wii and Just Dance, again using the Wii. I intend to post how I and my class get on with it all, so watch this space!
I am currently part of a LA project initiated by the Literacy and ICT advisory teams, that aim to inspire children to write using games as the driver in this aim. By using familiar games and gaming equipment in a different context – the classroom, children will then connect with the games and become immersed in an environment that inspires them to want to write. I have certainly found this to be the case with my class – they have simply loved Wild Earth African Safari and My Word Coach!
My enthusiasm for this way of learning has been inspired by three people in particular @dawnhallybone, @tombarrett and @primarypete_ who have all shared their expertise with me in this area of learning – thank you!
So whether you are giving a five minute presentation, a one minute – one tool idea, or being part of the enthusiastic audience, the chance to get involved in learning conversations seems to me to be a valuable aspect of cpd that promises to be worth the effort.