Sharing ideas and all things ICT… I am a Y2 teacher, AHT, ICT subject leader and mum

Archive for the ‘Literacy’ Category

Maths across the curriculum – stories!

Some time ago, the idea was muted about teaching maths through stories.  At the time, I wasn’t sure what this would look like other than a tenuous link to a story book that you may have in your cupbaord or book corner.  More recently I have come across a super book written by the Devon Primary Maths team called Story Maths – using picture books in the primary classroom.  It does exactly what it says on the tin……  Some fantastic story books and a myriad of suggestions how they can be used for the different blocks, themes and year groups.  A very comprehensive collection of ideas.  I bought a copy fully ready to embark onusing some of these suggestions.

Each book selected has a:

  • synopsis of the story
  • themes listed from the framework
  • suggested activities and key questions
  • suggested resources
  • possible cross curricular links
  • suitablility for which year groups/key stage

Updates to follow – but so far, so good.

Following a search for further ideas on how to incorporate maths across the curriculum, I came across some fab sites which did just this. – books link maths to literacy,nursery,specialeduc/mathematics/planning/crosscurricularmaths.aspx

Eliminating Gaps – what really works?

Last Monday, at the Eliminating Gaps – What really works? conference, I was invited to give a workshop by my LA on using technology to engage learners and ultimately narrow those gaps in attainment and progress.  This followed a very successful project ran by Wiltshire ICT and Literacy Team called Playing the Writing Game (see previous posts for more details).  Basically, all participant teachers across the county found that their focus groups of 6 vulnerable grouped children make at least 2 sub levels of progress during the six month project and finished the project with a much higher  engagement in literacy and using ICT.  Games based learning was at the core of this project and was the subject of my workshop.  It was a bit like speed dating or a Teachmeet, where we had 6 minutes to show and tell the many virtues of GBL to one group of delegates and then each group moved in a round robin so all delegates got to see all four worshops.

I had brought along my ever growing collection of Wii games, along with pith helmets, night watchman hats etc to give a real flavour of what GBL has to offer.  Of course, six minutes is a tight time in which to fit in all that could and maybe should be said about collaboration, engagement, emmersion, shared learning,  build community, language opportunities and so on, but I did my very best!  I also signposted the blog that would give even more ideas and hopefully inspire them to have a go!

The surprise of the day was just how many Headteachers, teachers etc have devices which are currently redundant in the back of the cupboard and could be put to much better use.  I can’t think of a better use than hooking those reluctant children in to a world which inspires them to write, talk and communicate.

All in all, a great day!

Inspire Create Teach with iPads!

Over the past few years I have been a great advocate of class based action research projects.  They allow me to focus on a particular aspect of eduation whereby I am given time to apply and reflect on my own teaching practice with the aim to improve it.  At the end of March, I submitted a bid for £5000 that would pay for 15 iPads.  My proposal was based on our needs at our school.  The expected outcomes of buying and using the iPads in the classrom would be:

  • Transform teaching and learning by changing the current classroom culture and embedding creative use of ICT
  • Make the classroom teaching and learning more interactive and creative in facilitating learning
  • Facilitate more personalised learning that is strongly linked to learners needs
  • Raise expectations and reduce the gap for lower performers
  • Raise standards in reading and writing for all
  • Close the digital divide and improve standards for all children
  • Motivate and engage reluctant readers and writers
  • Provide a platform for developing speaking and listening skills which in turn impact positively on reading and writing skills
  • Utilising emerging technologies in the classroom and exploring potential impact in supporting learning
  • Develop and embed effective inclusion strategies for children with SEND
  • Initiate an ICT cluster group to share good outcomes and practice
  • Develop role of Digital Leaders
  • Organise a Teachmeet/Kidsmeet

My baseline assessment is  to target a  cohort (unsure which year group at this point as not sure where I’ll be in September) in order to track, monitor and assess achievement and impact throughout the project.  Writing and reading levels will be used as a baseline and ambitious targets set with a specific focus on targeting those children who are underachieving.  Alongside this we would interview children on their attitudes to learning and engagement in this as well as parental observations on this.  This would then be re-assessed at the end of the project.  Interim data and performance indicators will be used to monitor the impact of ICT on learners.

Initial implementation of the iPads would be to provide a contextual hub for learning from which the children would utilise technology to develop language skills by accessing modelled apps, games and research.  Reluctant writers and readers would be engaged and motivated by seeing, hearing and exploring good language with a view to communicate learning by sharing and having an audience.  This could be achieved by provision and access to iPads and the wealth of opportunities they offer.  The focus will be on talk for reading and writing and there are a number of apps and functions on the ipads which will support and enhance this.

By developing the use of ICT in one year group we will be able to use action research to target successful strategies to support learning in reading and writing through the development of language skills.  This can then be disseminated to other classes and enhance the work of the school in raising standards.

Having a bank of iPads offers flexibility of learning as they could be rotated class to class or timetabled for use in class or in small groups across the school.  The iPads will give us provision and access to all children across the school through a range of exciting opportunities.  Other pockets of underachievement could then also be addressed using this medium.

As an aside, we have a number of children with SEND and believe Ipads will provide an additional focus for continued inclusion and enhanced learning.  IPads would be instrumental in providing visual learning, helping with therapy and turn taking.  These devices would also help non-verbal children communicate more effectively.  These children are less likely in some instances to have access to ICT at home so we will be able to reduce the gap for them in their successful use of digital resources as part of learning.

I’m always looking for ways to improve learning and maintain motivation and engagement for the children I teach.  This project is an exciting one which I cannot wait to get underway.  I hope to post my progress throughout this project and share my findings.

Reciprocal reading

(Image from

As part of a recent Lesson Study project in my school, I was introduced to a new way of facilitating Guided Reading sessions.  As part of the study I was observed and it was commented upon the amount of input I was giving – asking the correct AF questions, ensuring all had a voice, selecting parts of text to discuss etc.  The suggestion of doing Reciprocal Reading was given, I pride myself in keeping informed of current research etc etc but had to admit that I had never come across this term or system before.  Reciprocal reading  was developed in the mid-1980s by reading researchers Ann Brown and Ann-Marie Palincsar. Also called reciprocal teaching, it is a set of four strategies taught to struggling readers, primarily to develop their comprehension monitoring abilities. In pairs or small groups, participants sharing a common text take turns assuming the roles of teacher and student. After instruction from the teacher, children then engage in the following sequence:

1.  Boss (or role of teacher) – who reads determines whether they all read together, listen to the boss read or read silently.  It is the boss’ role to keep the other participants involved.

2. Questioning –  a child writes down questions arising form the test that they would answered as they read.  (I gave the Questionner a whilteboard and pen for ease).

3.  Summarizing – at any point (determined by the Boss), the Summarizer is called upon to summarize the text so far ( a very difficult skill for some).

4. Clarifying – as the text is being read the Clarifier writes down and looks up unusual or difficult words in a dictionary.  They also clarify any difficulties in understanding of the text

5. Predicting – the Predictor, stopping at various points in the text will be asked by the Boss to predict an outcome given the information so far.

Each role has a prompt card to help with phrasing questions and key words to use.  Roles are interchangeable within the group to enable all the children to experience all the roles over a  number of weeks.

My role was to guide in the initial stages and then after that, I was able to sit back and actually assess using APP criteria as they progressed during the session.  At first (especially with the higher ability groups) everyone was very eager to do their ‘role’ but after a few sessions, calm ensued and it is now a very productive way to organise a guided reading session.  Does it improve skills in reading?  Perhaps too early to say just yet, but early signs are that the children are really engaged in reading and their roles so it is a good start!

There are some resources on the internet, see links below for options to use in the classroom:

Curiosity Kits for reluctant readers

Several years ago, I came across some brilliant research by Maureen Lewis and Ros Fisher on how to engage reluctant readers, in particular boys in Years 3 and 4, where typically their interest waned.  Being motivated by its content, I decided to make up some of my own Curiosity Kits.  The premise of these kits are story bags (I used nylon drawstring PE bags) which have a non-fiction book of a particular interest to boys e.g. knights, dragons, football, dinosaurs etc.  Accompanying the non – fiction book would be an artefact related to the topic,  a laminated word search which again contained words pertinent to the book.  A magazine was also included, which while aimed at adults would encourage an adult male in the family to share the kit.  I included a book review with question, comment and rating boxes added.  Now this involved quite a financial commitment from me, but I was quite canny with how I gathered the resources.  My first job were the books and as most schools seem to have a ‘Book Man/Company’ that surreptitiously leave a collection of books in the staffroom each term, this was easy to acquire for a reasonable cost.  I seem to remember I got 10 DK non-fiction books for £10 – a great start which then dictated what topics would be used.  Small toys etc were found via eBay and such like.  Laminated word searches were easy to make using an online word search maker but the magazines were a stumbling block.  They were as expensive at about £3-5 each so I began ringing around publishers and explained what I was doing and they (well, most) were only too happy to provide a few copies for my kits.  Some were even kind enough to provide 6 or more backdated copies which was brilliant!!

I knew, ideally, that I wanted a class set but that would be too expensive so I settled on 15 which actually turned out really well because only half the class at any one time has them to take home for a week, which then builds up expectation and excitement for those having to wait.  Although the topics are ‘boy’ friendly, this by no means excludes the girls, who were only too pleased to loan them for a week as well.

The feedback I got from parents was fantastic, they actually enjoyed sharing the kit with their child and the opportunity to do something different.  I included a little box on the book review for the parents (if they wanted) to complete regarding their thoughts and I’m glad I did as the response was superb and reiterated by original reasons for setting them up in the first place.

If you are reading this and think, I’d like to do the same but don’t know where to start, get in touch and I can pass on the lending cards, clipart for the kits, checking out list, book review forms, the research word searches and any advice you think you may need, then just tweet me @nickynewbury and I’ll do my very best to help.

Oh, and how did the boys do?  Well, let’s just say that there were no reluctant readers after using these!!!  Think that is testament enough?

At last! A chance to use GBL in the classroom!

After a manic few terms, at last an opportunity to get stuck into some more GBL has presented itself. Since moving to Y4 in September, I have been searching for a Wii game to use in my guided reading and writing sessions (last year while in Y5, I used My Word Coach).  I think I have found the perfect game – Margot’s Word Brain on the Wii.  It has five main games like, wordsearch, word mine, a sort of scrabble game, a crossowrd maker and a game similar to Boggle.  These allows all ability children to particiapte fully as you can find, search etc 3 – 6 letter words. We tried it out in class today and it went down a storm.

I was amazed that last year 28 out of the 30 children in my Y5 class had a Wii, and this year is no exception either.  This makes life very much simpler as the children view learning using the Wii as a treat PLUS they are all so very good at using the controls etc.  They can certainly teach me a thing or two…

So, the plan is now to utilise Margot’s Word Brain in daily sessions to improve word finding skills, vocabulary and have fun to boot!

We’re also using Wild African Safari as part of out Stories from other cultures literacy unit to enhance writin of settings and character descriptions.  See previous posts about how we used it previously.

Let the games begin….

Friend, follow, like, poke – new meanings

One particular thing I enjoy when I have the time is looking at the blogs of the ‘interesting people’ I follow on Twitter. It was whilst doing this that I came across not one but two of my ‘interesting people’s’ blogs and the inclusion of a very funny yet thought provoking video from YouTube. It’s called ‘Can I be your friend?’ made for the English National Opera by Don’t Panic marketing and acts out our online behaviour by acting it out in an offline or real situation. The video would definitely provide excellent content from which to extend further discussion from the children regarding e-safety, communication and social networking protocols. So thanks to @TimRylands and @Xannov for pointing this excellent resource out.

Enquiry Based Learning – encouraging problem finders!

Well, I’ve finally found the time to post my first post of the new academic year.  As I have got the class blog all  up and running with my new class, I was champing at the bit to get cracking!

Over the summer (mainly due to a change in year group and topics/themes), I have tried to embrace the enquiry based learning approach, especially to history.  Having planned an outline of where I wanted to go, I have then given more emphasis on the activities which will allow the children to make better and more meaningful connections.  I’d hope I had always done this but by asking the children what they wanted to find out about Invaders and Settlers really opened my eyes to what interests them.  I assumed (wrongly as it turned out) that the children would come up with fairly predictable ideas but how wrong I was!  They gave me a varied and greater breadth of enquiry which certainly fired me up.  From these initial ideas (which we used post it notes to record), I devised activities that I believe will deepen their thinking skills and expand their capabilities.  This ideas of planning together really enthused the children too as they were involved with not just the learning process but the planning one as well.  This ownership is just the beginning in our creative  learning journey.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Ewan McIntosh‘s ‘Problem finder’s not problem solver’s’ analogy certainly struck a chord with me and I wanted to incorporate much of what he said into my teaching practice (wherever possible).  I’d be lying if I didn’t say it takes more time and organisation but hopefully the experiential learning that occurs will be the reward.

Image from

Tim Rylands.- WD40 to learning!

I never miss an opportunity to hear the great Tim Rylands (@timrylands) speak.  His presentations are always jam packed with ideas to motivate and inspire learning.  I have been very fortunate to hear Tim several times and each time the delegates leave the room with smiles on their faces and an expression of how to implement his ideas (as do I!)  Tim is the WD40 to those rusty cog’s of learning (it is intended to be a compliment!)  His seminar quickly became a participatory event where almost immediately we were standing, imitating parachuting down from above….what can I say? We were all doing it!!!  Throughout, tools and links were given to direct us to the newest ideas that were in the main FREE (not to be sniffed out this day and age!)  A very comprehensive list of tools for teacher’s toolkit.  They are too many to list but as Mr R reminded us could be found through this link –

Always a pleasure and always such a fruitful opportunity to loosen those rusty cogs!

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

YouTube video uploaded by lunarartadventure

What a mesmerising and enchanting app for the iPad!  A real bargain at £2.99.  Just had to share and can’t wait to show my class on Monday….