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Saturday, 27 April 2013

Music Videos to Inspire Writing

Sat on the couch, clicking through the endless music channels to find the One Direction song that my daughter loves, I stumble across a video that had me hooked. No it wasn't 1D or the latest PSY hit, it was a video that had a story, no words spoken just the visuals and the song. It got me thinking that it would be a great focus to use for some writing. I am always looking for interesting and unusual hooks to get the children inspired to write, when I started thinking to some of my favourite music videos I found that many tell a story that has a lot of potential for writing activities in the classroom. 

After looking into this a little further I discovered that most music videos are one of three different types - performance, conceptual and narrative (read more here). It is the narrative which really lends itself well to the classroom as these are music videos that tell a story with most not having a single spoken word. Meaning children can interpret the story in many different ways. Children will respond to these videos as most watch them repeatedly at home (I have a 9 year old who is forever watching MTV.) You are encouraging them to look at the videos in a new way and one that will hopefully inspire them to some great writing. If you use iPads this post about downloading videos to your camera roll may also help with other activities. Here are a few examples with some suggested activities:

This video was the one that originally caught my attention to this idea. It is a lovely video and isn't a bad song either.

  • Watch the first 20 seconds - how is the girl feeling? What makes you think that? What might she be doing?
  • Pause just before a minute - how has the girl's feelings changed? Why do you think that is? What might she have lost? What could she do now that may help?
  • Pause again at 1.42 - Has the girl's feelings changed even more now? Why do you think that maybe?
  • Once the giraffe appears - are you shocked why? How does the girl feel now?
  • Write a description of the giraffe - what does it look like? smell? feel?
  • Research and write a non chronological report on giraffes.
  • Write a set of instructions for keeping a giraffe as a pet.
  • If you could choose any animal in the world to keep as a pet, what would it be and why? What would you do with them? How would you need to change your house to take care of it?

Another example is the classic from Blur - Coffee and TV (warning there is part of this video that may not be appropriate where the carton visits Big Suzi from 2.13-2.36)

Blur - Coffee and TV from Andrey Tukhtamanov on Vimeo.

I love this video, it is emotional, interesting and really funny. The video tells the story of a milk carton trying to find a missing son to reunite him with his family. The carton encounters numerous different challenges both good and bad but nothing stops him on trying to complete his mission.

  • Ask the children to write the journey of the milk carton in 1st person.
  • How does the carton's emotions change during his journey, what are his high points/low points?
  • What do you think the carton's view on people are? What evidence can you find to support that decision?
  • Show the children the screen from 3minutes to 3.30. Ask the children to write a atmospheric description of the setting. 
  • Look at the interactions he has with different people, what may have been said? 
  • Compare the feelings of the family at the beginning and the end, how do these differ and why?
  • Do you think the carton is happy at the end despite being in the trash? Why what makes you think this?
  • Ask the children to write similes and metaphors of objects that seem bigger/scarier to the carton.
  • Children could write another story of a journey of another inanimate object.

David Guetta Feat. Sia - Titanium from David Wilson on Vimeo.

This is another great video telling a story. What I love about this video is the viewer is left until the end to find out what has caused all this destruction.

  • Watch the first minute, discuss what has happened? What has caused this? Why?
  • Ask the children to write a description of the first scene, use the show not tell technique to create thoughtful writing.
  • Discuss the boys character, how is he presented in the first scene, how does this change?
  • Write in role of the boy, use his emotions through the story to gain an understanding of his feelings and whether he comprehends what is happening.
  • Look at the ending, who is to blame? Why? Is the boy acting in self defense? Can he control it?
  • If you could have a superpower what would it be?
  • You wake up one morning to find you have incredible strength, what do you do? How would your life change?
  • Design you own superhero, what powers, costume, name would he have?
  • Write a newspaper report of the events from the video, interview the teacher, parents and policemen.

I love the contrast of this video from the surroundings at the beginning to the end, also the message it portrays about material things not making you happy.

  • Watch the first 20 seconds, what do you think the picture shows?
  • Watch the first minute, who may this character be? What makes you think this? What clues make you think she is rich?
  • Is she happy with all the fame and wealth she has? What makes you think so?
  • Write about her surroundings at the start, the bright lights, futuristic feel to her house and gadgets she has.
  • What makes her unhappy? 
  • Who is the blue creature? 
  • By the end of the video how is she feeling?
  • Write about her surrounding at the end, the beautiful scenery, nature and simplicity to life.
  • Compare the surroundings at the start and end, which would you prefer and why?

I love the idea of this video, how he makes everyone else happy apart from himself due to the music.

  • Children can write in role as the character and write about his day.
  • They can empathise with the character and look at how he feels.
  • They could imagine that this happened to them and write a day in their shoes.
  • This could be linked to the story of the pied piper and look at using music as a way to hypnotise others.
More comprehension questions about this video courtesy of @kelsmif which can be downloaded here.

A beautiful video! One that will hopefully make your class empathise with certain difficulties other people face.
  • Watch the first 20 seconds, what is emphasised - sound - ask the children why this maybe?
  • After watching the video ask what the children what they noticed about the main character? Hopefully they will pick up on the fact he is blind, ask them for clues about how they knew this?
  • Look at all the different things he touches, make a list and try to describe the different textures he feels.
  • Write in first person as the main character, try to describe his day however restrict the description to everything except sight. Challenge the children to think about how they can describe aspects of his day without mentioning what things look like.
  • Interview the character - who does he speak to? Why is he happy when he is outside? What makes him run through the forest?
There are probably lots of other examples of narrative music videos that could generate some exciting and interesting writing opportunities in class, if you have any suggestions please let me know and I will add them to this list.

The Dropbox Trick to create great Speaking and Listening opportunities

Dropbox has become possibly the most valuable app since using iPads in the classroom. Linking them all up to one account and enabling automatic uploads has meant it has been a life saver as far as saving children's work to one location on my laptop without using any wire.

As a teaching tool it is great to take a picture of a child's work, upload it to Dropbox and have it appear on my laptop within seconds so I can display it on the IWB. As a teacher is a great way to store files and means wherever I am on whatever device I can access my files. But there is another nifty trick Dropbox offers which provides great potential to using videos in the class to help children with speaking and listening and aiding the writing process. 

The trick is that Dropbox allows you to download videos straight to your camera roll, meaning they can then be imported into iMovie for endless amount of different tasks.

How to do it?

First, you need a video and I have heard a rumour that there are websites where you can download videos from YouTube and other sites, I don't know if this is true or not???? ;) however if you acquire a video you need to make sure it is in the correct format of .mp4 or .mov. To do this you should download Format Factory onto your PC/laptop, this allows you to change the format of videos, pictures and music files. Once changed into the correct format, save this video into your dropbox folder on your PC.

Then open the Dropbox app on your iPad/iPhone, locate the file and press the favourite button:

Then wait for it to be downloaded and save it to photo library:

You should then have the video saved in your camera roll. It is that simple and every iPad linked to that dropbox account can have the same video! Now what to do with it!

Using iMovie children can import the video, mute it and record their own narration, conversation, instructions and much more. It enables children to use speaking and listening to aid the writing process. I have come to realise through teaching in EYFS and KS1 that unless children can verbalise a story they cannot write it. This process allows children to first experiment with ideas orally which can then transfer to their writing. It may also be a great way for children to complete a piece of writing - using a video as a stimulus for writing and recording the children read their story alongside the video can be a really effective and at times an emotional way of showcasing the children's work. 

Some examples:

  • During our Angry Birds topic, Year 3 wrote playscripts about the opening video for the game, the children then recorded themselves performing it alongside the video:
  • During our football project, Year 5 children recorded themselves commentating over highlights of a match to then help them write their match reports.
  • Children can look at creating sound effects to replace the original audio - here is Year 4's efforts at recreating the sound effects for a scene from Indiana Jones:
  • If you can somehow download one of the amazing videos from the brilliant Literacy Shed website, this may really help with different activities suggested on the website such as tracking a characters thoughts, empathising with a character, describing or explaining the story or video, recreating a conversation between two characters (which can then help teaching children how to punctuate speech,) or a teacher could show a video and ask the children to be creative by reworking a conversation but taking it in a complete different direction. Children can also test their quick thinking skills by completely improvising a scene.
  • Other videos which are really great to use are music videos, as they normally tell a story with only music, children can narrate over the video to tell the story or record conversations between characters, one of my favourite songs at the minute has a great video to use in this way:
  • For Non Fiction texts, instructions, explanations, information, biographies, children again can record themselves sharing their writing over a video of that particular topic.
I will of course update this post with any other examples I use and please comment if you have any other suggestions. 

Friday, 12 April 2013

Why Twitter is essential for every teacher

I firstly joined Twitter in an educational context when I created a class account around a year ago after reading an article about how it can be used to share work with parents and friends of the school. I had my own personal account where I followed friends, sports stars etc but had nothing to do with teaching - I had no idea the power of twitter as a teacher.

The class account shared examples of pupils work, homework, class news etc and received some good feedback from parents. It was only when I came out of the classroom and took on the roll of covering PPA with the iPads did I change it from a class account to a school account. Along with this I started our school blog - I was able to set up the blog to automatically tweet new posts to help spread our work and build our audience. We quickly started picking up followers when examples of the iPad work was being shared. Through the school account I was following others and gathering loads of ideas and tips and joining in with discussions about different educational issues. It was only after I tuned into a Teachmeet to see some of our work being shared by @Ideas_Factory  (See the video here) that he suggested I start my own Tweacher account. I quickly went about setting up my own teacher account as well as setting up this blog. I felt that although I had to still remember my position as a teacher but I could then give more personal views on topics also keep the account if I was to ever move schools etc.

Four months later, I have just notched up my 1,000 follower, I have been able to network and meet some incredibly inspiring teachers, get involved in teachmeets, provide training in other schools and LEARN SO MUCH to better myself as a teacher!!

So the next step - to try and convince other staff at my school to join the Twitter revolution!!!!!

I am going to share all the ideas that I have implemented this year through learning about them on twitter, these include:

If you are in the same boat as me and need to try and convince others to join, here are some links that may help:

But of course the best way to understand the power and the value of twitter is to use twitter itself and so I posted this tweet to try and get responses from teachers who are using twitter:

And so straight away within seconds I had a handful of responses - here are some of them:

I had so many overwhelming responses that I couldn't keep up with them all so decided to make this Google form and then share this through twitter to gain responses. Please add your ideas to this conversation and help me bring more teachers from my school to join twitter!!!!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Utilising the Emoji Keyboard in the classroom!

For anyone who has an iPhone or iPad they have probably added the Emoji Keyboard. A set of images and emoticons which you can add to email, tweets, messages and notes. Whenever I ask children to complete a piece of writing on the iPads there is always one who uses the emoji keyboard to add little pictures to their work, whether I ask or not. For some reason, they absolutely love using it and to be fair I do enjoy adding them to a text or message as they seem to add extra character to a message as well as humour. So it got me thinking - how could I use this in class? How could asking the children to use these symbols and pictures make them think more creatively and challenge them in different ways? If you don't have emoji - here is how to set it up:

How to set up emoji on your iPad

To enable emoji from the keyboard settings in iOS:
  1. Tap Settings > General > Keyboard
  2. Tap International Keyboards
  3. Tap Add New Keyboard
  4. Locate and tap Emoji

Once this has been completed, open the keyboard and press this icon next to the space bar. Globe icon

How to set up emoji on Google Chrome

  • Go to Google Chrome Store.
  • Search Emoji and install the add ons.
  • These are a little temperamental however if they work for you, you should be able to see emoji on a windows device. 

Emoji images

Ideas for use in the classroom

So how can you use emoji in the classroom, to challenge and add a twist to a normal activity??


Obviously this is the subject where emoji can be utilised the most. For younger children it is a great way to help them to tell a story as they can use the pictures rather than worry about writing tricky/unfamiliar words.  One of the most obvious activity to do would be to ask the children to write a Rebus. A Rebus is a story where pictures replace words or parts of words. This can be a really challenging and interesting activity. Children can write their own stories or retell stories they have read in class, or rewrite some traditional stories. Here is an example of a familiar fairy tale folllowing the Rebus style written by a Year 3 child:

You could extend this idea further by asking the children to rewrite a whole story only using the emoticons. This could be used as a quick way for children to review a book or even film or TV episode. Here is an example I found which recounts one of the most famous films of all time:
Have you worked it out? Yep - Titanic!

I can't help but think about the endless possibilities this could provide. Children could make quizzes of book titles using emojis, or do a book review where they recount the story of the book they have read using only pictures (quite a tricky task, but one that would challenge and show they had a thorough understanding of the story) and use some of the pictures to give it a rating out of ten. 

I shared this blog post from @AndyGFarsley about using the game '4 pictures 1 word,' as a literacy starter, read his article here. One of the games he mentioned is Pic Combo where you have to work out the compound word from two pictures. Using Emoji children can make their own compound words, here are some quick examples I made up. 

Using emoji would also be good for introducing similes and metaphors. Younger children will find using these icons much easier as a way of writing and comparing things to. Alan Peat's Writing Exciting sentence book provides an example of a simile sentence, which Alan explains can be extended by adding a where and a when to add more detail and a clearer visual picture in the reader's head. Using these pictures can make children focus purely on this where and when aspect and adding more detail to a simile. It may even be a great way to introduce these sentence types with a different and unusual approach that may get the children creating these exciting sentences in a more fun and enjoyable way.

I also feel that using emoji can be a great visual resource to use for planning a piece of writing, children could use the pictures to help them map out and plan their story before they then write it in full, the visual pictures can help the children remember the sequence to their story. Here is an example of @PieCorbett telling the story of the Little Red Hen:

And here is the visual aid I made very quickly, similar to the one behind Pie in the video  - so I could save time in the lesson by preparing this beforehand:


Emoji would be great to use to introduce children to word problems. Pictures could be used for objects so that the only words are the vocabulary needed to work out the calculation to solve the problem, like this example: 
For older children you could ask them to make up their own questions using emoji, or even use it to  introduce equations if 2apples = 10 what does 1apple equal.

Or you could even use emoji for data handling, such as pictograms: 


Emoji could help in lots of ways generally in class, teachers could display how they feel about how well the children have behaved during a lesson. Feelings could be shared during PSHCE lessons and for children who struggle to communicate feelings, emoji provides clear visual aids that may help them communicate more successfully.

There are loads of possibilities to using emoji in the classroom and most will definitely have the children thinking creatively. If you think of any other ways in which emoji could be used in the classroom please comment and let me know and I will update this post if I think of anything else. 


Friday, 5 April 2013

Why should it only be children's work celebrated in Assembly?

On Thursday 4th April, I joined in on the @ukedchat discussion which was:

I really enjoyed some of the ideas shared to help reduce stress and I also shared some of mine. To read some of the fun ideas to reduce stress as a teacher - click this link to see some of the ideas shared during the chat, and click here for relevant links.

I wanted to share in a little bit of detail an idea that many found intriguing and wanted to know more about. As it was too long to explain fully in a tweet I will explain in a bit more detail here. Here was my original tweet:

The idea is that a celebration/good work assembly not only celebrates and acknowledges the children's hard work and efforts but the teachers too. Each class has their own inspection book. Each week, two different children are in charge of this book. Within the book they have to write down the amazing and enjoyable things their teacher has done. This can be anything from  a funny story they told to a lesson that everyone enjoyed or maybe news they have shared with the class, or just generally the lovely smiley face they see everyday. Usually we ask the children to finished the sentence Mr/Mrs ______ has been fantastic this week because..... or we have enjoyed the way our teacher has.... and usually ask for maybe three suggestions. We make sure that the children are positive and for younger year groups sometimes provide help from a TA or other adult.

What we often forget as teachers, is that we ourselves love positive feedback. We always try to give it to our children because we know how positively they respond to it. We are just the same! You would not believe the impact it has on teachers to be told they are doing a good job, especially from some of their toughest critics - the children. Just a simple little task of regularly asking children to share some of the good work their teacher has done does make a difference. The children benefit as they have to give the feedback and be positive. They also love the secretive approach as the teacher should never know who the inspectors are that week. It never disappoints, the inspection books being shared with the rest of the school and all the children, staff and parents can't help but smile at some of the weird and wonderful reasons the children produce.

Teachers look forward to that assembly every week, they know no matter how hard, stressful and tiring the week has been having those few minutes to be reminded why we have the best job in the world and remember why we got into teaching, fills you with a sense of worth and achievement! Try it, see whether it helps you and your staff boost team morale and self-esteem.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Using Twitter to provide some quick and interesting lesson starters

I am a big fan of using multimedia as a way of stimulating children in discussions and writing. As the saying goes, 'a picture is worth a thousand words,' and using pictures and videos can really help children develop ideas and give them a purpose and focus for their writing.

PictureOne website which is great for providing videos, pictures and other media that can be used in Literacy is the Literacy Shed. Started by @Redgierob, this amazing resource provides so many amazing resources to cover every aspect of the Literacy curriculum.
Click here to read more about using videos and pictures in Literacy.

Many teachers are now starting to realise the massive benefits of using twitter as a way of building a learning network, sharing ideas, connecting with other great teachers and learning how to improve as a teacher to enhance the learning in their classroom. Most teachers will follow other educators however I want to share some other types of accounts which are great to use as a focus in class.

Sometimes I find that a quick 5-10 minutes writing starter at the beginning of my Literacy lessons, as morning activity or even as a task during guided reading give the children a chance to generate ideas, practise different sentence types and get their imaginations running wild! I have just started following a few twitter accounts that provide some amazing images for these types of task/starters/fillers. These twitter accounts share some fantastic pictures which you can use with your class to inspire them to discuss and write. I must warn you that some pictures are not appropriate to share with the class. Most of these accounts have no links to education and it may not be worth following them however I have created a list which you can subscribe to so you can dip in whenever you need to. Despite some of the accounts sometimes sharing pictures which won't be appropriate for use in class, each account will normally provide at least one photo a day that you can utilise to set a meaningful and engaging task. Here are some of the accounts with examples of the pictures and some of the questions/tasks that could accompany it.

Write five sentences explaining what is happening in this picure?
Write the discussion between these two animals using full punctuation.
How did the cat get into this tricky predicament?
Think of reasons why the Elephant should/shouldn't help.
Write in role of the cat, build suspense to the climax of the Elephant arriving.

Write a description of this picture in 100 words.
Write a poem about this street.
Imagine if you lived in one of these houses, write a short story about waking up and looking out of your window.
Write about what could have caused this.

Would you like to live here? Why?
Write a short persuasive advert for this holiday home?
Imagine you stayed here for a short break, write a diary about your day.
Who might this house belong to? What makes you think this?

Where are they going?
Write about their journey to reach the sea.
Write a conversation between the two turtles.

This dog has just answered a maths question, write all the different questions it could be.

Write a couple of sentences for each picture about what has made them so happy?

Should we keep animals in captivity? Write three reasons for both sides.

I have grouped all these accounts into a Twitter list which you can subscibe to HERE.

These are just a taste of some of the amazing visual aids these accounts share that you can use in the classroom. Here is a link to an interesting blog post about how to describe a picture in more depth to get the children thinking more deeply about a picture thanks to @JOHNSAYERS.

You may want to use a picture for a full lesson and use it to do some shared writing - here is a video of the brilliant @PieCorbett demonstrating how to use a picture for shared writing:

You may also want to give a more specific focus for the activity, encouraging children to use specific sentence types or challenge the higher ability by restricting the number of words or setting direct rules. Here are some resources to help:

- Tripico's Slow writing - This fantastic resource purposefully makes the children follow rules for each sentence making them think about how they write rather than what - read more here. 

- Alan Peat's Enrichment activities for able writers.

-@IanAddison's Teachtweet video about using random sentences to give a more specific focus to a writing lesson:

There are also a number of apps and web based tools that can be used with these images for children to collaboratively create a descriptive, interactive picture. The apps allow children to generate ideas individually or as a class which they can refer back to when they start writing.

The first app is Thinglink, which I came across Thinglink after@hiimpactconsult shared it at #TMStockport. This app looks absolutely superb for so many different activities. Thinglink is a webbased tool that allows you to add text, video or hyperlinks to a picture. Within the app, you can import an image and then make it interactive by adding videos or text within the image. It would be great to use within Literacy lessons to generate descriptive phrases. Once the children have added tags to their picture it can then be uploaded to the web and shared or embedded on any blog. The possibilities are truly endless with this app. Here is an example where children had to generate similes and metaphors using an image from the twitter list linked above:

Other tools which are great for children sharing ideas collaboratively linking to images include Voicethread and Padlet. These tools were shared during a recent conference I attended with @DeputyMitchell in which he shared similar examples of how using these tools can help generate superb descriptive writing. All of which create great opportunities for children to generate great ideas which can be shared with the rest of the class to be magpied or shared on class blogs, giving children the incentive to produce high quality work.