Subscribe to this blog!


Monday, 19 August 2013

A Zoo in the Classroom!

I am forever promoting the app "Apps Gone Free," the daily feed of apps that for a limited time only, are free. The aim for the developers is that it draws people in to try the app with the view to build a bigger fan base.

When you are working within a tight budget in schools, trying to find the best free apps to keep the cost of the iPads down means that this app is crucial in providing some amazingly useful apps. Today (19th August) I have found a gem, an app that would really inspire and ignite the children's imaginations and link really well to a lot of cross curricular activities. Now I don't know how long this app will stay free however even at £1.99 is seems a bargain!

Pocket Zoo is a virtual zoo which links to live webcams from Zoos all around the world. Children are able to browse the virtual zoo, click on different animals and either look at pictures, listen to sounds, read information or watch a live feed from a Zoo around the world. Logging it at right time and you may see the animals being fed or being cleaned or just interacting with other animals in the habitat. What it does provide is the chance for children to see these animals right from the classroom, opening up a whole world of opportunity!
Just from having a play with this app it has given me so many ideas about how I can use this is class, here are a few suggestions- 

  • Literacy
  • Write a description of an animal - use the picture to describe how the animals looks, the noise to describe the sound and the live camera feed to describe the way the animals moves around the enclosure.
  • Write a recount of visiting the zoo, What were you looking forward to? Why? What animals did you see? What were they doing? 
  • Write an persuasive advert for the Zoo, what are the main attractions? Introduce alliteration for different parts of the zoo, include testimonials or even create a TV advert.
  • Write a discussion text for and against zoos. Should we have them? Why? What are the reasons for keeping animals in captivity? What are the reasons for keeping animals in the wild? 
  • Use Greenscreen to create a news report on a particular animals, children can share facts and information they have learnt from using the app.
  • Write a letter from an animal in captivity to a relative in the wild. Compare life in the Zoo to life in the animal's natural habitat.
  • Put the list of animals in alphabetical order.
  • Choose an animal and write a non chronological report using information, pictures and watching the animals interact in the zoo. 
  • Use the book "Zoo" by Anthony Browne as a linked guided reading book.
  • Use the app Tap Zoo to let the children create their own zoo, ask them to write instructions for how to create a zoo.
  • Use this clip from YouTube for children to create their own scripts for clips they can download for other similar videos.
  • Write a story similar to the film Madagascar about a group of animals escaping the Zoo. Try to fit characteristics to certain animals, discuss these with the children based on the appearance and the way they interact with each other.
  • Children could create a variety of poems based on different animals - Acrostic, shape, Haiku, limericks, Kennings to name but a few.
  • Follow @AnimalEdits on Twitter. Use some of the pictures to create a fact file about a new hybrid animals. Design a new enclosure at the zoo for that animal.
  • Work on a budget. As a class think of all the income and outgoings a Zoo may need. Ask the children to create a ticket price that would make sure that the monthly outgoings would be covered. Download an example here.
  • Give the children a piece of squared paper. Ask them to make a 25cm x 25cm square. Ask them to then design a layout for a zoo, with a list of animals and the size of their enclosures. See who can fit in the most animals while keeping a path for visitors to walk around the zoo.
  • Look at a local Zoo's website, look at the prices and create some word problems about different people and families visiting the zoo. 
  • Compare and contrast the different enclosures of particular animals. Why are they designed that way? How are certain animals adapted to their environment? 
  • Create a fact poster for a particular animal.
  • Compare and contrast different animals and discuss why they are designed to survive in different environments. 
  • Use the live web cams from the different zoos to introduce different time zones around the world. Show how in a Zoo in Austrailia it is night time during our day.
  • For other similar activities - CLICK HERE
  • Give the children a blank work map and use the app Globe to locate all the Zoos that are featured on the app.
  • Use the fact sheets to find where in the world different animals naturally live.
Other Curriculum areas
  • Children can look into the history of Zoos and create a report about how Zoos have changed from then to now.
  • Children can draw pictures of different animals or even create a collage of pictures.
If you have any other suggestions please add a comment and I will update this post. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

A Year to Remember

I am currently sitting on a plane flying home from a week away, reflecting on the past academic year. It has been an unforgettable year really, and one that has completely changed the direction of my career in a way I never thought possible. 
This time last year I was feeling very apprehensive about the role I was taking on, coming out of the classroom to cover PPA across the whole school. Panicking about teaching in EYFS and KS1 for the first time, worried about other teachers and their perception of my role as I managed to dodge reports, parents evenings and levelling 35 long pieces of writing every other week. I am not going to lie, that aspect made the role very appealing however there was a fear of not having the same connections with children that you have as a class teacher and not having that responsibility for a class and see them develop and excel as learners and people. You can read more about the role here.
Would I change it now? Not at all, I learnt a lot about the school as a whole, giving me a vast experience of what being a senior leader would be like. I quickly discovered the different expectations and challenges that face different year groups and saw how vastly different teachers' issues are within specific year groups and classes. It was the best of both worlds, valued as a class teacher without the stresses (mainly paperwork) of one. I completely fell in love with teaching again and every lesson was as creative and interesting as I could possibly make it and the children seemed to revel in each one. Time that I would normally spend on classroom tasks meant I could really delve into the subject I was teaching and easily spent more time working at home than any previous year.

My role of covering PPA came with a distinct focus on ICT and embedding it across the curriculum. This is where the iPads came into play and what a difference they have made. In my opinion the potential for these devices is immense, there is nothing that comes close to how versatile and effective this technology can be when used effectively in the classroom. I foresee most schools eventually purchasing iPads, however, I fear many will not use it to its full potential. What makes the iPad enhance learning isn't the device itself but the teacher. The teacher's confidence and willingness to use them in their teaching is the real key and this is where schools really need to have a clear vision when purchasing iPads. Schools need to be prepared to invest time to train teachers and develop their professional development in this area. Schools who do this, will see the biggest impact from investing in this technology.

But my journey this year hasn't just been about the iPad it has been able to explore many different avenues for how modern day technology can impact on me as a teacher and the children I teach. Firstly, I would encourage, no plead, for every teacher to embrace social media. I know there is a lot of stigma attached and some people feel they would be vulnerable but without it you are narrowing and restricting your connections with the teaching world. The number of inspiring and truly phenomenal teachers I have connected with this year has been overwhelming and all through social media platforms such as Twitter. To read more about using Twitter as a teacher please read these previous posts – here and here.

The amount of ideas from Twitter we have implemented as a school this year has been endless. For some of the teachers I have introduced to the world of twitter, they have been amazed by how they can connect and interact with many different teachers and educators. It is also thanks to twitter that my career has now taken a completely new direction. From being recommended by other teachers I was approached by Alan Peat and have now made the decision to drop to part time as a teacher so I can provide iPad training through his consultancy company. I have had the opportunity to contribute to the phenomenal resource that is the LiteracyShed, I have also written an article for the fantastic Springboard Stories magazine and I also have other very exciting prospects on the horizon which I cannot yet reveal. All of this just from using twitter! It truly is astounding when I reflect on the amazing way this platform has created these opportunities.

Using twitter or other social media platforms such as Pinterest means you become part of a global staff room, one where you can connect with teachers all over the world. All of whom are looking to share ideas and find new resources. Most will gladly reply and answer questions and it can be a massive confidence boost to you as a teacher when an idea you share is commented on by a fellow teacher. There are no hidden agendas, just teachers who want to share and learn about ways to improve as a teacher. I heard from another teacher that she doesn't use Google to search for resources, instead hashtags on twitter and 9 times out of 10 get the answer she wanted, I too now take this approach. Most of the ideas I shared came from this blog, which brings me onto my next recommendation that has been crucial this year... blogging. Blogging both as a class/school and as a teacher has been both inspiring and a great way for me to reflect as a teacher. To really use iPads to their potential you will need a blog as a platform to share work produced on them. 

There is no doubting the impact blogging has raising standards, just follow David Mitchell for evidence of this. As this has been the first year we have blogged we have had glimpses of the potential blogging has. Our problem at the beginning was that I was the main driving force behind it without a class, meaning it limited us in certain ways. To read some of the ways in which blogging has been used successfully click here and here. We mainly used it to showcase what we were doing on the iPads and we had an amazing response (visit our blog here.) This led me to create my own teacher blog. This has been an amazing way for me to reflect and share thoughts, ideas and resources again to a wonderfully surprising response. It has contributed massively to the new direction I will be taking in September and I thoroughly intend to continue to use my blog as a way of sharing experiences and lesson ideas. 

There has also been other tools that have helped me on my way and things I would recommend getting involved in to further extend your network and also gain some amazing ideas. Teachmeets are an great way for teachers to share successful projects and resources and it has been a fantastic way to connect with other teachers, they are also brilliant as they are free! I also attended a Speed Learning event which was similar and just as useful. 

I could continue this post listed the endless great tools I have come across this year, but most will have been previously blogged about. I could also mention everyone that has made my new venture possible and I want to make it clear I am extremely grateful to everyone who has recommended me, helped me and given me the opportunity to train them or work with their school. I hope most people know who they are and the main reason for writing this post was to say thanks to everyone who has continued to support me.  I am looking forward to my new venture as a trainer for schools who have purchased iPads and require guidance for the best way to use these devices in the classroom. If you want more information and details of what training I can provide please click here.