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Thursday, 10 April 2014

Can Augmented Reality Improve Writing?

For inspiring and creating writing opportunities in class, I have found Augmented Reality to be superb. I have recently been using an Augmented Reality showcase app to inspire writing with a mixed Year 1/2 class. It has not only engaged and motivated them but provided them with an exciting visual stimulus that has created some incredible writing - read more here.

I wanted to see whether using Augmented Reality improves writing. So with a Year 5 class, I decided to try a little experiment.

I started the lesson by providing the children with this image and I asked them to write a description of it:

Despite having little to work with, I was impressed with some of their writing. However I wanted to see whether colouring the picture and then bringing it to life through Augmented Reality would improve the quality of writing.

Once they had finished writing their first description I asked them to colour their picture - 

Once completed, it was time to bring the picture to life using ColAR Mix app. This app is another fantastic showcase app that allows children to colour in the trigger images and see their creations come to life using augmented reality. There are a few free pictures and more can be unlocked with an in app purchase. But the potential for creative writing stimulus using the app is incredible! Here is an example of how @ThisIsLiamM and his class has used this app -
Once the children had closely observed their bird come to life, move and interact with its surroundings, it was time to have a go at writing another description. I was hoping that because children had coloured their bird and seen it move and come to life they would have more ideas and language to use in their descriptions. I wanted to see whether this process actually inspired the children to create better quality writing. Here is a video of the whole lesson:

Using Augmented Reality To Inspire And Improve Writing from Mr L Parkinson on Vimeo.

Here are some examples of the before and after descriptions, what do you think? Has Augmented Reality improved the quality of writing, giving children more precise language to use in their desctiptions? Personally, I think so and for some of the more reluctant writers, it certainly gave them a lot more ideas to work with, see what you think:


Let's do Mental Maths - YES PLEASE!!!!

It is that time of year again, when teacher's are desperately trying to prepare for SATs tests and looking for ways in which to get those all important results. The Year 6 teachers asked are there any really good apps to help with revising different topics. I have previously blogged about ways in which I use the iPads to make the SPAG more bearable - read here. I have recently discovered two new apps from Andrew Brodie, focusing on Mental Maths and they both are BRILLIANT!

The two apps are aimed at KS1 and KS2 and both are great ways for children to practice every objective of their mental maths.

They can enter their names and keep a running assessment of their progress through practise questions and a range of different tests.

Each test orally reads the questions for children who may struggle with their reading. They provide a variety of different question types and even has a hint button that simplifies the answer for the children.

What impresses me most about this app is the fact that children can pick a particular area they struggle with. When they click a area they want to practise they then see all the objectives building up by difficulty. Children can then click the objective and answer a range of questions linking to it. This means the app can be easily differentiated so children can work at their own level and pace.

They Year 6 team are using this app almost daily and the Year 2 teachers are also using it to help practise different aspects of numeracy in the run up to SATs. Here is what one Year 6 teacher thinks of the app:
"An incredibly useful resource for teachers and students looking at improving mental maths and rapid recall of a range of maths topics. Children are instantly corrected and can work at their own level with banks of questions differentiated linking to different objectives. It is also easy to monitor progress as children's scores are saved and recorded into charts for teachers to use for assessments. For competitive children, it encourages them to beat themselves and improve their scores. I would strongly recommend this app to Year 6 teachers preparing for SATs as a useful tool to have."

Both apps are priced at £1.99 and well worth the cost. You can download Mental Maths 6-7 here or

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Descriptive Tweets!

Last week, I trialled a new app with a Year 4 Class. The app Path On, allows children to creating a line or shape onto a picture, which they can then fill with words to create a really effective descriptive picture. The children enjoyed the app and the results were really effective -

I was really impressed with the rich description generated from the image, I decided to use the picture again this week with a different Year 4 class to attempt some description with a different twist.

I am a big advocate of developing writing through constraints - adding rules to make children play and experiment with language. I first came across these ideas through Alan Peat and some of his brilliant approaches linked with Oulipo.

I have recently been experimented with different constraints in writing such as creating stories with hidden messages and also using some social media trends that add constraints. Today the children had another constraint to challenge them!

Twitter is a social media platform that seems to be getting more and more popular! Why, because everyday it encourages you to play with language and words. You only have 140 characters to get across your message and so whenever you send a tweet it needs to be concise and direct. I decided to challenge my year 4 class to try and describe the picture in as much detail as possible only using 140 characters. I was strict with this, no more, no less. I provided a grid 14 columns by 10 rows as a template for children to use. I explained that 140 characters means spaces and punctuation count just as much as letters. I then let them have a go, it was great! Straight away they children got to the end but were either a few characters short or over. Then they had to look at some of their word choices, what can they change? What can they add? Which word will carry the most meaning rather than clutter with 3/4 adjectives? 

It also made children more aware of punctuation, they questioned apostrophes and commas, discussing whether they should be there? Suddenly children were adding ellipses and brackets to help them reach their target. 

It also made the children a lot more conscious of spelling. One word spelt incorrectly at the start of their writing would have a knock on effect for the rest of the description. Suddenly, dictionaries were out, children were checking and rising to the challenge. I was really surprised and impressed with how the challenge engaged and inspired the class. Maybe because I wasn't asking for quantity it grabbed their attention, or the idea of creating a tweet sounded cool. Either way it worked and the children relished in the challenge - here are some efforts:

There are plenty of other ways to use twitter as a constraint - create a book review in a tweet, evaluate a lesson or their learning, retell a fairytale in a tweet, retell different genre stories as a tweet or create a poem as a tweet. Any of these will have your children playing and experimenting with words!