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Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Pokémon GO - The right approach to using this game in class!

Pokémon GO was released on 14th July 2016 by the end of the day, I had already had tweets and messages asking about how I would use it in class.

If you have followed the blog you will know I am a massive fan of using video games as a stimulus in class through my Camouflage Learning approach. Pokémon GO is another engaging game that joins the list alongside Angry Birds, Temple Run, Minecraft and Kinectimals as games that can inspire some quality writing in class.

What this blog post isn't going to be is a list of ideas for using the game; people have already beat me to it. I have already seen some great blogs about the potential of the game as a stimulus in class. Here are some I have enjoyed reading:

There's your summer reading list! 😂 Obviously, come September when we are back in school, I am sure to do some work based on the game and will be blogging about it in the future. 

What this blog post is about is the approach to using this game in class. For me, it is a way in which it can make learning REAL for children. A popular technique a lot of teachers use is the 'mantle of the expert' approach. In fact, I have just ordered the book by Tim Taylor: A beginner's guide to Mantle of the Expert. It came highly recommended from @BrynGoodman so it will be my summer read. 

A similar technique, that was introduced to me on the first training session I ever had with @AlanPeat a few years ago is the 'Mantle of the Fool' approach. 

Whenever I ask teachers what is the most popular game or film that their class is into and follow it with how many teachers have let their class write about the game, every hand goes down. 

When I ask why? The answer is always "I don't play the game."

Let me into a little secret... Neither do I. Don't get me wrong, I love films but I have never been a massive gamer. I recognise how many of my students are and so constantly look at how I can use children's enjoyment and engagement with video games to inspire other areas of learning.

This is where the Mantle of the Fool approach comes in. It is ok for you, as the teacher, not to be an expert, you can play 'the fool.' The children can teach you! Your role is to facilitate and guide pupils so that they can demonstrate and prove to the audience that they are the experts!

Imagine the following scenario as you get back into school in September:

"Right Class, I have seen so much over the summer about this game, Pokemon GO, has anyone played it?"

Reaction from Class:

"Brilliant, I wondered if you could do me a favour, I want to learn how to play. My friend keeps teasing me as he has got all these Pokemon and is on level 15. Do you think you could write a set of instructions for how to play, so I can read it and know how to play?"

"OK, first thing we will need to do is look at a set of instructions to see what needs to be included,"
"For me to understand these instructions, we will need the following..."

This is where quality resources like "The Ultimate Guide to Non-Fiction" by Mat Sullivan and Alan Peat, which has a wealth of useful language features for every non-fiction text type.

Your class will want to write a great set of instructions, including all the text features because they will want to prove that they are the experts. It gives them a purpose and makes the task meaningful. The idea that SPAG would be contextualised through this approach. This is something we really promote through READWRITEPERFOM.COM 

This for me, makes the writing process real for the children. In real life, you write instructions on something you are knowledgable about. Generally, you write about topics you are interested in. 

To really enhance the writing, I would be then looking at how to bring the writing to life through technology to turn it into a more modern set of instructions. For an in depth explanation of how to do this, check out my book - 50 iPad lessons for Non-Fiction. 

So different crazes, video games, toys will come and go, teachers should be open to using what the children are interested in as a stimulus for writing. Be the fool, let the children teach you and make the writing experience real for your pupils!

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog post, I would love to hear about how you use Pokemon Go in the classroom so please get in touch:


If you are interested in working with Mr P, check out what CPD he offers here and his available dates here. Email to book.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Tournaments App - A Useful Tool for PE Teachers

As well as being the computing leader in my school, I have also been the PE coordinator for a number of years. We have been very successful as a school over the years in a number of sports and try our best to value physical education and understand the benefits the subject can have on children both physically and mentally. It there is one job I loathe in my role as PE co-ordinator, it is organising tournaments. 

We regularly host a variety of sporting tournaments, including our local football league and it can take me hours working out the logistics of who plays who etc. However, over the weekend someone suggested the app 'Football Tournament Maker' on the iPhone and it is brilliant! 

The app is completely FREE and it allows you to create a tournament, add the number of teams and it will then generate a fixture list, a matrix of results and league table. You can also set up the tournament to be a knockout format. 

 The app will also give you individual team breakdown throughout the tournament:

You can then share the league tables and matrix as an image and the app allows you to turn your tournament into a website for others to access and use. 

A very handy app for PE coordinators but can also be a great tool to use for a data handling activity in maths or if you organise class tournaments. 

The Internet in Real Time

This web page is brilliant for showing how much information and data is being generated on the internet in real time. The orginal webpage seems to be down or not working, so I have embedded it here so you can access it.

Click the animation to open the full version (via pennystocks).
Click above to view the full version [h/t Penny Stocks].

Click the image to open the interactive version (via Penny Stocks).

Click above to view the full version [h/t Penny Stocks].

Click above to view the interactive version [h/t Penny Stocks].

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Traditional Tales with a Twist: Rashomon through Tweets!

Today Year 4 were given a mammoth challenge in English. We introduced the idea of a Rashomon story: a story told from different perspectives. They had to choose a familiar story and retell it from two different character's perspective. That sounds a challenge in itself but I decided to take it a step further by explaining that the character's version of the story had to be told through 5 tweets, each of 140 characters EXACTLY!

The children relished the challenge and had my new app. 1-4-0 to help. The app allows children to write a story or text within a grid of 140 boxes. The app has a word counter and a character counter to make sure children keep to the constraint. This is an idea I have previously blogged about and share on my training to actively encourage pupils to play and experiment with words and language. What I love about the idea of using twitter as a constraint is that a character can be a letter, a space or a punctuation mark. So children will actively muck about with the use of different punctuation marks to help reach the 140 goal. The idea was inspired by all the constrained writing challenges featured in Alan Peat's books. 

To make sure the app enhance what can be done on paper, alongside the character and word counter, there is the option to turn the message into a fake tweet. This is a great teaching tool, as teachers can use this to create fake tweets from celebrities with deliberate mistakes for the children to spot and correct.

The children had to tell the story as a character through 5 tweets of 140 characters exactly. It was a tough task but one the children enjoyed. They worked brilliantly, trying ideas, changing words and phrases to make their story fit.

For most of the children, there wasn't enough time in the session to complete the whole task but all of them managed to get a few tweets done. Here are a couple of examples from stories such as: Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk and Hansel and Gretal. 

For those children who did finish, they could put all their tweets together using the app Adobe Spark Page. I have previously blogged about this cracking app, where children can create stunning web pages for a variety of tasks. Here is one of the finished efforts from the class:


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Minecraft in Year 1

Any followers of this blog and teachers who have attended my training know I am a massive fan of using Minecraft in the classroom. As a creative tool, it is a fantastic way to let children build settings, historical structures and different environments.

Last week, I was working with my Year 1 class. Their topic this half term is the seaside. After learning all about features of the seaside, I challenged the class to try and build a seaside scene in Minecraft. Encouraging them to include as many features as possible, it wasn't going to be an easy task for Year 1. However, I was lucky to have some helpers in the form of Year 6 students, who are nothing short of experts when it comes to Minecraft. As most of the cohort were away visiting their high school, I had a few pupils transform into teachers helping and guiding the Year 1 pupils through their task.

Some of the efforts from the Year ones were amazing! I was really impressed but I loved the discussion and collaboration between the students and their Year 6 mentors. It is something I am hoping to do more in the future. Once the children had designed their scenes, they could either label the features:

Or they could put themselves into the picture using the app Pic Collage:

It was a very enjoyable afternoon all round. I was able to assess what the children could remember about the seaside and features you would see there. The Year 1 children relished a session using their favourite game and the Year 6 helpers loved using their expertise to help other students!