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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

An Assembly on Selflessness, Thanks to the Brownlee Brothers

If you are stuck for a quick assembly idea this week, look no further than the following clip:

This inspiring finish to the race demonstrates why sport is so important not just for exercise but to teach us so many vital life skills.

Play the video but don't play the sound. Discussing the video, some questions to consider:

  • When in the race does this event happen? How do you know?
  • What event are they participating in? 
  • What makes up a triathlon? 15km swim, 40km bike ride, 10km run
  • Is the race taking place in somewhere hot or cold? How do you know?
  • What might have contributed to Jonny struggling to finish the race? The humid weather.
  • As Jonny, turned the corner, how do you think he was feeling? Can you think of some words to describe it?
  • How do you know the boys are related? Both have the same name of their shirt.
  • Which brother is older? Why do you think that?
  • What was the choice Alistair had when he turned the corner?
  • Why did he make the decision to help his brother? 
  • What would he lose by making that decision?
  • What did he gain?
  • Did he make the right choice? Why?
  • People believe Jonny should be disqualified from the race, do you think this is fair?
  • What lesson has Alistair, the older brother, taught us all through his actions?
  • Was winning the most important thing?
  • Can you remember the name of the person who won the race? 
  • Why is that not as important as the actions of Alistair?
  • In ten years time, what will be remembered about this race?
  • How can we use this remarkable act of selflessness in our lives?
  • What skills can sport teach us that we can apply in other parts of our lives?
  • Why do you think this video has now gone viral with millions of views and shares?

After discussing the text, you could ask the children to write about the event. You could:
  • Ask the students to write a short news report about the event.
  • Write a first person recount as Alistair explaining what must have been going through his head.
  • Create a motivational poster about the sportsmanship shown.
  • Download a copy of the clip and ask children to write and perform a commentary over the top.
You can also watch an interview with the brothers after the race to hear their take on the event:

If you use any of these ideas, please do share as I would love to see what your pupils create!

Bedtime Stories - The Latest ReadWritePerform Teaching Pack!

I am so proud to announce that the latest teaching pack from Read Write Perform is now available to download. The feedback from teachers all over the world after using the previous two packs has been fantastic! Both myself and John are so happy to see the impact the packs are having on children's learning! We are so excited about the other packs we have in the pipeline. We have another 20+ packs planned and hoping to have one released each half term.

The latest pack - Bedtime Stories: A Dragon's Adventure - challenges your pupils to write and then retell their own bedtime story all about a dragon. The pack follows the Read Write Perform overview:

The pack guides teachers through with plans, questions and ideas that cover every element of the English curriculum in a cohesive and meaningful way. Far too often I see the writing process in classrooms not reflecting a real writing process. In many cases, reading is separate from writing and performance isn't even considered. Ask any author when they are writing a new book, the first thing they do is read similar books to get a feel of the genre and get inspired with ideas and features to use in their own story. 

If you want your children to write well they have to see well written texts and deconstruct them to learn what works well for them to use it in their own efforts. That is what the pack provides, an exemplar text and comparative texts with questions to help deconstruct, learn and magpie ideas to use in their own writing. The comparative texts are usually film clips or some other visual media. We believe visual media can be a powerful tool in the classroom when used the right way. The pack provides visual media that has text linked for children to access, discuss and deconstruct. John Murray's approach to reading is embedded in the deconstruction part to help children develop key comprehension skills such as: deductive reasoning, inference and authorial intent. 

The deconstruction process also includes questions where SPaG is contextualised. The best way to teach SPaG so that it has an impact on writing is for children to see it in context and understand the impact it has on the reader. If you isolate SPaG it will get them through the test but children won't be able to apply it in their writing for effect. The pack provides questions to help develop children's understanding of spelling, punctuation and grammar so they can utilise it in their writing.

Along with the text there are also performances of the exemplar text from a professional actor along with a video interview with the author. This gives children an insight into the thought process behind the writing and performance.

The pack moves into reconstruction where children work through a shared writing lesson to see the type of sentences they could use in their writing and why they work in that genre. The children then write their own bedtime story with the intention to perform it. The pack then has a step by step guide to using a specific app to help your students capture their performance. The technology is a tool throughout to help enhance every part of the project. 

So why not give it a go! Click the picture below to download your copy today!

And why not use it to then enter this competition:

Don't forget to download our other packs:


Friday, 16 September 2016

Guided Reading with Justin Bieber

Texts can come in many different forms: books, newspapers, magazines, film clips, animations and music. Giving children a mix can be a great way to improve a range of reading skills.

I have previously blogged about how music can be used to practise comprehension skills and you can read the blog here -

While I would encourage you to use these ideas and lessons, I think it is important to make sure you have a balance between these shorter texts and longer whole stories.

My work with John Murray has certainly inspired these posts, so please check his website out and also look at the READWRITEPERFORM resources for more of these ideas and strategies to teaching English.

So love him or hate him, Justin Bieber is one of the biggest stars on the planet, he has dominated the charts in 2016.

Having listened to his latest songs, I had some great ideas for developing comprehension skills. Unfortunately, out of the two songs: Let Me Love You and Cold Water, I am only going to focus on Let Me Love You. Although there is plenty to discuss in the song Cold Water, the first lyric 'Everybody gets high sometimes, you know,' is something that I wouldn't want to try and explain with my class 😬.

So is a lyric video to Let Me Love You:

Here are the lyrics with some suggested questions:

I used to believe
We were burnin' on the edge of somethin' beautiful
Somethin' beautiful
Selling a dream
Smoke and mirrors keep us waitin' on a miracle
On a miracle

  •  Who is Justin singing to? How do you know? His girlfriend (use of words like 'we') 
  • What is he trying to do by singing this song? Stop the girl from breaking up with him
  • Why do you think he has chosen the word burning? What could we infer about their relationship? Fiery, possible arguments
  • What do you think he means by 'something beautiful?' A perfect relationship
  • Why does he repeat that phrase? For emphasis and longing to have it.
  • Why does he say they were on the edge? To show how close they were to the perfect relationship.
  • What is the dream? The loving relationship he craves
  • Why does he use the verb selling? As it is something he has had to persuade and convince his partner with
  • What does the metaphor 'smoke and mirrors' mean? It is a phrase meaning to obscure the truth so lies and deceit are making things seem fine. 
  • Why has Justin chosen the word miracle? On a scale of 1-5, how powerful is this word choice? Miracles are very very rare so he is saying it is extremely unlikely the relationship can be saved.

Say, go through the darkest of days
Heaven's a heartbreak away
Never let you go, never let me down
Oh, it's been a hell of a ride
Driving the edge of a knife
Never let you go, never let me down
Don't you give up, nah-nah-nah
I won't give up, nah-nah-nah
Let me love you
Let me love you
Don't you give up, nah-nah-nah
I won't give up, nah-nah-nah
Let me love you
Let me love you
Oh baby, baby
  • What does Justin mean by going through the 'darkest of days'? He recognises that there will also be good times and bad in a relationship and that is normal.
  • What is Justin inferring when he says Heaven's a heartbreak away? That it would literally kill him if the relationship would end. 
  • How do you know Justin has enjoyed the relationship? He compares it to a ride, like a fairground ride which has ups and downs but is thrilling and enjoyable.
  • What does the idiom 'on a knife edge' mean? You are in a very difficult situation that could go either way.
  • What does Justin need from his partner? He is willing to keep the relationship going but needs her to commit too.
  • What effect does nah-nah-nah have? It is like saying no no no, I won't give up
  • Why does he repeat the chorus 'Let me love you?' For emphasis, almost begging to keep the relationship alive.

Don't fall asleep
At the wheel, we've got a million miles ahead of us
Miles ahead of us
All that we need
Is a rude awakening to know we're good enough
Know we're good enough
  • Why has Justin used an analogy of falling asleep at the wheel? When people do that it can be very dangerous and possibly cause the end of someone's life like it will cause the end of his relationship.
  • How long does Justin want to stay with his partner? A long time
  • How do you know? They have a million miles ahead of them.
  • Who is in control of the relationship? His partner
  • How do you know? She is driving, she is at the wheel
  • What does Justin need to happen? His partner to realise that the relationship is worth saving
  • Does Justin think it is worth saving? Yes, he repeats the phrase 'know we're good enough'

Say go through the darkest of days
Heaven's a heartbreak away
Never let you go, never let me down
Oh it's been a hell of a ride
Driving the edge of a knife
Never let you go, never let me down
Don't you give up, nah-nah-nah
I won't give up, nah-nah-nah
Let me love you
Let me love you
Don't you give up, nah-nah-nah
I won't give up, nah-nah-nah
Let me love you
Let me love you
Oh baby, baby
Never let you go
Never let you go
Never let you go
Never let you go
Never let you go
Never let you go
Never let you go
Never let you go
Never let you go
Never let you go (oh no no no no)
Never let you go (yeah yeah)
I'll never let you go
Don't you give up, nah-nah-nah
I won't give up, nah-nah-nah
Let me love you
Let me love you
Don't you give up, nah-nah-nah
I won't give up, nah-nah-nah
Let me love you
Let me love you
The second half of the song is a repeat of the first, here you can talk about the impact of repetition, although with this amount of repetition, could this be seen more like desperation?

  •  Do you think this song works? 
  • Do you think he manages to convince his partner to carry on the relationship? Why?
I hope you find these ideas useful! If anything, it gives you the perfect excuse to listening to an absolute tune in the classroom! 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Facebook Live in the Classroom!

From the moment we started using iPads in class, I saw the potential for them to help capture and share pupil's learning and achievements to parents and the world. This is what kickstarted our school blog and then twitter and Facebook pages.

On all my training, I discuss how powerful social media can be for schools to share work with parents, teach children the importance of being responsible, positive digital citizens and how inspiring it can be for students when they know their work is being share to a global audience.

I know how important it is for parents to feel involved in the school life of their child but many are unable to attend assemblies, performances and sports days. I have tested a number of live streaming apps and tools and previously blogged about them (you can read them here and here.) Over time new tools such as Google Hangouts and periscope have made this easier but the one tool I am very fond of is the Facebook Live tool.

A lot of schools are very cautious and reluctant to have their own school Facebook page, for me, the positives massively out weigh the potential negatives. The main concerns schools have is parents using the page to speak negatively about the school. But you control this, we make it very clear it is a one way communication page and if parents air any negative views they will be blocked and banned. What schools need to realise is that if they don't have their own school Facebook page that they can monitor, parents will start their own which will not be monitored.

There are so many positives with Facebook: ability to share examples of work, make announcements, save money on printing, demonstrate how to use social media in a positive way to name but a few.

The use of the Facebook live, adds a whole new range of ways to involve parents and give children the opportunity to proudly perform and share their learning. The Facebook live tool allows you to broadcast a live video from your device. You can see how many people are watching and viewers can comment live and interact whilst the recording is taking place.

So imagine in class, the children have been working hard writing a story. Usually, towards the end of the lesson you may ask the children to read their work aloud to the class. With Facebook Live, you could broadcast the children reading their writing aloud to your online global audience!

Have your TA capture and broadcast the science investigation you are doing in class with your class, encouraging pupils and parents to discuss what happened and what they found out.

The class assembly that the pupils have worked so hard on will know that their parents will be able to watch it live from their workplace. Any school performance, nativity play or talent show can be broadcast live and shared, meaning the children can go home and watch back what they have done when they are home.

When rain meant our sports day was cancelled, we managed to hold an impromptu sports day but had two year 6 pupils broadcast it live through Facebook for parents to watch:

Or if your school team are in a competition, keep parents up to date and involved in the action by broadcasting the match live on Facebook:

Or sharing a lovely activity, like when Year 5 were leading some football coaching with Reception children:

So the question is, how will you use this fantastic tool?

On my Facebook page, I regularly use Facebook Live videos to share new ideas, new apps, details of upcoming courses and generally give people the opportunity to ask questions and interact. Here is an example of a Live Video alongside Alan Peat:

Make sure you follow the Facebook Page to join in with other Facebook Live Broadcasts!


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Get Seesaw Plus for FREE!

I am very proud to announce that I am officially a Seesaw Ambassador! For well over a year, I have been sharing the fantastic ways in which Seesaw can be used in the classroom on lots of my CPD. I have dabbled with other similar apps like Google Classroom and Showbie, however, for me the simplicity of Seesaw has made it the one we have chosen to go with in my school. The impact from using Seesaw has been instant and as part of my CPD I share all the ways in which it can be used to help the 'working smarter, not harder' approach.

I have also benefited massively from the parents app as my children's school has also been using it and the discussion it has encouraged in our house has been amazing.

This year, I am continuing to share and build on the great things already happening with Seesaw. A perk of being an ambassador means I get the Seesaw Plus features for FREE! But I have found a way in which you can also get Seesaw Plus for FREE!

The cost for Seesaw Plus is around £90 a year per teacher. The Seesaw for Schools option has all the Seesaw Plus features included. 

Seesaw Plus allows teachers to evidence children's learning towards key skills/objectives.
Teachers using Seesaw for formative assessments can now tag their students' posts with their own set of skills or standards.

These skills are only visible to the teacher and allow teachers to give a star rating to relate to depth of understanding towards that particular skill.

Teachers also have the option to make notes and observations private.

You can get a three month FREE trial of Seesaw Plus and to extend that trial, all you need to do is open Seesaw, tap your name in the top left corner, tap the gear icon and then scan QR code:

If you scan one of these codes, you will get an extra month of Seesaw Plus for Free!

If you then tap 'share seesaw' you can share your QR code, for every person who scans your code you and them will get a month of Seesaw Plus. Which means you get three months free, plus a month for scanning the above QR code, then if you can get another 6 people to scan your QR code you will have all the features of Seesaw Plus for the next academic year for FREE!! 

Happy Days!

Monday, 5 September 2016

Let's Do Spelling From Andrew Brodie!

I have previously blogged about some of the great apps from the team at Andrew Brodie. The Let's Do Mental Maths and the Telling The Time apps are great consumer apps to use in the classroom. Now they have released the Let's Do Spelling Series with an app for every Year group from Year 1-6.

The apps are all tailored to the English Curriculum and has plenty of activities to help children develop their spelling.

With three different activities, including progress tests, the app is easy for children to navigate and use where they can challenge themselves to match their own ability. Their is even the option to create your own spelling lists and activities.

I really like the audio element and how each word is put into a sentence and read aloud before the student then spells the word.

The app uses the tried and test 'learn, write, check' approach in the practice section and each activity has three levels of difficulty. For a quick demo of some of the features, check out the video below:

15 things teachers dread about going back to school!