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Monday, 24 June 2013

Introducing Stop Start Animation with KS1

Thanks to the people over at @appsgonefree I stumbled across the app Easy Studio, a week or so ago. Usually £2.49, this app was free for a limited time and so like any teacher having to work on a budget, I snapped it up as soon as I could. Sometimes these apps can be hit and miss and I tend to only go for apps I have seen being used in the classroom. At the beginning of our iPad journey, I downloaded endless amounts of apps with some being a complete waste of time. Now I am much more selective and really need to see something in practice before considering rolling the app out to every iPad. This app, Easy Studio, is a real gem!

 The app is a stop start animation app using shapes. Children can create animations by creating shapes, photographing them, moving them, taking another photo and repeating the process so that when all the pictures are played in a sequence an animation is created. The app has two sections; an easy and expert mode. The reason that this app is fantastic for introducing stop start animation to KS1 children is that the tutorials in the easy section really help the children understand the process of creating stop start animations before they try something themselves. This video demonstrates how it looks:

The expert mode allows children to change the size of the shapes, rotate an group them with certain templates to create animals, vehicles and people. They can then photograph and move their shapes to create an animation.This proved a little tricky for some however with a little more guidance, most of the class were able to put a short animation together. 

The children absolutely loved using the app and were mesmorised at seeing their final product. It has given me a great platform to now further some more work looking at stop start animation. 

After using the app, it really opened my eyes to the potential of using this app in other ways throughout the curriculum. As the app using shapes to create the animations, it opens a lot of potential to using the app in Numeracy. A lot of discussion about names of shapes and using shapes to create pictures before then animating them. You could set challenges where the children create animations based on their knowledge of shapes. Create an animation of a square, triangle and semi circle moving, growing and rotating. Once exported, the children could then import the video into iMovie to then record themselves discussing the properties of that shape.  Here are some of the examples from a Year 1 class using the app today:

For some further examples of Stop Motion animation please click the links:

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Camouflage Learning - Remove the barrier of "Learning being boring!"

I have found I use iPads in two major ways within the classroom: as a tool to engage and as a tool to create. In most of the projects I have completed with the children this year, I have tried to combine both these elements to get the best work from the children. Firstly, using the iPad to provide a focus to use in lessons has had a massive impact as far as engaging children, motivating them and leading them into a "false sense of learning."

I recently attended and presented at a Speed Learning event as St Silas Primary in Liverpool. I provided a staff inset at the school where I shared different ideas of how I use the iPad to get the children engaged and then to create. I am always pleased to see some of those ideas being used. You can see the great work the school is producing on their school blog - It was during the keynote presentation from @digitalroadtrip at the start of the Speed Learning event that the phrase "Camouflage Learning," was introduced. The idea that children are learning by doing activities where they feel they are "playing" is something I am always trying to promote. It is the perfect way to get disengaged/reluctant learners on board and almost trick them into writing/reading/solving problems. Nothing sums this phrase up more than the work produced by children when the focus has been the iPad games they are obsessed with - Angry Birds and Temple Run. You can read the post here.

If you were to ask children what they had done in many of the lessons, some would say they had just played their favourite games, which to some extent is true. I usually had five minutes planned for children to play the game at the start or end of the lesson. However what some may miss telling you is that during the topic they learnt and created vocabulary word walls, character and setting descriptions, comics, stories, instructions, non chronological reports, game play recounts... the list is endless. Using these games as the stimulus and focus in class promotes that mantle of the expert philosophy too. Children are experts in these games, they know how to play, the different parts to the games and teachers can play the 'dummy' role adding more responsibility on the children to produce work which is written correctly, including all the right features. As the children know so much about the games it also means teachers can really focus on the features of a specific text. In the past I have taught non chronological reports about volcanoes, children then have to learn all the information about volcanoes on top of learning the features of the text. For some, it can be too much and focusing on all the information can mean features fall by the wayside.

Here are some of the examples of Camouflage Learning I have used with iPads:

To only use the iPad in this way however will never justify the huge expense of purchasing a class set. It will only have a limited impact on the children's learning as the real potential in these devices lies in the ability for children to find new ways to create and show their knowledge and understanding. As mentioned at the start by combining the engaging with the creating aspects can lead to some of the best work children will produce. I have seen first hand how these devices can support children with SEN and also stretch higher achievers to think more critically and creatively in order to complete tasks. 

Apps such as Explain Everything and Book Creator are redefining the way in which different tasks can be completed to incorporate different skills and promote creativity in a 21st Century Classroom. 

For me though, it all comes down to the teacher! An iPad will not improve you as a teacher, it will not turn you from a satisfactory teacher to an outstanding one. Teachers need to use the iPad in a way that will best fit into the dynamics of the class. Would I use Angry Birds to teach every literacy text genre? Of course not, however, if I know my class will respond well to using that as a focus, I will use it to get the children writing a set of instructions for example. If I feel the children will best demonstrate the objectives of the lesson by creating animations, videos, comics on the iPad then children will use the iPad to prove their understanding of that objective. 

I would like to state that in all my teaching using the iPad, I have never taught an iPad lesson, I teach lessons using the iPad as a vehicle to enhance learning in that particular subject. Camouflage learning is an approach I have seen work in my teaching. The iPad can be a great tool to use to promote this strategy but I must emphasise it is by no way the only way to use these devices.

If you feel camouflage learning is something that your school would benefit from and would like an inset/training on how the iPad can be used in this way, please visit here to learn about training I can provide.

Simulation games - a school trip without the Risk Assessment!

When I was younger, I was an avid fan of simulation games. From Championship Manager to Sim City and from Tamagotchi to Theme Hospital. Many hours spent immersing myself in these fantasy worlds. Imagine my delight when I stumbled across an app of one of my old favourites - Theme Park. 

Theme Park allows you to run and build your own theme park, adding rides and different attractions to make money and keep customers happy. As always I looked at this game thinking of ways to use it in class to engage the children - following the idea of Camouflage Learning.
The app is free however lures you into those dreaded in app purchases, so making sure these are disabled is a must. The app allows you to build your park in very small steps over days or even weeks. I didn't really allow the children play the game as it is intended, instead used the Master Theme Park that the children can roam around and see all the different parts, rides and attractions. As a focus for Year 3 we used the app to produce some writing. The children were glued to the screen as they wandered around this fantasy Theme Park. I asked them to take photos of different rides they thought they would like to go on if they visited this Theme Park. 

Using some of the pictures I decided to ask the children to make some posters for the Theme Park, generating their own name for the Park as well as names for the rides. We discussed how we would need different themes for the park and catchy names, usually using alliteration along an adjective to exaggerate the ride. Using the app Pic Collage the children created their posters - here are some examples:

This was a great opportunity for children to look at the effect of using alliteration but also how effective certain adjectives are.

The next lesson we looked at making persuasive adverts for our Theme parks, using our posters and continuing to develop our use of exaggerated vocabulary to make the rides sounds better than they may actually be. Using iMovie trailers the children used screenshots from the app as well as videos of themselves looking like they were at the park or even on the ride. 

Theme Park Persuasive advert from Davyhulme Primary School on Vimeo.

With another class we looked at writing a recount imagining we visited this park. We discussed what rides we would go on and why? How would we feel before and contrast this with the feeling after. The children then planned their recounts before writing them up on Book Creator. Children could then add pictures and sound recordings of themselves on a ride or use to sound for differentiation so that children could record themselves orally retelling their recounts rather than type them out. Here are a couple of screenshots of the children's recounts:

Other ideas to be explored:

This app can link to different learning activities across the curriculum here are some suggestions - 
  • @SimonHaughton has a scheme linking theme parks with spreadsheets and numeracy - you can download his planning here.
  • Use the app iRollercoaster and let children write a description of being on a rollercoaster focusing on the senses/fantastics.
  • Write a letter to the council suggesting they build a theme park in your town. 
  • Use this as a tool to debate whether it would be a good/bad idea. Put the children in role as different parties - homeowners, Councillors, theme park owners and let them look at reasons for/against.
  • Use Google Maps to look at other Theme Parks around the world. Fill in a world map, find out where the oldest/biggest/most expensive roller coasters are. Let the children discuss which theme park they would like to visit and why?
  • Let the children design their own rollercoaster, what would it be called? What would it look like?
  • Create an investigation looking into the angle and height a toy car needs to be released from to complete a loop the loop.
  • Look into the history of Theme Parks, where was the first? How have Rollercoasters and rides evolved over time?
  • Contact a rollercoaster designer through Twitter and see if you could Skype and interview them.
Theme Park is just one of many simulation games you could use in the classroom, here are a couple of others that are very similar and could provide other learning opportunities:

  • Tap Zoo - Build your own zoo.
  • Jurassic Park Builder - Build your own Jurassic Park, would be great with a dinosaur topic.
  • MineCraft - Build and create your own houses and mansions - there is a LOT of potential with this game and one I will be investigating more over the next few weeks.
  • Megapolis - Build and run your own city, great links with Geography and local environments.
  • The Sims - Live as a virtual character - this has a 12+ rating so will not be appropriate for Primary children.
  • Design this Home - Children can build their own home, adding all the different elements - would link lovely with persuasive texts.
  • Search on iTunes for Simulation Games and there are tonnes of similar apps with different themes, however I cannot guarantee the quality of these apps. 
I just want to say I am in no way suggesting these apps should replace a school trip. School trips are a necessary enrichment experience all children should have throughout their school lives. I thoroughly believe the more hands on learning experiences children have, the better. If you can actually get to a real Theme Park, the children would learn much more than using this app. This is just a substitute to use as a tool to link topics together which may promote the camouflage learning approach.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Some fun with Shakespeare!!!!

I love Shakespeare! From first performing and learning it at school, I have enjoyed many of his sonnets and plays. As a primary school teacher, I often wish that the curriculum had more Shakespeare in it. I have dabbled before with some of his work, for the Year 5 Narrative Unit 4 - Older Literature I covered Romeo and Juliet with some amazing results. The children absolutely loved it! We also did a school production for Year 5 which was a modern twist on A Midsummer Night's Dream, again with fantastic results.

I know that Shakespeare is covered at Secondary school but I don't see any harm in children familiarising themselves with some of his work and having fun with some of the older Shakespearean language at Primary. Most teachers may feel that the older language would really tricky for the children to understand but here is how you can overcome that in a enjoyable and engaging way.

I came across this idea after stumbling on the twitter profile of @Shakespearesong. An account which rewrites current lyrics of songs as if they were the works of Shakespeare. WARNING - a lot of these tweets are not appropriate for children and have to be carefully chosen if they are to be shared with your class but here is an example:

"Put your hands up for Detroit,"

I have had lots of laughs reading these tweets and trying to work out the songs. It made me think about how I could introduce Shakespeare in this way using examples that the children are more comfortable with. Year 5 children may not be able to translate a monologue from Macbeth but they could maybe translate a One Direction or Justin Bieber lyric???

Using some of these examples or even making up your own would be a really engaging and enjoyable way to introduce some of the typical Shakespearean language used in all his works. When the children have worked with some current examples, they will be more inclined to try with some real examples. This then led me to then come across the app "Shakespeare Translator," this app allows you to translate text, useful phrases, famous quotes or lyrics and give it a Shakespearean twist. It also includes a glossary of Shakespearean words and phrases with a modern day translation . Here is a screenshot:

iPhone Screenshot 1 

Using this app you could have a lot of fun in the classroom, children could turn their favourite songs into a 16th Century lyric. Or even remake some of their favourite scenes from recent movies with a Shakespearean twist, you could use the Dropbox trick to help with this. Here is an example I made with my stepson just playing with the Shakespeare translator app and iMovie (importing the video and recording ourselves over it,) using a new script and remaking a scene from Finding Nemo - Shakespeare Version. 

This approach will gently introduce children to some of the easier translations of Shakespeare and hopefully enthuse them to approach Shakespeare with a new and more positive outlook. The translations may not be 100% accurate however children will soon pick up what words such as 'hath,' 'thee' and 'doth' mean which will come in very useful when they study Shakespeare in a lot more detail as they go into secondary school.