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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

An interactive Advent Calendar

Today with Year 1 and 2, we created our own digital Advent Calendars!

After discussing the idea behind Advent, I explained to the children that we would be making a digital Advent Calendar and one that everyone can use and enjoy.

We started by discussing what could be behind each door on our calendar. As a class, we decided to share some facts we knew about Christmas. Children were given time to come up with as many facts about everything to do with Christmas. We then listed these on the board.

Using Pic Collage, the children then created a picture with all the numbers needed for the countdown to Christmas.

Once they had created their picture, they saved this to the camera roll.

The children then opened the app, ThingLink, which is a free app and web tool that makes your images interactive. There is so much potential to this app in many areas of the curriculum, and I have used this previously here and here.

From the iPad app, children can add text or videos on top of their image. This can then be clicked or pressed when published to reveal the embedded media.

So the children filmed each other sharing some fun and interesting facts about Christmas. Here is an example the class created, but REMEMBER, don't press on the number until that date!

This is just one lesson in Mr P's eBook - The 12 iPad lessons of Christmas, buy your copy for half price NOW!

Was £3 now £1.50

Once you purchase, you will be taken to a webpage to download a copy. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Edublogs Nominations 2013


This is the first time I have nominated but here it goes:

  • Best ed tech / resource sharing blog - ICT Magic

Friday, 22 November 2013

MineCraft to Inspire Writing - The beginning...

If you manage time within the endless bombardment of assessments and data to actually talk to the children in your class, they will probably chat non stop about MineCraft.

I have to quote my stepson for the easiest definition of what it is, to which he sarcastically commented, "Well you can mine and you can craft things!" He is borderline obsessed, when I asked him to elaborate further, I was astounded at how rich his enthusiasm and willing to talk about this game.

Personally I don't get it, but I soon realised that I don't need to. As a teacher, I just need to know it will get my class engaged and can be used to inspire writing. After a quick tutorial from my stepson and trawling through some great websites about minecraft in the classroom, I soon realised the unbelievable potential with this game. Some of the best ideas I have come across have come from @thecommonpeople and he has a long list of ways to use minecraft in the classroom on his Youtube channel, including this, which could be a fantastic story telling tool:

The tool used to create these story paths isn't yet available on the iPad app yet.

As far as a programming tool it seems incredible and there are plenty of teachers using it, including @sezzyann72, in this way but I really want to focus on how it can be used to inspire writing and other curriculum areas.

Engaging reluctant writers is always a challenge and I constantly look at new and exciting ways in which I can get children on board and writing. MineCraft could be the best tool  to inspire writing mainly because it has endless possibilities and children can decide exactly what they will do with it. It is an open platform that just needs a teacher with a valid challenge and the outcomes will be astounding.

I decided to try it with a Year 5 class, as I was still getting my head round the game, it was more of a trial lesson however one of the most fascinating afternoons of my year so far.

The class gasped in disbelief when I explained we would be using Minecraft in class. The game they spend hours on at home, they would be able to apply their expert knowledge and skill to the classroom. There were some children who hadn't played, I made it quite clear that my knowledge was limited but children relished in the opportunity to coach and teach others.

Within the iPad app, children can create one of two types of games - creative and survival. If the iPads are connected to the internet, one child can create a game and others (around 5) can join that game. So within creative mode, 5 children can all be working together to complete a challenge. So the challenge to start was fairly simple, but challenging all the same. Can the children build and design a model of the classroom. At first I was thinking school but I thought if we started small we could extend. The challenge for the children was trying to be creative in the way they designed parts of the classroom using the different blocks and materials.

I was left speechless by how engaged the class were and how determined they worked to create their replicas of the classroom. I was also amazed at the language and talk that was going on between the children - it was truly incredible.

At the end of the lesson, I asked the children to come to the front of the class, link their iPad to my laptop using AirServer and discuss their classrooms, which I recorded using a screen capture tool. This was where I linked it with Literacy - Speaking and Listening - how well could the children explain and describe their efforts.

Here is the children's efforts:

The next steps? Knowing that the children can produce a replica of their classroom, could they then design their dream classroom? What would be in it and why? Could they then write a guide to their dream classroom? 
Could I give the children a description of a room or setting and ask them to recreate it using their deduction and inference skills? Could they think about a character and after learning about their personality and design a house for them and explain their choices? Just as I type away more and more ideas pop in my head.

For more ideas and examples of how Minecraft has been used in Literacy and Numeracy see @MattPEducation's blog -

I have put together a quick mindmap of some ideas linked to minecraft. I will hopefully continue to try some of these ideas, but if you feel inspired and want to try these yourself, please send me a link and I will add it to this post.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

More useful Twitter accounts to use in the Classroom

A few months ago, I wrote an article looking at how certain accounts on twitter are fantastic for providing amazing pictures that can be used to spark creative writing, discussion and other useful activities in class. To read the post - click here.

To make it easier to keep an eye on all these accounts I have created a twitter list which you can subscribe to here - Media in The Classroom.

None of these accounts are ran by teachers or people working within education, so you cannot always guarantee that they will post material appropriate for the classroom, so always find pictures you want to use in your own time without children present in case there are tweets they shouldn't see.

Since writing the original post I have found other twitter accounts that provide some simply spectacular pictures that can be used in so many different ways in the classroom. Here are some examples:


This account provides hundreds of great pictures similar to the one above of places that have been deserted by humanity. As far as finding an amazing setting for a story or just for some descriptive writing there are so many to choose from this account. Using the picture above, the children could imagine waking up one morning to see this scene out of the window - what could have happened? What could have caused this? What sort of mood do we feel looking at this picture? How can we create an atmosphere through describing this setting?
For some useful ideas on improving locational writing please have a read of this great article by Alan Peat - Making Setting Effective.

@AnimalMashups / @AnimalEdits

These two very amusing accounts provide pictures where two different animals have been mixed together to create a new, often hilarious looking, animal. The pictures look very realistic and open the door to some really interesting descriptive writing. Children could choose one of the hybrid animals and describe it, think about features of the two animals it has come from and write a non chronological report about where it lives, what it eats, how it catches food and how it hides from predators. The children can be really creative about writing a profile for each of these animals and it links brilliantly with Science topics looking at habitats and adaptation.


The account 'Pics with a story,' provides some intriguing pictures with a heartfelt and often inspiring story linked to it. These provide the basis for some great discussions within class linking to PSHCE topics but can also be used as a stimulus for writing. Take the example above, what a great way to show children that sometimes it is more important to help others than to think about their own materialistic needs. After some discussion with the children, you could ask them to write their own letter to Santa asking for something other than presents. This could be help for someone they know, or link it to an issue in the news, basically getting them to think about helping others less fortunate than themselves.


I absolutely love this account for the pictures it provides where it mixes older pictures within current day pictures. Quite a few link to war and show how places have changed since it has been destroyed because of war. A great point for discussion leading up to Remembrance Sunday. I think it is a brilliant way for children to contrast and compare the pictures and the differences between the two generations. This could then link to work interviewing Grandparents and learning more about life in the past. To continue this further, children could then use a new feature on Google Earth - Historical Imagery. Where children can compare the satellite views from the past to present and just see how different the landscape in certain places has changed. They can even look at their own house and street and see the difference from when Google Earth was first released. For more famous landmarks the images can go back as far as 1945. For most local streets you can compare todays satellite pictures with those from 2000, which is still before Primary School children were born and may not be a massive difference in time but just comparing my own street is was amazing to see how many houses have had extensions and gardens changed.

These are just 3 of the newer accounts I have stumbled across and added to the twitter list. Remember you can subscribe to that list by visiting this link - MEDIA IN THE CLASSROOM. If you have any other accounts that you feel may fit in with this list please tweet or comment on this post.