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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Story telling through the iTunes Charts!

Have you ever thought about why social media sites such as twitter are so popular and enjoyable? Why one of the quickest growing social media site is based on videos no longer than 6 seconds? One reason is because of the constraints they enforce. These constraints challenge us daily to be creative, experiment and play with language with amazing results. Most tweachers, without realising it, are constantly playing with words, phrases and sentences when constructing their tweets. One hundred and forty characters is sometimes not enough but that is the beauty of twitter, get your message across with that constraint. Sometimes I ask my children to do the same - sum up a book, evaluate a lesson/learning, tell me about your weekend in no more than 140 characters. It doesn't seem like much, but is a challenge that encourages children to think about language.

Sometimes less is more - take the wonderful 100 word challenge website. It is a perfect length to showcase writing but again provides a constraint in that children have to be concise, choose words effectively and with purpose.

Some of the most creative web videos I have seen recently have come from Vine. A website/app that only allows people to create videos that are 6 seconds in length. On paper sounds ridiculous, how would that be popular? entertaining? Yet this constraint has produced some of the most creative videos I have seen lately. Click for some examples. Again there is no reason why this can't be set as a task with children - create a 6 second video to sum up a book, poem, lesson!

I am always trying to challenge children with their writing by adding constraints. It challenges them, engages them but most of all gets them playing, experimenting and discussing words and language. My favourite resource for this is Alan Peat's book - 50 ways to retell a Story. This book provides 50 different and challenging ways to tell a story, most by adding a constraint.

Today, I tried a new type of constraint which really challenged the children but also got them excited about their writing. I came across this picture a while ago on facebook which sparked this idea:

After investigating further, I came across this story and shared it with the class, I told them there was a secret theme running through the story, they had to be detectives and try and work out the hidden secret -
The challenge for the children was to then retell a familiar story by using vocabulary from a hidden theme, they could use chocolate bars, confectionary, shop names, famous people's surnames or the most popular choice song titles. To help generate ideas, they used the iTunes chart of music singles. 
From this, they had to sneakily drop as many songs in their story, making sure it makes sense and still retells the familiar story. It was a real challenge for some, however it had the whole class talking and playing with language and that was the aim. The challenge inspired some; others loved the humour it generated. While not all finished stories were perfect, I enjoyed walking round and listening to some of the children's discussion around their story. Here is one example, see how many popular songs they managed to sneakily drop in:

Red Riding Hood 
First of all,my mum had to WAKE ME UP for me to go to Grandma’s house. I set off riding my DARK HORSE ,I felt like a MILLION POUND GIRL: the sun was shining , birds are tweeting , EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! I saw the ROYAL’S palace and I could hear TRUMPETS. On my journey, while I was daydreaming and COUNTING STARS, I got lost. If I LOSE MYSELF TONIGHT, I thought, I would be WAITING ALL NIGHT! WHAT NOW? 
All of a sudden I heard a DIBBY DIBBY SOUND ,a voice said “HEY BROTHER, why are you CRYING FOR NO REASON?" 
“I’m sorry I’d RATHER BE on my own, I’m going to my grandma’s to STAY THE NIGHT.” Little did I know the wolf was a MONSTER and one of the  DEMONS... OF THE NIGHT. Sneakily, he got to Grandma’s first, she was POWERLESS and the wolf gobbled her up faster than a TSUNAMI, this is the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE! The wolf thought. 
I arrived at the door unlocked, I shouted Grandma but all was silent "Grandma SAY SOMETHING,” I shouted. 
“MY LOVE” a peculiar voice came from the bedroom. I walked in, "are you ok?" 
”I’m not really FEELING MYSELF” my Gran responded. 
"Why what big eyes and ears you have” I exclaimed 
"GOODNESS GRACIOUS, LET IT GO," said Grandma, “I’ve had enough on my plate today,” said Grandma (or so she called herself.)
With a loud ROAR the wolf jumped out at me “don’t eat ALL OF ME” I said.
At that moment a woodcutter arrived “TIMBER” he cried and cut the wolf open and releasing Grandma. ” THANK YOU,” We both said.And that was the STORY OF MY LIFE!

For some other examples of stories children created please visit our blog. What I would love to see are any other efforts from other classes and children, creating stories with hidden themes throughout. If this inspires you to try it with your class, please tweet or post a link in the comments for all to see.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Using Disney Films for Geography!

Last week I came across a tweet sharing this picture:

I thought it would be a brilliant way for children to learn about the location of different countries around the world. 

Before we looked at the map, I asked the class to list as many animated Disney films (excluding Pixar) as they could think of. We shared some of our ideas and discussed the origins of some of these stories. Some were books, others fairy tales, legends or folk tales. 

This gave us a link with Literacy to discuss different types of stories, how most films are derived from written texts and also looking at some famous authors.
We also talked about whether they could remember where in the world the film was set. 

I then shared the map with the children and gave them time to look and see whether they knew any of the countries themselves. They had to make estimated guesses as to where they thought each film was set.

After they had had a go at trying the name all the countries, they then were able to choose from a few iPad apps such as globe or google maps to locate the exact location of each film. As a differentiation tool - some found countries; others states or towns.

It gave the children a nice way to link some of their favourite films and deepen their understanding of names and locations of countries around the world! A lovely little lesson!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Marius the Giraffe - A Tragic Story!

I was shocked and appalled this week to read about poor Marius, the 2 year old Giraffe, who has been put down at Copenhagen Zoo.

For some links about the story -

I have had first hand experience of how powerful the internet can be to share children's writing and when linked to a real issue, the impact can be incredible. Read all about the work my class did based around the film Blackfish - Click here.

This is another issue where I feel, given the information, children can produce some thought provoking and passionate writing about a real issue.

Granted, it won't save poor Marius, who has now met his untimely death, but some of the children's writing may make other Zoos reconsider in the future.

With it being internet safety day this week, I think this could be something that shows how far and wide a project like this can spread. This is what I would encourage you to do:
  • Share the story with your class, ask them how they feel about it? Is it right/wrong? 
  • Ask them to list some for/against reasons.
  • Share some tweets by searching #marius or Copenhagen Zoo. Use tweets as quotes in their writing.
  • Explain to the children how blogging can share children's work with a worldwide audience. 
  • Suggest that children should write a blog post about their thoughts on this issue, this could be as a persuasive text, discussion, letter to Copenhagen Zoo.
  • Publish it on your blog and paste a link below, if you don't blog - take a photo and link it as a tweet:

If you need a book to link with this issue try 'Zoo," by Anthony Browne, also have a look at the app Pocket Zoo - see a post about the app here.

I will try and tweet as many people to comment and share all the writing produced on this topic. I am hoping a class maybe able to contact and Skype with a Zoo to discuss this issue.

I think it is important to note that the reason for using this as a focus in class has nothing to do with my personal opinion on the issue. In fact, I wouldn't even share my view with a class. Instead I would present arguments for both sides and allow children to make their own minds up. The real reason for using this issue is that when children have an opinion on something REAL, the chances are their writing will reflect this. They will be more inclined to produce quality writing regardless of their opinion, knowing it is linked to a current news topic and being aware their efforts will be read by a global audience once published on a blog.

Here are some videos made by Year 5 children, using the app Tellagami to discuss the issue:

Year 5 share their opinion on #Marius the Giraffe. from Davyhulme Primary School on Vimeo.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Minecraft Maths

It is a simple fact.... children LOVE Minecraft!

Knowing this fact, I have used the app to inspire some writing before Christmas - Read all about it here.

The potential with this app is amazing! It isn't the typical game, children can be as imaginative and creative as they can build pretty much anything.

When I originally wrote the first post about using Minecraft, I noted some ideas for how it can be used right across the curriculum. Using Padlet, I created this:

There are probably endless other activities that could be linked to the game. Today I used one idea from the Numeracy list, using the game to help develop children's understanding of Area and Perimeter. 

Minecraft allows children to build and construct pretty much anything by planting different types of cubes or blocks. I told the children that these cubes are 1cm x 1cm x 1cm. Using the blocks the children could create shapes. I asked them to create a range of squares and rectangles of different sizes. 

I then asked them to take a screenshot of their shapes and import them into Pic Collage. They then had to use their image to help them work out the Perimeter and Area. Most of them were able to use the formula but just to check they could count all the smaller squares to work out the area. It certainly captured the imagination of the class and is just the start of so many different possibilities of using using this app to further develop understanding of shape and space as well as other numeracy topics.

Here were some of the children's finished efforts:

See more examples from the Class blog here -