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Thursday, 19 February 2015

Decorating my house with Augmented Reality

To say I am a fan of Augmented Reality is an understatement! I feel it is a very powerful tool to enhance and transform learning in many ways, from inspiring writing to sharing and displaying children's work.

You can read some of my previous posts on Augmented Reality here -

Augmented Reality in the classroom

Using Augmented Reality to inspire Augmented Reality

Can Augmented Reality improve Writing?

Mr P is abducted by Aliens!

Interactive Reading Display

Multimedia Digital Stories

Giving Children Super Powers

After months of worrying and stress, we have finally bought our first family home. This half term we have taken baby steps in decorating our house and decorated one wall as a way to keep memories of all our precious holidays abroad -

We bought a world map wall sticker and framed a picture from every holiday we have been on since we met. Obviously it is a work in process and hopefully we will be able to add more to it over the years. 

I felt that one picture wasn't enough and wanted to link more pictures of each holiday to this and so used Augmented Reality through the app Aurasma. I created a private channel and linked Flipagram videos of each holiday with some music to each framed picture that is now the trigger image. 

I can share my private channel with family and will be able to continue to add a video to each picture we put on the wall in the future. 

Using my mobile or any mobile that has Aurasma and a link to the channel is able to scan the trigger image and watch the video of other pictures from the holiday with a song that takes us back to that time. 

So if I am ever having a bad day, I can just scan one of the pictures and reminisce about wonderful places and amazing memories we have created.

Here is what it all looks like -  

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

More Disney in the Classroom!

This lesson was inspired by a recent trip the see the incredible theatre production of Lion King in Manchester. After chatting to John Murray, he told me about a lesson he has done based on the Lion King.

I have previously blogged about using Disney in the classroom, you can read it here.

The following is what we did with his lesson. John Murray visited our school last year and delivered some reading training. I was extremely impressed and immediately brought him on board with the Literacy Shed. I would not advise schools to invest in training with someone I didn't highly recommend myself. John is the author of the fantastic "Reading Explorers" book series, which is having a BIG impact in our school. His training is practical, accessible, engaging and his ideas work in the classroom. As you will see from the following lesson we did today!

Show this picture of Mufassa and Scar.

 Who do they think the King is and who is the villain? Why do they think this? What attributes might each character have? Tell them one lion is called ‘Scar’ and one ‘Mufassa’. How do you think they got their names? Why does Mufassa not have a name we recognise? (An African name for an African lion)
Introduce the picture of Simba -

Who do they think he is? What is his place in terms of royal lineage? What would need to happen for Scar to become King? What do you think Scar will do to become King? Why would he need to make this look like an accident?

Share this clip -

 Use this as a stimulus to develop Emotional Literacy. How does each character feel at certain points in this scene? How do their actions show this? Would we feel and act in the same way? Why? Why not?

Share the speech Scar makes to the rest of the pride - 

Mufasa's death was a terrible tragedy; but to lose Simba, who had barely begun to live... For me it is a deep personal loss. So it is with a heavy heart that I assume the throne. Yet, out of the ashes of this tragedy, we shall rise to greet the dawning of a new era... in which lion and hyena come together, in a great and glorious future! 

Use the questions to explore the speech -

1. Highlight the word ‘tragedy’. What do you think this word means? On a scale of 1-5, how strong do you think this word is? Why?

2. Can you think of a real life tragedy in the news recently? What was it? Why was this event tragic?

3. Why do you think Scar uses this word twice?

4. Scar uses alliteration several times in this speech. Can you remember what ‘alliteration’ is? There are four examples of alliteration in this speech. Can you spot them?

5. What do you think the phrase ‘heavy heart’ means? Is it positive or negative? Why do you think this?

6. This speech can be split into two parts. The first part is sad and sombre, the other is more optimistic. Where are the two different parts of this speech? Colour them in two different colours.

7. How would you speak the first part? Think about how fast you speak: does your voice rise or fall? How might you act out your sadness when speaking these words?

8. Why do you think the writer has included an ellipses in this section? What might Scar do when he gets to this part? Why?

9. What word begins the second half of this speech?

10. How might your voice change when reading this part? Why?

11. Scar uses a very strong image of the breaking of a dawn to show the start of ‘a new era’. What do you the word ‘era’ means? Is it a short or long time period?

12. Why do you think he describes this new era as coming ‘out of the ashes’? What do you think this phrase means?

13. Why do you think Scar uses an ellipses in this part of his speech? Is it for the same or a different reason than previously? Why do you think this?

14. Throughout the speech there are several words that need to be stressed so that they help deliver a punch to the listener and will be remembered. Circle some words and phrases that you think you will need to stress when you deliver this speech. Compare your ideas with a partner. Did they choose the same words as you? Why might this be?

15. Why do you think Scar ends his speech with an exclamation mark?

Why is Scar’s first speech to the pride so important? Why must he lie about how he feels?

Read the speech out to the class in a monotone, without any tone or stressing any words or pausing for emphasis.  Ask them if this was well read. Why not?

How could we improve it? Look at commas and underline particular words and phrases you’d like to stress and emphasise. Let them take ownership of which words and phrases these are. Talk about: pitch, power, pace and volume.

Tell the children they are going to be Scar and take them into the Hall to practice in pairs and small groups reading out loud to each other. Put a ‘scar’ on them like Scar to help get in character. How can we use our voice, body actions and eye contact to bring this speech alive?

How might we learn this speech so that we don’t have to hold our speech? Should we write notes on our speech to help us when we are reading out loud? Why is this a good idea?

Once the drama session is over, show them Scar’s speech clip. Compare their speech with that of Jeremy Irons (which is a little rushed). Use this as a stimulus to write own speech.

I used these ideas with the two classes I worked with today. Year 5 looked at all the Authorial Intent Questions using Explain Everything. I created a presentation with the speech and all the questions and asked children to orally record themselves discussing the text using the prompts. Here are some of their efforts - 

With the Year 4 class we looked at improving the speech. The children edited and wrote their own versions - 

They then practised performing their speeches and bring it to life using their voices and adding actions. They were encouraged to really think about how to gain the trust of the rest of the pride and win them round. Here are some of their efforts recorded on iMovie, played alongside the original clip -

The lessons were fantastic and the children were so engaged using a stimulus they were familiar and confident with. The range of literacy skills developed during the sessions were amazing and tick so many boxes! And this is just one lesson idea from the fantastic John Murray, so please look at his website and consider getting some top drawer reading and spelling training from him!

We also discussed how the Lion King is very similar to Hamlet. Again this can be explored further -

Hamlion - Common Narratives in Hamlet and the Lion King
by Wildyles.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Using Virtual Reality in the Classroom!

I recently purchased a Google Cardboard Virtual Reality headset. Placing your smartphone into the headset and loading a compatible app, the lenses create an impressive and rich 3D environment.

Most compatible apps are available on Android, as the concept for this headset was created by Google. There are however a few iPhone apps and YouTube videos you can use on your iPhone. Possibly the best app for the headset on iPhone is - Dive City Coaster.

And this is what we used in class today to inspire some writing. Today I was working with a Year 2 class and I asked them if they had every been to a theme park before? We then discussed what we find at a theme park. Once we identified Rollercoasters as a feature, I asked how many have been on. Of course no-one had, as they are too young. However I told them today they are virtually going to ride a rollercoaster.

Before children immersed themselves in the rollercoasters, we discussed why people ride them and why they are popular. We listed words to describe how we may feel before riding:

  • Scared
  • Terrified
  • Nervous
  • Anxious
  • Petrified
I then pushed this further to see how the children would show they were feeling this way. How would you show you were nervous? They replied with ideas such as -
  • Red face
  • Trembling lips
  • Biting their lips
  • Butterflies in their stomachs
  • Sweaty, clammy hands
  • Dry mouth
  • Lump in their throat.
I then allowed them to ride the virtual rollercoaster - 

We then used a combination of some shared writing, linked with Slow Writing and Alan Peat and Mat Sullivan's exciting sentences to write a paragraph of tension as we ventured on our rollercoasters!

Here is some of their writing -

As we only had one headset, I needed to find an alternative that would help children immerse themselves in the environment as much as possible. This is where I can across 360 Videos. These apps showcase impressive video clips recorded by special cameras that are able to capture a full 360 degree angle. The apps allow the user to move around by moving their device. To give you a taste of what it would look like here is an example from the im360 app (just press your mouse and scroll to see a full 360 of the film) -

Using the app 360 Video, children were able to ride the Saw from Thorpe Park - see a similar version here.

Other apps similar to this are - Spherevision, The Chase, Avet 3D virtual tour and Kolor Eyes. All of them provide some incredible 360 videos for children to explore. They can visit different locations around the world, fly a plane, ski, the possibilities are endless! And as you have seen can inspire some incredible writing or topic work.

A couple of my favourites as alternatives to the rollercoasters have to be these from the Kolor Eyes app (again, move your mouse to rotate the video.) So many possibilities for writing, including first person recounts, locational descriptions, so many possibilities -

The rollercoaster VR could easily link in with this project from another blog post. 

Please email, tweet or comment if you use any of these ideas, would love to see how other teachers use them, just as always, remember to give a little shout out to where the initial inspiration came from. If this idea is something you think would benefit your students, Mr P can provide training for staff looking at ways to use technology to inspire, engage and enhance learning. See more details here -

Monday, 9 February 2015

Dino Tales! Immerse children in a Dinosaur filled world!

From the creators of the great app, Hakitzu, comes this new and impressive app - Dino Tales. This fantastic prehistoric environment will have children hooked as they navigate and explore this dino invested landscape. Filled with different challenges, children will love using this app as a stimulus for topic and literacy work and is sure to get them engaged and inspired with their learning! Watch the video below to see the app in action!

I know many classes use Dinosaurs as a topic and this app would fit nicely as children will learn all about different dinosaurs while playing this impressive 3D game.

What I love about this app is the clear links with literacy. Children building up questions to ask to find out more about Dinosaurs to then writing their own storybook, recounting the gameplay. The parent tools allow you to control how long the gameplay is meaning you can keep it to a short snappy task before using it as a stimulus for more writing.

You can download a copy of the app - HERE

Or we have some FREE Promo Codes up for grabs on my Facebook Page -

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Interviewing the "Big Bad" Wolf

One of the best writing opportunities when looking at traditional fairytales is writing alternative stories from different points of view. Using the children's knowledge of the original story but trying a put a creative spin by looking at a different side.

There are a couple of videos that can help with this, including -

Which would be great for KS2. Today I was working with KS1 so decided to use this as our starting point - 

A great little video that provides a fine example of a traditional tale told from a different perspective. We discussed the video - the wolf's reasons, whether we believed him or not and whether if this was the true story would have been as interesting/memorable. To test the children's understanding, I asked them to interview the wolf using an app on the iPad. 

There are plenty of apps that allow children to take a photo and animate it. Morfo booth is a favourite, but today we used another. Yakit Kids allows you to animate a picture by adding animated facial features, recording your voice and adding other effects. It also allows you to add in different scenes so you can create a conversation. The only negative to this app is that a video can only be 15 seconds long. It is a fantastic way to have have more fun in a cartoon style of creation. It is also very accessible for KS1 children. 
Using the app, children thought of questions they wanted to ask the wolf and recorded themselves but made some slight adjustments to their faces. They then recorded the reply as the wolf. 

It was a fun, engaging way for the children to put themselves in another character's shoes and justify the wolf's actions. This app can be used in so many different ways and what is best about it, is that it is completely free! Here are some of the children's efforts - 


I can’t think of two more appropriate words to describe First Class Maths than curious and challenging. It’s been designed to truly stretch the most able primary mathematicians, and also to captivate the imagination of these young learners. I believe it fulfils the vision of mastery within mathematics, giving children the opportunity to apply learning in deep and non-standard contexts.

The resource is comprised of 24 tasks, from extended mathematical problems to complicated logic puzzles. The tasks are quirky, designed to surprise and intrigue as much as to challenge and extend. For example, one task asks the question ‘What percentage of the water in the pool is inside of the bodies of the swimmers?’

Here are some snippets from a range of the tasks. Each card starts with a context-based prompt. ‘The Supernest’ task, for example, explores number systems with different bases by bringing to life an argument between insects who count on their legs:

The children are then presented with an extended challenge. In ‘The Solar Panel Decision’ they have to work out how long it will take for an investment in solar panels to save a company money. In ‘Tickets for Sumo’, the children will need to manipulate formulas and reason mathematically in order to calculate the cost of the tickets. Then, in the ‘Words of Wisdom’ task, they must decipher the phrase that is represented by each of the 12 graphs.

On the back of each task is some information or hints and tips that relate to the task itself. This may be an interesting fact, some advice on completing the task or an extension to the task.

First Class Maths is a resource that will fire the imaginations of many young mathematicians. I’m delighted that it is now on sale, courtesy of Alan Peat ltd. Also, a massive thank you has to go to Amy Doobar for her outstanding design work. Well done Amy!

First Class Maths can be purchased from the following page:

Having seen first hand how challenging and engaging Gareth's resources are, First Class Maths is a MUST for KS2 classroom! 

Monday, 2 February 2015

Enhancing Speaking and Listening in EYFS

I have been working in Nursery over the past few weeks. I have been looking at ways in which the iPads can be used to help enhance learning in the EYFS classroom. We have been focusing on using the iPads to help children develop their speaking and listening skills. Here are a couple of the activities we have done:

Children created a fact sheet all about polar bears, using the app Thinglink, we then recorded children sharing their facts and linking these to make an interactive fact poster -


Last week the children were learning all about the story - The Three Little Pigs! They listened to the story and using some talk for writing techniques were learning to retell it. To help with this, we used the iPads to turn the children into the characters from the story. Using the app 'Animal Face,' children took a picture of themselves and added features to transform them into one of the three little pigs or the big bad wolf.

Here is an animoto slideshow we made of the children's pictures -

We then used these pictures to record the children as the characters. To do this we used the app Chatterpix Kids. This app involves adding a picture and drawing a line across the character's mouth and then recording audio for up to 30 seconds. 

This app is great for the EYFS classroom and is easier for children to use over similar apps such as Morfo, iFunFace and Funny Movie Maker.

Below are some of their efforts:

Using a similar idea we have transformed children into their future selves using a fotobooth app. 

I have also done other iPad lessons based on the Three Little Pigs, including these Interactive Comics made using Thinglink, Read more about this lesson here.

Keep your eye out for more ideas we will be using in EYFS over the next few weeks!

Mr Parkinson can provide INSET and training for teachers looking to utilise technology to enhance learning across the curriculum - more details here. 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

A Fun Alternative to Bookmarking - Guest Post by Alex Jones

Bookmarks have long been a tool that people have used to keep track of the items that are the most important to them. Unfortunately, bookmarks are very manual and after you have saved one, they can sometimes be difficult to recall especially if you have a lot of them.
Not only do you have to be on the same computer that the bookmark was saved on, but you are also not able to share these bookmarks with others. In the teaching world, there can be a great benefit when teachers are able to share particular items with other teachers as well as students and their parents.
Treycent has been designed to help with this issue. You first upload links to your favorite documents, presentations and video to the website ( These items can then be recalled using any mobile browser or your Google Chrome desktop browser.
This means that teachers will no longer have a difficult time uploading presentations to a device other than their computer. They can also share them easily with their students and other teachers! With simple voice command, the teacher will not even need a keyboard to recall the crucial information.
So, what is the benefit in this system? Other than the fact that you can easily share the information with others, you will find that it is a great time saving device and its a lot of fun too.
Setting up the system is easy as well. You will simply create the voice command that you wish to use and attach the URL for the document. Tip: if you want to reuse the voice command, simply change the URL and keep the voice command unchanged.
Another benefit of this system is that you will be able to share your voice commands with other teachers and students as well and they will be able to view your content. Treycent is a fantastic program that will help you to save time and give you more tools to share vital information with others.

This demo video shows how it works: