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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

When learning is real, learning matters!

For me, learning should always be memorable. To do this, teachers should try to provide a real purpose behind everything the children are learning about in class. On my training, I try to show how technology can provide that purpose which can enrich learning and make it memorable. When recently working with Jon Chippendall (@DrChips_) we were discussing how computational thinking can be applied in other areas of the curriculum and I went away with some amazing ideas. 

With Year 3, we were using the brilliant app Motion Math Pizza to apply our maths knowledge in a real world context.

Seeing how engaged the children were with this app, I wanted to look at using it in English. I posed the question - if we were to open our own Pizzeria, what would be the most cost-effective way to get people to visit our shop? We had a few suggestions - posters, TV adverts etc, all of which cost money. One child suggested creating a webpage, so using the iPad the children created their own websites for their Pizza shops. They used the free and brilliant app - Adobe Slate. I have previously blogged about the app here.  You can read one of the children's examples here.

With my other Year 3 group, I wanted to take this idea one step further. Each week, I work with a Year 3 group of children and am currently trialling the use of Seesaw for oral feedback and flipped learning. I will be blogging about this soon. We have been doing lots of narrative writing based on Star Wars and so focused on non-fiction with this idea. 

Making a website for their own virtual business is one thing but how would the children react if they were challenged to create a website for a REAL business? I decided to contact as many local takeaways, restaurants and delicatessens to see if they would like a website created by the children. I was so happy when our local deli, The Deli, in Davyhulme responded saying they were interested in HIRING the children to create a website for their shop. The reaction from the children was incredible, the excitement and sense of responsibility led to some amazing writing. Their writing had a real purpose and so writing mattered to the children! 
Each child wrote their own persuasive advert for the Deli. The next week, once I had orally marked their work and they had then acted upon that feedback, they came together to design the website.

The fantastic book - The Ultimate Guide to Non-Fiction by Mat Sullivan and Alan Peat was such a valuable resource to help with constructing the children's texts.

I loved how focused the children were when it came to using their writing to build and design the website. The discussion, concentration and determination from the children was so inspiring! (Please be aware we had a fundraiser at school the day we made the website so that explains why the children are in their pyjamas!)

The finished site was sent to the team at The Deli and this was their response - 

The website is now being regularly promoted and shared on the social media pages and has its own web address, so please take a look. Please leave the children a comment and share to further help inspire the children with their learning!

This week also created an persuasive YouTube advert for the shop too -

 A massive thank you to the team at The Deli for giving the children this opportunity! It has been such an amazing project and the children have had such a memorable time writing for a real purpose and having their work used, share and publicised for a REAL business!

If you would like to find out more about how technology can be used to provide a purpose with all the children's learning, read details of all the courses Mr P will be leading by clicking here. 

Monday, 22 February 2016

Guided Reading through Music - Fast Car by Tracy Chapman

Music is such an incredibly powerful tool in the classroom. I have previously blogged plenty of ideas about using music in the classroom. A few months ago, along with John Murray, I blogged about using the song 'Wasn't Expecting That' by Jamie Lawson as a stimulus in class. You can read it here. Another song in the charts currently that could be used in the same way is the remake of Fast Car, originally performed by Tracey Chapman. A song that has an interesting story to discuss. Here is the original -

Here is the version currently in the charts by Jonas Blue Feat Dakota

Here are the lyrics and some questions to consider -

You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Any place is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we'll make something
Me myself I got nothing to prove

  • Who do you think the singer is speaking to?
  • Is the singer happy? How do you know?
  • What do you think the deal is?
  • Why do you think they repeatedly use the word maybe? Why is this word effective?
  • Any place is better than where? 
You got a fast car
I got a plan to get us out of here
I've been working at the convenience store
Managed to save just a little bit of money
Won't have to drive too far
Just 'cross the border and into the city
You and I can both get jobs
And finally see what it means to be living

  • What is the plan?
  • What is a convenience store? Why do you think the singer wants to leave?
  • Where do they want to go? 
  • Where do you think they live now?
  • Why do they want to go to the city?
  • What job do you think they want?
See my old man's got a problem
He lives with the bottle that's the way it is
He says his body's too old for working
His body's too young to look like his
My mama went off and left him
She wanted more from life than he could give
I said somebody's got to take care of him
So I quit school and that's what I did

  • What is the problem with the singer's Dad?
  • How old do you think he is?
  • How old do you think he looks? Why do you think this?
  • Why did the Mum leave? 
  • What sacrifices did this make the singer make?
  • How do you think the singer feels towards these sacrifices?
  • Why does the singer want to escape?
You got a fast car
Is it fast enough so we can fly away?
We gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way

So remember when we were driving driving in your car
Speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

  • What does the fast car symbolise?
  • How has the singer's desire to leave change? 
  • Why is the singer now presenting an ultimatum? 
  • How does the singer feel in the car?
  • Why does she feel this way?
  • Where have they travelled to? 
  • What does 'round mean? Why has it been written like this?
  • Why has the word 'someone' been repeated?
You got a fast car
We go cruising, entertain ourselves
You still ain't got a job
And I work in a market as a checkout girl
I know things will get better
You'll find work and I'll get promoted
We'll move out of the shelter
Buy a bigger house and live in the suburbs

  • Has life in the city changed? If so, how?
  • Is it better or worse? Why do you think this?
  • Where do they live? 
  • Do you think the singer is hopeful? How do you know?
You got a fast car

I got a job that pays all our bills
You stay out drinking late at the bar
See more of your friends than you do of your kids
I'd always hoped for better
Thought maybe together you and me find it
I got no plans I ain't going nowhere
So take your fast car and keep on driving 

  • Do you think the singer is male or female?
  • What has changed?
  • What other words can we use to describe the singer? Is she still hopeful? Is she still hopeful towards her partner?
  • What can we infer about the partner? How is he different to the singer?
  • What does the last line mean? What decision has the singer made? Why do you think this has happened? 
  • How does this reflect what happened to her own parents? 
You got a fast car
Is it fast enough so you can fly away?
You gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way

  • Why has this verse changed from 'we' to 'you'?
Reflections on the whole song -
  • Do you think the song is positive or negative?
  • Do you think the singer's dreams of city life was all it lived up to be?
  • Did the singers hopeful attitude change as the song progressed?
  • What do you think the meaning of the song is?
  • What does the fast car symbolise?

I think it is a really interesting activity to take something the children are interested - a song, and deconstruct the message and ideas behind it. As a song, it will also have some poetic features that you can discuss such as rhythm and rhyme. With this song, however, it is the discussion behind the story and the message it tries to portray that intrigues me.

I would be interested to know what your children think. There are two sides to every story, so what would the partner have to say. What would his story show??? 

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Google Apps for Education - The beginning of our journey!

I always say Technology should do two things for teachers - save them time and money. The way we have implemented iPads, social media and blogging in our school has definitely achieved this. The problem is that we are using a whole range of apps and tools -
  • Blogging - PrimaryBlogger
  • Planning - Evernote
  • Saving/Sharing work on iPads- Dropbox
  • Saving documents on laptops - School Server
  • School Email - Outlook 365
To name but a few. Ideally, we want a system that can cover most if not all of these elements making it easy and straight forwards for teachers... step forward - Google Apps for Education.
We have been very fortunate to work alongside Mark Allen (@edintheclouds) who is supporting us in our journey with Google Apps for Edu. Having first-hand experience in deploying Google Apps for Edu in a number of schools worldwide has helped us create a vision and plan rolling it out successfully. 

Firstly, we have started by focussing on the teachers. We are still in the very early stages, however, staff are excited about the potential with these tools. Some benefits that stand out to me -
  • Unlimited Google Drive Space - Once your schools is set up, you have unlimited Google Drive space meaning anything on your school server can now be transferred to Google Drive meaning teachers don't need to be at school to access documents, plans etc.
  • Virtual Staffroom - We have built a Google Site that has an announcement board and calendar. Again, it is accessible from anywhere meaning teachers can find out what's happening without needing to be in school.
  • Email and the ease of sharing and collaborating on documents - Google gives you access to their equivalent to office tools - docs, slides, numbers etc and these can be easily shared with staff. 
  • No more printing planning! Planning can now all be stored on Google Drive, saving money and then can be accessed on any device a teacher has - phone, tablet computer. If you are still printing planning for it to be handed in and checked each week, you're doing it wrong, planning can be stored on the drive and accessed by the powers that be. It is also worth mentioning Ofsted have also said:
 'Ofsted does not specify how planning should be set out, the length of time it should take or the amount of detail it should contain. Inspectors are interested in the effectiveness of planning rather than the form it takes.'
  • Most apps are available on every device - need to make a note on my planning, I can do that on my phone, iPad, Chromebook or laptop at home!
As you can see, the benefits for schools and teachers are amazing but I've not even mentioned the best part! It is all completely FREE!!! You don't need to pay a penny! 

The plan is to get teachers using the tools initially and then looking at the Google Classroom feature. That too looks great, however, my only reservation is that it encourages more typed up assignments and pieces of work, which I feel would suit secondary schools more. The fact is, even though I don't agree, handwriting still has a big part to play in Primary School assessments -

Children cannot get to greater depth in writing without neat, cursive handwriting. Now I could get into a big discussion about how I feel this doesn't make you a good writer and isn't necessarily an important skill to have in this modern digital world we live in but I won't. Just have a read of how Finland, one of the leading countries in Education is tackling the situation. No, I will resist the urge to show examples of handwriting of some famous authors as to prove that point 

We will give it a go and see, so I will probably blog again in the future once we have trialed some more of the Google tools including the Classroom feature! 

For any schools interested in getting Google Apps for Education set up for their school, drop Mark an email -

Monday, 8 February 2016

More Emotional Literacy... The Present

With all the work I do with John Murray, we really try to promote this idea of Emotional Literacy. Using stories and texts that help children empathise and understand different feelings and emotions. This video is another great example to discuss in class, thanks to Gill for sharing...

Questions to consider -

Watch the first 20 seconds.

  • How old is the boy?
  • What time of day is it?
  • What is his hobby? 
  • What type of video game is he playing? How do you know?
  • Why do you think he is playing a war game?
  • How are we shown he is engaged in the game? Wide eyes, dark room.
Pause at 30 seconds.
  • Which character has now entered?
  • How do we know she is his Mum? Greets with 'Hey Sweetie!'
  • Why doesn't the boy greet his Mum?
Pause at 50 seconds.
  • What impression do we get about Mum? Why do you think she is so busy?
  • What do you think the present is? 
  • Why has the boy stopped playing the game?
Pause at 1 minute.
  • Why has the Mum got the boy a dog?
  • What is the boy's initial reaction? 
  • How do we know?
Pause at 1 minute 25 seconds
  • How has the boy's reaction changed?
  • Why?
  • Do you think this is fair?
  • What words can you think to describe the boy based on his reaction?
  • Would you react in the same way? Why?
Pause at 2 minute 15 seconds
  • Do you like the dog? Why?
  • How does it react to being different? 
  • Does the dog's condition stop him in any way?
  • How does the dog's action change the boy's feelings?
  • How does the dog feel towards the boy? How do you know?
Watch the rest of the film
  • What have we now learnt about the boy? 
  • Why has the creator only revealed this at the end?
  • What effect does it have? Would that have been the same if we knew at the beginning?
  • Consider some of the questions asked earlier about why the boy is playing video games and the boys initial reaction to the dog? Have our answers changed? Can we understand why he dismissed the dog initally?
  • Why do we think the Mum bought the dog now? Has that changed? Has the present done what Mum wanted it to do?
  • Why do you think the dog inspired the boy to leave and play outside?
  • Do we like this video? Why?
You can then share this video of a real life example bond between boy and dog -

Ask the children what is similar between the two videos? How do the videos make them feel and  how does it make them think about themselves and each other?

I think this would make for a brilliant PSHCE session and would love to hear how you use these ideas in class. 

Independent Writing - Some Thoughts

So today saw the STA release exemplification materials for 2016 KS1 and KS2 Writing Teacher Assessments. If you haven't yet had a look, click the following pictures -

I think the one thing a lot of teachers will be wondering is what does an independent write look like?

Here is some info from Herts for Learning -

A couple of points that caught my eye -

The writing that children produce and that moderators will look at should be part of their normal classroom practice.  Writing ‘tests’ and ‘cold tasks’ are not the best writing to use to assess writing as children will not produce their best work in these situations.  Children working like ‘real writers’ is best practice – children’s writing that is produced at the end of a unit of work may be used as children may be using working walls, success criteria or other scaffolding but they are choosing how to apply the things they have been taught.  Discussion of ideas and immersion in vocabulary is all part of good teaching.  Directly copying from modelled writing or heavily scaffolded writing would not be considered independent. 

Children CAN use dictionaries when writing independently as this is in the Programmes of Study and is part of normal writing practice.  Children still have to make the decision to refer to the resource.  However, electronic aids that provide correct spellings are not allowed.

Children editing and making improvements to their writing are a key part of the National Curriculum.  This includes responding to feedback (teacher or peer) as long as the advice is generic and not specific, e.g. ‘have a think about the adjectives you’ve used’ is ok but ‘change that word to something more interesting’ is not ok.
This sounds fair to me, I think what is important in stressing is that modelling writing and shared/guided writing is still incredibly important and should be happening. However, when it comes to an independent write, children should be encouraged to apply what they have learnt from previous sessions and not be given a list of sentences they HAVE to include. 

Also, cold tasks can still happen, I find them useful at the start of a unit to see what they children already know, this can then inform planning and help focus on what children need to practise in the build up to their independent writing. Cold tasks or test style writing sessions don't or shouldn't be used as assessed independent pieces.  

As far as editing and redrafting, this visual shared by @ICTEvangelist on twitter could be useful -

It links a lot to discussions I have with schools about implementing Alan Peat and Mat Sullivan's Exciting Sentence approach. I love the exciting sentences and it really does improve writing when it is used in the right way. Sometimes, I come across schools and teachers who teach the construction of the sentences but don't teach the 'when to use' and 'why to use' each sentence and so children are filling stories with as many different sentences types without considering the effect they have on the reader. This is something both myself and Alan will be discussing on our upcoming joint conferences.

Alan has written a blog post about the exciting sentence approach and making sure it is used with caution. I recommend reading it to make sure you are not falling into the trap of misusing the sentences - Exciting Sentences - a word of caution

I would love to hear what you think about the publications today, you can vote on this twitter poll-

Sunday, 7 February 2016

More adventures with Barnaby Bear!

My children are currently in reception, each week one member of the class has to look after the class teddy, Barnaby, for the weekend. They document the weekend in a book with pictures and information about their adventures. What I want to make sure happens is that the child is involved in this process as much as possible, rather than me as a parent doing it all! When Harry brought the bear home earlier this year, we used a couple of apps to enhance what was in the book -

You can read more about what we did by clicking this link

This week, Charlie brought the bear home, again I wanted him involved as much as possible in filling the book up and so he created a video of all the pictures from the weekend along with a video of Barnaby talking through his adventures! Charlie loved it! We used Chatterkids and iMovie. He was so proud of what he created and can't wait to show his teacher and class mates! Although my wife still filled in the book, using technology gave Charlie the opportunity to tell the story of his weekend in a way he couldn't possibly do on paper. Here is his video -

We had Barnaby bear again this weekend! This time it was Charlie's turn! See how we've used technology so Charlie can tell the story of his weekend! Read more here -
Posted by ICT with Mr P - Tech to Raise Standards on Sunday, 7 February 2016

Friday, 5 February 2016

Using Technology to Bring Handa's Surprise to Life!

Year 1's topic this half term has been Fruitastic! I have previously blogged some ideas linked to the science aspect of this topic, which you can read here. I loved the interactive fruit bowl image they made using funny movie maker and Thinglink -

As with most of our topics, we try to find as many links to stories and books that we then explore in English! The book linked with Fruitastic is Handa's Surprise. Over the past few weeks, I have been exploring how technology can help enrich the children's learning and deepen their understanding of the story.

The first task after reading the story was to create a movie of the book. So in groups of 8-10 the children were taken to our media suite and had to plan and perform the story. It was a great way to see what they could remember of the story but also how well they could work together to record a film. As the teacher, I became an observer and let the children discuss how, who and what will happen. I was amazed at their enthusiasm and will to complete the task. In our school Media Suite, there is a huge space for GreenScreen -

I love using greenscreen, the ability to create stunning visuals similar to a Hollywood studio with just a green background and the brilliant Doink Greenscreen is such a powerful tool in the classroom. Once the children had recorded their films (I helped hold the iPad) they could then orally record themselves retelling the story. This is where I really tried to encourage the children to explore other words and phrases instead of just repeating the story. 
  • Can you think of another way to describe the fruit?
  • What words can be used to describe the animal?
  • How did the animal take the fruit? 
Posing these questions and then allowing the children to record themselves retell their own versions of the story was not only a great way of showing our understanding of the story but then led straight into the children creating their own stories. Here are some of the children's examples - 

As you can see the technology has been used in a way to really enhance and transform the learning that children would have done if we looked at creating something on paper. 

This week, we have been thinking about the animals and inferring why they had taken the fruits from Handa. We had a great discussion thinking about reasons why they may have taken the fruits. I was so impressed with the children's thoughts. How they looked at the descriptions of fruits as the reason - for example, one boy commented that the Ostrich couldn't resist the sweet smell of the Guava. Others focused on the features of the animal, another children said 'the Elephant wanted the fruit because it was soft and they don't have sharp teeth.' Some thought about their own experiences - 'the monkey was hungry, no not just hungry, starving!' My favourite had to be the reason for the Parrot - 'Maybe he had the fruit but dropped it and couldn't find it anywhere until it saw Handa's basket!' - AMAZING!

To collect all these amazing ideas, the children used the app ChatterKids to record ideas and responses as the animals. Here are their efforts - 

Again, the technology is being used as a tool for children to creatively share their ideas, thoughts and understanding! These two ideas using Doink Greenscreen and Chatterkids could easily be used with any other story or book. With KS1 classes, I tend to start working in groups having the activity as a carousel over a week as the children build their confidence in being creators with the iPad, we look at more whole class activities. 

If you feel your school would benefit from training with Mr P, please visit this link to find out what Mr P can offer, now taking booking for Academic Year 2016/2017

Improving Reading and Writing Through Popular Children's Movies and Media - Gateshead, 25th January 2016

Thank you to everyone who came to the course in Gateshead. John and I had a great day sharing ideas and strategies to improve reading and writing through a 'textcentric' approach in the classroom. We want to say a massive thank you to every teacher who attended, we hope you all found it useful and thanks so much for the wonderful feedback!

I want to say a special thank you to Animate2Educate and @eLearning_Laura for all their help spreading the word with the course! I will be back in the North East in April leading the 'Developing Writing in the Modern Classroom' conference with Alan Peat. I am also very excited about returning for this year's Animate2Educate conference and presenting alongside some amazing teachers! I am also leading a training day for the North Tyneside trust in June so please follow the links for more information.

34 Evaluations

33 Rated the Content as Excellent
33 Rated the Delivery of the Speakers as Excellent
1 Rated the Content as Good
1 Rated the Delivery of the Speakers as Good


An incredible day! A wonderful way to make sure visual media is used with the right pedagogical approach. This WILL raise standards in our school! 
An inspirational day with ideas that can be used practically in the classroom to give children an exciting and memorable learning experience. 
Fantastic ideas and approaches, I've really enjoyed today and I 'm looking forward to trying out your ideas and sharing them with colleagues. 
Again, brilliant CPD! Third time hearing Lee and second time seeing John and it is never boring or repetitive. Great ideas yet again! 
Very informative. Lots of great ideas that I know I will use with my class. I want to do all your courses now! 
A great day! The best CPD I think I have ever had! 
Good mixture between, take back to school ideas and information and learning that underpin the approach.  
Excellent content and delivery. I would advise anyone who needs help planning literacy to come to this course. 
Loads of really innovative ideas to share in school, things I would never have even thought of doing. Cant wait to get back to school to try some of the suggestions. 
 Content was really inspirational and made me think about teaching writing/reading differently. A great day - thank you! 
Very informative - lots of ideas to take away. Really enjoyed - thanks! 
Good to see the possibilities with different types of media. Thank you! 
Great course with super ideas! 
A fantastic help! 
Great ideas on how to engage and enthuse my class. 
Another motivational and inspiring delivery from Mr P. Lots more ideas to take back to school. Contextualised SPaG from John was a new and interesting approach. 
Good mix of resources shared. 
Both speakers inspiring by their enthusiasm and passion for the subjects. Encouraging individual approach to teaching in the classroom. 
Incredibly useful ideas that I cannot wait to implement into my teaching.
Excellent course - feel very inspired!
Interesting and excellent ideas, looking forward to using them in my class.   
Really clear, helpful explanations about how the ideas can help children to learn. Fab day thank you :) 
Totally inspiring day! Cant wait to go back and try some ideas in the classroom. Thanks so much! :) 
It was brilliant! 
An excellent day - lots of ideas to take back to school. Inspiring! 
Lots of ideas to take away with me - great balance of delivery and application. Thank you! 
Fantastic, inspiring new ways to teach English and develop digital literacy approch.
Excellent speakers, very engaging!
Very enthusiastic and passionate!  
Very enjoyable - made me awareof lots of opportunities around us for writing. Thank you!
Enjoy Mr P!
We are excited to bring this conference to York, Peterborough and Gwent, South Wales later this academic year!

Please watch the following video and fill the form at the bottom to book a place! 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Raising Standards in Writing Using Technology - Norwich - Wednesday 27th January 2016

Thank you to everyone who came to my course last week in Norwich - Raising Standards in Writing Using Technology. I had a great time sharing ideas and strategies to engage, inspire and enhance learning in the classroom. I hope you all found it useful and I am so grateful for all the wonderful feedback!

17 Evaluations

17 Rated the Content as Excellent
17 Rated the Delivery of the Speaker as Excellent


Thank you - most inspiring training I have ever been on by far! :)
Great day - probably the best inset and use of my CPD time I've ever had! :)
A fantastic course. Most useful course I have been on! Thank you :) 
Very inspiring, creative and imaginative. Full of ideas, which I look forward to trying.
So much information, lots of ideas and resources to take back to school to share and inspire others.
Found today really inspiring!!
A really enjoyable day, so many ideas to take back to school from someone that doesnt use ICT enough. Loved it, many thanks for a great day :) 
Enthusiastic and inspiring. The passion really comes across which has really inspired me to use more technology in the classromm for things other than research.
Excellent content and delivered from somebody who practices what they are delivering, which makes it much more relatable. Excellent day and well worth the money. A must for all schools!
Fantastic knowledge and explanation of ideas. Has made me want to try lots of new exciting things. A brilliant course that has made me want to try a new approach to improving my year 5/6 writing! Excellent!
This was a fantastic course - completely inspired. Many many thanks!
Lots of practical uses for technology to support not replace writing in the classroom with examples of how it has already been successful in a classroom. Lots to go away with and think about!
Thanks for coming all this way to Norfolk - today has been invaluable! 
Very entertaining. Shared lots of relevant ideas, backed up with links to Ofsted and NC. Great to see with only a few apps, what is possible and what it achieves. Thank you really enjoyable day!
Love the way Lee trials so many of his ideas and technologies in his school and then shares so enthusiastically.
Absolutely fantastic, feel really inspired. Love the blog, going away with loads of ideas!
An amazing, engaging day with loads of ideas I want to implement in my school.
Fantastic range of ideas and apps to use in the real classroom. Very inspirational :)
Genuinely inspired. I will definitely be going away and applying a lot of the content to my teaching. Thanks - thoroughly impressed!
So enthusiastic, amazing practical ideas that would be easy to use but make a big difference to engagement.  
 Excellent course, thoroughly inspired!

Mr P will be bringing this course to Blackpool in June. For more information and to book a place, click the image below -