What has been happening?

So much has been happening recently that I thought  I would highlight some of the best resources that have been shared with me recently.

The first idea is from a school that is looking at writing instructions.  We decided to cook (and write) like Jamie Oliver and so looked for video clips that could be shown in school.  Here the Sainsbury’s advert for fishcakes gives a taste of what he is like.   When you read Jamie’s recipes it is the verb choice that really stands out.  Verbs that you might expect to find are cut, chop, slice, mix and pour.  What you find is something a little different, e.g. pile up, tear, chuck in, smear and glug.  These were in the Jamie Oliver in Italy.  For other recipes look here.  I like the introduction to each recipe.  These make a great model for children to use.  I’m looking forward to cooking in the style of Jamie!

Stories of the Dreaming is a wonderful Australian storytelling site.  After each video is a transcript of the story and a commenting section.  This would be a great way to introduce children to australian storytelling and commenting on sites.  Well worth a visit.

And finally, a word game to use with KS2.  DeepLeap the fast-paced time wasting word game.  The letters look like scrabble and children can call out the words they can see for you or another child to type in.  Let us know what your highest score is.  The Devon Primary ScITT trainees achieved 785.

Things to do with your new class

September is always such an exciting time, even more so if you start a new job.  It’s all there before you.  So what do you do with your class on the first few days?  Here are a few activities that I would like to use in the first few days with a new class but first a fantastic advert for back to school. 

Thanks to @turrean for sharing this.

  • I would definitely want the children to create a Museum Box about themselves to share with the class.  I know this is designed for historical study but it can be used for a whole variety of purposes.  You could make one about a book that you are sharing as a class or you could make it about yourself.  Text, images, sounds and video can be added.  The cubes could be family, hobbies, pets etc.  Much more fun than writing about your holiday.
  • Simile  of the Day Generator.  This does what it says and generates similes.  The challenge for children is to see if they really do work.  The one I am thinking about at the moment is ‘Happiness is like a vacuum cleaner.’  The questions is why?  Would some work better as metaphors and be extended?  Great fun to be had here.  Thanks @russeltarr for sharing this.
  • Thriller Whizz.  I wrote about this before the summer holiday. Great for playing with words. Thanks to @mrwarner and @timrylands for this one.
  • How about creating your own error message.  What would your computer say to you?


Thanks again to @timrylands  for this idea.

  • mustpopwords is quite an addictive little game.  Have it ready loaded to play so that you don’t have to run the risk of any adverts that might be inappropriate.  Children can shout out the words they see and you can type.  I’m afraid my highest score isn’t high enough to share!

What are your favourite activities to do with a new class?

English at the Crossroads

I recently read English at the Crossroads, OFSTED’s latest publication about English.  There are some  interesting statements about the use of ICT in English with the main thrust being that the most effective schools are the ones that  recognised  ICT had fundamentally altered reading and writing.  As technology changes so do the literacy needs of the children.

As we are just about to launch into a project focusing on boys and writing, these thoughts are particularly pertinent to us.  From the research into boys’ writing we have drawn out some common points that seem to have an effect upon their writing and then thought about the sorts of ICT that might support in that area.

Working collaboratively – tools that will support this way of working would be wikis, Etherpad, myWebspiration and Google docs.

Readers responding to writing, providing feedback blogging, use of a visualiser and email

Presenting work in different waysNews generator, Glogster, Prezi, Jing, Xtranormal and piclits.  There are also a growing number of sites where you can choose an image and incorporate your own text on it.  These would be useful for younger children who are writing captions or labels or children who will not write much.

Planning MyWebspirations, Photostory 3 and some 2Simple software such as 2Create or 2Create a Story

Bridging writing between home and school – blogs and wikis.

Writing as an expert – blogging, creating own wikipedia and creating own websites.  If you know of a safe, free place where children can create a website please let me know.

Retelling texts prior to writing Audacity, Gcast and digital dictaphones.

Note collecting Edmodo, Wallwisher, MyWebspiration and Evernote for older children.

Visual literacy – there are so many suggestions for creating books with images plus the use of film and computer games.  There is also the area of graphica and creating comics and cartoon strips online.

What have I missed out?

Linked posts: Digital Storytelling and blogging

SWGfL Regional ICT Conference 2009 – Torquay

I certainly had my horizons expanded today at the SWGfL ICT conference.  I particularly enjoyed hearing pupils talking about their use of ICT both at home and at school. Even the 15yr olds were surprised to hear the creative ways that the 10 yr olds had of getting around school filters! What became apparant was the way in which they were able to take content and  hardware and use it in ways which it was not designed for.  They all mentioned gaming as part of their home ICT use and PowerPoint as part of their school ICT use.

As well as presenting, I also took the opportunity to attend some of the other talks and joined in collecting great  resources that were shared.

Oscar Stringer showed how easy it was to animate with hue cameras (I am now the proud owner of a pink one) and I Can Animate.  There are some great animation resources on his site and on the SWGfL.

Another fantastic resource is EuroCreator, a moderated platform for teachers and pupils to share media.  This site will provide embed codes to share video and will therefore prevent those problems of not being able to access other well-known video hosting sites.

I was challenged by the use of ICT to engage parents in their children’s learning and started to clarify my thoughts about why we should be working online. I would love parents to have access to children’s ongoing work not just the presentation of completed outcomes.

I enjoyed seeing the ways in which Somerset have developed the use of visualisers in schools and some of the outcomes that they are seeing as a result.  The Visualiser Forum is a rich resource of ideas for using visualisers.

Thank youfor the opportunity to present and attend.

Read Tim Rylands’ post about the SWGfL ICT Conference in Bristol.


Kidderlit is a wonderful idea.  A website that sends you the first line of a children’s book every day.  What a collection!  You can choose how you are sent the line: twitter, Google Reader, widget on your igoogle page or just visiting the site.

What are your favourite opening lines? You could generate a class list to display in the library.  If you use Edmodo in your classroom this would be a fantastic way to share them.  It may even introduce children to new books to read.  As Kidderlit is an affiliate of Amazon, there is a link to click to see what the book is.

This collection allows for some great work in literacy.  Which is your favourite line and why?  Which one makes you want to find out what the book is and read it? They could be sorted into groups, e.g. those that are about settings, character’s behaviour  etc.  They provide a wonderful resource for considering sentence structure as there is such a variety here.

Many thanks to Susan Stephenson at The Book Chook for having a widget for Kidderlit on her blog.  I enjoyed it so much I got one of my own!

Update for SMART Lesson Activity Toolkit

I have to own up to using very few tools from the lesson activity toolkit in SMART notebook, so it was with interest that I read about an update for the lesson activity toolkit.

To access the update open up SMART notebook and then open the gallery.  At the side of the search box you will see a little spanner.  Click on that and then updates and finally lesson activity.

I particularly like the keyword pad and think that it has many uses in Literacy.  I have long been frustrated at how you had to deal with individual words or phrases if you wanted to isolate them to look at them in more detail. Well now I am not.  This means that text analysis is much easier.  To see an example of how this activity could be used, see the short video below. 

Using Keyword Pad from joy simpson on Vimeo.

Nearly 100 books for guided reading – NC levels 3 to 5

People often ask us for recommendations for books to use for guided reading so here is my top 100 list. This is a personal list and may well not contain your favourites.  Please add yours by leaving a comment.  The levels come from my experience of using the books with children and talking to teachers – you may feel differently about them.  Please let us know.

Level 3

  1. Meerkat Mail by Emily Gravett
  2. The Jolly Postman by the Ahlbergs
  3. I am the Mummy Heb-Nefert by Christina Bunting
  4. I is for India by Prodeepta Das (non-fiction)
  5. P is for Pakistan by Shazia Razzak and Prodeepta Das (non-fiction)
  6. Traction Man is Here by Mini Grey
  7. The Big Red Trouble by Carmen Harris
  8. Tadpole’s Promise by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
  9. Little Wolf’s Postbag by Ian Whybrow
  10. Mind Your Own Business by Michael Rosen (poetry)
  11. Amazon Diary: The Jungle Adventures of Alex Winters
  12. Shortcut by David Macaulay
  13. The Tunnel by Anthony Browne
  14. Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne
  15. Fair’s Fair by Leon Garfield
  16. Diary of a Killer Cat by Anne Fine
  17. Thomas and the Tinners by Jill Paton Walsh
  18. Who’s Been Sleeping in my Porridge by Colin McNaughton

Level 4

  1. Seasons Songs by Ted Hughes (poetry)
  2. Beowulf by Kevin Crossley-Holland
  3. Beauty and the Beast by Geraldine McCaughrean
  4. Rose Blanche by Roberto Innocento
  5. Way Home by Libby Hathorne and Gregory rogers
  6. Black and White by David Macaulay
  7. The Paradise Garden by Colin Thompson
  8. Anno’s Aesop by Mitsuma Anno
  9. Until I met Dudley: How everyday things really work by Roger McGough and Chris Riddell
  10. Outsiders by Kevin Crossley-Holland
  11. Watertower by Gary Crew
  12. Prowlpuss by Gina Wilson
  13. The Highway Man by Alfred Noyes and Charles Keeping
  14. Crack Another Yolk by John Foster (poetry)
  15. Great Estimations by Bruce Goldstein (non-fiction)
  16. Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
  17. the Owl Tree by Jenny Nimmo
  18. The Fib and Other Stories by George Layton
  19. Secret Freinds by Elizabeth Laird
  20. Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo
  21. George – Don’t Do That by Joyce Grenfell
  22. Varjak Paw by SF Said
  23. Heard it in the Playground by Allan Ahlberg (poetry)
  24. Wicked World by Benjamin Zephiniah (poetry)
  25. Blue John by Berlie Doherty
  26. The 18th Emergency by Betsy Byars
  27. Blabbermouth by Morris Gleitzman
  28. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Selina Hastings
  29. The Knight and the Loathly Lady by Selina Hastings
  30. Iron Man by Ted Hughes
  31. Eye of the Wolf by Baniel Pennac
  32. Mufarao’s Beautiful Daughters by Johhn Steptoe

Level 5

  1. Clockwork by Philip Pullman
  2. Zinder Zunder by Philip Ridley
  3. Safe From Harm by Rollo Armstrong
  4. Beware Beware by Susan Hill
  5. The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan
  6. Classic Poetry: An Illustrated Collection selected by Michael Rosen
  7. What is the Truth? by Ted Hughes
  8. The Cantebury Tales retold by Geraldine McCaughrean
  9. Holes by Louis Sacher
  10. Pig Heart Boy by Malorie Blackman
  11. Skellig by David Almond
  12. The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis (I’ve put it here for children to really understand this book)

Top 5 Online Collaboration Tools for Primary Children

I was asked earlier this week what my favourite online collaborative tool was and although I did suggest one, I didn’t really want to miss some others out.  So here are my top 5:

  1. Wikis – these are, I think, the most flexible tool of all.  They can  be used just for text but are best when images, video and podcasts are included.  Think wikipedia and then try out that model with your class.  Can you produce a page about a river in your area, an event that is happening, a period of history being studied, a story?
  2. Etherpad – this is a great tool for producing text that a group have collaborated on.  Etherpad will allow upto 8 people on at any one time.  Each person selects a colour so that writing can be identified.
  3. Voicethread – here images are put together and then comments can be recorded through speech or text.  There is an education section that schools and classrooms can sign up for.  Voicethread 4 Education is a fantastic wiki that shares how teachers have used Voicethread with examples as is Voice Thread Resources and Ideas.
  4. Blogs – although there is only one author usually on a blog, the collaboration here takes place between the writer and the readers of the blog.  The comments boxes are used to continue a discussion that the blogger has started.  Fantastic tools for developing children’s voice and allowing them to write about their own interests.
  5. Mind-mapping – I have been a fan of mind-mapping for some time and there are now online tools that allow you to map collaboratively.  MindMeister is currently my favourite one.  This tool allows you to invite others to collaborate on the mind-map and is so simple to use.  I use the free basic version but there is an academic version at a much reduced rate.  Please feel free to collaborate with me on the mind-map I am creating for a short talk on why children should blog.

The 2009 Horizon Reort: The K12 Edition discusses the reasons why collaboration is so important and also mentions some tools that have proved to be useful and reports about their use.  Well worth reading.

Linked posts: Collaborative Writing with Children and Collaborative Writing

Poetry Resources on the Web

Just a little something to start you off!

With thanks to Daniel Nestor for sharing.  What do teachers make? by Taylor Mali

The Children’s Poetry Archive – jam packed full of poems and poets but don’t neglect The Poetry Archive itself.  I love Langston Hughes’ poetry and have used it with Yr 6 pupils.  I particularly like the tours that they offer by poets and writers around the poems.  Each writer has identified some from the site and listed them with reasons for their choices.  What a fantastic model that would be.  To create a class set of poems digitally and then children produce their own tour of their favourite.  You could use JogThe Web to set up a tour of the poems.

The Poetry Zone – I particularly like the film of Roger Steven’s poem Words on the Home page.  This would be a great model to use with children.  The Teacher Zone is also full of great ideas and resources.

Michael Rosen – if you scroll right down the very long page you will come to a Poem called Words are Ours written by Michael for The National Year of Reading.  That’s two poems about words.  Maybe Words could be a theme for a unit of work on poetry.  But I think one of the best things on his site is him reading/reciting his poems from Hypnotiser which is now out of print.  Perfect for enjoyment and studying how to recite a poem.

Poetry Class – a site that is brimming with poems and ideas for teaching.  It hasn’t been updated to take into account the Renewed Framework but the ideas are still great.  The Poetry lesson section is a rich resource of ideas.

How to make a Poetry Friendly Classroom – Michael Rosen again as Children’s Laureate.  Watch the videos to help make a poetry friendly classroom.  These would also be good for supporting professional development meetings.  Which of these do you do in your classroom?

National Poetry Day October 8th 2009 – a website to bookmark so that you are ready for the event this year.  There are always lots of suggestions and ideas in the run-up to the day.

Poetry Resource Review on Teachers TV

And if you like reading poetry, how about a poem a day?

Other resources which linked to poetry:

Pie Corbett’s JumpStart! Poetry Writing book and a generic teaching sequence for a poetry unit of work

What are your favourite resources?

Great Video – Searching on the Internet

Teaching children how to search the internet is a skill that all need.  The great wealth of information means that is a necessity.  This video is a brilliant way of introducing searching to KS2 children to ensure that are effective from Lee Lefever at Commoncraft.


If you are looking for models of explanations to share with children, then Lee’s films fit the bill.  Write your next explanation on film.

 And now from Google, a great serach engine, KidRex,  that has been designed for children that has Google SafeSearch behind it to filter inappropriate sites.  Give it a go!

Other great videos for the literacy classroom: No Two People Read The Same Book