Archive for October, 2007

Baytree Special school – sun, sea, surf, sand and sensory surprises.

| October 31, 2007 | 0 Comments 

I say it often, but I truly am A LUCKY MAN.
I visited Baytree Special school, in Weston-super-Mare, again today for a sensory session with a large group of children across the age range that the school caters for.

The aim was to use a computer generated landscape as the foundation for a sensory experience. After a meeting with the teaching staff, a few weeks ago, we decided to take the students on a “virtual beach trip”

I didn’t know quite what to expect from the session and confess to feeling something I don’t feel very often: nervous.

I shouldn’t have been. The staff at Baytree are an incredible bunch. They all made a massive effort to give the children an immersive experience in the environment that we visited.

We had every kind of beach-y, nautical, holiday article imaginable. Shells, sand sea-weed (some green, some a deep, rich, sink-into-it brown, the most gorgeous colour I know!) sun hats, water, driftwood, stuffed dolphins, crabs, turtles, towels… you name it, we had it! Fans and hair driers did a great job of impersonating warm, dry coastal breezes. Rocks and pebbles provided some amazing contrasting textures.

What surprised me was the genuine progression and change that occurred between the beginning and the end of the session.

One lad surprised us by using some quite developed vocabulary when he doesn’t normally communicate so readily. For example, we were making sand castles and after Tricia, his key worker had tapped one out of the bucket he said “I am going to make another, bigger one” Tricia and I were quite startled how expressive he had become.

He was also very perceptive about what was generating the images on the whiteboard and the sound effects of wind and waves within the room. When he had discovered my laptop, we spent a little time exploring “up” and “down” and how the arrows on the keyboard were having an effect on whether we looking at the sand or into the sky. His responses, and the way that he manipulated the image showed real, bright thought. A delight to share. That mum was happily surprised at his use of language was also very pleasing.

All of the children, and there were quite a lot of them in the session, seemed to show real delight in the experience, from pouring sand from different heights (and even describing the feeling of it running through you fingers, “cool” and “watery”) through to stroking the gorgeous shining sea-weed.

Thank you to all of the staff: Shelley, Caroline, Ann, Maria, Stephanie, Andrea, Tricia, Laura, Angela, Barbara, Angie and Evelyn for making the session go … swimmingly!
Well done to Adam, Millie, Jack, Maisie, Jamie, Jake, Mollie, Ethan, Ciaran, Lewis, and Liam. It was great to spend time with you in the sunshine.

There were smiles galore through the whole session, one of the biggest being on my face! That smile was wiped off when it came down to clearing up the mess though!


Thanks to all and see you tomorrow for some more.

If you want to see how ICT and sensory stories can be mixed to great effect and with rich humour, visit the master of such things, the wonderful Pete Wells. Pete, another BECTA Award Winner, has been described as the Johnny Vegas of education. This belittles the man’s skills at inspiring children of all abilities but does portray some of his wit behind the wisdom. Visit Pete’s site HERE


| October 30, 2007 | 0 Comments 

Well done to the children of Eccleston Mere Primary and Oakdene school. As teacher, Karen Pickthall commented “It was so moving to see the genuine enthusiasm of a little boy who is usually very reluctant to speak. The children really appeared to come ‘alive’ and completely engaged with the learning experience.”
Enjoy! (It may be difficult to pick out in places, but I think the children did incredibly well, and in a very short space of time.)

Monkston Primary School Milton Keynes

| October 29, 2007 | 9 Comments 

The first of a couple of trips to Milton Keynes. Firstly to Monkston Primary School
Monkston Primary School is a community school proud to be part of the developing area of Monkston and Monkston Park. It places a lot of emphasis on effective use of ICT and has received a couple of awards in recognition of this.

The school first opened in September 2001 as Monkston Combined School. In September 2005 it became known as Monkston Primary School. With 420 places, two classes in each year group, it boasts “a range of facilities each designed to promote quality learning for all children.” It is a very well designed and attractive school.

The school is also rightly proud of a living ‘Sedum‘ roof which changes colour with the seasons and acts as a “Green Roof”

I really enjoyed working with a really warm-spirited, open, imaginative, and humorous set of staff, from TAs and teachers to volunteers, on developing some ideas for inspiring writing and visual literacy.

Well done and thank you to head, Tom Winter and deputy head Phil Webster, for organising a really fun time.

I had a quick glimpse of Milton Keynes’ most famous inhabitants, the concrete cows, constructed in 1978 by community artist Liz Leyh with the help of local school children using scrap materials.

Just for the fun of it, here are a few silly cow links: Cow noughts and crosses, a cow “in and out” game for simple science, and Cowhtello, a twist on the game of Orthello to play on a whiteboard.

I promised a few folk I would link to some ideas for simple “non seasonal” DT.

Here’s fun site with some free nets of 3-D models to print and make. (Click on the model)

Thinking out of the (x)Box: Gaming to expand horizons in creative writing

| October 28, 2007 | 1 Comment 

Thank you to Ewan McIntosh for the reference to the findings of Aberdeen Myst Project.

The project seems to have been a great success and has been well documented and recorded, including interviews with some of the teachers involved. I am glad to have been part of the experience and look forward to a return trip, to extend ideas further, in April next year.

For those who might ask “Looks good but… does it work?” read Ewan’s summary and thoughts HERE or explore the Aberdeen Games Based Learning case study HERE

Ewan keeps an excellent, informative and authoritative blog, and wins my prize for the most regularly updated and maintained site. Well worth a look.

Last sail of the season

| October 28, 2007 | 2 Comments 

Like Prof Heppell I love sailing. As Stephen shared with me at BETT in January, it is the joy of beating the wind and harnessing it to help you explore.

I enjoyed a last sail of the year with my dad and my daughter, Ellie.

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A thoroughly relaxing time. Amazing what a bit of fresh air can do for the soul. Sat, at one time, looking out across sun-dappled water, to a wooded headland, Autumn air, and thought… “LOVE it! I wanna do it all, and I want to do it soon! Thank you.”

Feel very fortunate to be able to sail independently. I really appreciate the work done by the RYA to ensure equal access to the sailing experience for people with disabilities.

Ready for the new term…

Write Club 7 Celebration Conference – Haydock

| October 19, 2007 | 1 Comment 

At the end of what had been an eventful fortnight, we gathered at Haydock Race Course for a conference celebrating and bringing together some of the creative ideas for inspiring writing.

I think the folk of the Write Club 7 schools (Eccleston Mere Primary, Rainford CE Primary, St Teresa’s Primary, Willow Tree, Oakdene Primary, Eccleston Lane Ends Primary, and Nutgrove MA Primary) are an imaginative and creative bunch with an original vision and have every right to celebrate.

I personally would like to thank Margaret Baxter and Sarah Neild, for helping me through a time that went off in directions no-one could have predicted. A hospital stay was not in the script when I came up North but those two were a remarkable back up team. THANK YOU!

Well done and thank you too, to ALL of the Write Club 7 crew. You have a “write” to be proud of what you are acheiving with your children.

Thank you to Helen Lee, the other heads and staff who provided us with a challenging and inspiring fortnight.

To paraphrase a famous film:

“The first rule of write club is: you MUST talk about write club.”

Creative Approaches to Improving Writing Conference, St Helens

| October 18, 2007 | 2 Comments 

As part of the Write Club 7 celebration week, we were at the Village Hotel, Whiston, today, for a conference on creative approaches to improving writing.

Levi Tafari, Margaret Baxter, Nick Briscoe and myself were presenting different ways of inspiring and recording writing.

Margaret stretched us all by introducing multi-modal writing frames so that children can record their creative thoughts alongside film and sound files.

I really enjoyed Nick’s imaginative use of junk store props, story dice, pictures and other stimuli to inspire and structure stories. “Enchanting” is the word that springs to mind.

Levi had us creating rap-like poetry.

He mentioned his 5 Is of poetry creation. Inspiration. Ideas. Imagination. Information and Imagery.

Levi mentioned how surprised he was that so few schools pay attention to Black History Month Visit the website for a vast amount of useful resources.

I like Levi’s 4 line rhyming challenge

Here is Margaret’s response:

One awful day I was forced to write,

My heart was gripped with a terrible fright.

But, from this day I’ve seen the light,

And now, I’ll reach for that creative height!

That about sums up a motivating and truly varied day.

Thank you to Helen Lee and all colleagues who organised today’s event.

Rainford Cof E Primary

| October 17, 2007 | 10 Comments 

A second day in an ICT suite and I am starting to get hooked! Rainford CE Primary near St Helens.

Being in an ICT suite, with a whiteboard, meant that as well as writing some superb creative, off the cuff ideas, the children could also record them digitally.

Thank you to Kayleigh Greenwood, studying as a third year in Key Stage 2/3 at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, who helped collate some of the children’s work. I will include some at the end of this post but remember, they are first draft, un-edited, un-corrected, at pace pieces.

One thing I often ask children is if they can work out why my walking stick, Mr Walker, is full of holes.

Here are just a few of the ideas that one class came up with today. Fun stuff and fuel for thought. Maybe I should get some adaptations made ot Mr W!

“Mr Walker is a long explosive bomb that moulds into different shapes.

A hospital for insects.

Hold and shoots out secret messages

Mr walker is a snake charmer

Mr Walker is a multi-storey flat for ants and beetles.

Super-sonic radar cane rod

Air freshener

So it can drink hot coco

A pipe

A multi-storey car park for elves.

Earthworm base

He was hit with loads of fencing swords.

A tube that lets out laughing gas

Secret storage.

Mr Walker is an unknown doorknob in disguise and fits into one and only one special door and the holes are the keys. The top knob is the doorknob.

Mr walker has holes for a hair curler

A weapon like a spear

Mr walker is a jet pack

It could be a bazooka which fires red ants

A runway for flying bugs.

spiritual stick for tribes

Mr. Walker

A telescope

It could be a enormous pencil or a pencil case

Secret do-everything-for-you hands.

Mr Walker is a supersonic plasma gun with holes that breathe out toxic nuclear gas.

Drill accident

Mr Walker is a giant over grown toot sweet.

A banister

A twenty-storey shopping centre for bugs.

To help Mr.Walker breath.

Mr Walker is a dangerous deathly aborigine blowpipe.

Mr walker is a lightsaber

A water pistol

Mr. walker has holes for an insect hotel.

To keep his spare brains

A water fountain

Holes to talk and give you cheats for Myst.

Hair curlers

Mr walker is a side exhaust for a car

A musical instrument.

A karate wisdom plank

A light.

A mega phone or a microphone.

A flute that calls other walking sticks

Holes for squeezing secret messages in.

A fountain

A prison for hares

Glaring eyes

A train for animals.

A multi-storey car park for bugs.

A foreign flower

Mr walker has holes for lifts.

a walking stick

Portable computer

The biggest toothbrush or laser lightning rod

A monkey bar

making you travel in time

Mr walker is a transformer and changes into car with neon light

Mr walker has holes for chicken eggs to fire in the oven.

It could be a flute

Mr. Walker has holes for a sausage maker.

A bus for woodlouse

Mr Walker is a secret den for all creepy crawly menaces.

A limo for hedgehogs.

Worlds biggest flute


Thank you to Julian Funn and all of his colleagues for a really fun day.


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Oakdene Primary

| October 16, 2007 | 0 Comments 

A trip to the other side of St Helens, to Oakdene Primary,

I had the fun of working in the ICT suite with both classes I taught through the day. The suite is named the Andrew Schenck ICT Suite in honour of a young lad who, sadly, passed away after fighting leukemia.

I am a big fan of mixing the analogue and the digital and the way Oakdene have set out their suite means that the children can write in their books easily, but also capture their ideas digitally.

I am also a big fan of using GarageBand with children of all ages. It gives them the opportunity of creating sound tracks alongside film. There are many downloadable promo films for the Myst games. These are perfect as a stimulus for a music project. Selecting appropriate timbres, timing sounds to match changes of images, creating a collage of colours within the sound spectrum to enhance the on screen images.

In this case, as yesterday, we used GarageBand to record the children’s voices on multiple audio tracks to accompany a captured film from the games.

Well done indeed to the children of both classes, to teacher Phil Reece for his energetic mucking in during the lessons, and to Helen Lee and her colleagues at Oakdene for a fun-filled day.

I for one am dizzy after such an exhilarating day. For some short excerpts of Year 5’s UNEDITED, FIRST DRAFT writing, read on below:

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Eccleston Mere

| October 15, 2007 | 2 Comments 

A REALLY fun day at Eccleston Mere Primary school, St Helens, as part of the Write Club 7 celebration week.

The children in Year 6 really impressed me with some pacey (yet very neat) descriptive narrative which we managed to record as well.

Year 5, in the afternoon were also up for a challenge and we really stretched them with a journey on a rib rumbling rollercoaster ride. They thought up some great, pithy snippets which really caught the feeling of fear and fun to be had on such a trip. Contrasting and powerful vocabulary. A very enjoyable and experimental session which we managed to record into GarageBand alongside a film of the descent!

I may not be able to include everything here at the moment, because internet time is still at a premium, but, thankyou to Deena for scanning a few examples of some of the work done, at great speed, and in first draft, by Year 6.

I will put a link to the audio and film when I can.

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Wii Fit

| October 15, 2007 | 0 Comments