Archive for December, 2007

Rudolph gets tough

| December 20, 2007 | 0 Comments 

All of the other reindeer USED to laugh and call him names.

Portishead Primary School

| December 19, 2007 | 7 Comments 

A last working day of the season and a fun filled festive frolic at Portishead Primary School.

And what a fine time we had! A great bunch of teachers, TAs and LSAs with a superb sense of humour. The school is set on the edge of the new Portishead Marina development. It is a school that was opened four years ago, is an original, artistic design and has a tremendous atmosphere amongst the staff. That the staff were so up for our day, even though it was the last working day before Christmas, says a lot for their spirit.

Thank you to headteacher Mike, Michelle and their colleagues Debbie, Jackie, Jimmy, Lou, Sam, Lynne, Liz, Lorraine G, Jewlei, Sue, Jan, Maxine, Karen, Kirsty, Lorraine P, Laura, Richard, Kate, Louise S, Louise W, Mike S, Wendy, Jo, and Mel for a great way to lead into the holiday. A big pat on the back to everyone for making my day so enjoyable too.

Well done to Lou and Sam for conducting a Marvellous Myst-y Musical Muddly! (Watch this video at your own peril. You have been warned! 🙂 )

For your own yuletide merriment, why not have a go at Elfing yourself at the glorious and simple Elf Yourself dot com?!

(It is a little bit popular at the moment so may take a smidge to upload, but is worth a little wait.)

snowflake.jpg There’s snow business like snow business! Try a little flake-y art when you click the snow flake.

Sign of the times 11

| December 18, 2007 | 0 Comments 

Thanks to Neal for this:

Milton Keynes-Caroline Haslett Primary School

| December 13, 2007 | 3 Comments 

A second day in Milton Keynes, this time at Caroline Haslett Primary School

I lead a few lessons watched by folk from the course yesterday and was very impressed by the children we worked with for not being phased by having so many people observing their every move. About 50 people attended the lessons, and another 50 came to an after school session too.
The children showed themselves to be an open, hard working, sensitive and thoughtful bunch with a great sense of humour. There were some very touching moments as the children produced some very emotional writing at times.
Well done indeed to all those there as we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I, for one, learnt a lot from the process.

There is an interesting story behind why the school is called “Caroline Haslett” Primary School
The school serves the area of Shenley. Shenley Lodge, when building began in the mid-1980s, was known as ‘Energy World’ and the first houses built were examples of the latest developments in energy saving design. The street names on the grid square are related to this theme, many being the names of scientists who were prominent in the field of energy research and development (such as Faraday, Ohm, Joule etc.).
The Governors felt it appropriate to name the school after a British pioneer in the field of electricity and electrical engineering and eventually decided that Dame Caroline Haslett was a very suitable candidate. She was a pioneer female electrical engineer, starting work in that role in the 1920s. Later, she founded the Electrical Association for Women which, among other things, helped promote the use of electricity in the home as a labour-saving source of power to relieve the hard domestic drudgery of housework! She was tireless in her work, both in this country and in her activities abroad with the Board of Trade, promoting electrical engineering as a career for women.
Since her death in 1953, her work has been continued and her memory has
been kept alive through the Caroline Haslett Trust, a group which sponsors
‘The Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award’ held each January in
London. Read more about the inspiring Caroline Haslett HERE and HERE

The excellent UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology continues a lot of the good work encouraging and supporting women in many areas of the sciences.

With the school’s links with electricity I am reminded of the excellent Crocodile Clips, a great simulation of electrical circuits. After SO many downloads over the years, you do need to register, but the program is free.

How about joining The Blobz as they guide you through the world of circuitry in a fun website that can be used on an interactive whiteboard too. Sections include information, activities and a quiz.

The ngfl Cymru site is also superb for whiteboard centred lessons. It is aimed at Year 2 and includes full teachers’ notes.

More complex circuits can be made HERE

Thank you to the Milton Keynes posse for a superb couple of days. Some of my most enjoyable times since being “on the circuit” 🙂

Milton Keynes LA

| December 12, 2007 | 4 Comments 

Another visit to Milton Keynes, this time to do two days for the authority.

We started, today, with a training day at the Hilton for nearly a hundred folk. A great day with some more laughter and people rising to the challenges. It is always good to see so many people, who have not met each other before, becoming so quickly immersed in what we are doing.


Thank you to Denise, Mike, Alan, Jane, Carol and all of their colleagues for organising a really fun event.
Gracias a Denise, a Mike, a Alan, a Jane, al carol y a todos sus colegas por organizar realmente un acontecimiento de la diversión.
楽しみのでき事を実際に組織する為にDenise にあなた、マイク、アラン、ジェーン、キャロルおよび彼女達の同僚のすべてに感謝しなさい
Thank you and well done to all those from Abbeys Primary, Bishop Parker Catholic School, Bradwell Village, Brooksward, Broughton Fields, Bushfield, Caroline Haslett, Cedars Combined, Emerson Valley, Falconhurst, Giffard Park, Giles Brook, Great Linford, Green Park, Greenleys, Hanslope, Heronsgate, Holne Chase, Lavendon, Long Meadow, Loughton, Meadfurlong, Middleton, New Chapter, Olney Middle, Orchard, Oxley Park, Rickley, Romans Field, Southwood, St Bernadette’s, St Mary Wavendon, St Monica’s, Stanton, Summerfield, Tickford Park, Two Mile Ash, Wavendon, Wellsmead, White Spire, and Willen, schools.

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Typo Time

| December 10, 2007 | 2 Comments 

The Hobbyhorse I am riding at the moment is a simple one: Why, when we are encouraged, or even required, to teach everything from French to Mandarin Chinese, is there no structured requirement to teach typing?

In an age when almost everyone uses a keyboard, often frequently, either at work or in leisure activities, it is one of the most useful skills anyone could acquire. I am two finger stumbling through writing this post! Oh to be able to type at great accurate speed!
QWERTY Keyboards

The common layout of keyboards that almost all computers come with, known as QWERTY, is actually inefficient, causes fatigue as you type and knots my digits big time!
A more ideal layout (apparently!) is known as the Dvorak layout. It “places keys in positions to improve efficiency in typing to almost double the current speed”, but it’s hardly been adopted at all, and I for one, am not going to even try to change over. I have only just worked out where the keys are on THIS koybiurd!!

So why did we even use a QWERTY layout in the first place?
The QWERTY layout was designed so that successive keystrokes on old typewriters would slow down typing and alternate between sides of the keyboard so as to avoid jams in the metal arms.

O.K. So we’re stuck with it. Let’s help children make the best of it by giving them some guidance.

Here are a few potentially useful sites:

Touch typing Powertyping and the great BBC site, Dance Mat Typing, (don’t let the name put you off. It’ll get your fingers wiggling, not your knees!)

A couple of good programs out there too: Busy Fingers and the excellent 2Type for starters.

I also love Keyboard Crazy (and the wacky guys that developed it).

Keyboard Crazy is a plastic mock-computer keyboard with variable interchangeable inlays. The original inlay displays the keyboard letters and a blank inlay is provided for pupils to use once they have mastered where the keys go. The kit also includes a pack of coloured letter tiles that pupils place in the right position on the inlay during a variety of games-based tasks.

O.K. I can get down off my horse now and try out a few “asdf ;lkj” exercises!

Really, I am like Miss Print from A Load of Rubbish!: “On completing her studies at the Mavis Bacon school of typing Miss Print dived straight into the typing pool ..and sank. She has since resurfaced with great style and when pushed can type 65w.p.m. When shoved she can get up to 65m.p.h. !!!!

}:-D Hair raising!

| December 8, 2007 | 0 Comments 


I have often said that eyebrows are the most powerful tool to aid expression, convey meaning, or have a bit of a laugh!

In lessons in various schools around the place at the moment, we often play “Spot the simile or metaphor” and, when saying these “Posh Literacy Labels”, we have a “Being Posh” lesson. Eyebrows are the cheapest accessory for becoming a REALLY posh person. (Your eyebrows are wiggling expressively as you read this. If not, try a few operatic eyebrow wiggles. It is great exercise!)

When asked to choose my Top 5 Resources for Teachers Magazine I chose Expressive eyebrows, (“Eyebrows are a wonderful invention. As a bald bloke, I find that they can be the most powerful tool when working with a class. I can so easily show surprise, disappointment, delight and enjoyment. Who needs to shout when your eyebrows speak?”) alongside A wireless laptop, ‘The Hat’, A large cupboard, and “Magnificent obsessions” outside school.

An article in the Independent even began with a reference to my fascination with the furry features.

We pay a lot more attention to eyebrows than we actually realise. They are a very significant element of our appearance and are one of our most expressive facial features. But why are they there in the first place?

How Stuff Works have a few ideas, echoed in Wikipedia.

Eyebrows express a huge range of emotions from confusion, fear, anger and joy through to boredom and frustration yet very rarely appear expressively on childrens’ drawings of faces. A few eyebrows were raised when people realised that the enigmatic Mona Lisa doesn’t appear to have any whilst many spend hours reshaping and colouring theirs.

Try Roger Moore’s Eyebrows of Fun! or footie fans could play Hansen’s Eyebrows Pinball (No educational value whatsoever!)

A couple of times recently the children and I have agreed that someone with really posh, expressive eyebrows is Rhydian from the XFactor.

“Me?!! Watching the XFactor?! Haven’t got a clue what you mean officer!”

O.K. I confess! I think this has to be one of the most controlled and inspired performances I have seen. And he keeps his eyebrows in check too, well, almost!!

10 years on…

| December 4, 2007 | 0 Comments 

Just think of some of the changes that have happened since 1997:

3g phones
call centres
Harry Potter
rise of China
on line banking
reality television
digital photography
New Labour in power
ebay and online shopping
Climate Change awareness
ban on smoking in public spaces
expansion of the EU and the Euro
easy jet ticketless and low cost airlines
skinny double fairtrade hazelnut cappuccino
on line communities MySpace Facebook Secondlife

1.4 million UK school children now have their own webspaces.

There are more texts sent every day than the entire population of the planet

My Space is the largest “country” in the world with 130,000,000+ registered users.


Fascinating thought, that we are educating our children for a world we have no clue about, and where the jobs they will be doing may not have been invented yet.

How the world moves on…

Thank you to Marcus Orlovsky for the prompt to consider this.


| December 4, 2007 | 0 Comments 

ork ork

The British Film Institute: ‘Putting film in English’

| December 1, 2007 | 2 Comments 

I was honoured to be asked to give a Keynote presentation at The British Film Institute today.

The conference, entitled ‘Putting film in English’, was also organised by the London Association for the Teaching of English (LATE).

The Revised Primary Framework and the draft orders for new programmes of study at Key Stages 2, 3 and 4 offer teachers of English and literacy license to explore and incorporate a wider range of texts into the curriculum. At the same time, the cultures children inhabit are changing the ways in which they think, read and write. This conference explored what film – and film-derived technologies – can offer English and literacy teachers.

In my presentation  we investigated ways of looking at narrative using emerging technologies.

A range of workshops, addressing both primary and secondary practice, offered colleagues the chance to explore ways of working with film in the classroom. There were also opportunities to explore the new spaces at BFI Southbank, which include a Mediatheque and a Moving Image Gallery.

Film-maker Michael Dudok de Wit also gave a masterclass on the making of Father and Daughter, the Oscar-winning short animation.  Michael is famous among English and literacy teachers as the director/ animator of a number of powerful, moving, and funny short films. Three of his films – The Monk and the Fish, Tom Sweep, and Father and Daughter – feature on BFI Short film resources.

In my keynote, “21st Century Cultures – get with the programme!” – we investigated how young people now spend much of their time playing with, exploring, and sharing texts and technologies that go unrecognised in the school curriculum. We looked at how, using technology in a liberating way, we can build children’s experiences into the English curriculum.

It was great to meet SO many folk at the BFI Southbank site. Well done to Kevin, for surviving the Doors of Doom Challenge, and to Mark Reid for being a very warm, friendly host. Well done, too, to Laurin and the technical team at the BFI Studio, for getting through some very complicated technical issues.

As a “small Country lad from the deep South (of the U.K.!) with no experience of all this glitter” the World is my Lobster… but I had better not have my head turned by all the shining things. For example, who would believe, after my fascination with using the story of Ellie and the Pudding simile, that the BFI cocktail of the week would be “The Apple Crumble”? How convenient!

Off to explore the river here on The Southbank.

Meanwhile, try visiting a few of these great film related site: FilmEducation, Pixar, Film Street, arkive and my friend Oscar Stringer’s Animation For Education
Here’s a quick glimpse of the torture Kevin endured in a HUGE Doors of Doom Challenge: