Archive for May, 2008

The House of Commas

| May 29, 2008 | 2 Comments 

When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
(Franklin Roosevelt)

If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style.”
(Quentin Crisp)

THE LONDON literary scene was left in turmoil last night as an unknown thief made off with over ten thousand commas and a year’s supply of full stops as a result the war office has brought into force a nineteen thirty four piece of legislation that states all punctuation must now be written in longhand comma you know comma a bit like they did on telegrams stop fortunately comma as you may or may not have gathered comma new paragraphs are still in ready supply stop at the time of crisis comma it is only natural for people to start using replacement punctuation! however – professors at Huddersfield University are warning against it?! as it’s tiring to read;- and often grammatically inappropriate.

Commas, Six Rules (but… there are more!) Continue Reading

Do do ToonDoo

| May 28, 2008 | 0 Comments 

ToonDoo. is a free, online comic strip creator tool that allows you to create your own comic strips, publish and share it with the rest of the world.Teachers worldwide have gone along and used toondoo with great impact in school, assignment, and presentation environments.

Not just that, it also comes with two cool features for creating your own avatar and uploading your photos and images.

Warboys School, Cambridgeshire

| May 21, 2008 | 3 Comments 

Another gloriously sunny day and another gloriously sunny school. This time, Warboys School, in Cambridgeshire. What fun! Challenges and achievements.

We had some fun in three lessons and then explored even further in an after school staff meeting. I am grateful to the Year 1 and 2 children who enjoyed the lesson so much that they wrote some lovely thank you cards in the afternoon.

In talking with some of the children about the beautiful landscapes we encountered, I was reminded of the glorious Love Earth website.

It is a huge and wonderful eco-site and well worth investigating.

There are so many areas of this planet that have landscapes and features you might consider beyond possible. For example:

Uzbekistan. This place in Uzbekistan, or Turkmenistan, is called, by locals, “The Door to Hell”. It is situated near the small town of Darvaz. Once geologists were drilling for gas. Then, during the drilling, they found an underground cavern. It was so big that the drilling site, with all the equipment and camps, fell deep under the ground. Nobody dared to go down there because the cavern was filled with gas. In the end, they ignited the fumes so that no poisonous gas could come out of the hole. Since then, it has been burning, for 35 years, without pause.

It reminded me of my favourite ever title to give children, when you’ve run out of planning (!). Plain and simple: “The Hole” I have had a remarkable range of stories, including falling down a hole of course, and a deep tale about holes in clothes that were there due to peer pressure. (I will see if I can dig Sue Terry’s tale out from the pile of analogue gems I have in a drawer somewhere.)

QuicktimeVR’s and panoramas are superb tools for stimulating discussion as well. Some of the best can be found at, a huge and glorious collection of QTVRs of every landscape and event imaginable.

Thank you to the staff and children of Warboys, and those from neighbouring schools, for a lovely lope through the landscapes of literature today.

Somersham Primary, Cambridgeshire

| May 20, 2008 | 4 Comments 

Another gloriously sunny and fun filled day, this time at Somersham Primary in Cambridgeshire.

We were joined by staff from other schools during the day. Here, Kathy Kaluza, from Erith, is kind enough to record some of her thoughts and observations on a lesson:

The children were completely drawn into the world created for them by Tim & the image on the computer screen. From the moment he began to speak ,to the end of the 2 hour session, they became totally immersed in a new world. If I didn’t know otherwise it would have seemed as if a spell had been cast. Tim blew on his walking stick & some of the children were agreed on the colour of smoke that it emitted!!! I began to think I was not looking carefully enough!

With ICT co-ordinator David Hawkins, we talked about the power of doors within the Myst games. They act as a stimulus for discussion, (What lies beyond this mysterious, creaking barrier?)… a great spot to start or finish a lesson with suspense, and so much more.

Try this great site for some superb colour grouped images of the “Unspectacular doors of St Louis“.

Doorways around the world contains a HUGE variety of excellent images.

As we are in Cambridgeshire this week, have a look at this image.

Thank you to all of the staff and children of Somersham, and visiting schools, for a glorious day.

Eye reel E enjoyed my spell of thyme with yew awl!



Ashbeach Primary, Ramsey St Mary’s, Cambridgeshire

| May 19, 2008 | 2 Comments 

A bright and sunny day at Ashbeach School, Ramsey St Mary’s Cambridgeshire. And what a beautiful environment!

The last time I came up to work with the ASCA partnership, Ashbeach school were just about to get down to constructing their own classroom space out of straw bales! The school grounds are remarkable all round. Areas for peace and tranquility. Mini market gardens contain veg and flowers. A huge range of sculptures, all of them designed and built by the children, with help from the school’s artist in residence, David Swinton.

The straw bale “Hobbit House,” was the idea of headteacher Hazel Lambert. She was looking for an eco-friendly building to replace their garden shed, and it has turned in to an “outdoor classroom” which has its own wind turbine for generating energy. And the children had a hand in building it.

Ms Lambert said: “We are lucky enough to have an area of grassland and woodland attached to the school.

“We have an outdoor story area there and vegetable plots, looked after by each class. They sell their produce to buy the seeds for next year’s crops.”

With recycling in mind, the school were given a supply of old rubber tyres. The children filled these with a sand and hardcore mix (hoggin), to provide a base for the straw bales.

The tyres will act as an effective damp-proof membrane. The straw bale walls were rendered with lime to make them weatherproof.

The project took a remarkably short two weeks with help from, among others, Strawbale Buildings, based in Hereford. The unusual roof, which gives the structure its “hobbit-like” appearance, was designed by David Swinton too.

Parents and friends of the school helped with labour and other materials.

Ms Lambert said: “Local people were fantastic.

“They really rallied round and we are thrilled. The children were out there getting involved and they loved it.”

Hazel also valued the help of nine-year-old pupil David on his dad Charlie’s mini-digger.

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Today, we were joined by staff from other schools in the area. The ASCA partnership schools include Ashbeach Primary, Upwood Primary, Ramsey Junior, Ramsey Spinning Infants, Bury CE Primary, Warboys Primary, Earith Primary, Somersham Primary and St Helen’s, Bluntisham. 

The children were a really bright and lively group who were a credit to the staff at Ashbeach. They responded with great humour and imagination. The staff at the school have already risen to the challenges of Myst and visual literacy after the keynote I delivered at the conference last year. Superb stuff

Thank you to Hazel Lambert, her colleagues and the children of Ashbeach for a very enjoyable visit.

Gorsemoor Greats

| May 16, 2008 | 0 Comments 
Dear Tim,
We loved your presentations here last week. Find attached some of the pupils’ work produced during those sessions.
Miss Weston, Year 6 teacher passed them to me for scanning and typing.
Keep up the brilliant work.
From Mrs Fraser (Year 6 TA) Gorsemoor Primary
Some of these children are in key stage 1

Standing there looking across the jagged hills…I felt my heart beating in my body. I could see the orange crumbling rocks reaching for the fluffy clouds – attempting to snare them as they are floating by! The bird of prey swooped round in a circle like it was trying to grab an innocent mouse as it scurried across the orange rocky floor…

As I walked over to the cactus and the last remaining grass I reached out and touched the dusty plants. That was when I realised the sound of wind chimes whistling through one ea and coming out the other. I wondered if it was the bird above. But was it a market place over the hills?

By Grace H.

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Standing here, looking behind the dry valley. A cold breeze makes me shiver. Wind charms can be heard all around. It seems as if the last drop of rain fell centuries ago. The last bird is swooping overhead, hunting for his prey. As I walk on, rocks crumble under my feet, spices can be smelt from a distance. A red rock was once huge, now in tiny pieces. A parched dinosaur has his head and part of his neck buried in the ground desperately searching for the last drop of water. A spiky cactus stuck out as if it was a shield of spikes. Few blades of grass are left. Field mice scurry for the last bits of food. I wonder what lies ahead this mystery land.

By Katherine H.

Standing here, staring at the parched, dry land that’s full of red eroding rock. Gentle wind chimes that fill the air with a gentle, soothing melody. I can see rodents scurrying on the hard land trying to avoid its seeking prey. Sniffing the breezy air, I can smell rotting sand that’s being swept away by the powerful wind. The sapphire, crystal sky has balls of candyfloss floating gently across it. An abandoned city lies beneath the depths of the rocks. Why has it been abandoned and where have all the people gone?

By Gemma B.

Standing here, looking out I saw over the hill a crumbling rock as if it was a dragon! Also I could see a lively bird looking for a scrumptious prey for its dinner. Looking up wiping the sweat off my face I saw the sun blazing at the land below. Feeling the heat on my face I could hear a bird squawking in the most beautiful blue sky! I could taste the soothing air like water.

By Lauren N.

Standing here, looking across the rocky chasm there was a dragon guarding the final patch of snow and searching for the last drop of mineral moisture it could find. I can hear the wind blowing wind chimes. It sounded like there was a huge house in the distance. The red and rocky canyon had big eroded rocks all the way to the end. The ground was red sugar. High in the sky a jet black bird flew above with eyes of a predator! The rocks fell in the canyon like they were blind when the wind chimes got loader the wind blew. I got cooler and cooler as the wind blew in the strong breeze. I smelt the strange smell of gravel in the distance. I wonder if there are houses in the distance?

The crumbling rocks were constantly falling from the eroding rocks. The bird got closer and closer and then it just turned around and flew away. I turned around…I saw a giant green house!

By Oliver C.

I think there is a massive green tree at the top. In the tree there is a mouse squeaking because he wants to get out.

I feel scared about crawling to the top.

By Alex W.

I crept slowly up the stairs. At the top there is a magician’s secret palace. The door is made of wood and the door was creaking. The magician was doing a spell.

By Cameron J.

Mounton House, Monmouthshire, Wales

| May 14, 2008 | 2 Comments 

In the words of Estyn, the office of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales, Mounton House is a residential/day special school maintained by Monmouthshire County Council for boys aged 11 to 16 who, because of their emotional, behavioural and learning difficulties, have statements of special educational needs. It has 58 places and is situated in Pwllmeyric just outside Chepstow.

What a superb establishment.

The school mission statement looks to providing a total “learning and caring” environment by:

• developing the full physical and intellectual potential, of each child and encouraging full development of their personal qualities;
• creating a happy friendly school;
• providing a well balanced curriculum that pupils appreciate;
• working well with others in the interests of the pupils;
• providing a homely environment with good standards of personal care;
• helping pupils play a full part in society.

So I had GREAT FUN today!!

Great groups of lads, from Year 7, 9 and 10, with a super sense of humour, who really responded well to the challenges of virtual worlds. There were more than a few who surprised themselves today.

Below, I include a few recordings of some of the lads reading extracts of their descriptive narrative and, in some cases, commenting on the effect that the experience had on their writing.

Danny D

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Chris D

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Oliver H

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Angus G

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Dean C

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The staff are a remarkable group, who were up for the challenges we faced, and rightly proud of the excellent achievements of their students today.

Well done, and thank you to head teacher Paul Absalom, his colleagues and pupils, for a very rewarding visit. I am really looking forward to the opportunity of working with you all again soon.

Thank you, too, to teacher Elspeth Blencowe, for helping some of the lads record their writing…

For some extracts, read on below…

Continue Reading

Myst-erious Futures

| May 13, 2008 | 0 Comments 

Dear Tim, having attended the workshop you held at Charles Dickens School, Portsmouth, in January I was very inspired to use Myst with my own pupls to stimulate and extend ideas and vocabulary.

I am the English Manager at Newbridge Junior School in Portsmouth and was faced with the annual challenge from Portsmouth L.E.A. to submit pieces of writng on a stipulated theme for their annual anthology of children’s writing.

This year, the stimulus title was “Futures” so my mind immediately focused on the barren, atmospheric landscape of the MYST game with the windchimes and circling bird. I provided the pupils with an opening verse detailing a crash landing in a space ship and asked them to write a poem about their first impressions of this weird landscape. By challenging them to be led by their senses and encouraging them to refine and improve their vocabulary choices we actually procured some marvellous poetry and I duly made my ten submissions from across the key stage.I was delighted to receive a letter informing me that, from the entire school, the two pupils selcted for the anthology were from my class and their work had been inspired from MYST. Thought you might like to see these two pieces. Not bad for two nine year olds in an inner city school eh?

Thanks for the inspiration.Jackie Price – Newbridge Junior.

Future World

A gust of wind,A blow of the sand,I stand in the depths of an exotic land I hear a vulture, a mellow sound,I turn my head to the yellow ground,It’s amazing what I found.

The area is very parched,

The rocks are formed just like an arch,

I taste the sand blowing in the air,

I believe there’s something moving over there.

I feel the rocks crunching under my feet, I tke a breath, my heart starts to beat, like the wings of a bird, I wonder what it is that I heard, I feel hunger, I feel thirst, MY luck, I think, has taken a turn for the worse!

It’s coming – a very ghastly breeze,

I get cold, I start to freeze,

I open my eyes, this is what I see,

A future world caving in on me.

By Jake C. Year 4.

Future World

I can see mysterious rocks as arched as a church door, The parched planet smells like sulphur and ashes.

In the sky there is a brid soaring like an eagle, The parched planet tasted like dehydrated air.

I can hear whistling winds and soaring birds I think are eagles, I feel as if someone, or more importantly, something, is watching me!

There’s no greenery at all, not even a living soul.

There was an arched rock that looks like a dinosaur, The parched planet smells like lava, The planet makes me feel like I am in danger!

I hear twinkling wind chimes like my mum has!

Now the only questions I ask is ” where am I?”

By Nakita H. Year 4.

Well done Jackie, and pupils!


Gorsemoor Primary School, Staffordshire

| May 8, 2008 | 1 Comment 

I always enjoy working with larger groups of children, perhaps in a hall. It means that more children get to experience some wanderings in the world of words. It also means that more staff can observe and share their experiences.

So I really enjoyed myself today at Gorsemoor Primary school in Staffordshire.

We spent the day in the school hall, with a huge image and excellent, atmospheric sound. All of the children, from Year Two to Year Six, took off and flew with their descriptive narrative.



One of the best, funniest ideas was that there may be a lost city beyond the hills.

We had a giggle about that concept. I mean, to lose a house would be a bit silly. To lose a village would be more than a little careless. But, to lose a whole city…?! Well… “I am sure I came out with a city this morning. Perhaps I put it down somewhere. Has any body seen my city?!”

Mind you, I bought a pack of three camouflage nets. I put them down somewhere and now I can’t find them. I draped one camouflage net over my car to dry. Now, I can’t find my car! (I can’t claim that last thought as an original. They are the words of the wonderful Les Barker. Les is putting up a typically stoic, and some might say, humorous, fight against cancer at the moment. I wish him well. Read the funny goings-on with camouflage nets HERE.

Gorsemoor are rightly proud of the facilities they have to offer staff and pupils alike.
They are an ICT register school and were one of the first 100 schools nationally to attain the status of ICT Mark, awarded by the government agency known as BECTA.

In addition they are also an Ambassador school for Espresso,  the online subscription service, that gives us access to a wealth of video materials and on line activities for the pupils. There are only about 20 Ambassador schools in the country and Gorsemoor were amongst the first 10.

Well done to Paul Bennett, Rebecca Palmer, the staff and pupils of Gorsemoor and visiting schools, for a fun filled frolic in the dales of description! Thanks too to Stephan Richardson for technical support!

How true…

| May 7, 2008 | 0 Comments 

Little Aston Primary School, Staffordshire

| May 7, 2008 | 2 Comments 

A second trip back to the cluster of schools around Little Aston School in Staffordshire.

I value head teacher, Liz Pearce’s approach: let’s get our children fired up and enjoying their writing, ahead of “a testing time” next week.

Having a chat with colleagues about the up-coming maths, English and science SATs next week, we all agreed that results often improve when we take the emphasis OFF preparing for tests. It means that we end up with a focus on quality teaching throughout the whole year. Continue Reading