Podcasting with Spreaker

People communicate in many different ways and in the modern World it seems that new avenues of communication are being created all of the time. As a teacher, I think it’s important to make as many of these avenues available to our children as possible to allow them to choose the way they wish to express themselves. It doesn’t matter if it’s music, mfl, coding or anything else, what’s important is that they are able to say what they want to say, and make their voices heard.

I have always had an interest in radio and was lucky enough to attend a college and university which both had student radio stations. Growing up, my Dad also spent many years hosting a show on a local radio station, so I have long had an affinity with the medium.

Since becoming a Primary School teacher I have wondered how I might use radio in the classroom. I have made radio adverts during persuasive writing modules and written scripts before, but it’s all been rather hypothetical as we didn’t have the hardware.

I have looked at a few school radio station providers (namely School Radio and  Anderton Tiger Group) and they offer some fantastic equipment which is very child friendly, of a professional standard and even rather sexy! Like I say, I’m into radio.

However, I had a few problems with these options. The main problem, and if I’m honest, the real problem, was the cost. It’s very hard to justify that sort of expense when it’s unclear how much it will be used and how much impact it will have on results. Practically speaking, the equipment takes up space, quite a bit of it, so you’d need a room to house and use it in. We don’t have much free space. Also, given the money spent, it could/should take up valuable curriculum time. So I kept on looking…

Then, Rachel Jones was speaking about interesting stuff at TeachMeet Pompey, and she happened to mention Spreaker.

spreaker

Spreaker ticks a lot of boxes for me. It’s a FREE on-line podcasting app. It’s available on iOS and Chromebooks (as well as others) so we can use it on all of our school devices. As it’s on-line, it takes up no room and as it’s free, we can use it as much or little as we need without feeling like we’re wasting precious and limited resources.

It is fairly straight forward to use and importantly can be shared easily.  We had our first go today. I borrowed a couple of Year 6 children and talked them through the plan. They wrote a script and had a couple of run through practices before asking our Head to come in for an interview. This seemed a suitable topic for our first episode as he is leaving us at the end of term, so it was a chance for some of the children to ask him some questions. We added a simple effect at the beginning and got on with it. Once recorded we uploaded it to the school website and then played it in assembly.

Within an hour we’d gone from no script to published on-line and played to the whole school.

I realise it’s not always that simple and Spreaker has a far greater capability than we’ve used today, but it’s got me thinking and planning for the new year. School Radio Station here we come.

Using ICT in Primary Music – with Musical Futures

As the music leader at my school I was on the look out for some training that would give me some ideas that I could use in my own teaching and pass on to other members of staff.  Thanks to twitter I came across a course called Finding Your Voice, run by Musical Futures. You can find out all about them by visiting their website for yourself (and I recommend that you do) but given the course outline it seemed perfect for my needs.

Today I attended this training and was not disappointed. They gave us loads of practical tips and activities to try in our schools but also a range of different ICT that they use to support Music teaching. This was particularly helpful for schools with limited resources and budgets. Again, check their website for the resources, including some excellent vocal warm-ups, but I wanted to use this post to share some of the ICT used and suggest some that I use already.

LOOPY – app

loopy

Loopy, as the name suggests, is used for looping sounds. There are a few looping apps available for iOS but this one is particularly child-friendly. I’ve long since been a big fan of Keezy, but Loopy offers quite a bit more. Unlike Keezy, Loopy allows you to actually loop, making composition easier and you can also get a rather handy metronomic count in. Create music by layering looped recordings of singing, beatboxing or playing an instrument.

A top tip is to go to settings and switch the ‘monitoring’ and ‘live input recording’ to off before recording, in order to avoid feedback. Loopy is available from the from the App Store for £2.29.

SoundCloud

soundcloud

 

We all worry about how we show progress. James Emberley, the secondary music teacher who delivered the Musical Futures training, presented SoundCloud as part of the solution. It is an online audio distribution platform that enables the user  to upload, record, promote and share their originally recordings.

Record at the start of a scheme of work as a baseline and then record again a few weeks later. Hey-presto PROGRESS recorded, without the need for the student to write anything down. If you record using the free AudioCopy app, you can upload directly to SoundCloud.

Launchpad – by Novation – app

launchpad

I have been using Launchpad for a while to create compositions across a variety of genres including Hip Hop, Trance and Drum & Bass. You can build layers and make arrangement without the fear of going out of time.

We’ve used it this year with our Year 3s as accompaniment to their performance poetry. It’s been great for teaching the children about tempo especially, but also dynamics, structure and texture.

Others…

As I come across more apps and tools that I particularly like I will update this post, but for now, here are some other apps worth exploring. GarageBand, Drummer (by Keezy) and the guitar and piano apps by Smule. While these other blogs have more useful suggestions Musical Futures and a couple from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.

ICT across the curriculum

Following my previous blog post about using ICT in Literacy this post aims to cover the whole primary curriculum! Now, this is far too broad an area to put into one post, also there are far better informed bloggers and tweeters than me with websites which are designed to offer far more ideas. However I will simply share a few of my favourite websites, apps, tools and devices which can be used across a range of subjects. This has come about as part of a training session I ran for some Schools Direct students.

Padlet

Padlet is an on-line pin board. It’s free and perfect for collaborative learning  across a range of subjects. You can simply share the URL with your class and they can all add thoughts, research, links, photos, etc to share with the class.

Alternatively, the children can use it as a very simple website of their own allowing them to build on-line research pages, like a mood-board or montage for DT ideas.

Here is an example writing Alan Peat’s De-De sentences.

Socrative

Socrative is a FREE web based service which allows you to write quizzes which can be shared with your class. The results are then collated into a spread sheet for you to get instant feedback. Brilliant for AfL, and lots of fun. You can also find Socrative quizzes which have already been made by other teachers.

Once I shared this with the students I was training, one of them then shared something similar they had been using with me. Kahoot is also free and web based but is even more visually appealing and simple to use.

Skitch

Skitch can be used to label pictures, websites, maps and PDFs on iOS and Android devices. @IanAddison has written a rather useful guide to using Skitch on his blog, so check it out.

YAKiT Kids

Children and adults alike will love playing with YAKit on the iPad. It allows you to add an animated mouth to absolutely anything and record speech to make it come to life. Great fun and a brilliant way to encourage those less confident in speaking to the class. Fantastic for practising short dialogues also as you can have two objects speaking in the same scene.

P.E.

Get the children to film themselves and view it back to accelerate progress. We’ve long since used peer assessment to help children understand their strengths and weaknesses. Getting them to film themselves and watch the results has really helped my class, particularly in dance and gymnastics. This can be applied across the curriculum, as being able to see where we are going wrong enables you to put it right.

And finally a really great idea I got from @leah_moo is to use ‘Just Dance’ to teach dance routines, as PE warm ups or as a little light relief. To get you in the mood, here is the Macarena, hundreds more are available, many can be linked to topics and most are more current than this example!

The Power of the Pen

This is a tale about finding the right motivation for your children and enjoying the results. Pen licenses are not a new idea, but I have been staggered by the affect they have had on my class.

I was getting frustrated that the writing in handwriting books was not being applied across the all of the writing the children were doing. Some children tried to present their work neatly all of the time, but most got lazy, sloppy and tended to rush their work at times. That was until I told them they would be given a fountain pen if they were able to show consistently neat work, and by jingo, it worked.

The impact was instant. All of the class upped their game. This impact was increased further when the first 3 pens were given out and they became a prized and highly sort after possession.

Handwriting 1 Handwriting 2

Pen licenses gave a really quick fix to a niggling problem and allows us to focus of other areas of writing to improve upon. The knock on effect is that the children are also taking more care about their spelling and use of punctuation.

The pens themselves are fairly cheap, plastic fountain pens and given out in assembly by the Head to add to the sense of achievement.

Handwriting Pen

Friday @ #BETT2015

So today our only plan was to go along to some kind of talk or seminar. We failed. Nothing really caught the eye in the brochure and we were having much more fun exploring the stands loading up on complimentary coffee, lollipops and popcorn.

The first highlight of today for me was a rather pleasing few minutes I spent at the Sound and Music stand learning about ‘A Minute of Listening’. It’s a fairly simple idea where you play 60 seconds of sounds and the close their eyes and listen. Afterwards there are some questions that the children can think about and discuss. This can be the basis for whole lessons or more likely a daily calm moment of reflection. This will certainly help meet the part of the music curriculum related to listening and responding to a range of music. Also, it is claimed to help the listening skills of the children. Makes sense to me. More information can be found here;http://www.soundandmusic.org/projects/minute-listening  . It does sound like the sort of thing I could make myself, but it would take a bloomin’ long time and it’s just not going to happen. It’s £40 a term for the whole school.

We already use Accelerated Reader at our school and really like it, so went to investigate Accelerated Maths. As with the reading programme there are two parts to it. The assessment side, which gives levels, highlights areas for development and allows you to track and evidence progress.

The other side is the teaching bit. Pick levelled, targeted activities for each child in the class. Differentiation as many ways as you like/need. All jolly good, but a dramatic change of approach to the teaching and learning of maths across the whole school. Realistically I think we’ll just get the assessment bit for now, if budgets allow.

RMBooks is an on-line library from which you can borrow or buy books to use with your class. Have them on your screen or share with the children’s devices. Annotate the books to ask children questions  to use for guided reading or simply allow the children to follow along, or take over, during a class read.

After being excited by Fiction Express yesterday we went back and sign up for the free trail today. As an added bonus they had a couple of the authors there and we were able to chat to them further about the process of writing these episodic stories and allowing the children to be such an integral part of the creative process. Check them out: http://schools.fictionexpress.co.uk/en 

I have found the whole BETT experience to be a very positive one. Loads of great ideas and creative solutions to problems, even ones I didn’t know I had. The problem I had was that there is just so much to see and do. Although we were there for two days, I still felt as if I missed a lot. Another problem is that I have a fairly short attention span so struggle to focus on things when there is so much sensory stimulation all around. Flashing lights, loud music, presenters with microphones, people dressed in costumes and lots and lots of people. Despite all this I still found the trip extremely rewarding and came away with a wealth of new ideas and I am keen to return next year.

Thursday @ #BETT2015

I spent most of the first few hours at BETT walking around wide eyed. There certainly is a lot to take in. We walked around all of the exhibition hall, just to get a feel for the place. The Millgate stand certainly caught the eye, mostly because it had a dance floor, mirrorball and was offering free cocktails. This had the desired affect of drawing us in and at the price of two Mojitos each, we had a very informative chat with their consultants and a follow up visit has been arranged.

Once we got our bearings it was time for lunch, and the big hunt for somewhere to sit down at a table. This afforded the opportunity to check the map and identify which stands we wanted to see.

First up was Fiction Express. They publish e-books online in weekly episodes, pupils vote each week to decide where the plot goes next. This sounded great for whole class guided reading sessions 2 or 3 times a week. For £249+VAT a year it is something I am very interested in. 3 week free trial period here we come.

The next exhibitor to impress us was Hapara. It’s a teacher dashboard for google apps which allows us to see what each child is working on and share information and feedback more effectively. At £4 per child for the full package it makes it an interesting preposition and one we are seriously considering.

The Lego stand was very interesting. We’ve already invested in a little bit in Lego Mindstorm, but seeing it in action makes us want at least enough for a class set. Hugely engaging and versatile for across the curriculum.

Also enjoyed the Brainpop, EducationCity and  Frog stands, but we’ll have a more detailed look tomorrow. They all seem to offer things we are already getting elsewhere.

The real treat of the day for me was winning a £50 Amazon voucher from OCR for being really quick at putting some magnets on a board. Random, fun and rewarding. Pretty much like my whole day.

Over all it’s been a very good day. Tomorrow we’ll even take in some seminars and what not. Bring it on.

Looking back while looking forward – #Nurture1415

The aim of this post is to look back at some of the things I’ve done and learnt from this last year and to set out a few goals and hopes for the year ahead.

LOOKING BACK TO 2014

1. Changing school – Leaving the only school I had really worked in was a big and scary step. I was happy in my old school and worked with some amazing people, including @ianaddison and @clairemarie00, which made it hard to leave. I had completed my second PGCE placement there and my NQT year so I felt at home, comfortable and knew my place in the team. It was also the kind of school where you know you make a positive impact on children’s lives everyday and that felt great.

However, I had the opportunity to move to a very exciting school which offered me the chance to work in a very different environment and broaden my experience further. The move has been overwhelmingly positive so far and I know I’m very fortunate to be able to say ‘I love my job‘.

2. Blogging – In 2014 I began to blog about some of my teaching experiences. I have found this particularly useful in reflecting on my own practice as well as sharing with others. I will definitely carry this on in 2015.

3. School Productions – Since changing schools I have continued to have responsibility for Music. Under the Music umbrella comes school productions and I’ve been lucky enough to help out with two fantastic shows so far. I’ve been amazed just what can be achieved while still managing to include every child in the school.  What I thought might be optimistic or over-ambitious turn out to be awesome, thanks to some very dedicated staff and talented children.

4. The music stopped – This summer I stopped performing with my musical partner. This was for various reasons but we basically needed a break. It was a fun hobby which brought me a lot of joy, but it could also be stressful at times. It’s sad that I don’t do it any more, but I’m sure one day I will do something musical again. In the mean time I am enjoying focusing on other areas of my life.

5. Hanging out with my family – Since changing schools my work/life balance has improved dramatically, though it still has some way to go. I’ve really enjoyed spending more time with my family and watching my son grow and develop.

LOOKING FORWARD TO 2015

1. Make a difference beyond my classroom – I’d really like to make more of an impact throughout the school with the subjects which I lead. This will include going on training courses to improve my own practice and sharing what I’ve learnt. I would like to be the best teacher I can be and help others to improve their practice too.

2. Samba – I plan to start a Samba band at school, giving children an opportunity to perform as part of an ensemble working and listening to each other. I hope this leads to a number of performances at school fairs and the like.

3. Sharing with teachers – I love the collaborative nature of the people who work in teaching. I’ve always found the willingness of people to share ideas (through twitter, blogs, #teachmeets, and in person) really helpful and inspiring. My aim this year is to continue with this blog, to contribute more at teachmeets and take any opportunities to help train others in the areas I have skills to offer. Having spoken at my first teachmeet November 2014, I plan to get involved much more in 2015. I also look forward to having more students in my classroom to help them grow and so I can gain from their new ideas.

4. Expand – This year I’d really like to expand my little family but in order to do this I’m going to need a bigger house! 2015 is going to be a big year one way or another.

5. Get fitter – I don’t want to make any rash promises about running marathons and such like. However, since tearing my ACL in May I have had to stop playing football. This in turn has lead to an additional spare tyre on top of the old spare tyre. I aim to throw myself into my rehab and get more active to benefit my body and mind.

Top Tips when choosing presents for teachers

Before I get into this it is worth saying how grateful I am to those parents and children who choose to give me a gift at Christmas and the end of the Summer term. I really appreciate being appreciated. I love my job, and get huge reward and satisfaction from spending my days with some awesome children and to get gifts along the way is a real bonus.

Receiving presents is not something I take for granted and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have a number of very generous parents.

The aim of this post is to offer some top tips and golden rules for parents who wish to show their children’s teachers just how much they appreciate them by getting them a gift. A gift they will actually like. If you are going to spend money on someone, it might as well be something wanted.

DO…

1) …give consumables. Chocolates, biscuits, toffees, sweets, alcohol… The last one is particularly important!

2) …ask the teacher what they like. Red or white? A simple question we love to hear.

3) …club together. If you want to go the extra mile. Have a word with the parents on the playground or on the facebook group and put a couple of quid in each. Then you could get something truly wonderful for your truly wonderful class teacher.

wine1

AVOID…

1) …buying anything that says ‘World’s Best Teacher‘ on it. Very, very few of us are arrogant enough to believe this is true. We’re certainly not going to sit at home drinking tea from a ‘best teacher‘ mug, blowing our noses on ‘best teacher‘ hankies while wearing our ‘best teacher‘ tie and sock.

2) …letting your children choose the present. It’s rare to have the same taste as a 9 year old.

3) …letting your children make the present. While it can be very sweet, many teachers have their own children who make ‘precious’ gifts for us, so we’ve already got enough stuff stuck on the fridge.

bestteacher

 

Teaching is genuinely one of the best jobs in the world and it’s wonderful that some parents wish to thank us with gifts. I’m not saying you should to spend much money at all, but if you are, I hope these tips are useful to get something that will show the teacher just how thankful you are.

Animating teaching with Wideo

Wideo is a free on-line tool for making videos. You can use their templates or start from scratch to create your own animations. It is possible to upload backdrops and different objects to animate, enabling you to make your videos specific to your needs.

This term in ICT we have been learning how to use Wideo to make animated movies of firework displays as part of our ‘Firework Maker’s Daughter’ topic. A simple black background is used with a variety of firework we found on google images layered over the top.

Through teaching and exploring Wideo I began to see other possibilities for using it in school. We are currently rehearsing ‘Jack and the Beanstalk‘ as our Christmas production and so I had a go at creating the set using Wideo. It took a bit of playing with timings and it was important to keep the animation to a minimum, but it was brilliant to see the beanstalk grow while the action takes place on stage in front.

There are short tutorial videos available on the site and youtube as well as hints and tips to help you along the way. All this makes it very easy to use for my year 5 class and the results are slick and most pleasing.

Due to it’s ease of design and format Wideo can also be used for any number of lesson and staff meeting presentations, helping to engage and inspire.

The catch is that it is only free for Wideo animations that are 45 seconds or shorter. Perfect for our firework display but obviously this can be quite a limitation. We have also experienced problems using the site with the whole class as too much traffic can cause the site to freeze. This can be frustrating but is a good opportunity to teach the children about patience!

Recording a school CD

Last year I saw this tweet from @MySchoolCD and it piqued my interested.

Naturally my first thought was, ‘what’s the catch?’ So I investigated further.

It turned out that MySchoolCD were offering to give away a class set of African percussion instruments if you sign them up to come and record an album at your school.

Encouraged, I booked the recording and it all went rather well. Later I moved schools and have just repeated the process of recording an album with my new school.

In this blog post I aim to share my experience and the benefits of recording a whole school CD.

So what’s in it for them?

Once the album is recorded, they sell it. Your school (or school charity) gets at least £1 for every CD sold and they get the rest. The price you can sell it for depends on the quantity you sell. Suggested selling price is £7.99. There are 3 different options you can sign up for, but on both occasions  I went for the ‘Zero Risk’ option. Mainly because it meant I wasn’t tied down to selling any guaranteed quantities. Basically I’m not too comfortable with risking school funds and being left with CDs that I can’t shift. If you are willing to commit to more sales then you can get a better deal overall.

What’s in it for you?

Firstly we got a class set of African percussion instruments. Useful. Especially if your topic is Africa.

Secondly, you hold a whole school art competition to design the album cover. In our school this was judged by some member of the senior leadership team and we gave the winner a copy of the finished album as a prize.

Thirdly you get to meet a large part of the music curriculum while giving the children purpose for their work and a very memorable experience.

We practised in whole school assemblies and each year group had their own songs to sing. It gave the children a real reason to work hard at improving their singing as an ensemble and listening to each other as well as the music.

Recording

The day of the recording itself is pretty straight forward so long as you have rehearsed and communicated clearly with the rest of the team so they know what what is going on.

The engineer arrived by 10am and was set up within 20 minutes. We recorded most songs in 2 takes (so allow 15-20 minutes for each one). The engineer on both occasions really useful. He was keen to do a good job and was happy to record as many takes as was needed. I was really struck by the fantastic behaviour of the children. It was obvious they were completely engaged with the process from the moment they walked into the hall and saw the microphones set up. They sat straighter, listened more intently and sang better than I had heard before.

Overall I found working with MySchoolCD to be a positive experience and one the children will remember for a long time to come. While the percussion instruments were a welcome bonus, the main benefit was the sense of purpose it gave to our singing and music within the school. The children and staff all upped our game considerably because we had something to work towards that we can now listen back to and be extremely proud of.