Over the last few weeks my children have completed work on ‘The Gingerbread Man’ ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Goldilocks’ etc, however, because we have done so much work on different traditional tales and ‘Once upon a time…’ stories, I thought it would be good for the children to have a go at writing their own traditional tale. For this to happen they needed their own character, this is where the ‘Moca Boca Fairy Tale’ app comes in.
Children each get to choose their own fairy tale character, they design him/her, dress him/her and customise their character’s clothes (also a good opportunity to talk about length, colour, patterns etc). Once the children did this they took a photograph of their character in our classroom environment and then wrote about him/her and his physical appearance.
Boys loved this just as much as the girls as they then naturally went on to speak about what the character was doing in the classroom. Children were eager to write about their physical appearance (what they were wearing and why) as well as talking about their name and their home life. Children had this enthusiasm because of that ownership of the character, it was their own piece of work and it was eventually going to become their own story. The ideas were amazing and the imagination from the children was magic.
Once the children had designed and written briefly about their character their next task was to create a story about him/her. Children were fantastic at this, they took different photographs of their character around the classroom different position with different objects and then wrote step by step what was taking place. The high frequency words and sentences that were written were incredible.
There are many articles, blogs posts and theories that identify that boys just don’t like writing and as mentioned in previous posts of mine, something I take an interest in. I enjoy constantly thinking of new ways or magpie ideas from other professionals to help my boys write. My latest idea is cheap, easy to set up and mobile…’I Wonder’ bags.
This was something I introduced to the children to help their small imaginative play originally, helping children put story lines into their play rather than just ‘rarrrrring’ with dinosaurs. I presented the children with a gift bag and simply questioned them ‘I wonder what is in my bag’?. The children spoke to their talk partners about it and we shared answers amongst the group. I then revealed an object from the bag, again, posing the question ‘I wonder why there was a tiger in my bag?’. Children would have time to speak to their partners and again, we would share the answers. I would then reveal a second item ‘I wonder why there is an egg in the bag with the tiger?’, again the children would have the opportunity to speak and share their ideas with their talk partner and then the class. Within the bag would be 4-5 items, all different and this pattern and questioning took place throughout, until eventually the class and I had created a short story.
The bag I started with the children had a tiger, giraffe, ladybird an egg and an apple. We had many stories come alive, including the egg being looked after by the ladybird and giraffe from the tiger and they used the apple to distract him, to the tiger looking after it because the ladybird wanted to steal it. The stories were amazing, and the beauty of it is that there is no right or wrong answer so everyone wants to get involved.
‘I wonder’ bags develop the imagination of the children, especially the boys. I then wanted to take it a step further and use it to aid their writing as well, so they became features around our class. The bags are filled in daily with different toys, objects, heroes etc, and naturally the boys love them. They write their story first or write down key words from their story before they act it out. Clipboards and or mini whiteboards are left inside the gift bag too, therefore giving the children the option to move around with their bag/story.
It was a real bonus seeing the children, especially the boys access this resource because they do not see it is a writing task. It is incredibly popular as you can imagine if the bag is a Spider-Man bag with a superhero inside or a Pirate bag with dinosaurs inside. It is structuring their play, assisting their speaking skills and aiding their writing, it just ticks every box.
The bags are cheap, toys are already in my setting, it was collecting the toys and encouraging them to make their own story. A great resource for independent writing and one I would recommend to any setting.
I mentioned in a previous post how my pirate topic has really helped the boys with their writing/mark making in my class. Weeks later and the dedication and motivation is still present.
We have done activities related to pirates in my class that my boys have really been drawn to (map making, ship designing, etc), today’s lesson took it totally to a new level.
After returning from assembly the class discovered the treasure we were looking after for Pirate Pat had been stolen. The class were instantly concerned, especially when they saw Joey our class puppet thrown across the floor. After a brief discussion we decided to look and ask others to help us look for the criminal (who we’d decided was Pirate Tas, Pirate Pat’s enemy). The boys were on it!
We made wanted posters, missing flyers, designed models and statues of Pirate Tas and labelled them, the boys could not get enough of writing. I had got them engaged and focused!
It reminded me of when I went to an @abcdoes mark maker to writer course. Yeah boys like to be involved and do things they like and are interested in, but they HATE writing about it, well not this morning.
My boys were so focused and emotionally involved and passionate they all felt obliged to contribute to the search of Pirate Tas.
This pleased me , it reinforced and reminded me, we can get the little soldiers to write and mark make, but it truly does have to be something they feel deeply passionate about. Having poor Joey thrown across the floor and having some treasure stole WE were looking after obviously triggered some emotions that pushed them to write and mark make.
I’ve been using PicCollage for two years now. I use the app when blogging the children’s photos for their individual blog. I usually use PicCollage to sequence a series of photos of the same activity a child is taking part in. It’s good to show the process from A-B in an activity or a before and after.
I then decided, why not let the children do the same. As part of our ‘under the sea’ topic one story we have read is ‘The Rainbow Fish’. Naturally, around the room I had activities that linked to ‘The Rainbow Fish’, one independent activity being a story sequencing activity. The children used PicCollage for this activity. To order the pictures of the story from beginning to end. This was a success. Both the boys and girls were keen to complete this activity, improving and developing their speaking and listening skills on the way. Some children worked independently and others worked in pairs.
A lot of discussion took place with this activity and it will be surely something I use again the future and in my reading area. Children were able to speak in full sentences about each of the pictures and talk about what was going on. Some HA children were also able to talk about what pictures were missing.
I have used beetbots in different ways in the EYFS. With the new programming focus starting in September I thought I would give the EYFS children a head start. This activity also helps their reading and ‘tricky’ word recognition at the same time.
Children work in pairs and give each other a word on the grid to program the bee to travel to. The children have to then read the word that the bee has landed on and then identify whether they landed on the correct word.
This is also an activity that the children can complete independently. Children have a number of ‘talking spots’ around the grid with an instruction or word said to them that has previously been recorded by a practitioner.
As they do when they work in pairs children program the bee to land on the correct word.
Story writing is something I love to do with my children in Reception. Their ideas during shared writing are fantastic, however, I am conscious that these ideas do disappear when it comes to their independent writing. . . This is where PuppetPals is very handy for my children.
PuppetPals is an app which allows children to create their own characters, setting and stories and truly bring them to life.
When the children choose their characters and setting they have the option to record their characters moving and speaking, creating their own story along the way. Once recorded and finished, children have the option to then watch their story being performed.
At this point I give the children the title of being ‘producers’ and afterwards explain to them that to become an ‘author’ like the ones we love in class we have to write our story down. It is truly amazing how many children choose to access the writing area and then write their story down.
In Reception we then have the story read out to the class by the ‘author’ followed by the ‘PuppetPal Production’ .
With the major focus on speaking and listening in the Early Years currently and on Communication Language this app provides opportunity for children to link sentences, words and phrases, speak in different tenses and the list continues.
Another great app I cannot wait to continue using next academic year.
With the Year 1 phonics screening being a paramount factor in primary schools now, I wanted to get children use to ‘alien’ and ‘nonsense words’ in Reception so they are not phased next year. My reception class love the iPads in our class so it makes sense to combine reading with iPads.
Using the app Aurasma I am able to make a simple 2D picture transform on the iPad to a short video/image.
Below you can see children using the app to point at Alien pictures around the classroom which then loads three ‘alien’ words for them to read and blend during either independent learning or plan do review.
The iPad involvement really encouraged the children when introduced a few weeks ago, especially the boys. I have seen a dramatic change and improvement with their blending and reading.
A great APP! And it’s free!
Morfo is an app that is used by many schools now in different ways. Our PGCE student in Year 2 used it a couple of weeks ago and made Wayne Rooney ask the children to help with his shopping. The boys naturally were engrossed in this and the standard of work that was created was brilliant.
Morfo provides you with the opportunity to download and manipulate a face and the facial features on your selected image. Working best when the object is facing towards the camera, Morfo allows users to move and edit the features of the face (eyes, nose, mouth size and shape etc). Once you are happy with your face you can record a message, making it look like the picture you have chosen is speaking.
My class have had numerous experiences with Morfo, however, the most successful occasion with the most impact was during our Easter theme. We received a letter from the Easter Bunny asking us to look after his special golden egg when he went away to visit his friend the tooth fairy. He told us he would only be a couple of days, so Reception agreed to do it. However, we were also warned that his enemy, Fiddly Fox, might attempt to pinch the egg so we had to take special care of it. Surprise surprise the egg did go missing so we had to create wanted posters, write letters to our head and create police reports because of the golden egg going missing.
After days of the posters being up and the police getting back in contact saying they will keep and eye out for us, we received an e-mail from Fiddly Fox with an apologetic video attached. He apologised to the children and the Easter Bunny and said he would return the egg when we went home.
Having this impact on the children and then having some children writing letters back to Fiddly Fox during their child initiated time saying that he was forgiven and that he did the right thing was a major surprise. We got a lot of PSED objectives met during that week and a lot of writing, all from a 30sec video.
With the end of the year coming up and my moderation date from the authority getting closer, I knew that I needed to get more independent writing from my children to support and backup my judgements. Trying to prove that my GLD will be 58% (a dramatic improvement on the school’s 0% last year) I was conscious the moderators would want to see some independent writing, thus the cave of wonders.
Previously, the space was used as our ‘investigation station’ which gave the children opportunity to discover and talk about natural found objects and objects that I thought would interest them (exotic fruits, shells, stones, crystals, magnets, bark, melted wax etc). Another main purpose was to get some vocabulary out of them, as speaking and listening was a priority for me at the beginning of the academic year, however, as the year went on the children lost interest in this space and I was aware it was becoming a wasted learning area, leading to the successful idea of ‘The Cave of Wonders’. Â It took one hour and a half to revamp the area during the Easter holiday but I was confident about the potential it held.
When children came back after Easter they were in awe of the classroom revamp as I also created a read and response wall and changed our role play area to a space ship (3,2,1 blast off).
Every two days the children are aware that the object inside the cave will change, so far we have had gold spray painted bark, a message in a bottle, locked treasure chest, hair gel in a dish, mysterious pictures and the children have loved it. The amount of independent writing has definitely increased with the use of capital letter, fingerspaces and full stops too. I have been able to confirm that children can use high frequency words independently in their writing too such as he, she, we, me, the, some, like, was. The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland had nothing on my smile at this point.
Pirate Pat was a brilliant resource that got so much vocabulary and writing out of my Reception class last year.
He was used when our topic was all about pirates. As an incentive to get the boys writing, he really did his job.
The children were shown a powerpoint of Pirate Pat in the positions you see him above. After each slide there was a brief discussion on what he was doing and what they think would happen next. My class had a great imagination however, getting it onto paper was like trying to get them to put lids back on felt tips.
As we were coming to the end of our slideshow, I told the children that my camera had broken and that they had to guess what Pirate Pat did next. After brief opportunity to talk to their partners, their answers were amazing! A lot better than what I had hoped.
Children didn’t want to wait until the adult led activity and my writing table was full of children (including the boys) writing about or to Pirate Pat.
The little touches like making ‘pirate paper’ with them really helped and encouraged them too.