Tag Archives: writing

Sphere

Many teachers in the EYFS and teachers across the school, will probably agree in one challenge…getting boys to write. Whether the boys are 4 or 14 years old, they just find it hard to engage and do not want to do it. I find great enjoyment in finding new ways in the Early Years to get the boys to write. I have previously written about successful methods to get my children (mainly boys) writing, and then recently have found another success. 🙂

Luckily for me it linked directly with another passion of mine, iPads. I have used an app to engage children in different environments and settings and what was originally intended to discuss different people’s lifestyles and homes sparked an idea that would also get my children writing.

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The app is called Sphere, and is very similar to google maps, in that it gives the children a variety of places across the world and allows them to do a 360 tour of the environment from one spot. The app contains places and are categorised such as landmarks, places to live, air, land and sea etc. Once the children select an category they choose an image they wish to explore, once selected that destination opens. As the children hold the iPad or device in their hand as they move it the screen and view moves too, as it would in real life. Children can look up and down, move around from left to right and see what they would if they were standing in their chosen destination in person. The camera moves as if it were the human eye, as you can imagine, there were a lot a ‘wows’ and ‘oooohs’ when this was shown on Apple TV, from children as well as support staff 😉

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How did it get them writing? 

Once the children were familiar with the app and how to use it and discovered that you could also move the camera or ‘magic eye’ with your finger on the screen too they were using the app and speaking to their friends about what they could see and how ‘wow’ it was, this is when I dropped in the magic word ‘mommy’.

“I bet your mom would like to know about that!”

“Wow, your mom would like to know about that big blue sea”

“Do you think your mommy has seen that?”

And from that stemmed the next part…”You should tell your mom…oh, but what if you forget?”…the child(ren) would then reply “We can write it down and draw her a picture”.

The smug face then appears from the staff.

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Children were then willingly choosing a ‘special place’ to write about it (what it looks like, where it is, who lives there) drawing a picture underneath and then going home to show their mommy about it. A perfect opportunity for the child to write, practise their tricky words, letter formations, sentences etc.

An overall great find that my children loved.

‘I Wonder’ bags

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.

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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.

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Boys writing

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Pirate writing

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As many EYFS practitioners will know (and probably teachers in all key stages too) getting boys to write is a major challenge ! Down in Reception I try to find ways to encourage and develop boy’s interest in writing and mark making in their independent, child initiated and adult led learning. Pinching some ideas from wider reading and other EYFS practitioners & consultants (eg @abcdoes) I like to trial and assess new systems and ideas in my classroom. One idea that has worked particularly well is pirate writing.

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This week in reception our learning has focused on and around Pirates, starting with an introduction and meet and greet with a toy pirate in our class, Pirate Pat. Pirate Pat then went on a little trip and sent us photographs of his voyage, until his ship was damaged and he went missing. As an adult led activity we focused on what might have happened to Pirate Pat and where we thought he was. We had lots of independent learning opportunities that encouraged mark making and writing too… Pirate style! Children had the opportunity to go on a sound hunt outdoors (with eye patches and telescopes), design and build their own ship with the construction outside, create a treasure map or make a missing poster to help look for Pirate Pat. I had boys choosing to write!!!! I couldn’t believe my eyes.

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The children had to use their knowledge from letters and sounds to help with their labelling, even if it was just with their initial sound. The map making was a particular success with children commenting on their different marks, a real successful activity for the less confident writers. Boys have been coming and asking the TA and myself for more pirate paper to write on… Isn’t it wonderful what a soggy tea bag can do!

This lesson was also observed by my head and literacy coordinator who rated in outstanding! 🙂

Overall, this lesson made me happy for many different reasons. Well done boys!

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Morfo

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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.

Cave of Wonders

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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’.  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

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 22.22.17Pirate 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.

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The little touches like making ‘pirate paper’ with them really helped and encouraged them too.