Digital Leaders, Good Practice, Online Safety

Green Screen for Safer Internet Day

Looking for a different way to celebrate Safer Internet Day (SID), I decided to set up a green screen for some videoing fun. With a SID focus of creating, connecting and sharing respect online; I was inspired to give our students the opportunity to share how this can be done.SID2018 logoWith the aid of my Digital Leaders, we set up a green screen and invited students to record their online safety tips during a series of lunchtimes. Students were asked to select one of the scenario cards below and think about how they might respond to that situation. The scenario they chose would determine the background of their video.


To reinforce the notion of respecting each other’s right to privacy, each student was asked by a Digital Leader if they give permission for their video to be put on our school website. Alongside checking parental permission, I thought giving students some agency would reinforce the message of the day. Once permission was given, students stepped onto the coloured dots and recorded their video. IMG_8140

The end result of our green screen endeavours was a lovely collection of online safety videos from across the school. With 4 and 5 year olds sharing what they do when they feel upset using the iPad to photo loving Year 6 students sharing their online tips and tricks; discussions about online safety were all the buzz. Using the green screen was a great way to engage students in conversation and encourage them to make good choices online.


Good Practice, Uncategorized

The Power of Writers’ Workshop

After being inspired by a fellow colleague, I decided to give Writers’ Workshop a try in our Year 4 classroom. Without a doubt, it has been my best decision yet! Within a matter of weeks we saw a transformation in our students. Those that had struggled with punctuation were now rereading and editing their writing; one student even took it upon herself to use paragraphs to organise her writing. Another took action and continued writing at home. Those that were struggling with handwriting, were now CHOOSING to hand write rather than use the computer. I simply couldn’t believe the dramatic change in our students. Their perceptions towards writing had changed.

So you might be wondering what exactly is Writers’ Workshop. It’s involves creating a inviting environment where students respect each others’ writing and offers us the opportunity to demonstrate the power that writing can have on our lives. By inviting students to write daily, we can help them discover how it can enrich our lives. As Charles Whitaker Ph.D. mentions it is basically a studio approach in which student writers are engaged in developing their craft and are guided by a mature writer—the teacher. In the writing workshop, students are involved frequently in the writing process, though in some cases  not all students necessarily are at the same place in that process. To find out more, read Best Practices in Teaching Writing.

To set up the Writers’ Workshop routine, I gave each student a new ring binder folder with the following divider sections inside:

  1. Current piece
  2. Previous writing
  3. Published pieces (sometimes we actually did the current piece and published all in one go on the Chromebook)
  4. Mini-lessons (any sheets/ activities/ examples you use in the mini-lesson)
  5. Resources (anything to help the children write more independently- word banks for EALs, etc.)
Our students were very excited to have this new binder. Once the routine was established, they took great pride in organising their writing and going back to improve previous pieces. The use of a ring binder also gave me the flexibility to differentiate even more for the students, giving shaded handwriting lines to those students who wanted to improve their handwriting.

Following the approach of my colleague, I often structured my Writers’ Workshop lessons in the following way:

  • 5 mins – Read (Texts that suit your writing genre)
  • 10 mins – Mini-Lesson (Craft- e.g. How to write a good recount, Skills- grammar, spelling and punctuation)
  • 15-20 mins – Writing
  • 5-10 mins – Share Session

Whilst the structure of the lesson doesn’t allow for a lot of writing time, it adds up over the week if you are doing Writers’ Workshop everyday. I found very quickly that it is important to allow students the opportunity to share their writing. We created a routine of having an ‘Author’s Chair’; we put a chair at the front of the class and invited our aspiring authors to sit and share their favourite writing. After reading their writing aloud, peers gave them positive and constructive feedback. It was wonderful to see the respect they gave to each other. Sharing their work was really essential for helping the students to value their own writing.


Good Practice, Online Safety

Safer Internet Day 2017

Each year I always look forward to the release of Safer Internet Day resources from the UK Safer Internet Center. For this annual event they provide activities to engage the students and promote discussions about online safety. This year the theme was:

Be the change: Unite for a better internet!

Our students and teachers loved taking pictures in our photo booth to convey different online safety messages. See some examples below:

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Good Practice, Google Certified Innovator

Google Innovator Application

With the next Google for Education Innovator academy to be held in London April 2017, I thought it was about time that I apply for this exciting opportunity. The chance to have a year of support to develop an innovative idea for education is one not to be missed.

I’m sure that there will be lots of worthy applications and I look forward to seeing other educator’s ideas. Good luck to all the applicants!

Here is my Vision Deck and video below.

Continual Professional Development, Good Practice

Fun with Google Expeditions

Recently we were lucky enough to participate in the Google Expeditions Pioneer Programme. What a wonderful experience this was!

We signed up to participate in the programme and were given a visit date for a Google representative to come and teach staff and students how to use Google Expeditions.

Before the visit, we were asked to select Expeditions to suit the learning needs of the different year groups. I must say that I was quite impressed as there were over 400 different Expeditions to choose from (I’m sure this number has increased since then). We had Year 6 students experiences what life was like in WW2 trenches and Year 2 students exploring the functionality of a Recycling Depot.


On the day, the Google Rep arrived with all the equipment needed to run the Expeditions; they even brought their own router so they didn’t need to rely on school wifi. At the beginning of the day, teachers were given a training on how to use the App and equipment. They had the opportunity to play with the equipment before introducing it to the students. The focus of the day was not for the Google Rep to show the students how to use Expeditions but for the teachers to lead the way.

When it came time for classes to experience Google Expeditions, there was lots of awe and excitement. It was wonderful to hear each class aww in amazement as they begin their Expedition. Many excited discussions were had.

Teachers also showed excitement as they lead the Expedition and realised it was not as scary as it looked. With increasing confidence they directed their students around the virtual environment and navigated the technology with ease.

Overall Google Expeditions is a wonderful tool that has the power to inspire and engage learners. With a wide range of Expedition topics available, there is bound to be something to suit your students’ learning needs.

Good Practice

Migration Stories with Tour Builder

Human migration and the associated risks, challenges and opportunities has been the Unit of Inquiry for our Year 5s this half term. With great empathy and concern they have reflected on the current refugee crisis and have also explored their own family migration stories.

At the beginning of the unit we tuned students in by sharing migration stories of teachers across the school. In order to give children an understanding of the journey length and settings of each destination, we asked willing staff to create a Tour Builder to share their migration story. See Figure 1 for a screenshot of my migration story.

tour builder
Figure 1: An example of Tour Builder modelled to the students.

Tour Builder is an online tool that allows you to create interactive journeys that enrich student understanding. With the use of Maps; locations and travel routes can be plotted across the world with the opportunity for the viewer to zoom in and explore each of those locations. To weave the story together; photos, videos and text can be added giving detailed descriptions of the destinations. An introduction video on how to use this tool can be found here.

Once students had a taste of Tour Builder, they were very keen to create there own. Very quickly they picked up the skills and were adding details to each of their migration locations. Some students were absolutely captivated by the power of Street View and expertly used this element to gain an understanding of unknown locations or to revisit fond childhood memories. One particular student was recording the migration of his Grandfather and noted that towns in which he had lived in Ukraine had changed name and were no longer on the modern map. The sharing of these connections sparked great enthusiasm within the class and led to further action with Tour Builder at home.

Good Practice

IT Agreement: Example of Good Practice

A wonderful example of an IT Class Agreement can be seen on the wall of Year 3. At the beginning of the year the students worked together to create this list of expectations when using an iPad. The agreement is displayed at child height and serves as a reminder of good practice whenever they use the equipment. What a great idea!

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