Lesson idea – Google maps scavenger hunt

Terraclues is a lovely free site which teachers can use to create Google maps-based scavenger hunts. These can range from very simple searches (eg finding the 7 continents) to ones which involve searching another source to find the answer first (a Google search function is inbuilt). There are lots of possibilities for cross-curricular work using this site. Click here for my first attempt; a hunt based on the geographical locations associated with this term’s topic, The Titanic.



Lesson idea – write a fake text message conversation

Had to blog about this latest idea I discovered on my Twitter feed! Using this handy SMS generator tool children can create an iPhone-style text message conversation, then save it for editing later, share it using a QR code or sending a unique URL or embed it into a blog or website.

The possibilities are endless – what would 2 characters in a book text to each other? What would Queen Elizabeth I text to Sir Francis Drake? How would you respond to when a friend texts you with this problem?

The classtools.net site also has a number of other useful tools, including ‘fakebook’ and a QR game generator.


App Review – TinyTap

Wow – another fantastic app which really harnesses the power of the iPad! TinyTap is a free app with endless possibilities for classroom use. With this app users can create their own ‘tap the right answer’ game, using photos, text, their own drawings etc. These can then be played on the iPad or emailed to someone else with the app to play.

We tried it out this morning with children first making their own quizzes (no instructions from me necessary for Year 4s) with a topic of their choice, then moving on to make grammar quizzes for Year 5 to play next week.

My TAs immediately saw potential for very quick and easy resource creation for their intervention groups too.

What’s great about it
– it’s free
– it’s simple to use
– it has loads of features (photos, drawing, stickers, VoiceOver, music)
– it’s engaging (and can easily make something potentially dry a little more interesting)
– you can access games other teachers/children have made in the ‘market’

What could be better
– it has a strange feature – when you add text to a screen, it automatically adds pre-loaded text (eg ‘in a galaxy far, far away) which can be confusing. I’m not sure what purpose it serves.


Tip of the day – get connected

iPad use in education is constantly evolving and changing as people experiment and find new ways of using them. If you’re reading this blog you’ll hopefully already know how useful the sharing of good practice can be. I try to put aside some time each week to catch up on my favourite ICT/education blogs and have now got involved in Twitter.

Last night someone set a Twitter challenge looking for children to contribute sentences for a new book = instant challenge in today’s Literacy with a real audience.

Twitter also led me to one of the most exciting lessons I’ve taught all year! Mr Parkinson, ICT legend, tweeted about his use of Temple Run to inspire writing so I took a look. The work the children at Davyhulme had produced was fantastic, so we started today by reading their work and drawing what we pictured. Many children knew pretty much straight away that the writing was about Temple Run – what a great way to demonstrate the power of descriptive writing. The children loved evaluating and enjoying writing produced by children in another school, who they could listen to reading their work. They can’t wait to write their own, with the prospect that children in another school might see it!

I’ll post the results later in the week – in the meantime read Mr Parkinson’s blog and get on Twitter! (Follow me @misscnewton82)


Lesson idea – using Strip Designer to show inference skills

We’ve been using picture books in school with older children for a few years now. For my lower ability Year 4 set they are ideal for developing skills linked to inference and author intent etc, before moving on to applying these to written texts. This week we’ve been using the book Robot Dreams by Sara Varon, and the children have been so engaged with this beautiful story, told entirely through pictures. To assess the children’s understanding of the text I asked them to add speech/thought bubbles to the characters at some key points in the story. Below are some examples of heir work, produced using the Strip Designer app.

Strip designer allows the user to create comic strips using a wide range of frames. Pictures can be taken from within the app, added from the photo library or drawn within the app. There are a number of fonts, text balloons and stickers available. A range of effects can also be added to the piece. Very handily, the text balloons can be set to automatically fit the text within them to the size of the balloon. The completed comic strips can be shared quickly in a number of forms, including adding to camera roll so these can easily be added to Showbie ready for the teacher to give feedback.




Getting Started – Free iPad ‘course’ online

A few months after I started using iPads in my classroom, I found this excellent resource from Rising Stars.

The educational publishing company have recently branched into providing online CPD courses, and the iPad module is a free taster. Completing the course led to a real shift in my thinking, and made me feel better-equipped for leading our school forward in our use of iPads. Registration was simple, and progress through the module was saved so I could come back to it when I had some spare time.

Worth a look!

Tip of the day – use Perfect Captions for assessments

As a KS2 teacher there is no equivalent app to those such as 2Simple’s and Orbit’s EYFS profiling apps, but I find my iPad a useful tool in assessment. A recent addition to my toolkit for children has been Perfect Captions; a useful free app for adding speech bubbles to images. I also find this useful in the classroom for collecting evidence for children’s understanding as I can add their words/explanations to a photograph of their working within seconds.



App Review – Coding Apps: Daisy the Dinosaur and Hopscotch

My focus with the iPads is predominantly their use to support learning across the curriculum, but specific ICT (soon to be Computing) skills still need to be taught. According to the draft new National Curriculum, programming is about to become a much bigger focus in primary schools than it ever has been.

I’ve tried out a few control based apps now, including Beebot and Kodable, but have decided to first review Daisy the Dinosaur and Hopscotch. These 2 are made by the same developer and were both created with the aim of being girl-friendly. This they absolutely achieve, without being overtly ‘girly’. Boys and girls were both excited to use the apps and test out their capabilities.

Daisy the Dinosaur has a distinctly Key Stage 1 feel to it, but was ideal to introduce my Year 4s to the basic concepts of coding. Beginning with ‘Challenge Mode’, children are encouraged (although never shown how) to make Daisy move around the screen. She can move, jump, spin, shrink and grow. The repeat function can be used, as can the ‘when’ (ie when I shake/touch the iPad) command, all through a simple drag and drop interface. Children can then move onto ‘free play’ mode, although once the small range of skills involved have been mastered, they will definitely be ready to move onto something a fair bit more challenging.


This is where Hopscotch comes in. Inspired by the very popular ‘Scratch’ program, this is an easy to use programming language with a lot more features than Daisy. Children can include a variety of colourful and engaging characters on their ‘stage’, and program them to move/rotate to set distances/angles, again using a drag and drop interface. There are also a wider variety of ‘when’ commands available (eg when I tilt the ipad down). Within half an hour of using the 2 programs, children were drawing squares, amending their programs to be more efficient etc. There is also the inbuilt feature of saving/sharing programs included in Hopscotch. This now leaves me with a challenge – how do I as a teacher with little experience/knowledge of this area of ICT, move my children’s learning forward? Ideas and comments would be much appreciated!


Coming soon: another programming app – Cato’s Hike

What’s great:
– both apps are free (chargeable features coming in future updates)
– engaging graphics
– intuitive
– encourages problem solving
– share/save facility

What could be better
– inbuilt challenges in Hopscotch
– Further challenges in Daisy
– option to import backgrounds/characters in Hopscotch

Show Me the Showbie! An Easy iPad Workflow Solution

A great write-up of my favourite app – Showbie!

Jonathan Wylie

ShowbieHave you tried Showbie yet? If you have iPads in the classroom, and you’re struggling with how to have students submit assignments, you need to take a look at it. This free service lets students submit assignments to the teacher, who can then grade them and return them to the student all on the iPad. Here’s how.

Start by downloading the free Showbie app, and create a teacher account. Next, add a class, and take note of the class code. Teachers can create as many classes as they need. Tell students what your individual class code is so that when they sign up, they can join your class and be able to submit assignments to you. (Note: no email addresses are required for students to sign up and use the Showbie service).

Once everybody is signed up, the teacher adds an assignment to the shared folder in their chosen class…

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App Review – Skitch

To me, Skitch is another one of those must-have apps. It’s made by the same developers as Evernote (an app I’ve not yet taken the time to appreciate) and is a simple annotation tool with handy features. There are options to create accounts and save work, but for my busy Year 4s, the simple ‘sign-up later’ option works just great!

With Skitch you can start off with a blank screen, a photo, a map or web screenshot. Onto that can be added pen-drawn marks, highlighting, simple shapes, a small range of stickers, text or arrows. I’ve used it in a couple of ways as you can see below. Firstly for annotating the key features of a text type (in this case a wedding invite). Secondly in a maths lesson, where children had to attempt to catch all 15 of a particular (differentiated) type of decimal dragon, and describe its place value, partition it and round it. What I especially liked about this was the ability to type each of the ‘tasks’ in a different colour.



What’s good about it
– it’s free
– it’s easy to use – the small number of options here is a benefit, as sometimes a wide range of options can be distracting for children
– it’s easy to save pictures created to the camera roll
– you can take pictures from within the app
– you can ‘AirPlay’ your annotations via Apple TV etc directly from the app, without having to double click the home button etc

What could be better
– a wider range of colours (sort of contradicts what I said above, but there are only 8)
– drawing one colour over another is tricky, as the app tries to move previous marks rather than draw over them. Then again, it’s not a drawing app.
– an ‘open in another app’ option (to make sharing work to Showbie, Dropbox etc even easier)

Highly recommended.