Thursday 30 June 2016

10 Reasons Scribbleboy is the Best Kids' Book Ever

It was my favourite book as a child but as I headed into adulthood and into the classroom, I realised that Scribbleboy by Philip Ridley is truly the best kids book ever! I am currently reading it for the fifth time to a class of children and, as in previous years, they actually cheer every time I say we will read some and groan when I say it's time to stop, even when it's playtime or the end of the day!  At playtime today, my class were discussing it and children I taught two years ago said it was the "best book ever".  The boys love it. The girls love it. I love it. 

The plot revolves around a mysterious character called Scribbleboy who, once upon a time, had turned Bailey's new, grey, concrete neighbourhood into a colourful, vibrant environment through his graffiti, known as Scribbles.  When Bailey is invited along to the Scribbleboy fan club, his life becomes a rollercoaster of people, emotions, mysteries and Scribbles.  He meets the local cool kid, the ice-cream maker, disco queen Ma Glamrock, spitting bloke Pa Punkrock and many other fantastic characters including...Scribbleboy himself!

Without giving too much away about the plot, here are 10 reasons why it's the best kids' book ever: 

1) It contains classic cultural references which some children may never have heard of.  They all provide interesting discussion points as we encounter each one.  E.g. Top Gun, VHS, fan clubs, Banksy military language.
2) Mysteries and cliffhangers keep you hooked every step of the way - who IS Scribbleboy?!
3) Examples of Girl Power & Boy Power fill the plot.
4) Real-life issues such as mental health, divorce, unemployment and disability are tackled head on in a wholly appropriate and accessible way for Key Stage 2 children. 
5) The cartoons by Chris Riddell are amazing. We particularly like the first illustration of a Scribble - my class have requested to have some chilled colouring time to bring the pen drawings to life. 
6) It is written in a really cool style.  Philip Ridley breaks all the conventions we've learned in English lessons and he's written a great book to read aloud - different voices are essential in this.  E.g. Unusual prose, audience participation opportunities, rapping, made up words.
7) It's a hugely inspirational story containing normal kids who relish an opportunity. 
8) There is an amazing selection of characters in this book - someone for everyone to relate to and a few bizarre ones to love. 
9) The Scribbleboy Rap towards the end of the book is an unforgettable opportunity for some performance poetry.  We recorded our version last year - you can watch it here.  
10) It has a chase.  Every great story - whether shared in prose or video - contains a chase. Fact! 

If you haven't already read Scribbleboy and fallen under Philip Ridley's spell, make sure you do soon! 

Sunday 12 June 2016

10 Reasons Monopoly is the Best Educational Board Game Ever

In a previous blog post, I urged parents to play board games with their kids because many help children to practise maths and social skills.  For KS2 children, I believe Monopoly is the best board game to support learning. 

Here are 10 reasons why:

1) Compliments to 10 and number bonds - With ten steps along each side of the boards and two dice, children are forever practising these simply but vital mathematical skills.  Encouraging them to jump the steps and count up to the next corner can enhance their speed and fluency. 
2) Multiplication - (utilities) Multiplication skills come in handy when a player must roll a dice and pay 4 or 8 times the amount rolled.  Also, many elements of the game use multiples of £50 (cost of houses around the board / rent on a station).
3) Doubling - Once someone has all of a set, the rent payable is doubled.  In most sets, this amount isn't specified so must be calculated by players. 
4) Adding/subtracting money - One of it's most obvious benefits for children is the understanding of money transactions, including change.  Put a child in charge of being the banker, be patient with them and watch them become faster and more confident with maths.
5) Percentages - When a player is really short of money, they can mortgage a property.  Once they are ready to return it to play, they must pay the banker the mortgage amount plus 10%.  This amount must be calculated by the player. 
6) Multiple Editions - Whether you like Doctor Who, Star Wars, Disney or Minions, there's a Monopoly board for all! 
7) Entrepreneurial skills - When most of the cards have gone, some bartering and negotiating must take place to secure a full set.  Players must decide which sets could be the most profitable as well as considering the cost and benefits of building houses and hotels.  
8) Rent - Quickly, players learn that nothing comes for free.  If you want to stay somewhere, you must pay them rent.  
9) Taxes - The chance and community chest cards help children to begin to understand taxes.  I remember playing as a teenager and adding in a "pension" element to the game too! 
10) Chance - The most important thing that children learn is that, mostly, life is about chance and that you never really know what's around the corner. You just have to adapt and make the most of what you've got.  

Sunday 5 June 2016

10 Free Websites I Couldn't Teach Without

In this day and age, free websites which save time are worth their symbolic weight in gold.  Here are a few which I use weekly to plan, teach or organise my life!  All are free and most require no login or setup.  Click on the title of the website to visit it - it will open in a new tab.  In no particularly order:

Michael's curriculum website is my one-stop shop for all things new curriculum.  This lays out the whole 2014 UK Primary Curriculum in a simple but easy-to-navigate format.  Whenever my team are considering which objectives we are yet to cover or exactly what we should be teaching, we always make a quick check to this website.  

2) Trello
I have previously written about how discovering Trello has literally changed my life.  As a self-confessed to-do list junkie, this online tool, which syncs across browsers and apps, has meant I can mostly ditch the paper-based lists.  Read all about it here and then sign up and start saving time! 

Rob has created a brilliant site full of short video clips.  These are ideal for inspiring writing and reading activities as well as being a lot of fun for kids.  Clips are organised by genre but are easily searchable.  Rob has also kindly included many curriculum ideas based around the videos.  

If you ever needed any proof that music inspires productivity, just watch my children tidy up with and without this countdown created by Russel.  The Mission Impossible and Star Wars countdowns are our favourites but I also like introducing the children to some other famous pieces of music included for longer countdowns.  

Some may ask why I require two separate timers on this page.  Honestly, I've never really thought about it but I use this site almost daily as well.  It contains a countdown and a stopwatch, can be used in full screen, and it can be inserted into PowerPoint presentations with a simple understanding of Flash and HTML.  I use this to countdown our times tables tests, arithmetic papers and for a silent timer (it simple rings when the time is up).  The stopwatch can be used to time how long it takes to complete various loop cards around the room and get ready for lessons or events, always aiming to beat our previous times.

These maths teaching resources, which originate from the now-extinct 2002 National Numeracy Strategy, may seem quite old-school.  The NNS has since be replaced and archived but these interactive teaching programs can still be used to teach many elements of the 2014 curriculum.  When we start a new unit, I always check here to see if there is a simple, pictorial way of demonstrating the new concept for children.  As well as the interactive hundred and multiplication squares, the Fractions and Thermometer ITPs are particularly useful.  

7) Wibki (Links to my Y4 bookmarks) 
Wibki is an online bookmarking tool which makes it easy to provide links for children to access from various devices.  Websites can be organised into sections (on the left) and Wibki automatically finds the logo to go with each link.  It is completely free to sign up and children just require the URL to access the bookmarks.  Only the teacher with the login details can edit the Wibki page.  I have yet to find a bookmarking tool which does a similar job but better.

8) Pinterest (Links to my pin boards)
If you don't have Pinterest, there's a good chance you're a hoarding teacher; keeping things just in case you may need them later in your career.  Whenever I find a brilliant teaching idea (or recipe!) on the internet, Pinterest is the place I go to save it.  Using virtual pinboards, you can save images and return to them at a more appropriate time - no need to print and file.  I've written about the Wonderful World of Pinterest and how to use it as a primary teacher here.

9) Top Marks
This website has a plethora of educational games and teaching tools.  Some are hosted on the site and others are links to tried-and-tested activities on other websites.  A few highlights are the Moving Digit Cards (for teaching multiplying and dividing by powers of 10), the Calculation Balance (which has an enormous amount of options to choose from) and the brilliant Hit The Button game (doubles, halves, times tables, square numbers etc)

10) BBC Bitesize Primary
The BBC have an extensive selection of resources based on many subjects and topics.  There are teaching tools, interactive sections and revision games.  If I had to only keep one part of their site, it would have to be the Dance Mat Typing section.  As a child, I learned to type using the Mavis Beacon CD Roms - the free, online BBC lessons follow a very similar pattern and children feel they are making progress very quickly.