It’s A Love Thang

Sat at home on Sunday afternoon, I have taken some time to reflect on this year’s Primary Rocks Live event. I am lucky enough to be part of the team that helped to organise the event.

When the tickets sold out in under 2 minutes, I felt a mixture of emotions. First, was shock that it had happened. Then, excitement that people were that keen to come to our event. Finally, I felt a little anxious as it meant we would have to pull off a fab event to repay people’s enthusiasm.

Many months of planning, preparing and organising later, the eve of the event arrived. I headed over to Medlock Primary to help with the set up. we carried chair after chair (they just kept coming) into the hall, moved tables, put out bags – Sophie’s list went on and on. Eventually, we were finished. It was earlier than in previous years so then we started to think about what had we missed and whether people would actually come.  That evening, I headed off to the pub with Mike Watson, Graham Andre, Tim Head and Rich Farrow. This is a Primary Rocks Live tradition now – the pre-match beers if you like.

Waking up to a monsoon, we hopped into the taxi and headed back to Medlock after drying my tears from laughing so hard at Graham’s shellsuit. Ask me about the story behind it and one day I might tell you. A few people started to drift in. Tim Taylor arrived and I expressed my worries from the evening before. He said, ” Bryn, people came through snow last year so a little rain won’t stop them.”  When I came back from grabbing a quick brew, the hall was half full and people were queueing at the lanyard table. I guess Tim was right. The buzz had started too, people exchanging smiles, laughs and hugs. There was a wave of love and positivity building which was something to observe.

This same atmosphere remained throughout the day. In the keynote speeches, it was an underlying theme. When i drifted in late to a couple of workshops (sorry about that), I was greeted with a smile. People in the workshops tweeted positively about what they were seeing. Even the rain caused a few laughs. I haven’t smiled and laughed so much in one day since….last year’s event.

The tidying up process was another brilliant example of the love and positivity in our Primary Rocks community. Loads of people chipping in to stack chairs, move chairs, pick up rubbish and move tables.

When I got to The Garratt pub, I stopped and looked around. Everywhere I looked, people were chatting happily to each other. Laughs and hugs were all around. It was a love thang, baby.

On a final note – how good was that hot pot?


A Collection Of Reading Resources And Ideas

During my time on Twitter, through discussions with teacher friends, staff meetings, courses etc I have come across a myriad of resources and ideas that can be used to teach reading. This post is attempt to collect as many of them in one place in the hope that it may save other time. They are in no particular order and are by no means exhaustive.

  1.  Pobble 365  This is a fantastic FREE resource. If you go to the website, there is a new image each day. Along with the image are reading comprehension questions, writing ideas and SPAG activities. A superb one-stop-shop.
  2. Moving Beyond Comprehension Sheets This is an excellent resource created and kindly shared by the equally excellent Rhoda Wilson (@TemplarWilson). It provides lots of ideas for tasks you could deliver as part of your reading sessions. I’d highly recommend exploring her blog as there are lots of useful resources on there including reading units of work.
  3. Vocabulary Ninja The ninja firmly believes in the value of teaching vocabulary as part of teaching reading. If you subscribe to his blog, you will get a daily email with  a word of the day for KS1 and KS2. On the blog, there are also lots of other resources. Some are free, some cost.
  4. Literacy Shed The films on this website are great for practising inference skills. You can buy booklets of questions for many of the films if you don’t want to generate your own. The Literacy Shed Plus part of the site requires an annual subscription but has a wealth of reading resources based on films and quality texts.
  5. Planning A Week Of Reading This blog post by Ashley Booth (@MrBoothY6) explains how he plans a week of whole class reading especially how he weaves fiction and non-fiction together over the week which is very important to do. Ashley is definitely worth following on Twitter as he regularly shares ideas and resources that are useful for the teaching of reading.
  6. Jo Payne Jo ( @MrsPTeach) is the joint author of ‘Making Every Primary Lesson Count’ and her blog has lots of useful resources and ideas for teaching reading.
  7. Digging Deeper – Reading With Picture Books This is a superb blog by the guru of picture books, Simon Smith (@smithsmm). It is full of ideas for teaching reading using picture books.
  8. Inferring using snippets from a text. Provide the children with sentences taken from a piece of text. Discuss what the text might have been about. Then challenge them to reconstruct the text in their own way using the clues from the snippets.
  9. Provide the children with imaginary book titles. The children use them to create book covers and blurbs about the imaginary books. This was an idea shared by Andy Banks (@Baaaaanks).
  10. Guided Reading Question Stems A superb collection of reading questions stems covering each of the reading content domains created by Primary English Education Consultancy

I hope these resources and ideas are useful to you. It has certainly helped me to collect them all in one place.

Using Slo-mo iPad Camera Feature in Science

As part of out science work last term, my class were learning about water resistance. In previous years, I had used an investigation involving dropping different shapes of blu-tac through a large bottle of water. The problem with this was that all of the shapes of blu-tac drop very quickly, making it hard to distinguish between the different shapes in order to obtain useful results.

I remembered that the newer generation of ipads have a slo-mo feature in the camera app. First of all, we discussed fair testing and discussed how we could use the blu-tac, bottles of water and ipad camera app to carry out the experiment.

Then, after quickly showing the children how to use the slo-mo feature, they videoed each time they dropped a pair of different blu-tac shapes into the water. The slo-mo feature meant they could watch the videos back and clearly see which piece of blu-tac had dropped first and as a result having the lowest water resistance.

After that, we imported the videos into the keynote app and added fair testing information. The children then wrote explanations about what the results told us about streamlining and water resistance. We summed up the lesson by discussing how our results could be useful in real-life.

I think I will use the slo-mo feature again in science whenever we need to slow things down so that the children can carefully observe what is happening. This is an important part of working scientifically.


Using Spelling Points For Spelling And Maths.


This is just a short blog to share an idea.

I stumbled across a new idea today. At least it is new to me. I was preparing some spelling work for my class. We are going to work on words with the -cious suffix. For a while, I have used an idea that I found on the excellent teaching ideas website Try This Teaching which has been created by Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportaali). This involved using letter tiles to make words with a given letter pattern.

Today, I thought why not actually work out the number of points for a given set of words that contain the letter pattern/suffix/prefix etc that you are working. This would help the children to focus in on the trickier parts of the words as they have to think about every letter to know its score. I think this could be particularly useful for words with silent letters.

This could be further developed with questions like: (the possibilities are endless and could allow you to develop the fluency of any number work you like).

Which word has the highest/lowest total score?

Which words have a score that is a prime number?

The total score for one of the words is ________. Which word is it?

You could also add other elements such as triple word points, double letter points etc.

All of these questions would mean that the children are looking at the words you want them to spell very carefully and hopefully will help them to develop increased fluency in the area of maths that you wish to focus on. Win, win.


Celebrity Online Safety

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I believe that online safety is the most important aspect of the computing curriculum and as such, should be taught regularly. The children at the school where I teach have a god working knowledge of online safety due to the efforts of all our staff.  I am always looking for creative ways to teach what can sometimes be a fairly dry topic.

On the Teaching Ideas website, there is a resource which contains nine different online safety scenarios that children may face and a question to test the children’s understanding of the scenario. This could be done via a group/paired/whole class discussion. I decided to do it a little differently.

I distributed the scenarios around the classroom and gave each pair of children an ipad. They discussed the advice they would give to the person in the scenario. They then collected images of their favourite celebrities into the ipad’s camera roll.

The next step was to create a Morfo of one of their celebrities using the app Morfo Booth (you need the paid version as the free one doesn’t let you save your work). The children then recorded themselves speaking as the celebrity giving the advice.


After that, they saved the Morfo to the ipad camera roll and moved onto the next scenario and chose a different celebrity to deliver the advice. When they had saved all nine Morfos onto the camera roll, they were ready for the final part of the task.

The children went into the iMovie app and dropped in the nine Morfo videos. They then added titles and a background sound track to create an online safety film presented by their favourite celebrities.


The children thoroughly enjoyed the task and were very careful about the advice their celebrities gave. I plan to show the films to a younger year group or post them on the school website.

Online Safety Isn’t Just For Safer Internet Day.

My son was lucky enough to receive his first computer for Christmas this year which has brought the topic of online safety to the forefront of my mind. My son is very knowledgeable about online safety, mainly because I am always banging on about it! The teaching of online safety is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of the computing curriculum. With children spending increasing amounts of time online, it is vital that they know how to stay safe and how to behave responsibly when online.

The annual ‘Safer Internet Day’ is coming up this February. Lots of schools will be planning a variety of events to acknowledge this. Some will do assemblies, some will do online safety activities in the classroom. Others may book workshops by visiting consultants or companies. This is all fine and is one way to raise awareness of the issues around online safety. However, it is not nearly enough.

Teaching children about online safety should be an ongoing part of our teaching whenever the children are using internet enabled devices. A constant drip-feed of safety messages from us teachers to the children is the best way of maintaining and embedding their understanding of what it means to stay dafe when online. This drip-feed method works well in other subjects so why not when it comes to online safety.

I feel it is also necessary to plan regular online safety sessions as part of our delivery of the computing curriculum. These must be carefully mapped out to ensure that all aspects of online safety are taught and re-visited during a child’s school career. Assessing children’s understanding of online safety is useful too. I have done this using a simple assessment like this one I have used with Key Stage 2 KS2 E Safety Assessment . It is based on the SMART idea (more information about this can be found on

Cyberbullying is sometimes taught as a reaction to something that has happened to a child in the class/school. However, if we make an effort to teach children how to behave online and what the impact of behaving unkindly online can be then hopefully these issues will become less frequent. A brilliant (but sometimes hard to find resource) for demonstrating the impact of cyberbullying has been made by the Canadian Government and is called ‘Words Hurt’. It is an interactive video where the girl in the video reacts to what you type. I would suggest it is suitable for Year 5 upwards. Try it here Words Hurt

Informing parents in a pro-active way it useful in promoting online safety. Consider doing parent workshops (maybe when they are coming for parents’ evening anyway). These could be run by digital leaders if they are experienced enough. You could also make parents aware of websites to visit so that they are fully informed.

Anyway, I suppose my message regarding the teaching of online safety would be little and often, don’t leave it all to just Safer Internet Day.


A Critical Thinking Questioning Framework For Guided Reading.

I have been lucky enough to have been asked to write a follow up app to the hugely successful ‘Questioning Framework For Guided Reading’ by Alan Peat. When Alan approached me with the opportunity to write it, I was very excited. Helping pupils to develop a love of reading has been an area of deep interest throughout my career.

I wanted this app to be very targeted, to focus on the key comprehension skills that children need. I used the Key Stage 2 SATs as a starting point, picking out areas of comprehension that had been assessed regularly over the years. This led to the ten areas covered in the app. Although, working on these areas with children will help them with their SATs, they are also important areas of comprehension regardless of the SATs.

The critical thinking framework helps to build up children’s prowess in each of the comprehension areas although they are not necessarily hierarchical as we are dealing with little human beings after all. Rather, it helps to ensure a deeper understanding of each of the ten comprehension areas.


The app has been designed to:

  1. Focus children’s thinking and
  2. To be a practical aid for the busy teacher

The questions could also be used to prompt other questioning from the teacher as I believe it is easier that way instead of starting with a blank page and thinking ‘I need some questions about sequencing’. With the app, you have questions ready-made which may lead to you devising your own that fit your particular group/class as the app is designed to be used with a broad range of texts rather than a specific book.

My hope is that the app is suitable for both whole class reading sessions as well as guided reading group sessions as the choice of texts to use the questions with is made by the teacher. The note-making facility means that, as a teacher, you are able to make formative assessments during the reading sessions which can be saved to Dropbox. This adds an extra dimension to the app.

Alan and I hope that the app will provide a useful focus for staff discussion regarding structured questioning. We also believe that reading should primarily be perceived as engaging in its own right.

Easy Ways To Use Google Forms

Google forms is a nifty piece of software that is free! It allows you to very quickly create online forms for people to complete. Usefully, the results are automatically collated into a spreadsheet for you. A form takes a few minutes to set up and you can choose the type of responses you want, from multiple choice to paragraphs. Once created, you can generate a link to the form for people to follow to fill it in.

There are many ways that Google forms could be used in school. Here, I will describe two ways.


Google forms can be used as an exit ticket at the start and then end of a lesson, unit of work. You can compare the two spreadsheets to give you information about attainment and progress. Forms works on any device – iPads and computers so vavailable equipment shouldn’t be a problem. You could always set up slightly different forms for different groups.

Pupil Voice

As a subject leader , this one of the tasks you are often required to carry out, the arguments about its value are for another post. I used to spend lots of of time trying to pin down (not literally) children to answer questions about my subject. Now, I set up a Google form. Once I have done this, I save a link to it in a place that children have access – shared network , Dropbox etc. I let the staff know it’s there and they get children to fill them in when there is an opportunity to do so. This way you are not disturbing lessons to take children out to interview them. All I need to do then is look at the spreadsheet that is automatically generated and, voila, I have my student voice information.


Using Padlet to Develop Global Links

image.pngPadlet is a fantastic piece of software that allows children to collaborate on a sort of virtual pin board where they can pin text, images, links etc. It is a free service and now comes as an app for IOS.

As a teacher it is simple to set up and account. Once this is set up, you can create padlets to share with your children. Each Padlet you create has a link which can be simplified in the settings to make it easier for children to type in. Alternatively, you could put the link in a Word document or Google Doc for the children to click on. If you want to, you can set a password for your Padlet so that only your class can access it.

There are many ways that you can use the padlets. I have used it to share ideas with another class in school about the same topic. I have also used it to publish children’s poetry. However, a really useful possibility is to use it for communicating with schools from around the world in order to improve children’s understanding of what life is like in other countries. Following my participation in a Twitter chat called #aussieED, I connected with an Australian primary teacher. We discussed how we could connect the children in our classes. The main problem was the time difference which ,want that Skype wouldn’t really work. We decided that I would set up a Padlet with some questions from my class about life in Australia. I them sent the link to my Australian colleague who shared it with her class so that they could answer the questions. My class were very excited to read the answers and it helped cure a couple of misconceptions about Australia. All in all it was a simple process which enabled us to connect effectively. Best of all, Padlet is free.


Learning About Symmetry Using Minecraft

The idea behind this lesson was to tap into the children’s obsession with Minecraft to teach the following aspect of the Maths curriculum for Year 4

  • complete a simple symmetric figure with respect to a specific line of symmetry.

First of all, we discussed how to begin to complete the other half of a symmetrical pattern with respect to a given line of symmetry. We dealt with the misconception of translation v reflective symmetry.

The children were then given the opportunity to use Minecraft to create their own symmetrical patterns with a partner. Below are some of the results. The children were able to produce many symmetrical patterns within the time given. They were created much more accurately than they would have been using pencil and paper.