Using Emojis and Big Hero 6 To Develop Children’s Vocabulary

I am lucky enough to know some fantastic teachers who share their brilliant ideas. This post is about a lesson I taught yesterday with my Year 4 class using ideas from Lee Parkinson (@ictmrp) and Mat Sullivan (@InspiredMind5).

As a class, we have been using the film Big Hero 6 as a stimulus for our literacy work. This was one of Mat’s ideas. For this lesson, I wanted to find a way of developing children’s vocabulary using this stimulus. A set of 15 iPads were available for the lesson as well.

I began by introducing the children to emoji sentences which is an idea of Lee’s. If you don’t know what this is, it involves presenting the children with a series of emojis that describe a sentence. The children have to work out what the sentence is. For KS1 children, you might leave it at that. However, with my Year 4 class I banned certain words to make them really think about the vocabulary they could use. After much head-scratching and lively discussion, the children were using sophisticated vocabulary for Year 4 such as ‘horrified’, ‘ambled’, ‘elderly’.

To develop this further, I had saved a trailer from Big Hero 6 into the Year 4 dropbox folder. The children accessed the trailer through the Dropbox app, making notes in their jotters about what was happening. Then they used the Explain Everything app to retell the ‘story’ of the trailer inserting appropriate emojis where possible. At first, some children said “Mr Goodman, there aren’t any Big Hero 6 emojis!” But after thinking about it some more, they became very creative with the emojis they used with very pleasing results. I will add a couple of images of the results to this post at some point.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable lesson to be part of and the children showed that they were able to extend their vocabulary with the right stimulus.


Apps That Children Can Use At Home For Practising Basic Skills

Following a request on Twitter by Michael Tidd (@MichaelT1979) for free apps that children can use at home to practise basic skills, I decided to have a think and hopefully come up with a useful list. Here goes :


Battle Times – Great free app for practising times tables and other basic maths skills. It is a two-player app. You can play cooperatively or against each other. (IOS only)

King of Maths – This app is free although there are in-app purchase options. It is useful for practising basic mental arithmetic with quick fire questions. (IOS and Android)

Sushi Monster – Free app for practising addition and multiplication facts. (IOS only)

Maths Flash Cards – Free app for practising multiplication facts through short bursts of drilling. (IOS and Android)


Spellfix – These are a suite of free apps from Alan Peat (@alanpeat) which cover a range of spelling patterns as well as the word lists for Y3-6. Children have to spell the words from clues. I have used these apps in class and the children are motivated by them. (IOS and Android)

Word Juice – This is another app from Alan Peat. It is useful for vocabulary building practice. Children have to make as many different words as possible from given letters. Every word must contain the letter in the middle of the orange. This app is now free. (IOS only)


Launchball  – not an app but a free game from the Science museum. Children are required to move a ball from where it enters the puzzle to a doorway somewhere else in the puzzle. There are a wide range of puzzles to complete, of increasing difficulty. The game covers basic science concepts such as heating/cooling, electricity, forces. This won’t work on tablets as it requires flash.

Coding/Programming Cargo Bot – Aimed at Upper Key Stage 2, this is a free app where children have to provide instructions to move coloured boxes in a series of ever more complicated puzzles. Very challenging but covers programming skills such as sequences, loops etc (think it is IOS only)

Kodable – Free app but with in-app purchases. This is a simpler coding app more suited to Year 2/Lower Key Stage 2. There is enough in the free version to keep the children working for a considerable amount of time. (IOS and Android)

Hopscotch – Another excellent free coding app that enables children to practise a range of coding skills. This can be done either through children creating their own projects or working on projects created by others. It uses drag and drop block coding that KS2 children should be familiar with. (IOS only)

As well as these apps, there are plenty of apps in that cost a small amount. Hope you ind this list useful. I would advise you to visit Lee Parkinson’s blog for lots of great ideas about how to use a wide variety of apps.

Interactive E-Safety Posters

I have been thinking about how to assess children’s knowledge of E-Safety this week. As a school we teach E-Safety on a regular basis as well as taking part in one-off events such as Safer Internet Day. As the year has progressed, I have had the impression that the Key Stage 2 children I teach E-Safety to have become more confident in their knowledge of how to stay safe online. However, I wanted a more concrete way of assessing this.

I decided to take two approaches, the effectiveness of which I will analyse at a later date. The first was to write an E-Safety assessment that the chidlren complete in test-like conditions, either as a written document or using a Google Forms version. The other approach was to give the children a task to complete as a way to show off their knowledge.

This task involved two steps:

1. The children were asked to design a poster with as much E-Safety advice as they could. Before they attempted this, we discussed what features an effective poster should have.

2. When the children had finished their posters, they went into the app ‘Tiny Tap’ which is free. I was first introduced to this app by Lee Parkinson (@ictmrp). The children used the app to take a photo of their poster. Then, using the ‘Add Activity’ option, they added several ‘soundboards’ to their poster. These were either sound recordings offering extra advice or text labels that added extra advice. When this was completed, the children ‘played’ their posters and by tapping on the soundboard sections were presented with extra information. This enabled the children to include much more information than they would be able to include on a normal poster.


Appsmashing To Rebuild The Parthenon

Yesterday, I was working with a Year 3 class. Their history topic at the moment is Ancient Greece. They had already completed some geography work about Greece last half term so they knew a little about the context. As this was the start of their history work, I wanted to make a connection between the geography and history of Greece.

I showed the children some images of the Parthenon. We discussed what it was, why it might have been built on a hill, why it was built etc. Then we discussed what it might have looked like when it had first been built in the 5th Century BC.

The children located the Parthenon on the Google Earth app. The accessed snippets of information about it from the labels on Google Earth. Next, they went into Minecraft and set about the task of rebuilding the Parthenon as if it was intact both inside and out. They added what they thought the interior would have been like having learnt that it was built as  temple for Athena. They thought carefully about the construction materials they used, especially as they were effectively using what was available 2500 years ago.

Finally, they took screenshots of their creations and imported them into the Skitch app where they were able to label their creations with information they had learnt about the Parthenon and why they had chosen to include various items in the interior.

Here are some of the results which blew me away!

Photo 08-06-2015 10 39 58 Photo 08-06-2015 10 40 08 Photo 08-06-2015 10 24 22

Making Use Of The Apps That Are Pre-Installed With The iPad

There are many fantastic apps available from the App Store that can be used in lessons. It can be a mind-boggling wealth of choice. Many are free although some of the best ones come at a cost such as Explain Everything and Book Creator. I once heard some good advice about what apps to install on iPads in school. The advice was that you should look for a core set of apps that can be used for many purposes across different subjects rather than looking for subject-specific apps.

When your school buys iPads, they come with a range of apps built in or which you are offered free when you set the iPads up (Keynote, Pages, Numbers). The purpose of this blog post is to run through a few of them and how you might want to use them in your classroom.

Maps –

This app is great for learning about localities in Geography. Many of the major cities of the world have virtual flyover tours that show major landmarks of the city in question. Ch could take screen shots and import into Keynote or Pages adding information they have found out/been given by their teacher. Maps could also be used in Maths. Use the direction facility to find routes with multi stops and add up distances or subtract total distance from a given milage ‘budget’. They could even work out fuel costs etc. In History, if you are studying something such as the Jarrow March, you could plot the route on Maps and use the satellite function to take screenshots of all the places visited.


Apart from the obvious idea of taking photos and importing them into Keynote or Pages, there are other things you can do with the camera app. You could use the time lapse feature to create animations. You could use the video feature for many purpose from videoing a science experiment to bringing a narrative to life.


This comes with a stopwatch and timer. These could be useful for classroom routines such as tidying up, handing things out etc. The stopwatch could be useful in PE. The world times feature could be used when learning about time in Maths or in Geography lessons especially as you can add your own locations.


Again this could be useful for Maths time work. You could also use the ‘Day’ view in History lessons to write about a day in the life of a historical character..


I know of one teacher who managed to get in contact with somebody famous who was connected to something they were learning about in class. The class face-times this person asking them questions about what they did. You could also use FaceTime to share ideas/questions with other classes in school.


Very useful little app that children can use when they are researching something or when they are watching a video in class to make notes on. Saves paper and covering themselves in whiteboard marker.

Hopefully, some of these ideas will be useful to you.

Using A Choice of Apps To Teach History

Today with one of our Year 5 classes, I decided to teach some cross-curricular computing with a focus on learning about the games and toys that Victorian children played with as they are studying the Victorians in history.

This particular group of children are one of our most able when it comes to computing which means I can really drive the cross-curricular aspect as they can work with a range of apps/software with confidence. They also happen to be absolutely obsessed with Minecraft.

For this particular session, I initially gathered the children’s ideas about what kind of games/toys they thought Victorian children would have played/played with. We discussed the fact that they didn’t have the technology we have today and how this would affect both the toys they played with and the games they played.

I then pointed them towards a Google Doc I had created with links to some websites about Victorian games/toys. This was saved in the school Dropbox folder for their year group which saved time typing in web addresses (which often take a few goes to get right). This meant the children were able to access the information they needed quickly and the technology would not ‘get in the way’ of the learning. Indeed it sped up their access to it.

They used whiteboards to jot down notes from the websites and saved relevant images to the iPad’s camera roll. As they were doing this, I gave them a choice of how to present what they had found out. This was because they were at a point in their knowledge of computing where they were able to make sensible choices about how to present digital content. The choices included : Vidra (a free presentation video app), Explain Everything (one of my favourite classroom apps – not free though), Adobe Voice (simple but effective presentation app) and Minecraft. I also included a couple of apps that would not be ideal for this task as I wanted to test the children’s choosing of an effective tool to do the job.

Some of the children built Victorian playgrounds on Minecraft including villagers playing some of the games they had learnt about and some of the toys. Others produced very informative Vidra presentations. Two pairs of children even took it upon themselves to produce iMovies containing screenshots of the playgrounds they had built. Below are some of the results.

Photo 19-05-2015 10 51 47 Photo 19-05-2015 10 53 19 Photo 19-05-2015 11 00 15

Links To IMovies and Vidra Presentation.

A Fantastic FREE Resource For Teaching Programming –

While I was preparing to teach the new Computing curriculum las August, I came across a website called It is an American website which aims to encourage people to learn to code.

The ‘Students’ section of the website has four Courses that are aimed at children of differing coding abilities and reading abilities. All of the course feature short instructional videos often featuring famous (American) people such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. The courses are divided into 20 ‘hours’ called Stages. One stage is probably enough for a single lesson.

Each stage requires the children to complete a increasingly difficult coding challenges using drag and drop coding blocks similar to Scratch. These are framed in scenarios that the children will be familiar with such as Angry Birds and Frozen. The children I teach really enjoy working through the puzzles and are making good progress with their coding abilities.

Which Course Should Your Class Do?

I would recommend Course 1 for children with little or no reading ability and probably EYFS, lower KS1 anyway. Course 2 could be attempted by Year 2 or 3 depending on whether they have done any coding before. Course 3 could be used in Year 4 and 5 although the latter stages do get quite tricky. I would save Course 4 for Year 6 or an able Year 5. There is some overlap between course but this is useful for embedding knowledge.

Although the website is American, it does cover pretty much all of the aspects of the programming part of the Computing curriculum. For example there are lessons on sequencing, loops, debugging, conditionals,  binary, functions, computational thinking. Within the course there are also ‘unplugged’ lessons available.

I have found an extremely useful resource which could probably be used to deliver all my programming content and best of all, it is FREE.

App Smashing With Maps, Top Trump It and Pic Collage

Today I worked with one of our Year 3 classes. They are learning about different countries in Europe in their Geography lessons. I decided to make use of a great iPhone app (which also works on iPad) called Top Trump It. This is an app that I discovered on Lee Parkinson’s blog image

The app can be used to make Top Trump cards like the ones I used to play with in the 1980s! There is a limited amount of information you can put on the cards so you have to choose carefully. We decided to include population (in millions) , number of major cities and number of bordering countries. The children used Safari to find out the population of the country they were working on.

They then went onto the Maps app to examine which countries bordered their country and how many major cities there were. This whole activity resulted in discussion of very useful geographic vocabulary as well as the children using a combination of apps to achieve a goal as required in the computing curriculum. The final stage was to import their top trump cards into Pic Collage and add extra information that wouldn’t fit on the cards in order to extend their knowledge of their chosen countries

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Using Minecraft To Design Fairground Rides

Our Year 6 children have recently started on their new Design and Technology project which is Fairground Rides. I thought that Minecraft would be a great app to use as part of the process towards building their own rides. The children had already examined existing fairground rides and designed their own in paper.

Minecraft was useful for the children to be able to build prototypes of their rides. In effect, they couldimage image image

see their designs come to life in 3D. This also helped them to decide whether they needed to make any changes to their designs.

The children has to think about the physics of their rides such as how to make a carousel turn as well as the relative dimensions of the different parts of their rides. Many of the children went on to build other rides, experimenting with their design skills.


Using Alan Peat’s Science-Fiction Story Machine and Book Creator

I have been a fan of Alan Peat’s ideas and resources for a long time. I have been to a number of his training conferences too. He is someone I admire greatly in the world of education. Along with this, the Book Creator app is one of the apps that I use most often in the classroom and is always one I would recommend to teachers starting out on their journey with iPads.

A little while ago, I downloaded the Science-Fiction Story Machine App from Alan Peat. Since then I have been waiting for an ideal chance to use it in the classroom. That chance came this half-term as the Year 4 teachers I work with asked me to do some iPad-based literacy work with their classes. I decided to work on writing longer narratives over a number of weeks.

One of the most common problems (in my experience) that children face when beginning to write a narrative is getting going usually due to a lack of ideas coming immediately to mind. This is where the Science-Fiction Story Machine comes in. It generates engaging ideas for settings, openings, characters etc so the children have something to work with from the start. Book Creator provides a fantastic medium for the children to present their stories. Today’s session (the first of a few over the coming weeks) went something like this.

1. All the children had a whiteboard in pairs. We then generated ideas for the opening, main characters, setting and other characters using the Science-Fiction story machine. The app gives you three choices for each one from a vast bank of ideas. If you don’t want to use any of the three, you can reset it to get a different set of three ideas.

2. The children discussed in their pairs which of the ideas they wanted to use in their own stories and noted these on the whiteboard. They did this for each of the first four sections from the story machine.

3. Before I set them off to work on the opening of their stories on Book Creator, we had a brief class discussion about which of Alan Peat’s sentence types we could use in these stories and noted them down on the class board as an aide memoire.

4. The children had used Book Creator several times before so they set off to work confidently, producing excellent story openings. The finished stories I am sure will be excellent and presented in a very polished way due to the versatility of the Book Creator app.