Curriculum, Learnpad

Allevatiating the fear

A proud moment for one student.

It was with some slight dismay that I realised this week that I needed to work on “counting in multiples of 7”. An essential skill, admittedly, but counting in multiples always brings a little shiver of dread when planning it, as there is such as range of mental maths abilities in my maths groups.  I know from previous experience that some will come to the lesson with this skill already, whereas some will still be uncertain after several days.  I needed inspiration.


Luckily, I found it. It came from two places.  One in the form of the Kahoot website, and the other from an amazing YouTube clip.

I have been meaning to get to grips with Kahoot for a long time: the children use tablets to log into an online quiz, and then compete against each to answer questions from the interactive whiteboard using their tablets (in our case, LearnPads). I used one of the public Kahoots: a quiz created by another user to test the 7x table.  Before starting the quiz, we did a quick bit of counting in 7s to just get their brains into gear, and then used the Kahoot as a pre-assessment tool. I was expecting the children to enjoy the quiz, but I had not anticipated their level of enthusiasm – they loved it!! As soon as we had finished the quiz, there were cries for more, so I promised it the next day, providing they made a big effort to improve their skills over the coming lesson.

For those who could already confidently count in 7s, they had a series of timed challenges at their table which they had to complete with a partner, armed with a stopwatch and a will to increase their speed. Those who were able to fluently answer a range of 7x table questions were given an NRich challenge to solve with a TA, where they had to apply their knowledge of the number facts using a logical approach.  The children who had struggled to answer the questions in the quiz worked with me to develop their confidence using the Counting Stick approach.  I had dabbled with this before, but I had never actually watched the YouTube clip all the way through, and so had not really done it properly.  The results were amazing.  After only a few minutes of counting, adding and removing numbers from the counting stick, the difference in confidence was incredible.  The children were beaming as they counted in 7s, and realised that they could actually use this new knowledge in the quiz the following day (We used the counting stick without numbers at the beginning of the second lesson, and the children had retained it all!).

As promised, we repeated the quiz the next day, and there was a noticeable difference in the number of children who were getting the questions right (in most cases, 28 out of 28 were correct). On the first day, most of the children who worked with me were completely stumped when faced with 11 or 12 x 7.  On the second day, I watched them closely when they reached these questions, and, even though we had only gone as far as 10 x 7 with the counting stick, they instantly knew that they just had to add 7 or 14 to the end of the stick. The sense of pride the children had at increasing their ranking or reaching a greater score was palpable: one child was so proud at having reached the leaderboard, we had to take a screen shot of his placing and hand it into the ClassCloud so he could print it off and show the headteacher his achievement (“I had to shake his hand and everything, Miss, it was brilliant!).

By the end of 2 lessons, every child in that class was able to count in multiples of 7 and rapidly answer questions from the 7 times table. Counting in multiples holds no fear for me now – I know the approach I shall be taking from now on!

Assessment, Curriculum, Learnpad

Spotting patterns

Every term, we have a new strategy to teach the children to use when problem solving in maths. Earlier in the year, we used trial and improvement, and then working systematically, taught through the use of NRich activities.  This term, our focus has been spotting patterns.

For many activities, the approach to recording a finished activity is obvious, as there is something to stick in their books, but the approach used is lost. I wanted a way to show how the children actually worked, and so I used the LearnPads to add to the recording process.  Our activity this week was Domino Sets, again from NRich, where the children had to spot patterns in the numbers on their dominoes, sort them and work out which, if any, were missing.  I could have given them photocopies of dominoes to sort and stick, but the children found it more meaningful to be given boxes and bags of real dominoes: especially when we discovered that some had what appeared to be full sets, some had fewer than 2 dominoes in, and some bags had remnants of 5 sets mixed up together! The joys of getting out resources before the lesson without having checked each pack indiviually! However, this provided an instant differentiation – the more logically thinking children were given the mixed up bags and asked to try and create a full set, whereas the less confident were given those sets which were almost complete.

The children had great fun sorting the dominoes, some choosing to just move them around on the table, others getting whiteboards and making lists and jottings to help them.

CaptureOnce they had formed what they believed to be a complete set of dominoes (or as close as they could get), the children then used the Annotate app on the LearnPads to take a photo of their set and annotate it to show the process they used to sort their dominoes. These were then handed in and printed out as evidence (The new ClassCloud layout has made this process far simpler and much quicker to get the work from the LearnPads and into the children’s books).  The quality of explanations varied massively, and was excellent evidence to show just how well the children understood how they had reached their conclusion – was there a system or just good luck?!  Thinking back to the lesson now, I would also get the children to make a short video explaining what they did – handing in and uploading to somewhere like Dropbox would mean the children would have a QR code to stick in their books and show their parents at the end of the year (I am kicking myself now that I didn’t think of this yesterday!).

I have used the LearnPads many, many times in my lessons, but never before in this way. Such a simple activity has provided some great evidence and gave the children real motivation to make sure they understood how they had solved their problem.  Annotate will definitely be making more appearances in my maths lessons from now on!

Curriculum, Learnpad, Technology

Sharing experiences – the BETT Show

The #BETT2016 team from LearnPad

Us teachers are a cynical lot. But we are a friendly lot too.


I met a fair few teachers over the last few days at the Bett Show, representing LearnPad and talking to them about my experiences. We are always wary of sales people, wary of people just pointing out what they want you to hear, so being able to talk to potential customers as an impartial teacher was really refreshing.

My role was to share my experiences in school, talk about a few lesson ideas and, what I was particularly surprised about, to share the negatives with customers. To be fair to the good people at LearnPad, I didn’t really have any negatives to share, but of course customers always came with a list of concerns.  Understandable, as they were possibly about to invest sizeable chunks of their budgets in the products, and I really enjoyed the fact that I could help to alleviate their concerns by telling them about the support I have received, both from the Technical Support team and from trainers such as Hannah.  I could share a range of lesson ideas, from simple ones using inbuilt tools like Annotate for those who were a little tech wary, to more complex ideas combining apps like Animate and Movie Maker.  Some just listened to the ideas and asked questions, but others came back with new ideas that I have pinched for the classroom! Whatever their view though, the teachers were all grateful to have the opportunity to talk to other teachers and hear what we had to say.  In fact, many of those I spoke to were in exactly the same situation that our school was in not so long ago: a handful of iPads, lots of old and deteriorating laptops and an ever increasing need to make a decision about what route to go down when spending their budgets.  To me, it seemed that technical advice from the experts, practical advice from experienced teachers and packs of free Wonka bar pencils was a winning combination, and so people left the stand smiling!

I consider myself to be a very confident LearnPad user, but I too learned a huge amount while I was away. Before the stand opened and during quieter times, I had the opportunity to explore new products too – I am going back into school tomorrow with a huge wishlist!  I was really excited to be able to tell people about the new ClassBoard app (available from the app store and Google Play), which is available to any school, and is a secure forum for schools to share pictures and work with their parents via their tablets and smart phones.  The first thing I did yesterday evening (during my “evening off!”) was to register my school and add a few demo posts, so I can take it to show the other staff.  It’s a great way to be able to keep parents informed and engage them in everyday life – something which we are always keen to do! Showing photos and work straight from the LearnPads via the ClassCloud is also a great incentive for those more reluctant users to get them out and use them – they have a whole new audience to share their work with.

I also spent a HUGE amount of time playing on the new Murus board – a whiteboard unlike any I’ve seen before.  There was a massive amount of interest in the board – not least from me – as it looks incredible and the idea of using SNAPS on it (simple apps) made it really easy to use.  I couldn’t talk to teachers about how I’d used it, as it’s a brand new product, but as the two days went on, I had more and more lesson ideas to show people.  Some of us on the stand made it our mission to try and put different lessons onto the board each time we demonstrated it, so between us, we built up quite a bank of ideas!  The LearnPad team regularly asked us what else we wanted on the board – as we played with it, we came up with an idea or two which the team took away.  I loved the fact that our opinions were valued so much – ultimately, we are the users and the consumers, so what us teachers have to say about a product really matters. Again, some of the teachers we spoke to came back to us with lesson ideas of their own… more to add to the bank in my head!

Having time to share ideas with others is really valuable, and is something we just don’t do enough of. When I agreed to go to the Bett Show, I had no idea what I was signing up for.  It was a terrifying prospect.  But it was a valuable experience in so many ways – meeting lovely people (both customers and people on the team), sharing great ideas, discovering fantastic new products and, last but not least, a huge boost to my confidence. Yes, the two days were exhausting, but two days that I am so glad I was a part of.

Curriculum, Learnpad

How I use LearnPads

casestudy-learnpadI have been working with LearnPads for almost a couple of years now, and in that time, the way that I have used them has changed (or perhaps developed) quite significantly.  To me, there seems to be a natural progression in the way in which they can be used, which I would like to share here.

Web Access

My initial use for the LearnPads was perhaps the easiest – using them to share collections of websites.  I began by using them as an aid to delivering our Maths Passports – each passport had a collection of online games. The children simply scanned the QR code for their passport to access the games.  This was ideal for a quick activity at the start of a lesson: the children could choose games linked to the objective they were working on, and having the QR codes accessible meant they could choose the relevant lesson without me having to send it out to their LearnPad.

The LearnPads are also great for independent research: by providing the children with links to websites about Henry VIII’s wives, as well as video clips and documents, they could focus on researching one wife in particular, without getting side tracked by all that the web has to offer them.  Linking this with an app – SimpleMind+ – meant that the children could record their findings on a simple spider diagram as they found out new information.  The children then took screen shots of their diagrams to hand in as evidence.

Combining the internet with apps and online programs can be easy to do, as well as very effective.  Recently, I used a website for my guided reading text, and the children asked and answered questions collaboratively via Padlet – they each spent a few minutes reading the website and then making up questions, before choosing other questions from the Padlet to answer. Also, you can read my post here on how I used a QR creator to make a place value treasure hunt.

Pre-selected lessons and resources

This might seem the obvious starting place, but for me, I wanted time to get to grips with how to use the LearnPads, teach the children how to use them, and spend time researching what was available.  There are enormous quantities of pre-made lessons and resources available, and they are constantly updated.  I have used many of the Remembrance Day activities, and there are some great resources for comparing a Brazilian town with one local to me.  One of my favourite LearnPad apps is their Animator – this has been hugely popular with the children! Hannah and Jess from LearnPad are coming into school very soon to provide staff with further training of what is available to use – there is so much to choose from, it’s great to have someone with expertise steer you in the right direction!

Combining Apps

As I have become more adventurous with the LearnPads, I have begun to use apps together to create different end results.  We have used Explain Everything to great effect to make e-books, creating simple animations and then recording the children reading their stories.  I’m looking forward to the new LearnPad Author app which will also enable us to make simple e-books.  We’ve combined the Animator App with Movie Studio, linking our stop-frame animations together and providing voice overs to go with it.  Some also used Tellagami to make introductions to their movies.

Even common game apps can be a fantastic resource – read here how Candy Crush transformed my maths lessons!

A simple activity of recording explanations with the video camera can easily be transformed into something far more interactive – some of the children have made instructional videos in maths.  Linking them to a trigger on a display using Aurasma means the children can use the LearnPads to access information when they need it.  The next step for me is to work out how to keep some LearnPads accessible in the classroom at all times for the children – we have a small number of Decimos which aren’t currently used, so I think they may well be the solution!

Instant Accessibility

More recently, I have begun to use the LearnPads as a “spur of the moment” tool.  Only last week, we were using the 1418NOW website to read letters to the Unknown Soldier.  The children wanted to read more independently, so a link quickly added to a lesson and sent out using the dashboard meant that the children could access them by themselves and read more.  Again, last week, my teaching partner created a PowerPoint presentation about an artist we were studying.  Knowing my children would struggle to sit and listen to me talking at great length about him, I uploaded the file to an existing lesson, the children picked up a LearnPad and scanned the QR code on the classroom wall, and were able to research independently.

For me, my LearnPad journey is well under way, but the more I read about how others are using Android and Apple devices, the more ideas I get.  If you too are a LearnPad user, I’d love to hear how you use them so I can further broaden my repertoire!


Candy Maths Mania

An early morning comment conversation with The Quirky teacher today was discussing whether the amazing, “bells and whistles” lessons we plan are actually having a detrimental effect on children’s learning, leaving them reluctant to take place in less exciting lessons (see the comments here) To some extent, I agree: if we were to plan over the top, all-singing, all dancing lessons too often, then children aren’t going to want to take part in “normal” lessons.  The word “dry” was bandied around a little.  But do any lessons need to be “dry”?

Of course, there are some objectives that are less interesting, less inspirational than others.  Maths was given by QT as an example.  But do the lessons have to be dry? Children need to be engaged.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been looking at the assessments I have carried out of the year, and am trying to fill in the gaps in the children’s learning.   More complex word problems using column addition and subtraction and grid multiplication , along with collecting and interpreting data are two areas where lots of the children have gaps in their learning.  There are plenty of opportunities for “dry teaching” here.  This, coupled with the fact that there are only 3 weeks until the end of the year, could lead to some chaotic and unproductive lessons.  I wanted to find a way to engage the children. Now, before I go on, I just want it to be known that I have been thinking of writing this post for a while, but didn’t know whether to or not.  Never one to court controversy, I know that some teachers will not approve of my approach: maths should be for maths and not for playing ridiculously addictive games.  So, deep breath, and here goes…

Image courtesy of

Candy Crush Saga was my answer.  I have to admit to being very apprehensive about it: it took me a while to get it on to the Learnpads, plus a lunchtime phonecall from their very helpful support team putting my mistakes right.  I didn’t know if the internet would cope, if the Learnpads would cope, and more importantly, if the children would cope.

But all was good.

The children spent ten ridiculously crazy minute completing five levels of Candy Crush and recording their scores.  “Ten minutes wasted when they could have been learning,” I hear some people say.  But 10 minutes isn’t wasted when we had three fantastic, maths filled lessons from it.  The children had a huge selection of word problems to choose from, ranging from simple addition or subtraction to complex problems which involved many steps of addition, subtraction and multiplication.

From SkitchThis is where I had intended the Candy mania to end, but the children really enjoyed it, so we spent 5 minutes in another lesson completing two levels and recording data to put into graphs.  For most, this was in the form of colours of candies swapped, but others opted to choose their own data to collect.  Those who were less confident with drawing graphs then put their data into simple bar charts; those more confident children worked out how to present the results of more than one child on the same graph for comparison.  Again, five minutes well spent.  Today, I found an information sheet produced by King which gave statistical information for the children to interpret. Clearly not the most thrilling of lessons, but the fact that it was linked to our Candy Crush experience made the children all the more enthusiastic.  I’m not going to milk the whole Candy Crush thing, but one more activity to come: the children are going to design their own survey and collect data to present and draw conclusions.

I know that using technology for technology’s sake is a bad thing.  All too often, I see trainees teaching using the interactive whiteboard when it adds nothing to the lesson, just because they feel they should be using it. Taking 10 minutes out of every lesson to play a few levels of the game surely couldn’t be justified. But if it can be used to motivate and engage children, then a few minutes’ technology used wisely can be time well spent.

Learnpad, Observations

No children were harmed in the teaching of this lesson…

Who would have thought that a blog I wrote in excitement, in all innocence and enthusiasm turned out to be a little bit controversial?

Imagine my surprise when, on checking my phone one lunchtime, I found a string of Twitter notifications discussing whether my actions during our work on aliens were ethical.  Sadly, by the time I read them, the brief debate was over, but the conversation can be found here.

I didn’t have the opportunity to defend my actions, so I am going to do so here.  For those who haven’t seen the tweet from Andrew Old, he was asking why I felt it necessary to lie to my children about aliens being seen on the school playground.  A fair point, and I completely respect his views on this.  And, if it’s any consolation, I did weigh up the pros and cons of whether I should tell my children that aliens have invaded or not.  But, I know my children well.  I know that they were mature enough (being Year 4) to deal with the excitement, for the vast majority of them to work out during the course of the day that this was a hoax, and to accept the reasons why I lied when I came clean and told them the truth.  For me, the benefits of the day far outweighed the naughtiness of bending the truth:

  • Every child, every single child, was engaged, enthused and excited throughout the whole day;
  • They were motivated and wrote brilliant letters to their parents, warning them of imminent invasions (some of the parents came to see me to say how impressed they were with the letters when they were sent home);
  • It was an amazing launchpad for our week of animation work;
  • The children produced animations which they were incredibly proud of;
  • It was clearly an experience that the children will never forget.

We made sure to tell the children not to discuss what we had been talking about on the playground with other children – no, we didn’t tell them to lie to anyone, but they don’t normally go out at break time and discuss their literacy with their brothers and sisters, so we just said to make sure they did the same with our alien work.  Any children who were a little unsure (and there were only 2 in a year group of 60) were brought “in on the act” from the beginning, and so helped to engage their peers. They were all told at the end of the day that aliens hadn’t been seen, and they were fascinated to know how the invasion footage was made.  Many even went home and filmed their own.

So was I wrong to lie to them? Maybe I was.  But how many other teachers have done the same?  When I was on my teaching practise many years ago, we were fortunate enough to have a small wood at the end of the field where we would take the children on a bear hunt – they had been led to believe that bears had been sighted there.  My 6 year old son comes home from school having received letters and phone calls from various fairy tale characters.  Apparently his teachers’ mobile phones have contact details for Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, Jack (minus his beanstalk) and various wolves and bears.  MNQTH often used to dress up in random fairy tale character costumes and hide in the woods for his children to track him down (admittedly, in black and white, that really doesn’t sound good, but it was all legal and above board, I promise).  All of these are examples where teachers deliberately mislead their children.  We do it all the time.  My children, being that bit older, would have laughed at Little Red Riding Hood being sighted in the school, so I opted for something a little more grown up.  Does that make it wrong? I don’t know, I guess that depends on your moral viewpoint.  But from my point of view, I think it was worthwhile.  I think children need opportunities to explore and to be creative, and that’s not always possible when things are based in reality.  The feedback I got from parents has been fantastic, and what’s more, I received no complaints from either children or parents.

Would I do it again? Without a shadow of a doubt.  Provided, or course, the children were right for it.