Tag-Archive for ◊ literacy ◊

Literacy and ICT
Sunday, April 13th, 2014 | Author:

At the end of March, I presented at the Derbyshire LA ICT/Computing Conference. I was running a workshop on the use of ICT within Literacy lessons and I thought that I should share the links to the resources that I talked about. There are some that have been around for ages, but maybe there’s something you haven’t seen before.

All of the links can be found on www.3x3links.com/literacyandict

Before starting, the links are shared using 3x3links which I have been using for over 3 years and I first blogged about here. This is a free website (using just a Google login) that allows you to share links with others quickly and easily. It can also embed into websites, meaning that pupils can access links quickly too – this is an example from my school – http://ridersschools.co.uk/children/

The general theme of the session was using ICT to improve standards in Literacy and there are lots of ways to raise standards so this is far from a definitive list, but there are a few suggestions.

Inspiring stimuli + messing around with sentences and words

One thing we have been doing is giving the children something interesting to write about. This can be for the whole unit of work, but it can also be for a snippet of a lesson such as the first 10-15minutes. This is traditionally whiteboard work, but we have a writing journal that these ideas can go into as well. They can start with simple sentences and then we mess around adding verbs, adjectives, adverbs and so on. We might then use the Random name generator to select the next sentence type e.g. starting with speech or containing commas in a list. Through playing with sentences, we have been able to explore what works and what doesn’t. Although this may seem like finding the few key components to make it to Level 3 or Level 4, there is more to it than that. The children enjoy playing with sentences and developing as writers.

There are loads of places to get inspiring pictures and one of these is Twitter. I blogged last year about using various Twitter accounts that share photographs and we use these to give us something to write about. This might be thinking about using our senses to describe the picture. A great place to get images from is Google Maps. Look at this image from Hengistbury Head in Dorset. Think about how the sky looks, what is causing it? The images of Whitby Abbey can also help to inspire writing too. Obviously if you can visit there, even better. But if not, use Google Maps/Earth to explore the world from your classroom.

Writing for an audience

Once you have some great writing, what do you do with it? For years now many schools have been blogging and sharing their work with the world. We have had a fantastic few months at Riders and when we produce writing, we try and share it with a specific audience. We have written book reviews based around Mr Gum and Year 5 wrote instructions for surviving in space. We then tweeted or emailed these links to people we wanted to see them including Andy Stanton, the author of Mr Gum and Commander Chris Hadfield. They don’t always reply, but we have had comments on our blog from both of them. Year 6 also wrote letters to Newsround and received a reply too. Now we make sure that when we plan a unit of literacy, we also plan in the outcome. Obvious to many teachers, but making it explicit really helps the children. I have the purpose written on my Literacy wall so we know where we are going each time.


This isn’t something I’ve done yet this year due to a lack of equipment in school, but last year we produced scripts and then recorded these as videos. We wrote news bulletins sharing our weekly news and we wrote scripts for assemblies and shared these with the rest of the school. Using sites like WeVideo gave us the chance to produce great quality videos, for free, in a matter of minutes. This is next on my list at Riders as we want to have a big push on Speaking and Listening. A big success last year, and the most complicated site that I shared, was Popcorn Maker. The complications come when signing up. Sometimes it takes 24hours for the confirmation email to come through and a few times the email has never arrived meaning the children weren’t able to use the service. The basic principle is to find or make a video, paste the YouTube link into the tool and then add captions, speech bubbles, pop-ups and URLs to give extra information about the video. This could be describing the action, showing where in the world it is set or simply adding dialogue via speech bubbles to a video without any speech. The final video can then be exported and shared.


Feel free to look through the sites I shared and the examples of work from my class (and some from Simon Haughton’s children). I hope you find something useful.

Category: blogposts, General Thoughts  | Tags:  | Leave a Comment
Random Sentences
Sunday, December 09th, 2012 | Author:

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I am having a bit of a focus on writing interesting sentences with my class. They are mixed Year 3/4 and of varying abilities as you would expect. I have been working on whiteboard work as a whole class looking at connectives and sentence starters to remove the short, simple sentences and the repetitive ways they start sentences…I did this…I did that and so on.

I heard @learningspy talk about Slow Writing and I looked through his blog post on it and had an idea. The premise of slow writing is that the children think about each sentence in greater detail before they write. For example, the first sentence might have to contain an adverb, the second a simile and the third has to be a question. Using Triptico, there is a random generator of these sentence types, but although this was a great resource, I wanted more freedom for my children.

So using the wonderful Random name generator from Primaryt, I set about creating one for my literacy groups. I have a whole class one containing all the sorts of things I would hope my aspiring Level 4 writers will be using but when I work with my level 2 writers, there is a simplified version. It’s not because I don’t want to expose them to complicated sentences, it’s just that for where they are, they don’t need complex sentences just yet! (A video showing how to make this is here

The best bit about the random generator is that you can save and embed the lists you make, so I have these on my favourites at school and once I have refined them further, I will embed them on my blog for the children to use more often.

When it comes to improving their independent writing, I am hoping that by remembering the various types of sentences, vocabulary and punctuation we have used together, they will be able to use this in various situations.

Here is an example of the generator I have used this week: (apologies that it doesn’t quite fit on my blog, but a link is here: http://j.mp/12f4AdQ

Google Docs for shared writing
Saturday, November 10th, 2012 | Author:

This week we were focussing on the book Where the Forest Meets the Sea and we were looking at expanding the simple sentences in the book into paragraphs. This included using our senses to think about what else was in the picture and how we could extend the text provided by the author.

For my more-able groups, I chose to extend them a bit further by including Google Docs. The book has just 14 pages and I had 14 children in these two groups so it worked out quite nicely. I scanned the book in and added each picture to a slide on a Google presentation. I then shared the file with the children with full editing rights. Although 12 of them had never used Google Docs before, within 5 minutes they were happy and were editing the text.

They were using a mixture of similes, adjectives and adverbs but also including the challenges I gave them using the sentences from Alan Peat’s book too. Within 20 minutes the children had then created their own version of the book! Also, as the document was shared I could let them peer-assess each others pages and check spelling and grammar errors. What happened though was that they also started suggesting better words too.

Here is an example page from Eleanor in Year 3.

Writing Exciting Sentences
Wednesday, November 07th, 2012 | Author:

A little while ago I was talking to some people who had attended literacy training with Alan Peat (@alanpeat – http://www.alanpeat.com/) and they mentioned his book “Writing Exciting Sentences” and being an area I was interested in, I bought the book. Now I am not a literacy specialist, far from it. In fact, I like finding new ways to inspire my literacy teaching so that, in turn, I can inspire the writing of the children in my class.

As with everything, the book arrived and went on the ‘to do ‘ pile for a few weeks until finally I sat down and flicked through it. I wish I had done so earlier. In the book there are 25 sentence types with a simple explanation and then some examples. That’s pretty much it. I think they are aimed more at year 6, so having Year 3/4 I decided some adaptation was needed. I took the ideas and wrote one of each sentence types on an A5 card, added examples and laminated it. The idea being that each week I would introduce a different sentence type and see how it helped.

I’m not good at waiting. Rather than waiting for the cars to be laminated and given out to my tables, I just took the book to my literacy group and showed them one sentence. I challenged them to see what they could do and straight away the table next to them asked for a challenge too. So I gave them the “the more…the more” sentence type.

For example: The more the sun beat down on me, the more I needed a drink. The more I explored the island, the more alone I felt.

With no teaching and just a simple prompt, the children produced some wonderful sentences today. It made me really excited to see what would happen in a few weeks with some teaching input behind these ideas! I would definitely recommend getting the book and I have since found out that there are others worth looking at too.

Here’s an example from Francesca:

Category: blogposts, Curriculum  | Tags: ,  | 5 Comments
Spending time in the shed
Sunday, July 01st, 2012 | Author:

I had to write a quick post about a truly stunning website that launched recently. I was lucky enough to see it in the first few days of it being online and since then it has grown and grown. The site in question? The Literacy Shed.

Now, literacy has always been something where I have had to work harder to improve on and this site has helped inspire me with many ideas already. The basis of the site is that it is split into many areas such as Myths and Legends, Fairy Tales, Ghosts and Other Cultures. Within these sheds, or pages, there are videos that can be used as the inspiration of a lesson. There are also questions, tips and prompts to help with the lesson(s) too.

The films include ‘old’ classics such as The Piano through to film trailers for the Pixar film “Brave“. The site is amazing and I have spent an hour just watching films that I would never have found on my own and now I can’t wait until September to include some of these in my own lessons.

Another great page is the Non-Literacy shed which includes some fab maths videos, the inspirational story of Caine’s Arcade or a Pixar short to discuss bullying. The site has so much already and it’s only getting bigger.

So, why not visit the Literacy Shed: http://www.literacyshed.com and share your favourite videos.

And while you’re at it, follow @redgierob as he is the man behind the shed.