Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Noughties - the decade to remember?

There have been a number of list programmes on TV over the last couple of weeks. For some reason these have always been a guilty pleasure of mine. I enjoy looking back and remembering things that I have seen/heard etc. The most recent shows have focused on the events of the last decade.

It's incredible how quickly this decade has gone. My memory of celebrating the new millenium ten years ago is so clear (although very fuzzy at the same time if you know what I mean). So much has happened in my life - graduating from uni, getting my teaching job, moving out of home, moving house and getting married are just a few of the major events that would feature in my Top Events of the Decade programme.

But right now I'm not thinking about the major events. I can remember those. No, I'm thinking about the little things - the thousands of little things that have happened every year - the songs, the TV shows (and the adverts in between) the films, the nights out, the holidays and the visits. During the last few years Web 2.0 internet tools have provided the opportunity to record all aspects of your life.

These are a few of the tools that have helped me record the last few years of the decade:
Flickr - brilliant for collecting all of my photos. This facility enables me to share photos of places we have visited and record special moments easily. The facility to add descriptions and geotag the pictures means that I can easily remember the stories behind the photos.
Twitter - not only is Twitter brilliant for sharing and discussion and for being inspired, looking back through my profile helps me to remember lots of little, sometimes insignifican, things that I have done. Now I know that writing about mundane events is something that Twitter has been criticised for, but it provides a permanent reminder of things my lifestyle.
Blogger - I have been able to record my thoughts on various aspects of teaching and education using this.
Blippr - a great service for recording which films and DVD box sets I have watched and also what I thought of them. I just wish I knew of a similar service for TV shows.
Facebook - for the last few years there has been no better way of keeping up-to-date with what my friends have been up to. Many of them, however, seem to be getting bored with it - I hope this doesn't last!
Shelfari - perfect for keeping a record of what I have read. - now I can remember which songs were out and when thanks to this fascinating site.

Friendfeed is a site that combines lots of these sites so that all of the information appears in the same place.Timeglider is a site which allows you to create a timeline of your life (or your school's life, perhaps).

I just wish that all of $these tools were available in the early part of the decade.

I fear that I am becoming obsessed with remembering things. Maybe it's the thought that I might lose my long term memory. But I feel it's so important to be reminded of the things which help make you the person you are.

Could the Teenies be the decade in which we can record everything and forget nothing?

Monday, 21 December 2009

Polydron 3D Shapes

During the last few weeks, when we have been busy with our Christmas play, I needed an exciting maths project to keep the children focused during lessons. Earlier in the year we purchased Polydron apparatus for exploring 3D shapes.

I decided that I would use this as part of our study of 3D shapes.

We used the prisms and pyramids packs to explore the properties of these shapes. This created lots of discussion about edges, faces and vertices. It was fun to predict this for different prisms and pyramids.

We then used Polydron squares to find the eleven faces of a cube. Only one group found all eleven! In the past, this activity was done using card which the children had to draw their nets on and then test the shape. Using Polydron was so much quicker. We also had time to find the eleven nets of an octahedron in the same way.

We then talked about which 3D shapes could be considered to be 'regular'. These shapes are called 'platonic'. They are tetrahedrons, octahedrons and icosahedrons which all use triangles; cubes (squares) and the dodecahedron (pentagon). Each shape was described with the number of faces which meet at each vertice. Once each one had been designed, we explored the different nets of these shapes.

We also spend some time exploring archimedean solids - solids which are made up of faces of different shapes. Each shape was described using notation like 3.8.8 which meant a triangle, octagon and another octagon meet at each vertice. We had great fun building all sorts of different shapes. We had chance to explore the difference between a dodecahedron, an icosidodecahedron a rhombicosidodecahedron and a truncated dodecahedron. We find out what it means to truncate a shape.

The work was lots of fun and did keep the children focused. They learned about being systematic when it comes to investigating - and the equipment allows them to work more quickly. They learned the properties of the shapes. They considered how to modify the shapes.

The Polydron packs that we used were the Prisms, Pyramids and Archimedean Solids. They aren't very cheap at all, but if you interested, they are available here.

Pictures of our work can be found on our Year Six blog here.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Rose Blanche

In the middle of all of our rehearsals for our Christmas production of Peace Child we delivered a short poetry unit of work based around Rose Blanche by Ian McEwan and Roberto Innocenti. This is a sad tale about the discovery of a concentration camp through the eyes of a little girl, Rose Blanche. (Incidentally, it reminds me of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas which I watched recently - what an ending!)

I wanted to try to inspire the children and ensure that I got good work from them even though their minds were on something else. I enjoyed reading about @arsenalchris's experiences of Voicethread and have used Wallwisher in our school website. So I decided to try these two excellent sites for the first time in the classroom.

Voicethread allows you to comment on a picture. After uploading a picture, you login and then use your microphone to record your comment. As many comments as you like can be added. The picture then plays back with the comments over the top.

Wallwisher allows you to gather messages by adding 'sticky notes' to the wall.

The children were asked to write a haiku based on the one of the pictures in Rose Blanche. Once they had drafted and edited their work, they added their work to a Wallwisher. This was a great way to see all of the poems at once. Something that I wish I had done was to produce a Wordle of all of the poems so that the children could see the strong themes that were emerging.

After adding their work to Wallwisher they shared their poem on a Voicethread. Each child was given an identity so that they could add their poems. The first time using this website proved to be remarkable simple.

The entire unit of work only lasted for a couple of days so I think with more time the quality of work could have been a little better. But the use of these two websites certainly kept the children focused at a time when it's easy for them to lose interest.

Now, as I've said, this was the first time I've used both in the classroom. After Christmas I plan to use them in more detail. Our first unit when we return in January is one based on The Borrowers. I wonder if we can use them in this unit...

Sunday, 13 December 2009

ICT Survey

After reading @DeputyMitchell's blog recently I was inspired to carry out my own survey of the social networking skills of the pupils in the year group.

The results were interesting and one thing they did reveal was that there was a big difference the use of computers at home between our two classes. One class had hardly anyone with a computer in their bedroom whilst the other had quite a few.

The questions I asked were the same as the ones asked by @DeputyMitchell.

Number surveyed was 49.
47 children have a computer at home. (96%)
47 children use the computer at least once a week. (96%)
7 children use the computer each day. (14%)
Pupil computer usage:
1 to 30 minutes: 9 children
31 to 60 minutes: 30 children
1 to 2 hours: 2 children
2 to 4 hours: 5 children.

10 children (20%) use social networking websites and 3 children's parents helped to setup their account.
11 children (22%) have a computer in their bedroom. 5 of these have webcams.
20 children (41%) know that their parents check their internet history. (Isn't this poor? Maybe parents just don't know how to do this.)
12 children (24%) know how to delete their internet history. (Interesting.)
20 children (41%) have buddies in MSN.
8 children (16%) have buddies they have never met or they don't know who they are. (Very worrying.)
18 children (37%) admitted to seeing things on the internet they know they shouldn't have seen. (And I'd like to bet that they haven't talked about what they have seen with parents.)

We also asked the questions about toilets that @DeputyMitchell used in his survey.
9 children avoid going to the toiler whilst at school.
5 children drink less water on purpose to make sure they don't need to go to the toilet.

I plan to repeat the survey each term to find out about changing attitudes in the year group. Next time I will also ask questions about use of mobile phones.

E-Safety is something that has featured in the news a lot this week. One thing I have been able to do is invite an LA advisor in to talk to parents about e-safety. I think it would be worth sharing these results with parents too... Lots of food for thought.