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Get yourself through Ofsted…the old fashioned way

This blog is hilarious!

the primary head's blog

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As I was clearing out my cupboard before the start of term, I came across an old battered document. A tried and tested guide for getting through a full ofsted inspection. I have included some of the main highlights. Do feel free to use them, share them maybe even improve upon them (that last bit is highly unlikely, I think you’ll agree). Enjoy.

Engaging with an Ofsted Inspector

An Ofsted inspector will at some point attempt to catch you off-guard by asking you questions. Be warned: some of these questions may be about school policy or procedures or in the worst case scenario; about something they saw you do or heard you say.

Watch out for their question openers as they often begin a cruel streak of questions with the simple opener: ‘Excuse me, may I have a quick word?’ This is textbook Ofsted skulduggery. In the…

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Abracadabra Zookazam

When tasked with using iPads as a learning tool you immediately think of them as mini games consoles or another medium through which to access Facebook. However, it turns out there are apps for things other than stalking your ex-boyfriend and crushing tiny pieces of candy.

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One of these apps is Zookazam. A colleague of mine recently introduced me to Zookazam and it has soon become one of my favourite apps. Zookazam uses augmented reality to allow you to see zoo animals as a realistic 3d animation. All you need is an iPad, iPhone or android, download the app and print off one of the targets below.

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Simply point your device at the target and an animal will appear out of nowhere in 3D on your screen. The app allows you to have a 360 degree view of the animal you have selected and interact with it. You can also listen to information about the animal too.

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Obviously my first thought with this app was zoo animal selfies:

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But on closer inspection there is much more you could do with this app. I am a year one teacher so using this app to help the children learn about different zoo animals was my initial thought. Then I began to think about story writing. “The day a giraffe came to school” – the children could take pictures of the giraffe in different locations at school and write a story about this. They could even write the story in Book Creator (another good app).

Information texts is another obvious one. As the app talks to you and tells you facts about the animals it allows the children to research different animals independently. This would solve my problem of how to enable my children to research the animals without my heavily guiding them.

I recently used this app in an observation. The children were learning about riddles and I tasked them with giving their partner a riddle (or a question with clues) about a zoo animal. Each pair had an iPad and one person used the iPad to select an animal and point it at the target. They then had to describe the animal to their partner without letting them see. From the clues their partner gave them the other person had to guess what animal it was they were describing. When/if they guessed the correct answer their partner would then reveal the answer to them by showing them the 3D animal on the iPad. The children loved this and were really engaged in the activity. The language they were using was really rich and exciting too.

I’m sure there are endless possibilities with this app and in the short time I have known about it it has already evolved and updated adding lots of new features. Please let me know if you can think of any other ways you can use this app in your classroom or any ways you already have.

There are links below to the two apps mentioned:

Zookazam:

http://www.zookazam.com/index.html

Book Creator:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/book-creator-for-ipad-create/id442378070?mt=8

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My aspiration to be a blogger

Every teacher is a magpie. We look at each other’s resources, lesson plans, books and blogs to find the perfect idea for an inspiring and exciting lesson. I myself have been a teacher for three years now and a student teacher for the previous four. I have spent many late nights trawling the internet for a great activity or book to use in my lessons.

One of the great sources of ideas I have found have been blogs. Blogs from other teachers or artists or people generally more creative than myself and I have always thought to myself “I should start a blog”. However, as soon as my head hits the pillow that idea has disappeared and the next day have returned to thinking about the endless list of things I have to do. (I try my best to share resources on TES though).

Fast forward seven years and I find myself at the Derbyshire Computing Conference 2015. Being the sceptic I am I assumed this would be full of very “tech” people and I would be lost in the jargon about servers and html codes but in fact I left completely inspired.

The day began with a keynote presentation from David Mitchell, which I was extremely excited about as I couldn’t believe the guy from Peep Show was at a conference for the use of computers in primary schools. However, I soon discovered David Mitchell was in fact Deputy Mitchell, a teacher who had inspired children to write through blogging.  

The keynote was timetabled to take an hour and true to form I was convinced it would be the longest hour of my life and I had resigned myself to daydreaming about what would be on the lunch menu. However, I sat there gripped to every word this man said. He spoke about the school setting he was tasked with and the children who were uninspired and lacked the motivation to write. He spoke about his idea for a blog and how he thought it would take off immediately and the children would write wonderful post which would be received and adored by people all over the world. Consequently, Deputy Mitchell soon found this was not the case.

He found it took hard work and determination from him to make the blog a success and as horrible as this sounds, I was glad. Glad because no real life story ends up with the main character having a great idea and it’s an immediate success and everybody lives happily ever after (at least not from my experiences). I was glad Deputy Mitchell was a real and honest person, not some genius who was winning at life while the rest of us were just trying to get to the end of the school day in one piece.

The Deputy shared some stories from his journey with the blog and the one that stuck in particular was about a boy who was writing a report about howler monkeys. This boy was typical of a ten to eleven year old. He hated writing. He barely wrote a thing in his English book and what he wrote wasn’t particularly that great as he didn’t particularly want to write it. When tasked with writing a report the boy decided to ask the world for help. He posted on his blog asking people for any information they had about howler monkeys.

A few days went by and Deputy Mitchell received a notification about a comment pending approval. (Of course all the comments required approval by the class teacher to make sure they were appropriate and constructive). The comment came from a man in Kuala Lumpur. He had left an email address as point of contact. Deputy Mitchell contacted the man and they set up a time to skype each other so the man could share his knowledge about howler monkeys with Deputy Mitchell and the boy. The boy of course was completely inspired by this conversation. The man shared his experience of taking care of howler monkey babies, what they ate, where they slept, how they played together, everything the boy could possibly want to know.

A few days later, when the time for big write came (an hour set by for children to write on their own without help from the teacher whilst listening to classical music and staring at a candle) the boy couldn’t wait to get started. “What time we doing it?!” he asked Deputy Mitchell with excited urgency. Deputy Mitchell explained his surprised at the boy’s enthusiasm and his further surprise when he demanded a glue stick. The glue stick it transpires was for the boy to glue into his exercise book the pictures of howler monkeys he had cut out of his Guinness World Record book at home.

The piece of writing the boy had produced was phenomenal. Its oozed passion and excitement. It was engaging, it was informative and it was three times longer than any piece of writing he had ever written. Deputy Mitchell could not believe the affect the blogging had had on this boy. His writing had risen from a level 3C to a level 5C in the space of a week. He had unlocked his passion for writing.

Deputy Mitchell carefully constructed his comment at the bottom of the boys writing explaining his delight at the level of writing the boy had produced and how proud of him he was. How it was clear the amount of effort and excitement had gone into this report only to find a square block stuck over it.

“What’s this on here you’ve stuck over my comment?” he asked puzzled. “What, you mean you don’t know what that is?” replied the boy in a mildly condescending manner. Now anybody who works with children knows it’s a fatal move to admit you don’t know something, so of course Deputy Mitchell blagged it. “Of course I do, you tell me.”

The square block was in fact a QR code (something I have only recently become familiar with) which linked to the boy’s blog. It linked to a page the boy had written all about how he had posted asking for information about howler monkeys and how somebody had replied from Kuala Lumpur. How he has skyped the man and asked him questions and found out amazing about howler monkeys. How the man had shown him pictures of the howler monkeys he had taken care of. How he has cut up his Guinness World Record book and written an amazing report all about howler monkeys. How he had been grounded for the weekend for ringing Kuala Lumpur on the house phone.

The boy had been so inspired by the whole experience he had not only written a report about the howler monkeys but a complete recount of the whole event. The boy who didn’t care about writing had written 3,000 words in the space of a few days. The boy went on to write in total over his mass of blog posts, over 200,000 words, which is the equivalent on thirty exercise books whilst also filling four exercise books at school.

Now I don’t know how much of this story is true or even how much of it I have retold correctly but I sat in the keynote speech completely blown away. I felt a multitude of emotions to the point where I became teary eyed. I felt as a practitioner I had the duty to pass this message on, to bring it back to my own class room and inspire my children to blog. I felt the duty to read all these amazing blogs that passionate children of all ages were pouring their hearts and souls into and putting out there for the world to see. I felt the inner child in me dying to write my own blog, to share a part of me with the world. And that is why I am writing my own blog now. Because I figured, if a ten year old boy can post his thoughts and feelings to the world without fear of judgment and ridicule, then why cant 1?