Saturday, 27 September 2014

Using Minecraft To Teach Children About The Pyramids.

I am really enjoying my new role at school, teaching the new computing curriculum across Key Stage  2. This has provided me with lots of opportunities to deliver cross-curricular work as despite what some people may think, the new computing curriculum isn't just about coding. The sessions I deliver are part of teachers' PPA time. This means that they usually give me a concept/topic from one of their foundation subject topics that they would like me to cover. This is great as it has given me lots of freedom to teach these concepts in an engaging way while covering the computing curriculum (digital literacy and computer science aspects).

One of my favourite of these 'mini-projects' has been work I have been doing with Year 5 based on the pyramids of Ancient Egypt. This covered the following aspects of the history and computing programmes of study for Key Stage 2

History - the achievements of the earliest civilisations.
Computing - use and combine a variety of software to design and create a range of content that accomplish given goals.

We started by watching an National Geographic video which was 'touristy' in style and provided a brief overview of the pyramids. This grabbed the children's interest. We then visited a website that had 360 degree views of the pyramids plus virtual tours inside. These resources and the ensuing discussion provided the children with enough information for the next part of the project.

The Year 5 group I was working with is boy heavy and can be challenging. Therefore, I opted for a guaranteed 'win'. I decided to let them design and build their pyramids on Minecraft which they all played obsessively at home. The idea for using Minecraft in lessons came from Lee Parkinson (@ICT_MrP) .Well, I had hoped that it would engage them but the results were amazing. They were engrossed in the process and could readily explain their designs demonstrating that they understood the features of the pyramids and why they were there.

In an attempt to embed their learning further, when they had finished building their pyramids, they took screenshots and imported them into the Thinglink app. Thinglink is another app I have been introduced to by Lee Parkinson. They then labelled their designs with text, further images and videos of themselves talking about their knowledge of the pyramids. There are a few examples of the pyramids the children designed on our school website

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Ten Book Challenge

Thank you to Alan Peat (@alanpeat) for nominating me for this challenge. The challenge is to think of 10 books that have stayed with you during your life because they mean something to you. I found this very tricky as there are so many books that I have enjoyed. Narrowing the list down to just ten was difficult. Anyway, here goes.

1.  1984 by George Orwell - I first read this book when I was about 12 or 13. It was the first book that I have read that oft me thinking about it long after I had finished reading it. Strangely enough, I think it was in 1984 that I read it which lead me to compare the reality of 1984 to the portrayal of 1984 in the book. Since then I have often been reminded of the book through Tv shows such as Room 101 and of course, Big Brother.

2. Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl - this book reminds me of happy times with my dad as he would read it to me when I was a young boy. I remember cowering in fear of the Vermicious Knids! I have loved Roald Dahl books all my life, especially now that I am a primary teacher.

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - this was a book I had to study for GCSE English and as a teenage boy I hated it. When I read it later as an adult, I absolutely loved it as I was able to fully appreciate the wonderful wit of Jane Austen which shone through her characters.

4. Any Myron Bolitar book by Harlan Coben - I was introduced to this character by my mum who had already read some of this series of books. I instantly engaged with the wise-cracking Myron and enjoyed the adventures he and his friend, the somewhat psychotic Win, got up to.

5. Needful Things by Stephen King - When I had read this book, it made me want to read any Stephen King book I was able to get my hands on. In my opinion he is a master story-teller with many of his books crossing the bridge from reality to the supernatural and back again.

6. Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson - I read this book about a year ago. I had been interested for a while in finding out about the motivations of this fascinating character. Having read the book, I was impressed with his vision and his philosophy of aiming to design the very best products, unconcerned with the lengths he and his employees had to go to.

7. Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson - I really like the style of Bill's writing. The places he described came to life for me as I read his books.

8. Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend - I read this book when I was a teenager myself and shared some of the feelings that Adrian describes. I had never read a 'diary' style book before.

9. One Hundred Days by Admiral Sandy Woodward - I became interested in military history when I was at University. This book is an excellent account of a very difficult military campaign as it happened. It inspired me to apply for Royal Navy officer selection.

10. Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire - I started reading the Harry Potter books when I was training to be a teacher and loved them straight away. The Goblet of Fire sticks in my mind as I was reading it when I met my wife and coincidentally so was she at the time.