Monday, 24 February 2014

Using the wii in Reception- photos to follow!

Using the Wii in Reception

Reception class have been using the wii during the first half of Spring term.  We have been doing a lot of work on direction and combined use of the BeeBots in class, the Bee Bot programme in computer lessons and the Mario Kart game on the wii to reinforce understanding of this.

Some of the children found using the Bee Bots quite tricky as they did not always understand that the Bee Bot needed to be facing the direction it was going in; they were egocentric in their thinking and could not tackle the task from the point of view of the Bee Bot.  By using the Mario Kart game their view was always the direction of travel (even if it was towards a wall!!). 

Initially I introduced the Wii to the children during freeflow activities so they could gain some experience in directing their Kart.  This also allowed for the initial excitement and fascination to be overcome.  The communication and discussion generated between the children as they played alongside each other was enhanced with the different settings, characters and Kart designs.

Following an assortment of speaking and listening activities and the ICT activities that we have been doing, the children are now able to give some commentary on the events of the race that they take part in; with much enthusiasm and laughter. 
New vocabulary that has been introduced and reinforced by using the Wii:
          Straight ahead                         through
          Forwards                                  over
          Backwards                                overtake
          Left                                         crash! /bash/smash
          Right                                        next to
          Reverse                                    under
          Off track

The children’s understanding of ordinal numbers has also been reinforced by talking about positions that they have finished each race in.

By using the Wii, all areas of the EYFS curriculum have been enhanced:

PSED – taking in turns when using the Wii and waiting patiently for their turns.  Recall of any experiences from home with family members.

PD – fine and gross motor development when turning the wheel and using the controls.  Good hand eye coordination development; cause and effect.

C&L – communication and interaction skills have been enhanced at different levels; when talking about strategies before, during and after the activities.  By considering what might happen, is happening or has happened, the children have developed their thought processes and communicative language.

L – the children have developed their descriptive language to describe characters, settings, vehicles and what is happening.

M – understanding of position, direction and ordinal numbers has been reinforced through practical activities that the children could relate to.

UW – Most of the children were able to develop their skills when using the equipment and became more independent with setting up each game during the process.

EA&D – The children were confident when identifying colours, characters and designs etc. that they wanted to use during their game.

Using Endless Ocean 2 in year 4

Endless Ocean 2- Year 4

In this particular year 4 class, there seemed to be difficulties with imaginative writing and the children struggled to visualise their ideas without a stimulus.

Before the lesson, the children thought about and made mind maps of sentences with 'ing' openers. E.g. they focused on a dolphin and the way it moved. They then shared ideas as a whole class and created a word bank of 'ing' words. The teacher then modelled how these words could be used within a sentence and then the children were divided into groups.

Some groups had a photo of an underwater setting as a visual stimulus and produced a piece of paired writing describing that setting. Children were able to use key words from the class word bank to support them. Each group got a chance to use the Endless Ocean game on the wii to enhance their ideas.

Children were also adding words to a class list of adjectives and creating sentences for a whole class 'big write'.
The year 4 teacher found using the wii useful as a visual stimulus and to focus the children's attention and interest.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Words and Pictures...

Length and quality of descriptive writing has been a challenge that I have approached a number of ways this year.

In order to try to develop both the descriptive quality and narrative length of the children's writing, I used a 'level' from the Portal 2 video game.
As before, we explored the game world and stripped the narrative (not that there is much of one).

We engaged in a vocabulary harvest, allowing children to walk and look around the environment, focusing on anything in particular that grabbed their interest. We collected a variety of words and phrases - with the challenge for the higher ability groups to develop similes, metaphor and other literary devices.

A reluctant boy writer creates a page of detailed notes/story planning in 20 minutes!
We explored mind mapping methods, bullet points and lists, and the children were free to use the method they found most effective.

We shared our results, stole excellent words from each other and discussed the success criteria for constructing a narrative based on the environment we had explored.

The writing was good, and most importantly, the level of detail and description had progressed extremely well. For the writing sessions, we would have the game running on the whiteboard, but this time we simply concentrated on the sound-scape the game was creating, and the children wrote happily with this in the background. Occasionally someone would ask me to 'walk' the character to a different location, to change the sounds. We also discussed the colour pallette of the game, and how the chosen colour range affected the mood and atmosphere. Again, all of this sensory input and exploration fed its way into the writing.

After some productive response partner work, we also look at their writing, its grammar and sentence-level construction. All in all, a highly rewarding and productive week's writing all round!

This has, incidentally, helped engage the children beyond literacy; I am using the game engine and level creator as part of the computing work we are doing, and plan to link instructional and explanation texts with programming and coding.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Using The Romans (Horrible Histories)

I took this game on because it fitted in perfectly with our topic of the term 'The Romans'.

The game is based on a story of a boy who is training to be a gladiator and so there are lots of little games to play and pass, all of which are loosely based upon gladiator skills. There are facts to read about the Roman's gory side of things, and a simple simulation of a colosseum and its gardens, school, and other out-buildings which you can walk around.

The children enjoyed playing the games and learning the facts although, beware, some of them are quite gruesome!
It also provided children with extra knowledge about the Romans, what a colosseum would have looked like, the soldiers, trades, sellers and other members of public that would have been there and the architecture. This proved useful in enhancing their overall historical knowledge and they were able to apply these facts to their writing in Topic and English lessons.
Activities I did were:
Advert for Gladiator training - attracting potential clients to train at the colosseum. Looking at other posters and persuasive writing they produced an advert to persuade new men to join. More work on persuasive language was needed to make this really successful, but they wrote about what they saw on the game and needed no help with content.

Descriptive writing - teaching and using noun-phrases to describe what the colosseum and grounds were like. Good for this, no problem describing what they saw and we could refer back to the game any time to help them with ideas.

Note taking: taking facts about what being a gladiator would have been like that informed a speaking and listening exercise 'Would you be a gladiator?' Using whiteboards, some help with the reading and talking, children quickly picked up on the more gory facts and the training involved.

How I found the game: I did not feel so inspired, or felt that the children were as inspired as they have been with other simulation games. It was quite limited in this way, and some of the games were quite difficult to win and this put some children off having a go, something I have not experienced before. However, they were interested in the facts and it did help them widen their historical knowledge which they applied in other writing tasks during topic. I would use it again.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Writing with Portals.

As I earlier explained, in year 6 we have been using the game Portal and Portal 2 as a stimulus for some creative writing. The focus was on using vocabulary to build an atmosphere.

We began the project by exploring the opening level from the original game. The narrative is almost absent, as we (the players) are plunged into a mysterious laboratory with only an occasional disembodied voice for company.

The children were all gripped and we did a vocabulary harvest, concentrating on feelings and specific, descriptions of the  stark, clinical environment.

The only real challenge was explaining the concept of the 'portals' around which the game's central mechanic revolves. Put simply, you have a device that can place 'holes' on most surfaces, in through one and out through the other. 
For children who were familiar with this game - about a third of the class - it was fine, for the others we had to allow a 20 minute session one afternoon to play through a few levels and understand it.

The next day we explored theories as to why our character was here, where exactly 'here' was and who would be behind it. Theories were impressive and tremendously detailed - the children had been thinking about this! 

We played a few narration games, with a child reading their opening paragraph, and another walking through the environment to match. The discussions that followed these lead to a good breakthrough with a few less confident writers on the importance of extending description, taking the time to do so and the power of well chosen vocabulary - Hurrah!

I felt really happy with the progress in narrative description and vocabulary choices. The blank canvas of the game world was a perfect opportunity to provide a wealth of stimuli for the class. The 'narrator game' was an excellent way of starting a discussion on descriptive writing, and the children were able to literally show the details they enjoyed, or felt should be added to.

This from one of my foundation group:
 This from the standard group - a writer who previously had struggled with not moving her writing forward at 100 mph!
 As a reward, the children are designing their own puzzle levels in the Portal 2 Education edition game. Details on how to participate in this educational beta test can be found here.

 The cross curricular links for this physics-based puzzle game are huge. I am really looking forward to the next few weeks...

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Using Wii Party and Mario Kart to teach Time

Teaching Time is notoriously difficult and can be full of misconceptions and confusion, therefore I decided to take a more practical approach when revising Time with my lower set Year 3 maths class this summer term.

I have found many children are unaware of time passing and how long different activities or daily events last. A recent example of this was displayed after a school trip to the Colchester Zoo where the children were adamant the coach journey took 4 hours on the coach when writing their recounts!

So when it came to planning for this term’s Time lessons I took the decision to use the Wii during the starter and input of each lesson. I began by playing a game from Wii Party called Stop Watchers, which is one of the many mini games available. The aim of the game is to estimate when you think the right amount of time has passed. The amount of time is displayed initially and then hidden from view, so the children are encouraged to think and count carefully to ensure they are the most accurate competitor and press the button when they believe that the correct amount of time has passed.

During the game the children without the controllers raised their hands when they thought the time was up and were engaged throughout even though they were not holding a controller. It was interesting to watch children who were unsure and would click the button when other children raised their hand or when the person next to them had pressed the button. However, they soon realised the other children had misjudged the time so learnt to count carefully for themselves to guarantee a more accurate time. After this I used a stop watch to time one minute and the children sat down when they thought a minute had passed. Their judgements became more accurate after each game.

We played other games such as Chin Up Champ to see how many chin ups could be completed in 10 seconds and Jangle Wranglers where they have to ring a bell to round up as many sheep as they can in 30 seconds. After the challenge was complete I asked questions such as ‘Who completed the most chin ups in 10 seconds?’, ‘Who completed the least chin ups in 10 seconds?’, ‘How many more chin ups did player 3 score than player 1?’ This led on to practical activities around the classroom which challenged the children to follow their own line of enquiry for ‘How many.... can you do in 60 seconds?’ Some children chose star jumps, ball in a target and other practical activities. This enabled the children to gain a sense of time passing and what can be achieved or completed within the time.

During another starter and input, I also used Mario Kart where the children raced one another in their best time possible. As a class we analysed the final lap times which needed to be heavily guided for the first couple of turns. Using the Time Trials option we discussed the time differences between the competitors and I asked questions such as ‘How much faster did player 2 have to be to have beaten player 1?’ The children could soon solve calculations between the different lap times of the competitors using Counting On.

Using the Wii was a great way to engage children and to present Time in a practical context. 

Friday, 28 June 2013

Introducing posters to Year R/1 and using Word.

After almost an academic year of teaching with the Wii just with the more able YR children and the Year 1s I decided to include all of the children in this one.

I wanted to teach the children the idea of having 'what', 'where', 'when' in their writing. I also wanted to develop their ICT skills and a poster seemed a simple way of doing this. I chose Mariokart as the game because of its appeal to the boys.

In two lessons we did the following:
1) Looked at posters advertising local speedway events, established what a poster did, and discovered that they told us what/when/where (and how much) about the event.
2) Played a few games on a couple of different tracks.
3) Decided on some ideas for our own posters for advertising a Mariokart event using the prompts what/where/when and how much (children know how to write the numerical date hence its use).
4) As a whole class we used their ideas to produce a poster in pairs or individually using Word (where the ILO was to use font size and type) - I centred the text for them. They then drew the images.

What were the benefits of using the Wii? Apart from the excitement the Wii produced, the encouragement for each other, and the laughs, the children easily came up with ideas for thier poster; we must have spent no longer than a minute! That's how I find the Wii - very good at giving the children ideas and a point of reference.

Next step: to write a recount about attending the event.