Let’s get gaming! Game based revision

Some great ideas!

Miss Scott's Musings

It has taken a while for me to find the time (and inspiration) to write my next blog on some revision strategies based on game play, but here it is. Firstly, I think it is important to recognise that skills based subjects cannot necessarily rely on content based games to help students make progress; for example, playing a Kahoot quiz will not immediately lead my students to write better poetry analysis; however, it can be fantastic for revising and improving subject knowledge/terminology that can in turn lead to a greater level of understanding and or confidence. Aside from that, of course, playing games can be fun and can help encourage all students to engage in revision more eagerly.

Here are just a few of the things I have tried:

Heads up style team challenge- The official ‘Heads up’ game has risen in popularity lately and has offered our English department…

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Posted by on February 9, 2016 in Uncategorized


Flipping with MoveNote For Micro-Learning

movenoteIncreasingly teachers need to be able to rapidly post content online for students to review or revise. Video is usually fairly cross-compatible, but creating a video can be a daunting task for any teacher. MoveNote is now available as a Google add-on, and that simplifies things a great deal. If you have a web camera installed, creating video content for the flipped classroom becomes ludicrously easy.

Many teachers already have content on PowerPoint, or you can quickly put a PowerPoint together on the topic you want to present. You launch the app, or access the website, and enable the web camera. You can then add slides, or a single image. When you click record, you can talk into the web camera and advance slides in the app. When you’ve finished it saves as a video format, which you can download and store on your LMS.

The format of visual and talking head is an easy way of replicating the in-class “lecture”, and can be used to create very short chunks of byte-sized micro-learning. I really think that a limit of 60 seconds should be set. 60 seconds to explain an idea or concept. These micro-learning moments allow students to quickly access ideas they need when they need them. These quick videos can be downloaded as mp4s or viewed in a web browser, making them very versatile. If you don’t have a web camera, you can upload a video you have filmed separately.

The talking head can be replaced simply with audio, but I believe personalizing the videos really helps make them more accessible for students. The content can be … literally anything!





Flash Feedbacks – ICTs For English Teachers

English teachers have usually found that ICTs are a good fit for creative self-expression. There are numerous multi-media authoring tools for computers or tablet devices which can be used to allow students to create multi-modal presentations of one kind or another. But it is not so easy to see how to use them when unpacking a work of literature or working on language accuracy. There are, of course, numerous drill and practice type sites online where students can fill in the missing word, or select the correct form of the verb, or answer multiple choice questions on comprehension texts, but I’m not going to consider those at this time. For the most part they are kiss of death, not too bad for the occasional exercise if you want to ring the changes, but hardly anything to get wildly excited about!

When it comes to teaching literature, however, there is very little substitute for guiding a close reading of the text and for discussion. Some of this happens in a whole class context, some of it in groups. But the essence of grappling with a text lies in the throwing out of ideas and seeing where they lead. ICTs can certainly be used in this process. Some of the discussion can happen before, and after the class on an electronic forum. Students can express their ideas about the themes or characterization of a novel in blogs or in wikis, but the heart of any literary study is in the face to face discussion in the classroom while doing a close reading. I have not yet found any digital advantage over reading a text with a class and interrogating particular words. What does this word suggest about the protagonist? What other possible meanings does this word have? It’s this process of worrying away at a text, like a dog worrying away at a bone, that produces understanding – often unexpected understandings. English teachers need to model this process, making their thinking visible to students, helping scaffold it for students, guiding their thoughts as they wrestle with a text. This process of coming to grips with a text has always formed the basis of my literature classes, interspersed with activities and exercises which aim at deepening or consolidating what students have learned from a close reading. I have tried different methods, but always come back to this as the only really effective way of engaging with a text with a class.

Snapshot - 1ICTs are no real use in this. However, I do see some use in terms of either recording discussions so they can be viewed later, or recording quick summaries of points made for later storage and retrieval. Note-taking during a discussion is not easy, although I encourage students to use the Cornell Note Taking Strategy. I have previously used quick Flash Feedback sessions at the end of a lesson, or activity, where students use their devices to record (audio or video) a quick summary of what their group decided or found. These can be shared on a LMS platform, and can form the basis for further discussion in class, or in a forum.

These Flash Feedbacks could easily be integrated into classroom discussion as well by pausing every now and then and recording a student summarising a point or points made. These recordings, posted on the LMS, can then be used as the basis for answering a question or any other activity. They form a digital record of a discussion and might help tease out some of the more interesting points made, which might otherwise have been forgotten.

Quite apart from providing some kind of record of a discussion, it also serves to help students bring together the thoughts and threads of the discussion and creates opportunities for building knowledge so that the ideas emerging from the discussion can be ordered and re-shaped into an argument about the meaning of the text.


Thinking Digitally – Approaches to Digital Distraction

Digital Distraction is one of the most pressing issues in the classroom these days. With 1:1 programmes becoming ubiquitous, almost every child has a device of one kind or another on their person at any given moment. This is a fabulous opportunity for teachers to use. A student asked me the other day if she needed to bring her dictionary to school every day. She said it was rather heavy. She was sitting with her iPad open in front of her, so I just kind of looked at her in a funny way! It is all very well to have policies in place where devices are switched off when they are not needed, but students need to learn good habits which will help them focus on any given task and avoid digital distraction.

Thinking Digitally LogoEasier said than done! We all know how easy it is to be seduced off-task by that SMS or whatsapp that pops up on your phone just as you are opening up the spreadsheet that needs to be finished by lunch time at the latest. An email pops up in the corner of your screen – of course you are going to attend to that instead of the urgent report! Children face exactly the same pressures at school, and at home when doing homework.

We are introducing a new Habit Of Mind at my school – Thinking Digitally. What are the digital habits of successful thinkers? In thinking through the strategies that one can adopt to teach good habits, perhaps the most crucial is around the issue of digital distraction. So I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how to achieve this. And it’s not at all straight forward. A good thinking strategy is usually a simple idea or approach, which is easy to remember, and easy to apply. For example, the de Bono Thinking Hats represent six modes of thought which can be used to guide parallel thinking and stimulate collaborative work. The modes of thought are colour-coded to help memorization and, once understood, are easy to apply.

An effective strategy needs to be framed in the positive. To get good, you must do this! A good graphic organizer, for example, shapes how you approach a task, rather than steering you away from something. So the challenge was to frame a digital distraction strategy that was positive rather than a list of Thou Shalt Nots! It also seemed to me that to be memorable the strategy needed to be short! A list of 10 pointers was just too long!

I looked on the Internet and found lots of lists about switching off, and focusing on one task at a time, and so on, but to me it seemed to boil down to one simple sequence. If you follow these steps you will be focusing on a single task at a time, and cultivating healthier habits.





Do the hard or urgent thing first! Get it out of the way!
Finish one thing before you start another!
When you’ve done some work, reward yourself by doing something more pleasurable! If you’ve finished one piece of homework, reward yourself by checking your whatsapp for five minutes.

Combining Cornell Note-taking with de Bono’s Thinking Hats

revised cornellI really enjoy using the Cornell Note Taking Strategy with my classes. The method involves using keywords and more expanded notes, with space for a summary at the bottom of the page. It works really well for general note-taking. I often model it on the whiteboard during class. I recently decided to combine this with the de Bono Thinking Hats to focus on particular aspects in my teaching.

I started exploring The Pearl, Steinbeck’s classic novella in class today, and wanted to find a way of helping students zero in on understanding and engaging in a character analysis of the protagonist, Kino. It struck me that de Bono’s Thinking Hats might well work as a scaffold for guiding this voyage of discovery. Students often struggle with the very notion of a character sketch, and yet no study of literature can even commence without developing this skill of reading a character. Most students, presented with the task of writing a character sketch, will either simply relate a series of facts about the protagonist, or will present a one-sided analysis, ignoring all the shades of grey!

It seems to me that the Thinking Hats are perfect cognitive tools for ensuring that students at least consider strengths and flaws in any protagonist’s make-up before commencing their sketch. I decided to use four of the hats, to include an immediate emotional response as well as a section for listing facts about the character so that I could have a conversation with students about which of these responses was relevant to the character sketch.

If you create a document as a template, as shown above, and share it on Google Docs so each student gets a copy, they can complete it, and submit it online, via Google Classroom, say. Or collaborate in groups to compile character sketches for a range of characters, which they then share with the rest of the class. This can result in a great set of class notes on any set work.


Zombie Ideas Again: “The Learning Pyramid”

So important that our beliefs as teachers are grounded in solid research.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Stories, ideas, and beliefs that have been disproved through scientific studies litter the mind. Professionals across-the-board in medicine, law, architecture, engineering, and business take-for-granted stories that have little to no basis in evidence. Yet they persist.

In earlier posts, I have identified such “zombie” ideas that have scientific-crafted shafts buried in their heart yet arise again and again (see here and here). I offer another one that a viewer of this blog (Pedro De Bruyckere, a teacher educator in Ghent, Belgium) suggested in a recent comment . He and colleagues have written a book about common myths that educators hold and he reminded about the “Learning Pyramid.”


A cottage industry of debunkers have pointed out many times over the past quarter-century that the “Pyramid” has no scientific standing and comes from unattributed sources mushed together in the 1960s and 1970s (see here, here, and here)…

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Posted by on January 16, 2016 in Uncategorized


Teachers, Learning Styles, and Using Data to Drive Instruction

To my mind the role played by knowledge itself is crucial.

Imagine trying to teach Geography without maps (visual learning) or teaching dance moves with only a diagram (kinetic learning), or music with only the score (auditory learning).

We all have different learning styles depending on what it is that we are learning.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Everyone likes data that back their prejudices. Academics call it “confirmation bias.” It runs rife among U.S. Presidents, state governors, legislators, school district policymakers, and Moms and Dads. I include myself in the crowd. People with beliefs on one or the other side of an issue lean heavily on examples and evidence that supports their view of, say, gun control, dieting, the worth of alternative medicine or the two-shooter theory in the Kennedy assassination. Resisting confirmation bias and being open-minded, a process that is closer to sandpaper rather than a soft pillow, requires awareness of one’s beliefs, values and positions on issues. It is hard work and requires attention in what one chooses to read, listen to, and think because it is far easier to screen out or avoid contrary information. Convenience often trumps thinking. All of this is also true for teachers. Consider the issue of  data-driven…

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Posted by on January 14, 2016 in Uncategorized


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