Saturday, August 31, 2013

Teaching Digital Photography

Art Options Day

Over the last 4 years I have organised an Art Options Day each year for our Year 4 team during our Inquiry - How We Express Ourselves.

The Central Idea: People use many different forms of expression to convey their uniqueness as human beings.   
Lines Of Inquiry (with focus key concepts)
The diverse ways in which artists express themselves (form).
How people become artists (change).
How we can express our uniqueness through the Arts (perspective).

This has always been one of my favourite Transdisciplinary Themes for IB, and this unit in particular. It has lead to the development of many of my art units available at TPT and TNB.

The organisation for Art Options Day always starts weeks earlier. I would implore the parent body to offer up their time and skills, for a day, to run 4 mini workshop of an hour each, for up to 8 students at a time. The 3 teachers in my planning team would also run workshops.

Usually we would end up with up to 12 options on offer, ranging from pebble painting to digital animation, flax weaving to carpentry. We have had some great workshops over the years. The kids get to rank their wish-list from 1-12 (1 being their first choice). Once all the wish-lists are in, I spend 2-3 days putting them into options and trying to ensure that they all got most of what they asked for. I also had to consider any unfavourable student combinations, brief parents, organise art resources and materials, book out work spaces around the school, oversee set up and pack up, and run my own workshops on the day. Phew!

This is a big job but a massive highlight for the students. One student told me last year that with each theme we worked through,  he would think "that was my favourite inquiry", but each time, the next one would trump it! Yay :) Job done!
This resource cover was created by my very talented daughter when she was 12. She is now 18 and an artist in her own right. I just love this self-portrait! Her art can be Googled under JessLouiseArt.

In my first year I ran a workshop for - Build your own digital avatar - being the Digital Classroom teacher for the year group. Most of the material for that came from the inspirational Jacqui Sharp.
Then for 2 years I ran Van Gogh's Sunflowers (Which I am yet to write up into a lesson plan (watch this space), and for one year I ran a Digital Photography Workshop.

The Digital Photography was an interesting one because during the Art Day of the previous year, I had a parent (photographer) offer to run this workshop and he did - but with mixed results. The students had fun playing with manual settings but didn't come back with any usable photographs at the end of their hour. Mostly blurred or random shots.

So, after much research, I wrote up an Art Unit to ensure that the kiddies got the best aspect of this workshop. It was so successful that I have also since run it as a self exploratory unit for small groups within my own class on a weekly basis, for an eight week stint.

Each week they take an aspect of the unit and explore this in pairs. We used to pool the digital cameras from our team for this so that a group of 6 would be out on a photographic walk at a time.

Now a days, we can also use the iPads for most of it.

This 46 page resource covers 7 aspects of digital photography. Each aspect has two teacher lesson slides, then a student challenge, followed by student exemplars.  Once you run this a couple of times, you can collect your own bank of student exemplars. The photos in this resource were mainly taken by students aged 8-9 but the unit can be leveled up or down.

You can get yourself a copy now from my TPT and TNB stores (links below).

Thank you for visiting,

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Maths Freebie - Consolidate Place Value

Sorting out Place Value Houses can be really tricky for kiddies. Here is an activity we used at the start of this year. Download yourself a copy for free from the end of this post.

Here are some pictures of my students using them.
Students got to take turns to throw the dice. They had to make the largest or smallest number in the group by thinking about where to place the digit that they threw. I would say that the number had to be decimals only, or between ten thousand and hundredths, maybe it could only contain 2 zeros (where would they place these and why). We played several games of this. It was great to see students adjust their thinking based on experience.
Fold the grey section over and cut into flaps then glue into maths book. Work with the flaps open for the first few turns, then close them to challenge yourself as you learn where the houses are located.
Students need to put in the decimal point as needed, for each of their numbers.

Download your FREE copy here

Thank you for visiting,

Dragon Art - For Boys

How To Grow Your Dragon

One challenge that we face when teaching art is to engage boys with this subject, without losing the girls. One particular theme I found quite successful these last couple of years has been that of dragons.

The cool thing about this unit is that it has links to maths through number, measurement, coordinates and enlargement.

You can also link it to a literacy unit on Fantasy.
Here is a link to our class blog where one of my students reviewed one of these novels

 Here are some images of my Y4 class (8-9 year olds) drawing away. One pair of students continued drawing and researching dragons for the rest of the year.

These sketches were cut out and mounted on backgrounds like so - one year we had sunsets and the next year we had moon-rises:

If you would like to get the step-by-step lesson for How To Grow Your Dragon,  to teach your students, you can get it at my TPT and TNB stores. In New Zealand you can visit

The links are below.

Thank you for visiting,

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Insert a signature into your Blog posts

Today I had a play with signatures, here is how it went :)

Firstly I stumbled across a site called My Live Signature

Here is how I created my signature:
1) Click Start Now and select Using the signature creation wizard

2) Now enter the name you wish to appear in your signature - there is a limit of 25 characters.

 3) In Step 2 - 5 you can select the font, size, colour and slope of your text. Leave the background transparent and click the text colour box to bring up the colour chart.

3) Once you get to this page...
...scroll down until you see this....
...and click on the last one - 'Want to use this signature'

4) You will be taken to this page where you select the HTML option.

5) You will be given 2 options - to generate the code for your signature, or to generate a combined code for signature and information as well. I chose the 2nd option as I wanted to include my social media links and stores with my signature. All fields are optional and I played around with them to fit in what I wanted. Its not perfect but will do for now.

6) The window beneath the fields will show a preview and the code will generate beneath that. Once you are happy, copy the code.

7) Head over to your blog and go to Settings - Post and  comments, paste the code into the box beside Post Template. Save changes.

8) The next time you go to create a post, your signature will appear instantly on your page. You just add your post above it.

I liked this because I did not need a 3rd party site to create the code, however, I wish all my information could be links and also there is a character limit. If you know of a better, easier way, I would love to hear from you :)

Thank you for visiting,

Blog Recommendation

Great blog to follow -

The next time you have IT or eLearning wanderings, pay this website a visit. Great ideas, information and explanations for educators pushing the modern learning envelope. Highly recommended.

Glad you stopped by :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Modern Learning Spaces

Hello friends,

Don't you just love this picture!

Only one thing missing - my lovely students using it :)

I have the opportunity to rethink the learning space of my classroom with a new Y6 block planned to be erected at our school next year.
I have browsed the net and Pinterest and have found some cool ideas. Would love to hear from anyone that has had the recent opportunity to do the same. Images most welcome.
Here is a link to what I have found so far, on my Pinterest board on this theme

I've been reflecting about how the space could be better used and would love a more homely feel with open plan working / lounging spaces to suit a variety of learning styles. Comfort is first priority (just spent today chasing up on the lack of heating etc yet again for my classroom). I also need to consider fixed computers, portable devices (some student owned), projector screen, Mimio, small group/large group meeting and teaching spaces, and a teacher storage area.

I guess we can only dream. Would be very grateful to hear your thoughts / experiences and any visual resources you could point me toward :)

Ta :)

Maths - trying the fishbowl technique

Hello friends,

I am currently working through the tips and tricks for learning your times tables with my students. This week we gave the 'Fish Bowl' a go (see this previous post) and it worked brilliantly :)
Your classroom culture MUST be established though as it is a 'risk-taking' exercise for the students to share their thinking and feel comfortable about being vulnerable with with this.

 We all used different materials at our table groups and also rotated around between activities so that the kiddies got to experience a variety of ways to model their  thinking.

Prior to this, we had looked at multiplying with 0,1, 2, 3, 5 and 10. Now we were moving to 4 and 6. These 2 numbers are special in that they have factors that we have already covered.

I asked the students if they could create a number story they could model, that showed this idea (factorisation). I didn't call it that - I wanted them to discover the concept for themselves. They were very inventive with the way that they used colour to demarcate for place value where needed (including for decimals). I found it very revealing and the kiddies all learnt heaps about misconceptions and factors. Here is the first video showing a common misconception. This students was modeling 6 x 23 or 6 groups of 23 with coloured sticks. He used colour to demarcate the ones and tens and the groups into their sets as well. He self corrected just after this video snippet when he realised that his total as explained did not match the workings in his book.


This video shows a students who had the correct understanding and could even interchange the factors. His story was 6 x 5 or 6 groups of 5. He demonstrates 2 x 3 x 5 and 3 x 2 x 5:


Finally this student used coloured jelly beans to demonstrate multiplying decimals. His equation is 6  x 8.4 or 6 groups of 8 wholes and 4 tenths. He also uses colour to demarcate wholes from tenths. Please note that this concept was devised originally by the first student with the misconception and adapted by this student after the first one shared.  


This little resource is great with helping to remember the times tables tricks for both teacher and student. You can print them into little foldable booklets for student mathsbooks or homework books too. They have been grouped into the sets that tables are usually learnt.

I quickly added these images from our maths books. We are just up to the 4 and 6 times:

Available internationally from:

Available in New Zealand from
How do you teach multiplication tables to your students?

Thank you for visiting. Come again soon.

Friday, August 16, 2013

20 iPhone Tips & Tricks

Here is a video from SimplyZesty on Youtube with tips for your iPhone. Hope you find it useful too :)

17 iPad Tips & Tricks

Here are a few iPad tips and shortcuts from the SimplyZesty channel on Youtube, to help you with your classroom iPads :)

IB - How We Express Ourselves

Hi friends,

When I last taught a How We Express Ourselves Unit  with the Central Idea:
People use many different forms of expression to convey their uniqueness as human beings,
As a class, we took the Learner Profile Attributes and looked at them through the Visual Arts lens.
This is the result of our discussions. We found this activity a really useful way of coming to grips with the transdisciplinary nature of these attributes. I hope you enjoy them too.

In this image I printed the palette A3 and the coloured paint discs at a ratio of 1:9 (there are 10) some have USA / UK versions where needed) 

I also included plain discs with the titles only, should you wish to use the exemplars to write your own artist attributes with your students. This resource is now available from the link below. Enjoy :)