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Last week, I blogged about the work I had started in Year 2 linked to their Geography topic:

Enhancing Learning in Geography through Technology Lesson 1

After the students had labelled the continents on a world map:



The next step was to focus in on the UK. The first step was to create a similar labelled map through Seesaw. However, this time we discussed improving the formatting and style:

The next step was to look at finding out about each country in the UK. First, we generated a series of questions to help us with our research, some of the suggested questions:


  • Where is it?
  • How many people live there? (Population)
  • What is the Capital City?
  • What does the flag look like?
  • What is the national anthem?
  • What famous landmarks are there to visit?
  • Who is the patron saint?
The pupils were then given some time to research online and try and find the answers to these questions. After writing a script using their facts, they created a short video about their country using Adobe Spark Video. This tool has to be one of my favourites as it is the perfect example of a creative app which allows students to creatively share their knowledge and understanding about any topic. For Year 2 especially, it is a great app which removes certain barriers for children. Some of the students who might not yet be fluent writers are still able to show what they know. 



Within their tables, they came together to then create an interactive map. Using the app Thinglink, the pupils linked their videos with their maps created in the previous lesson. Once all the videos have been linked, the interactive image can be shared online. Here is one of their efforts:




In the next lesson, children will be looking at their city of Manchester and local town of Manchester.
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The response to the first Taking Teaching Back Episode has been amazing! Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to watch it. The comments have been great and it has been so encouraging to hear of teachers who have taken the discussion into school and are actively looking at ways to change what they were doing in a way to help reduce workload. This is EXACTLY what I wanted from these videos. So here is Episode 2 and this one looks at one of the biggest reasons for the workload crisis in schools which is... FEAR. As always, please let me know what you think.


Taking Teaching Back Episode 2 - The Fear in Education - YouTube

In case you missed Episode 1, here it is:

Taking Teaching Back Episode 1 - Book Scrutinies - YouTube
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For the past few weeks, I have been working with Year 2 in my school. I have been team teaching with the staff to help build their confidence in using technology more in class. Along with English and Maths, we have been looking at ways in which technology can enhance learning in Geography. The topic is all about learning about their local area, but to start with, we look at the world and gradually work in.

Around 4/5 years ago now, we did the same topic in Year 2 and I blogged about the tools we used then. You can read that blog post here - Using iPad to give children a better understanding of the World. 

This time, we have used some different creative apps. As I discuss a lot on my training, this is how we should be focusing our use of technology in schools: allowing students to use tools to creatively demonstrate their knowledge and understanding about the chosen topic.

I understand the pressures teachers are under, especially in Year 2 when SATs are looming. English and Maths take priority and so we don't necessarily devote as much planning time to the wider curriculum. A shame I know, but that is the reality. Many teachers will look online for planning and grab something that has everything done and run with it. So when I received the planning for the geography topic from the teacher I was surprised at how poor some of it was. This is nothing against the teacher, who is awesome but can only do so much. But I get so frustrated with companies pushing resources to schools that simply save teachers time rather than making learning engaging and purposeful.

In the first lesson for this geography unit downloaded from one of these planning sites, it was looking at the different continents. There was a powerpoint to talk through, followed by the suggested activity. The activity was for the teacher to print out a world map, cut it up into jigsaw pieces and ask the pupils to stick the pieces in the correct place in their book. My reaction:


Here's my problem with an activity like that:
  • Unnecessary printing - time and cost
  • Teacher or TA wasting time cutting it all out - time
  • Glue sticks (which we know are like gold dust) being wasted - cost
  • No real depth of learning
Instead, we decided to allow pupils to share what they had learned about the different continents by using a simple tool on Seesaw. There is nothing special or flashy about this tool, but it is just a simple way for teachers to save time and children to demonstrate their knowledge whilst embedding simple digital literacy skills.

I shared a World Map image into everyone's profile in Seesaw. The pupils logged into seesaw, found the image and tapped ... to copy and edit:

Along the bottom of the screen are a number of options, one being the label option. Here, they can label all the different continents. As an extension, they could also label the different oceans. Here are some finished examples:



Within the label option, the pupils can also change the font and style. For me, the children are getting so much more from completing the activity in this way compared to the original jigsaw idea. They are able to embed simple digital literacy skills, improve spelling and practice typing skills

The week after, to consolidate the learning we used the same idea when focusing on the UK. Here, we looked at improving the style and having the same style for countries and a different style for capital cities. Again here are some examples:


There is nothing flashy about this idea but it is an example of where the technology can enhance learning and save teachers time. Seesaw has so many benefits and this is just one example of how powerful it can be as a tool in the classroom. Stay tuned for the next lesson in this topic where pupils find out more about each country in the UK.





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I am in an incredible position where I am able to visit schools all over the UK. On that journey, I try to inspire teachers with ideas for how best to utilise technology in their school. One part of this is looking at ways in which technology can be used to help teachers work smarter, not harder. There are still so many schools who are struggling to effectively manage workload for a number of reasons. This is something I am passionate about changing. Being able to address some of these issues when visiting schools is great however it is only a small amount of schools compared to amount throughout the UK and beyond.

Thanks to the unbelievable support I have through this blog and social media channels, I am able to reach thousands of teachers, which is why I have started this new series of videos.

Taking Teaching Back will be a series of videos that look at addressing a number of issues within education that I feel contribute to workload. I cannot guarantee that I'll be able to provide all the answers but I am hoping the videos will spark discussion and at least get schools talking about whether what they are doing is having a direct impact and ways in which to work more efficiently to best benefit the students.

The first video looks at the issue of book scrutinies and why that phrase sends the wrong message to teachers:

Taking Teaching Back Episode 1 - Book Scrutinies - YouTube

For these videos to really have an impact, I need help from you guys to share, like and spread the word. The more teachers we can have engaging with these videos the more it will be discussed in schools and the more the issues will be addressed and dealt with. 

Thank you for the support!
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#BeLikeTheRenegade! The Steel Band - YouTube




Make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow the #BeLikeTheRenegade playlist for every adventure with Mrs May.


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In my sessions each week at Davyhulme, I have been working on a project with my Digital Leaders. As a school with a motto 'Reaching for the Stars,' I wanted the pupils to create a display that would inspire children to persevere and not let failure stop them achieving their goals.

The idea was inspired by something I saw at Candleby Lane School in Nottingham. They had a display featuring stories from teachers talking about how they have failed and how they overcame that failure. So we did the same, we asked teachers to share stories of times when they felt they had failed and how they worked through it and didn't let it stop them from achieving their goals. I feel this is a really powerful thing to share with our students to make them understand that everyone will have ups and downs including their teachers. Here is my example:




The Digital Leaders also researched famous people who had also struggled in their journey to reach their goal. To share what they had learned, they used the app Apple Clips to create a short video about each person, why they are famous and what failure or obstacle they faced on their journey to being a success.

To enhance the display we then linked the videos through Augmented Reality using the app HP Reveal (formerly Aurasma) to make the display interactive. This is something we have used before and you can read about our interactive reading display here.



Here is a video of some of our Digital Leaders talking about their finished display:



We have also published all of our videos about famous people who failed to this YouTube playlist, we hope you enjoy watching them:

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I absolutely love Ian Gilbert's Thunks. This book "The Compleat Thunks Book" is described as 'A collection of classic Thunks from a number of his books, as well as hundreds of new ones, all designed to make your brain hurt as you think, question, debate and argue your way to a better understanding of how to survive in a world gone dangerously bonkers.'


To give you an idea of what a thunk looks like, here is a screenshot from the book:


Thunks can be used as a great discussion tool in class. Sharing one on the board at the start of the day and encouraging children to talk and listen to each other's ideas can be a great way to settle children into a lesson. JUST BE AWARE, not all the Thunks would be appropriate for the classroom.

You can also use apps like Seesaw to record and evidence children's thoughts and ideas about a Thunk. If I create a question like this:


Within the explain and reflect option of Seesaw, pupils can add labels. These can be initial thoughts and ideas. If the students are working in pairs, they can colour code their ideas. 

There is also the option to record. Here, students can orally talk through the question and their ideas, pausing to reflect and allowing their partner to then record their ideas. 


Once the pupils have saved their ideas, either typed or spoken to their learning journal. You can allow them to look and watch other student's efforts. Within Seesaw, there is the option to comment, allowing students to give peer to peer feedback. This is a great way to embed an understanding of how to give positive feedback through technology. Seesaw is a social media platform for your class - only visible to you and your pupils. So you are able to talk about how to give positive feedback in a format which will be very similar to the social media platforms children will use when they are older. 

So why not give it a go and Thunk up your classroom!

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I love using music in class for a number of reasons: remembering facts, teaching narrative structure and improving comprehension.

 Another song that I came across recently is Grace by Rag'n'Bone Man. The message of the song is powerful and lends itself well to PSHCE and growth mindset discussions.

Here is a description of the song I read recently:
You know that feeling when you've just made a wretched mistake and you want the whole world to swallow you up? When you don't want to talk to anyone, you feel like you've let yourself and the people you value down?
It hurts right? But with enough strength, humility and willingness to stand again, you realise that mistake isn't the end of you. More so, that 'mistake' could be the very thing you needed in your life to become a better person. To change or let go of parts of you that aren't empowering or positive. Some people call it grace, when you experience something in your life exactly the way it was meant to be to help you grow. Here's a song by Rag'N'Bone Man, famous for his debut song 'Human', that's all about the journey of grace.

As far as I'm aware there isn't an official video, however, here is a video of the song:

Rag'n'Bone Man - Grace (Official Audio) - YouTube

Here are the lyrics with a few questions to consider:
Said I loved you without hesitationSo easy for you to break my foolish heartNow I wonder if you ever speak my nameWill I always be defined by my mistakes?

  • Is the first line grammatically correct? What is missing? It should read "I said I loved you...
  • Who is the singer speaking to? He is singing to someone he was once in love with, an old girlfriend perhaps.
  • On a scale of 1-5, how much does the singer love this person? How do you know? He loves her a lot or thinks he does as he uses the phrase 'without hesitation'
  • What does the word hesitation mean? to hesitate is to pause before saying something
  • Does the person feel the same as the singer? How do you know? It is unrequited love. She does not feel the same as she broke his heart.
  • Why has the singer chosen the word 'foolish' to describe his heart? It means that, looking back, he knew she didn't like him and he should have realised it. He is recognising it was a mistake
  • Did this happen recently or a long time ago? We know it happened in the past as he starts the third line with the word now. I think it happened a long time ago when the singer was young and naive as he used the word 'foolish'
  • Does the singer regret what he did? How do you know? Yes, he uses the word mistakes and links that experience to it.
  • Does he miss the person? How do you know? He still misses her as he still, years on, thinks about whether she thinks about him.
  • What will the person's memory be of the singer be if she does speak about him? Or it could be he wonders whether she remembers him as a foolish love-struck teen who poured his heart out and remembers him in a negative way because of it.
  • What does the word 'defined' mean? He uses that word as a way of stating what people will remember him by.
  • What does he mean by the last line? He is wondering whether people will remember him and judge him based on the past mistakes he has made. To think like this can have a negative impact on someone and make them worry about trying new things in case they make mistakes again.
  • How did the singer feel after that experience? Can you think of a time when you felt like that? The experience was a negative one that probably made him feel sad and upset. No one likes to have their heart broken especially by someone that you thought you loved.
  • Why are those experiences important? People will always make mistakes, in every walk of life not just in love. The mistakes are not something to hold onto, worry about and stop us trying again. As long as we learn from these mistakes, then we are always moving forward. 


In the arms of the saint, I'm a stranger
We're all trying to find our way
At the death of every darkness, there's a morning
Though we all try
We all try
We're all one step from grace

  • Why would he be a stranger in the arms of a saint? He is saying that he isn't a saint and they wouldn't recognise him or know him.
  • What are saints remembered for? Saints are remembered for doing good deeds and making a difference to people's lives. By saying he is a stranger, he is saying he is very different from this.
  • What are the contractions all short for? I'm = I am. We're = We are
  • Where is everyone trying to find their way to? He is talking about finding our way to fulfillment and happiness in whatever walk of life that may be.
  • What does the singer mean by the third line? He links the darkness to problems or issues or bad experiences people may have in their life. By talking about the death, he is talking about the end. So when we end the problems we have, there is a new start.
  • What examples of problems may he be referring to? The end of relationships, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job etc.
  • Why does he use the symbol of 'morning'? What does this stand for? The morning refers to the start of a new day so it is a symbol of new beginnings. 
  • Why does he repeat the phrase 'we all try'? For anyone listening to the song, he is making them aware that everything goes through these struggles, everyone has problems at some point that they must overcome. He repeats it to emphasise that it happens numerous times, we will always make more than one mistake.
  • What does the singer mean by the word grace? Happiness
  • Why are we all one step from grace? We can all find happiness and it is a lot closer than many of us think. 

I made myself believe
There was no fight left in me
But redemption doesn't fall down at your feet
In the half light
We raised a hand to my defeat
And I watched the world fall
And I rebuilt it piece by piece

  • What types of pronouns are used in the first line? He uses a personal pronoun - I and a reflexive pronoun - myself.
  • Why has he done this? He does this to really emphasise that only he can control his own belief.
  • What does redemption mean? It means to be forgiven or saved from something bad.
  • What does it mean by 'fall down at your feet'? He is saying that it doesn't just happen, you have to act to be forgiven or be saved from your struggle.
  • Why does he use the phrase 'half light'? He is trying to be positive by choosing light. He could have used half dark which would have been more negative. Link to glass half full/empty.
  • What does he mean when he raises his hand? We raise our hand as a gesture to stop. So he is saying stop to all that defeats us.
  • What does defeat mean? What could this relate to? To be defeated is to be beaten and lose. So he is talking about everything that brings us down and makes us feel inadequate or bad about ourselves.
  • What happened as a consequence? How do you know? By putting an end to all this negativity can you feel like the whole world has collapsed and is falling apart but that doesn't mean it will stay that way.
  • How did the singer react? He didn't let it affect him, he builds his world back up and moves forward.
  • Did this happen quickly or slowly? It takes time as he says piece by piece.



In the arms of the saint I'm a stranger
We're all trying to find our way
At the death of every darkness there's a morning
Though we all try
We all try
We're all one step from grace
 
I wonder why we give up on love
When it's always within reach
You and I we suffered this enough
We all try
We all try
We're all one step from grace

  • Why does the singer use the pronoun 'we'? Again, he is making people aware that so many of us give up and everyone goes through the same struggle and feelings.
  • How is it within reach? We can find love in lots of different places if we look for it. Here you can discuss what love means, who we love and why etc.
  • Why does the singer use the word suffered? He recognises annd emphasises that we can really struggle and it can be very painful.

In the arms of the saint I'm a stranger
We're all trying to find our way
At the death of every darkness there's a morning
Though we all try
We all try
We're all one step from grace

  • What is the overall theme of the song? The theme is all about making mistakes but not letting them define you but instead learning from them and move forward. The song recognises that this isn't easy but these experiences make us stronger and ultimately better people who are happy.
  • Do you like the song? Why?
  • What valuable lessons can we learn from this song? That everyone goes through the same struggles, so when pupils feel upset and lost, it is better to talk and share those feelings. 

I hope you find these ideas useful!
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Ok, so I am a little late to the party! Seesaw introduced activities a good few months ago, but I've only just got around to really investigating this fantastic addition to what is my favourite app to use in the classroom.

I recently blogged my top 5 apps of 2017. Seesaw was at the top of my list. For me, this app is a no-brainer for the primary classroom. The endless benefits for how it can enhance teaching and learning, save teachers time and money and embed key digital literacy skills for your pupils has meant it has become the app I use most and one I regularly share on my training sessions.

I have recently been contacted by a number of teachers who have been told by their local authority that they can no longer use Seesaw as it will not comply with the new GDPR guidelines that will take effect in May 2018. I contacted Seesaw about this and this was their response:

GDPR goes into effect in the EU in May 2018 and Seesaw is preparing to be compliant with it.
If you are concerned about data storage, the GDPR has specific requirements regarding the transfer of data out of the EU. One of these requirements is that the transfer must only happen to countries deemed as having adequate data protection laws. Privacy Shield is an agreement between the EU and US allowing for the transfer of personal data from the EU to US. Privacy Shield allows US companies to meet this requirement of the GDPR.
Seesaw complies with Privacy Shield regarding the collection, use and retention of personal information from European Union member countries. Seesaw has certified that it adheres to the Privacy Shield Privacy Principles of notice, choice, accountability for onward transfer, security, data integrity, access, and enforcement and liability. You can learn more about the Privacy Shield program on their website and view our certification page.
We hope this helps! Please let us know if you have any other questions.

By all means, please use this in your policies and contact Seesaw directly for more information.

Back to Seesaw's latest addition - Activities. This short video gives a quick explanation and overview of what teachers can do for activites.

Getting Started with Activities in Seesaw - YouTube

The potential for this is amazing! A brilliant way for teachers to create independent activities for pupils to complete. It makes it very easy for teachers to create differentiated activities for students or create extension activities for pupils who complete tasks. You could create a series of activities that pupils can complete for the carousel activities in guided reading sessions. There is a library of activities where teachers from around the world have shared activities for you to use, but for me, it is the personal touch that makes this tool more powerful. 

When creating an activity, teachers can write a set of instructions but also record a voice recording explaining the task, which makes it easy for pupils who still may struggle decoding text. There is also the option to add images of the Seesaw icons in the written instructions to make it easier for pupils to follow the instructions to complete the task. Here are the icon shortcuts for you to use:


So for 2018, why not give Seesaw and Seesaw Activities a go!

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Earlier this week, I did a Facebook live video sharing my top 5 apps of the year. You can watch it here.

It made me reflect on 2017 and what an amazing year it has been. Especially when it comes to my social media channels. It has been a year where the videos I make about life as a teacher have had such an amazing response from you guys. I thought I would compile a top ten list of videos from my page based on views from Facebook, I hope you enjoy:

10 - What would Love Island look like in a Primary School Staffroom? 383k Views


9 - Teacher One-Liners 384k views



8 - Teachers in Summer 523k views


7 - Different Teachers in a Singing Assembly 623k views


5 - Things Teachers Never Say When Writing Reports - 634k Views


4 - Why Teachers Can't Sleep on a Sunday 728k Views


3 - How Teachers Walk Down The Corridor - 2.5m views


2 - #BeLikeTheRenegade Series - Combined over 3.5m Views. Here is the YouTube Playlist of all the adventures with Mrs May, make sure you subscribe!


1 - Now That's What I Call Being a Teacher Series - Combined over 4m views. Here is the YouTube Playlist of every Volume, please make sure you subscribe!


I hope you enjoy this list, plenty more planned for 2018. Again, I would love to take the opportunity to thank everyone for their continued support! Have a wonderful Christmas!




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