Top 5 Tech Tools!

On a public Padlet set-up by Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist), I have recently shared my “favourite things to do with technology” in the classroom. After posting some strategies and real-life examples, it led me to reflect on what I’ve learnt over the past 18 months.

Since moving to Perth, Australia in 2015, I’ve been lucky enough to work in an Apple Distinguished School which fully embraces learning technologies. iPads are commonplace and are used by students and staff each day. Having access to tech day-in-day-out and being able to experiment with it in the classroom has taught me a lot about what’s ‘gimmicky’ and what genuinely has an impact on learning.

With this in mind, I thought I’d share some useful tech tools I’ve personally found powerful over the past year. Most of the apps are free and easy to use in class – some require a little bit more time and effort. So, here goes…

1. Apple Clips

As an English teacher, I’ve found Apple Clips to be a powerful way for students to explore imagery in texts. As well as learning quotations, making links between images and language is key in unlocking and deconstructing meaning. Recently, my Year 10 group created short Clips videos on key quotations from Shakespeare’s play ‘Macbeth’. Students were tasked with grouping quotations together and subsequenly creating quotation collages using the app Pic Stitch. Check out the results by tapping here!

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This is only an image – to see the video, tap the link above

2. Quizizz

Quizizz is an effective formative assessment tool to check understanding and inform teacher planning. As students answer the multiple-choice quiz questions, a live leaderboard can be displayed to the class which shows the total amount of questions correct/incorrect. Data can be collected from each quiz showing the questions where students performed highy and where they require improvement. The memes make it extra fun!

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Questions are randomised and appear in a different sequence for each student.

3. Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNote is an effective note taking app which can serve as a live digital exercise book. It’s a lot more fiddly to set up than the other apps on this list as you’ll require a Microsoft 360 school account. Nevertheless, it’s an effective platform for teachers to push out lesson outlines/lesson sequences and resources as well as mark work and provide written/audio feedback. OneNote is a great tool if your school is going paperless.

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Despite being able to type or write with an Apple Pencil, some students prefer to take photos of the written work in their physical exercise books. Either way, you can annotate and store screenshots.

4. Decide Now!

Decide Now is a spin-the-wheel name generator used to nominate students. Despite being a paid app (not expensive), it’s cool for no-hands-up class selection for class discussion, choosing roles/responsibilities. Students love it and it definitely keeps them on their toes!

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Tap the middle to spin the wheel – there are many colour tempates to choose from.

5. Padlet

Padlet is an excellent way for students to collaborate and share information. Essentially, the app allows students to post text, images, video and links onto a shared digital pinboard. Over the past year, I’ve used this on numerous occasions when students are compiling information/research, responding to key questions/statements, sharing creative work; peer assessing/critquing WAGOLLs. A stand out feature of Padlet is the ability to print out information into a professional-looking document which students can use for revision.

Below is an example of the way Adobe Spark Post can be used with Padlet. Adobe Spark Post is an awesome app which creates stunning and professional looking graphics. Here’s an example of some Tanka poems created on Adobe Spark Post by Year 10 students then shared on a class Padlet.

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If you’ve used any of these apps in different ways to enhance learning, let me know on Twitter @JamieClark85

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#11 ‘Analysis Connectagons’

I came up with the idea of ‘Analysis Connectagons’ after trailing the ‘SOLO Squares’ which I have seen others use Twitter. The ‘connectagons’ are a pretty simple concept once you get your head around them and lead students to deeper thinking. Again, this task is ideal for group work and gives students the additional challenge of making connections and justifying how they arrange and position each shape.

Here’s how it works:

Students cut out two of each ‘Theme’ and ‘Character’ hexagon and work as a team to answer the layered questions in the spaces provided. As you can see in the example, the ‘Theme’ hexagon has three stages linked to the SOLO Taxonomy strands. The stages develop as follows: ‘Multistructural’ requires students to ‘Identify’ parts of the text where the theme is addressed; ‘Relational’ challenges students to ‘Apply‘ and link their ideas to at least three important quotations from the text. Finally, the in the ‘Extended Abstract’ space, students are to ‘Reflect’ and evaluate why Steinbeck used this theme in the novel.

The process should then be repeated for the ‘Character’ hexagon which contain slightly different questions. Instead of ‘Identify’, the ‘Multistructural’ task is to ‘Describe how Steinbeck presents this character’. Once again, the last two strands require students to ‘Apply’ by linking ideas to three important quotations and subsequently ‘Reflect’ on their ideas by referring to Steinbeck’s intentions/views and his message about 1930s society.

Once the shapes are filled in with top-notch ideas, the final challenge is to put them together (like a big jigsaw). This concept reflects the original SOLO ideas whereby students make links between each concept. This task is separate to the original and does not require students to link comments written on each hexagons. For example, in ‘Of Mice and Men’, the ‘Candy Character Connectagon’ can be placed next to the ‘Loneliness Theme Connectagon’ because Candy is a lonely character. What’s more, this connectagon can also link to the ‘Dreams’  as Candy buys into George and Lennie’s proposed plans.

This task is a great way of making progress visible and stimulates effective group discussion. Furthermore, it is a fabulous tool for revision and recapping themes and characters. I would like to see this in action on another text such as a Shakespeare play. If you use this resource in your classroom, please tweet a picture of it!

Download from: sellfy.com/JamieClark85

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#10 Character Cubes

Character Cubes is a really effective way of engaging students whilst allowing them to analyse characters on a number of levels. As you can see from the picture, the cubes incorporate the SOLO Taxonomy stages and are a great way to make progress visible.

In recent weeks, I have been trying to create new ways for students to make links between texts/characters/themes without writing their ideas straight into a conventional paragraph. More visual (and practical) methods of making connections ultimately helps students to retain information and is more likely to stimulate discussion. This task is perfect for group work (ideally four), as each student has to work on a specific character.

In the example, I have used characters from ‘Of Mice and Men’. Students begin by making the cube and then addressing pre structural task – in this case to read an extract from Curley’s Wife’s first appearance. Learning is then guided further by the ‘Unistructural’ stage – students are to identify key words, phrases or symbols from the extract. Next, the ‘Multistructural’ stage requires students to explain the significance of the key words/phrases or symbols identified. This can be done as a written response or in note form. Within the ‘Relational’ stage, students are challenged to make links to other quotations in the novel to back up and support their exisiting views. Again this can be added to their written response or notes can be taken. Finally, in the ‘Extended Abstract’ stage of the task students have to reflect on how their ideas link to the social/historical context of the novel. With regards to ‘Of Mice and Men’, comments on Steinbeck’s views on 1930s society could be made and linked to the character in question.

In order to encourage students to explore their ideas in a more sophisticated and developed way, I have included key terms from the ‘Dynamite Paragraph’ resource which shows students how to expand responses through key words. Here’s an overview of what I have included:

D/C Grade: implies, suggests, demonstrates, indicates, highlights

B/A Grade: another, in addition, moreover, furthermore

A* Grade: perhaps, maybe, could, might, possibly

Please see previous post on Dynamite Paragraphs for further information.

The best bit of this task is to build the cubes and make perceptive links between each. For example, the Curley’s Wife character cube can be placed on-top/next to Crooks as both characters are oppressed isolated and lonely. It would be up to the students to justify the connections they make and explain why they have arranged the blocks in a particular order.

Please download the resource from: sellfy.com/JamieClark85

If you use this in your classroom, please please tweet a picture of it in action!

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#9 ‘Language Mountain’

I suppose this resource should be included in the last post, ‘#8 Exam Support Materials’ as it’s a great revision tool for Year 11. Instead, I’ve decided to post it separately as many followers have retweeted and given it a favourite.

I like this resource because it’s fun. It’s an engaging and effective way for students to revise and remember the process of answering exam questions. In my Year 11 lesson today, a student commented that they appreciated my resources because they “creative”, “colourful” and “different”. Anything that makes students want to learn is great in my book.

The ‘mountain’ doesn’t take long to cut out and is easy to use. Students start at ‘base camp’ and work their way up the four peaks (different stages of analysis) which results in six PEE paragraphs. The base of the pyramid reminds students of the key language features and acts as support providing students with useful sentence openers.

It can be adapted to almost any subject! Try it.

Download here: sellfy.com/JamieClark85

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#8 Exam Support Materials

The English Language Unit 1 exam is notorious for its difficulty. Over the years, I have seen students struggle with a range of questions in both Section A and B. There’s no doubt that the most formidable requires students to analyse and comment on the effectiveness of language features in a text. What’s more, comparing or linking presentational devices frequently leaves student bewildered and frustrated.

With this in mind, I have been inspired to create various resources to support analysis and remind students of the skills required in each question. In the examples below, you can see how each overlay contains clear steps to aid learning. Both overlays feature support QR codes that link to exemplar responses and each contain analysis prompts when considering the effectiveness of a specific feature.

On the ‘higher tier’ overlay, I have included a viewfinder in order to train students to look for small details within a text. This concept was taken from @siancarter1 who introduced the idea in her Unit 1 resource materials – this has also been adapted by @theedukator who created the fabulous acetate overlays pictured below.

The ‘SOLO Squares’ have been extremely useful in encouraging students to focus on deeper analysis of presentational devices – in other words explaining what the features look like and (more importantly) how they are effective and what connotations they have. This strategy is effective for both more and less able students as it provides a more visual way to see the process of analysis. In the picture below, the student has colour coordinated his points for Source 2 and Source 3. This was a useful method that resulted in a great plan for his mock question.

Keep a look out in the future for more Unit 1 resources. I’ll continue to update this post.

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#7 ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy Tiles’

Originally developed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom, ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ represents the different behaviours students demonstrate that are important to learning. The theory was remodelled in the 90s and is used by many schools (including my own), to help students develop deeper thinking skills and explore various layers of understanding.

Personally, I use ‘Bloom’s’ when planning lessons as it helps focus questioning so that it provokes thought. In recent years the all too familiar pyramid diagram has started to age and look old-fashioned. With this in mind, I decided to create the tiles below usning the ‘Rhonna’ app once again.

As you can see, the tiles contain the six processes of ‘Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy’: ‘remembering’, ‘understanding’, ‘applying’, ‘analysing’, ‘evaluating’ and ‘creating’. Each tile contains a list of key words and questions designed to stretch and progress learning.

Please feel free to download below. Whether it is used for a visual wall display, or simply to inform your planning it is a useful resource to use when considering the questions you ask to your students.

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#6 ‘Underground Discourse Markers Map’

I have had lots and lots of compliments on Twitter regarding this map. I am quite proud of it as it looks quite professional considering I created it on Microsoft Word! I got the idea from @LauraLolder who created a fab Underground map style wall display. This version is great for (smaller) wall displays and for laminated mats!

As you can see, it’s simply a list of discourse markers that’s great for supporting students with their writing and pushing them to extend their responses. There are several different ‘lines’ on the map representing the main six categories of discourse markers: comparing, contrasting, adding, emphasising, sequencing and providing examples. The map also has a QR code which links to ‘Analysis Squares’ (please see previous post).

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