Standens Barn TV!

With a new ‘batch’  of Standens Barn digital leaders coming off the production line, I thought it time to set the bar high and give them a new project. Enter Standens Barn TV. We have recently invested in some film making equipment and so the idea of Standens Barn News was born.

Around 4 or 5 years ago, I was  involved on a Media Day project with Helen Caldwell. I have always been interested in film making and over the years I have been using green screening on a regular basis. I learnt a lot from this course and would certainly recommend getting involved in the MOOC she is currently running where this type of technology will be discussed!


Back to the project. Much of the recent work I have done with the children from our school can be seen on our YouTube channel. On our current project we have combined the greenscreen aspect with interviews and more. Having a keen staff has also helped as they were chosen to be interviewed. They loved the results!

First of all you need content. At our school there is always something happening! This week we have had ‘living history’ trips out, a sculptor in residence, a Romans Day and lots of other exciting topics in our other year groups. We set up the links first of all and put them into iMovie, ready to be filled with content. After this, we made an effort to get some active shots of things happening. The children used the microphone feature to voiceover the shots to give it a professional feel.


The most impressive thing was that the children themselves came up with the links and questions and were just naturals! Then we got the interviews done before the final editing stage. This did not take long and I do think that a weekly episode is achievable. Much of the work will be done in our after school digital leader sessions.

On our first episode, I was there for technical support but as our weekly episodes continue, the independence of the children will increase. The results we have achieved were quite brilliant and have engaged the school who have shared the work.

The final results can be seen here

If you would like to know more then please tweet me!


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Greenscreens Available! Cheap Prices!

I don’t blog often enough. I want to but I don’t. I would really like to change that and hopefully 2016 will be that year.

Anyway, I think that my classroom, and indeed my school, is full of good practice when it comes to utilising technology efficiently. One of my first blogs in April of this year mentioned the need to use it in this way rather than using technology for technology’s sake. I think that as I have continued the  journey, I have actually become more adept at this. I have listened to my own advice!

Greenscreen is brilliant. It’s engaging for children, it gives so many writing and speaking/listening opportunities and it is a lot of fun! I’m going to rewind to February 2014 when I first came across Helen Caldwell and Leon Cych. We spent a day (a free CPD day no less!) learning how to use a range of apps that incorporated greenscreen. The main app we used was GreenScreen DoInk

A blog on how to use it can be seen here


Photo Credit: elvisripley via Compfight cc

GreenScreen DoInk is a paid app but is so simple to use and gives great results. One thing I did learn from the Media Day is that you do not have to invest a lot of money to get great results. I guess the biggest investment is having the actual iPads because aside from that, it is easy to get great results on the cheap.

In my own house we have a great greenscreen studio. It is basically a tripod, an iPad and a large green piece of fabric I bought from a marker stall for £20. Of course, you’re not getting Hollywood standard of clarity but my own children love it! I did invest in a cheap iPad microphone but if you are filming close to the iPad, this isn’t really necessary.

I now have four similar ‘studios’ at school. Now a pop-up greenscreen will probably set you back £50 or so. I decided against this. I bought some A0 card from Amazon ,used gaffa tape to put several pieces together and backed it with green paper. It works! As long as you can find an area where the light is good, you don’t even need to buy lights for it!

We have used it for a number of things this year. We used it in our end of year production and recently it was used to present a video about the parts of a volcano. The children always buy into this and produce some great work! As they know it is going to be shared on the school YouTube channel, they really put a lot of effort into it!

So there you have it, greenscreen on the cheap! Big budget results for small investment! Why not give it a go?

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Are you the one that stops creativity in your primary classroom?

Every now and then the buzzword CREATIVITY pops up in Education circles. Only recently it was mentioned again by the current Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. Quite unsurprisingly she advocated that the Government wishes to promote creativity in their Curriculum whereas critics predictably dismissed her claims. Standard.

My thoughts on this blog come from my own experiences in the classroom and the way I think the school I work at promotes creative learning through a stimulating curriculum. Every day is fun at our school! It has to be!

First of all I’ll rewind to my days at the University of Northampton. It was there that I was introduced to Sir Ken Robinson. Unfortunately via Youtube and not the man himself.  I would love to discuss his views with him. Sir Ken does make some very key and valid points.

Sir Ken talks about the squeeze that was put on creativity in Education in 2007. Fast forward to 2015 and I’m sure his opinion hasn’t changed with the new Curriculum! But is Sir Ken right? Do Primary schools really suppress the creativity of the children in their care and if so, why? At the BETT show in 2015 he furthered his ideas when he quite rightly suggested that as soon as the classroom door closes, it is up to the teacher themselves to provide the children under their care with the opportunities. And that is the important point. Teachers have to create the opportunities. Curriculums don’t supress creativity, teachers do. If they choose to do so.

I really do think it is that simple. VALUE creativity in your classroom, provide the opportunities, be prepared to fail (but learn from it), encourage failure and you will have enthused children who are engaged in the learning you provide. What is stopping you?

ALERT: The classroom can sometimes be a place where getting things wrong doesn’t look good. Don’t encourage this. Failure is often a good thing! It is how we learn from a very young age.

I had an interesting conversation with my fellow Year 6 teacher on the day we broke up recently. As part of our leavers’ assembly we always ask the children to share their favourite school memories. He mentioned that whenever the children talk about them, they always mention the fun stuff. It’s not always the creative stuff they mention, I would be lying if I said they did, but they always mention the fun stuff.

They mentioned making a 1/4 scale Viking longship, being involved in sporting events, going on residentials, doing massive art projects or creating their own acts for charity events. No mention of SPAG, maths operation strategies or the such like! Now don’t for one minute think I am advocating that some of these are very important because they are. But it is really important to offer children a balanced curriculum. School should be there to be enjoyed!

And when children are enjoying school, they are enthusiastic and they become more creative! Simple right? I think it is! Don’t hide behind the ‘the curriculum supresses creativity’ excuse. Get out there and make your classroom a fun place because I can guarantee that you will enjoy teaching it just as much as the children will learning it!

Remember, positive energy! Less time wasted on educational debate = more energy to make a difference!

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Moving on…

This time of year is always a busy time in year 6. At the moment we are right in the middle of a Vikings topic which for us in year 6 means production time! I actually wrote the production myself this year and the final cut is over 7000 words! I think next year we will be looking to buy one in! This alongside all the other learning involved means that time is of the essence!

It’s also time that our year 6s begin to think about moving onto their secondary schools. This is the first year our whole school has been single year groups so it will be a bit strange to have a whole new class next year. There is always a mixture of sadness at the children leaving but also excitement as we prepare them for the next phase of their educational lives.

One of the successes of this year for a number of our year 6s has been the extension of our digital leaders programme. I have blogged previously about the links we have made with the University of Northampton and we continued those links this week.

We were lucky to be invited again this week to an Inspire meeting. These meetings show what can be achieved when technology is combined with the arts. Creativity is being much discussed at the moment in the media and these meetings give educators the opportunity to share ideas of how STEAM can be implemented in an education setting.

This week the digital leaders we took had great fun! They took some time to dismantle a number of electronic devices before recycling the parts to create a range of birds. All the ideas can be seen here

The night was really successful and it is something that we will take back to school and share with colleagues and other year groups. Not only did it foster their inquisitive nature but the creativity they showed followed by the digital skills showed what an inspiring bunch they are!

This is really the end of the journey for our 2014-15 class of digital leaders. They have been excellent role models for our school and we hope that they will continue their interest in these areas as they get older.

The next step for us now is to recruit some more and get training with the University again. Watch this space!

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Did you know that the children are watching?

Why do teachers teach? Is it to pass on their knowledge to the children? Is it to build up the aspirations of the children so that they know that there is a future for them? Or is it as every non-educational setting employee says? Holidays!

It is easy to lose touch with what children think about things that are not directly linked to the lesson we are teaching. Schools are such busy places, there is always something happening. Schools now are under so much pressure, it is awful to say that it often feels like we are cramming as much knowledge as possible into the heads of the children. Maybe then that is why we can actually lose focus on what children are thinking when we have so much on our own minds.

Anyway, enough philosophy for now. Recently we had a visit from Caitlin Dooley from Georgia in the US. As part of her research she spoke to some of the digital leaders at our school (more about them in a future blog). She asked them a brilliant question which hadn’t even crossed my mind.

Our digital leader program is set up to ensure that they take a full part in the computing curriculum of our school. As part of this we have had digital leaders leading and supporting lessons in KS1. The question she asked was along the lines of what they needed to do when they were teaching their younger peers. The children said that preparation was very important so that they know what they have to do. Probably the key aspect of teaching! I was interested to hear that they said that they used behaviour techniques they had learnt by watching the teachers in our school teach. One of the things they say the most is that trying to keep their attention is a challenge! KS2 all the way for me! Seems that these 9 and 10 year olds have more of an understanding than those at the top table!

But seriously, it amazed me. These children with no experience of being teachers themselves made me realise even more about our responsibilities as role models. Children must be watching every step we make and are taking the good points from us as teachers. This can only be good for their futures! This also means that children are not only learning academically but socially too! Postive news! The mindset of these children is quite staggering and part of this program has certainly enhanced their own ambitions (they always want to visit the University again!)

Next time I’m going to blog about our digital leader’s program, how we implemented it and the success that has come with it! Until next time!

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Adobe Slate – Presentation Software

Post-Sats week has been excellent. We have freed ourselves from the shackles of the pronoun and been very creative this week!

Our school uses a topic-based curriculum which continues to be really successful. This term’s topic is Seas and Oceans and as part of it this week, we have been looking at presentations about the dangers to them and how we can save them.

Adobe Slate

Adobe Slate

I’m pretty averse to death by PowerPoint (although it does have its uses) and so when I came across Adobe Slate I was pleased with the ease of the software as well as the results it produces. It is as simple as choosing your pictures and accompanying it with some text. Children can also change the themes of their presentation whilst including links, captions etc. Then the app does the work for you. The results were quite staggering and the work produced was created by my year 6s in about an hour. We could then embed the code into our year group blog and share with parents.

Save Our Seas!

As you  can see from the results, the presentation is professional and crisp. A good day’s work!

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Engagement + reward = behaviour

I almost started by saying that in our recent Ofsted inspection we were lucky to be judged as outstanding for behaviour. However, on thinking about it, we weren’t lucky, we actually worked quite hard for it. So I guess what this blog is about is how we actually achieved it. And how we maintain those levels.

Outstanding behaviour isn’t something that can be turned on like a tap. It is something that is earned. It is something that is instilled in the children where such behaviour is learnt over time and rewarded accordingly.

Personally, I put our success down to a few factors.

1. From the Foundation Stage onwards, our learning is underpinned by our school motto. We call is BEST. It stands for Brave, Enthusiastic, Safe and Thoughtful. Ask any child in our school and they know what it means. Any behaviour issues are always linked to this. This promotes expectations of the children. A consistent application by staff is of paramount importance.

2. An engaging curriculum. If learning is interesting then children become engaged. If children are engaged then there is less scope for poor behaviour. It really is that simple.

3. Reward. We have always given the children ‘Golden Time.’ This shouldn’t be confused with free time as the options the children are given are always in areas of the curriculum and are well planned and structured. For example, lots of the children in KS2 are into sport. Therefore we organise sports tournaments for them. Similarly, there are computing children who love nothing more than creating a show on an iPad or making a game on Scratch. Children in our school have to earn this by following the school rules. Once again this promotes positive behaviour.

4. Providing extra-curricular activities. I work in upper KS2. We have a staff of teachers that provide a range of different clubs, all for free. Again these clubs are dependent on good behaviour in lessons. Again, selection for clubs is dependent on following the rules. A simple process. A very effective result.

So there you have it, our recipe for behaviour success. Oh, and before I go, I gained 20 extra viewers last time! Thanks for the support!

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