Firefox 2- the next generation

Some time ago I recommended people try Flock as a web browser but Mozilla Firefox has recently released Firefox 2 which has some pretty good features as well and is quicker to load than Flock. Image

Because it is a re-write you won’t get it by just updating the first version of Firefox. You will have to download it but before you do those of us who speak the Queen’s English should click on the ‘Other Systems and Languages’ link just under the green download icon. That will take you to a download for English as it should be written with centre, favourite, theatre, colour etc all spelled correctly.

Again as you first open up the programme it will import all your previous bookmarks, passwords and settings to make the whole process seamless. Being an Apple girl though I nuked the old Firefox icon in the dashboard and put the new one there instead. Don’t know if that was needed but did it all the same!

There are two really great features with the new version…

Firstly it puts links to your Delicious in the top toolbar which you could always do yourself anyway but is now done automatically through an add on.

And it spell-checks by putting a wriggly red line under possible spelling errors just like when you are in Word (plus the right mouse correction suggestions) when you are writing a blog post or comment or anything Web2.0 which is great for child bloggers!!!!

Speaking of who-my class of eight/nine year olds just started blogging with David Warlick’s Blogmeister blogging tool this week and they love it. I am having to check my approval tool often for new posts or comments from children and parents. The children are thrilled that they have their own password and can securely blog from anywhere. It isn’t as visual as Blogger but we are loving how we can all blog at the same time with our own accounts. Thanks Tom and Jody for their encouragement to give it a try.

If you know of any other add-ons or features of the new Firefox could you let me know through the comments.

Dr David Whitehead Development Day

Here I am on the last Friday of my school holidays at Brightwater School and I thought I would have a go at live blogging from the venue. If we move too fast then I will give up and write by hand. David has show notes as well and Janice has links that will go up on our cluster web site later. Image

David is into language literacy and thinking tools. He seems like a nice bloke but as he might find this blog I had better say that. LOL. So here goes…

David believes we need future focussed, literate thinkers. As a nation we need people who know how to cut through the spin and get to the truth. We need critical, creative thinkers so we can survive the challenges of the 21st century.

NZ teachers are sensitive observers of children’s learning and thinking we should celebrate that and be aware of the dangers of spending our time trying to assess thinking skills.

We then looked at seven selection criteria for thinking tools. I have just tended to grab a thinking tool but David helped us see a sensible pattern and a criteria for selecting which particular thinking tool that you might use for a particular reason.

  1. Teaching and Learning linked – helping children learn.
  2. Smart Tools – not just reading but also writing, not only listening but also speaking.
  3. Subject specific – some tools best suit themselves to one subject eg using a time line best suits historical texts and narrative sequences.
  4. Text linked – if a tool evokes the same type of thinking as the tools then that’s the one you should use for example a T-chart is best suited to being a basis of argument or persuasive writing.
  5. Thought linked- memory, creative, critical, caring, reflective…
  6. Brain Friendly- aligned with how the brain learns naturally- visual imagery.
  7. Developmentally appropriate- some tools are best suited to particular age groups.

During morning tea with yummy muffins we made this concept map. The thing that impressed me with all of these thinking tImageools was that the same tool is being used across all age groups but with an extra component added at each level to develop the thinking. For example at the beginning level children simply record the have, are, can and give examples. They can then turn this into a text report with a simple definition, text body and an ending.

At the next step up level children can add group attributes and their report text may have an engaging opening (a hook), parts and more uses for the topic. Their text report then would have an interesting opening sentence, a definition, the body of the text which may include more detailed part description of and uses for the topic followed by a satisfying closing sentence.

Now David adds…

“When teachers use texts to engage students with different types of thinking, they operate on the brain as assuredly as neurosurgeons. The neural fabric in the brain is re-structured or pruned during every lesson taught. In this sense, the very structure of our brain – the relative size of different regions, the strength of connections between them, even their functions – reflect the lives we have lead. Like sand on the beach, the brain bears the footprints of the decisions we have made, the tools we have learned, the actions we have taImageken.”

You can see from David’s quote why he is so sought after. That paragraph is the most elequent on this blog so far! It resonates with a blog I read somewhere where a father was talking with his son about what he had learnt at school that day. The son said he had been building muscles for his brain. How cool is that?

Paul Wilkinson joined us virtually from Christchurch for a time and listened via Skype. With Call Recorder I was able to capture this sound bite from David about knowledge and knowing. This again wove itself into my thinking about creating learning in the classroom- content is only a context for learning and metacognition (there we are- the first time I have used that word in context).

David’s Sound Bite 2.5MB 2 minutes

This is the first time that I have tried to add audio to this blog and I will be very impressed with myself if it works. It did- I hope David doesn’t mind!


The other text type that I found particularly interesting and useful was the narrative. The narrative lends itself to sequenced timeline. In the past we would have constructed timelines, patted oursleves on the back and moved on. David suggested that a time line is not an end in itself but a process on the way to learning. We need to take it a couple of steps further for children to develop narrative plot structures in their writing. Simply to do that children construct a time line with different colours of text signifying prior and new knowledge. Then take one event on the timeline and expand it with who, where, what, how, why questions. Image

Seeing I was the only participant from my school I worked with Brightwater staff as they developed their more advanced timeline about their winning breakfast with Olympic triathlete, Hamish Carter, as a reward for 100% participation in the walk to school promotion.David suggests also we complete an events analysis…

  • Was it OK that this event happened?
  • Was the event really needed?
  • Did the event achieve its purpose?
  • What can we learn from what happened?
  • What could you change from what happened?

And then ask what can we learn about life from reading this text. This made the link in my mind to the Lighting the Literacy Fire post I wrote earlier about making text-to-self connections.

The day was well spent and there is lots more for me to ruminate on. I would like to participate in one of David’s study groups as it sounds really interesting.

Another highlight of the day were the contributions made by Paul Harrington in Wales and Paul Wilkinson in Christchurch. If you read the comments on this post you will see the conversation going on in there as the day progressed as well.

Paul has directed us to a useful Freeville Thinking Tools wiki that he is working on with templates for thinking tools and David’s shownotes will be available to us soon via Centre4 I presume.

Hopefully this blog post will become an interesting focal point for the on-going discussion of the thinking tools that we learnt today. If you are going to blog about it how about adding DrDavidWhitehead (no spaces) to your tags so that we can find your blog and link together.


One last thing before I go out and enjoy the sunshine…

During the day David put up a chart on the non-interactive whiteboard showing the links between the text type and the thinking tool that best suits it. This is what managed to get from my hand-written bird scratchings. I know I have missed some tools and probably got some wrong. Please help me edit the linking chart by adding your comments either in this blog or on Flickr directly and I will change it.

I enjoyed the day and learnt a lot that I can practically use in my classroom next week. Thank you David and Brightwater School for hosting us.

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Microsoft Software Agreement

At the very end of last term all NZ schools got a memo from the Ministry of Education informing us that we had to remove Microsoft Office from all our Apple computers as the Microsoft School Licence Agreement had expired and was not going to be renewed.

Computerworld published an article today about it and I felt compelled to make comment.

On two matters really….

Firstly I looked for the comment link at the bottom of the article so that I could say my piece. I have been reading too many blogs in the holidays I think!!!

Secondly having to remove Word and Excel will be no loss to my eight year olds. I am not so sure about Powerpoint but as long as we get an Apple’s iWork all will be sweet in that respect.Image

The loss of Office in itself, may well be a blessing in disguise and further encourage people to go the Web2.0 tools as a replacement. We have already had a play with Writely- now Google Docs. Yesterday I helped a fellow teaching colleague with using RSS, Delicious, Bloglines, Gmail, Blogs etc. I didn’t take my computer with me as I had all I needed residing on the net in secure locations. Which computer I accessed the information from was irrelevant. In saying that I am still very much an Apple girl with its simplicity of use and the seamless inter-connectivity of applications.

As long as we have the required, supported, ubiquitous internet access then I’m all for it.

Our Podcast

Jane Nicholls has just made a podcast about our Allanah’s Appleby Showcase Podomatic podcast and I was thinking about how far we have come with our podcast since we first started podcasting in August of last year.

ImageI have not mentioned it recently as we have had some trouble with the podcast being linked through our school website but that’s a whole ‘nother story and it is all sorted now thanks to Steve fixing the permissions on a server in Auckland from a hotel room in Bankok!

I am very proud of our podcast and the recognition it has received around the globe. I publish it in two different places because I want to show teachers who are not familiar with web design just how easy it is to publish to a site like Podomatic where you have a good level of control over the podcasting process. Linking it to play through the school website is reliant on the school’s web designer (me) having the time and inclination to help out!

I have made a ‘what a podcast is all about’ wiki if you are interested in taking podcasting further or if you would like to add your podcast to our Podcasting People Page so we can share our podcasts would be great. The page should be easily editable- if you have problems please let me know.
I would love to have more podcasts added to the list.

OLPC- One Laptop Per Child

Will Richardson brought this to my attention. Isn’t this awesome- children in a two room school 10 miles outside Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, are the first to be given a robust laptop each and instruction on how to use it to communicate with the world.Image

Have a look at the photos of the school and explanation of the process. In this photo the children have their first lessons in booting up their computers and getting started from Khaled Hassounah, director of Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) programme in Africa and the Middle East.

Each computer is wirelessly internet enabled and has pre-loaded all the basic software you might need to communicate to the world.

  • Firefox web browser with Google as a homepage
  • Kid Pix type graphics application
  • Basic word processor
  • Media player
  • RSS reader
  • Games- Freecell, Chinese checkers etc!!
  • Chat enabled

Take a minute to look at this video demonstration that shows the laptops in action and the sorts of things they are capable of. They are designed from the ground up to be collaborative.

What an incredible opportunity for giving a hand-up to cross the digital divide. We need more of this across the globe. Inspiring stuff.

Simply Successful Secrets

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach tagged me to…

List the top 5 to 10 things that you do almost every day that help you to be successful. They can be anything at all, but they have to be things that you do at least 4 or 5 times every week. Anything less than that may be a hobby that helps you out, but we are after the real day in and day out habits that help you to be successful.Source: Miguel Guhlin responding to Ed Tech Journeys’ Guest Blogger, Sylvia Martinez (GenYESBlog) writing on this meme by Thea Westra, Simply Successful Secrets

21st Century Collaborative

It’s a bit of an ask really and it has got me thinking about how successful or otherwise I think I am. In a nutshell, I don’t really think of myself as a particularly successful person. I tend to stumble along lurching from one disaster to another. There are some things that I am proud of that I have done and came to thinking about why they were successful. So here goes…

I love and am loved by my family and friends

When life turns to custard they can always be relied to support and agee with my point I view, even if, secretly, they disagree. This is enough to get me through the rough patches. My support crew is not huge but their contribution is immense.

I am tenacious

I worry away at a problem, I gnaw at it, leave it and come back to it, not giving up on it until I have found a ‘work around’ or it is resolved. I don’t work quickly but I usually get there in the end.

I am able to devote time to projects

I am able to spend time on things that interest me- ICT, photography, scrapbooking, paper tole, cross-stitch, whatever. I am a night-owl and rarely go to bed before midnight. I have a laptop and wireless, fast internet access in the house so am always connected and enjoy communicating/collaborating with friends I have never met face-to-face.

I have found something that I am good at

I have been teaching for quite a while and although I have had a couple of resource books on reading published, ICT has given me an audience for my talents. This encouragement from my peers gives me the impetus to do more. Success breeds success!

But then my mother says that my success is just a reflection of my upbringing! LOL

So I would like to tag

Paul Harrington

Rachel Boyd

Beth Sullivan

Tom Sheehan

Away you go guys….

I tracked this meme back to this blog that started it off on 7 March.

How NOT to talk to your kids!

I came across an interesting article by Pro Bronson in the New York Mag about how we often go about praising children- how when we praise them for their achievements we are actually doing them a great dis-service. It is well worth a read and makes (to me) some worthwhile points to remember as I head towards the next school term.

The article talks about how children who are so often praised for their perceived ability in a particular skill often give up easily when faced with new challenges, while those who are praised for their effort and processing ability are so much more able to meet challenges full on and do significantly better.

“I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.”

Telling kids they’re clever all the time does no-one any good!

“Having high self-esteem didn’t improve grades or career achievement. It didn’t even reduce alcohol usage in later life. And it especially did not lower violence of any sort. (Highly aggressive, violent people happen to think very highly of themselves, debunking the theory that people are aggressive to make up for low self-esteem.”

“Sincerity of praise is also crucial. Just as we can sniff out the true meaning of a backhanded compliment or a disingenuous apology, children, too, scrutinize praise for hidden agendas. Only young children—under the age of 7—take praise at face value: Older children are just as suspicious of it as adults…. by the age of 12, children believe that earning praise from a teacher is not a sign you did well—it’s actually a sign you lack ability and the teacher thinks you need extra encouragement…. a teacher who praises a child may be unwittingly sending the message that the student reached the limit of his innate ability, while a teacher who criticizes a pupil conveys the message that he can improve his performance even further.… A child deprived of the opportunity to discuss mistakes can’t learn from them.”

The whole well researched article makes good reading and well worth the time out for an on-line read. The digital immigrants can even print it out if they want!

School 2.0

Will Richardson had this on his blog and I like it and want to share it with you. I used that tool I talked about in the last post to put a quotation from someone else’s blog onto yours…

I would like to work in a school like this and I bet the kids would too! I am working towards my classroom having more of these opportunities. We already have some of these features well ticked which is wonderful.

To that end, this particular group began envisioning what their school and their community could become in the next 3-5 years with a lot of conversation, a lot of support, and a lot of work. I’ll quote here from one of the planning documents they have created in terms of what they see, for now:

* A community where the conversation is more about what students are demonstrating than the scores on the test
* Where residents have a window into the classroom
* A community that can participate in a more global conversation about learning and teaching
* A school that is the center of learning for the community
* One that has a more open network to the world
* One with more opportunities for global learning
* One where the desks aren’t in rows
* Teachers that have wider learning networks and are excited about new technologies
* Teachers that have freedom to learn and feel supported and not fearful
* Students that have more freedom to learn and are drivers of their own learning
* Students that have more collaborative learning experiences and interactions with the local community
* Learning that is centered around essential, big questions

Weblogg-ed » On My Mind

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Blogged with Flock

Flock Web Browser

Get FlockA few months ago I downloaded Flock as an alternative web browser to Mozilla Firefox and it has been sitting there for awhile not really being used. I had also downloaded a video from Screencasts Online Show Number SCO0057 (It’s 50MB but very handy to help get the best from the browser). The video better explains all the features of Flock that you might not notice at first glance. It is cross platform so works on both PCs, Apples and Linux. With the school holidays on I have had a little time to have decent look and it is great. It has some really great features with all the functionality of Firefox and more!

1. The first thing is that you can import all of your old bookmarks, settings and passwords etc directly from Firefox or Safari on an Apple. I should have migrated and stuck with it when I first imported my settings from Firefox as you can’t import after the first time but Flock is working on that functionality in a future update and once that is able to be done I think I will make the permanent migration.

2. When you use the in-built search button it gives results in a similar way to Apple’s Spotlight- with results returned from your own bookmarks, recent history and on-line searching. Yahoo is the default search engine but you can add others as well.

3. To integrate Flock with Flickr photos go into Flock- accounts and services and log in to your previously set up Flickr account. You then will be able to view your Flickr photos right there within the browser by clicking on the PICS button.

To use them just drag them into a blog or web-based email like gmail that you are writing. No html needed. Flock does it for you! Great for adding photos if you are using David Warlick’s Blogmeister with children.

You can also upload photos to your Flickr account from right inside Flock. If only I had known this before spending US$19.95 for a plug-in for uploads from iPhoto!

4. All of your Delicious bookmarks are readily available from within Flock as well. Go once again to Flock- accounts and services and enter your username and password for Delicious under Favourites sharing. When you intend to bookmark a website you can enter and tag it locally on your computer and/or add it to your Delicious social bookmarks, either shared or not shared, whichever you prefer.

5. You can blog directly from within Flock. Again go to Flock- accounts and services and this time authenticate your blog. Then go to File- new blog post and away you go. You can drag your Flickr photos onto the blog post in either a small or larger format. Then publish right from within Flock.

If you want to quote another piece of text from a blog, highlight it, right click (Option-click if you don’t have a right mouse) and go Blog This. When you do so it indents the text, puts quote marks in, puts it in your blog post and inserts a link to the original post. Cool eh! Useful if you intend to refer to someone else’s blog post.

6. You can do a similar sort of thing with web snippets. In the bottom right hand corner of the Flock interface there is a little clipboard icon. If you click on it it opens a toolbar along the bottom into which you can drag photos or highlighted text that will stay there until you want to use then at some later date. Very useful for things you use repeatedly.Image

7. There is also an RSS reader built into Flock. Again you can import your RSS feeds from an aggregator like Bloglines by exporting in OPML format and importing into Flock. Or you can build your RSS feeds as you find them on the net. You generally know if something has an RSS feed because there is a little orange square with radio waves coming from it in the URL address line.

The idea of RSS is that you can subscribe to a large number of blogs, podcasts or wikis and see updates without having to actually visit each site individually. It is a wonderful time saver for those of us who follow a number of blogs.

To subscribe to a new RSS feed just click on the little orange icon and it will take you to the in-built RSS reader and click on SUBSCRIBE.

I think Flock is a really good alternative to Mozilla and integrates seamlessly with Flickr, Delicious, blogging and RSS. What do you think?

Using Web2.0 tools in my classroom

Paul Harrington started a thread in Tapped In that I am responding to about the uses of Web2.0 tools in my classroom. Paul and I are helping in an on-line mentoring programme through links with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach with pre-service teachers at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. I thought you may be interested.

My class comprises 25 Year Four and Five year old children (8-9 yr olds) in a small rural five teacher school in NZ.

In 2005 we began a three year ICT contract in which the government financed targeted teacher professional development in Information Communication Technology. The funding did not cover hardware or software but in 2006 our school was fortunate enough to be able to finance a pod of 12 Apple laptops that came in a COW (Computers on Wheels) that we are able to trolley around the classrooms on a shared basis.

This year the pod is broken up between classes throughout the morning to allow support for reading/writing/maths programmes and available as a unit for whole class instruction in the afternoons. The COW is supported by wireless access through an Airport Extreme base-station and we all have eight wired access plugs in each classroom. All classrooms have access to our library collection catalogue through the class desktop networked iMac. Our internet access is filtered but our watchdog is happy to unblock any sites we ask within a couple of days.

I had been given the task of constructing a school website and this I managed to do with Claris Homepage- it had individual class pages, a page for newsletters and an email contact address and that was about all, but at least we had a web presence.

In late 2005 I attended a workshop on On-line Learning Environments with Mark Treadwell a NZ educational leader who intrigued me by taking a photo of us and putting it on the internet while we were in quick discussion groups. That was my first experience with blogging. He said it was easy and that he used Blogger.

I went home and made myself a personal blog which I practised with over a month or so and after that felt confident enough to have a go with children. At first I did the writing and taking of photos for our class blog but as we got better at it the children took over! All classes now have a blog and all the school blogs link together with children encouraged to contribute to each other’s blogs through commenting. Each week we have a new pair of blogging monitors whose job it is to record at least one post per week but we often blog much more than that as interesting things happen and I contribute class notices and the like as a means of communicating with parents.

In the blog we have links to a myriad of Web2.0 tools. For example

I made a Bling4yrblog Blog to help you put these into your blog if you would like a few tips.

Last year I also linked the blog to a class Delicious account which is invaluable for being able to direct children to a particular web site without them having to type the URL exactly.

We added a Clustrmap to show where in the world our viewers were and a hit counter gives the children a quick idea how many visitors there are to our blog. This give the students an idea of their real audience and we recently celebrated our 5000 hit party with Easter eggs and a healthy shared lunch!

Next term we will use Dave Warlick’s Class Blogmeister blog as a reflective tool – not really for sharing as I want all children to be able to post to the blog at the same time and not be overly concerned with correct grammar, spelling and punctuation as it would be in a more open published blog like Blogger. Blogmeister lends itself so well as a reflective journal for children to record their thinking.

After this blogging I felt more confident with writing on the web and iWeb came out as an Apple web authoring tool. It is SO much easier and simpler than other methods so I was able to re–construct the school website to be more interactive and thought I might have a go at podcasting because Point England School in Auckland had got an international award for their podcasts and they were on TV so I knew someone else was podcasting in NZ. The ICT contract financed a flight for myself and a local principal for a day trip to the big smoke.

Their podcasting was inspirational and I was hooked. Point England’s podcasts are focussed on improving literacy skills but ours are more general interest focussed on the happening s and learning in our classroom. If we can’t think of something to podcast about we do a book review! After considerable struggle I managed to get our podcasts subscribe-able through iTunes.

Every week I have three monitors who podcast- one to concentrate on the technical side and the other two to do the talking. The children are getting better at the technical side and I am fortunate enough to have a couple who really took to Garageband (our podcasting application) and can do the business pretty much without input from me- I just do the tidying up at then end. I believe every child should have the opportunity to have a go so the quality of our podcasting fluctuates a bit- but hey- we are all learners here! Sometimes we do whole class podcasts so everyone gets a go.
Through commenting on our tagged podcast we made a number of links around the globe- significantly with Paul Harrington’s class in the valleys of South Wales! They sent us a small geocaching bear- Tiny Ted and we sent them a Cuddly Kiwi that we share travels with via the blog.

A natural follow-on from this contact has been a number of Skype conversations, firstly with a local school and then further afield to Wales and Beth Sullivan’s class in Binghamton School, near New York. Again to start with a found one other person to Skype with and practised personally until I got the hang of it.

The biggest difficulty here has been the time differences but when there is a will there is a way and Paul invited his class in one evening so we could chat to them in our early evening. We are soon to do the same as one of my children is intending to spend the day in Paul’s class as he travels back to the UK on a family trip in late April. How cool is that!

In order to share our photos of our geocaching I started a ImageFlickr account and have recently begun tagging photos and blog posts having been showed the simplicity of RSS and the use of Bloglines to aggregate the blogs I follow. We have a class digital camera but I have bought a second hand digital camera that I allow children to take home and take photos with- of specific subjects- and then the child then posts it to our blog. A couple of children have recently started their own blogs which I am really pleased about.

Last year we played with creating a wiki with PBwiki related to our learning on Flight and that was very successful with children contributing from home as well as at school.

This year we are using wikispaces as it is a lot simpler and writing content is easier for my level of children to master.

Children also like to play with Google Earth and look at where they live but we haven’t really used it as a learning tool.

We don’t use a lot of emailing as my class email has been inundated with spam. I will create a new email address for the class when I get a spare minute and we will do a bit more emailing!!!

That’s about it really. There are challenges in using web based educational technologies in the classroom but the rewards are great in the way of communication and engagement from students.

As Paul said these tools were not all started at once and as Sheryl said- you have own something before you can give it away. I think the answer is to become comfortable with the tools yourself and introduce them in a meaningful context and you are sure to succeed.

Parent-Teacher Interviews

For me, parent-teacher interviews have always loomed large over the end of Term One like a large, dark, storm cloud gathering strength. I have always felt that parents expected instant recall of test scores, stories written and conversations held. I always felt nervous about the possible catastrophe lurking as I put my foot in my mouth and say the wrong thing!

Over the last year we have been moving from the more formal teacher-lecture type arrangement to more of a discussion. Children are invited to be the centre of attention and showcase some highlights of their learning throughout the term and set some new goals that parents can have input to.


This model is proving to be very effective- children are taking control and give insights into their thinking and learning that I would never have discovered if I had been doing all the talking myself.

The photo credits go to Kathy Cassidy from her Blogmeister blog. Kathy is a Canadian teacher who teaches Year 1/2 and links with Jody Hayes who teaches in Palmerston North who I met at the Learning at School conference in Rotorua earlier this year, who links with Paul Harrington in Wales that we link with from Appleby. Kathy and I have discussed technical issues of using speakers when Skyping.

ImageOn that subject has anyone got any clever ideas on how to avoid feedback when Skyping when you want the whole class to be in on the conversation. We are fine when we use headphones but it is tricky when the audience is larger?

This photo is of a Skype conversation we had with our link school, Cefn Fforest in Wales late last year. It was podcasted and shared but at the time only one child at a time could really join in as there was a lot of feedback without the headphones on!

Lighting the Literacy Fire

My second professional development experience was on Monday evening when four of us from school attended a workshop presented by Jill Eggleton. Jackie and I had been to a course a few years back with Jill and Jo Windsor as well before she passed away and we had been inspired then so I was looking forward to re-visiting their work. They wrote the book Linking the Language Strands which was so good that I bought my own copy!

She talked about education being not about filling the pail but of lighting the fire. I don’t think she meant to reference learning in the digital age but it still resonated with me.

The piece of her presentation that I particularly took away with me is the ‘News Book’. She suggests how the approach could work across the whole school.

An item of news from yesterday is showcased- it could be a newspaper item, photo, news or topic of interest. The teacher prepares a short unseen text based on the article. From that text the teacher highlights (unlocks the text)

  • a language feature
  • vocabulary extension
  • main idea
  • a thinking tool
  • mental picture
  • ‘text to self’ connection.

We read the text together discussing the features, then read it aloud in an interesting manner and the booklet is given to an individual or couple to respond to visually. This activity is a really quick, meaningful way to engage students and spark an oral/written/reading activity. As I am getting to grips with this technique I have written little prompts at the bottom of the text to remind me of my next teaching point. Each day the previous day’s text is re-read for fluency and when the booklet is finished it then becomes a part of the classroom independent resource- everyone can read it and hopefully there is enough of a connnection with the text that people will want to re-read it.

After having done this four times now since Monday the parts I particularly like

  • the building of the mental image- asking children to think of the sights, sounds, smells etc of what is happenning in the text
  • the quick way to showcase some thinking tool or strategy- hats, PMI, thinker’s keys, question chains etc
  • the text to self connection- how can students relate a personal connection to the text. ‘How does this relate to my life?’

I want to buy the updated version of the book now!