BookCreator is a digital tool available to all of us to use through Google Chrome. You can access it here.
It is a tool that allows you to create digital books of your own incorporating a very wide range of media including text, images, video and digital items from other other sources. The accessibility features make BookCreator a tool that supports inclusion for the reader.
A useful way to get started is to work through the Book Creator Certified Author Level 1 activities. These provide a comprehensive and user friendly introduction to the tool. If you have not used BookCreator before this a great introduction. I have been using BookCreator for a while and I learned a lot too, especially about the range of accessibility features available to the writer and reader.
You can see in the list on the right that each module is a short and focused introduction to an aspect of the tool. If you work your way through the items and complete a quiz you can gain a BookCreator level 1 certificate and a digital badge to display on your blog or email signature.
I have made BookCreator books with pupils and students, often to share their work on a topic or area of study. More recently I have created digital text books for students to use as the basis of university sessions. Being able to choose to have the text read them was supportive for some students who accessed the books.
This is a digital book to support a session of developing vocabulary when supporting learning in English and across the curriculum. It is written for university students in the first year of their degree. It was especially useful to be able to share information in this way when most of our study and learning took place online recently.
I also made a more practical book based around different ways of using technology in supporting learning in and teaching English. This book allowed me to collect together and share a range of other digital tools that can be used in English lessons.
You might have come across the idea of the #bitmojiclassroom on social media. Over the last few months, with many teachers and TAs away from face to face contact with their pupils, the idea of creating a virtual space that is visually and user friendly for pupils and parents has become popular. Combined with the tools to create emojis that look like ourselves and add links to images in Powerpoint and GoogleSlides there are now many examples to take inspiration from.
The use of a personalised bitmoji allows us to make a connection with our pupils. This is mine.
You can make your own bitmoji by creating an account here.
Once you have an account and you have made your bitmoji you can then easily search for it in many different versions and positions to use in making resources.
This is a useful guide to how to create a virtual classroom using GoogleSlides by teacher Thomas Blakemore.
If this is something that interests you, it is worth browsing social media for examples, as there are many that you can learn from and repurpose to use for your own pupils. Search #bitmojiclassroom on Facebook or twitter to find posts and videos that will help you.
Last week I made my first #bitmojiclassroom to find out more about how to do it. It is based on learning outdoors. You can access it below. Click on the ‘present’ triangle symbol to explore the links attached to many of the items in the image.
One important area to consider when making your virtual classroom is protecting the intellectual property rights of the makers of resources available online. You will find yourself searching google images for pictures and google for links and it is important to note and acknowledge these. When searching for images you can choose ‘labelled for non-commercial reuse’ in the search settings and keep a note of the information to reference. For the resource above I have another slide with the references related to this image listed.
As you keep up to date with the news you will no doubt be considering how we in education can work for a more fair and equal society. In classrooms using children’s literature as the basis for conversations is a good way in.
This author notes that: “Beyond addressing issues of race and racism, this children’s reading list focuses on taking action. It highlights resistance, resilience and activism; and seeks to empower youth to participate in the ongoing movement for racial justice. Children not only need to know what individual, institutional, and internalized racism looks like, they need to know what they can do about it.” (The Conscious Kid, 2019, lines 22-270).
Another great source of book recommendations in this field is from classroom teachers. Year 4 teacher, Miss Newton (@MissNewton91 on twitter) has shared this presentation of her recommended picture books. You can access it here.Going beyond sharing and talking about stories it is also vital to integrate the black experience across all the subjects that we teach. Miss Newton shared her planning for a Year 4 history unit which you can access here.
From children themselves as readers we can begin to understand how it feels to find oneself represented in the books that are around. Ananya Ganesh, a fifteen year old, had written about this in her blog post ‘We need more #ownvoices books’ which you can read here.
As well working in our individual classrooms in stories and the curriculum there are also organisations to support and develop diversity in education. One of these is BAMed:
“BAMEed is a movement initiated in response to the continual call for intersectionality and diversity in the education sector. All members are volunteers and have committed their time and efforts into creating a tangible support network to equip teachers and leaders with the tools to progress into and through the workforce.
BAMEed connects, enables and showcases the talent of diverse educators so they may inspire future generations and open up the possibilities within education careers.” (BAMed, 2020, lines 3-5).
BAMed is developing regional networks, resources and and a network of speakers. They have collected a useful book list which you can see here. This was curated by Darren Chetty (@rapclassroom), Kaen Sands O’Connor (@ksandsoconnor) and Books for keeps (ABooksforKeeps).
They also recommend exploring Letter Box Library which specialises in selecting and recommending books “in which all children can see themselves and which reflect our world community in all of its diversity” (Letterbox Library, 2020, lines 9-10).
Now is the time to use the amazing stories, resources and networks that we have around us to educate ourselves and the children we support to take action to grow up in a more just and fair world.
If you are interested in exploring the representation of black and ethnic minorities in children’s literature this CLPE survey was published in 2018.
BAMed. (2020) About us. website [online] Available from: https://www.bameednetwork.com/about-us/ [Accessed; 03/06/2020].
Ganesh, A. (2020) We need more #ownvoices books. website. [online] Available from: https://www.ananyaganesh.com/post/we-need-more-ownvoices-books [Accessed; 3rd June 2020].
Letterbox Library (2020) Letterbox Library. website. [online] Available from: https://www.letterboxlibrary.com/ [Accessed 3rd June 2020].
The Conscious Kid. (2019) 31 Children’s Books to Support Conversations on Race, racism and Resistance. Notew0rthy. [online] Available from: https://blog.usejournal.com/31-childrens-books-to-support-conversations-on-race-racism-and-resistance-9dbabc28360e [Accessed: 03/06/2020].
The Conscious Kid. (2019) A children’s book list for anti-racist activism (image). Notew0rthy. [online] Available from: https://blog.usejournal.com/31-childrens-books-to-support-conversations-on-race-racism-and-resistance-9dbabc28360e [Accessed: 03/06/2020].
As the month of June begins there are some interesting activities taking place to draw our attention to the natural world.
The first is the annual event run by The Wildlife Trusts: “30 Days Wild“.
At the link you can sign up to take part as a family, a care home, a business or a school or group. When you sign up you will receive a downloadable wall chart to help you plan a month of wildlife centred activities along with some other useful and fun resources.
You can see the first two weeks of the calendar here.
Another activity that takes place next week is international Nature Journaling Week (1st to 7th June 2020). The aim of the week is to “come together as a world-wide community to celebrate and document the beauty and diversity of the natural world”. (NJW, 2020, lines 7-8).
As well as a theme of each day and “live” online activities there is a useful ‘for parents and teachers” page. It has suggestions for how to involve children in observing and recording nature in the early years, primary years and teenage years along with a website link to John Muir Laws’s resources.
Finally, of course, as always at this time of year Springwatch is running on BBC and social media channels.
There are live broadcasts on social media at 9am, midday and 5pm along with the terrestrial BBC2 program at 8pm on Tuesdays to Fridays for three weeks. There are live webcams streaming all the time, allowing wildlife to be observed live from wherever you are.
The weather is great so now is the time to go and look at the outdoors wherever you are and notice what is happening in the world around.
Nature Journaling Week (2020) Welcome to International Nature Journaling Week. NJW website. [online] Available from: https://www.naturejournalingweek.com/ [Accessed 29/05/2020].
Nature Journaling week. (2020) For parents and teachers webpage. NJW website. [online] Available from: https://www.naturejournalingweek.com/parents-and-teachers [Accessed 29/05/2020].
BBC 92020) Springwatch. BBC. [online] Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007qgm3 [Accessed: 29/05/2020].
The Wildlife Trusts. (2020) 30 Days Wild calendar. The Wildlife Trusts. [online] Available from: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/sites/default/files/2020-04/combinepdf%20%282%29.pdf [Accessed: 29/05/2020].
I came across a useful digital tool last week, introduced to it by Mat Pullen on twitter (@mat6453). It is called Classroom Screen and it is an online screen that gives you access to many of the tools available on a classroom interactive whiteboard.
When it opens it looks like this image. You can choose from a range of backgrounds, animations, colours and your webcam.
At the bottom of the screen the tools appear in a bar and these are the tools you can select and use.
They include: a random name generator, dice, sound level monitor, QR code generator, drawing screen, text typing screen, work symbols, traffic lights, a timer, a stopwatch, a clock and a calendar. All of these can be presented on coloured backgrounds, some can modified in size and in other ways and moved around the screen.
Here’s an example of a screen with some of the tools open.
This is a great tool for allowing you access to the classroom organisation tools you might be used to having in the classroom but on your laptop or tablet to use use a virtual classroom scenario. It could also be useful to access in a classroom that does not have an IWB but does have a laptop and screen.
At present the screens cannot be saved so it is a use and use again tool.
Mat has made a useful demonstration video that you can access here.
Life expectancy is falling for the poorest for the first time in 100 years. As child poverty rises, children and young people in the poorest parts of our country are two to three times more likely to experience poor mental health than those in the richest.
After the 2008 credit crunch it was the most vulnerable in our communities who experienced the severest consequences of austerity, with devastating effects on their mental and physical health. This not the hallmark of a kind society.
We must not make the same mistakes after this pandemic.
Kindness could transform our schools, places of work, communities and families. Let’s shape a society that tips the balance in favour of good mental health, for all of us, but especially for those who are most vulnerable.
Some of the tiny books in the collection were created by Charlotte and Anne Bronte about their own toys and others were made for Queen Mary’s Dolls House. Many are handmade by famous authors.
After exploring the collection of miniature books there is an activity that outlines how to plan and create your own miniature book.
You can also watch contemporary authors and illustrators read their own miniature books here.
When you’ve made your book you can share it social media using #discoveringchildrensbooks to @BL_Learning or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are concerned that your pupils do not have access to the internet the British Library are distributing printed packs through public libraries, food banks and sheltered accommodation as well as emailing PDFs to teachers.
There are lots of other creative and story based ideas to explore here.
Between May 16 and 24, Save Our Street Trees – Northampton will be asking people to turn over a #newleaf with a Virtual Urban Forest in their windows for everyone to enjoy on their daily walks, along with people all over the UK.
We’re tasking families and children to design a bare tree and display it in their window – and each day craft a #NewLeaf to slowly build up a tree canopy. Each #NewLeaf can have a message for passers-by, such as tree poems, tree quotes, forest facts and calming/motivating messages to get people through lockdown.
The idea is one of celebrating urban trees – but also new beginnings, new life, positivity and regeneration. We will be providing downloadable tree trunk templates, leaf cut outs, and lots of leaf art ideas nearer the time.
Watch this space! We’d love you to share photos of your trees and leaves during the Urban Tree Festival week via