This week the National Literacy trust launched two new online resources to support families and educators.
The first is called Virtual School Library. You can access it here.
Each week the Virtual School Library will introduce a children’s author or illustrator and share books, videos and recommended reads.
Here’s an example from this week (w/b September 14th 2020).
The second is called Words for Life. You can access it here. Words for Life provides resources “for parents, children and young people to improve their language, literacy and communication skills from home” (NLT, 2020a, lines 3-5).
The resources can be accessed by age group and are practical and engaging.
National Literacy Trust. (2020a) Words for Life. [online] Available from: https://wordsforlife.org.uk/ [Accessed: 18/09/2020].
National Literacy Trust. (2020b) Happiness and wellbeing. Words for life. [online] Available from: https://wordsforlife.org.uk/ [Accessed: 18/09/2020].
National Literacy Trust. (2020c) Current authors of the week. Virtual library. [online] Available from: https://wordsforlife.org.uk/virtual-school-library/authors/ [Accessed: 18/09/2020].
ThingLink is a digital tool available for all to use in a free and in a paid for version. The tools available through the free version are a great place to get started. Although it is available as an app it is also available online. You can access it here.
It is a tool that allows you to add tags to images and video. The tags can include text, audio, images / video and links to a wide range of other resources and tools. You can then share your ThingLink with users who can access all the materials from the one place. There are useful accessibility features that make it supportive for all users. ThingLinks can also be embedded into blogs and digital books made in BookCreator and added to Padlets.
A useful way to get started is to complete the Creating Visual Learning Materials ThingLink course in the Microsoft Educator Center. This is a comprehensive introduction for the new user but also contains information about recent changes that was helpful to me as a longtime user of ThingLink. The course contains the following:
Modules Overview – Each module has an interactive video ThingLink and helpful overview
What is ThingLink?
Your ThingLink Account
Base Images and Videos
ThingLink Creation and Tag Types
Embedding Microsoft Tag Ideas
Accessibility and Publishing
Collaboration and Teams
Support and Resources – Followed by our Quiz!
After you have completed the quiz you can download a digital badge to display on your blog or email signature.
A recent example of a ThingLink I made is this one that introduces you to the AR features in Google.
If you join ThingLink and browse existing ThingLinks you will easily find inspiration for using this tool in school. There are so many examples across all age groups and subjects.
How might you use ThingLink in your practice? Share a link to any ThingLinks you make in the comments below.
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.
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
As we move into the summer term and continue to educate many pupils at home the amount of resources to support and inspire learning at home as exploded. In the previous blog post I shared information about two national resources that are launched tomorrow. As well as these there are many other resources provided by many people and organisations that can be used to inspire and connect our children.
Here are just a few of the creative activities and challenges that I have come across:
#stayathome art task by artist Bob&Roberta Smith @bobandroberta (Twitter)
Bob&Roberta tweets short creative challenges to get people being creative using short videos on twitter.
Tomorrow two new national support resources for learning at home are being launched. If you are providing learning for your pupils at home or supporting your own children you might find these useful.
The first is by BBC Bitesize. This consists of daily lessons on the BBC Bitesize website along with special programmes on BBC iPlayer and the BBC red button. There will be a new daily English and mathematics lesson for all ages, supported by videos, practice tests, games and articles. There will also be lessons for science, history, geography, music and art. There will be programmes each evening to support learning at GCSE and A level for older students. Daily podcasts for primary and secondary pupils and an app are also part of this resource along with interaction on Facebook and Twitter for parents and Instagram for teenage students.
The other resource is from a new organisation called the oak national academy, a group of schools and teachers who have been commissioned by the DfE to provide a sequenced series of video lessons and resources. It is providing resources for pupils from reception age to year 6 in the subjects of English , mathematics and a range of other subjects and areas including science, humanities, creative and Spanish and for pupils in years 7 to 9 the subjects of English, mathematics, science, history, geography, Spanish, French, Latin, RE and art. The Oak National Academy can be followed on twitter here.
(Oak National Academy, 2020)
BBC (2020) Daily lessons start Monday. BBC. [online] Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize [Accessed 19/04/2020].
Oak National Academy (2020) Web home page. Oak National Academy. [online] Available from: https://www.thenational.academy/ [Accessed 19/04/2020].