Welcome to Helen’s blog. I plan to use this as a place to share some of my favourite resources and hope that you’ll find something you can use in your practice, whether you are just starting out with ICT in the classroom or if you’re looking to try something new.

I’ll start by looking at one of my favourite free mindmapping tools Popplet. Popplet is fun and intuitive to use, rather like a giant pinboard of sticky notes, and can be a great way to help children organise their thoughts. I love how you can show ideas as text, drawings, images or even videos, and colour-code your notes (known as ‘popples’) to make the meaning clearer.

You might use Popplet at the start of a lesson to brainstorm ideas, later on to sort them visually or in a plenary to recap what your pupils found out. It works well with the whole class on the whiteboard, but you can also invite others to collaborate making it useful for pair or group work.

Think about grabbing ideas around a traditional tale, for example, and then rearranging them to analyse the plot or assemble ideas for a character description. You can then go one stage further and use Popplet as a presentation tool by defining a path through the material and moving through the individual popples as a slideshow.  This means that you or your pupils can use it for explaining ideas as well as for planning, recall and comprehension activities.

You can embed a Popplet on a website and continue to interact with it, or you can export or email an image. Try zooming around the example below:

My idea here was to use Popplet to help children plan mini-sagas on the theme of science fiction. Mini sagas are very short stories, limited to 50 words, and can be a fun way of developing writing skills. Here’s how one Year 6 class used mini sagas at The Falcons School and some winning entries for a mini saga competition.

Another Popplet idea was to put a video in the middle of the popplet and ask pupils to fill in the boxes as they watch and respond in preparation for writing a film review:

If you’d like to see how I made these examples, have a look at my screencast:

Using Popplet for Literacy lessons from helen caldwell on Vimeo.

Other tried and tested mindmapping tools include bubble.us, which has the advantage of working straight away without an account, Spicy Nodes which animates the links to make a mindmap you can bounce around (try it!), and SlateMind which has a fantastic image search facility, making it easy to make visual mindmaps on any topic.

Here’s a screenshot of a SlateMind slate on Ancient Egypt:

I hope you’ll agree that these tools can add a visual dimension to many thinking, planning, explaining and analysing activities across the curriculum. Happy poppling!