My blog this week is not specifically mathematical. Instead, I’d like to share some of the tools I’ve found useful in the classroom. We probably all have our favourites and these are mine. I’d love to hear other people’s favourites too.
My favourite timer is the Classtools countdown timer. This allows you to choose from a great selection of tunes (including the Dr Who theme and the Mission Impossible theme) and timers from 30 seconds up to over 7 minutes. There’s also the option to upload your own tune in MP3 format. Children are often very motivated to tidy up, move to groups, line up in order etc. before the music stops. A large countdown can be displayed on your IWB which adds to the sense of urgency.
My class last year loved this behaviour management system. You can upload your class names fairly quickly and each child will be given an avatar. Later, you can give them the option of choosing a different avatar. Then you can use the system to award both positive and negative points to children or groups of children. You can choose the categories you can award or deduct points for, so for instance you could award points for helping others or good team work, or deduct them for failing to do homework or shouting out. The system keeps track of how many points each child has earned. There is also the option to allow parents access to the site so they can track their child’s behaviour.
Word cloud generators create attractive word clouds from text you input. They can be useful for creating a visual of key words for different topics. Two good ones are Wordle and Tagxedo. Primary English wrote a great blog about different ways to use word clouds in the classroom. For merging together photos or other pictures with a collage effect, Autocollage works very well. Or for displaying pictures on a big scale Block Posters will create large size pictures which you can print off in pieces to put together.
Random Name Generators
Again I like the Classtools version. In this version, you can copy in the names from your class and it acts like a fruit machine and picks one randomly. Class Dojo also has a random name picker option. Of course, there’s always the low-tech standby version of names on lolly sticks too. I’ve also used these in starter activities by eg. listing ways to improve a sentence and then using it to choose one at a time.
There are a number of tools that can be used to create slideshows from your own photos fairly easily, perhaps for a presentation in assembly or an end of topic celebration of learning. I’ve quite often used the Microsoft Live Movie Maker, but Animoto and Photo Peach are also well worth exploring. Some of these have their own bank of music that you can use to accompany the presentations and there is usually the option of importing your own too. One of the best ones I made was a simple but very effective idea for a leaving assembly. I took photos of classes and groups of children, teachers and other staff, governers etc. all waving and then made a slideshow accompanied by Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Time to Say Goodbye’. Although suitable music can usually be bought from itunes fairly cheaply, Youtube have also recently launched a free library of tunes that can be used in this way. You can search these by their mood, genre or duration which could be useful.
Padlet is probably the best known of these. You can quickly create a virtual pinboard and share the link. This can be used, for instance, at the start of a topic to find out what the children already know about it, or for creating a bank of questions to explore. It could also be used for sharing word problems created by children or responses to a challenge. One of my classes used it to share memories at the end of our year together.
There are so many online tools that can be used to enhance our lessons. All of these are very easy to use (believe me, I’m no ICT expert!). I come across new ideas all the time, so I’ve created a Pinterest board which I’m sure I’ll keep adding too. All the ideas I’ve shared on here are on it, together with a few more.