Children and Bad News: advice for helping children deal with world events

Waking up to news about another terror attack in London, I thought I would send out this collection of resources to help with conversations around scary events on the news.

First, there is an up-to-date excellent article and accompanying video written by BBC's Newsround (their childrens' news outlet) just after the Manchester bombing. It is comforting and practical, and aimed at the child. I listed this article first as I found it so effective in putting bad news in the context of your own life. (Article/Video) Advice if you're upset by the news
Next, here is a clip featuring Mr Rogers, taken from his American children's show, aimed at young children. His references are dated (Lennon, Reagan) but his advice is solid gold about what to do when encountering news about bad people and violent events. (Video) Mr Rogers Talks about Violence and Shootings
On the PBS Parents site there is an article aimed at grown-ups about how to help children deal with scary news: (Article)Helpi…

Scratch Jr: Perfect for New Coders

Phew, this has been a bumper crop of blog posts this week! These activities and photos were all captured earlier in the term but I haven't had the time to write them up until now.

 After our Unplugged week, we started with Scratch Jr. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, it seemed like a natural progression from solving concrete puzzles on the floor with 'arrow code' on whiteboards to Scratch Jr's block code, largely featuring arrows. The other reason was that our school network was still recovering from the lightning damage and my plans to use Google Slides were on hold due to no connectivity. So, we dived right back into more coding.

I immediately found that Scratch Jr was completely accessible to students of all ages. The blocks are large and intuitive and the app comes loaded with a large number of sample projects that you and your students can pick apart for ideas. Once I gave them a short intro session to get them comfortable with the layout of the app, my s…

Unplugged: Coding using Grids

Over the last term holidays, we were unlucky enough to have lightning strike near to our school during a storm. We lost large portions of our network switches and machines, and our technicians have really been superheroes in getting everything up and running in a couple of weeks. Due to this, I had to be flexible and rapidly adjust my curriculum plans. On the upside, it has given me precious time to investigate coding, both plugged and unplugged, with my students.

Unplugged: Coding using Grids

Thanks to some amazing folks on Twitter, I came across some great unplugged resources. I was participarly inspired by what teachers were doing with BeeBots. I don't have access to BeeBots, but, I do have access to masking tape and a floor!

Using a handful of small, wheeled toys that I picked up at a  local shop, I began to lead all of my students through a week of Unplugged content. Some of my students remembered the word algorithm from the sandwich robot activity that we had done previously.…

Digital Leaders: The Green Screen

This year I opened applications for our first ever group of Digital Leaders. Working within the framework of our Junior Primary club time, I had thought that I might have a small handful of interested students. I was happily surprised to end up with 16 Grade 2s and 3s that are bursting to learn more about technology and share it with their friends and teachers.

Our first outing was to our Learning Commons, where Mr Kirk has painted an entire wall green to facilitate and encourage green screen experimentation. Our Junior Primary iPads have the Do Ink Green Screen app installed. We talked about green screens and why they could be useful. I helped my students find the app and open up the great in-app tutorial video. I especially appreciated that the tutorial was led by a child as it helped my students feel that they could master this tool. I gave them no other instructions except to "figure out how to get this working".

The next 30 minutes were exciting and very noisy indeed. …

Bubbles the Fish: Labelling skills on Google Slides

I want to tell you about a great lesson that I did today!

Last year we hadn't yet moved to GAFE. This was the lesson I did last May:
Use Microsoft Powerpoint to label an elephant. Teacher chooses elephant picture and demonstrates the labelling tool. Students label the elephant and print
I knew that this lesson needed spicing up for this year. I wanted to teach students how to label an image but wanted to make it feel more enjoyable and less cookie-cutter. Google Slides made this possible.
Labelling on Google Slides! I learned a fun new trick at the EdTechTeam Summit: On Google Slides, you can add a background image to a slide. The background image cannot be moved or manipulated once added, which is ideal for my age group. This way they can add to an image without accidentally changing or deleting it.

I chose to add a picture of an empty fishtank into the background and acted surprised when we opened it. Where was Bubbles the Fish? My students were surprised by this turn of events a…

Waiting on the World to Change - Overcoming Negativity

After hitting up the CT EdTechTeam Summit and meeting all of the fantastic educators out there, I have begun to analyse my own practice a bit more. My first reaction when faced with all the cool stories about what others were doing in their schools was a bit negative, to be honest. I was thinking things like:
There's no space in my timetable for that activityMy teachers won't be supportive of that planI don't know enough about that exciting topic to teach itI've tried to change that but nobody will help meI don't have the resources to do thatI'm scared to try that in case I fail It was all so negative! I didn't want to let myself fall into a negative spiral, especially after being exposed to new ideas and energy at the Summit. Negative thinking can really drag you down. When I started school last week, I let myself take a good long look at how my lessons were going. Some lessons, mostly the ones where I was brave enough to try something new, were great. Othe…

Sharing our Stories: Finding your People

I'm going to steal my opening of this blog from the amazing Keynote speech I was lucky enough to attend on Wednesday:

Once upon a time there was a little girl called Monique.

This opening is important, because my theme today is about sharing our stories. It gets a little personal in this post today, ladies and gents.

The theme of storytelling resonated through Lindsay Wesner's Keynote at the EdTechTeam Cape Town summit. She told us to be brave, even if we didn't feel like were brave. She shared her own story and the stories told by her students. She encouraged us to share our teaching journeys on social media and to prove to other educators that great, revolutionary education could be possible here in South Africa.

After the summit was over, I was at a braai (barbeque for non SAians) with some other teachers who had also attended. My friend, Barbara, and I were wrapping our heads around the idea of sharing our stories - we wanted to find a platform for local teachers to do …