Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hero Kids Term 4

Another term, another group of excited Grade 2 and 3 kids to play Hero Kids with!

All set up.
Here is our party line-up this time:
  • Mary, the Warrior
  • Jay, the Knight
  • Jhon the Whip, the Warlock
  • Emma the Healer
  • Arrow the Archer
Three of the students have played Hero Kids with me earlier this year, and two are new. I consider that a good ratio. We are playing Curse of the Shadow Walkers, chosen largely because our Warlock already showed an interest in wolves. I finally got around to printing and laminating a plain square battle-mat (generated from this great site), designed to fit the miniatures that come with Hero Kids. We spent most of the session colouring and cutting out our paper miniatures. We reinforced our minis with card that we glued onto the backs of them before folding.

Ready for Adventure!
Our sessions are only 40 minutes, minus getting to the venue, collecting my wandering players, remembering all of the paperwork etc., so this adventure might take a while to get through. Five players means that they are quite a strong group, so I'm going to have to bump the difficulty up a bit. On their first skill check, only 2 out of 5 of them managed to pass a dexterity check - the others were set to 'bruised' health status. It's good for them to realise this early on that their healer is going to be super useful.

I was brainstorming with another colleague who teaches in the senior primary and he suggested the idea of a combined Juniors-Seniors club next year. We could train the senior/experienced kids up to be GMs and let them run small parties of juniors. I love this idea, it's just a case of logistics as currently Junior and Senior clubs run on different days. In any case, it's promising to have another staff member on board as my Grade 3 children started asking if Hero Kids is available as a club in the Senior Primary.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Powerpoint Comic Creations

Last term, the Grade 2s worked around the theme of Superheroes. They had even had a Superhero Dress-Up Day which was, coincidentally, the same day as their IT lesson. Since my lab is decorated in a superhero theme, I really wanted to find some sort of activity that celebrated superheroes.

Enter this wonderful page by Communication 4 All. The first thing on that page is a neat Powerpoint activity, letting you easily build a comic strip. It allows you to create a Powerpoint template that the students can each open and save a fresh copy onto their drives. I edited the template to add a few more superhero pictures and actions. After giving a short intro where I toured the students around the layout and showed them how to get the superhero images in place, I let them loose. Both classes surprised me with their creative superhero comics.

A Grade 2 girl really understood the Superhero theme.

We'll be definitely using this activity in the future. Comic strips are a unique genre and fun to create, but I find many of the online comic creators clunky with extremely long load times. As usual, the winning activity for me is offline-capable.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Tux Paint: Penguin Power

Early this year I discovered Tux Paint. These are some of the many, many lessons that we have used it in recently:
Grade 2: The Solar System
Grade 0: African Culture
Grade 00: Drawing a Dinosaur
We have found Tux Paint to be incredibly useful in the Junior Primary lab. It offers artistic control that children as young as 4 or 5 are able to access. In addition to that, we use it for reinforcing themes that are being taught in the classrooms. Many parents have asked for the name of the program so that they can install it on home computers, and are amazed that Tux Paint is a free operation. On any given afternoon, half of the children in the lab have Tux Paint open and are working on experimental artwork, stories, or drawings.

In this day and age I struggle to find any programs that are age appropriate, offline-accessible and free. Thank you to the makers to Tux Paint, it is truly a program that we use daily.

Monday, October 12, 2015

iPad Projects on Book Creator

In Junior Primary we have access to a shared mobile lab of iPads. One of the apps we use is Book Creator, which is a great tool for putting together a simple presentation. I popped into the Grade 2 classes and was very pleased to catch the tail-end of a series of presentations on sea creatures. Our students presented with great enthusiasm, I was very proud of them! They had created their presentations from scratch, with no parental or teacher takeover - it was all their own. I was also most proud of the audience of their peers, who listened well and clapped at the end of every one.

 The combination of Airplay and our Windows desktops can sometimes cause great frustration at not being able to sync correctly, but the results can be so worth it. 

Excel Art

Fourth Term already, gosh! The days are flying by. It's hard to believe I've been working here in this IT Lab for nearly a year.

We started the term off with a bang: a Microsoft Excel kind of bang! None of my Junior Primary students have used Excel before, so we've been experimenting.

The Grade 1s built up brightly-coloured columns of stairs, carefully tracking the number of cells they were shading. We learned about cell names, rows and columns - as well as the idea of scrolling the sheet to see more cells. I used the example that Excel was sort of like a treasure map, you needed to know the exact cell names of where you were working. We produced beautiful, interestingly-shaded stairs and will most likely finish this activity and print them next week.

For the Grade 2s and 3s, I wanted an activity with a little bit more thinking involved. After much searching I hit upon this great activity on Maureen Schoenberger's website. You create an Excel template with the cells shaped into squares, give the students lists of cell names and instructions to shade them with specific colours. The results were great and I even allowed them to print their finished gingerbread houses. I was impressed by how focused and interested my students were. One boy pointed out that the Excel cell-art looked similar to the Minecraft pixel style, and who am I to judge? This activity was a big hit and it's inspired me to try my hand at creating another Excel art template in the future.