Scriptwriting in Google Docs

 AIM: To write a collaborative play script using Google Docs

WHY: Writing using Google Docs should allow the teachers and children to work on the script in their own time without having to be together.

Using the Forms should allow all the children to contribute their ideas to the script.

The children should have a greater ownership of the script if they have contributed to it in a meaningful way.

 

Teaching the final year of primary / elementary school is a stressful job at the best of times.   There’s the pressure of SAT’s, the emotional strain of the children leaving and then there’s the dreaded ‘Leaver’s Production.’   As time has gone on in my own school this has become a grander and grander affair that consumes the final three weeks of the year.   The results on stage are always outstanding, however the toll on my body / sanity usually less favourable.   This year I decided that I would do something different and try to engage the children a little more in the whole writing aspect.   That’s where Google Docs came in.

The first thing that I decided to do was to get the children’s ideas together and distill the best elements into a script.   I did this by setting up a form that was sent out to all the children to fill in.   I asked them the types of songs they would like to sing, the teachers they would like to embarrass, the theme we should use etc.    

The principle of this was great, the ideas all flooded back into my spreadsheet .   Unfortunately the ideas themselves were to be frank pretty useless.   This, I hasten to add, was due to my own lack of discussion prior to sending the form and not due to the form itself.   In fact I think that this could be a great way of gathering ideas in the future as long as the children get the right input beforehand.   So I was forced to carry on with only my year group partner to help.

What has subsequently occured has been a bit of a revalation.   After our initial meeting to sort out the overall structure of the script we went our seperate ways and worked on individual aspects of the script.

This worked brilliantly, we were able to work on the script in our own time and see the changes that we had each produced.   As a result the script was written more quickly and efficiently than we could have imagined.  

It was extremely helpful to decide beforehand the areas that we would each work on.   This gave us a much clearer focus and stopped any unnecessary ‘creative differences’.   We also used the document as a shared ‘To Do’ list which helped us keep a track of where we were up to organising props etc.   The fact that we didn’t have to be in the same room at the same time was fantastic and made the whole writing of the script a lots less stressful.

One unexpected yet welcome development happened when we published the page to show the children where we were up to.   Once the children have the web address they read the script at home and we were daily inundated with e-mails suggesting plot changes, huge action set pieces etc.   The script became the talk of the playground and generated a huge amount of constructive conversation between the children.   It was with great regret that we had to sideline many of the larger more extravagant ideas, however in terms of the children’s contribution to the script and gaining ownership of the production, it was a fantastic to see. 

  From a starting position of no ideas the children now were debating the relative merits of different ideas.

Further advantages to using Google docs for this script were that the children didn’t all have to have a full copy of the script.   We were able to print them the relevant part, saving a great deal of money on photocopying for the school.   This doesen’t sound like a lot, but in my school every penny counts.  If children wanted to see the whole script they just went online.  Once more using Google Docs ment that if they lost their script they could simply go online and print it off.   No more hassling me a lunchtime for extra scripts!   This fact alone massively reduced my stress levels as the cry of ‘I’ve lost my script’ is one that every teacher dreads.

The curtain has yet to open on the production, but already expectations and excitement levels are high.   One thing is absolutely clear in my mind, allowing children to be part of the organic development of the script has already made it a far better prioduction than it would have been.   The ownership the children have over the script has brought us all closer together as a class.   Now they just have to remember their lines!

LESSONS LEARNT

  • Writing the script using Google Docs did make the whole task more managable.
  • The use of Forms to gather ideas would have been sucessful if I had put more time into explaining to the children exactly what I had wanted from them.
  • Publishing the document even in it’s initial stages allowed the children to watch the script develop and gave them the opportunity to suggest additional ideas. (I don’t think in this case giving editing rights to the children would have maintained the unified ‘feel’ of the script – I could be wrong though.)
  • Publishing also allowed the sharing of the script in a simple way that saved resources and money.

This is one that I’ll be doing again.

To blog or not to blog….

 

 

Over the past few weeks I have become more and more absorbed in the world of web 2.0 or as some call it the ‘edublogosphere.’   The benefits of blogging were, if truth be told, unclear at the beginning of the process, however as I have continued I have become more and more convinced as to its benefits.   As the term ‘read / write web’ is also being throw aroubd alot at the moment I thought that I would try explain (partially to myself) reasons why I’m blogging in terms of reading blogs and writing blogs.

 

READING BLOGS:

  1. Like most teachers I’m quite nosey / curious, reading blogs lets you know what is going on in your particular area of interest.   That could be the latest developments in using technology in the classroom, or finding out what Hannah Montanna’s up to today.   There are blogs to suit all types of interests.
  2. Reading blogs makes you aware of things that you wouldn’t just stumble across on the Internet, both good and bad.   The web is so large and ever expanding that there’s no way you could keep up with it without a wide network of similarly minded people.  
  3. Using an RSS reader is exciting and interesting, you never quite know what is going to drop into your reader.   The posts that you subscribe to can be as varied and diverse as you like, it also saves you having to go round individual blogs, you can just go to the posts that you want to comment on.
  4. If you choose carefully the blog that you subscribe to reading blogs has to be one of the best professional development tools there is.   I can honestly say that I’ve learnt more in the past few months than I have in years of going on courses.
  5. You feel like you’re connected to something rather special and that you’ve got your finger on the pulse of things.   Sharing good practice really makes you feel good.  It also brings to mind the age old teaching sayings about no true original thought and it being pointless to reinvent the wheel.

BUT: It can be very time consuming.   You have to either limit the number of feeds that you have in your reader or put in the time to check what’s going on on a daily basis.   At the weekend I had to go through over 300 new items.   You can’t delete any for fear of missing out on something.   Be careful about how many feeds you sign up for – you may get much more than you wished for / can cope with.

 

 

WRITING BLOGS:

  1.  Writing blogs is a great reflective tool.  Once you get over the initial strangeness of recording you thoughts and throwing them out there, it really does help you get your own ideas sorted out in your head.   At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if people are actually reading your blog or not!
  2. It’s good to share.   To get a comment on your blog that is positive is a great feeling, even if that person is half way around the world and you’ll never meet them.   The fact that someone is listening to what you have to say is a great ego boost.
  3. It’s a great way of recording your ideas.   So often in teaching you’re rushing around from one thing to the next that you forget all the great things that you do in the classroom.  The discipline of writing a blog makes you realise just how good a teacher you are, even though you don’t realise it.
  4. Watching little red dots grow on a Clustermap is a strangely exciting and addictive thing.   There can’t be a blogger out there who doesn’t feel a rush of pride when their dots change size.  

BUT:   It’s worryingly addictive (If you didn’t understand that point four then there’s still hope for you.)   It does take time and effort which needs to be managed so as not to become all encompassing.

All things considered though my blogging experience so far has been entirely positive and it’s something that I have introduced into my classroom this week.

To be continued …

Wordle

Here’s a word cloud that I made using all the comments left by children on our school website.   I think it makes interesting reading.

 

 It also occurred to me that this could be a really useful tool for looking at the quality of vocabulary that children were using in their writing, for example if your lesson was on character description and using powerful adjectives etc you could get the children to paste their initial descriptions into a shared doc, then generate a word cloud.   Then at the end of the lessons do the same activity and compare the differences between the two word clouds.   Hopefully there would be some interesting discussion generated and some clear development!

Mind mapping Using Mindomo

I just though I’d post about a great piece of mind mapping software that I’ve used over the last few weeks with my Year Six.

If you want to explore the map properly then follow the link (I still haven’t really got my head round embedding if the code doesn’t work immediately – sorry!)

http://www.mindomo.com/view.htm?m=ea14ad99d247a2bb9589ae55cf41a4ba

AIM:To build a collaborative mind map that children could use as part of their revision for their SATs.

WHY: By getting to children to think about the connections between scientific topics, thinking about the vocabulary they needed to include and organising their thoughts graphically I hoped to deepen their understanding of the science curriculum.

Basically it worked like this:

  1. I registered for a free account with Mindomo and set up the main areas that we were going to cover.
  2. The children were split up into groups and asked to write down everything that they could remember about a particular topic.
  3. I then showed them how to add branches to the mind map and asked them to organise their thoughts.
  4. The groups then presented their ideas and I wrote up the mind map for them.
  5. I highlighted experiments that we had done in school with an exclamation mark and facts / vocab that had to be learnt with a green tick.
  6. I posted the shared link to our learning platform and the children used it as a revision tool.

 The thing that I really liked about the Mindomo site was the way in which you could invite others to collaborate on the map.   Although I didn’t do this myself this time, I can really see the benefit of children working together on this sort of thing.   It might also be interesting for children from different countries to collaborate in this way too as I’m sure it would promote a great deal of discussion.

I also liked the fact that you could link  web pages for revision to the different words / ideas which would make this an even more powerful tool.  There is even an RSS link so that you as a teacher could follow the work of the students on different maps as they developed.   All good stuff, I’ll be using this again!

LESSONS LEARNT:

  • This sort of collaborative mind mapping is excellent for clarifying links between subjects.
  • It created a huge ammount of discussion and debate about where words/ideas should be listed.
  • Children really enjoyed using it.
  • It would be great for children to build something like this over a year / two years as they worked their way through the science curriculum.


Thank you so much to everyone who gave me advice to get this sorted especially dswaters (the edublogger herself!)  and HGJohn.

Simple MFL Idea

Went into a colleagues classroom yesterday to see a great simple idea for MFL.   She had simply put a wigit on her desktop showing the weather in the two towns that we work with in France and Spain.  

Brilliant way of really embedding MFL in the classroom.

Collaborative timelimes using Dipity.

 

 

This is simply a follow up post to show what my children have managed to produce using Dipity.   I’m really proud of the way that they’ve come such a long way in a short period of time.   The results are developing all the time.

AIM: To produce a shared timeline of John Lennon’s life as part of our study of post war history.

WHY:

  • To encourage children to find, read, analyse and distill information based on a historical event / person of importance.
  • To encourage children to organise themselves in work groups delegating responsibilities and collaborating in a real sense.

I have to say that the more the children have worked together on this project the more convinced I am that this sort of collaborative work creates true ‘deep learning’ experiences.

LESSONS LEARNT:

  • Dipity is an excellent tool for collaboration and really works well in this context.

 

 

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Further adventures in Google docs.

After the excitement of yesterday and the progress that I made (further enhanced with some collaboration with Tom Barrett)  I decided to have a go at an idea that was buzzing around my head.

AIM: To see if the forms in Google docs can be used to bring pupil’s work together in one place raise standards, speed up pupil’s work and how practical is this for the teacher.

WHY:

  • One of the biggest wastes of my time is getting the book, turning to the page, marking (usually writing similar things) would this make the process quicker?
  • Pupils often have no way of comparing their own work and work rate to their peers, would seeing others in real time encourage them?
  • To find out if allowing the children to collaborate meant a rise in the standard of answers, or simple copying.

This idea was based on the work that Tom has been doing on video with his class and I would encourage you to check out his excellent blog.   First of all I set up a spreadsheet in Google docs and organised a form with questions that related to a video we were watching.   I then showed the children the video and told them that they could make notes as they went along if they wished.   When the video was over I gave the 20min to answer the questions on the form.   Then they submitted it.

 

Most of the children had got nowhere near finishing the form, so I invited them to share the doc.   This had the advantage then that they could see what they had written compared to their peers and they could also use the ‘discuss’ and IM options.   This I encouraged.   I asked them to then all complete their answers on the shared sheet.

What was really interesting was the ammount of discussion that went on via IM.   I was really suprised, once the children realised that they could shared information the quality of the discussion was raised considerably with children really discussing the finer points.   I was greatly encoulraged by this as it was the first time that we had used this sort of thing.   The most interesting thing was that the children only really asked me questions when there was a point of debate that needed to be settled!

During the hour and a half that we we doing the activity you could have heard a pin drop in the room.   That was not due to lack of conversation via IM though!   Children also started to offer suggestions to each other as to how they could improve their answers.   I also found it interesting to show the children the differences between the informal language of IM and the formal language of the answers that they were being asked to give.

 When the session was over I was left with a spread sheet of all the children’s answers which I could then leave comments on at the end.  This was easy too and really forced me to think about what I was writing.

 

(Click this to read in detail.)

LESSONS LEARNT:

  • I think that this type of exercise is excellent to get children really thinking about the quality of thir answers inrelation to their peers.
  • I don’t think that this is something you would do all the time, but is something that really should be used as a different way of engaging children in discussion.
  • It did’nt lead to copying, it led to quality debate and disucssion as children had so much informatio to copy from they had to evaluate the best to use in their own way!
  • It was good forsome of the ‘lazier’ members of the class to really see just how little they were doing in comparison to thers.
  • It made me as a teacher engage with more pupils directly through the discussion and my points were being spread to the whole class not just one or two individuals.
  • When marking I had to think really carefully about the work and my comments.

Although it didn’t save me time as such I really feel that the quality that was produced (remember this was the first time we have done it) was impressive.   I also really feel that it provided a different access to comprehension and I’ll definately be doing more of this in the future. 

Result – Self Marking Spellings in Google Docs.

Whilst messing around today I suddenly thought to myself

“What if you could use the forms in Google docs to set up a spelling test that would mark itself?”

WHY?

  • To make life much easier for the teacher and save time marking repeated spelling logs.
  • To show any patterns in spelling mistakes.
  • To give the teacher more time to teach.
  • To allow children at home / absent to take the tests.
  • To possibly engage with parents to supervise tests at home and let the child take the test when they are ready and not use school time?

There seemed to be plenty of reasons why I should spend a little time trying it out and to be honest it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.   The setting up of the formulae was a little tricky and involved a bit of trial and error, but I got there in the end.

HOW:

  1. Open a new spreadsheet and save it.
  2. Open three sheets at the bottom.
  3. Click on the Share tab and choose fill out a form
  4. Write ‘Name’ as the first question then Question 1 etc.   This will put the children’s answers into the first page of the spreadsheet with their names.
  5. Rename this this ‘Answers Given’ at the bottom.
  6. Create two more sheets.
  7. Rename the sheets ‘Results’ and ‘Test Answers’ 
  8. NOW THE TRICKY BIT! REMEMBER YOU MIGHT HAVE TO CHANGE THE CELL REFERNCES
  9. On the ‘test answers’ sheet write the spelling answers one per cell HORIZONTALLY across.   Then select and drag to fill down the sheet for 30 children or more if needed.
  10. On the ‘Results’ sheet in the first column use a fourmula like =’Answers Given’!C1 to copy the NAMES column from your ‘Answers Given’ sheet.  If the name shows up drag the cell down to copy the formula.
  11. In the next column put in a formula like this =IF(‘Answers Given’!D2=’Test Answers’!A1, “1”, “0”)   This just means if the answer in ‘Answer given’ matches the answer in ‘test answers’ then score it 1 if not 0!
  12. Copy across for all the answers.
  13. Finally in the last column of the ‘Results’ sheet put Total and put in a formula like =COUNTIF(B2:K2,”1″) This just says add up the previous row if there is a 1 scored
  14. SELF MARKING SPELLINGS DONE!

I know that this looks horrific to do, but trust me I’m not very good at these things so if I can do it everybody can.   I’ve trialled it with my class and it really does work!

LESSONS LEARNT

  • Google docs can be used in creative ways to help reduce workload.
  • Doing this for spellings will allow the teacher to spend much more time on teaching not marking.
  • You could also use the embe
  • The possibilities of sending out linked exercises etc with the email to support the learning is an exciting possibility.

I’m also looking into other areas where this sort of collated marking could be useful and will post as soom as I have thought it further through.   If you want to see it in action then leave your email and I’ll invite you to have a look.

 

The only future you can predict is the one you build yourself.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been getting more and more involved in the edublogging community and trying to sort the wheat from the chaff.   When I set up this blog I really wanted to keep it as full of ideas as possible and avoid what I saw as potentially indulgent and unnecessary soul searching.  

However, I have come to realise that actually this blogging experience is a powerful tool to record and clarify my own thinking on subjects.   It really doesn’t matter if people read it (though it would be great if they did!)   The only reader that really matters is the person who’s blogging!

This watershed moment was followed shortly after by another whilst reading some other blogs.   The question of why we are using these tools and technologies is very often overlooked.   I am in no way claiming credit for this thought, but it really made me think that this should be the fundamental question asked before starting any project.   I have promised myself that this will be the start of any future posts on this blog regarding teaching.  

If I can’t say why I’m using it, why am I using it!