Friday, 5 December 2014

A Very Mathsy Xmas

Well the countdown to Christmas is here and that calls for a few Christmaths activities in the last few weeks of the term...

The first of these is my 'A Very Mathsy Xmas' display, which is basically a Mathematical advent calendar of the wonderful puzzles (posters) from the nrich website. A link to all these puzzles is below:

I selected a few of these puzzles that were suitable for all of my classes, or were one of these 'low access high challenge' tasks! I printed them out and then got some coloured card to put over the top to hide them before each day is revealed. I plan to catch up on the weekend days on the Monday of each week, and we may do the days we'll miss (20-24) in the last week of term too. I saved the puzzles I chose in a folder so when each day is revealed I can get the puzzle up on the board to discuss as a class.
Each day I choose a student from my 1st class to open the 'window' on the calendar for that day and then my other classes see the puzzle when they come in.
I've been really pleased with the reaction to the calendar and the puzzles, there's been a student each day so far that's asked to open that day's 'window' (some of them have seen it as a privilege to open a day as there's so few of them [compared to the number of students I have]) and the discussions we've had as a class in terms of how to approach each question, and then the solutions, have been really encouraging too.

Here's the display...

I used a nice 'snowy' font I found on the web a while back to do the title for the display.
Here's how it looks from the front of my classroom

In addition to the 'A Very Mathsy Xmas' display I have also, today, sent round this month's numeracy puzzle(s) of the week to all our tutor groups.

If you've read my previous posts on numeracy you'll know I'm a big fan of, and use, Emily Hughes @ilovemathsgames's blog and numeracy puzzles that I send round to our tutor groups. So, using the same format that I use for these, I sent round this month's set. I decided to make a bit more of a competition out of the puzzles this month, being it the run in to xmas. So, I found on Don Steward's amazing 'Median' blog the following puzzles...

I have given our tutor groups the challenge of seeing how many of the 24 puzzles they can answer correctly by the last Weds of term. I like the link to the advent calendar here! The tutor group with the most correct answers will receive a chocolaty Christmaths prize on the last day of term. If there's a tie, I'll be sending a 'tiebreaker' question to the involved tutor groups.

Here's the ppt I've sent round...

Title slide with our Numeracy Across the Curriculum Logo on it and details of the competition.

Don Steward's puzzles (see link above)

No doubt 'The Pirate Game' will also make an appearance at some point in the last week of term and in other news...I'm currently organising a Dodgeball tournament for our Year 10s (I'm a Year 10 tutor) on the last day of term!
I hope everyone who's reading this has a fantastic last few weeks of term...and an even better xmas holiday period! See you in the new year (if not before).

Thursday, 30 October 2014

A Frenzy of Marking: 'Progress Over Time'

The first half term of the school year has seen us embark on a newer emphasis on 'progress over time' and a need for students' exercise books to be glistening with not only marked work, but 'learning dialogues/conversations' including students' responses to our WWW/EBI comments. This, is also (as I found out in an observation the last week of the half term), coupled with students needing to show knowledge of their previous learning when quizzed during the lesson observation by my observers: if they can't answer their on-the-spot questions on what they've previously covered, learning mustn't have been consolidated!

Over the past week I have read many different thoughts on the latest frenzy and none more so than @TeacherToolkit's fantastic 'The Marking Frenzy' post here. Ross' post sums up what I have experienced so I will not repeat it here.

In addition to Ross' post, I also came across @adil_3's post on his marking stickers, see his post here. I am a big fan of stickers and stampers to help my marking and found these a fantastic addition to my marking arsenal. The pre-designed stickers on Adil's blog are great and I plan on using most of them when marking students' books after half-term. I will, like Adil plans to do, make a note of any impact they have, both in terms of speeding up my marking and the students' understanding of them and acting upon them. I have since bought some blank 25mm template stickers from the link on Adil's page and have started to create some more of my own to use as EBI statements when marking students' books. The idea being that these stickers would save me writing the same statements over and over again in students' books. Statements like...

'remember to round your answers to the stated degree of accuracy'
'don't forget the order of operations (BIDMAS)'
'check your workings'
'estimate your answer first to check if your final answer is sensible or not'
'read the question!'
'give your answers in terms of Pi'
'write down all of your workings'
'see me to explain this further'

So, rather than writing these each time, I will replace them with the relevant sticker under the EBI part of my stamper and then refer students to a poster I will make with all possible stickers and their meanings - students can then write the comments in themselves or use the meanings to write their INT ('I Need To') statements, which are the holy grail at present!

Here are some of the stickers I have created...

 This page includes:

Round your answers
Give your answers in terms of Pi (for my higher set Y11 class)
Is your answer sensible - estimate first

 This page includes:

Remember the order of operations (BIDMAS) - thanks to @MrReddyMaths for this image!
Read the question
Show all your workings
This page includes the 'see me' sticker for more help - for those students who seem to have completely misunderstood in class or have done very little work
 This page includes all the stickers I first tried out the template with (including)...

check your times tables
show your workings
show/check the units of your answers
check your angles/angle facts
use a pair of compasses/construct accurately
use my YouTube Channel (mrcollinsmaths)
Come to Maths Club

The template I used to create all of the above (and so that they print *nearly* perfectly onto the sticker sheets) was tweeted out by @LoundDarren and can be found here.

I'm looking forward to seeing how these stickers will work with my students and will hope it compliments the ways I am already trying to improve the feedback I give my students in their exercise books. We have a whole school literacy marking policy and so I'll continue to underline misspelled words and write 'sp' in the margins etc. We also have presentation guidelines we've had to drum into students heads too and so the stickers Adil has created in his post above will help reinforce the title, date, margins, pencils for diagrams etc expectations too.

If anybody thinks of any other common mistakes and comments Mathematics teachers end up writing in books - let me know...

@mrprcollins or comment below! :)

Monday, 25 August 2014

Constructions resources using 'Comic Life'

UPDATE 14/02/15 - Now available on my TES resources:

If you've read my previous blog post on 'Comic Life' you will have seen my 1st attempt at creating a 'comic' using the app. I mentioned in that post that I intended to create some constructions resources using the app and here they are!

It took a while for me to do all the constructions, taking photos at each 'step' in the process. I then used these photos to create the 'comics'. I initially did the perpendicular/angle type constructions and then later created the triangle constructions. Here's some of the ones I've created...

Front cover
 Perpendicular Bisector
 Angle Bisector
 Constructing a 60 degree angle
 Triangle Constructions Front Cover
 SSS triangle

In all, I have created a Constructions Comic for each of the following:

Perpendicular Bisector
Angle Bisector
Perpendicular through a point on a line
Perpendicular from a point to a line
Constructing a 60 degree angle
Constructing a 45 degree angle
SSS triangle
SAS triangle
ASA triangle

So, there they are. I love them! I tried to make them all similar in their design and layout and just changed the number of photos depending on the number of 'steps' I photographed when completing them. The more I've used the 'Comic Life' app the more I love it too. I'm now adding lots more elements to the comics as I create them and are using a lot more of the features in the app. It's so easy to copy objects from one comic to another and this sped up my creation of the comics.

Now, this is all good and well, but how do I intend to use them I hear you say? Well, here's some ideas I've had so far.

1) As they look so great I thought about printing them out and laminating them to go up on display in my room - students can then look at and read through them, be inspired by them etc.

2) Print and laminate them to be used as a group activity when the topic comes up in the SoW. Each small group could be given one of the constructions/comics and work through them to create their own version of each construction, then rotate round to the next construction/comic.

3) They could be used as extension activities for students that finish topics such as basic angle work, congruence/similarity etc.

4) They could be made into small booklets (comics) for Y11 students to use for their revision - I often find that the constructions are easily forgotten by students.

There are bound to be other ways in which I can use them. They can, of course, just be used as a series of instructions for individual students to reproduce, or to give to those students that need further support after I have taught the class how to do them as a whole group. If anyone has any other ideas let me know via Twitter @mrprcollins or by commenting below.

I plan on creating more of these so watch this space for updates...

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Comic Life

Earlier this month I blogged about the iPad apps I was intending to use in the new school year. One of those apps that I was yet to download was 'Comic Life' - an app that allows you to create your own comics!

Having seen a few people on Twitter tweeting links to their recently produced resources I was reminded that I should really look into getting the app. Check out the official Comic Life Twitter account (@comiclife) for loads of retweets from other teachers using the app. In particular I was inspired by @CreativeNorton and @CreativePhysEd.

Before I downloaded (and bought) the app [currently £2.99], I checked out a few videos on YouTube as to what could be done and just to get a feel of how easy it was to create the comics. These were really useful and confirmed that I needed to get the app!

I also already had a reason to get the app - I wanted to create a poster for my classroom to go on my tutor noticeboard to remind my tutor group of the basic expectations in regards to their uniform, equipment and use of the school's planner.

Once the app had downloaded I read the 'getting started' guide, which was brief and simple enough; it confirmed what I had seen on the YouTube videos. I tried, in this 'comic', to export it to see how I could then use the comics once created. I was extremely pleased at the ease of opening the comic in pretty much any of the other apps I already had downloaded. It opened in Dropbox as a pdf, which was exactly the thing I was hoping it would do, but didn't have this confirmed in the app description on iTunes. It opened in Adobe Reader (obviously, as it's saved as a pdf file). It also opens in 'Skitch' which then allowed me to add the effects in my 1st comic (see below).
There are plenty of other things you can do with the comics too, but for what I intend to use it for, the above is good enough for me.

Being a bit of Marvel/DC comic geek I opted for the 'Retro' template, of which there are about 10 to choose from. I changed the 'template' texts and re-sized/positioned them as I wanted. Adding photos from my photo library was so easy it meant I was able to spend more time getting the layout to look exactly as I wanted. The thing that impressed me most was that the photos, when inserted, fit to the bordered boxes. By this, I mean that if you have part of your photo overlapping the bordered boxes, after having resized your photo accordingly, the app automatically 'trims' the photo so all you see is the part of the photo inside the bordered boxes.
The speech bubbles are great too and there's a wide variety of bubbles to choose from. I, by chance, came across the ability to add an extra 'tail' to the speech bubbles, meaning that more than 1 person could say/think things - I used this in my 1st comic (see below).
It's really easy to change the fonts of texts and there's plenty of comic type fonts and designs to play around with - great for the comic geek within.

There's loads of features within the app that I am yet to use/explore such as the shapes, different layouts and templates you can use etc.

Here's my 1st comic (poster) that I created to put on my tutor noticeboard...

I used my 'Skitch' app to blur out our Head Boy and Head Girl and like the fact that I can open the comic in this app to tweak things where needed.

Yes, that is my gormless face in the bottom-right corner.

The main messages I wanted to get over to the students were to:
1) have their planner on their desk during tutor time (and in their lessons)
2) ensure they're uniform is top notch (as modelled by our HB and HG)
3) ensure they have the correct equipment - prices from our school shop included here for their reference

I'm really pleased with how good the comic (poster) has turned out and am sure this will look great on our noticeboard. It's bound to draw students' attention toward it and therefore they'll actually read it!

I'm now thinking of other things I can use the app for...

I want to create some comics/posters for topics like constructions. I would create step-by-step instructions to performing each different type of construction - perpendicular bisector, perpendicular to a point on a line, perpendicular from a point to a line, angle bisector, constructing SAS, SSS and ASA triangles etc. I think these would work great in the style above as students can read the instructions/follow the images to help them.
This may also work well with the transformations - enlargements, translations, reflections and rotations and transformations of functions for the higher ability students - y = af(x), y = f(ax), y = f(x) + a and y = f(x + a).

It could work for any topic really, but especially with those that lend themselves to being a bit more instructional and having to 'show'/'model' to students how to do/perform them.

I'm really impressed with the app and how straight forward it is to use. I look forward to creating more comics and will, of course, share them in due this space!

Comment below or tweet me @mrprcollins if you're a teacher who is using Comic Life.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

#poundlandpedagogy - ready for the new school year

If you're anything like me, a lot of the Summer holidays are spent seeking out bargains for the new school year. Whenever I'm out and about I can't help but think of what I might need in my classroom next year, or how something could be used. This week has been one of those weeks. We went to Ikea and I really had to stop myself buying items that, although they might look good, wouldn't have much 'educational value'. But, today, I found myself in the local 'Poundland' and 'Wilkinsons' purchasing a few items that I had been inspired to get/found a purposeful use for next year.

In the true spirit of #poundlandpedagogy, here are my bargain buys and how I intend to use them this coming school year...
(check out the hashtag above for other fantastic ideas that other teachers have) [thanks to @WallaceIsabella for creating this phenomenon]

I've been looking for something like this since the back end of last year when I was doing my numeracy puzzle(s) of the week with my tutor group - check out my recent numeracy across the curriculum post here. I was getting fed up of having to find spare bits of scrap paper for them to work on during tutor time and, without the budget to get them their own exercise book, was looking for some small notepads that they could use instead.

I found these note books (a pack of 8 for £1) from 'Poundland' and they are pretty much what I was thinking of. I bought 4 packs of these so each one of my tutor group has their own note pad to use throughout the year.

These will come in handy for weekly discussions, numeracy puzzles, literacy tasks etc etc. I will keep them in our room so that 1) the kids don't lose them 2) I can look at what they've done and 3) I can easily hand them out on a daily basis when needed.

Here's what the note pads look like out of the packets. There are 50 pages per note pad, which should be more than enough. Plus, if I need to kill any time during tutor time in the 1st week back I'll be sorted - personalise your note pad!

The only foreseeable problem...fighting over what colour each person gets!

The next idea I got whilst visiting my fiance's school/classroom yesterday and helping her set up her displays etc (yep, I had nothing better to do).
On a separate note, I'd be interested to know how many teachers are able to go into school (if they want to) over the Summer holidays? My school is closed throughout the whole of August (except results day) and so I'm not able to go in even if I wanted to. Whereas my fiance's school is open throughout the holidays between 9am-3pm. Let me know via Twitter (@mrprcollins) or by commenting below.
When helping set up her classroom I noticed she had a load of bulldog clips on nails that were hammered into the wall. I asked what she used them for and she said that was where students kept their 'works in progress'. Being a DT teacher she often has students that are partway through a project and to keep all their work in one place they clip them onto the bulldog clips and were kept there until next lesson. I believe she used this process with a single class (maybe her GCSE class)? What I liked about this is that all her other classes, and classes of other teachers using her room, would see the work on display and the development of it over time.
I've decided to magpie this idea and tweak it for my #takeawayhomework display. To read more about the takeaway homework I use with my classes click here and here. What I intend to do is, on my display board that I've set aside for the takeaway homework I will put up some of the bulldog clips, with some 'backing paper' ready to hold in place examples of fantastic homework that I receive/have received so far. So I got some bulldog clips and backing paper from 'Poundland' today...

Here's her 'work in progress' display with the bulldog clips and backing paper ready for her students' work... recent purchases from 'Poundland'. I will pin up about 5/6 pieces of homework and then complete the display with my takeaway homework menu and some other examples that can't be clipped up - things like the foldables, tweets, trump cards etc.

Next, an actual purchase from Ikea - my new organiser/whiteboard and some added whiteboard pens from 'Poundland'. The one thing I did buy from Ikea (only £2.25) was a noticeboard that doubles as both a whiteboard and a pin board. The whiteboard section is, conveniently, split into 7 sections (I'm assuming 1 for each day of the week). Now this, for me, is ideal as I have 6 Mathematics classes next year and my tutor group. So for each section I intend on writing up important information for each class on a regular basis. I used to do this using the magicwhiteboard A4 sheets that I stuck up on my windows, but I didn't update them as much as I could have. The whiteboard will be hung up somewhere visible to students and myself and I will aim to put the following under each class' section: homework details/deadlines, important dates (assessments etc) and pupil(s) of the week. Here's the board...

In addition to the board I stocked up on some whiteboard pens from 'Poundland'. They seem to work fine and you get 5 for £1, all different colours too. I'm forever running out of these and our departmental supplies constantly run low. So, in an attempt to avoid constantly bothering our faculty assistant for whiteboard pens, I figured I'd get some spares to keep my students going for a while!

Finally, another great find today came from 'Wilkinsons' in the form of index cards or cue cards (whatever you refer to them as). I got some of these last year to use as a starter/plenary task - 'my favourite no'. Check out this link/video for a full explanation on the task (it's well worth it). This was an idea I found on the web last Summer and the task works fantastically well! The only drawback was that wherever I had looked in the past for index cards they seemed to be £4/£5 a pack, which was far too much!

These index cards (50) from Wilkinsons cost just 75p each and so I got a few packs of these to use with the 'my favourite no' task. I'll get students to do use both sides of the cards and might even cut them in half so I get as much use out of them as I can.

There we have it, my recent haul of stationary to prepare for the new school year. Be sure to tweet your #poundlandpedagogy finds and uses and tweet me @mrprcollins, or comment below, if you think of other productive ways I could use the items I bought today.

Having just linked the hashtag above I've already found another teacher @TheMathsMagpie who has used sponges bought from 'B&Q' to create whiteboard rubbers for her mini whiteboards...

Great for my next trip to the shops!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Summer #blogsync - My Life in Books

#blogsync is back this Summer inspired by Tom Sherrington's (@headguruteacher) blog post. I felt that I could add a little to the topic and so here is my life in books (so far)...

(click here for all of the excellent posts in this months #blogsync)

My 1st ever book was probably one that many people started off with - 'Letterland'! I can remember having this book at home and reading it to my younger brother and sister. The characters were what made the book and I'm still amazed at how many of them I can remember, still, just shy off my 30th birthday. Here's a little challenge for many of the 26 alliterative characters can you name?

I'll give you the 1st three...

Annie Apple
Bouncy Ben
Clever Cat

...and my personal favourite, as he represented my first initial, Peter Puppy!

Sadly, after this there was a massive lull in me reading books. At a young age (all the way up to studying for my English GCSEs) I just wasn't into reading. I didn't read much at all, I was never really encouraged to read and (to my knowledge) not many of my friends read either. I'm almost jealous now, when considering how much I know my sister read when she was younger and the amount of books she had on her bedroom shelves. The only real books I had/read as a boy were the Panini football sticker books and the odd 'Match' or 'Shoot' magazine from my dad's newsagents.

Something started to change when I was studying for my English GCSEs. As to the reasons behind this? I can only think of two...

1) My English teacher - Mrs Green
2) the fact we had to study a novel as part of the GCSE course

Coupled with an inspirational teacher, who led me to enjoy English above most other subjects at secondary school (yes, even above Mathematics), and the fact we had to read a book in order to succeed in our GCSEs I, for the first time since 'Letterland' enjoyed reading again. Now, I bet you're all wondering what book I was told to read? 'The Lord of the Rings'? 'To Kill a Mockingbird'? 'Of Mice and Men'? I'm afraid not. I did, however, read 'Of Mice and Men' a couple of years ago when working as a Cover Supervisor as so many of the students were reading it in their English lessons and I felt I should know about it so I could actually be of some help when covering their English lessons! I liked it, enjoyed it and weirdly could only picture Lenny's character as Michael Clarke Duncan's 'John Coffey' from 'The Green Mile' (I've never seen the film version of 'Of Mice and Men').

So, what book did I read for my GCSEs? Susan Hill's 'I'm the King of the Castle'.

I absolutely love/d this book. I loved it when I was reading it for my GCSEs and love it now having re-read it a couple of years ago. Strangely, on seeing my English teacher a few years after I left Secondary School - in Tescos where I worked as a student at University, she couldn't quite understand why I liked it so much and came to the conclusion that, she supposed, I didn't have to read and teach it year in, year out!

The themes in the book obviously connected with me in someway back then? I was engaged by the 4 main characters - Kingshaw, Hooper, Mrs Kingshaw and Mr Hooper. I loathed Mrs Kingshaw, felt Mr Hooper was pathetic, felt sorry for Kingshaw and just wanted Hooper to get what was coming to him. The childhood bullying explored in the book, the weak parenting, sense of horror and the vivid scenery portrayed all made it enjoyable to read and kept me wanting to read more and more of the book.

I remember having different coloured paperclips inserted into the tops of key pages in the books all linked to different themes that we could have been asked about in the book. I had annotations all over my copy and researched lots of reviews/opinions etc on the book in order to prepare for my GCSE. I don't know how successful I'd be these days now you're not allowed to take an annotated copy of the book into the exams?

This book will always be the first that truly got me into reading. However, I still from that point on, up until starting my teacher training didn't read for 'pleasure'. I read as a necessity - for College and for University. I didn't buy books unless I needed them to pass my relevant courses.

The next real set of books I had to purchase were for my Degree in Psychology and Education Studies. I bought a fair few of the recommended books for my course and read each one, referencing them where appropriate and needed in essays I was asked to write. Here's a few of the books I read...

I found these books interesting to read and they essential helped supplement the course material I was given/taught (I did my degree through ICS, at home, around working 9-5 office jobs).

Towards the end of my degree, and up to starting my teacher training, I did dabble in reading for 'pleasure'. Again, this came out of intrigue more than a desire to get something to read. A colleague of mine, back when I worked one of the office jobs, on my 1st day being shown round the offices, explained the recent re-naming of their meeting rooms. One such room was named 'The Da Vinci Room'. Now, being naive and (still quite young compared to the rest of the workforce) I just thought this was because of the artist and didn't know anything about Dan Brown's book. So, perhaps with a need to 'fit in' to my new place of work, I bought Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code'.

I really enjoyed the book; the puzzles, the links to pieces of art I had heard of and maybe just because I was, for the first time, reading something that I didn't really need to read. Having read 'The Da Vinci Code' I then sought out the rest of Dan Brown's books and read 'Angels and Demons' (my favourite one - loved the ambigrams etc [didn't enjoy the film as much]), 'Digital Fortress' and 'Deception Point'. I'm yet to read the more recent books, 'Inferno' and 'The Lost Symbol', although I do own both.

Here they are. 'Digital Fortress' is with my step mum - she's read Da Vinci, Angels & Demons, Inferno and The Lost Symbol, but hadn't read the other two.

Starting my teaching career is what really started me reading for 'pleasure', rather than having to or feeling I should. I worked as a Cover Supervisor for two years while I finished my degree and applied to get on my GTP. Throughout this time I wanted knowledge! I wanted to read everything and anything I could to give me as many ideas, thoughts, strategies, puzzles, theories etc that I could. I wanted to be prepared for teaching and I wanted to know how to do it and ultimately what would make me an outstanding teacher.

As such, for my birthdays, Christmases and just when I really wanted one, I requested all sorts of books all aimed at trying to make me as good a teacher as I could be. I set up an Amazon wish list and constantly updated this for my close relatives to kindly choose from for me. This has been ongoing all the way through my teacher training and up to the present day. Our bookcase at home is full of books I have bought, read and have helped me become the teacher I am today. I've even been lucky enough to have endorsed 2 of these books and have recently been sent initial drafts of books that publishing companies are keen for me to read and review. Never, as a teenager, would I have thought I'd be doing this!

Here's my current shelf (some books are missing as they've been lent to colleagues or Hannah's reading them and god knows where they've found themselves)...

I've read all of these books or (in the case of 1 or 2) dip into them when needing inspiration.

From a Mathematics point of view, Mike Ollerton's 'Getting the Buggers to Add up' and (new) '100 ideas for Outstanding Mathematics Lessons' [Out August 28th] are the two that have taught me the most and have given me some fantastic ideas to use in class. The 'Getting the Buggers to Add Up' book is one that was lent to me by one of my current colleagues when I was working as a Cover Supervisor and helped a lot in setting me up for my teacher training. The 100 Ideas book is one I have read very recently and read previously when the original edition was out. I was thrilled to have been asked to read and review the latest version and found it as brilliant as the original edition, but with new ideas and additional information on how to implement the ideas in class and possible extensions to the ideas it has got even better.

The other book I was asked to read and review was when I was doing my GTP. Having read her previous book 'How to be An Amazing Teacher', Caroline Bentley-Davies asked me to write a short paragraph for her 'Outstanding Lessons' Pocketbook. It was something, when on my GTP, I was surprised at being asked to do, but Caroline thought it'd be good to get a new teacher's perspective on her book and I found so many ideas in that book that helped me improve as a trainee and eventually get my 'outstanding' judgement for my GTP year. I will be investing in her 'How to be An Amazing Middle Leader' when the time comes to get a bit of inspiration/advice when furthering my career.

Of the other books on the shelf, Jim Smith's 'Lazy Teacher' book was one I bought on the back of receiving an INSET session at my school from him. The session was fantastic and his book complemented his approach. Paul Ginnis' 'The Teacher's Toolkit' is one that a colleague has on her desk and on observing one of her lessons for the 1st time as a Cover Supervisor asked her about the book, that I happened to see on her desk, and subsequently purchase it due to the wonderful things she had to say about it and the few pages she showed me from it. More recently @teachertoolkit's '100 Ideas for Outstanding Lessons' has (to name one way) helped me engage my students in more purposeful and engaging homework tasks through his #takeawayhomework idea. See my blog posts here and here about this.

All the other books on that shelf have helped me in one way or another throughout my teaching career to date and I am thankful to all of the authors for their work.

The final few books I would like to mention are those that I have on a shelf in my classroom. The reason they are there is that I hope my students are as inspired by them as I have been. They are there for my students to see and read as they please. Some of my tutees have read parts of them, during 'World Book Day' I read parts of them to each class and drew students' attention toward them. They are...

 In additon to this and Ian Stewart's other book below, check out his '17 equations that Changed the World'

This was the one I choose to read on this year's 'World Book Day'. I even had a sign on my door that said 'Mr Collins is currently reading...'Alex's Adventures in Numberland', which we were encouraged to do by our school's library staff.

I never thought that I would become such an avid reader. I now find myself looking for the next book that can help me or interest me in some way or another; the next book that can help me improve my practice. I now look forward to new books being released. Moreover, I want to write a book of my own. I want to pen a book that will help others, like my trainee self that benefited so much from the works of others, I want to be able to inspire the next set of trainee teachers and experienced teachers alike. I've even thought about writing my own children's books aimed at introducing them to Mathematics at a young age. These, of course, are all hopes and dreams for now, but someday in the future - perhaps when I have a bit more experience, I'd love to have my name on the front cover of a book, rather than on the back!

I hope you've found this blog post interesting. Please check out the other #blogsync entries for this month as each person's experience of reading is different and the collection of books that have inspired them along the way unique.

Please feel free to comment below, or tweet me @mrprcollins. Oh, and good luck getting all 26 'Letterland' characters - no 'Googling' allowed!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

iPad Apps

I was very lucky a couple of months back to have received an iPad for my 30th birthday. Now, I'm not 30 until September the 12th, but having an awesome mother always comes in handy when there's something you really want! So, she very kindly offered to get it for me early so I could get used to it and get it all ready for the new school year; she knew this was what I was hoping to do with it.

I blogged back in May about the initial thoughts and issues I was finding with being able to use the iPad at school, to see this post click here. I'm hoping come September that our ICT will have moved closer to a position where I can wirelessly connect to our school's Network and avoid trailing wires from my projector etc!

Having had plenty of time to download apps, get used to working on the iPad and having read lots of blogs suggesting apps to use etc, I thought I'd post about the apps I have been using and aim to use this coming school year...

Click on the app title to go straight to the iOS App Store
FYI - some of the apps are free, others cost a small amount to download. Apps may be available on other platforms other than iOS?!

(These are in no particular order)

  • The Basic Apps...


These apps were free to download due to me getting a new iPad. I believe they are free if you got an iPad since a certain date - older iPads require you to pay for these. The 'Pages' app is the equivalent of 'Word', 'Keynote' the equivalent of 'PowerPoint' and 'Numbers' the equivalent of 'Excel'. They're all very easy to use and get used to - you can import any word document, spreadsheet and presentation to them and the only thing that seems to change is fonts and some layouts.

Adobe Reader

Allows you to open and read pdfs on your iPad.


The Blogger app has come in handy when I've wanted to compose a blog post when not at home with my laptop. It works just like the full web version. The only problem I've found is that when uploading images it can get a bit tricky to change their size and scroll through the post you're composing if you have inserted quite a few images - I'm probably not doing something right?!


Great for accessing all of my files I store in here, share with others and get access to those folders that others have kindly shared with me. A lot of apps use Dropbox and allow you to backup data here. All files on certain apps can be imported/exported from/to Dropbox.


I don't really need to go into detail here do I - but obviously a must have!


Used to view the Prezis I have created. I can create/edit them straight from the app too.


I create a lot of surveys using and so this app is really handy for viewing my surveys, creating new surveys and analysing data collected.

  • Recommended/Really Useful Apps

The apps below are those that I have found to be extremely useful and I will be using these on a regular basis come September...


This app probably needs its own separate blog post to write about everything that is amazing about it. It is essentially a teacher's complete planning, preparation and assessment tool. This app will be replacing my paper teacher's planner this year and I am extremely impressed with how fully synchronised it is between your timetable, calendar and classes! There's just so much that's brilliant about this one and it's well worth the small price you pay.

RD Client

This app allows you to connect remotely to a Microsoft Exchange Server. Essentially this is the app that allows me to connect to my school's server (and my school PC) remotely, from home/on the road etc.


I really like the look and feel of this app. It's an app that allows you to create many notebooks, write in them, take photos and insert them alongside your notes, there are different types of paper you can write over and you can sync this up with 'Evernote', if that's something you use, too. I've already used this app loads when taking down observation notes when observing ITT students. I write my notes using a stylus pen and then walk around the classroom taking photos to insert alongside the notes that my students can then use for their evidence. This worked particularly well when observing an ICT lesson - I took photos of student's screens and the mymaths results they were getting throughout the lesson to show progress being made etc.


If you've read any of my previous blog posts you've probably clicked that I use SMART notebook a lot at school and so having the app on my iPad too, to edit my notebook slides (imported from the Dropbox app), is brilliant. I've also used it to give students extra support in class by bringing up the notebook I'm using for that lesson on my iPad and having it in front of them. This has allowed me to let the student that's finished before others to look ahead whilst the rest of the class are finishing, it's allowed me to re-explain the lesson to those that have struggled and could even be used for those students who are struggling to see the board clearly - if only they all had a device I could share my lessons to!


This app is great. It can be used as a whiteboard to show students in class further examples. You can record these videos and share them with others, you can find videos others have made and shared too.


The Skitch app allows you to annotate pretty much anything. You can sync this with Evernote too, just like the Penultimate app above. I have used this app to highlight over the teaching standards when giving ITT students feedback from observed lessons. I use the app to highlight/annotate over the standards document for them to then keep in their folders/upload to their evidence. You can do some great things with the app including adding text, emoticons, arrows and even blurring out parts of images etc - this is particularly useful for keeping any names/faces from photos taken in class to ensure anonymity!

Socrative (Teacher and Student)


Socrative is great, I have many quizzes already set up on their site and having this available on my iPad is great for setting quizzes to my classes as I walk round the room. I can then use the student version of the app to allow those students that don't have a mobile device to answer the quiz.

  • Mathematics Apps

The below apps are great for teaching Mathematics (and some other subjects) and have come in handy already...


It's just brilliant - everything the website does, in an app. I've used this at the back of the class whilst observing ITTs when I've forgotten my calculator. It's also great for checking answers to questions when putting together resources and has saved loads of time putting together answers to homework sheets we've recently been setting up for the new school year.

My Script Calculator

This app allows you to write loads of calculations to which the answers are returned automatically (or manually if you'd prefer). It is a hand writing recognition tool that gives you answers to your written questions - pretty impressive, but there are limitations to it and how you write out certain calculations. Students find it impressive when you can quickly get answers to their ridiculous requests; "sir, what's 56382 x 5423?"!


This is a really impressive app that allows you to keep values and use them in different calculations. For example, if you wanted to work out 15% of £540 the app would kindly do this for you. If you then wanted to use the answer to this calculation to then share over, say 3 time periods (you might be spreading a 15% deposit on something over 3 months), you could then take the answer and divide it by 3. However, here's the clever bit...if you then realised you got the percentage wrong you could change the % to say 20% and the rest of the calculations, that you've simply linked together using the app, would automatically update! Nice, eh!?

Quick Graph

Allows you to create and add graphs to a set of axis - great for students to investigate the equations of lines/curves, solve simultaneous equations etc.


There are loads of apps that provide manipulatives like dice, spinners, coins etc, but the Geoboard app provides a resource that I wouldn't otherwise have (we don't have any geoboards lying around the dept). No more need for loads of rubber bands and pinned boards! This could be included the below section too (as could a lot of the above apps).

  • Maths apps I have, but would be even better if students had 1:1 devices...


All the MathsWatch videos available in one app using your existing log in (if you have one). Good for giving students extra guidance if they need more examples/a different way of explaining the same topic. Also, great for revision.

Beluga Maths

I really, really like this app. It's engaging, simple to work through and allows users to work at their own pace from the really basic topics to much harder topics. This is being updated constantly when new topics are loaded onto the app. You are required to set up an account (free), but then this tracks your progress as you attempt the different topics and quizzes for each. You can have multiple users set up on one device/app. You get star ratings for each topic you work through, and the tutorials on how to enter your answers are really simple and easy to follow. The different ways in which you give your answers keeps you interested and the fact you can do as little or as much as you like at a time is great for revision purposes. This app would suit KS2-KS4 students and I wish my students each had a device to access this app to work on independently once a week/fortnight and obviously for study at home in their own time!

Learning Tools (link found thanks to @musicmind)

A great app with loads of AfL type resources students could show you/respond to questioning with. Includes traffic lights, RAG, ABCD, a whiteboard, True/False, a thermometer, smiley faces and even a stopwatch so they can time themselves!

  • Apps I will get/love that I don't currently have...
Comic Life

It allows you to create your own comics!! What more could you want!?

Explain Everything

I've heard so many good things about this app and all that it can do. You can create your own videos that you can share and upload direct to YouTube, embed on blogs etc. Having not explored the app fully yet I'll leave it at that.


Well, there's all the apps that I've, so far, found and have used. I've probably only scratched the surface in terms of what is out there and what can be used to improve teaching and learning. The one thing I can say is that even with the 'small' selection of apps above I'm going to thoroughly enjoy using them in one way or another with my students this year, where appropriate, to improve my teaching and their learning.

I'm all ears if anyone has any other recommendations of apps I should look into. I am very much working on the basis of I am a teacher with an iPad and my students do not have mobile devices to use (many of them do, but we're not at a stage where we're considering students bringing these in and using them on a daily basis, they're barely allowed to have their phones out at present)!

Tweet me @mrprcollins or comment below!