Mind Map Magic

I am so excited about being able to embed things like this into my class blog, that I had to blog about it here too 🙂


How cool is this?

Last week we tried out a mind mapping tool called mind42.com to organise our thinking about Natural Disasters.

We had just been introduced to Natural Disasters through some wonderful hands on science activities from the CSIRO and we thought that we would like to investigate further.

This is what we came up with – have a look at the map above – you can move themap, make the text bigger/smaller, open and close the nodes. WOW

AllStars – leave a comment about the area you would like to investigate.  

My Week in Preview


Thanks to a motivating post from Jess McCulloch (language teacher from Victoria, Australia), I am trying out a preview post to focus on the week ahead.  

Jess said, “I get to think about what I really want to get out of this coming week which allows me to focus my planning a bit more. I’ll be able to check back at the end of the week and see how I’ve gone and then start all over again for the following week. Hmm, could be a good process!”

I agree! I always seem to have a plethora of things that I have to accomplish, it all gets overwhelming, so I give up and accomplish very little at all. I’m hoping that by focussing and writing down a few items to concentrate on, I will be able to keep what is important at the forefront of what I am doing, and I will be able to actively work at achieving/doing what I set out to do.

1. Laptops: I am going to take advantage of our mobile school laptops in my room. My students can use them for their individual “Areas of Focus” work in Maths. This will allow everyone to work through the protocols of using the laptops, as well as having the opportunity for some on-line Maths work.

2. iWB: I will use my board in three new ways this week (Thanks again Jess  🙂   )

3. Blogging: tutoring of class “newbies” by class “oldies”  worked really well last week, so I will continue this week by focussing the class on

  • positive commenting – keeping conversations going
  • “inside” a blog – how to find your way around, what it all the headings mean, how to post

So, I know exactly where I want to go this week (and I’ve written a blog post too 😛   ) and as Jess said, “Bring It ON!”

Image is “Focus” by ihtatho

MissionMaking a Game

Our negotiated task for this term was 

to create a game, based on our study of history, using the MissionMaker program. 


Here’s a brief outline of how we went about it……. 

1.    Exploring world history. “Taste testing” periods, people, stories from 3 eras:           

  • Ancient history          
  • Medieval history           
  • Modern history 

2.    Focusing in on a story that they enjoyed –            

  • Researching         
  • Familiarizing          
  • Comparing info/accounts of the story 

3.    Playing with MissionMaker

  • Playing MM games           
  •  Watching training video for ideas, ways of using the props, objects, rooms           
  • Exploring the program themselves 

dsc03203.JPG       dsc03205.JPG

4.    Negotiating task requirements«           

  • Pick up 5 objects           
  • Use a story from history           
  • Demonstrate knowledge of your period in history           
  • Rubric 

5.    Aligning historical story with MissionMaker game. Deciding on worlds, characters, objects that are available in the game           

  • Mind map of possibilities – who, when, where, what, why, how          
  • Physical map of the game – rooms, characters, objects, clues

 dsc03755.JPG        dsc03756.JPG

6.    Making the game – this is where we are up to now 🙂

7.    Presenting the games for play 

It’s school holidays at the moment so we have had to take a break from game-making for the next two weeks, but will continue when we get back to school.  

I have been encouraging the students to blog their preparations and plans as we go. To “see” what they have been up to please visit our class blog –  07 AllStars and click on their individual blogs down the right hand side of the page.

Commenting Confidence

Further to a previous post on my student’s commenting skills, I decided to explore the issue in a teaching unit recently. The series of lessons fit into our English syllabus as they involve Talking & Listening, Reading and Writing. 

I wanted to improve the commenting being undertaken by my students. 

We started our discussions by looking at lots of comments on many styles and types of blogs. Students classified them into 3 star, 2 star, and 1 star comments. 

We cut and pasted some comments onto one page and discussed these comments further, trying to find examples of what good comments were. 

Next, students tried to articulate the aspects of comments that made them worthwhile and meaningful to them as recipients. What did they, themselves, feel was useful in a comment? 

We looked at some sentence starters we had up in the room, and why they were good.We looked at open-ended question starters that we use in our Reading Circles and discussed how they were useful. 

We had a chart in our room that we had made earlier in the year that had our class requirements for commenting (full sentences, grammar, punctuation, positive, constructive). 

 We discussed this and realized that we had to add other criteria as well. We came up with a number of areas that were missing from our original chart: 

  • Links – to our own life and experiences         
  • Responding –  to what the blogger is saying/ thinking/ asking           
  • Conversation – between the blogger and you, asking questions for clarification, for more info 

We found it really hard work:  

  • to respond thoughtfully to what the blogger was saying, and to respond to their message.           
  • to articulate what was required in a great comment 

But we all have a clear definition of what is required now 🙂

PS: we practiced our commenting on our blogging friends blogs, and this is what Mr Pearce from Geelong in
Victoria had to say recently 


Learning Futures Symposium

An “opportunity to talk to and learn from teachers and educators across sectors ……. to talk through issues confronting education in a Web 2.0 world …… enjoy the feeling of being a part of something new and different and stimulating. … “ Megan Poore, Chair, Learning Futures Coordinating Committee. 


Held in the beautiful grounds of the Australian National University in Canberra mid September, The Learning Futures Symposium was an eclectic gathering of people interested and passionate in responding to and embracing the changes that must be made for formal education to remain relevant in the 21st century. 

Keynotes from Jillian Dellit, the Learning Federation, about the knowledge economy and the slow uptake of digital technologies in the education sector. Schools and teachers are the products of governments’ inability to change and to acknowledge the “knowledge economy’. 

Dale Spender spoke on the digital revolution and how it isn’t optional – how the implications for education are transforming learning, literacy, creativity and assessment. The world wide web has changed reading, writing, creating, thinking – it’s changing social, economic and political structures but it has not yet changed education and education structures. 

The spotlight speaker was Garry Putland, from education.au, who spoke on the applications that kids are using out of school, the applications used within schools, and user-generated content. He pointed out that connectivity is already part of our kids’ lives and that when we put up barriers, we are really just encouraging kids to go around the barriers.  

Garry mentioned that we as teachers have to tread carefully, but innovate and become entrepreneurial – push the boundaries because while kids use these technologies they are also “clumsy” with them. It is our role to discuss, explore, articulate and teach to the needs of the kids. We need to help develop our students’ critical thinking and analysis skills rather than banning everything we don’t understand/agree with. 

Lots of food for thought here! 

What I liked 🙂

  • Chance to talk with other educators across boundaries           
  • Sharing uses of technologies and applications           
  • Networking with others          
  • Hearing about exciting projects 

Things that worried me 🙁          

  • “We are already doing this” (no we are not- KimP)          
  • “It’s the teaching NOT the technology” (its both! Lets more on from PowerPoint – please!!!!!!! – KimP)          
  • “My system can’t/won’t/is unable to change” (it will have to – go on, lead the way –  KimP

Just Thinking

An excellent post from Graham Wegner which he refers back to a post by Konrad Glogowski had me thinking about the way in which students work on individual projects, and the potential for the use of blogs in this process.

My thinking took me in two directions:

1. Need for “critical friends”

My class has been communicating with a school class in another state, these students were working on a “passion project” for the term. I was concerned that my students were adding only a social connection to this other school and I think I need to strengthen the academic connection – to make the comments and responses from my students more meaningful and purposeful. I want my students to reflect, consider, and engage in conversations with these other students on the topics chosen by these students for their “passion projects”.

I will need to examine the ways my students learn about asking questions about the projects – in-depth and worthwhile questions that will help to clarify or extend the learning about a topic. I need to work with my students to enable them to move on from “I like the part about XXXX – it was very descriptive” to develop deeper, more probing questioning about content.

2. Another way of using blogs

Konrad Glogowski writes:

The one thing that technology makes easier – that blogging makes easier – is the Immerse – Build – Contribute aspect of the model I described.
IMMERSE: I wanted my students to become researchers who locate valuable content, read, interact, and document their learning on the blog by writing entries about the topic and their journey as researchers.
BUILD: The students used their blogs to document their research and to build their own knowledge in their respective fields of expertise. There were many connections that emerged among students researching related ideas. The students interacted with each other by posting comments and by sharing and commenting on resources.
CONTRIBUTE: This final stage happens when, as learners, the students begin to contribute through their own creativity. It happens when, having acquainted themselves with the topic, they begin to rewrite or remix it in their own unique way and thus contribute to and enrich the field they’re researching. This is the stage when the students begin to create unique artifacts that contribute to the existing body of knowledge on a given topic.

Most of my class has been blogging since March this year and to date their blogs have been a way of publishing pieces of writing they have done. I have made a few attempts at getting the class to reflect on classroom activities and to report on school events. But I am quite excited at the ideas that Konrad raises and the uses for blogging he puts forward – blogging as an important, even integral part of the research/learning cycle.

Using blogs to document student learning whilst they are in the middle of their learning is very exciting and is an area I would like to work on and develop with my class.

First Few Days Scratching …..

 A few quick observations on trying out Scratch this week in my classroom:

“Can’t see a thing…”

  • we all had to find a way around the problem that the screens on the old computers in the classroom are too small
  • not all of the Scratch screen is accessible
  • kids came up with quick and easy work around   🙂

“I did it my way ……”

  • M went to the Scratch site and spent time looking at examples of games and animations to get ideas before she began
  • two girls went for the “Getting Started with Scartch” manual we had printed off the website. They didn’t even open it though, just sat on it as they played around
  • T sat alone at the back of the room – added sprites, changed background, and played around with sounds

“Looking for backgrounds …..”

  • Yell outs: “How do you change….”
  • Scuttling for the book/manual  ( me! )
  • Admissions – “I did it, but I don’t remember how …….”
  • “Try this …..”
  • “I think I did this …..”
  • “What about ……”
  • “Ummmm …………YES!”

“Just a suggestion…..”

  • Could we use photos as sprites ….?????
  • I want to …..
  • Maybe we can …..
  • I think it would be good to …..
  • What about …..
  • Hey, do you think that ……
  • Lets try …….

Wondering Why????

We all had a great time working with and through the Samorost games over this last month. What I found myself wondering though, was why it had such an impact on the students’ writing. Was it just a case of grabbing their collective imagination, was it that they worked on the game as a class – problem solving together and collectively solving the game, or was it the fact that it was a game that the students found so engaging?

The class and I used De Bono’s thinking hats to organize our thoughts about the games (see previous post and individual student posts) but this didn’t really answer my questions.

I have explored narratives with many age groups over the years: we’ve used stories and texts to inspire, we’ve looked at paintings and pictures to set scenes and watched movies to see characters and explore story lines. I have always tried to share whatever was available to help my students “put pictures and experiences in their heads” to use in their writing. Sometimes results were encouraging, but never has the quality of ALL student writing been as high as it was this month, using Samorost.

Tim Rylands’ blog and website are inspirational, and  his success with using MYST with students to help their creative writing encouraged me to have a go at using some form of game to try out his ideas – albeit in a small and isolated way.

So I knew that this had been tried before, that success had been documented before, but still no real why was this so?

What often happens when I’m unsure about things: I ask my class what they think.

This is what they came up with:

  • the scenes and environments are out of the ordinary – they appeal to you because they are different/ unexpected
    • the environments show great detail which you can describe
    • you are within the scene, not static, there are hidden things that you don’t expect
    • it is surprising – keeps you active
  • the game aspects – you think differently in a game rather than in a book – you are actually DOING IT
    • it could really be happening to you
    • you are part of what is happening
    • you control where you go – in a picture or book you have to stay where the character is
    • you choose what happens to you – you make the adventure
    • the sounds give you the mood and the atmosphere
    • it’s interactive – you use all of your senses

Interesting, don’t you think?

Games are very important to these students.  They like being the centre of the game, in control, and making decisions. It gives them the experiences that they could possibly write about. They have sensory experiences to recall, they have scenery to describe, choices they’ve made, places they have explored. Experiences ready and waiting to be articulated, discussed, expanded upon, labelled, thought about, talked about, shared and finally written about. Cool!

Do it!

Talk it!

Read it!

Write it!





Thinking about Samorost

Sorry, but this is a long one ……. 

I thought I would use De Bono’s Thinking Hats to organise my thinking and reflecting on using Samorost as an aid to teaching Narrative with my Year 4, 5 and 6 students.

6 Hats


Sparkly white     White hat:    Just the facts…..

  • Curriculum Link: narrative writing in English
  • Class had already discussed
    • structure
    • purpose
    • problem/complication
    • characters
    • language of narratives
  • First experience with game = played the game together as a class and wrote down our first impressions of the game.
  • Talked about Intro scene  (45 minute session) –
    • Discussed purpose of this scene and linked it to a narrative
    • Students shared words and phrases that could describe the little planet. Tried to set the atmosphere of the story – calm, peaceful, mysterious
    • Played around with interesting language, shared vocab, wrote sentences using shared vocab (kids scribbled in notebooks), and rearranged these sentences to see what would happen (were they better, worse, more/less effective?)
  • Played Samorost 2
  • Collaboratively brainstormed (in three’s) words to make a “Feelings” matrix of words and phrases to use that would show rather than tell  how a character is feeling or the mood in a scene.
  • Discussed similes, metaphors and imagery as ways of adding to descriptions. Found examples in literature that used similes, metaphors and imagery. (We collect great sentences or phrases, type them up and put them on the wall for language/literature activities)
  • Explored the Anteater scene (1 hour session) –
    • Imagined what it would look, feel, sound like in the metal ball that descended into the anteater scene of Samorost 1. Closed our eyes and imagined.
    • Thought of ways that Sammi would move that would indicate how he was feeling. Actually acted out ways he might exit the ball and how they would show how he was feeling.
    • Tried to “step back” from the scene and look at the environment to identify any images that we could use.
    • The kids were writing down any interesting ideas, phrases, words, sentences that they came up with as we went along
    • Time for writing throughout the session – jotting as well as constructing
    • Sharing each student’s “best bits”

Sparkly Red       Red Hat:  Feelings and emotions …..

  • Successful because it was embedded into the curriculum – it was an integral part of what we were doing – not added on because it was a game.
  • High engagement with the game transferred to the writing about the various scenes. It was almost as if the kids felt they were part of the game/world and so it was motivating and just an extension of the game to write down what happened.
  • Group situation supported all students in taking risks in using unfamiliar language, looking for and using imagery, and experimenting with sentence structure and order.

 Sparkly Black     Black hat: Negatives and cautions ….

  • Students may not have the language experiences to adequately describe what they see or feel.
  • Scaffolding that is needed by the teacher could shift the focus from the student back to the teacher (who takes over).
  • Issues with the pipe smoking

Sparkly Yellow  Yellow Hat: Positives and optimism …..

  • Enabled the students to become part of the story they were writing
  • They had acted out the story by playing the game, they had been in the setting and knew ( or even were) the main character
  • Going through various scenes again enabled the students to talk about what they could see, put words to their emotions and to use these words to build pictures about the scenes
  • Shown how to write with emotion – closed their eyes and felt what it would be like
  • Used their senses to get a deeper feeling for the setting and for their character
  • Using the game meant that all the students had a common experience to work from. The virtual experience meant that everyone was able to share thoughts on a variety of surreal environments.
  • Students who find it too difficult to write (special needs) drew beautiful and very detailed drawings of the environments we were looking at. Able to add the action that thought would happen.
  • Early ESL learner wrote one sentence (with difficulty) on the first day, three sentences on the second day and half a page in the third session.

 Sparkly Green  Green Hat: Creative ideas and alternatives …..

  • Students could collage new scenes or environments that might be a part of Samorost 3
  • Use the camera to take photos around the school of interesting nooks and crannies that could then be photo-shopped to create digital collages of new scenes/environments.
  • Students could write about what happens to Sammi and his dog at the end of Samorost 2
  • Map the planets
  • Tell the story from the point of view of another character (Samorost 2)
  • Write procedure for making pear juice (Samorost 2)
  • Write up “walk throughs” for other groups
  • Use Mission Maker to make their own game
  • Colin Thompson books set in tiny worlds

Sparkly Blue  Blue Hat: Thinking about the thinking ….

  • Whole class group sessions were vitally important as the more able students were able to model and share confidently, and the other students used this modeling to join in and contribute
  • The idea of being in the game/story was the big difference. The structures were already there, in the game/story – the students were free to describe what they saw and felt without having to control all the other aspects of a narrative (the complication and resolution, the climax and ending).
  • Because the game was purely visual, this allowed the students the freedom to add any text they liked:
    • Conversational spoken texts as they played the game
    • Logical procedural spoken texts as they problem solved whilst playing
    • Basic field building vocab in first impressions writing
    • Leading to figurative language building in consequent written texts
  • The students grabbed hold of this opportunity to experiment with language in a non-threatening environment, where they were scaffolded by the story to play around with ideas for using language. It put the students at the centre of control of the language being used.


Samorost – Day 1

We have had Samorost fever this week! I knew the kids would be hooked by the story & game and I really hoped that I wouldn’t spoil this engagement by using the game as a teaching tool.  

I wanted to let the students guide me on how to work with them exploring the game, in terms of a narrative, and to work together at discussing and sharing observations and impressions.  Not sure exactly how to begin, I started with a joint walk through of the game.

We sat on the floor around the iWB and took it in turns to move the stylus over the page and work out what to do. I wanted the students to get a feel for the game – especially the characters and setting – so I thought that playing the game together would give them a reference point from which to work later when we did some writing about the game.  

Most of the students thought that the game was going to be “shoot’em up” game and were puzzled and perplexed when none of their predictions came true. The lack of instructions also proved problematic to some students and it took a while for everyone to work out what was happening and what they were required to do. 

“I never thought it would be a brain game. ” Clement

“It’s simple, but to get to the next level you need logic.” Gloria

The “hard thinking” was a highlight of the game for many of my students – they loved trying to work out how to make things happen, and for some just the idea of cause and effect, and logically working out what might happen as a result of something that had happened earlier, was new.  

“If I did that – what would happen next?” Gloria

“When you activate certain objects or certain people you have to think how it will affect your surroundings.” Martin      

There might be a message hidden in the game that you have to find out.” Nadine

I hoped that we wouldn’t get bogged down and frustrated, but the students pulled together and worked co-operatively as a team to solve the problems as they arose. Most of the students commented that had they tried to solve the game alone it would have taken much longer than solving it together. 

“When we worked as a team we did well. Everyone thought it was exciting so they all wanted a turn.” Timothy

So our first experience of Samorost was really positive – the students were buzzing about the character (Sammy, Sam O. Rost, pyjama guy!) and the planet/space station. Most students wanted to be able to play the game at home and so a link was put on our class blog to enable them to do this. We scribbled down some first impressions of Samorost and most of these have made it onto the students’ individual blogs which can be found here. 

“The game is great. The best thing is that you can’t die!” Marshall

“Keeps you working, thinking and playing.” Nadine

Samorost Class 1          Samorost Class 2