After attending the Learning Without Frontiers conference last month, in particular seeing Tim Rylands' presentation (and then discovering Porchester Junior School's work), I was inspired to use the iPad and iPod app Epic Citadel with a group of children who were aiming to improve their writing through the use of longer sentences. The class consisted of 28 year 3 children and I was lucky enough to have them for three whole afternoons over one week.
The first session was spent entirely in our function room. I had made the room as dark as I could without turning the lights off and as we only have one iPad at the city learning centre I used this in conjunction with a visualiser and our speaker system. The class could hear the evocative sounds coming from the app as they approached the darkened room, which made them instantly curious about what was going on. Along the corridor to the room I had put up my three rules for the afternoon:
1. No hands up, if you want to say something just speak aloud BUT wait for a gap
2. Copying somebody else's work is ok BUT you must always improve it by adding or improving words
3. Spelling is not important today
As the kids sat down all they could see on the screen was a brick wall, but we began to explore the city, walking by the pub, into the church, out of the city walls to the tented area and finding the archery targets. The class asked some very pertinent questions about the city and spent lots of time talking to each other about what they could see and how they could best describe it. The opportunity to copy someone else's sentence and change or add words seemed to let the kids really fly and their ideas were impressive. We put one child in the hotseat, and she did brilliantly, making up answers to the great questions that the rest of the class came up with. It was only for the last 30 minutes that I sent the kids off to write (just ideas, words or phrases about what they could hear, see, smell, touch and taste) and they didn't stop for the whole time. The opportunity to talk about their ideas before they wrote them was invaluable.
Before the second session I took about 30 different screenshots of the city and transferred them to iMovie. This meant the children could pick their favourite 5 to put into a film sequence. In pairs they then wrote their descriptions for each picture, using their idea sheets from the last lesson as prompts, and concentrating on joining sentences together with connectives. They also evaluated another pair's work, taking the opportunity to copy and improve again. This led to the final session where they recorded their sentences as voice-overs for their film, adding transitions and a credit screen to finish the look, as well as editing the Ken Burns effect to emphasise the part of the picture they were describing.
I am so pleased with the work that this year 3 class produced, and they learnt many new ICT skills without that being the main focus of the sessions. It would be great to hear from anyone else who has used Epic Citadel in their teaching too!