Posted in Education, primary school, teachers, teaching, Uncategorized, well being

Wellbeing in Schools

In a whirlwind world of stress, it is important that we take moments to check our wellbeing. Mental wellbeing is a state, which helps us to realise our potential, cope with the normal stresses of life and work effectively. Promoting mental wellbeing enhances our resilience to cope with difficulties with a level head. Children’s wellbeing is at the core of our practice, but schools are so fast-paced, and the school day packed full of emotions, we seldom take a moment to focus on our own wellbeing.

As educators, our wellbeing is inextricably linked with our mental resilience and ability to teach effectively. At @Christchurchsw9 we have put together a wellbeing programme, which gives all members of staff an opportunity to take a moment to eliminate the day’s stress, focus their minds and stay healthy. Midweek we have a yoga class, where all staff members can relax and quieten “mind chatter” to relieve the day’s stress. Staff members leave feeling revived and ready to go home stress-free. At the end if the week, we have a dance fitness class. It’s fun, healthy and eases work-stress. Most importantly it brings staff together, raising morale and increasing wellbeing. Better wellbeing, better teaching!wellbeing_kr_banner

Posted in Science, Uncategorized

PBL: Facilitating Effective STEM Learning

PBL: Facilitating Effective STEM Learning

English…done! Reading…done! Assembly…go, go, go! Packed primary timetables can sometimes feel like you’re racing through an army drill. It can be difficult to stop, and allow children time for deeper thought and study. Integrating meaningful STEM into the week can often feel like a bit of a headache. Project Based Learning as a method of teaching STEM, could be the solution to this. Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths are the four disciplines many schools are heavily focussing on moving into September, looking at an applied an integrated approach.


Unlike simple “topic” lessons, Project Based Learning is a form of enquiry-based, multidisciplinary learning, deriving from a single question. It is student-centred and allows for a dynamic classroom approach where children are encouraged to discuss think deeply upon and explore real-world problems and challenges. Linking PBL driving questions with STEM, is the perfect way to facilitate deeper thought and problem solving in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. The project is framed by an open-ended question in a real-world context, and allows students to engage in a sustained inquiry – asking questions, researching, testing, applying information and reflecting. Another key element of Project Based Learning is that at the end of the project, children exhibit and make their enquiry public, displaying and presenting to an audience outside the classroom, preferably linked to the project area itself. Equipping children with the skills to question, test, draw conclusions and reflect upon learning is the very reason why STEM has become so prominent in the primary classroom. There can be 2 or 3 PBL lessons timetabled per week, of which each is multi-subject, multidisciplinary, as oppose to single-subject lessons timetabled.


A project that opened my eyes to the power of PBL for STEM, was a robotics project with a mixed Year 4 and Year 5 class. Our driving question was “How could robots change the world?”. Children initially brainstormed ideas, and researched current life-changing robots. The children were inspired by their research; a robot which runs into warfare and picks up wounded soldiers, robotic medical procedures, even a robot who goes to school and reports back learning to a severely disabled child. The class then decided of their own accord, that they would find a problem in life, and solve it with a robot. Initially, I thought they would think of superficial ideas like a robotic xbox, but their ideas astounded me. One child created an electronic walking stick with GPS, for blind people. Another, a healthcare robot, who visits houses when doctors are unavailable, and the patient too sick to leave the house! They then went on to design, draw, create, test, refine, gather feedback and reflect upon a prototype for their robot. During this process, they used many STEM skills: deeper scientific thinking, computing skills, electricity, technical drawing, choosing and testing materials – the list is endless! Finally, they researched who to present their products to, and a scientist who works for Lego visited the school and the class held a robotics conference. Children choose their presentation; there was a keynote speech from one child, how to build a robot sessions, electricity workshops and many more. Not only did they develop a variety of learning skills, they were fully engaged and immersed in the project, to the point that they booed at the end of the school day.


Project Based Learning, starting from a driving question or inquiry, is a great way to ensure quality STEM teaching at primary level, and more importantly spark the interest and engagement of students. Because the children can choose their own direction with the project, it engaged both boys and girls equally, bridging any gender gaps, which can sometimes be seen in Science and Maths. For children to succeed in a highly technological, growing skill-based society, STEM education is key. PBL is an effective way of facilitating hands-on minds-on learning, putting STEM in a real-life context, and supporting children to understand how these skills can be applied to their futures.


N and K robots

Posted in Creativity, Education, PBL, Science, teachers, teaching

Why is STEM Education So Important?

What is STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM is important because it pervades every part of our lives. Science is everywhere in the world around us. Technology is continuously expanding into every aspect of our lives. Engineering is the basic designs of roads and bridges, but also tackles the challenges of changing global weather and environmentally-friendly changes to our home. Mathematics is in every occupation, every activity we do in our lives. By exposing students to STEM and giving them opportunities to explore STEM-related concepts, they will develop a passion for it and hopefully pursue a job in a STEM field. A curriculum that is STEM-based has real-life situations to help the student learn. Programs like Engineering For Kids integrates multiple classes to provide opportunities to see how concepts relate to life in order to hopefully spark a passion for a future career in a STEM field. STEM activities provide hands-on and minds-on lessons for the student. Making math and science both fun and interesting helps the student to do much more than just learn.


“In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past.” (National Science Foundation)

Who benefits from STEM?

STEM education helps to bridge the ethnic and gender gaps sometimes found in math and science fields. Initiatives have been established to increase the roles of women and minorities in STEM-related fields. STEM education breaks the traditional gender roles. In order to compete in a global economy, STEM education and careers must be a national priority. Each and every decision made uses an aspect of STEM to understand the implications.

STEM education in school is important to spark an interest in pursuing a STEM career in students. However, teachers do not carry the whole burden of STEM education. Parents also must encourage their children to pursue STEM activities and increase awareness and interest at home and in extracurricular activities of the merits of STEM education.

Programs outside of school can help children to see that STEM is more than a class to finish. Having activities that show real-life implication of STEM can pull together the ideas presented in school and help to show how they benefit our society and even our world as a whole. Children can see that what they are learning now is pertinent to their future and the future of the whole world, creating an interest often lacking when learning new concepts that do not seem to carry real-world application. stem-logo

Posted in computing, Education, primary school, teachers, teaching

Emazing Presentation!

We’ve all taught lessons where children have presented their research via Powerpoint, or even Prezi, but are there any more engaging ways of presenting information? Of course! About 6 months ago I came across Emaze.

Emaze is a free online, more funky version of Powerpoint really. You are able to make slideshows, embedding text, graphics, sounds, photos and videos with fun transitions. It is easy to use, I had one lesson where I taught discreetly how to use it, and then the children were then able to use it as a tool to present their learning across the curriculum. You can pick from a variety of templates, so children are able to pick a template matching the topic being presented. It’s great! For free, your Emazes are stored online, and if you pay you are able to download the Emazes as either video (MP4 files) or in PDF format. Here’s an example of one I’ve made for the beginning of this academic year (yes, I use it for teaching too!). The interface is far more interesting than that of Smart Notebook and whilst there’s there’s still a place for Smart Notebook for teaching Maths or English, Emaze is great for other foundation subjects or for assemblies.


Posted in Uncategorized

QR Codes in the Classroom!

So this year I’m teaching Year 6 and have moved classroom. I’m also taking half of my class from last year up, so I’m very aware I need to update my classroom, and I’m trying to get my classroom to reflect our digital age!

So I’ve littered my classroom with QR codes linking to various different ‘Next Steps’ in learning. For example there’s a QR code for maths challenges, one links to Edmodo (where the children can reflect online about whatever learning they’ve just done) and even one for a Geography and History online quiz. I used this website to create my QR codes, printed then laminated and stuck up

ipadqrcode.30769437 (1)

You can download my QR codes for display below!


Posted in Creativity, Education, Innovation, Inspiration, PBL, Uncategorized

Using Coding in PBL

True Project Based Learning (PBL) challenges students to acquire deeper knowledge of a concept by establishing connections outside their classroom. According to the research on PBL, the main tenets are to create real world connections, develop critical thinking skills, foster structured collaboration, motivate student driven work, and enable a multifaceted approach.
Similarly, coding applies all of these core tenets as programs require logical thinking, team work, a variety of tools, and – most importantly – perseverance on the part of the student. Consider the potential of applying the challenges of coding to the proven successful tenets of PBL.

PBL Tenet #1: Create Real World Connections

Coding Application: Find a solution to a problem by creating an App or Website

Douglas Kiang (@dkiang), AP Computer Science teacher at Punahou School, used PBL in his classroom to encourage his students to connect with their community. He challenged them to create an iPhone App that fulfilled a need in order to model what happens in real world programming.
While one student created an app that assisted people to find a parking spot during the campus carnival, a few student athletes collaborated on an app for a local physical therapist to show videos and directions for rehabilitative exercises. Another student even worked with a parent to create an app for autistic children to teach counting, and it has taken off on the App Store! Whether it is an internal, local, or global problem, students strived to solve a problem and coding offered a method for finding a solution.
PBL Tenet #2: Foster Critical Thinking

Coding application: Coding requires a series of logical steps

Much like PBL migrates learning away from worksheets and reports, coding is becoming less about the syntax, or programming language, and more about the logic needed to layout the solution. Some programs, such as Scratch, do not even use a language but rather have students drag-and-drop widgets into a specific order to make a program. The more important aspect of a coding project is that the students gain the bigger picture of how their program can potentially solve the problem at hand rather than master the specific coding languages.
To accomplish this, Douglas ran his course like a startup company, and helpd his classes as meetings. At meetings, people talk to each other, share data, help solve problems, plan, coordinate, ask questions, and show their work. They took ideas from industry and laid out the deadlines in project management Gantt charts in order to logically think through their coding projects. Students completed their programs not based on a syllabus, but through they process they developed themselves.
PBL Tenet #3: Structured Collaboration

Coding application: Coding creates learning communities

Collaboration comes natural in coding as questions arise about the technical aspects of the projects. Students seek answers and advice from their peers inside the classroom as well as from outside sources, such as programming forums, ultimately creating a learning community. In a community based project, once a program is coded, testing and further development are necessary. Students rely on each other in order to achieve success.
In Douglas’ classroom, experts from the local community, and administrators from throughout the school, tested the apps and gave feedback. This structured collaboration not only modeled how real programmers work but also illustrated how problems could be solved in the real world.
PBL Tenet #4: Student Driven

Coding application: Perseverance and self teaching are important skills learned through coding

Completing a program means that all of the functions effectively work. Finding all of the hiccups, and then resolving them, can be a painful and frustrating process. However, the satisfaction of creating a functioning program is fulfilling and builds confidence. Furthermore, in a successful community project, students can be empowered by seeing their apps make a difference.
“Many of my students learned more enduring lessons beyond the mechanics of actually coding something. In the end, what mattered most was making connections with others to find ways for their coding skills to serve others and make a difference in the world. That was the most valuable learning of all.” – Douglas Kiang
PBL Tenet #5: Multifaceted approach

Coding application: A programming language is only one part of an app or website

“I wanted to give up many times, but in the end I did something I never thought I could do,” said one of Douglas’ students.
By the end of a coding project, a student has identified a problem, researched, determined a solution, and laid out a plan – all before the “coding” begins. Students need to understand how people might use their program more than how to code it. This requires interacting with peers, experts, and community members to test and retest. Douglas’ startup, meeting-style classroom enabled communication, collaboration, and a level of productivity impossible in a traditional classroom model.
Through Project Based Learning and coding, students have the potential to gain a deeper level of understanding of not only programming, but also the topics involved in the content of their application. The vested time and interest into such an undertaking, and the fulfillment of creating a meaningful product with an impact on their community, provides students with an authentic learning opportunity.
As one of Douglas’ students said, “I learned that if I can write my own app and actually get it approved by Apple, I feel like I can do anything!”
Check out the apps from Douglas’ students on the iTunes Store:
Every Value Has its Place, a counting app for autistic children

Divorce App, for children of a parents going through a divorce

PunaMaps, for the admissions office of Douglas’ students’ school, Punahou

To hear more from Douglas Kiang will be keynoting the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in San Diego February 9-11, 2015. To learn more about coding in the classroom, EdTechTeacher will host a special November 12th Pre-Conference Workshop on Scratch Jr. with Marina Umaschi Bers at their iPad Summit in Boston.

Posted in Uncategorized

Go Noodle

Go Noodle Brain Breaks

Whilst searching for some new brain breaks, I came across Go Noodle, which is a collection of different engaging brain breaks, from dancing to yoga-like activities. It is great! Everytime we need a brain break, I choose a child at random to pick a brain break for us, and the class have their own character log in.

Would highly recommend!

Posted in Uncategorized

Brain Break Questions


The following brain-break questions help students focus attention by turning their thinking upside down. They can be posed to children, alongside thinking time and children can share answers with through a Kagan cooperative learning structure (Timed Pair Share, Round Robin).

Are you more like a cracker or cookie?
Would you rather be extra-large or extra-small? Why?
What if walls could talk? Which walls would you most like to interview? Why?
What are the disadvantages of being able to read minds? Write the schedule you will follow on a new holiday called Opposite Day.
Write a description of an imaginary teacher who teaches you in the most fabulous ways.
Describe a problem that has no solution.
Describe five unusual uses for a toothpick.
You have the world’s oldest notebook, and inside are five of the world’s top secrets. What are they and what will you do with them?
You are allowed to fly 10,000 feet in the air for three hours. Where would you go and what would you like to see?
Are you more like earth, air, fire or water?