Here's a nice lesson I do with Year 3 every year to teach them how to highlight text and how to use several of the text formatting tools available in Microsoft Word to then change its appearance.
Having opened a new blank document, I ask them to follow these instructions:
Whilst this is very much a 'skills' lesson, it is: one which the children enjoy doing, one which teaches/consolidates a variety of word processing skills and also one which produces some nice-looking pieces of work by the end that are great for putting up on display.
The form building tools are a little known feature of Word that enable you to create documents in which children can only edit in restricted places. This is particularly useful if you want to create writing frames for them to fill in containing particular design elements or headings which you don’t want them to alter.
Whilst in Word 2003 they can be brought up easily by going to View > Toolbars > Forms, in Word 2010 they're a little harder to find (being a legacy feature apparently) - you have to first turn on the 'Developer Toolbar' in the options menu, and then click on the little control toolbox icon.
Before you start using them however, I always think it's best to type your writing frame or instructions in first so that you know what and where the children will need to enter their text. Using a table to structure the document could be helpful here as it enables you to space out the different elements evenly and will allow the children to see how much space they are expected to fill up with their work later on.
Having done this, you can then start putting the form fields in by simply clicking on the type of field you want and clicking where you want it to be placed in the document. You can insert:
Each form field is shown using a grey box on screen to highlight where each is located. You can switch this off but as it doesn't appear on the printed version of the document, I rarely see the need to.
Another thing worth pointing out here is that if you double-click on an inserted form field, an options screen is brought up. This enables you to set some help text/instructions to display in the status bar when it is clicked on by a child and to set some default text to appear in the box to start the child's writing off (i.e. a sentence starter).
To make the document look attractive, I also think it's often a nice idea to change the page background colour, add a border around the edge of the page either using the page border tools or by drawing a big rounded rectangle shape and to add some clip art images to help illustrate/inspire the child's writing.
Once you are happy with your writing frame, you then need to protect the document (by simply pressing the padlock icon) – this locks down the file by only allowing children to edit text in the form fields and stops them from accidentally altering any of your instructions. Since children cannot change the appearance of text in a protected document, you will need to remember to apply any text formatting settings you desire (e.g. font colour/size/style) beforehand.
Finally, when you save the file, make sure you save it as a template document - this will create a copy of it each time the template is opened and thus stops children from overwriting the original file when they save their work.
The beauty of 2Simple City is something I often forget - not least because I see it being used and enjoyed so regularly by the children in my school.
I would go as far as to say that it's a perfect program for early years and an essential piece of software for encouraging young children to independently use ICT to support their learning.
In a nutshell it offers children a virtual city (as I like to call it) to explore. They can visit a range of exciting locations in it - from the doctors and vets to the garage and park - and in each one engage in several nice activities to help better understand the environment:
When I introduce 2Simple City to children I only give them a brief summary of how to navigate around it before letting them go off and explore it on their own - that is how intuitive and simple it is to use. On many occasions I've been pleasantly surprised by the levels of concentration children have had when playing on the program and indeed how much good vocabulary it has also stimulated when they have been eager to talk about and discuss their own personal experiences of visiting different places in real life when compared to those presented to them on the computer.
I usually allocate two sessions in the ICT suite for using 2Simple City each year (one in the autumn and one in the spring) to ensure that every reception child has been: shown its capabilities, taught how to operate its video controls and given some direct guidance in how to use the program to maximum effect (e.g. highlighting to them how to click on some of the objects in the drag-and-drop scenes to make them animate). Most of them go away and use the program with growing independence and capability afterwards - this year I even had one child come to the weekly afterschool Internet club I run and want to teach his dad how to use it!
Yet another brilliant piece of software by 2Simple Software for encouraging independent and creative ICT work!
I'm always keen to try different ways of getting children to present Internet research, and one very effective method that I use a couple of times with upper KS2 is to ask children to produce an on-screen, interactive reference book using 2Create a Superstory. This allows them to easily make a non-linear information report containing lots of information text alongside an illustration on each page.
With Year 5 I provide them with the titles for each of their tabls/sections in their booklets to prompt particular lines of enquiry, whilst with Year 6 I give them more freedom in how they structure the way their research is presented by giving them a selection of tab titles that they can choose from.
Before they begin their Internet research, I go through with them step-by-step the processes involved in: adding pages, giving them titles (displayed on the tabs) and changing their background colours (I find that prompting them to use a pattern produces the most attractive design). I also show them how to import images into their work to illustrate it, including how they can be cropped/resized using the fab editing tools available in the program.
Having done this, I then allow the children to work on their booklets individually - encouraging them to evaluate the reliability of any information they find on websites (e.g. using the TASK test) and to preferably type any information they want to put into their booklets in their own words (to show understanding of the content and to obviously avoid plagiarising someone else's work). Using the Independent on the Computer Tokens works well here, as does providing them with a checklist of ICT skills that they need to use that they can tick-off as they progress.
To prompt them to think about the quality of their work and how it can be made better, I ask the children to peer-assess each other's work using the '2 stars and a wish' criteria (printed at the bottom of the checklist) about three-quarters of the way through the project - this gives them some time at the end to make any necessary modifications/improvements.
I also display this slide on the IWB ocassionally to prompt them to self-assess their current attainment and help them to further realise how they can develop their ICT capability. Notice that the 'super' criteria make reference to "presenting information neatly" - this hopefully makes them aware that any design decisions should complement each other and not distract from the subject matter (i.e. choosing 'wacky', contrasting fonts isn't very effective).
What I think is great about producing these booklets is because the software is so intuitive to use it thus means that the children can produce fab-looking non-linear reports quite straightforwardly. They always seem really motivated when making them and are very impressed with the quality of their finished work when they click the 'play' button to view their booklets interactively.
Using a digital camera is a vital skill in today's world and that is why I always make a point of teaching our reception children how to use it both safely and successfully to provide them with the necessary photographic skills needed to operate it effectively in futures years.
One of the first lessons I do with them is very basic, where all they have to do is take a photo of another child within the group. As well as ensuring that they are all taught the basic operating instructions for the camera, the activity also serves well to help me learn their personalities (not that easy when they're just sat working at a PC) and gives me a nice collection of photos to keep for later use (including showing them to them when they're about to leave the school at the end of Year 6).
We begin by discussing how to hold the camera safely in a wrist strap so that it won't break if dropped and I also show them some of the important buttons on it like the power and snapshot ones. Two other things I emphasise to them is the importance of holding the camera still whilst taking their photograph (so that the photo doesn't turn out blurry) and the reasons for not covering the lens with their fingers (you'd be amazed at how many children are tempted to do this).
Having explained all this, I then get them to take turns at taking photographs of each other - encouraging the subject of each to smile when looking at the camera by saying silly phrases like 'sausages'! After each photo, I also show them how to select the 'play' mode on the camera to review their photo and ask them re-take their shot if the child's face is: grumpy, looking away from the camera or not even in the shot!
Finally, I support the children in attaching the camera to the computer and using the simple printing wizard offered by Windows to print out their photographs. They all really enjoy doing this and are always impressed that they've managed to take a photograph all by themselves and print it out within the 20 minute session.
As you can see it is quite a simple lesson but it is one that teaches a lot of key principles to the children and provides them with a good foundation of skills for developing more independent and creative photography later in the year.
(You can see a collage of the photos they took this year on my school's website by clicking here.)