Posted in Learning

The curriculum isn’t crowded…it’s brimming with opportunity!

I’ve been concerned with the number of educators who are constantly reminding others of how ‘crowded’ the curriculum is. Many of them are voicing their concerns a little louder now that the National Curriculum has begun to be implemented, while others are relating it to the fact that there are only a certain number of hours in a school day.
It frustrates me to hear that many staff believe that the curriculum is “too full”. Rather than looking at the curriculum as “too full”, why are we not looking at it as “brimming with opportunities and variety”? We know that students all have different learning styles and interests. It would be narrow-minded of educators to believe that every single aspect of the curriculum is applicable and important for every single student.
My Year 4 History curriculum tells me that I should be covering world explorers such as Magellan, Columbus and Cook. Science tells me that I need to be teaching the life cycles of plants and animals. The new Geography syllabus instructs me to teach biomes of Africa and South America and the sustainability aspects of these. 
I didn’t freak out when I saw the requirements. I used my time wisely. I created a series of learning opportunities to try and cover all of the material in the most sensible manner, using a range of subject areas. Students worked in pairs to research (literacy & ICT focus) an African or South American country, including their biomes (geography) and the plants (science) that live in them. This led into life cycles and descriptions and information reports (literacy) on an African animal of their choice. They summarised information (literacy) about plant life cycles and presented their information as a slideshow (ICT). Students proved that there was more than one explorer in the world, which led to discussions on Columbus, Magellan, Marco Polo, Vikings, Matthew Flinders and Captain Cook. Some students focused on the vikings, others were interested in finding out who discovered their country of origin. We used these explorers to develop a timeline (maths) of important dates of world discovery. By communicating with our visual arts teacher, the Year 4’s created South American “God’s eye” art and African masks.
Many educators refer to these types of lessons as “Integrated Studies”. That’s fine, as long as it is not a scheduled timeslot to “do” Integrated Studies. If it’s truly integrated, it will be seeping through most of your lessons and immersing students in valuable learning opportunities. It’s not about choosing the most important aspects of the curriculum. It’s about providing students with the opportunity to learn about things that interest them, yet are important to understand.
Posted in iPads

iPads + Maths for lower primary

I was asked this week for some junior primary Maths games for the iPad. Games to help consolidate learning, rapid recall and mental strategies. I trawled though the multitude of apps I have on my iPad and this is what I found:

Tens Frame ($1.99) – perfect for small group work, with many uses (addition, subtraction, subitising).

Dragon Math (free version) – basic addition memory match with a dragon-egg theme. Multi-player options, difficulty levels and different mathematical operations are available to be unlocked/purchased, but the simple addition is a fantastic start!

Super 7 HD – join the numbers that add up to 7. Begins simple, gets harder the higher you progress.

Math Bingo ($0.99) – a basic bingo game which allows you to select the mathematical operation and number of players. Of course it features catchy music and sound effects. Get 5 numbers in a row to win the game! Focuses on rapid recall.

Number pieces – interactive MAB blocks. Perfect for making numbers when you don’t have the physical blocks, but with the added function of writing/drawing annotations on or around them. No substitute for real MAB blocks, but a decent effort.

Addimals – funky jungle animals who talk through simple addition problems. It features a number line and various strategies for the user to select such as ‘count all’, ‘count on’, ‘doubles’, ‘tens’ or ‘memory’.

By no means are these a substitute for a core maths lesson, but can often provide some time to consolidate basic maths concepts.

Feel free to share any great apps that you use with a maths focus!