#CASconf16 Computing At School Annual Conference

As a CAS hub leader, I intended to go to the CAS annual conference last year and just didn’t make it. It’s a crazy time of year with reports, assessment deadlines and transition to think about. This year I dragged myself out of bed, feeling glum after a hard week and set off to Birmingham. However, the opening two talks set the tone for the day. So much so that I felt I could have gone home at 10.00am! 

Jane Waite, Wendy MacLeod, Paul Curzon and Nic Hughes gave a brilliant whistle stop tour of primary practise packed with fabulous practical examples, embedded in pedagogy and computational thinking.  

They showed us a lovely model for using beebots by inviting children to create their own games to test their knowledge on any given subject using some simple challenge cards, a blank beebot squared grid. 

A lovely idea was to use Scratch blocks to re-write signs around school. I could see how this would get children to really start thinking about how algorithms are everywhere.

Something particularly relevant to us as a Talk for Writing school is to use those principles to teach computing terminology using actions. Wendy had made a video showing her son demonstrating an action to help children remember different computing terms. I liked her suggestion that we could also think about applying the imitation, innovation and invention cycle to teaching computing. 

The main keynote by Conrad Wolfram was fascinating. He very effectively raised the question of why our maths curriculum doesn’t take account of computing and computer assisted calculations. The mantra of using real life problems for children to solve has been well rehearsed. However, he put it in the context of how computing now allows us to ask questions of messy data that we never could before. 

Ben Davies shared some super ideas for mini-activities, starters and plenaries  in his presentation. In particular, ideas for getting children to apply what they had learned from one language to another. Could children predict what an approximation of a scratch code made from shapes in PowerPoint would do? What a lovely way to test and tease out their understanding!


Nic Hughes used his 40 minute workshop a slot wisely by challenging  us to make a moving Crumble-controlled device. As a primary teacher, having some dedicated time to tinker is the best way for me to learn and gives me space to consider the pedagogy that is needed alongside the kit. His instructions were minimal which helped us think for ourselves.


Phil Bagge was awesome (as always!). He described his approach to assessing computing and made an app for assessment available. While the app looks great (utilising a matrix approach from simple/ complex to guided/independent), what grabbed me were the videos of his children talking about their computing. Phil hit the nail on the head when he said he realised that the majority of his assessment came through conversations worth his children. He took it one stage further by providing a simple way for children to reflect on their own learning using an iPad and stand to video themselves. 

Crucially, he left the children to record these videos themselves (based around key questions he gave them). This enabled the children to provide their own answers without the pressure, guidance or interference of the teacher. He described how his conversations and the children’s verbalisations could be summed up as Talk for Computing. This chimed strongly with the Pie Corbett approach to teaching English that we’ve  been using at school. A fascinating way to approach learning. 


A session on helping primary teachers to feel confident in teaching computing had a couple of Talk for Computing gems in too. Talk to the rubber duck (link to blog by A Colley) is a great idea for children to voice their problems out loud to a rubber duck before asking the teacher. Usually verbalising their problem leads to a realisation of the solution.

The day ended with David Malan giving us a fast paced whizz through some of the early elements of CS50, an undergraduate computer science course at Harvard University.  Surprisingly this contained many of the elements we teach in primary computing – search strategies and the famous Sandwich Bot which lead to the most hilarious mess of peanut butter, jam and bread courtesy of Phil Bagge’s reactions to imprecise instructions. 

    Finally it is worth saying that the conference was exceptionally well organised. The sessions were just the right length and there was plenty of time given over to lunch and coffee which gave space to network and drink lots of tea. 

    Overall I had a brilliant day, learnt loads, met some great people and felt inspired. Exactly what a conference should do! It was definitely worth getting out of bed for on a Saturday morning. 

    CAS North Leicester Primary Hub meeting 11 February 2016

    Our Spring Term meeting was focussed on Key Stage 1 and Early Years provision. Kevin McLaughlin shared some of his thoughts on how his foundation class responded some computing challenges beyond the expectations of the EYFS curriculum. 

    Kevin suggested that much of the computing curriculum aims for KS1 was part of everyday teaching in EYFS – pattern recognition (phonics), sequencing (story telling) and logic (questioning) . He has begun to explore computing without computers, focussing key computing skills. He demonstrated how his children could soon tell him about algorithms after linking them clearly to practical instructions. He had a child that could predict what shape would be made by a set of instructions to move a model crane around the floor. They took apart a computer and made their own from paper. 

    He recommended Hello Ruby, which has ideas, lessons mad practical activities for exploring computers and computing with young children. 

    Kevin’s slides are available online. 

    We then had a swap shop and shared ideas, tips and equipment that people had brought along. There was a wide range of discussion, from makey makey and book creator to a Rising Stars scheme of work and phonics apps with physical letters to put on your iPad to listen to their sounds. Time to network and talk with other teachers was time well spent and hopefully everyone came away with something new! 

    The next meeting is 25th May 2016. 

    Report from CAS North Leicester Primary Hub meeting 28 October 2015

    CAS hub meeting Rushey Mead Primary
    CAS hub meeting Rushey Mead Primary

    During this CAS hub meeting, we focussed on the use of input and output to investigate how computers can control devices connected to them. This is an area that often gets taught at KS1 using robots, such as Beebots and Roamers, and can be more problematic at KS2 simply because it requires some equipment for children to be able to control!

    Fortunately, we had some experience educators to help us look at some of the equipment available for control.

    Crumble robot
    Crumble robot

    Nick Page, Primary Computing lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, works with trainee teachers on the computing curriculum. He has recently been investigating using a Crumble controller in the classroom and brought several projects along to demonstrate how they could be used and integrated with the Design and Technology curriculum. Particularly fun was the ability use conductive thread to sew connections between lights to make a circuit, a lovely way to combine sewing, electronics and programming to make a felt Christmas Tree with a  sequence of flashing lights! A big advantage of Crumble is that it is cheap to buy and can use electronic components that you may already have in school such as crocodile clips.

    Claire Robinson, from Holme Valley Primary school in North Lincolnshire, is a HLTA with a passion for computing. She has been using two very cute robots, Dot and Dash, at her school and demonstrated how they could be used in the classroom with the various attachments they have from Lego adapters, to an iPod holder and even a xylophone.

    We also had a number of attendees bring along other control equipment to play with during an open workshop. There were Spheroes, Ozobot, more Crumble projects using traffic lights, a Lego Wedo toilet fan and iControl.

    Claire with Dot
    Claire with Dot
    Scratch and lego WeDo
    Scratch and lego WeDo

    There were 46 people at the meeting and the overwhelming choice for a subject for the next hub meeting was for us to look at Computing in Early Years and KS1. We have already secured Apple Distinguished Educator Marc Faulderfor our meeting on 25 May 2016 and are looking out for someone to present at our Spring meeting on 4 February 2016. Get in touch if you could help or would like to recommend a speaker or workshop topic.

    Demonstrating Lego WeDo

    At the end of my Master Teacher in computing training with Computers At School, an email from CAS came round asking for volunteers to demonstrate computing lessons for the DfE. I volunteered and was rather surprised when the week before the end of our school year I was contacted by the DfE to book a time to film a video for their YouTube channel. 

    The film maker, Lee, was camera man, sound engineer and editor all in one, which made the process easier for me and the children. As it was he day before the end of the school year, I chose 10 children from my class to take part in a Lego WeDo lesson. Lee had sent me some questions in advance for a piece to camera and I’d explained how the lesson would work. 

    The lesson was from Phil Bagge’s plans for making a toilet fan. I started the children off by explaining the task and they made their models in pairs before Lee arrived. The children were great and really enjoyed making their fans and couldn’t wait to get started controlling them using scratch. Once Lee arrived, we continued with the lesson and they soon forgot their nerves at being filmed as they were completely absorbed in their programming!


    Leicester University Computing focus day #lupgce2015

    Today I’m back at the University of Leicester speaking to the PGCE students about how I use technology in the classroom. There are some great workshops and speakers planned, I’ll be sorry to miss seeing some of them but it is half term and so I will just be popping in to grab the free lunch and do my talk!

    Computing At School North Leicester Primary hub launch

    We had a wonderful first meeting of the new CAS North Leicester regional hub with 62 attendees. It was fantastic to see people making connections and sharing ideas already.

    At least 12 schools were represented, including some of our secondary colleagues and representatives from the University of Leicester School of Education and our current student teachers.

    Yvonne Walker gave an introduction to CAS and showed some of the superb resources available for free on their website.

    Phil Bagge did an outstanding job of presenting via Skype giving a lively and engaging presentation without the benefit of the obvious engagement of the audience as he couldn’t see or hear us from his study at home in Hampshire! The lesson ideas he showed us are available on his website which is a fabulous resource for anyone wanting some well tested lesson plans to get started with the new computing curriculum. He managed to make understanding how Google actually works understandable and showed how it could be taught to children in KS2.

    Hopefully attendees will sign up to the CAS community to become members and join in the discussions on our regional forum. Feedback was very positive, although it is clear that we need to make space in future meetings for more time to network with and learn from each other. Another clear request was that for EFYS and KS1 ideas and for teaching the new computing curriculum, so we definitely make sure that these areas are catered for in forthcoming meetings.

    I am very much looking forward to strengthen the connections made at the launch between the people that attended at our future meetings.

    The next meeting will take place at Rushey Mead Primary School near the February half term. Please remember that these meetings are free to attend and are open to any educators that can get us. They are not restricted to only city or county schools! We also do a good line in biscuits and tea, coffee or fruit juice🙂



    Rich mathematics year 3/4

    Jane Haddock and Vicki Giffard
    6 December 2013
    National Centre for Excellence in Teaching of Mathematics. NCETM
    Three main aims in new curriculum
    1. Fluency
    2. Reasoning
    3. Problem solving
    Fluency is important due to the deep level of reasoning and problem solving required in the curriculum.
    Key idea is not to have dollop of maths, but to be always making connections between the different areas of maths and number.
    Non routine problems are not just word problems but deep and rich investigative tasks.

    Looking back at planning, how does it already meet the curriculum aims? How does it meet fluency, problem solving and reasoning?

    Years 3 and 4 will be the first cohorts through the new tests in 2016. Summer 2014 will give us some examples of the test, but not until summer 2015 for a full example test. The floor standards will be set at 85% for new national standards. Probably equivalent to a very good level 4 (more likely to be a high 4b nearer to a 4a) but difficult to predict.

    Advice to try to plug the gaps that will have been missed in years 1,2,3 from new curriculum that year 4 children won’t have done.

    Less prominence to data and probability removed all together. A steer away from calculators, still need to use them. Levels are going, but keep things that are working well, if APP works then stick with it. Should be looking to get children in year 4 to a secure 3a at the end of the year to meet the raised expectations. Expect that there will be an arithmetic test which includes written and mental maths and a written test very much like the current version but harder with no separate level 6 type questions, but included in the main paper.

    Expectation to be able to read, write and spell the vocabulary of maths. Can refer back to the old national strategies vocabulary book but will need moving down to meet the levels as changed and use that as a reference as a school.

    Higher attaining children should be given deeper and richer problems before moving to the next level of content. So not necessarily move chn to year 5 content but deepen their level of confidence and understanding to apply their content.

    Recommend focussing on one or two areas, like fractions or number facts to meet higher expectations in those in order to deal with what is coming.

    Number facts: addition and subtraction – all sorted by end of year 2
    Number facts: multiplication and division – all sorted by end of year 4

    Number facts activities
    Big maths beat that timed tests .
    Also use handsets with software with mental maths to do 110 questions in 15 minutes in morning maths.
    Children make times tables games and then play each other’s games
    Target numbers on table, ask chn to do operation to different number. Differentiated easily.
    Empty clock face to write timetable on them.
    Turn tables, set of cards for each one. Array, answer, coaching partner to time against turning over cards.
    Counting sticks for times table for the key facts.
    Number bones times tables and addition and subtractions.
    Bingo for timestables
    Flip charts – can they stick the flaps down as they know them?
    Use hundred square as image to show number bonds to 100.



    Division tables – start at 10x so 60/6=10
    Sum, product difference excel sheet – start with product and work through what the difference and sum and can be.

    Roman numerals
    Occur in lots of different places, clocks, history, Super Bowl, king and queens names, dukes, chapters and prefaces.
    Will tie in with Roman history studies. Apparently hopscotch was invented in the Roman army – go put it on the playground!
    Is a minimal objective.

    Duration and recorded time. Hard maths, 5, 60, 20, 5, 7, 12s. Need to be good at fractions. Parents are the time keepers.
    Using a one handed clock can chn see and estimate the time between the hours. See objective sheet for covering time in yeah new curriculum.


    Note that time graphs are now included in year 4 statistics. Time on one access, anything else on the other.

    Still work through progression, direct comparison (wind up cars which one lasts the longest), using non standard measures (sand or water time).
    Time keeper of the day, wear the class watch and tell us when we need to go to assembly, break, end guided reading.
    Number lines for adding time or finding differences in duration. Use a timeline to show school day (not starting at one).
    Annotate clock face with 5 minutes.
    Nrich activity, stop the clock. Work in pairs, move half and hour or an hour at a time, start at 6 o’clock and then take it in turns to move time on and one wins is the one to get to exactly 12 o’clock.

    Planning considerations
    Some people have started on new curriculum. Must to have found that year 3/4 needed a lot of number facts plugging before they could start the problem solving or reasoning.
    Number facts is an easier place to start. Important to link into other subjects – for example in science, geography or history.

    School based tasks –
    1. Feedback to subject leader
    2. Bring overview planning to next session for discussion

    Guidance on curriculum on NCETM

    Place value and number
    Representations and model ps are very important and need to be progressed through the school.
    Key problems – 47 is 4 and 7 and not 40 and 7
    Seeing the size of number
    Writing numbers with zero as place value
    Understanding zero as a number not just a place holder (divide between positive and negative)

    Ask chn to show you how they represent numbers
    How would you show 369?
    How would you show 5.4?

    Suggest having a place value policy as part of calculation policy.
    Models images and and for place value can then carry through to calculation policy:
    Arrow cards, Dienes, straws, bead strings, counting sticks, hundred squares, money, moving children! Place value charts, place value base boards.
    Progress – straws> dienes as chn need to know there is hundred in the large squares.
    Number line and counting sticks to show continuous nature of numbers.

    Game: 5 digit number into a calculator (no zero). Zap! Get rid of your number by subtracting that number 56798 teacher rolls dice and chn subtract that so, 6 would subtract 6000 from my number. First to zero.

    Need to be extension of place value and for representing fractions
    Part of a unit, shape or set
    Point of a numberline
    Result of a division
    Can show that 3/10 is 3 divided into 10 pieces. Each piece is 0.3.


    Use hundred squares for tenths and hundredths.
    Bead strings can represent one, so use with decimals.

    Zoom numberline is very powerful to show there are always smaller and smaller numbers.
    Recommend measures over money to use as a concept for decimals.

    Place value games
    Nice and nasty – roll dice and put number in the grid closest to a target number.
    Closest to a target number: 35
    Work out differences, use two decimal places and tens and units. Works well for 2dp.
    Insist on using language – model I am putting my nine in your tenths column.
    Nasty version – give your number to someone else.
    Friendly – as a table work together to make target number. Works nicely for a team game.

    Everybody counts
    Use +10 -10 +100 -100 so start counting in ones from a number and then point to one of the steps and switch to count in a different way, work from adding first then counting back.

    Calculator constant function
    Use ++ or — to count in steps of equal size. 10 ++ and keep pressing equal to count in those steps, ask chn what happens to numbers? Count in tenths, again what happens?

    Ordering numbers
    Numberline progression
    Number track (no zero)
    Numberline from zero
    Partial numberline line, every number as a mark but only 10s marked on
    Then just tens and no marks in between
    Finally blank line.

    Use paper clip and blank mini number line, ask chn to show you numbers using paper clip if ends of numberline are different.
    Ask chn to put 3 numbers on a numberline, watch how they draw.

    Ask chn to write 6 numbers that lie between 9 and 11. Order them in ascending order and then closest to 10. Could do with fractions.

    20 cards ITP use for generating numbers

    Yoikes as a ladder – 8 rungs and use decimals, bin. From 0 to 10.
    Three in a line. Line from 0-10, use digit cards, turn over 2, choose which decimal to make (3.2 or 2.3). Try to get three numbers in a line.
    Importance of the equal sign, meaning the same value, not the answer goes here.
    Start with 50=50, then show 50=25*2 and then 23 + 27 = 25*2
    Use equal sign in different places.
    Remember to use greater than and less than signs throughout ks2

    Nrich advent calendar is a great resource. Can be used for morning maths🙂

    Not just about taking away. Need to be able to find the difference between – a way of comparing numbers.
    Singapore bar to show how to work out difference: 173-85.
    Different ways to look at subtraction: taking away (removal, permanent or temporary), counting back, decreasing, partitioning a set (class of 36 and 10 are girls, how many are boys?). Comparisons of 2 sets, comparison of 2 items, how many more / how many fewer?

    Calculation policies need images, photos and models not just the strategy (Ofsted looking for that now).
    Splitting in to parts – children need to know when to count up and when to count back.
    Singapore bar works very well in Singapore but it is used very consistently by everyone, including adults in later life.

    Mental methods
    Still very important, new curriculum seems to skim over them, strategies are not prescribed. Need to decide as a school which mental strategies are going to be used and how they are taught.
    87-13 take away 10, then 3. Show physical models first.
    Compensation, take 10 then add one – money is good for that, children soon want a pound back if you take ten away!

    Give two sets of numbers – choose a sum, then put it in a box – decide on mental, use jottings or use written method.
    Look back to the teaching to children to calculate mentally booklet – published at the end of the national strategies time.

    Written methods
    Working with larger numbers for written methods – just choose one and track it back. Appendix of national curriculum shows suggested methods, these are NOT prescribed. Methods will not be scrutinised if your results are ok!
    Children should always ask themselves if they can work mentally first.
    Introducing a formal written method, use simpler numbers, on a numberline.
    When moving to a decomposition method, use the word exchange NOT carry, borrow…
    Use dienes equipment to show exchange of tens physically.
    If using decomposition in year 6, make sure children can decompose numbers in different ways early on, exchange tens and hundreds.