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Geek speak - White is the new black

Offer a fresh perspective on learning. Pictures stimulate storytelling, speaking, observation, listening and number skills. Margaret Allen shows you the way

Offer a fresh perspective on learning. Pictures stimulate storytelling, speaking, observation, listening and number skills. Margaret Allen shows you the way

Interactive whiteboards have become a natural part of the furniture in primary classrooms over the past few years and undoubtedly offer increased learning opportunities. An interactive whiteboard (IWB) presentation provides opportunities for the whole class to learn together, and can bring in websites, video and audio, interactive software and other digital equipment - electronic microscopes, cameras, scanners and digital presenters. It's also easy for children to share ideas with their peers. So how can you make it work for your class? Here are a few ideas:

- Get pupils to draw on to a photograph imported from a digital camera. This can stimulate imaginative interpretations. Young children might, for example, draw minibeasts on to a picture of a garden, and then use a microphone to talk about their creature. A sound file could be attached to the minibeast, where pupils could click and find out more about its description. This is fantastic for speaking and listening, and so much better than just writing about a picture. Photographs could be anything - a trip, the school, the classroom, the garden.

- Set up focus circles. Arrange words or pictures around a circle. Dragging two or more of these into the middle allows children to create interesting sentences, which is particularly effective when looking at a specific topic where children's prior knowledge can be explored.

- Create speech bubbles so that pupils can drag suggested dialogue into them. Perhaps start with a photo of people talking - who are they? What are they saying? Where will the story lead?

- Come at it from a visual perspective. Modelling difficult concepts on the board for children allows them to see how they might approach a problem or record their findings. For example, you could place three pieces of food on the table and, using the camera tool, record all the different ways you can rearrange them. This is the beginning of algebra, with items standing for numbers and the different answers you can get by using different types of sums with the same numbers. This helps children appreciate the concept of manipulating numbers, operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) and seeing sequences and patterns, as well as recognizing the need to record their findings in a systematic way. Children can then use this model in a practical activity to develop their understanding.

- Show how background forms the basis of a story. Add characters and then change the background to stimulate discussion. You could have Oberon and Puck moving from the forest to downtown Portsmouth with the click of a button. How will their conversation be affected?

- Use the camera snapshot tool, available in most IWB software, which allows images of any shape to be added to a page. An image could easily be broken into several pictures, and children could "storyboard", or create a narrative based on the images or image parts available. Pictures may readily suggest a story, or perhaps four pictures are in a sequence for which children must write instructional text. For example, describing how to make a cup of tea using pictures may make it easier for them to put the instructions in to the right order.

- Manipulate words as if they are images - this is a lively way to get children interested in the value of the written word. You can move text around to alter the meaning of a sentence, or highlight itmake it bigger so that its value is obvious (such as an adjective that adds power to a noun). Or how about colouring all the adjectives red and then improving on them? Many children today are visual learners - using images is an invaluable tool in the development of their understanding of words.

Margaret Allen is the education business development manager for Promethean.

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