Posted by: Bill Lord | November 5, 2009

Breaking down silos with Tim Rylands

I attended a CPD session today with Tim Rylands as part of a Leeds Literacy Project and below are the results of an attempt to blog live whilst I was taking part.
Tim is working with teachers from a range of schools who will be looking to use Games Based Learning in their literacy teaching. My role will be to support the schools during the project with the intention of ensuring its sustainability.

I apologise for the poor grammar and writing but I tried to get everything and then posted as quickly as possible.

Notes from the day

Initial attack on powerpointlessness of too many presentations – the day will be based around single words / phrases and images

Introduction of Myst games with a disclaimer that it is not necessarily about being a gamer. The beauty of the images is brought to the fore.
Myst III and Myst IV – games recommended for new users.

“It’s about inspiring children to become writers.”

“Writing floats on a sea of speaking and listening”

Teachers bring their experience of the world into their description  of the initial screen.

Discusses giving a sign to the children that the teacher will listen (non verbal language)

Teachers absolutely mesmerised by the use of the background music and the positive messages permeating through each section
Suddenly we have moved into discussion of writing and the modelling of oral rehearsal.

Paragraphing indicated by a new experience in the game.
Tim demonstrated vocabulary collection through meeting different aspects of the game.
There is a  strong message around maximising the impact of small amounts of game playing rather than relentlessly marching through the game. This is about taking time and allowing the speaking and listening to come to the fore. There are links between the use of time in film literacy with Games Based Learning.
More awe and wonder than shock and thunder – this ties in with previously discussed work on using boy friendly approaches with girl friendly texts. The gaming is as girl friendly as boy friendly.
Atrus’ book shown to the delegates and the importance of it being a quality text stressed to the delegates.
Writing journals recommended – hoping that teachers see links to current agendas with LA training.

  • Speaking and listening
  • Writing journals
  • Fiction thieving / Magpieing ideas
  • Scribbling (writing constantly)

Film shared of the children playing the game and reading their writing

  • Wind chimes were singing their song
  • …there were unfinished books lying on the floor
  • It looked nothing I had seen before

Recommended cue prompter to support reading on film or in assemblies.
Quicktime VR library at panoramas

Examples from Special Schools
Sarah and Tim shared examples of work with pupils in Special Schools with description of the game’s impact on the children.

Moving back to images of children writing – “It is about children perceiving them as writers” – this is something that we have been battling with for many years (editor)
The work shown covered a huge range of forms of writing from postcards, writing their own worlds, explanations, persuasive writing to justify the use of computer games in the literacy lesson.

End of first session
What do you think you will take back to work? Thoughts from my table (editor) Emphasis on speaking and listening, time to think, time to rehearse, emphasis on quality of teaching of text structure and pupils taking control of the production of work.
Quote of the morning “There’s no point in doing a day like this, if it doesn’t have an impact on what is happening in your classroom.”

Session Two
The delegates launched into playing the game for this session
This means that I have had time to think through the implications of the morning’s input and I have come up with the conclusion that the morning has been about the breaking down of silos.
What I mean by this is that too many teachers in our country are confronted with an approach to CPD which can be sumarised by the beloved Jesse on the fast show.

How many teachers hit a different CPD focus every week? The net result of this is often that we often see the Primary curriculum in silos or blocks. This is also true for simply the teaching of literacy where teachers try to orchestrate the use of film literacy, speaking and listening, reading comprehension, boy’s writing strategies, use of gaming, multiliteracies, visual literacy and so the list goes on. The morning has really reinforced the message that this is not about engaging with blocks of experience or silos of pedagogy rather that it is all about blending these into a clearly thought out approach. This is intuitive to many but it is still a vital message to give that the use of games or films will invigorate children to talk at length if the teacher plans for it and models it to the children. It will be key for the success of this project that teachers give themselves and, more importantly , the children time to develop talk around their experiences before moving into any writing.

Afternoon session
Tim and Sarah talked the delegates through a range of applications to be used in the classroom to support the teaching of writing. I am aware that some people reading this blog will know each of these applications but many won’t so I will add some details when I get home.
wordlea brilliant site which creates a word cloud based upon the frequency of words in an extract pasted into the programme
word siftsimilar to wordle (although with less eye catching visuals) which allows the user to research the meaning of specific within the word cloud
an online collaboration tool
etherpad collaborative writing tool which includes the ability to review the writing process upon completion using a time slider which replays the authoring as a movie.
Tag galaxy – after entering an initial tag the site creates a tag galaxy with terms related to it. When the user selects a tag it creates a tag planet populated with flickr images associated with the selected tags.
Voicethread – a web based application which allows pupils to post work or images and then comment upon it in writing, using video or audio.
Rich chart – a we based data programme which produces flash files of your data.
Gadwin – a really cool alternative to using print screen

So as we near the end of the day was this about games based learning, Myst, speaking and listening, writing or engagement?
Being simplistic it was about all of them – sure enough Tim is in the position where people will expect to see work based around Myst but the use of the game is almost incidental to the main message. I am sure Tim won’t me mind saying that he could have used almost any different game and put over the same message. There were many messages given today which were identical to those given on training for development of oral rehearsal or Talk for Writing. There was plenty of advice about new opportunities in ICT, drama, talk and moving towards a piece of quality piece of writing.

So what was the day about? On two levels (pupils and teachers) it was about creating a motivating and engaging approach to the teaching of literacy.
More importantly it was about breaking down the different silos of approaches for teachers so that they don’t see each of the areas as being distinct and different.

So at the end of the day what did the delegates feel?
At the end of a very long day covering a myriad of opportunities and examples the teachers were fired up and incredibly keen to get to the school on the 2nd day to work not only with Tim but also with children.

A great day – I will keep you updated with the progress of the project over the next year.

I have now returned home and tidied the blog up. Tim’s blog has some interesting photos of the day (you may spot me on one!) the comments from the delegates are impressive but what is important is the impact on practice and children’s work is what ultimately matters.

Wordle of this posting


  1. Fab wasn’t it? So pleased that there were aligned messages- several teachers did realise this was so too!
    Really useful to read your take on the sessions.
    IFeel even more that the panorama site will provide valuable material for our day on 23 Nov.
    Wish I could have stayed this afternoon- thanks for coming!!

  2. Day 2 with Tim and Sarah in school was brilliant – teachers really inspired and buzzing with ideas. Fantastic use of TfW principles and engagement of boys, but more than anything an outsatnding practitioner reminding us how it should be done! Sam

  3. Hi there,

    I too was very inspired by the course and have just finished a very succesful ‘enrichment week’ using lots of the methods and software Tim showed us and a few of my own ideas added in too! The children lapped it up, and have produced some amazing writing. If you are interested, you can see some of our work on It’s worth delving back through as with all blogs, it appears in chronological order.

    Anyway – inspired course choice!



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