Do you Google?

One of the ways of including culture and diversity in your lessons very easily is to watch out for the changes in the Google header, the Google doodles.

This is a great way of including content about world activities and celebrations of famous thinkers, writers, artists.

You may have noticed this recent doodle celebrating the life of Pandit Ravi Shankar a musician from India who influenced many Western musicians with his use of the sitar.

Google doodle - Pandit Ravi Shankar

You can even play some of the music to your learners as well when famous musicians are celebrated. Here in this Youtube clip  Ravi is playing with his daughter Anoushka in 1997.

If you go to the Google Doodles site you will get a chance to look at doodles appearing in other countries as we only get to see the ones for our ‘home page’.

They also have a, ‘this day in history’ section which you could use as a starter activity for sessions, just getting your learners to think about what has happened both in world events and in their lives on a particular date is a great lesson opener.

You can scroll through to find out what is coming up as well, this coming week there is the celebration of the 306th birthday of the mathematician Leonhard Euler and the 160th anniversary of the first passenger train in India.

As well as being informative the Google Doodles themselves are pieces of art and can range from the very interpretive such as this one celebrating the 125th birthday of artist Amadeo de Souza Cardosa

Google doodle - Amadeu de Souza-Cardoso

To ones that are part of competitions for design such as this one which won the Google Doodle 4 design competition in 2012 representing India.

Google doodle - India

You could get your learners to design their own doodle for something they are interested in or a local event, remember art is a form of Literacy and many learners will respond better to this kind of task than just to write something about an event.

This can also be a good activity to introduce diversity looking at when and how we celebrate national events, this doodle from 2013 marks Nigerian Independence Day.

Google Doodle - Nigeria Independance Day 2013

These types of activity still have those important aspects of any Literacy task such as planning and drafting and the discussion of each other’s work is a great speaking and listening activity.

I love this one – does anyone remember learning to count with Count von Count from Sesame Street? This doodle celebrated the 40th anniversary of the programme in 2009.

Goodle doodle - Count von CountSome of the doodles incorporate animations and games such as the Pinata game for Google’s 15th birthday in 2013 and you can find these on the site as well.

So Google is only 17, how did we manage without it? Answers on a postcard, (not via e-mail), to those of us old enough to remember life without the internet 😉

Happy doodling and thanks for visiting.


International Women’s Day and other celebrations

Themed events like today’s International Women’s Day have a lot of value as a teaching inspiration – not just for teaching women but men too.

iwd logo

Central to the celebration of women’s rights is the right to vote and there are lots of really good resources and Literacy teaching ideas based around the campaigns for the vote and around debates around the education of women that went alongside these issues.

For Numeracy teaching you could use ideas such as looking at a timeline of when women were able to vote in different countries  or at the percentage of women MPs over the years compared to the percentage of women in the country.

IWD historic

This Powerpoint from the link below is produced by Action Aid and came from the TES web site.

TES Resource schools_int_womens_day_2012

It not only covers suffragettes and education but also links in with today’s issues of education within the developing world.

There are some interesting statistics lessons to be based around percentage of children from both genders who are educated, more information from this Unicef site.

Although it is aimed at school teaching it is mainly composed of visuals so is suitable for adult learning and comes with comprehensive notes on each of the pictures.

This International Women’s Day video looks at how some very important inventions that make our lives a bit easier have been developed by women and features a nice list of links at the end to explore for further information.

Another Numeracy/Employability idea is looking at Equal Pay – the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970, partly triggered by the strike at Dagenham by the Ford machinists.

This was the subject of the excellent film, Made in Dagenham which is a great portrayal of some of the discussions about women’s roles and why they should be paid the same as men.


The Equal Pay Portal is a good source of information on the situation today, we still have pay gaps as do many other countries.

There are also other events that are celebrated around the world that you could discuss with your class that would contribute to the promoting equality and diversity content of lessons.

International Men’s Day – currently celebrated by 60 countries which links with the Children’s Day mentioned below and men’s health awareness, ‘Movember‘. The UK site is here.

International Workers’ Day or Labour Day is celebrated in many countries, either on May 1st or in the US on the first Monday in September.

Universal Children’s Day is celebrated in different countries around the world on different dates so is good for calendar work – this Wiki page gives a useful table of dates.

You could also ask your class about other national celebrations that are important to them, particularly if you have a diverse group.

Thanks for visiting.







World Book Day, Night and Quick Reads

Today is World Book Day, an initiative aimed mainly at children to promote reading by celebrating the importance of stories in children’s lives.

Schools all over the UK will have been holding events such as dressing up like your favourite book character and creating displays to show how important books are.

Children are given a £1 book token either to spend on a range of specially commissioned books or towards the cost of another book.

The World Book Day initiative is linked to Quick Reads which are short books by popular authors aimed at adults. This project is part of the Reading Agency which as the name suggest promotes different reading initiatives.

There are 6 new books published this year and there are teaching resources developed to go with them.

Quick Reads 2016

The resources for this year’s books can be obtained from here

They include ideas for lessons based on the books that include speaking and listening, reading and ICT research activities and sometimes Numeracy. All resources have got tutor notes

The Quick Reads are £1 each like the books produced for children to spend their £1 book token on, the key to this is to encourage adults with low Literacy skills to participate as well as for many adults they may only go into a bookshop when their children get the token.

Even though World Book Day is aimed at children there are lots of ideas that can be used in adult learning as well, maybe not dressing up but getting your students to write about a favourite character from childhood.

It doesn’t have to be a book character could be from TV but remember that many TV characters came originally from books or comics (think Marvel Superheros) so there are literary links.

A good idea for a group that includes parents of young children is a Story Book Bag or Story Sacks where the parents develop activities based around a text – this can be linked to a series of DARTS (Directed Activities Related to Texts)  style activities suitable for the age of the child and can include toys, puppets, games, number work etc linked to the story.

The activities are all put in a bag to be used at home with the child to stimulate interest in reading. For some ideas for these look at this web site.

There is also guidance on creating story sacks here at the National Literacy Trust

This Pinterest site has got some good ideas for puppets – I really think I need a set of these Hungry Caterpillar finger puppet gloves!

Hungry Caterpillar glove-puppet

You could even get your group to write their own story and make a sack based on that. I have found some story character and story setting dice which are great for generating ideas in a group. They come from the Sparklebox site which has loads of free printable resources for working with children.

Click on the links below to download the PDF files.

Story sack dice – characters                                        Story sack dice – settings

Despite all the technology we have around us books are still vitally important to lots of people and have huge advantages over the digital word – as one of my friends recently said “you’re not going to say ‘here you must read this great book – borrow my Kindle’ “, and World Book Night  has been set up in addition to World Book Day so that adults can share their love of reading.

World Book Night will take place on Sat 23rd April this year, which is Shakespeare’s birth and death date,  and the idea is that 1 million books from a selected list will be given to people who registered with the site before the end of Jan to give away to encourage people to read. Each participant gets 16 of their chosen book to give away on that day.

The books are mainly suitable for higher level readers, unlike the Quick Reads, featuring again mainstream authors as illustrated below but including a couple of the Quick Reads in the giveaway. It would be worth registering for the site later on this year for next year’s giveaway.

WBN_ Books 2016

Even if you felt that the books were not suitable for your Literacy class a book swap could be held for your own World Book Night /Day with people bringing along a book they had read and maybe even designing a poster to tell people what it is about and why they should read it.

Would like to leave you with probably the best quote that I have read about the value of reading, from a prisoner called Dave written about in this blog post  from the Reading Agency website.

“Once you get reading, there’s no stopping you. You can go anywhere. Explore the whole world.”

So true – happy reading everyone!

Leap Year

Hello everyone

Google leap-year-2016.gif

It will not have gone unnoticed that yesterday was Leap Day, cute animation above courtesy of Google, that extra day we get every four years.

Even though there won’t be another Leap Year for a while it is a great basis for a lesson including Literacy, Numeracy and some employability elements!

Why do we have it?

We have had Leap Years since 46BC when the calendar was adjusted by Julius Caesar  to take account of how long it takes for the Earth to orbit the Sun.

You can find more specific facts about this in these two articles, the Wikipedia one has a depth of information about the Julian and Gregorian calendars while this Telegraph one has more general information and facts about the day.

Why is it called a Leap Year ?

There is nice short video which asks this and explains why we have it and answers this question and could be good for listening skills are there are some different US accents.

Why the connection with frogs ?

Leap-Day frog

This seems to be the unofficial Leap Year mascot and if you are working in family learning there are lots of activities here at this website .The Making a Time Capsule one of what was happening on this Leap Year day is an activity that could also be done with any adult group on any day.

The tradition of women being able to propose on Leap Day

This would be a good one to discuss and includes social and cultural diversity in the wider area of how people arrange to be married.

Some views on this topic from different women here in this Guardian article.

A woman proposing has also been the basis for two films so you could show extracts from these movies to start the discussion.

The trailer for The Proposal is here – this is an interesting premise for a movie as she is planning to marry to avoid being deported as her visa has run out so a potentially contentious plot line!

The plot of Leap Year, trailer here , is a romantic comedy with a twist.

Losing Pay

If you are a salaried employee then you won’t technically be paid for working on Leap Day. This BBC article discusses why.

According to this petition asking for Feb 29th to be an extra Bank Holiday working on an average salary of £26500 a person would lose £113 for that day, given that there are 233 working days in year.

You could get your students to work out what would be lost for different salaries such as £15,500, £18,250, £29,600, £32,900.

How to calculate the next one

You can use these two diagrams to explain how to work out when Leap Years will happen.

How to know if a year is a Leap Year:

Leap Years are any year that can be evenly divided by 4 (such as 2012, 2016, etc)
except if it can be evenly divided by 100, then it isn’t (such as 2100, 2200, etc)
except if it can be evenly divided by 400, then it is (such as 2000, 2400)

Source of image here 

leap-year-test picture

Source of image here

A linked classroom activity would be to ask questions such as, ‘So would 2026 be a Leap Year? Or 2032? ‘ , You could get your learners to check a series of future years using these divisibility rules.

This links well into discussion of different types of calendars which is again a useful way of introducing culture and diversity.

The Chinese calendar is used to determine the date of festivals such as Chinese New Year and their zodiac calendar assigns animals to each year so you can get your learners to work out which animal they are according to their birth year and graph that. The previous link gives you a calculator for working this out.

Chinese zodiac

Anyone born this year will be born in a Year of the Monkey – signs also have traits associated with them.


In Nepal they use a different calendar   which is 56 years and 8½ months ahead of the Gregorian calendar so it is actually 2072 there at the moment.

If you have ever wanted to live in the future a trip to Kathmandu is an easier way that time travel!

Probability of being born on a Leap Day

For a birthday on Feb 29th the chances are one in 1,461

According to this article    there are several families who have more than one member born on a Leap Day.

‘Two women have given birth to three leap day babies. The Henriksen family from Norway had their children on leap days in 1960, 1964 and 1968.

The most recent family to tie the record is the Estes family from Utah. Their children were born in 2004, 2008 and 2012.’

There is an interesting article here on what it is like to be a Leap Year Baby and the issues with filling in forms and renewing things like driver’s licences.

Final question for you. If you are were celebrating your 18th Leap Year birthday yesterday, ie. the 13th time that you had an actual 29th Feb birthday, how old are you in real life?

There is a Metro article here that will give you the answer as well as some more stories about people who have Leap Day birthdays including a family, Peter Keogh, his son Eric and his granddaughter Bethany Wealth who are the only known family in the world to have three generations all born on February 29, the odds of this happening are 3.11 billion to one.

Hope you enjoyed your extra day!

See you all again soon.

Five pictures

Following on from the last post about using art for teaching here is an idea adapted from something I came across in a TV mag puzzle section – a picture puzzle called Connect 5.

Five pictures magazine pic

The word that connects all five pictures is black.

I thought this was a brilliant idea for Literacy teaching, particularly for ESOL learners so I have put together a few for you to use – answers after the puzzles!

The link word may be before or after the picture word and it may be a compound word or just linked in some way – for some of them you will need to think creatively about what the picture might represent!

Connect 5 Number 1


sand dune

sand stone



Connect 5 Number Two



masked ball



Connect 5 Number Three

milk bottle

milk float

milk jug



Connect 5 Number Four






Connect 5 Number Five

letter writing






Number One – Sand – sandcastle, sand dune, sandstone, sandstorm , sandpaper 

Number Two – Ball  – ballpark, ballgame, masked ball, football, baseball

Number Three – Milk – milk bottle, milk float, milk jug , milk man, milk pudding – good opportunity here to ask who still has milk delivered?

Number Four – Snow  – snowstorm, snowball, snowman, snowshoe, snow plough

Number Five – Letter – letter writing, letter opener, love letter, letter box, chain letter

I thought of a few others as well – some that were hard to think of more than 3 or 4 before it got a bit abstract – things like …

Night – time, nurse, watchman, shift

Day – pay, light, time

Love – cupboard, puppy, letter, story, song

Hand – book, back , bag

Blue – moon, stocking, blood

Super – man, size, market, hero

Cup – board, cake, tea, world

Back – door, bite, order, slide

You could also use it for Maths teaching as a starter activity to help guess the topic or review a previous topic. Useful for ESOL learners getting them to think about the many ways we use Maths words in everyday English.

Here are some for you to guess, you will have to think laterally for a couple of these, answers at the bottom.

Maths Connect 4 Number 1

Angle grinder


Angle picture

Right angle

Maths Connect 4 Number 2

Five squared

Trafalgar Square

Square numbers

square picture

Maths Connect 4 Number 3


Addition picture


addition to the family

Maths Connect 4 Number 4

Pizza takeaway

Takeaway chip shop

Takeaway picture

Takeaway sum


Number 1 – Angle – angle grinder, triangle, acute angle, right angle

Number 2 – Square – square number, Trafalgar Square, multiplication square, 6ft square

Number 3 –  Add – addition square, picture addition, adder – ha ha I know 😉 , new addition to the family

Number 4 – Takeaway – takeaway pizza, takeaway shop, takeway number line, takeaway sum

There are also a few online versions of these such as this one here with clues as well and with just words rather than pictures.

Puzzler magazine and others that you can get from newsagents also have versions of this that are just text.

Puzzler Magazine

Happy solving…. until next time, thanks for visiting.


Art Resources


Hello everyone

I know that visiting a gallery or museum may be difficult due to time constraints but through the miracles of the internet you can bring galleries to your classroom.

The Google Art Project gives you access to 738 collections from around the world which is great for culture and diversity.

This video explains how to use the site, you can search by keywords and create your own galleries.


One of my favourite sources is the Web Gallery of Art

This contains historical art up to the 1900s.

A few resource sites as well for you for ideas of how to use art in your teaching.

Maths2art  has got links for ideas for teaching geometry, suitable for Level 1, 2 and GCSE work.

This blog post from We are Teachers    uses modern artists such as Mondrian and Klee for activities. Below is one of Mondrian’s most famous pictures.


This British Council Teaching English web site has some good practical ideas for teaching literacy using art.

You could choose famous artists such as Van Gogh.

Van Gogh

As an interesting discussion about how art is used take a look at this article on how this room has been recreated as an Air B n B rental in Chicago to promote a new exhibition of his work there.

Or look at work of regional artists such as Mark Sofilas who is based in Leeds and paints landscapes such as this familiar scene below.

Mark Sofilas

If you are going to choose this area as your creativity project this article will be useful for your write up as they link this to theories of teaching and creativity.

Integrating Art Education and Literacy Education

Until next time happy teaching!