Sunday, 13 July 2008

wiki How to draw an 'S' from straight lines

I use iGoogle as my home page (after being introduced to it by my youngest son about a year ago).

One of the things I enjoy about my current iGoogle desktop is the ‘How to for the day’ listing (see middle column on screen shot right).

Everyone knows about
Wikipedia and Wiktionary - but it seems that wikiHow is not so well known (as an aside, I have just today discovered that although it is powered by MediaWiki, it isn’t actually part of the Wikimedia 'family' of projects).

I have no idea how long it’s been around for, but something on the daily ‘How to …’ listing often catches my eye. Yesterday it was
How to Draw an S Made Entirely of Straight Lines. If you’re thinking the same as me - that it looks more like an 8 than an S - keep reading.

Now the trouble with being a basic skills tutor is that you tend to look at almost everything, especially texts, from the ‘can I use this in my classes’ or ‘would this make a good resource?’ point of view.

The answer is yes, and two ideas spring to mind.

For numeracy I would adapt the instructions to include measurement (e.g. Draw three parallel lines, each 2cm apart and 4cm long, etc.) and insist upon a ruler. I might even be generous and provide some 1cm squared paper!
Depending on the learner group, I would either read the instructions aloud, or display them on the board (with or without pictures). It makes a good crossover from ‘common measures’ to ‘shape and space’.
MSS2/E1.2 Understand everyday positional vocabulary (e.g. between, inside or near to). MSS1/E2.5 Read, estimate, measure and compare length using common non-standard and standard units (g) know how to use a ruler to draw and measure lines to the nearest cm. MSS2/L1.2 draw 2-D shapes in different orientations using grids (e.g. in diagrams or plans). MSS2/L2.2 solve problems involving 2-D shapes and parallel lines.

For literacy the instructions would make good paired listening practice. You know the thing: students sit back to back, one reads and other attempts to draw (without being told the title of the piece). SLlr/E2.4 listen to and follow short, straightforward explanations and instructions.

Alternatively, I might read it to the whole group, see how they fare, then show them the picture.
SLlr/E3.2 Listen for detail in explanations, instructions and narratives in different contexts

or, give the ‘speaker’ the finished S (or 8!) picture and ask them to make up and deliver their own instructions to their partner SLc/L1.3 Express clearly statements of fact and give short explanations, instructions, accounts and descriptions

or, compose, write down and edit their own instructions then swap and check carefully for ambiguity, conciseness, etc. Wt/L2.7 Proof-read and revise writing for accuracy and meaning (a) understand that, as well as checking for errors or spelling, grammar and general sense, proof-reading enable the writer to spot: unintended ambiguity (where meaning can be taken in more than one way); long-windedness or repetition (where the same point could be made more concisely); compression (where too many points are pushed into to few words and the sense is muddled).

or, you never know, I might just give out copies (or ask learners to go online) and use the text for some good old fashioned reading practice! Rt/E2.1 Trace and understand the main events of chronological and instructional texts.

Any or all of these is bound to lead to discussion of why a picture can be worth a thousand words.
Rt/E3.9 relate an image to print and use it to obtain meaning Rt/E2.4 Use illustrations and captions to locate information (a) understand that illustrations contribute to meaning and can help locate and interpret information.

Of course, the thing about Wikis is that they are editable by all. This idea is itself a lesson in the power of group proof reading! Wt/L2.7 Proof-read and revise writing for accuracy and meaning b) understand that revising these might involve rewriting some sentences as well as adding or removing individual words.

I started writing this last night - this morning I noticed that the text in question had changed. There’s now an extra picture at the bottom showing how to draw transform the shape from an 8 to an S, and the introductory paragraph has also been changed to reflect this. So, I recommend that if you find a good wikiHow text that suits your learner group (or you), you make a copy of it because it might be completely different next time you look – or not even be there at all!

A final note. Just as I’m about to post this, what do I see on iGoogle?
A new “How To of the Day...”:
How to Spell

If you have any teaching ideas that involve wikiHow – please share them via this Blog or email them to me from

1 comment:

Chris said...

I work for wikiHow and found your blog post about us via my Google alerts. Thanks for the good words; I was also pleased to read of the various ways you envisioned using wikiHow with your students. We think this is wonderful; wikiHow has an educational mission, and we are always happy to hear of new ways for people to learn by engaging with our content. Please feel free to get in touch with us if we can help you and your students take better advantage of what we have to offer. We would love to assist others in integrating wikiHow into more formal learning settings.