Tuesday, 30 May 2017

RESCUE Spelling Strategy

Recently one of my students introduced me to this strategy.  I have since used it several times, especially with my older students.  It has been particularly useful for one individual who enjoys knowing where words originated from.


Wednesday, 3 May 2017


Asking open questions encourages your child to really think about their
learning and further develop their understanding.  Open questions (sometimes referred to as high order questions) support your child in developing the ability to explain their reasoning, to give examples to support their answer and to think of other possibilities and solutions.
There are six basic questions that you can be used to encourage your child to recall, re-tell or research a subject accurately and in detail.  These are:

Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?

What, how and why questions can also be applied to your child’s learning across the curriculum.  The examples below focus on a child’s learning generally but they can also be adapted to a specific subject or learning activity.  For example, you could ask what strategy your child used to solve a maths questions; or ask what are the differences and similarities between two books. 
What strategy did you use?              
What if... ? 
What are the differences and similarities? 
What are the features of ...?            
What do you think about ...?
How can you check your answer?               
How do you know? 
How would you solve this?                 
How would you categorise ...?
Why do you think the answer is right?
Why do you think that happened?     
Why is it important?
Why did you decide to...?
Why do you agree or disagree?
Other questions that are important to encourage your child to answer are;
Can you explain what you have done so far?
Can you give an example?
Being able to explain their thinking and support their answers with examples develops a child’s ability to make inferences and connections which are important skills across the curriculum.
As well as asking high order questions, encourage your child to explain their learning by drawing pictures, writing posters, building models, generating graphs and charts, creating songs and rhymes or acting out the key points.  For example:
Can you draw a picture to prove it?

This type of question gives children the opportunity to analyse, evaluate and apply their learning kinaesthetically and creatively and can really help them to a good understanding of their learning.  

Tuesday, 4 April 2017


As a tutor, many of my students find spelling difficult; their knowledge of phonics is often not strong.  Some tell me that they try to learn their homework spellings but when it comes to the spelling test they are not able to remember them; they find spellings frustrating and sadly feel that their difficulty in remembering how to spell means that they are failing. 

I have lots of strategies to support them.  The strategies that I am sharing with you are practical and kinaesthetic, moving away from the more traditional way of copying out spellings.  The resources that I use are all from the bargain shops and can be easily assembled, wherever possible I get my students involved in making the resources too.

The letter b and d confusion.

Discuss with the student how the lower case b fits into the upper case b.  They can trace over the letters with a highlighter or create their own.  This can then be placed on a desk, in a book, or  in a place where the student an refer to it easily.


This activity encourages the student to think about the onset of the word and also the digraph.  It can easily be adapted to the individual student.

Shaving foam and sand

Practising their spellings in shaving foam and sand is one of my students’ favourite activities; especially if they can go outside.  You might be able to see that on the tray that i use, one of my students had the brilliant idea if using the sand and tray to practise telling the time.

Pipe cleaners
Using pipe cleaners to spell words is also a good exercise for building hand and finger strength.

Beads, stamps and stickers
Look out for letters on beads, stamps and alphabet stickers.  They are a fun way to practise spellings.   I found that it is easier to buy beads, stamps and stickers that have the upper case letters but these can confuse some individuals.  Thread beads onto cord or pipe cleaners to spell words is another good exercise for developing hand and finger muscles.

Most of my students enjoy being outside and it is not unusual for my patio to be covered in chalky spellings.  I do have a blackboard on an easel which they like to use too.

These strategies are kineasthetic; the more I support students the more I realise how important it is that students experience their learning in many ways.  Most of all, it reinforces my belief that learning should be fun.  

Tuesday, 28 February 2017


Knowledge of the tables up to twelve and the confidence to recall the multiplication facts is an integral part of the national mathematics curriculum.  For some children recalling the facts quickly and accurately is difficult with the consequence that they lose confidence in their maths skills.

The following activities are fun ways to learn and practise the multiplication tables.
1.  Use online interactive activities and resources, many of which are free.  Traditional games and rhymes can be adapted, for example, play hopscotch counting 4, 8, 12, etc or sing the multiples of 3 to the tune of jingle bells.   

2   2.  Build arrays.  Encourage your child to draw or build arrays using building bricks, sticky labels or beads.  Arrays help children recognise that multiplication is repeated addition.

3  3.  Practice Doubling.  Being confident with doubling numbers means that your child can use this understanding when learning trickier times tables.  If your child can double they can times any number by four by using the strategy of doubling and doubling again. For example; to answer 4 x 7 first double 7 which is 14, then double 14 for the final answer of 28. Try throwing a dice to generate numbers to double.

4.  Practise the times tables with missing facts.  This can be done by completing 2 x * = 24 type questions but is just as effective if done verbally as well as drawing diagrams.  This activity also reinforces division facts.  
For example: 

 5.  Make it random.  Practising the multiplication tables out of sequence helps build confidence.  This can be done by selecting a table to focus on and turning over playing cards to create a sum (use the jack as x11 and the queen as x12 and the king as the square number).

Short, regular practice, using a variety of methods and activities to make the learning enjoyable, will support your child in learning the multiplication tables. 

Monday, 30 January 2017

KABOOM: a fun multiplication tables game

KABOOM is a great game to play to help develop quick recall of the multiplication tables.   It can be played with 2 or more and can be used as a group activity. 

Write multiplication sums on lolly sticks. (I brought mine in a certain High Street shop that only sells items for a pound).  You may wish to focus on a specific times table to suit the needs of your students.  On some of the lolly sticks write the word KABOOM.  I generally write three KABOOM sticks for each time table i.e. 12 sums: 3 KABOOM. The lolly sticks are then placed in a container so that they can be picked out randomly.

The students take turns to pick a lolly stick.  If the answer the sum correctly, they keep the stick.  If they are incorrect they are given the answer, possibly discussing ways to remember that fact, and return the stick to the pot.  If a student picks a KABOOM stick, all their sticks have to be returned into the pot.   The ratio of KABOOM sticks to sums should mean that all students playing will have a KABOOM moment. 

The game can be played continuously until stopped; however you may want to play for a set time or change the rule so that when a KABOOM stick is pulled out from the pot the sums go back in leaving the KABOOM lolly stick stays out in which case the game ends when the last lolly stick has been picked out from the pot. 

At the end of the game the students count their lolly sticks; the one with the most wins the game.

Try playing the game with your students so that they experience good modelling of taking turns, fair play and how to return the lolly sticks when you pick KABOOM with good humour.  

Thursday, 29 December 2016

SMILE and Stay Safe on the Internet

SMILE and stay safe on the internet.

The internet is a wonderful technical resource in our everyday lives.  Its
advantages are numerous from instant communication with family and friends across thousands of miles, to quickly finding information and even as a tool to learn a new language.  However, the internet and mobile devices are increasingly being used to harm, harass and manipulate both children and adults causing enormous stress and unhappiness; the consequences can be devastating.  Such incidences are reported regularly in the media and research shows that it is a growing problem for young adults and children.  Parental guidance settings, apps that block advertisements and virus protection programs can help reduce the danger, but do not eliminate it.   Children are taught in school to use the internet and mobile devices safely and with consideration to others.  At home you may find the SMILE acrostic useful for the whole family.

Stay safe.  Never reply to requests that ask for your age, gender or location or give any personal details.  Reputable companies, for example, will never ask you for your PIN in an email or text. 

Meeting up.  Do not arrange to meet up with someone you have met with on line.  In fact, it is always best to let someone know where you are going and who you are going with.

Information.  Remember that not all information you read on line is true.  On some websites, anyone can put up information and it is not checked.  Again, be wary off online friends you do not know; they may be deceiving you.

Let a parent or a trusted adult know if you are upset by something online or have received in a text or email; or that the content of what you have received is unsuitable and unpleasant.  Parents should let a their child know that they can talk about “secrets” that upset them; that there are laws, education and workplace policies and professionals to support them.

E-mails.  Never download or open e-mails, programs and photos that have been sent to you by someone you do not know because they may contain a virus or harmful malware.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Twelve Days of Christmas Activities

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Twelve fun activities for your children and family over the holiday season.

These activities will naturally encourage your child to use and develop their understanding of a range of skills.

1.    Cooking is great for developing a child's understanding of weight and capacity.  It is also a scientific activity as children gain firsthand experience materials changing.

2.    Design and make party hats for the family. You can make these fit perfectly by asking your child to measure the head circumference for each individuals.  This activity uses not only art and design technology but also measuring skills.

3.    Research the time zones around the world.  You may wish to use either the twelve or the twenty four hour clock using analogue or digital clocks. If Santa is in New York at 01:00 what time will it be in London?  If you wake up at 4 a.m will your Grandparents who live in California be wake if you Skype them? 

4.    Another activity that develops an understanding of capacity is to ask your child to create a one litre recipe for Reindeer Punch using at least 5 ingredients, either real or imaginary e.g. 33 ml of jet fuel, 476ml of carrot juice, etc. Encourage them to write down the recipe and the instructions of how to make the punch.

5.    Use the lyrics to the song The Twelve Days of Christmas to answer questions such as how many presents we given over the whole twelve days?  How many beaks are there in the complete song? 

6.    Draw a map of your local area and plot a route for delivering Christmas to friends and family.

7.    Encourage your child to record the species and numbers of birds and animals that they see in their garden, presenting their findings in a bar graph.  What can they find out about the creatures they see?

8.    Go for a walk.  Can you complete the alphabet challenge during the walk by finding something that begins with every letter of the alphabet?

9.    Create a Christmas decoration or wreath by using recycled materials.

10.  Develop sequencing skills using paper chains.  For example, how many patterns can you make using 10 red paper chains and 10 green chains?

11.  Play traditional board games and party games such as charades.  Games are a great way of developing communication skills and strategies.

12.  Try re- writing the words to The Twelve Days of Christmas to include family, friends and pets.  For example: On the first day of Christmas my mother gave to me a biscuit and a cup of tea.

Happy Christmas.