Friday, 20 December 2013

Why learning a language is important


Did you know that ... scientists have proven that people who speak two languages are better at multitasking and can hold back Alzheimer's for about five years?  There is also evidence that people who are bilingual have stronger communication and cognitive skills.  Being bilingual gives the brain a good workout and strengthens its muscles, enabling an individual to focus on tasks for longer, ignore distractions and retain information more effectively.   These same advantages can be developed by learning a second language.

In much of Europe languages are introduced to children at an earlier age than in the UK.  However, Welsh and English are taught successfully in Wales.  Though you are never too old to learn a new language the main advantage of learning a language at an early age is confidence.  Young children tend to not feel inhibited or threatened by languages.  They are constantly playing/ exploring their own language and having fun with it and even invent their own words.  As very young children they are constantly mimicking words and phrases that they hear and they learn their own language extremely quickly. 

Learning a language also gives opportunities to develop skills in other curriculum areas. Confidence in speaking and communication with others develops as well as good listening skills.   Songs, poems, rhymes and stories from around the world in other languages that can develop listening and comprehension skills are easily found on you tube and other search engines.  (Many of these stories also have a moral element too).  The internet has many free resources and materials that can support your child and you in learning a second language.  What may not be obvious is that your child's maths skills could also benefit from learning another language, for example, through counting, using different currencies, and through learning dates and times.  Of course there are also the cultural, geographical and historical aspects that are developed through learning about different countries.  

Learning a language can be a rewarding whole family activity. Through learning a second (or even third) language we can develop our understanding of our own language and culture as well as developing an awareness of different countries and cultures.  In an increasingly globalised world the benefits of speaking other languages are invaluable.  This is perhaps best expressed in the words of Nelson Mandela;
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his own language that goes to his heart." 

Why is music taught in schools?


The importance and relevance of teaching music has been long been recognised.  The Greek Philosopher Aristotle states;  "Music has a power of forming the character and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young."

Many school and teachers recognise the research and evidence that the teaching of music develops skills and improves overall academic progress and performance.  It stimulates the imagination and creativity.  Increasingly schools are developing musical experiences across the whole curriculum using local and national music projects and programmes; some schools are fortunate enough to have a specialist music teacher whose role is not just to teach the children but also to support the non specialist teacher. 

Music in the curriculum gives children opportunities to develop their listening skills.    It encourages them to develop their concentration skills, recalling information, memorising tunes and words. In addition, those children learning to play an instrument develop resilience and perseverance in mastering their instrument.  Literacy and language skills are also developed; the singing of songs encourages phonetic awareness and reading skills are strengthened not just through the repetition of words and rhyme but also through exposure to texts that are rich in vocabulary, imagery and emotion.  It is arguably important that children learn songs from their own heritage and research is reflecting that young children are not familiar with the nursery rhymes and songs that were widely known a generation or two ago. Music is a precise and exact art and the learning of formal music encourages development   of maths through spatial awareness.  It is rhythmical and the notes that a musician reads, plays or writes are arranged in sub-divisions and consequently supports an understanding of fractions.  The repetition of musical phrases encourages the recognition of sequences.  The National Curriculum music syllabus uses computer programs and so ICT skills are also developed.  Participation in music lessons develops physical co-ordination and research has shown that it can result in improvement in handwriting.  Some teachers use music in the classroom as brain gyms, giving the children a quick break from their learning whilst at the same time stimulating their brains so that they can return to their learning reinvigorated and energised.

Using music to teach R.E, history and geography has a huge potential to open minds and understanding of other times and places. Throughout history, musicians have expressed their opinions of their political and social situations through music; some openly such as Band Aid's 'Do They Know It's Christmas' and some more covertly  eg Verde's 'Hebrew Slave Chorus.'  The reflection of public feeling and unity through music is expressed by Madonna when she sings, "Music brings the people together."  Teaching children about music from the past and from different places develops an understanding of diversity and global awareness;  encouraging global citizenship.

Music provides opportunities for children and adults to participate in their communities and even further field.  Singing or playing with others requires collaboration and communication to work together as a team.  Some are able to develop their leadership skills by encouraging their peers or helping to arrange rehearsals etc. Participation in musical events, whether as a soloist or a member of a choir develops confidence and a sense of pride in themselves and others.  The formalised notation of music is universal and musical terms are generally written in Italian so musicians who can read music are able to share and play together a piece of music even if they do not speak the same language!  "Where words fail - music speaks." (Hans Christian Andersen)

Would you like to live in a world without music?  Learning music has value for all and not just children.  The majority of people find music enjoyable and relaxing.  Music should be taught because it not only encourages academic progress, developing creativity and stimulates our imagination; it should be taught because it provokes in us an instinctive, primal emotional response.  This emotional response can give you a sense of beauty, stimulate our compassion,  broadening our sensitivity to others and even awaken our spiritual awareness.  Physically music has proven to slow brain waves, decrease blood pressure and pulse and relax muscles.  You may have experienced this when you have sat down and relaxed to a piece of music, or sung a lullaby to a young child.  Plato, another
Greek philosopher, writes; "Music is a moral law.  It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind and life to everything ... Without music, life would be an error."

What do pupils learn from sport?


After a wonderful summer of sport with British sportsman and women achieving so much as well as the inspiring experience for the majority of us of being part of hosting the Olympics and Paralympics. The opening and closing ceremonies, the game makers, the spectators and individual personal triumphs of all Olympians, provided much to discuss about the legacy of the Olympics.  Physical Education has been part of the National Curriculum for many years with PE lessons currently timetabled for two hours per week.  Many schools also offer a wide range of after school sports clubs.  But why should sport be so prominent in the curriculum?

The benefits of participating in sports go far beyond the physical benefits of being fit, healthy and having good co-ordination.  Sport, whether competitive or non competitive, teaches us to adhere to the rules and develop an understanding of fair play. This in turn helps to develop a sense of honesty and a sense of right and wrong.   A child can learn to exercise judgement in expressing objections and in accepting any potential controversial calls.  Through sport we learn to accept losing with dignity and to learn from the      experience.  Sport encourages children to value and respect themselves, and others, as individuals.  Participation in any sport can also build determination and encourage children to set achievable goals.   Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics created its motto - "The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part.  The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well."   Whether participating as an athlete or a spectator, sport encourages children to develop communication skills, explaining their point of view objectively and accepting that others views may differ. In addition, sport can break down break down cultural and physical barriers; this was evident in The Olympics and Paralympics.

Team sports particularly have the potential to develop a sense of belonging and a feeling of being valued.  Being a team member helps a child to learn to encourage their team mates and to be happy for the whole team's success, and to accept defeat/failure without blaming others.  Magic Johnson, perhaps the one of the most famous basketball players states; Ask not what your team mates can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your team mates."   Team sports can encourage children to develop leadership skills and to think as an individual within the context of making decisions that can benefit and support their team members.

There is evidence that suggests that children who are involved in sports do better academically at school.   Being a member of a team or sport club can develop time management and general organisation skills.  As part of a team or club your child will develop their listening skills and be encouraged to develop their observational skills.  For some children being part of a school team or club provides them with motivation to learn and in some cases their attendance improves. 

Children can also be inspired by sports.  Sports can provide positive mentors and role models.  A role model may be a famous athlete, their coach or PE teacher.  These people inspire us all not only with their achievements but also with their skills and determination to overcome any difficulties and to improve. We can be inspired by their dignity in winning and in losing.   Unfortunately, there are also negative role models in sports but children may learn from these too, for example, it is not acceptable to verbally abuse another player or to cheat.  The following observation by John Wooden perhaps explains what we can learn from our role models, and about ourselves from sports - "Sports do not build character.  They reveal it!"

PE encourages children to be fit and healthy, but more significantly through sport they can learn a sense of achievement and develop their self esteem.  Children when inspired by sports can gain a well rounded perspective of life.

School's out for summer - keeping skills sharp

School's Out for Summer

The end of the school year brings your children long and hopefully sunny, warm days in which to relax, play and have fun.  They have spent the academic year learning and growing in so many ways and now it is time for the summer holidays.  As Sir Cliff Richards sings "No more work for a week or two, fun and laughter on our summer holiday, no more worries for me and you."   Children need this time to play but how can you keep the skills they have acquired and maintain the progress they have made over throughout the year? 

There are many activities in which you can encourage your child to participate that are learning activities but are also practical and fun. There are activities that you can share with your child which is something that most parents and carers may not be able to do during term time.

Cooking is a great activity.  Reading and measuring skills are used to follow a recipe.  Children can also write their own shopping lists and help to shop for the ingredients, which supports their understanding of capacity and money further.  If your child is enterprising they could sell their cakes; creating their own publicity to market their product and use their maths skills to budget and to decide how much to sell their products for.  Some children will enjoy creating menus for the family meal or for their favourite celebrity or story character.  Collect samples of menu cards for them to read and evaluate.  Creating their own recipe book with illustrations or photos of recipes that they have used is another activity that encourages them to use their writing skills.  May-be you have lots of cuttings of recipes that they could copy out or stick in a notebook for you.  Generating a recipe book provides a very real reason to write and your child can consider how to present and organise their recipes.  They could even use a contents page or a glossary. 
Gardening is another activity that encourages children to use maths, reading and writing skills in very practical way.  Children can photograph, sketch and measure their plants. They may enjoy visiting a farmers market and as with the cooking they could budget, market and sell their products. 

Children can make their own garden ornaments and art.  They could try painting stones and rocks or could even write letters and words on stones that they can use to write messages or spell out words.  If you have space on a wall or fence or even a large piece of cardboard, why not paint it using blackboard paint and give your child some chalks to draw or write with.  On a sunny day your child may enjoy making their own sundial by placing a stick in the ground and measuring its shadow hourly.  Some children will enjoy looking for bugs, identifying, sketching or take a photograph of the bug to record in their notebooks.  Children could also use the outdoors to have scavenger hunts, searching for objects that for example begin with a particular sound, collecting numbers 1 -100 or 3d shapes, etc.

If your child has a particular interest or collection they could create their own museum to show case the items and objects.  They can create leaflets and labels to explain these items. Alternatively you could visit local museums or more famous museums, many of which are free, so that your child can develop their understanding and knowledge of their interest further.  Some children will enjoy planning the visit, researching bus or train timetables, budgeting and creating an agenda.

Holidays are a good chance to encourage your child to read by visiting your local library.  Many libraries will have themed activities in the holidays including story times.  Children can enjoy independently choosing a book to read.  Encourage them to evaluate their book either verbally or in writing, explaining their reasoning using PEE. (Point out your thoughts.  Explain your reason. Exemplify your thoughts).  Children may enjoy acting out the story, create a diorama or make a movie.

As well as reading some children will enjoy writing their own books.  Their writing may be fiction or non fiction, a story with chapters or a comic.  Whatever their chosen genre they will be using their literacy skills.  They can also create a front cover and blurb for their book as well as illustrating it with their own drawings, photographs or pictures cut out from magazines.  Again some children will enjoy dressing up, writing plays, singing songs and performing their stories either to a live audience or recording their play using video or photographs.  Many local councils organise outdoor performances for children throughout the summer months.  

Creating their own map is also a way of encouraging children to use literacy skills.  It can be either from their imagination or based on a story that they know, or using facts based on a specific topic.  Their maps can then be used as a plan for a story, play or board game.  Some children will also enjoy generating maps of places they have visited or know well.  Looking at maps and maps and atlases builds on a child's knowledge of their environment and the world, as well introducing them to the concept of scale and keys. 

Children could also keep a journal of their summer holiday, either keeping a record of the whole summer holiday or a specific vacation destination.  In their journals children can keep entry tickets, maps, photos, make notes about miles, time tables or itineraries as well as facts about specific destinations.  Encourage your child to consider how they present their journal using pockets, double mounting, stickers and different fonts.  Their journals can be shared with family and friends and kept as a memento of their summer holidays.  You may even want to consider creating your own journal or completing one in partnership with your child.

Enjoy participating in the activities with your child and keep the learning fun.  Learning is so much more involved than filling in activity sheets!  Children need to relax and play as part of the learning process.  

"Live in the sunshine. Swim in the sea. Drink the wild air."
Perhaps all of us need to follow Ralph Waldorf Emerson's words more often.

School trips - just another expense?


Your child has returned home from school with a letter about a school trip which you     need to pay for.  You may ask yourself the following questions - Why do schools organise field trips? Why are they so expensive? What value do they have?

School trips are invaluable in engaging children in their learning. They enable children to apply the facts taught in the classroom to the real world. Trips provide opportunities for children to participate in learning activities in a way that they cannot experience in the classroom. 

In addition, children feel a sense of adventure and have a freedom to explore in a safe environment. Through participating in a school trip your child will have a unique experience which leads to development and improvement in knowledge and understanding of a specific curricular area.  Often the learning from the visit continues in the classroom and can form the basis for a several weeks or a term's learning. Trips can also help the teachers to develop skills and knowledge and gain new ideas for activities and lessons.

Though it is important meeting curriculum objectives is only a part of why school trips benefit your child. Perhaps more significant are the life skills that are developed. Field trips are full of opportunities to develop a child's independence and self confidence e.g. taking care of their belongings, deciding what information should be recorded and taking care of each other. They will have opportunities to use their thinking and questioning skills and to develop their observation skills. They will have time to reflect on key questions beyond a simple yes or no e.g. What if...?  as well as being able to explain and justify their thoughts and opinions.

Of course school trips involve a visit to the inevitable gift shop, which adds to the overall expense of the trip. This is recognised by most schools who impose maximum limit on spending money. But the visit to the shop can be a great opportunity for your child to apply their maths learning in a real life situation e.g. adding, subtracting and budgeting. Staff on the trip should encourage your child to spend their money wisely and on items that reflect the theme of the trip, a memento rather than trinkets for each family member, e.g. A Roman coin may be brought from a visit to a Roman villa.

Unseen, and perhaps unknown, is the huge amount of preparation that has to happen before a school trip can take place. Organising a school trip is a great responsibility. Many teachers fear being sued in the event of something going wrong and as a consequence do not organise trips.  The vast majority of school trips will be focused on the children's learning and be relevant to specific curriculum objectives.  In addition, schools and County Councils have formalised procedures to be followed when organising a school trip.  Risk assessments, itineraries, supervision (including ensuring all supporting adults have a current CRB certificate), first aid, medication and dietary needs all need to be considered and provided.  Every child in the class or year group for the proposed trip has the right to attend and schools must ensure that this is possible.  The cost of the trip is also considered; the transport costs in particular can be very expensive.  Schools cannot profit from a school visit and the price that individual children pay should not be used to cover the cost of those children who cannot afford the cost such as those in low income families. Most schools will have a separate budget to assist those children and you should be informed how to access financial support in the information letter.  All trips have to be approved before they can take place. Increasingly schools are informing parents and carers of forthcoming trips and events with an estimation of the cost so that they budget for them. But this does mean that as a parent or carer you need to reply to requests for authorisation, and do so in good time ahead of the trip, otherwise your child may find that they are not able to join their friends.

Schools organise trips after careful thought and preparation. They do so because they believe that school visits make the learning in the classroom real, relevant and alive.  Parents and carers who have supported me on a range of school trips are often surprised by how powerful the learning is and how positively the children respond to the experience. 

School trips are fun, they are educational, but most of all they are inspirational.

Thursday, 19 December 2013



Understanding and managing our finances is an important skill for all of us.  "Save your money and your money will save you" - Jamaican proverb.  At school your child will complete money sums and word problems as an exercise but not necessarily relate their learning to the real world. Children may observe you paying for things with a credit Xcard or  via the internet without actually realising that you have first had to earn that money and that you have used money to pay for the item.  The concept that money is easily available for all may also be reinforced when they witness you withdrawing money from an ATM.  However at home you can develop your child's understanding of money in general as well  as an understanding of saving, spending and budgeting in the real world so that they are money smart throughout their lives.

Discuss what money is with young children explaining how we need it to buy things and how it can be earned. Tell them about your employment, current and past.  You may recall how you completed chores to earn money as a child.  When you are out and about, point out people who are working e.g police, gardeners, builders, etc. Let children know that things cost money, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot, so that when buy something you have to consider this.  Play board games with your child that involve money and spending. 

With your child discuss the difference between need and want.  Share with them the things that all living things need to survive: water, food, air, shelter and warm.  (Older children will be more aware that not all children have these things and may want to raise money for charities  either independently or at school and organisations such Scouts or
Girl Guides).  Share with them the things that money cannot buy; a loving family, a sunny day, friendship, etc.  Write a shopping list with your child, explaining that there are some things that are essential and other things that are not.  For example, you might say, "We need to buy milk for the breakfast cereals and for you to drink because it helps you grow strong.  We are buying cake today because your friend is coming for tea and it will be a tasty treat for you both." 

Shopping with your child is a good way to encourage an understanding of spending and budgeting with your child.  Involve your child with the shopping, encouraging them to compare prices, consider bargains and special offers and explain your reasoning behind the choices you make.  For example, you may not  choose to buy a two for three offer on  punnets of strawberries because you know that they might not all be eaten before they go rotten.  Many children enjoy playing shop.  Up cycle empty food packets and encourage children to price their items to sell or create their own special offers to tempt their customers to buy.  If possible let children use real money for this, you could use foreign coins from a recent holiday abroad.  Some children may want to consider using credit cards which they could design and colour themselves from cardboard so that they can begin to understand how credit cards replace money and how they work.

I have previously mentioned how some young children may not understand how credit cards and ATMs work or have very little knowledge of banking.  Explain how banks work and how credit cards are a different way of spending money.  Some children may enjoy playing banks in the same way as they play shops.  Some banks and building societies have accounts specifically designed for children.  Discuss how banks and building societies can support you to save money for an expensive item and reward you for using their facilities to do so by paying you interest.  At the same time discuss how banks may offer you a loan for buying very expensive things such as a house and how you have to pay them interest.  When viewing money loaning adverts on TV or in magazines encourage children to note the interest rate.  Children are often surprised about how much they have to pay back on a  loan.  This helps them to understand that a taking out a loan has to be a very deliberate and considered choice.

Internet shopping is increasingly a popular way to shop.  Again explain to younger children how this works.  With older children discuss how some offers look very tempting; almost to good to be true.  Look at these offers, pointing out the hidden extras in the small print.  Whilst doing this  reinforce the importance of being safe on the Internet.  Explain that they should not give out any personal details and that there are companies and people who will use their details to defraud them.  This would also be a good opportunity to discuss with your children about not chatting on line with strangers, giving any details about themselves or agreeing to meet anyone they have chatted with.  Remind them that they should tell you if they feel threatened when chat rooms or if anyone asks about them or encourages them to meet them. 

You may decide to give your child pocket money which they could earn through completing chores at home so that they can experience having their own money to spend in addition to any that they may receive for birthdays, etc.  If your child does have their own money, encourage them to divide it into three - savings, spending money and money to share.  Allow them to make their own mistakes.  So if they want to buy the latest console game but keep spending their money on sweets keep encouraging them to make a better choice.  If possible do not 'bail' them out or if you do consider charging them ' interest' on any loans that you make.  A strategy to encourage your child to save is for you to match their savings.  Again encourage children to research a and compare prices and offers on the item that they are saving for. 

Encourage your child to be enterprising so that they can earn money for themselves or others.  Obviously you need to emphasise the need for them to keep themselves safe.  The Scout Association no longer encourages its members to go door to door offering to do chores for the occupants - Bob a Job - as it recognises the dangers to children doing this. Recently I saw two teenagers selling lemonade to the spectators as they walked passed their drive.  In the same way, your children could sell vegetables that they have grown or cakes that they have baked.  They may decide to leave their goods out on a table at the end of the drive so people can buy them, trusting that the buyer will put their money in the bucket provided.  Certainly, if some one does not pay or even takes their money it is a hard, yet essential, lesson to learn that there are a few people who are not honest.  As I have previously mentioned above, Many schools encourage their students  to raise money for charities through a variety of activities.  Some schools are very good at letting the children organise this for themselves, developing skills of collaboration, reflection, resourcefulness and adaptability in the process. The teachers are there in an advisory role to support those children.  In my experience the children who do participate in such fund raising events have a great deal of fun and feel a huge sense of pride in their achievements. 

You can encourage your child to budget and manage their finances by modelling how you do this.  You can draw a circle to create a pie chart to roughly estimate the percentage of your income you spend on household bills, food, your child, how much you are saving.  You may also wish to share one of your statements with your child explaining so that they understand that income and outcome.  The following strategy may support to be money smart and encourage them to make good choices with their money:

Don't let your money melt away - SPLIT IT!

Save and set limits
Live within your means
Impulse buying is bad
Track your expenses

You may wish to plan a party or even a day out with your children with a given budget so that together you can research and make decisions.  These are obviously real life situations but you can also encourage children to research and plan an event within a set budget in an imaginary situation.  For example, you might give your child a copy of a store catalogue and set an imaginary scenario that they have been asked to spend a set amount on equipment for the  local playground.  What would they buy?  How many of each product should they get?  Can they take advantage of any offers etc?

These are just a few things that you can do to encourage your child to be money smart. Whilst helping children to understand that money does " make the world go round" it is also important to develop the responsibility of managing their money sensibly;  encouraging them to reflect on their needs and wants and that there are things that money cannot buy.  "Do not educate your child to be rich.  Educate him to be happy so when he grows up he'll know the value of things, not the price." Anon.

Reading is boring! How to encourage a reluctant reader

How to encourage a reluctant reader to read!

There can be no arguing that reading is an essential skill.  Not only does it develop our language skills and understanding of the world around but is also a source of joy and relaxation. 

The more that you read the more places you go.  The more that you learn the more things that you'll know."  Dr Seuss
However, for some, once they have mastered the basic skill of decoding text, reading becomes a chore; it is daunting; they have no enthusiasm for books and reading. Some children are not motivated to read and do not want to read daily, either, aloud to another or to themselves.  There is much research indicating that the progress of children who do not read regularly is lower than those who do.  One American project looked at the question     Why can't I skip reading tonight? and found the following results:

Child A reads 20 minutes per school day
Child B reads 5 minutes per school day
Child C reads 1 minute per school day
Reads for 3,600 minutes per school  year
Reads for 900 minutes per school year
Reads for 180 minutes per school year
An average of 1,800,000 words per school year
An average of 282,000 words per school year
An average of 8,000 words per school year
In the 90th percentile - i.e. the top 10% 
In the 50th percentile
In the 10th percentile i.e. the bottom 10%

Overcoming a child's reluctance to read is possible.  One of the first things to do is let your child have a choice of what they read; they do not need to read a fiction book.  There are a wide variety of texts for children to read and enjoy. Do not worry if your child chooses to re-read a book; a favourite book is a source of pleasure for all ages.  However, you can "guide" your child to a new book, either by the same author or to one that has a similar theme.  Discuss the choice of book, encouraging your child to explain why they like that book.  Ask them about their favourite character or favourite part of the book.  Can they give you an example from the text to support their answer?  For example, "I like Harry Potter because he is good at quidditch and he caught the snitch in his mouth!"  You can share your choice of book with your child too. The poet, Maya Angelou states, " Any book that helped a child to form a habit of reading,  to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs,  is good for him."

Visits to the local library can also enable a child to discover new books to read.  Some children may enjoy listening to the Story Time sessions that many libraries organise.  Local bookshops may also have meet the author events that could inspire a child to read.  Some schools have visiting authors too.  Children will also enjoy having money or book tokens to spend on books of their choice.

Of course today books are not just printed and children may be motivated to read after listening to audio books or watching well known stories on you-tube.  You can further expose your child to books and new reading texts by leaving piles of books around the house.

Allow your child to enjoy the books, discuss the characters, share the illustrations and generally discuss the story so far and what they think will happen next.  Although accurate reading/decoding is important so is the ability to make predictions about what might happen, to make inferences and to justify and explain their opinions about the text.             If the focus is solely on the decoding there is a danger that the text becomes daunting.  A very general rule to know if a child has chosen a text that is too difficult for them is the 1 in 20 rule; out of 20 words you would normally expect a child to find one word tricky.  Discretely count the errors a child makes on your fingers, if the child makes 5 errors over 20 words then the text is likely to be too difficult and you should guide them to a more appropriate text.

There are many ways for a child to enjoy a book; these are just a few

List the key events or characters
Draw or paint the character or the setting
Re-design the front cover
Create an advert for the book
Practise and read out their favourite part
Act out the story or part of the story - use puppets or even props
Design a board game based on the story
Write a letter to the author.
Retell the story

Many children are increasingly busy with after-school clubs and activities which are enjoyable, promote their well being and develop their learning and understanding of the   world.  However, children also need time to read so that they can let their imaginations go and explore their curiosities.  If the reading is away from other distractions then a child is more able to focus on the book.  When a child returns home from a club, is tired and has still to complete their home reading then they can feel that reading is a chore, something that must be done. They may be tempted to rush and become inaccurate in decoding and misunderstand the meaning of the text.  Having a quiet set time to read will allow the child time to enjoy reading.  Roald Dahl has said; "Books shouldn't be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage."

Perhaps the most important element in encouraging a child to read for pleasure is through role models both female and male.  (Research has found that boys who read with their fathers and see them reading are more enthusiastic about their reading and read with more accuracy).  By reading aloud to your child, discussing the book or simply sitting reading a book quietly and for pleasure demonstrates clearly that reading is a worthwhile activity.

Is your child safe online?

INTERNET SAFETY - is your child safe online?

As we all know the use of the Internet and of social networks has increased hugely i

n recent years. The advances in the technology that we have in our homes and literally at our fingers tips has many positive uses;- we can entertain ourselves with games and music, communicate with family and friends across the world, share photos and other personal data, buy things at our convenience, catch up on our favourite programmes,
Research and discover answers to questions; to know instantly about global events.
As with many things however, the internet has to be used safely and with respect; when it is used to defraud, abuse or bully the consequences can be devastating. 

To keep your child safe whilst using their mobile phones, PC or tablet you should involve yourself with what they are doing.  If they like to play games ask them about the games they are playing, get them to explain why they like the game and discuss strategies that they use to complete the game successfully.  Needless to say, follow the age and rating on the games and set the parental controls on the devices that they are using.  Discuss with your child why you are doing this and what they should do if they should access anything on the internet that they find upsetting in anyway.  If they can play online with their friends again help them to do this, reinforcing the need for them to invite friends that are known to them and discuss appropriate behaviour.  You can explain to them the need for caution when posting photos online, they might have set the PC or tablet to share with their "friends" only but their friends may not have.  If they then share the photos or videos, you and your child can lose control of who sees them. Did you know that Facebook and many other online communities have an age limit of 13 and over. 

You may also find it purposeful to reach an agreement on a time limit for the use of the Internet and mobile phones; for example charge their phones overnight so that they can not use them when they should be sleeping.  You may also choose to limit your own use of your mobile phone or tablet, as an example we all know they can be time killers sometimes! 

There are many resources, including short films and quizzes about safety and how to use the internet responsibly that you can share with your child. These are a few that I have used as a primary school teacher

At primary school, children are taught to be safe on the internet using the acronym SMART. It is good advice for us all.

      SAFE- explain it is not safe to share passwords or personal details, including photos of themselves and their friends on the Internet.  Explain that photos and videos on chat lines can be shared and be seen by others.  Have a No Strangers rule so that they are only communicating with their friends.  Encourage your child to tell you if a stranger is trying to 'Chat' with them or meet them - they may not be who they say they are.

      MEETING - let them know that they should never arrange to meet anyone over the Internet even with one of their peers.  Again, encourage your children to tell you if someone wants to meet with them.

     ACCEPTING - do not accept 'friend' invites from strangers or open emails from unknown senders.  Discuss the dangers of viruses and hacking.

     RELIABLE - there is a huge amount of information on the net and anyone can put it on there.  So, check more than one site when looking for information on line.

     TELL - If you see something that is upsetting or offensive on the Internet, or feel threatened then tell someone.  



Gone are the days when school was all about the 3Rs - reading, writing and 'rithmetic.  Whilst debates about the content of our National Curriculum and the value of testing children throughout their schooling continue, there is an increasing recognition that there are skills which are essential for all individuals develop.

These skills come under many guises, for example; whole brain thinking, critical thinking skills, Bloom's Taxonomy.  Essentially they are the skills that make us life learners, they enable us to develop resilience, to adapt to our situation, to be enterprising and to solve problems.  In brief, these skills enable us to analyse, evaluate and be creative; to remember, understand and apply our learning to our everyday lives.  (Revised Bloom's Taxonomy).  When used in the classroom, these skills encourage an individual, to develop their self- confidence as learners in an environment where " It's OK to not to know but it's not OK to not try."

In addition, the understanding of how we learn has greatly developed.  It is generally accepted that there are many types of intelligences known as multiple intelligences of which there are eight in all. Put simply these are:

LINGUISTIC- individuals who like to read, write and to memorise and retell stories and facts.
LOGICAL/MATHEMATICAL - individuals who like to think and explore numbers and patterns, classifying and grouping information.
SPATIAL - individuals who like to draw, build, design and create; they enjoy working with colour and pictures and tend to be good at visualising.
MUSICAL - individuals who like to sing, hum, listen and respond to music as well as play instruments; they easily pick up rhythm and remember melodies.
BODILY/KINAESTHETIC - individuals who like to move around; they are generally good at physical activities, including sport and crafts.
NATURALISTIC - individuals who like to be outside, who are interested in conservation and animals, enjoying studying how things work and natural phenomena.
INTERPERSONAL - individuals who enjoy working with others; enjoying collaborative learning.
INTRA-PERSONAL - individuals who prefer to work on their own and have their own interests and goals.

The majority of schools and teachers are aware of these multiple intelligences and the importance of learning skills.  Within the school environment as well as the curriculum they endeavour to promote these skills and to develop all individuals as life learners.  In the classroom, most teachers plan lessons that include VAK (Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic) activities which provide opportunities to develop an individual's multiple intelligences.

Visual learning activities include drawing, copying, making diagrams, using highlighters and colour coding. Learners who respond well to visual activities often like to follow written instructions or to use flashcards. They may doodle and often choose to sit at the front of the class.  Generally they will find it harder to listen to verbal instructions and may lose concentration if there are no visual stimuli.

Auditory learning activities include discussion, watching and listening to videos, remembering facts and using rhythm or word association.  Learners who respond to auditory activities do well in oral tests, choose to write about what they've heard and prefer verbal instructions.  They are able to discuss or explain their thoughts and learning with others. Some will find it harder to complete written questions and answer type activities and tests. 

Kinaesthetic learning activities include drama, science investigations, solving real life problems, studying with others and learning in short blocks. Kinaesthetic learners prefer interactive, "hands on" activities and multiple choice type exercises.  They have a tendency to find it hard to sit still for long periods of time.  Consequently they may find it difficult to do well in writing long essays.

The above provide a brief definition and description of VAK.  If you wish to identify yourself as a VAK learner, or to understand what type of intelligence describes you best, there are quizzes to help you which can be found through various search engines. 

As individuals we have our strengths and weaknesses within these types.  Knowing our selves as learners has a value not just at school and in passing tests, but throughout our lives. It not only identifies our strengths and our areas to develop, but also supports us in acquiring new skills and knowledge as well as developing our communication skills. Albert Einstein recognised this when he wrote;
Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."