Monday, 27 November 2017


I have created this activity to support a student with recognising and understanding square and prime numbers; it encourages the student to reflect on their learning and to explain their reasoning with me.  It has proven to be popular with other students too.  The colouring is beneficial to the development of fine motor skills.  The student can also cut out the completed tree which in turn can be used as part of a display.  I have also included a tree template so that you can design your own tree puzzle (I also have a long ea and short ea tree).  My students also like to use the tree template to design their own puzzles too.  

Wednesday, 1 November 2017



Reading is an essential part of our learning.  The English curriculum requires that students are able to retrieve information, summarise, deduct, predict and make inferences from texts, justifying their opinions.  

You can support your child in developing these skills by discussing with them the stories they read.  A useful strategy for doing this is the Five Finger Retell which reminds us of the five key points to discuss when retelling a story.

CHARACTER: stories revolve about the character.  Encourage your child to discuss the character in detail by focusing on SAD (SPEECH. ACTION. DESCRIPTION). What does the character say? Can your child describe the character’s appearance? What are their actions?  When discussing their opinion of the character, you may find it useful to refer to PEE.  This strategy encourages your child to give their point of view((P) explain and justify their opinion (E) and give examples from the story to support this(E).  Your child may enjoy drawing the character from the story and annotate their drawing with adjectives, phrases and quotes from the text.

SETTING: where and when is the story set.  With your child discuss how the author uses the senses to engage and involve the reader.  If you were in that setting what would you see and hear, or even feel and smell?  Consider if overall the setting is a place where you would want to be; a place where you would feel safe or possibly a place that makes you feel uneasy.

PROBLEM: what happens in the story that requires the character to overcome a difficulty or difficulties?  Discuss with your child how the author uses words and sentence structure to create the 
atmosphere.  Can you find examples where punctuation, short sentences and onomatopoeia have been used?

EVENTS: ask your child to discuss what happens in the story encouraging them to think about the beginning, middle and ending of the story.

SOLUTION: how does the character solve the problem?  Were they surprised by how the problem was resolved? 

Reading is an essential skill; it is a source of information and opens our minds to new experiences. 

Monday, 2 October 2017


Learning the 7 times tables

I have used this strategy with students who are finding the seven times tables difficult to learn and remember.  (Colour coding is also very useful).

1.     Write the numbers 0 – 9 like this:




These are the unit/ones numbers for the multiples of 7. 

2.     Now begin to put in the tens numbers to complete the table like this:

0 x 7 =
1 x 7
2 x 7
3 x 7

4 x 7
5 x 7
6 x 7

7 x 7
8 x 7
9 x 7

3.     Notice how the pattern continues:

0 x 7
10 x 7
1 x 7
11 x 7
2 x 7
12 x 7
3 x 7
13 x 7

4 x 7
14 x 7
5 x 7
15 x 7
6 x 7
16 x 7

7 x 7
17 x 7
8 x 7
18 x 7
9 x 7
19 x 7

Friday, 1 September 2017

I DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO THIS! Homework support


When faced with learning something new the majority of us feel uncomfortable as we are out of our comfort zone.  These feelings may cause some of us to be fidgety and unfocused. Consequently, some children find when completing homework that they cannot recall what to do and this in turn can lead to feelings of frustration and anxiety. 

You can support your child by remaining calm; reassuring them that finding something difficult is OK and that they should not worry about making a mistake; everybody makes mistakes.  Introduce them to the acronym FAIL - First Attempt in Learning.

Share with them the times when you have felt overwhelmed by something new, so that they know that you empathise with them and that such feelings are normal.  Many schools use the 'THINK, PAIR, SHARE,' strategy which encourages students to think about a task, discuss it with a partner and to share their thoughts.  The following questions are useful in discussing the process of tackling new learning.


Does the task remind you of anything you have learnt before?  With this question there can be no wrong answer.  It promotes closer study and discussion about the learning which in turn can help to decode the task.


Read the task together and if necessary support your child in breaking the task into smaller parts.  This can help to dismiss the feelings of being overwhelmed.  Highlighting, underlining, circling significant words or phrases as well as jotting down thoughts and ideas can be useful strategies. 


 Often examples are included with the task, if not, the Internet can be a good resource of examples including video clips.

Should the home learning prove tricky and your child is becoming anxious, stop; reassure them and let them know that you will communicate with their teacher. If you are concerned about your child becoming anxious about their learning you should contact their teacher. There are also many strategies to support children overcome feeling anxious, e.g.  taking deep breaths, sorry boxes and toys, etc which can be researched online. 

Tuesday, 1 August 2017



I have used this strategy to support students in learning and recalling the 6 times tables.

If you multiply 6 by and even number.  It will end with the same number.

2 x 6 = 12

4 x 6 = 24

6 x 6 = 36

8 x 6 = 48

The number in the tens place is half of the number in the ones place.

Introduce students to multiplying even two digit numbers by 6

10 x 6 = 60

The zero goes to the ones place.
When an even  two digit number is multiplied by 6 whole number is divided by 2 and the tens number added.
10 is halved = 5
1 is added to make
The 6 goes in the tens place

12 x 6 = 7
2 goes to the ones place
half of 12 = 6
6 + the 1 (tens number) =

More confident students will enjoy testing this theory out; finding examples that it can be extended to larger numbers, see the examples below.  Encourage them to explain how the rule works, using their examples and strategies such as colour coding.

48 x 6 = 288
8 goes in the ones place
half of 48 = 24
24 + 4(tens) = 28 

312 x 6 = 1872
2 goes in the ones place
half of 312 = 156
Add the Hundreds and tens number to this so 156 + 31 = 187

4826 x 6 =28956
6 goes in the ones place
half of 4826 = 2413
Add the thousand, hundreds, and tens numbers to this so 2413 + 482 = 2895

Monday, 3 July 2017


Beat the Summer Holiday Boredom Blues

A great way of keeping your child entertained throughout the summer holidays is to help them create a summer 'bucket' list of things that they would like to do over the holidays.  The activities can be varied, cost free and will inevitably develop key learning skills, such as reading, observing, questioning, creativity, etc.  The bucket list below is just an example.

    Grow flowers.  Your child can plant seeds and care for them or alternatively place carrot tops in a saucer of water and watch them grow.  Encourage your child to measure, observe and record the growth of their seeds using words and images.

    Join the local library and participate in their story telling events and competitions.

    Visit a local museum.  Many museums will be holding special events and exhibitions during the summer holidays.

    Go for a walk.  Use the walk to look for items on a list,
 e.g a red flower, a piece of sheep's wool, a nest, etc. 

    Create a nature hotel in your garden by leaving a shallow saucer of water for birds to drink from, make bird feeders and plant flowers that attract bees and butterflies.  There are lots of websites to advise on how to do this.

    Keep a journal or scrap book.  Encourage your child to record their holiday with words, drawings, photos as well as tickets, leaflets etc.  By keeping your own or a joint journal with your child you will be modelling good practice.

    Research a location you will be visiting and share at least 5 interesting facts with other family members.

    Write a review of the books that they read or the films they watched over the holidays.

    Recycle.  Collect recycled card, tubes and packets that can be used to make collages or models.
    Create a costume and prop box and act out plays or hold talent contests.

A summer 'bucket' list is a good way to share the holidays with your child; it gives them an opportunity to be digital free, to explore their local community and above all, share their ideas, observations and learning with you.

Jennifer Orgill

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.