Support your child with spelling

 

Imagine trying to write in a different foreign language every time you wrote something. Think how difficult that would be. That’s how I heard reading and spelling described to be by one dyslexic learner.
A key point you need to remember before a child can start to learn to read or spell is that they need to recognise what each letter or blend of letters stands for. For most people reading or spelling the word ‘shout’ is probably fairly easy as it can be broken into manageable frequently used letter blends: sh/ou/t.
Ensuring your child has a confident knowledge of these blends will set you off in the right direction. If necessary go right back to the beginning and practice/learn the sounds that each individual letter in the alphabet makes. (At the end of this section I shall give you some ideas of games to play to assist you with this).
Once the child is confident with each individual letter; start working on the simpler, most common blends. By working through them in a systematic order will give your child confidence as it will support them in reading and spelling a larger number of words rather than choosing blends at random. You will no doubt find that your child is already familiar/ confident with some of the blends and you can skip over them fairly rapidly. Others you will need to spend more time on. Before you start looking at these blends please do ensure your child is confident with spelling simple cvc (consonant, vowel, consonant words; cat, dog, hen, ten…) as rushing too quickly ahead now will have detrimental effects as you try to progress on. Trying to run before you can walk, nearly always ends in failure.
Where to start:
1. Once you are confident your child is familiar with every individual sound in the alphabet and can spell simple cvc words, move on to double letter blends where each letter in the pair has the same sound: -ll, -ss…
Show them how to blend the sound (let the letters run into each other) before introducing them to words. Although there are obviously more, these two blends alone will assist with spelling/reading words such as:
Bell, bill, fill, hill, ill, kill, mill, pill, till, will, well, tell, wall, tall, fall, doll.
Boss, loss, toss, kiss, miss
This has already introduced the child to many new words.

2. Next move on to groups of words where the sounds are made up of single consonants such as: cl, tr, br, dr,
cl tr br dr
Clock
Click
Clever Trot
Tram
Brag
Drink
Drop
3. The next closely related group is –ck. Two different letters that create the same sound: duck, truck, muck, pack, sack, lock, dock

4. The next group of words are those which start with two consonants that make different sounds: st, sp, tr, gr, pl, fr, sl, tw, gl, sn, sw, dr, fl, sk, cl. As you can imagine this opens up endless new opportunities for words. In the table below are just a few examples from the many available:
st sp tr gr pl fr sl tw
Step
Stop
stun Spell
Spin
spot Trip
Trap
tram Grip
Grab
Grit Plod
Plot
plug frog Slam
Slip
slop Twin
Twig
gl sn sw dr fl sk cl
Glad
glum Snip
snap Swig
Swim
swam Drop
Drip
drag Flag
Flip
Flop skip Clip
Clap
clam

5. This then leads us on to words that end in two syllables that make a different sound. Again these open up endless possibilities: -st, -ck, -lt, -sk, -ft, -nt, -mp,
-st -ck -lt -sk -ft -nt -mp
Best
Vest
Rest
Nest Duck
Clock
Frock
Felt
Belt
Desk
Tusk
Dusk
Gift
Lift
Ant
Pant
Bent
Sent Camp
Damp
Stamp
Mint
6. Moving on we come to: sh, th and ch. Start with words that start with these sounds first, then look at words which end with these blends
7. Having mastered the above 3 blends, look at wh.
8. The next set of words is the ing words and this introduces many words which by now will be fairly easy to read: ring, sing, bring, fling, king, bling…
They will also notice that many of the doing words (verbs) end in ing: singing, bringing, talking, snowing, jumping and walking. Again the list is endless.
Here you will also need to point out that many of these doing words (verbs) double the last consonant when the ing is added: running, swimming, stopping, skipping and slipping.
Most of the time the rule:
Double the last letter when adding “ing”
will work, and is a great guide to go by.

9. Next come the vowel blends: ee, ea, oo.
“ee” and “ea” are tricky as they have the same sound, so start with ee and then move on to ea rather than trying to tackle both at once.

10. “-ar”, “-or” and “-er” are the next set of words to focus on. This set of blends includes words such as:
ar or er
Bar
Car
Far
Tar
Jar
Par
Arm
Farm
Barn
Art
Part
Start
Card
Shard
Hard Or
Fork
York
Stork
Port
Cord
North
Horse

Her
Herd
Silver
Sister
Brother
Herb
11. The “magic –e”.
This really is a tricky concept to understand that the e at the end of the word, is affecting the sound of the vowel with in the word. Normally, the rule is when a three letter word has an e at the end of it, the vowel name is used instead of the vowel sound (a becomes ay).
An example of this would be: hop +e = hope.
Again please do wait before introducing this concept to your child as it is an important one to grasp and rushing in too soon will just cause frustration and undo all your good work up to this point.
12. Finally we are left with the silent letters, augh (laugh) and ough (cough), ph when it sounds like f and the soft letters such as g in gentle.

How do we teach these sounds?
As the child learns these blends, point out to them how a word can be broken down into individual blends making it more manageable. Always, support them if required. Remember to build their confidence: as the theory of self-fulfilling prophesy suggests: if you believe you are able to do something you are more likely to succeed. Equally if you do not have this confidence in having the ability to succeed, the likelihood of success if dramatically reduced.
Below I have outlined some of the more popular games I have used in my lessons. Obviously you may want to tweak them to suit your child’s own individual needs. But hopefully they will give you food for thought:

Bingo:
Create two playing boards. On each one put a word belonging with that particular blend in each square. You then have two options:
1) Create a set of cards with the same words on as the ones you used on the playing boards, or
2) Create a set of cards which have a picture pair for the words mentioned above. Eg the word sheep would be matched up to a picture of a sheep.
You then lay all the individual playing cards face down in front of you. You turn it in turns to turn one over. The person who has the corresponding playing card on their playing board covers that word on their board. You may need to help read the words for the child. You don’t need to be a great artist to create this game as it can be done through simply pasting images from Google if it is for your own usage.

Pairs:
Similar to above except, this time all the cards are cut up into individual playing cards. They are all laid face down in front of you. You need to turn over a corresponding pair (2 matching words or a matching word and picture). Don’t use too many words as the game becomes too complicated and too timely. This is a great game for helping with short term memory issues.

Fishing game:
Again this is a similar idea to above. This time each word and picture is stuck to individual paper fish. Each fish has a paperclip slipped through it. Make a rod (I use short garden canes, with a piece of string attached to one end. At the other end of the piece of string I attach a small magnet which can be brought quite cheaply). Lay the fish out on the floor (I normally have them facing up, but this is entirely up to you) then take it in turns to “fish” out a corresponding pair of fish; matching word and picture or two matching words.
Riddles:
Write a selection of short riddles based around the blend you are learning. Ask the child to complete the riddle using the correct missing word. If you are doing this, it is always advisable to have the words written on the page so the child can copy them to assist with their spellings.
Word searches?
I’ve put a question mark next to this as some researchers argue that given a dyslexic child a jumble of letters and asking them to find specific words is not to be recommended. However, I have found that most children enjoy doing word searches, and if you do it yourself and set it at a level your child will not find too difficult they can then participate in activities similar to every other child. Work with their abilities.
Make a phonics book:
Buy or make a cheap notebook. On each page put a letter blend at the top of the page as a heading. Each time a child learns a new word or blend, ask them to write the word down on the appropriate page. Maybe they could draw a picture next to it, or cut out a relevant picture from an old magazine. This can also be adapted to making posters.
I have chosen these six activities as children I have worked with have enjoyed them. And, like I have said previously, I am a firm believer that if a child is enjoying themselves, they are more likely to be relaxed and to be in a suitable frame of mind to learn.
I have put together handmade phonics packs which include each of these activities (apart from the phonics books) and are available to buy through my website if preferable to making them yourself.

Can anyone recommend an 11+ tutor? TIA

looking for an 11 plus tutor tia

Choosing a tutor for your child is a big thing.

There are so many considerations and so many variables.

Imagine you are going on a picnic and you ask a group of friends’ what type of bread they recommend for making the sandwiches.
One friend might respond that white bread is best. That’s the only bread their children will eat.
Another will suggest brown bread, it’s the healthier option.
“Best of Both” might be suggested as a good compromise.
Someone else may say you shouldn’t have bread, it’s too high in carbs!
This is a simple question which is really very trivial, but each friend has given a completely contrasting answer.

Imagine the implications when the question is as important as “Can anyone recommend a tutor?”
That’s why I’ve put together this list of points I think it is worth considering for yourself before making a commitment.

Once you think you have found a suitable tutor, look at their website, speak to them, ask if you are committed to a set number of lessons before you commit.

 

A key question is what do you want the outcome of the 11+ to be?

This sounds ridiculous but it’s something that a lot of parents speak to me about.
Some parents are completely focused on their child getting into a specific grammar school. In their mind there is no other reasonable option.
Other parents have spoken to me about the evils of the grammar school system and the prospect of sending their child to such an “institution” would be like committing child abuse!
Then, there are the parents who want to leave as many options open for their child as is possible. They appreciate that not every child is destined to go to grammar school but they want to give their child every opportunity. As long as their child is happy though, they are happy. (Though I often thing these parents do have a slight preference).

When my oldest daughter went into year 6, we had just moved back down here from Yorkshire, where they didn’t have the Grammar school system. We decided it wasn’t fair to throw her into a formal test within weeks of starting a new school. We were confident that Lord Williams would be a good school and she would be happy there. We were not aware that entering the 11+ was the norm, rather than just be the top few.
A year later, my son came of age to do the 11+. My (ex-) husband and I couldn’t agree on the route to take. His belief was Lord Williams’ had been good enough for him, it would be good enough for his son to. My opinion was doors should be kept open. We agreed that he would sit the 11+ with no tuition and preparation. If he passed on his own merits, we would consider the grammar school. A week before the exam we looked around the Grammar school and loved it. He sat the exam and missed the pass mark by 3 points. We had agreed we wouldn’t appeal and he went to Lord Williams’.
2 years later… My youngest daughter came of age to sit the 11+. We had the same debates with the same outcomes. Literally! With no tuition or preparation, she failed by 3 marks – and went to Lord Williams.

 

Why am I telling you this? Over the years I have kicked myself and asked whether we should have appealed. Should we have entered Clara? She has an amazing eye for detail and would no doubt have breezed the non-verbal reasoning but fallen flat on her face with the spellings. Should we have got them a tutor, spent more time preparing them ourselves? I don’t know.
What I do know is that our former neighbour of ours when we lived in Yorkshire was the head of department in a well-regarded secondary school. His attitude was a dedicated child will do well wherever they go. A child who is not motivated will always struggle.
Now with the benefit of hindsight and many conversations I’m happy with the choices we made. All 3 have done really well (Clara works as a Business Manager at the head quarters of a national company, after his GCSE’s (at Lord Williams’) Jamie excelled at his A’ Levels (At the Floyd Grammar School) took a gap year to Australia before coming back to do Economics at Manchester. (Which in all fairness he really didn’t enjoy. He is now doing Geography and Development at UEA is amazingly happy and has been to many places around the world doing voluntary work).

Angel, matched Jamie’s A’ Level results (but stayed at Lord Williams’ to do them) before taking a paid internship in Parliament and now works as a lobbyist for “Shelter”. She debates on a daily basis, whether or not to go to Uni. As a parent am I proud? Very.

Could they have done better? Not in my eyes because each one of them has been able to do what has made them happy. Would going to a grammar school have made a difference? No, I don’t think so.

Once you know where you stand with the outcome it becomes easier to choose an appropriate tutor.
But you also need to bare in mind, whether your child has the same commitment that you have.

Taking the 11+ is a big commitment.

It will take more than just an hour a week with a tutor. You will both need to dedicate time, energy and money.
I know a lad who was tutored EVERYDAY by his mum for 2 hours (no exception). He passed but he was already labelled as gifted and talented in several subjects, yet that was the dedication needed.
I know another family who I started tutoring when she was in year 2. I thought it was just English, but it quickly became obvious it was for the 11+. She had already had to quit her clubs that she attended and had a huge pile or work books to work through. She attended Kumon and a second tutoring establishment. She and her parents, were dedicated. She failed (though got in on appeal). I genuinely believe she burned out before the actual exam.
Another lad, whose brother I tutored maths, started working with me for an hour a week from Easter of year 5. The parents were very much of the view he was a clever lad and they just wanted to leave options open for him.
They brought him some books and I spent an hour a week with him (often in the garden) between holidays. After the exams were over, the parents offered me the books as they had hardly been opened. He passed with flying colours!

Everyone is different.

How we learn also differs for everyone. This will also affect the tutor we choose.
The tutor we choose will, I suggest be influenced by the following 3 personal factors.

 I believe you need to consider the following points, when deciding which tutor is the best fit for you and your child:

1

Where do you want the lessons to take place?

Online? These will be cheaper but the resources available will be a lot more restricted.
In a tutoring centre or at the tutor’s house? Or in an ideal world would the tutor travel to you?
(I’ve written a much longer handout on this, drop me an email and I will happily forward it on to you: dawnstrachan725@btinternet.com).

2

What is your budget?

If you are hoping to pay little more than £10/hour, you are probably looking at online lessons with a student.

The next step would probably be group lessons in a central location where you have the benefit of the tutor present to support the child as they work through the resources.

The other option, which is probably the most expensive option is to have a tutor come to your house and offer a one to one lesson that are completely focused upon the needs of your child. (We charge from £30/hour for this).

3

How does your child learn?

When I was at school, I loved covering the table with books, making notes and writing! If I proposed this to any of my children, they would think I was insane!
We all learn differently. Some people like to work through text books, some like to play games and do quizzes. For some people a black biro is suitable for everything, for others a range of coloured pens and coloured paper is what’s needed to complete the task.
You need to ensure the tutor you choose, uses a teaching style that supports your child’s learning. I believe that a range of resources work best (again I have written about my opinion on this, many times in the past so I will not go into it in great depth now, but if you do have questions, please do ask).
I’m guessing this has thrown up a million more questions and you are now even more confused. But I hope it has given you food for thought. If you do have any questions, please do get in touch and I will do my best to answer them.

Good luck in making your choice!

7 brilliant techniques to support handwriting

What does a pig have in common with handwriting practice?

 

I’ve had a few conversations with people recently who have said how their child is struggling with handwriting.
I must admit when my 3 were young I did buy a lot of the pre-school/ early years books that support your child with creating various letter shapes. But they often just sat on the shelf after a few days and were money down the drain.
I bought them because I thought that was the best way to help your child learn to write. I had no other suggestions to hand.
With the benefit of experience as a parent, in educational settings, reading, learning and experimenting(!) I now have many other / better suggestions to offer.
Here are a few of my favourites. I hope there is something amongst them that inspires you too.

1

1. Colouring in

There is a huge craze at the moment for adults to take up colouring. It’s relaxing and helps you to unwind.
In addition, it’s also a great way for children to practice the fine motor skills needed to create legible handwriting. (I appreciate for a child with dyslexia or other similar SLD, there is more to it than just improving those fine motor skills).
But colouring is fun. It’s not patronising if presented properly and will no doubt be happily embraced.

2

2. Cutting, sewing, threading and popping bubble wrap!

Again, these are great ways to practice/ strengthen the fine motor skills needed to improve your writing skills.
A task I do with a lad I go to (he is dyslexic and autistic so talking and communication are 2 things we often focus on) is:
a) Colour in a range of pictures that all start with the same sound. All the while chatting about what we are colouring and the colours we are using.
b) Colour in a range of pictures that start with the same sound. The labels for the pictures have all been muddled up. Once we have finished colouring the pictures, we cut the words and the pictures out and glue them back down so that the words and pictures relate.
c) Finally, we colour the picture (all starting with the same sound) then write the word (free-hand) next to it.
All of these activities are purely focused on idle chatter, colouring and building confidence. Once we have these in place, we can then move onto putting the words into sentences, etc.

3

3. Gloop

I love gloop. Many people don’t love gloop because it’s messy!
Gloop is baking powder and water. It turns to a cold, smooth slime on the bottom of the container you are using. You can then trace the letters/ words into the gloop. The sensory experience is great. Even better, if you make a mistake, the evidence has vanished within seconds and it smooths itself away and becomes smooth again.

I often mention how learning is more productive if we use a range of sensory experiences and activities to help us learn. Each different activity helps us to create a new memory in our mind. This makes it easier for our brain to find this information when needed. (I won’t dwell on this too much as I have mentioned it many times in the past, but if you do want more information on it, please do ask in the comments below).

Therefore, Gloop is amazing because it is tactile and it is, so completely different to using a pen and writing in a text book.

4

4. Clay, plasticine and pipe cleaners

These are also fantastic methods of manipulating something so that you are left with a visual and sensory image of the letter/ word that you are trying to create.
It might take some practice to get the letters to look as you wish them to look. Always remember, that learning is more productive if it’s fun. Do these tasks together, enjoy the experience and watch the child’s confidence grow.

5

5. Using a variety of resources

Handwriting practice doesn’t need to be done with a pen and paper sat at a desk.
A couple of years back I worked with a couple of lads (both individually and completely unconnected) to improve their handwriting. The weather was nice so we made the most of the situation. Using large paint brushes and water we set about writing words and letters outside on the wall of the house and the patio. The letters could be as big as they liked as they would have evaporated within moments and would leave no last effects.
We also used large scraps of wall paper and chalks and other forms of resources needed to create marks.
Removing ourselves from the confines of the house and into the garden made it so much more enjoyable and memorable. We could “go large” initially to practice the shapes,/ sequence of letters, then as we perfected the skill, we could start to downsize and make the marks more and more precise.

6

6. Drawing letter pictures

A final idea that came to me as I’ve been writing this is a suggestion my mum gave to me many years back.
Pictures can easily be made from letters:

pig

This pig has been drawn from a large “O” for the body, a “w” for each leg, an “m” for the ears and an “e” for his tail.
A swan can also be drawn by using 2 “2’s”.
Waves of the ocean can be created by using cursive “w’s” or flying birds can be drawn by adding a beak to an M.
By using the letters to create pictures, it’s far more entertaining than repeatedly writing a letter symbol for the sake of it.

 

Each week I send out an email, offering suggestions to parents on how they can use simple techniques to support their children at home.
If you would like to receive the email, just fill in the box below and let me know and I will happily send it to you as well.

 
Final suggestion that has just occurred to me.
Noughts and Crosses (Tic Tac Toe)!

letters for noughts and crosses
Instead of taking it in turns to draw a nought or a cross in the grid, pick a letter and use that to represent your square instead.
Enjoy the games and let me know how you get on in the comments below.

Enjoy

How can word searches help with comprehension skills?

Comprehension is the ability to read a piece of text and then answer relevant questions on it.
Word searches are a block of random letters with words hidden within.
How can a word search complement something that is so totally different?

When carrying out a comprehension task you generally read the piece of text through before completing any questions so that you don’t respond to something out of context.
Having read the text through the first time, it is often necessary to scan the text again to relocate the information to a specific question.

It is this scanning which is complemented by carrying our word searches.
Word searches train the eye to look for specific key words and ignore those that are not relevant.

Word searches can be used for other benefits as well such as assisting with spellings, finding a term that relates to a definition instead of a prescribed word or simply as an enjoyable past time.

I hope this very short note, proves inspiring.

Learning is Not Just Measurable. It’s Emotional

Starr Tutoring Guest Blog.
Lois Letchford
www.loisletchford.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nF-H07Ct7R0
I’ve written a book Reversed: A Memoir mostly my son Nicholas Letchford and his learning journey.

Today his title is Dr. Nicholas Letchford, D.Phil. (Oxf) BSc (Hons) BEng (Hons) (UTas).

 

Indie Author News - Lois Letchford - Reversed A Memoir - NR

But, he was once the “worst child seen in 20 years of teaching.” The school diagnostician branded him with this label…at seven years old.

Nicholas, now thirty, is a confident, delightful, knowledgeable man, and married to an equally wonderful woman, Lakshmi. He talks with passion about mathematics, engineering, and the challenges of the modern world.
It is only when I ask him about his early schooling education that he shut down.
In 1994, Nicholas learning, as a first grader hit rock bottom. He withdrew in class, a place where his teacher shouted at him. He stared into space, which earned him even more shouting, and by the end of the year, he could only read ten words. In hindsight, his teacher destroyed him.
Finally, there was a turning point. In 1995, my husband had study leave in Oxford. Our family joined in, leaving our home in Australia. I decided to teach Nicholas at home. Of course, my initial efforts at teaching regular phonics instruction ended in failure—abject failure. I was no different than his classroom teacher.
It was at this point—the turning point—when my mother-in-law said to me,

“Lois, make learning fun.”

Her words caused me to re-evaluate what I was doing. I began writing poems; simple rhyming poetry which Nicholas and his grandmother then illustrated. My teaching transformed as we investigated simple poems, then expanding to follow more complex ideas, like the changing map of the world. He was beginning to make different connections while appreciating maps and world history. This became our inquiry project. By tapping into Nicholas’s curiosity, immersing him in language and learning, as well as providing meaningful experiences through seeing various museums, artifacts, and libraries, his love of learning grew.
I found a series of books which helped me teach him to decode words: Hear it, See it, Say it, Do it! by Mary Atkinson. The books were brilliant, and Nicholas and I were finally able to connect through the multi-sensory word games.
Nicholas and I enjoyed this learning—both in the short and, amazingly, the long term.
Yet, long-term—like today—still brings up painful memories. I recently asked Nicholas about his early learning experiences and he dissolved into tears.

Twenty three years after his poor schooling, he still could not talk about the pain or the scars left from those years.

When I asked about his reading teacher, he responded with a quick, “I don’t remember her!”
“Nicholas,” I said, “You visited her four days a week, for 30 mins a day…for four years!”
“Ahh,” he said, searching for this memory. “Yes…she was a witch.”
Recalling his early learning from living in Oxford in 1995, Nicholas talked about a growing passion for knowledge, a lifetime love of mapping, and relishing poetry. He remembered some of the poems, the fun he had illustrating, and thinking beyond the poetry. He even remembered that he wrote ingredients for a witches spell!
With this type of education, he became emotionally involved, and this time in our lives determined the trajectory for his future.

So, when we have these young lives in our hands, we know what has to be completed in terms of learning. But how are we doing to do it? What memories are we creating today for our students to recall tomorrow?

5 activities to make comprehension more enjoyable

 

5 activities to make comprehension more enjoyable pinterest

Following on from the blog I wrote the other day about the board game you can when doing comprehension with your child, here are 5 activities you can carry out to establish your child’s understanding.

Illustrate the information

Very often a child will be asked to describe the character or the scene they have just read about. Instead of doing this as a written piece of work, why not ask the child to draw what they have learn. Why not draw a picture of the setting and label it with quotes/ words from the extract? A character can also be drawn and annotated rather than just written and talked about.
In “Skellig” (Marc Almond) there is a description of a derelict garage. A description like this is perfect for drawing/ annotating.
The other advantage of interpreting what you have learned like this is that you are creating a visual image. Visual images are not only great for finding the information at a glance at a later date, they also provide an alternative learning technique. The more learning techniques we use the more likely we are to (a) be able to retrieve the information from our memories when needed. (b) Find a learning style that is appropriate your child.

Unscramble the letters

In “The Twits” (Roald Dahl) it explains the different food that Mr Twit has stuck in his beard. Instead of asking the child to recall what Mr Twit had in his beard, why not list the items but scramble the letters.
Scrambled eggs becomes: Smadbrcel gegs

 

Rewrite the scene

Why not ask the child to rewrite the scene from someone else’s perspective? An example could be to write an extract as a diary entry. Ask them to write about their feelings alongside what happened.

 

Word search

Make a word search
Many chapters within a book will focus on a theme: someone’s feelings, an event, an atmosphere, etc. Pick something of relevance from the chapter and ask the other person to create a word search using relevant words from the chapter (or synonyms for those used in the chapter). You can also create a word search for the child to solve. Then once both are prepared, swap and solve the other person’s. You can also use verbs, adjectives, etc. found in the chapter as your theme.

A to Z

A to Z icon
In David Walliams’ book “Billionaire Boy” he describes all the amazing things Jo has in his mansion.
Why not create an A to Z of all the things you can think of that you would have in your billionaires’ mansion?
Examples might be:
A: Aeroplane landing strip
B: Butler
C: Chef
And so on…

To make it slightly harder you can state you need to state an adjective (describing word) before each noun (object) that also starts with that letter.
Examples now might be:
A: Alien’s Aeroplane landing strip
B: Bald butler
C: Caring chef
And so on….

Click here to download the PDF that I use for this game

I hope you like the ideas. No doubt you will think of many more of your own and I would love to hear them. I you have found the ideas here useful or you think someone else would find them useful, please do like and share below.

 

Enjoy

 

Many thanks for reading and if you have any questions or comments, please do ask.