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.

Breaking the barriers to homework

Breaking away from traditional worksheets: Helping your child with their homework

 

Breaking the barriers to homework

This post comes as a follow on to a conversation I was having with someone recently about how hard it can be to encourage your child to do their homework.

I mentioned that school normally send homework home as an uninspiring worksheet. The child has had a long (often, in their mind uninspiring) day at school and now need to come home and start again with the next uninspiring task.

My thoughts were, why not adapt the worksheet for your child and make it a bit more appealing. It could be something as simple as copying it onto coloured paper, or you may decide to be a bit more adventurous and make it into a game.

education-919895_1920

Example:

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A worksheet with a series of questions written on could be cut up and placed around the table.
You then play tiddly winks, with the aim of landing your counter on the question. When you do, you both work out the answer. The person who answers the most correctly is the winner.
(At the end you would probably need to stick them back to a piece of paper so that it is returned to school as a “worksheet”).

 

Another game I often play is:

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I create a “pack of cards”. Some of the cards are blank others have an illustration on that is of interest to your child.

You take it in turns to turn over a card. If you turn over a blank, you are safe. If you turn over a picture card, you have to answer a question. Again, the person who answers the most questions wins.

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I’ve mentioned the reading game many times before (if you want reminding just pop a comment below). That can easily be adapted so that instead of reading a page, you answer a question if someone lands on your colour.

Some teachers may frown. Some parents may scoff at this idea. But I believe personally that if your child is resisting doing homework, making it more creative may break down the barriers in getting it done. The time spent arguing on it, could be spent having time together and creating a task that you can both “enjoy”.

Some parents worry about helping their child in case they offer conflicting ideas to what the school is suggesting and confuse their child.

Again, I have mentioned many times previously that the only reason I ever got my head around algebra was because my dad explained it to me in a way that was completely different to what the maths teacher at school was.

She just kept repeating the same things. I didn’t get it the first time, the second time or anytime thereafter. However, dad explaining it to me from a different angle made perfect sense.
I don’t think there is ever any harm in trying. Otherwise, use Youtube to help explain it to your child. There’re some amazing videos on there.

You may think your child is too old to play games. Some children may agree, but I play games, create mind maps, do quizzes with children up to the age of 16 and nearly all of them respond well to a more creative way of looking at something.

Each week I send out an email offering hints and tips on supporting your child with maths and English. If you would like to receive it, please do let me know.

Next year 2019, I am also going to endeavour doing a 365- day maths and English challenge. (That’s not entirely honest as I probably won’t do weekends as I tutor all day on a Saturday and Sunday).

But each day I will create an activity that can be used to support your child with either maths or English.

Example: in the autumn you could create a tree with the leaves made from hand prints. Each print can be used as a symbol to help learn the 5 times table.
Fish made from tissue paper that look like a stained glass window can be used for creative writing.
Can you find something around the house which starts with each of the following letters: J.A.N.U.A.R.Y (effective game for many dyslexics who struggle to hear the sound at the beginning and ends of a word).

Again, if you’re interested, please do get in touch and let me know.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

5 things to consider when choosing a tutor

 

We are all individuals and our reasons for needing a tutor will vary widely.
Regardless of your reasoning for seeking out a tutor, here are 10 points you might want to consider:

1. Where will the lessons take place?

Are you willing to travel to a central location for the lessons or the tutor’s home? There are obvious advantages to this including the tutor will have all their resources on hand to easily adapt the lesson if necessary. However, if you hold a busy schedule and have other children that you would need to take with you to drop your child off, is it easier to try and find a tutor who is able to come to your house.

 

2. What would you expect to pay for a tutor?

The price charged by tutor’s varies widely. Some tutors will charge as little as £10/ hour. These are often online lessons carried out by students. If you travel to a tutoring centre/ a tutor’s home where the tutor is physically present you will expect to pay more. However, the range of resources available will be greater and the because the tutor is present it is often easier to hold the student’s attention. These are often group lessons. Another alternative, is to pay a premium and have the tutor travel to your home so you are relieved of the need to travel and possibly hang around somewhere whilst the lesson takes place. It also means that because the lesson is taking place in your home you are better placed to see what is happening in the lessons.

 

3. Do you want your child to have one to one tutoring?

Very often when children are struggling, they feel unable to ask questions in front of their peers. It’s hard to put your hand up and admit that you don’t understand what is been explained. One to one tutoring offers the child an hour of the tutor’s undivided attention. They can focus purely on what the child needs to find confidence in. They can pay attention to the areas where your child needs to grow. Everything has a consequence and here you would expect to pay slightly more for the lessons.
The advantage of group lessons is that your child will also have support of peer learning.

 

4. How does your child learn best?

When I was young, I used to love reading books, making notes and writing essays. I know for many people this would be their worst nightmare!
When we tutor, we always use a range of activities: games, worksheets, code breaking, discussion, mind maps.
You need to find a tutor that has a similar teaching style to your child’s learning style. We need to acknowledge that we are all individuals and as such we all teach and learn differently. Find a tutor that will embrace your child’s individual needs and requirements.

5. What experience and qualifications do you want your tutor to have?

To some people this won’t be of importance, they will be more concerned with the rapport of the tutor and their ability to pass their knowledge onto their child. I have met very intelligent tutors who have no ability to teach. I’m not a qualified teacher but I have a degree in childcare and education.

I have nearly 20 years of experience working in a huge variety of educational settings, but I’m not a qualified teacher. I have had tutors working for me, freshly out of A’ Levels that have had amazing feedback and I regularly get asked if they are likely to come back. I have tutors whose experience is working one to one with special needs children in a private schools, those whose background is accountancy, business growth, teachers. They are all amazing but without being qualified teachers some people will have their doubts to their abilities.
When I started tutoring, I had my own doubts but it was explained to me that teachers are taught to teach one way. If the child does not grasp this method at school will they grasp it at home?
Another lesson I have learned that reinforces this was when I was at school. My dad was an accountant. He lectured occasionally at the local college to help pay for our family holidays but he wasn’t a teacher. We had been learning solving equations at school and I couldn’t get it. The teacher had gone over it so many times and she was clearly getting fed up with me.
At home that night Dad spent an hour or two going over it with me in his words, using his own techniques, and I got it. It was crystal clear. I still use his explanation when I explain it to people today.

Like I say, we are all different and have our own learning /teaching style. What suits one person will not always suit another.
I hoped this has given you food for thought if you are considering getting a tutor.
If we can be of any further help, please do get in touch here

Your best effort is all that can be expected

 

Through out the year children are given tests: spelling tests, maths tests, school entrance exams, SATs, GCSEs, mocks, A’ Levels, end of term tests, end of subject tests and the list goes on…
Each of these tests will carry a different amount of weight depending on the situation and the pressure the child feels they’re under from themselves, the school, their family.
But speaking to so many parents there seems to be a universal agreement. If the child has tried their best that is all that can be asked.
It doesn’t matter what the final results are if that child can hold their head high and know that there was nothing more they could do.
But the parent’s role and that of the tutor/ teacher is to ensure that the child knows this.
The child has to know that regardless of the outcome if they have tried their hardest, they can be as proud of themselves as everyone else will be.
I think I take it to extremes, I tell my three all the time that I love them and I’m proud of them. They are three completely unique individuals, but I am so proud of them all. I know their dad is too as he tells the world about what they have achieved.
As a parent, I, like everyone else will have many mistakes but not letting my kids know that the effort they make is what’s important is one I don’t think I’m guilty of.
On the sports field, in school tests, in life, it is the effort that you put in that will help you to come out on top. Your pride at knowing you did the best you could will stay with you a lot longer than the results.
For some people a high achievement will be full marks, for others it will be considerably less. That doesn’t matter we are all individuals. We all have our own levels of success. But regardless of what they are, let your child that it’s the effort that you are proud of.

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?