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.

As a parent what can you do to help your child through the 11+?

As this year 6 parents breathe a sigh of relief as the 11+ comes to an end, the year 5 parents take in a sharp intake of breath as they realise what is dawning!

As a parent what can you do to help your child through the 11+?

These are some of the activities that we do at Starr Tutoring. I hope they offer you some inspiration.

Obviously encouraging your child to read is going to support them in all areas of their lives. It will boost their abilities in spellings, grammar and punctuation.

 


Confidence with the times tables will also help your child through life and help with the fundamentals of maths. I won’t go into the games we play here as I have talked about them previously in many other blogs, the most recently being:

learning-the-9-times-table

 

There is a long list of words (100+) that I have downloaded from the net

11-plus-important-word-list

What I have done is split this list into smaller lists. I have then split these into groups of about 12 words. Each sub set I have then made into pairs games. I have used definitions from the Oxford English dictionary to achieve this. The aim of the game is to create a fun way of expanding the child’s vocabulary. Many of these words are quite obscure and not used often in modern day English.

Children are normally more receptive to doing something more than once when it is fun. This repetition will help reinforce the child’s knowledge of these words.

 

Spot the difference is a great way to help your child easily spot the difference in patterns and sequences.Sudoku is another brilliant way to help your child spot number patters,
The brilliant thing about these is that they can be purchased for very little money or downloaded for free.
Taking a leap back in time Rubix cubes are also great at helping children solve problems and master the skills needed in non-verbal reasoning.

 

Rummikub

Rummikub was introduced to me a couple of years ago and along with being a truly addictive game, it is also a great way to practice simple number sequences.
There is a word version which is equally fun and a really a good way of looking at spellings and vocabulary. Bananagrams and scrabble are also great games for playing to assist in these areas.

To support spellings, I often take the list of words we are practising. We then choose one of the words from the list, take the letters needed to spell the words and mix them up. You then pass them to the other person who has to rearrange the letters and work out what the words is.

 

5 Minute Challenge.

 

I have also created a selection of 5 Minute Challenges (challenges NOT tests). It is simply a sheet of A4 split into 4 columns and approx.12 rows. In the first column on the left-hand side I will write a category:

Synonyms for xxx
Antonyms for xxx
Places beginning with xxx
Words ending with xxx
Things you would find in xxx

You then have 5 minutes to think of 3 words for each category. The aim here is to get the child used to working in timed conditions. If you both do it together you can compare answers at the end making it more enjoyable.

 

I hope these ideas get you started and offer some inspiration.

There is also a huge range of books that can be purchased and worksheets that can be downloaded on line.

Good luck and if you have any questions, please do comment below and I will do my best to answer. If you think these ideas would help someone else, please do share the link.

Best wishes

Supporting your child with maths for the 11+

As the summer holidays begin the 11+ will be forefront of many people’s minds.

How can they support their child and help them to pass the 11+?

You will know that the 11+ is broken in verbal and non-verbal reasoning, English and maths.

Supporting your child with maths for the 11+ blog banner

 

The benefit of additional support in maths is that regardless of which school the child goes to in year 7, this additional support will stand your child in good stead.

There are many worksheets that can be downloaded for free or text books that you can buy to support your child. These are great as they will prepare your child for the type of question and content they will encounter in the exam.

However, you may decide (and I would encourage you to consider) alternative revision techniques than just worksheets and text books. If you want to read more on the benefits of using varied learning styles you can download a section of the e-book I have written in supporting children with their times tables.

Download the chapter of the e-book here

* indicates required

Email Address *

Teachit maths is a fantastic website for presenting mathematical resources in alternative formats it traditional worksheets.

They use codes to break (also very valuable in the 11+), dominoes, etc. Many of the resources can be accessed on the free plan. All that is necessary is submitting your name and email address to register. (I’m not an affiliate, it’s just a website I’ve found that has some amazing resources and is well worth checking out).

Here are 3 of my favourite alternative games for supporting your child’s maths and helping them to pass the 11+

noughts and crosses

Noughts and crosses can be adapted in so many ways.

This game is so quick and easy to create.

Draw 2 lines vertically. Then draw another 2 lines crossing them horizontally.

In each square (where I have drawn a number in the illustration) write an example question. Before you can claim your square and head towards your row/ column of 3 you need to answer the question.

This is a very brief description but I hope it makes sense.

I will go into more ways of how to adapt it in future blogs.

Rummikub

I love this game. It is fantastic for encouraging your child to look for patterns and sequences.

Even beyond the 11+ I am confident you will receive hours of fun from it.

For the benefit of the 11+ I normally allow pairs and odd numbers to form a sequence as well as just as straight run of numbers.

Pairs

This is another fairly simple game to produce. Create a grid on a piece of paper which is approximately 6 squares by 4. (Leaving you with 24 squares).

On 12 of these squares write a maths problem/ question.

On the other 12 squares write the corresponding answers.

Now place all 12 squares face down on the table between you.

Take it in turns to turn over 2 squares. If you pick up a question and corresponding answer you win the pair and get another go.

If they don’t match place them back down and the other person gets a go.

The person with the most pairs at the end is the winner.

Regardless of how you choose to support your child with their maths for the 11+ I highly recommend that you ensure your child is confident with their times tables.

A thorough knowledge of the times tables is like providing a strong foundation when building a house.

It’s obligatory to progress on to higher more difficult levels.

I have recently put together the 11+ million times tables challenge.

I explain it in more detail in the following page if you are interested:

Twitter heading

The 1 Million Times Tables Challenge

Any trouble downloading the extract or if you are looking for a tutor this summer to help your child stand a better chance with the 11+, please do get in touch.

Speak soon

5 simple ways to boost a child’s confidence and improve learning

 

How can we help the reluctant learner become a confident learner and boost their abilities and enthusiasm at the same time?

When you’re good at something you attack it with enthusiasm and confidence.

The reverse is true when you doubt your own ability. You put it off as much as possible and when you do finally have to get on with it, it is done with trepidation and reluctance.

This has consequences on a person’s ability to learn. The learner, who is confident and willing to give things ago, is far more likely to make progress than the reluctant learner who implores that their turn will never arise:

Let’s start with the Chinese proverb

“I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand”.

Loosely translated this means, tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, but it’s not until I have ago that I will actually understand. This I think is the underlying philosophy for all the points to come.

 

Make learning fun.

Each week the child brings home a list of, shall we say 10 spellings? They dutifully sit at the table and strive to learn them using the read, cover, write, check method promoted by schools. They run through them the first time and much to their dismay, only a couple are right. They try again and maybe one or two more are right, but others might be wrong and the “Why am I doing this, I never get them all right anyway?” mentality sets in.

Let’s try a different approach.

Is there a method you could use to make the experience into a fun one? I will use a child’s weekly spellings here as an example, but this can be applied to almost anything.

The parent suggests to the child they have a game of hangman. I tell you what, how about we use your spellings as some inspiration?

Already, the mind-set is different. This sounds like fun and someone is going to be participating in the activity with me. I’m good at hangman and I might win!

Playing hangman helps the child look at the individual letters in the word and the order they go in. It is also creating a different form of memory, so when the child needs to recall the information on how to write a specific word, they are more likely to be able to do so. There is no time consuming preparation in this game, but it is one that can be enjoyed together. Now hopefully, when the child sits down to do the “read, cover, write, check” they are already familiar with the words and how they are spelt and suddenly it isn’t such an arduous task.

Hangman isn’t the only game that can be played, there are many, if you want some ideas of others, please get in touch and we will be more than happy to help.

Let them win.

Sometimes don’t be in such a hurry to be the best. Yes, you must feel on top of the world, but when someone is struggling and it is your place to try and support them, let them do as well or better than you once in a while.

To beat someone who is their teacher, their parent, or a role model, will boost confidence no end and in the process encourage that person to want to try again. Maybe I will win again, maybe I won’t but it doesn’t matter quite so much because I won last time.

This follows on from above in many respects. If you are the one at school who always gets the lowest results, comes last in every contest or struggles with most things think how low your moral must be.

Use praise and rewards

Praise people when they do well, even if it’s not a huge achievement in the eyes of others, for them this could be a huge milestone they’ve finally achieved.

Don’t be patronising though, that’s counterproductive…

When working with children use stickers, certificates and let them know you have commented on it to their parents, other teachers, etc. whatever it takes to help the child recognise how they have succeeded in making progress

We all love to hear when we’ve done well. Some people hear it all the time; others feel that they never hear it and what they do well it goes unrecognised.

 

Start on the ‘easy’ side of things and progress slowly

Maybe this is one of the most important considerations.

Start at a level that the child is already comfortable with. Ok, you may feel you are wasting time and time is important, but remember the aim here is to boost the child’s confidence and enthusiasm to learn.

Starting with something that is beyond them is simply going to make them feel more of a failure and if the foundations aren’t securely in place, what is to come in the future will only crumble.

If you start with something that you know the child is already fairly confident with you can reinforce their ability from the outset. Show them what they are capable of and build on this knowledge.

Then once each step is confidently secured, take a step forward. Move too quickly and the child will once again start to flounder as things become too daunting, but having said that, as confidence builds so will a child’s enthusiasm and their desire to progress will increase with it and before long this child will be as confident as the others in their group.

Remember, once the child’s confidence has increased, their willingness to have ago will dramatically improve as well.

These are just five of the techniques we use at Starr Tutoring Ltd to support confidence and willingness to have a go and learn for both the young and old.

 

I hope this has given you food for thought, but if you want more ideas or guidance as a parent or childcare professional, please do subscribe to our blog or get in touch and ask to receive the emails we send out each week offering techniques to support your child at home with their maths and English.

We would love to help. If you have any feedback, opinions or comments, please do comment below, we are always looking for new ideas and to hear about how you put these ideas into practice and the difference it made to your child.