When You Dread The Speaking and Listening Exam For GCSE English


Last week one of my students asked me to be an “audience” to help practice her speaking and listening exam.  All I had to do was to listen to her speech, but I couldn’t just sit there could I?  I had to intervene and give her some practical tips.

The Speaking and Listening Exam

So while it’s all fresh in my mind, I want to share some of the things that worked for her.  At the end of the article I have a link to my free speaking and listening cheat sheet to help you assess how good your presentation is.  I have adapted it so that it is user friendly and anybody can use it.  You don’t have to be a GCSE English student to use it either.

Know what you are going to say and in what order.  Have a clear logical order for your speech so that it all fits together and flows smoothly.  This means that you need to think carefully about linking your points – a bit like newsreaders do as they swap from newsreading – weather forecast – newsreading.  They have to think of ways of making the transition effortless.

Dont’ try to memorise your whole speech.  If you do this, you will sound like a robot and your speech won’t sound natural.  If you forget some of your speech you will be fiddling around with your notes to find the bits you forgot and this won’t look good to the examiner.  You will lose eye contact and end up panicking.  Why don’t you have have memory prompts to jog your memory or questions to get you talking.  Keep the prompts and questions simple.

Practice the speech in front of a person rather than in front of a mirror.  A mirror can’t talk back to you, and it won’t tell you if your speech is boring.  Look for signs of boredom from your audience (yawning and day-dreaming) and find ways of engaging the audience.  The mirror will make you aware of your body language and facial expressions but these could change if you are in front of an examiner.

Listen to a recording of your speech.  This will tell you how fast you talk, whether your speech is clear, whether you hesitate too much, whether you sound like a robot, whether you say “um” and “err” or “so” too much, whether your voice is shaky, whether you sound confident and if you know your speech well enough.  Record your speech, and use this cheat sheet to grade your speech.

Download the speaking and Listening cheat sheet.

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The Ultimate List Of Books For Children of All Ages – Teacher Recommended Books For Children By Age


My teenage son reads every day but given the choice, he would rather read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” over and over again.  It seems as if reading is work for him so he chooses easy books to read instead. Nothing wrong with that but this article got me thinking and worrying.  It highlights that teenagers are selecting “easier reads” when choosing books rather than more challenging classics.  As a consequence they are seriously struggling with English.

I’ve noticed a lack of quality reading in my students too.  Read more, read every day, read challenging books, read, read, read…This is a mantra I teach my students to help them become competent readers and writers.  You can tell if a child is a keen reader from their writing.  Reading helps with imagination and flare and children are more aware of literary devices.  Children who don’t read enough often have writing which is “wooden” and doesn’t flow.  There is a lack of vivid vocabulary, poor sentence structure and it fails to keep the reader interested.

So to encourage my students to read, I have introduced an extended reading programme at my centre for all pupils on our english programmes.  This is a list of recommended authors and their books which are literary classics.  All the authors on the list have won prizes for their books and are likely to be used by schools on their reading lists.  Children aim to read at least 6 books a year and after each book they have to do an extended writing task.  This could be something as simple as summarising the book or ceating an alternative book cover.  The idea is that it makes the student think deeply about the book.  The activities also tie in with the national curriculum and provide an oppportunity to do a longer piece of writing.

The reading lists are for year 1 to year 9 and roughly arranged according to the reading age.  Just let your child choose the book they want to read.

Click here to download our free guide to year 1 books.

Click here to download our free guide to year 2 books.

Click here to download our free guide to year 3 books.

Click here to download our free guide to year 4 books.

Click here to download our free guide to year 5 books.

Click here to download our free guide to year 6 books.

Click here to download our free guide to year 7 books.

Year 7 reading list

Click here to download our free guide to year 8 books.

year 8 reading list

Click here to download our free guide to year 9 books.

year 9 reading list

My 4 Tips To Get The Most From The Summer Reading Challenge


{65456BD4-7E1E-4B08-A849-0005CECAAC78}_summer-readingThe summer reading challenge is a scheme happening in libraries all over the country and is designed to encourage children to read over the long summer break.  It has been proven that children actually fall back academically during the 6 week break and one of the easiest ways of keeping on top of things is to get children reading.

Children taking part in it are encouragement to complete it by getting rewards and stickers.  They have to read 6 or more books to complete the challenge.  Parents love the scheme as a visit to the library is a free day out and it is educational.  I think that without the challenge, the libraries would be dead!

So every year on the first day of the summer holidays I take the kids to the library to take part in the summer reading challenge and I have been doing this not just with my own kids but nephews, nieces and friends’ children as well.  That’s the joys of being a teacher; everyone wants you to take their children to the library because you should know what you are doing.

I’ve picked up a few good ideas along the way, and you can use all or some of these as you wish.

1.  Have a List of Authors

I have a list of authors who are either recommended authors for texts used in schools or who have won prizes for their books.  This ensures that your children reading quality works and not just nonsense.

2.  Don’t Pick The First Book You See.

Take your time at the library and pick more books than you need.  Then go through each book and choose the best ones.  Teach your child how to choose a good book by reading the summary on the back cover or by reading the first page.  If they like the first page, they should like the rest.

3.  Read The Books Your Child Reads.

This is especially effective to get reluctant readers to talk about their books and take more interest.  They will begin to see that books can entertain just like movies.  When I was at the library there was little girl returning her books, and the librarian asked her about every book even though she had not read them herself.  When I asked the librarian why she had done that, she said that it made the children choose more books and come back and tell her all about them.

4.  Write About The Books.

After reading you could get your child to write a review or simply just to score it out of 10.  You can write online reviews and add it onto the book list on the summer reading challenge website too.

I will be posting some other written tasks you can do after reading a book on this blog.  I will also be posting the list of authors on this blog too.  So please join my mailing list if you would like to be notified.

Kip McGrath Luton Summer School 2015


For most children, summer is a time to leave classes and homework behind. While summer is a holiday from school, it does not have to be a holiday from learning. The summer holiday is great for recharging your children’s batteries, because if they are not using the skills and knowledge that was learned in the classroom, they will find themselves lagging behind when school starts up again.Children can lose on average two month’s worth of knowledge over the summer if their brains are not actively engaged in educational activities.

Kip McGrath Luton can offer you the perfect solution to this problem.  Our summer school runs Monday to Friday throughout August.  Your child can attend one or more 2 hour teaching session per week and complete a small amount of homework.  After an initial assessment we can pin-point any areas of weakness that need to be targeted and put together a programme of work designed to focus on these areas and prepare them for the coming school year.  This small amount of effort can make a huge difference and mean that your child is ready to learn in the new school year instead of having to spend the first month relearning skills and wasting valuable time.

Who Comes To Kip McGrath Summer School?

 Children sitting the 11 plus exam
 Children who need to catchup in Maths and English
 Children who have learning difficulties such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Autism
 Children who lack confidence in their abilities
 Children who are not working at the level they are capable of

Monday 3rd August to Friday 28th August

10.00 am to 12.00

If your wish you child to attend our summer school please feel free to call us on 01582 402225 to arrange the initial assessment and discuss in detail your child’s individual needs.  Or fill in this contact form and we can arrange a convenient time to call you back.

Courses

English

All our English courses are taught by qualified English specialist teachers and focus on 2 main areas.

  1. Creative Writing   Creative writing is something many students find challenging! This module breaks down the elements needed to become more confident in relation to creative writing. Students are encouraged to plan, think about their audience and the tone and style of their writing in order to produce a piece with quality and depth. Special attention is given to detail and description, and the student is shown how to apply their knowledge to all types of writing.

  2. Reading and SPaG (Spelling, punctuation and Grammar)  This module helps children to understand the difference between nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, and the finer points of using an apostrophe and speech marks. A whole range of grammatical activities will enable your child to understand how the English language works.  It will also focus on the student’s understanding of a range of texts at an appropriate level, and also to extend their vocabulary. They will be shown how to find the right answers by skimming and scanning, and also how to work out an answer if it is only implied in the text.

Maths

At Kip McGrath our aim is to put the fun back in the subject and build confidence in both mental maths and problem solving through clear and simple explanations.  The student drives the pace of the lesson so if more revision time is needed there is no pressure to ‘move on’ to the next topic.  Maths skills are consolidated by applying knowledge to problem solving questions.  We help develop these skills by teaching the student to read the question and extract the maths needed to answer the question effectively.

11 Plus

One of the changes in the 11+ is the timing of exams. These now take place in September rather than October as in the past. To help with maintaining learning and keep brain cells “fresh” during the summer holidays, we will be holding 11+ Intensive Courses. We recommend that your child attends at least 3 days a week during the summer school.

The course will widen the knowledge base of students so that they are equipped to answer the broad and challenging English, Maths and non-verbal questions. They will be taught examination strategies and how to think positively when faced with a question they find daunting. Students will write a mock exam extracted from the new specification.

Price List

Number of Days per Week

Price per day

Total

1

£30

£120

2

£29

£232

3

£28

£336

4

£27

£432

5

£26

£520

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Brain Active Summer School – Kip McGrath Luton Summer School 2014


Are you looking for ideas for the summer holiday?

Are you worried about your child sitting the 11+ exam in September?

Does your child lack confidence/ need to catch up/ forget what they have learnt too easily?

WE CAN HELPsummer school

The Kip McGrath Luton South summer school has successfully helped students aged 4 – 16 to:

  • Bridge the gap when going into a new school year, moving from primary to secondary or nursery to reception

  • Help children catch up if they have fallen behind at school

  • Learn how to revise, study and prepare for GCSE exams effectively

  • Prepare for the Buckinghamshire (and other counties) 11+ exams in September

  • Build confidence and enjoy learning

  • Be one step ahead when they start the new school year

When a child starts school in September after a 6 week summer break, teachers have to help them catch up on all the work they have forgotten. Most teachers will tell you that this is called “THE SUMMER BRAIN DRAIN”.   But this can be avoided by enrolling your child on our summer school.

The sessions are in the mornings from 10.00 am, so it still leaves the rest of the day to enjoy the summer.  There are only 20 places available, so book now.

Book Now

summer school 2014

Mother’s Day Poetry Competition Winner


Our poetry competition was a great success.  We had over 40 entries out of which we had to pick one.  It was not an easy decision to make.  Here is the winning poem as promised.  It was written by Kyle age 15.

Mum

You’re always there when I need you,

Almost as much as a foot needs a shoe,

Let’s be honest, you will always be my best friend,

I will always love you to the end,

We love to fight, then it turns into a scrap,

We both know I must learn when to shut my trap,

Like a puppy loves to chew,

Don’t forget I really love you,

You will always be my favourite woman in my life,

Yes, even more than my future wife,

As Mother’s day comes around,

I send you all my love,

I thank you for all your help,

You’re my mother sent from above,

It’s about time this poem comes to an end,

Don’t worry, my love will never descend.

Love from Kyle 

And here are the flowers, chocolates and original poem in the card which were hand delivered to the lucky mum this morning.

Mothers day prize

Mothers day prize

Mother’s Day Poetry Competition.


Just For Mum – Write a Heartfelt Poem For Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day on the 30th March, Kip McGrath Luton South is launching it’s ‘Just For Mum’ poetry competition. Writing a poem for mum (or mother figure) not only encourages creativity and develops writing skills, it produces an original, heartfelt poem that Mum is sure to adore!

To take part, get your child to write a poem in celebration of their mother or mother figure, because a mum can come in many forms. It could be a step-mum, grandmother or female figure who has always supported your child. What would your child like to say to her? 

We will select one winner who will win a luxury bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates to be sent to a person of their choice.  The winning poem will also be published on this blog.  Simply email or post your child’s poem to us by the 27th March 2014.  Please remember to include your child’s name, age and postal address on their poem!

If you have any questions, please feel free to drop us an email or give us as call.

We look forward to reading your child’s work.

Mother's day poem

Helping Reluctant Writers


For many children, writing can be a daunting task.  When presented with a blank piece of paper and a writing task like “write a recount about what you did today”, they manage to squeeze out only 3 or 4 lines in 30 minutes.  I usually get the questions “how do I start?” or “how long does it have to be”, and then a bit of time-wasting whilst pencils are sharpened and rubbers are found.  There is evidence of lots and lots of rubbing out, correction and re-phrasing.  It shows lack of confidence and writers block and children don’t really get why their writing is so bad; they can’t tell you how to improve it.

So how can you help a child with weak writing skills?  The easy answer is to get your child to keep a diary or sit down and write a story every day, but even professional writers find this difficult to do.  And for the reluctant writer, this is equivalent to climbing a mountain.  Below are some practical and easy methods which work.

The Slow and Untidy Writer

If you have a child who is a slow writer and focuses all his concentration and effort into the actual art of writing, then this is stopping the flow of ideas.  So in this case, you could act as a scribe for your child.  The child dictates and you write their story for them.  The point is that your child gets his ideas on paper in a logical order, that it makes sense and that it uses his imagination.  Ask lots of questions to extend ideas and prompt for better vocabulary.  Encourage your child to add more details like adjectives and adverbs, and encourage him to formulate the full sentence in his mind before dictating it.  You will find that your child will have written much more than 3 or 4 lines and this in itself is a very good motivator to write more.

The Child Who Doesn’t See The Point In Writing

If you have a child who says “who’s going to read this anyway” or “what’s the point in writing” it means that they don’t value the art of writing.  They find it easier to just say it, and writing it down is wasted time.

Talk to your child about the importance of writing and why we need to learn to write. I think the writing process involves three stages of evolution.  First we write to communicate. Most children understand this and it’s how children start to learn to write.  They start by making lists and writing messages, even annotating pictures they have drawn. You could start off this as a daily activity.  Ask your child to write a shopping list, a birthday wish list or even a list of things to do.  There are more ideas on lists here.Set a good example by writing things on post it notes and leaving them about the house for your child to find. Children follow by example.

The next stage is the “writing to entertain” stage.  Who are they entertaining? Well at first it’s themsleves so they have to write about something that interests them.  I have a collection of writing prompts on my Pinterest and you can pick and choose one which will be suitable for your child.  One of my teachers picks interesting topics for her students to write about.  She teaches older children and often her essay titles are about issues which affect them. So instead of asking them to write a speech persuading their school to give money to a charity of their choice, she will ask them to write a speech to persuade their school to allow students to manage the school Instagram account.

The final stage is the “writing to express” stage. Expression takes time to develop.  It can be in the form of poetry, or just by the words and the tone of the writing.  You should be able to hear the writers voice through the writing.  It uses emotion and can be quite honest writing.  I have had reluctant writers who love to write poetry.

The Child Who Doesn’t Know What To Write

A child who writes the bare minimum and finds it difficult to add detail and interest in his writing is suffering from writers block.  They need guidance on how to pad out their writing and they need to know specifically how to extend their writing. They start writing without thinking about content and stumble after just writing the first sentence.

  • Brainstorming ideas and plots before writing can help unravel a child’s writing brain and helps to visualise the direction the writing is going in.  Brainstorming can be mind maps, spider diagrams, flow charts or even lists.

  • Checklists are also useful to remind children about features of different writing types and what they should be including in their writing.  A simple internet search will yield checklists for “recount writing” for instance.  If the checklist reminds a child to “say or show how a character reacted to an event” then the child is more likely to do so at each stage of the story.

  • Another method I use is to get the child to write a sentence followed by a question word to help extend the writing. For example the child writes “I saw a boy playing football”.  This could be followed by “who, why, when, where or how” to add in some detail.  Ask specific questions about your child’s writing:

  • How did that happen?

  • Did you react to that event?

  • What did you do?

  • Can you tell me more about…?

  • What are some other words you could use to describe…?

  • Where were you?

  • Why did that happen?

Once your child has produced their masterpiece, then avoid the urge to criticise it.  Writing is a personal process, a form of expression, so any criticism on the writing can feel like you’re criticising the child.  Always make positive comments and acknowledge improvements first before you pick on the bad bits.  I will finish with a few websites I use to motivate writers and provide inspiration.

Storybird -Storybirds are short, art-inspired stories you make to share, read, and print. Read them like books, play them like games, and send them like greeting cards. They’re curiously fun.  Storybird reverses the process of visual storytelling by starting with the image and “unlocking” the story inside. Choose an artist or a theme, get inspired, and start writing. Children can either write their own books using the pictures to inspire and create plots, or just as a prompt for a piece of writing.  In this case they choose a picture and just describe what they see in the picture.

21 Stunning Photographs With Meaning – stunning photos of a variety of subjects, including children, flowers, people, and more.  Each photo was selected not only for being stunning, but also for an underlying meaning that will be sure to brighten your day.  Hopefully, these beauties will inspire your child to create beautiful pieces of writing.

The Literacy Shed – this website has lots of cartoons and short films to inspire your child to write.  We use this as a starting point for writing, and one of the simplest tasks is to get the child to watch the video, and write a summary of the stroy line.  It’s a matter of simple recall, but don’t be surprised when your child says she can’t remember anything aprt from the first scene.  That’s because she’s not used to focusing on the storyline and just watching for entertainment.  As she practices more, she will remember more and more details.  Another  great feature of this website is that it has lesson ideas too, so if you wanted to do something more in line with the national curriculum, then theres plenty of material to work on.

But if you haven’t got the time or struggle to explain things simply to your child, get a professional to help.  Our fully qualified teachers can unlock the writing bug in any child!

At the initial assessment I can work out why your child is struggling with writing, then I can design a unique programme for him to follow.

 quote-about-writing3

So book your child for a free assessment today.  Call Samina on 01582 402225

So You Didn’t get a “C” in English and Maths GCSE….


Exam results are out this week, and I’m hoping the 40 or so students I helped this year have achieved the grades they aimed for. I get a lot of calls from panicking parents and students who don’t know what to do when they fail their GCSE English and Maths exams.  It’s not the end of the world.  Here’s a guide to what you should do next if you get a “D” grade or below.

you didn't get a Grade

Most people think of a fail as NOT getting a grade “C” because this is the minimum grade expected of students if they want to go into further education.  In fact, getting that all important “C” in English and Maths is so important that universities can refuse to give you a place even if you’ve got A* s in all your other subjects.

So a lot of students have to re-take their GCSEs.  I have taught students taking their GCSE’s for the first time and those who are re-taking.  Students re-taking their exams face the following problems:

  • Students often have fewer lessons when retaking because they are at college and often have a busy timetable dedicating more time to the new subjects.

  • They are either over-confident and get complacent.  They think they will pass because they’ve done it all before. They have all their other subjects’ work to do as well and tend concentrate on those.

  • They can get too negative and start thinking that they will never pass.  Some get a mental block and continue to fail….

  • Students are very rusty – the last time they did maths or English was at least 3 months ago.

  • Students quite often GET THE SAME GRADE again!

To avoid all of the above, retake the exams as soon as possible and be prepared to do more work!

GCSE ENGLISH RE-SIT

If you do not achieve a “C” grade pass in English language, then you can re-sit the exam in January 2013.  The exam is on 10th January 2013.

As a general guideline, if you got a “D” overall then you can re-sit in January.  Anything lower than that means that you have to repeat the whole year and retake the exam in June next year.  You can re-submit your controlled assessments and speaking and listening assignments from year 11 if they are good.

If you want to re-sit in January then you’d better get your skates on!  I’ve calculated that there are only 18  teaching weeks left.  First you will have re-learn all of the course, then make sure that you know what you need to do to get a “C” grade and finally get in plenty of exam practice.  If you do mock tests and past papers, then these should be marked and graded so that you know where you are going wrong.  You can either mark them yourself or get them marked by a teacher.  If you are re-sitting in June next year then you have more time, but you also have more work to do.

GCSE MATHS RE-SIT

The GCSE Maths re-sits are in November.  There are 2 papers, paper 1 is on 6th November 2012, and paper 2 is on 8th November 2012.  The results will be published in January 2013. There are only 11 teaching weeks left, so don’t waste any time.

It is important that all the main exam topics are covered several times before the exam, but if you are short of time, then prioritise the topics you need to know to pass the exam.  A good way of doing this is by doing a mock test and looking at the results to see what you know and don’t know.  Then work on what you can’t do.

Don’t just revise ‘favourite’ topics – this won’t be enough, something must be changed this time around.

As with GCSE English, get in plenty of exam practice and get used to working under timed conditions.  Always mark the papers or get them marked and monitor how you are improving.

My blog article on understanding your examination results slip will help you to work out how close you were to a C grade.

Nobody wants to retake exams, but if you do find yourself in this situation,  let us help you pass.   Book a free assessment and we will show you the way.