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

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I Don’t Understand What I Read – How to Help With Comprehension


I Don’t Get What This Book Is About….

As a teacher, I have heard this many times.  Children who cannot comprehend what they are reading, will say this and give up reading the book after a few pages.

Many children can read fluently for their age and understand what they are reading.  But some will struggle with comprehension.  These children will struggle to grasp the finer details of a story.  For example, they may be able to recall the names of the characters but may not be able to:

“Compare two characters in the book. Tell which one you think is better and why.”

Children with weak comprehension may not be able to summarise a passage in a book or even re-phrase a sentence into their own words.  They will copy out the answer from the passage word for word.  They might be able to tell you what happened in a story, but can’t explain why events went the way they did.  They also find it difficult to explain character’s thoughts and feelings, and put themselves in the character’s shoes.

Weak comprehension skills are common amongst children with a low reading age, and children who do not read enough. This is because they are using all of their “brain power” to work out what words they are reading and are just going through the motions of reading.  They fail to see the bigger picture.  So how can you help your child reading comprehension?  Here are some useful tips on how to help your child with comprehension:

Read Every Day

  • Start with a minimum of 10 minutes per day.  Little and often is better than 1 hour on a Sunday.

  • Don’t just read books given by the class teacher.  Have books available around the house, get them from the library or if budget is tight, then buy them from charity shops.

  • Read a variety of genres and also read non-fiction.  Children with vivid imaginations tend to cope better with fiction because they can visualise whats happening in the books.  Getting children to read more factual information can help them learn new words, to think about layout features like sub-headings and fonts, and to slow down and think about what they are reading.

  •  Let your child choose the book.  Don’t force your child to read something they don’t want to. Let him/her choose the books and at the most, make a few subtle suggestions.

  • Read the same book, many times.

  • Don’t make the reading into a punishment.

You will find that children reading every day will improve their reading fluency and they will become more expressive in their reading.  As they get more exposure to words, their sight word recognition will improve.  Sight words are the most commonly used words in the english langauge and a child is expected to read without decoding or thinking about the word.  Examples of sight words are “the”, “after”, “through” and “world”.

Talk About What They Read

  • Read the books your child is reading so that you can talk about it together. Either read the book to your child, listen to your child read or read the book separately. Then talk about the characters and story just like you would be talking about a film after the movies.

  • Ask questions will help your child to think about the book:

    • What part of the reading was funniest?

    • What part was the most exciting?

    • What part was the saddest?

    • Was the main character in this reading good or bad? Why?

    • Which is better…?

    • Would you agree that…?

    • What is your opinion of…?

    • Were they right to do…? Why? Or why not?

    • Who would you choose…?

    • What would happen if…?

    • How would you…?

    • Do you know someone like…?

    • Would you do the same thing in the same situation…?

    • If you had to…what would you do?

  • Point out technical terms like:

    • the author

    • the illustrator

    • contents

    • index

    • genre

    • chapter

    • title

  • Never stop your child when they are reading mid sentence to ask a question.  This will take all the enjoyment out of the reading.

  • If your child comes across an unfamiliar word, discuss the meaning of this word without using a dictionary.

Thinking about characters, settings, the plot, the descriptions, the writer’s voice in a book also helps with writing.  Children become more aware of the ingredients for a good story.  Reading will also improve vocabulary and language skills.

If your child is struggling with comprehension Kip McGrath can help.  Our qualified, experienced teachers can guide your child through comprehension techniques, improve reading skills and help with exams.

Visit our website for more details.

How To Prepare For the 2013 Year 6 SATs


Major changes have been made to the 2013 SATs exams for Key Stage 2 pupils in the UK.  This year is the first time that children will be doing the spelling, grammar and punctuation exam, and the first year in which there will be no writing paper.  Here are some basic facts you need to know:

1.  In all state primary schools in the UK, SATs exams are held in May.

2.  Children in year 6, will be assessed in Maths and English (spelling, grammar, punctuation and reading) externally.  Levels 3-5 of the national curriculum will be tested.  There is an additional level 6 paper for children working above level 5.

3.  English writing will be assessed by your child’s class teacher throughout year 6 based on the work your child completes in class.

4.  English speaking and listening will be assessed by your child’s class teacher.

5.  There are 3 Maths tests, mental maths, non-calculator paper A and calculator paper B.

The results are usually out in July and are often shared with parents in end of year reports.  SATs exam results are used by schools to measure performance and the average year 6 child is expected to get a level 4b in Maths and English.  The teacher assessments are passed onto high schools for them to put children into ability groups in year 7.

What are the implications of these changes when it comes to preparing your child for the exams?

How can you help your child to prepare for the exams?

Where do you start?

As a teacher and a parent, I would start by finding out what level my child is working at.  You can speak to your child’s class teacher about this.  I should warn you that some teachers may come up with comments like “your child is working at a level 4c”.  Unless you are a teacher or are familiar with the grading system used in schools, this doesn’t really tell you much.  Try to get more specific feedback which you can work on. For example, if you want to help your child with maths, then ask the teacher which topics you should be revising to improve the grade. If you can get the teacher to put this in an email to you or to  just jot down a few bullet points, then it’s easier to refer back to it to see if you are covering the right topics.  There’s no point in guessing what your child should be doing because if the works too easy then your child isn’t learning anything and if it’s too hard then you’ll end up getting frustrated and losing patience.  The key is to cover topics at the right level for your child.

Once you have determined what level of work you should be doing, then it’s time to practise the skills needed to improve.  Doing 20 minutes three times a week is better than doing an hour on one day.  As with revision, repetition is important and you should go over the same topic many times.  Sometimes your child will understand straight away, whereas at other times it may take weeks to conquer a subject.  I remember teaching a child about equivalent fractions, and thinking that the child would never understand.  He would turn up to lessons having forgotten what I had taught him the previous week.  It was frustrating but we persevered, and eventually, it clicked!

English skills need drilling as well.  What I mean by drilling is practising.  With the introduction of the new spelling, punctuation and grammar exams, this is now even more essential.  The skills needed to improve in these areas need to be registered in a child’s long-term memory.  I’ve seen many children who get 10 out of 10 in their weekly spelling tests, but spell incorrectly when using those same words in a sentence.  One of the reasons is that the spellings have been crammed and learnt for the test, registered in the short-term memory and then forgotten.  Long term memory can be improved by repeated exposure.  So to help a child remember a spelling, I would get him/her to learn them, use the words in sentences, use the words in stories, put the words in alphabetical order, think of rhyming words, draw pictures to illustrate the words or write out the words in different colours.

Punctuation and grammar have to be learnt in such a way that they become a habit.  It should be learnt so that the child doesn’t have to be reminded to use capital letters and full stops and if they do forget, then there’s a niggling thought in the back of their mind that something is missing from the sentence.

I’ll leave you with links to sample papers and mark schemes for the new style SATs tests introduced for 2013.

Level 3-5 Paper 1 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test Sample

Level 3-5 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test Paper 2 Spelling Script

Level 3-5 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test – Spelling Answer Booklet

Level 3-5 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test – Mark Scheme

Level 6 Paper 1 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test Sample

Level 6 Paper 2, Short Answer Questions

Level 6, Paper 3, Spelling Script

Level 6, Paper 3, Spelling Answer Booklet

Level 6, Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Mark Scheme

The exams are just 5 months away, is your child ready?  Do you think you can help?  If not, then we are just a phone call away.

But if you haven’t got the time or struggle to explain things simply to your child, let us do the work for you.  Book your child for a free assessment and let us take care of things.

Fast Track to Success – Kip McGrath Luton Summer School 2012


Click here for the 2014 Summer School Programme.

When a child starts school in September after a 6 week summer break, I have to spend at least a couple of lessons going over work they should know.  Sometimes I have to go down a level of work because the child has forgotten the basics.  Most teachers will tell you that this is called “THE SUMMER BRAIN DRAIN“.

Children have too much time on their hands during the summer and they forget some of what they learn during the school year.  Avoiding this can save time, and for children who have exams coming up, this can be the difference between a pass and a fail.  Academic summer schools can help, as long as the work is tailored to your child’s needs and they have a target to aim for.

How To Avoid the Summer Brain Drain

Past experience has taught us that parents want a more structured approach to their children’s summer learning.  They want to see proof of progress.  Parents want to take advantage of the free time available during summer and are looking for more than just a child care provider.

The Kip McGrath Luton Summer School will run every Tuesday and Wednesday in August from the 1st August 2012 to the 29th August 2012.  Classes are from 10.00 am.  This year, the format of these 2 hour classes will be the same format as normal term time Kip lessons, but with a little added extra to cater for your child’s specific needs.

The three programmes that will be running are the 11+ and Common Entrance Programme, the GCSE Maths and English Programme and the Kip Summer Booster Programme.

To enrol your child or for more info, please call Dr Samina Rashid on 01582 402225 or fill in the online form at the end of this article.

If you are a new student we can offer you a free assessment to pinpoint your child’s learning needs and design an individual programme of work to target their areas of need over the summer months.

The 11+ and Common Entrance Programme

The 11+ exams will be in November 2012 and common entrance exams will be in either December 2012 or January 2013 depending on which school your child will be going to.

Kip McGrath Luton will be offering intensive summer courses in 11+. The courses will familiarise the students with all the types of questions and teach them strategies and techniques to raise their chances for success. Children will be tested before and after the course to monitor progress.  It is recommended that children attend the Tuesday and Wednesday classes for this programme.  We will cover:

  • verbal reasoning

  • non-verbal reasoning

  • English

  • maths

GCSE Maths and English Programme

This programme is open to all year 10 and 11 students and any year 9 students who are sitting their exams early.  Many schools enter all year 11 children for early entry GCSE English and Maths exams in the November before they leave school.  This means that when children start year 11 in September, they have just less than 2 months in which to prepare for the exam.  Children (and parents) panic when they realise this and often it is too late to get help. Please my blog post on this topic to get a more in-depth view.

The summer break is an ideal time to work on key skills needed to pass exams.  As well the academic content of the GCSE subjects, we will also teach your child how to answer exam questions and how to revise.  All too often children lose valuable marks in exams because they have mis-read the question or not answered it fully.  Some children need to be taught how to revise and we will teach them different ways in which they can remember what they have learnt.

Summer Booster Programme

This is our most popular programme designed to give your child that extra boost before going into the next academic year.  All children from age 5 to 16 can attend.  The added extra options are:

    • spoken English

    • science

    • essay writing

To enrol your child or for more info, please call Dr Samina Rashid on 01582 402225 or fill in the online form below.

If you are a new student we can offer you a free assessment to pinpoint your child’s learning needs and design an individual programme of work to target their areas of need over the summer months.

My Child Needs Help With Learning But Where Do I Start?


We are all familiar with the feeling of satisfaction that we get after spring cleaning our houses.  So how about doing that with our brains? Research on learning has shown that “clearing out the junk” that is filling our brains can help us to be better learners and this is more important for children.

As a parent, one of the hardest things to decide is where to start, especially if you only vaguely know that your child can’t do maths or can’t write good stories in english.  There will be some gaps in your child’s learning; they will naturally have strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others.  It is these areas of weakness that can give children the feeling of their brain being “full”, so that they don’t have the mental processing powers to learn more.  So what should we do to help our children de-clutter their brains?

1.  Ensure that your child gets plenty of sleep. 

Children need a full night’s sleep to stay mentally alert throughout the school day. All too often, kids are too wired to sleep – they’ve been consuming E numbers, watching TV, playing video games right up to bedtime. There’s so much excitement in the house, that they want to be part of it.  So it’s important to establish a pattern or ritual in the evening that will help them quiet down and go to sleep. Have an established bedtime and stick to it, including during weekends.”  I love this infographic showing the importance of a good nights sleep in children.

2.  Review your child’s learning. 

Testing your child’s learning will help you to identify problem areas and most importantly – where to start.  It is better to concentrate on specific topics rather than teach everything with the hope that it will make some difference.  If there was a hole in a wall, would you rebuild the whole wall or just patch up the hole?   Just patching up the hole saves time, money and energy if done properly, so apply the same principle to your child’s learning.

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You can buy books with test papers in them specific to your child’s age or download resources off the internet.  Discuss the results with your child so that your child knows exactly what they can and cannot do.  Next write out some tragets for your child to aim for.  Once you’ve identified weaknesses, focus on those but only covering up to 3 topics at a time.  This repetition and re-inforcement will give your child confidence.

3.  Break down and classify the information your child needs to learn.

When we de-clutter our houses, we have to break down the task into smaller manageable chunks.  Like tackling one room at a time or sorting out the toys first.  The same goes for de-cluttering information in children’s brains.

  • tackle one subject at a time

  • if the subject is too big, then one topic at a time, for example just “writing” in english or just “arithmetic” in maths.

  • break down what your child needs to know into either “know really well”, “confused” and “don’t know”.

The topics that fall into the “don’t know” category are the ones that will need the most attention.  The aim is to review the list periodically so that topics move from this category into one of the others.

We use this strategy at work and focus on those weaknesses, we fill in those gaps and help the children to build firm foundations for their learning.