2011 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,600 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 43 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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How to Teach Halving


HALVING SHAPES

Before teaching a child to halve a number, make sure that they can halve a shape.   Most children find it easy to halve a shape and don’t realise that halving means the same as splitting into 2 equal parts. So before teaching your child how to halve a number, please make sure that they have understood the following common misconceptions:

1.  When you half a shape, you must make sure that it is split in the middle.  This teaches the child that halving must be fair and that both halves must look the same.

2.  There is more than one way to half a shape.  Ask your child to halve a rectangle or square in as many ways as possible.  This should include diagonally as well.

3.  Draw and inaccurately half some shapes so that some are split unequally, some are split into three or more pieces.  then ask your child to find out if they have been halved.

HALVING NUMBERS

There are many ways to explain the term of “half of”; sharing equally between 2 people, counting in 2’s, dividing by 2, opposite of doubling and splitting down the middle.

Different ways of working out half of a (2)

Therefore, there are a variety of ways of teaching halving.  Choose a method that your child finds easy, and stick to it.  Once they are confident with that method, try to teach a different way of halving.

I always start off teaching a child how to share equally.  I usually use counters and draw 2 smiley faces on a whiteboard or piece of paper representing me and the child.  The child has to share the counters between the smiley faces.  Sometimes you have to teach a child “one for you, one for me” and once they have learnt this they find it quite easy.  Make sure that once all the counters have been shared between the 2 smiley faces, that they have been shared equally.  the child needs to check every time. “How many do you have and how many do I have” seems to work well.  What if the counters have not been shared equally?  The child can repeat again or if they have caught on, they will be able to move some counters around to make the distribution fair.  I use this method for up to 24 counters.

For numbers larger than 24, using counters can be time-consuming and often ends up with the child miscounting.  By now the child should know half of 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 without working them out. So I break down larger numbers into manageable chunks, and then ask the child to share equally between 2 smiley faces.

Example 1:  Draw 2 smiley faces.  Half of 30 = 10+10+10 Draw three 10’s in circles at the side as in diagram below.

How To half 30
How to half 30

Then share as in the diagram below, the smiley faces will get 10 each and then, there will be 10 left which will have to be split into 5’s.  So each person gets 15.

Halving 30
How to halve 30

The same method can be used for bigger numbers and it’s easy and simple.

half of 34 = 10+10+10+4

half of 50 = 10+10+10+10+10

Do try this with your children and let me know if it works.

When Your Child Needs Help With Reading


I have been fortunate enough to work with many youngsters over the past few years. Many have been academically able and highly motivated and have achieved outstanding results at school. Many have lacked self-belief and have needed encouragement and backing, in order to progress to levels they would not have believed possible. So I have decided to share some of these stories with you and hope to add new case studies on a regular basis.

Do you have a gut feeling that (s)he is not ‘doing fine’?

We are constantly told by mothers who bring their youngsters for assessments that they really regret not having listened to their hearts and trusting their own judgments (often from a year or several years before), rather than listening to those who tell them that their children are ‘doing fine.’ One such mother was 6-year-old Zach’s mother.

Yet when Zach’s mother brought him to me for an assessment, she told me that he didn’t know his numbers beyond 10, and that he didn’t know the 45 high frequency words he had to know in reception year. She tried to help him at home, but didn’t have the expertise and knowledge to do so effectively. Little or no support was given by the school. His mother said the following: “I find it hard to put on paper what I feel in my heart. When I came to see you with my son Zach, I was so worried about him, yet his teacher said that he was doing fine.”

I tested Zach’s reading and discovered it to be at least a year below what it should be and he didn’t understand the concept of calculations in maths. He could count from 0 to 10, but not from 10 to 0, and he couldn’t recognise the difference between 13 and 30.

I decided to concentrate on his reading, and to teach him how to learn and work independently. One of the most striking things was his poor retention. For example, to login onto our computer programmes, children must type in their name with a capital letter and then press “enter” to start. In one lesson, a child can do up to 3 computer based activities which requires the child to follow the same login procedure. It took Zach 8 lessons to remember to do this without waiting for the teacher to prompt him. And I think that this was partly due to his poor memory and partly his over-reliance on adults (parents and teachers).

So, where are we now? Zach’s reading age has improved by 18 months in just 14 weeks, he is able to answer comprehension questions in simple sentences and he is reading more fluently and with expression. He comes to lesson and gets going without being told to, and asks for harder work. His mother can’t believe the transformation and he now holds his head up high. He says that schoolwork isn’t hard anymore. He believes that he can do anything if he tries.

“Red Hot Marking” of Children’s Work


“Red hot marking” is the term I use to describe how I mark children’s work.  As a teacher, I believe that children’s work should be marked as soon as it’s done, when it’s “red-hot”.  The children get instant feedback and know that their efforts have not been ignored.  I used to hate it when my work was not marked at school, or when the teacher just used to put random ticks on my work without even reading through it.

You should also bear this in mind if you are a parent and working with your child at home.  Children love to be praised and respond well to encouraging ticks and words during their work.

Try the following strategies:

  1. Mark a child’s work as soon as they have done it.  If there is too much to mark, then at least mark part of it.  Alternatively ask the child to do the first 3 questions out of 10 and mark those before allowing them to continue.

  2. Mark the work in front of the child.  They like to see you put the ticks and comments on, and it also gives you the opportunity to verbally tell the child what they have done right.

  3. Beware of putting in too many crosses in RED INK all over the child’s work.  If when marking a piece of work you find that there are lots of mistakes, it’s better to mark a little bit and speak to the child about it.  Don’t put “SEE ME” at the end of the piece of work.  It put’s the child on edge.

  4. Discuss the good and bad points of the work with the child and set new targets.  Make sure that the child is aware of their targets before and after doing a piece of work.  Having a target, for example accuracy, neatness, creativity, or a specific grammatical point gives a focus to the child.

  5. Sometimes a child can mark their own work, if the task is multiple choice or if it’s maths.  However, this should not be done too often as it doesn’t give you the chance to go over the mistakes.

  6. Always mark homework as soon as it is handed in, and give back to the child during the same lesson or the next lesson.  If you leave too much of a gap between submission of homework and marking of homework, children will forget and the effort on homework almost seems wasted.

  7. If you don’t get time to mark straight away then tell the child why and make a promise that you will mark it as soon as possible.

These strategies accelerate learning and are easy to do.  Do you use any of them?  Which ones work best/are easiest to use?  Or do you have your own technique of marking?

Tens and Units: An Easy Game to Teach Place Value


This game is great for teaching young children to count in 10’s and units. I have used this game in teaching and the children love it. I have kept it simple by sticking to 10’s and 1’s, but you can use larger coins if you want and adapt according to the ability of the child.

Suitable for age 5 and above. You will need:

  • 2 players – 2 children, or one adult, one child

  • At least 10, 10p coins, real or plastic

  • At least 10, 1p coins

  • Pencil and paper

  • A small bag or container to place the coins

How To Play

Put all the coins in the bag and take turns to take out a random number of coins. Count the coins and write down the amount. Replace the coins in the bag. Let the other player have a go and compare the amounts. The player with the most money wins the round. Continue for as many rounds as you like, but I recommend 10 at least.