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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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

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.

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.

6 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary


Vocabulary building is a fundamental skill in english, as it improves reading comprehension, spoken english and written expression.  Learning vocabulary is not just a matter of looking up the meaning of a word in a dictionary, but a more complex skill that is learnt through seeing and using the word in a variety of ways.  Multiple exposure to the word in different situations and using different learning methods can help with vocabulary development.  A good vocabulary is also important in the 11+ exam and should therefore be started early.

The inspiration from this post came from a comprehension exercise that I was doing with one of my students.  The word “harmless” came up and I had to try more than one way of explaining it to her.  I learned that later she used the word “harmless” to describe herself and “harmful” to describe her little sister in a conversation with her mum.

It was ...

Here are 6 ways to improve vocabulary….

1.  Using Visual Props

  • Draw a picture to show the meaning of the word.

  • Make flash cards with the word on one side and the meaning on the other

  • Download and print pictures or photos of the word

  • Use WORDLE.NET to create word clouds.  Just type words with the same meaning and it generates a word cloud.  This example is all the words which mean “yummy”.

Wordle: Other words for delicious

2.  Acting Out

  • Write down 10 words on flash cards.  Get the child to pick a card and act out the meaning of the word without talking. You can print your own flashcards on Quizlet.

  • You can use props to help you.  I have a cuddly teddy in my classroom because the word “affection” is on our vocabulary list.  So to illustrate “affection”, I cuddle the toy.

3. Traditional Methods

  • Look up the word in a dictionary, or online at dictionary.com

  • find synonyms in a thesaurus, o r oline at thesaurus.com

  • use the word in a sentence

  • describe the word in a sentence

  • find the opposite of the word and explaining the meaning of the opposite word

  • Make the word longer by adding prefixes or suffixes

  • create vocabulary word lists for common words.  I have a collection on my Pinterest.

4.  Vocab Games

  • Matching game – make flash cards

type 1 – 10 vocab words to learn

type 2 – 10 definitions of each word

type 3 – 10 synonyms of each word

type 4 – 10 opposites to each word

Match type 1  to type 2, match type 1 to type 3 or type 1 to type 4.  There are a total of 12 different types of combinations you can try.  Once you’ve mastered 2 combinations, then try to match 3 sets of cards, and then all 4 sets of cards.

  • Online websites

this one called vocabulary.com is really good for older children (age 12 and above)

  • pictionary

parent draws a picture to represent a word, child tries to guess the word

child draws the picture and parent guesses

  • topic words

This game is useful for reinforcing key words  or technical language

Time your child for one minute and see how many words they can come up with related to a particular topic.  You can type the words in wordle.net and generate a word cloud. This one was created from the key words from “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. Wordle: of mice and men keywords

5.  Practice and Use

Provide opportunities for your child to use new words and to practice using them in games like crosswords.  Also, use the words in a conversation with your child and try variations of the word, like adding a prefix or suffix to it.

6. Visual Thesaurus

Finally I will leave you with a website recommendation called “Visual Thesaurus” which is an excellent resource for vocab building.

4 Games to Help With Verbal Reasoning


If you are helping your child prepare for the 11+ verbal reasoning tests, then try the following games to put in a bit of fun into your schedule.  Your child won’t even realise that they are learning skills to pass the 11+ exam.

1. Challenging crosswords – give children exposure to lots of words and therefore can improve spellings.  They encourage children to use dictionaries and encyclopaedia’s but with the added benefit of being fun.  You can play online here.

2. Suduko is a number puzzle game that children as young as 5 can do.  For younger children you can make up grids similar to these.  Sudoku improves analytical thinking in children, it teaches them elimination and logical thinking.

3. Scrabble – increases the vocabulary of a child. It teaches spelling skills to children.  It enhances the mathematical skills in a child and shows us how adding one new letter can change a word or the entire meaning of a word.  It helps develop critical thinking and teaches problem solving skills.  It helps in developing an improved memory and concentration.  Here’s a great website for playing Scrabble online.

I use scrabble tiles to help children with anagram type questions.  Start with giving the child just 3 tiles (one must be a vowel) and ask to make as many words as possible.  Then move up to 4 tiles and so on.  Children need to be taught how to work out new words in a systematic way rather than just randomly putting the letters in order to see if they make sense.  This skill of doing things logically and in sequence is a fundamental skill for verbal reasoning questions.

4. Chess – Chess is one of the best games that will make children  think of different strategies to achieve victory.  It improves concentration and memory and teaches children how to solve problems.  Research has shown that it significantly improve mathematical ability.  Please read this article for more benefits.

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.

It Takes 66 Days to Form a Habit


During the long summer break, I decided to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning whether I need it or not. And since I have been doing this daily for the last 2 months, it has become a part of my routine. In fact if I forget, then I feel as if something is missing; it bugs me.

Experts say that on average it takes 66 days to form a habit, if the new habit/behaviour is repeated every day. The length of time depends on the habit, the person and how consistent the person is. Also, if it takes longer to form a habit, then it will be stronger.

The same rules apply when forming learning habits in children (and adults).  Some of the learning habits that we encourage our literacy students to adopt are:

  • to plan a piece of written work before writing it

  • to check their work for mistakes

  • to remember to start sentences with capital letters and end with full stops

  • to remember to use quotes correctly and to explain them.  This is called the PQE technique in English (point quote explain)

  • to underline keywords in exam questions

  • to read every day

  • to brainstorm words and ideas for used in a story

And some of the learning habits we teach our numeracy students are:

  • to show working out when doing a maths question

  • to touch every single object when counting

  • to write out the formula they are going to use

  • to search for patterns in maths calculations

  • to set out calculations in the correct way

These learning habits cannot always be acquired in the classroom because there isn’t enough opportunity for repetition.  Planning is taught, but maybe only for a week and then the school teacher would move onto a new topic.  To create a habit you need to repeat the behaviour in the same situation. It is important that something about the setting where you perform the behaviour is consistent so that it can cue the behaviour.  Eventually the behaviour will becomes automatic and then the child can apply it in other situations.  So a child may punctuate correctly at Kip McGrath, but not necessarily remember to do so at school.  This would happen once the behaviour has become automatic and the child does so without thinking.

So be patient with children, when they are trying to learn a new skill.  New habits do not stop the old habits from existing; they just have to become stronger influences on behaviour.

Good habits formed at youth make all the difference    ………………………Aristotle

When Private Tuition Is Not Enough


I did an assessment on a year 12 pupil yesterday (age 17), who will be sitting her GCSE Maths in 9 teaching week’s time. She wanted to get a C grade, but when I tested her, she was working at a low E grade.

She was also re-taking her GCSE and got an F the first time round. That meant that she had only improved by 1 grade since starting her course 7 months ago and that’s with approximately 4 hours of maths per week at college. So it’s not difficult to do the numbers here. It’s plain and simple that 9 weeks of tuition (an 80 minute session per week) is not going to get her that C! In fact it would be nothing short of a miracle if she did. And that’s exactly what I told her.

From all my years of teaching experience, I have learnt that to pass maths you need to

  1. Learn the different methods of working out maths problems

  2. Memorise formulas

  3. Practice using these methods and formulas

  4. Go over past exam questions

Revision and learning is like building a wall. One brick at a time is laid and cemented together to make a wall. But if those bricks are not solid enough or the cement hasn’t had time to set, then the wall will be weak and inevitably break. So don’t leave your revision to the last minute or think that having a few extra lessons is going to be enough to pass your exams. It takes hard work, organisation and dtermination!